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semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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gardening

New life – Week 2

Twice now I’ve walked to the letter box only to have a swamp harrier hawk take flight from about ten feet away from me. And yes, it’s been most disconcerting each time it has happened, although I’ve seen the bird in the sky around the house numerous times, so logically I should have figured out that we had a hawk residing at our place too!

I didn’t know a lot about them, so I had a quick look on the internet and apparently they build their nest in overgrown grass among other things, so that figures as the area beside the drive is exactly that.

They also are a farmer’s sort of friend preying on mice etc and clearing up road kill. The ‘sort of’ bit is that they can be a bit indiscriminate with their killing and have been known to have a go at newborn lambs and chooks!  From what I can gather, harriers that get involved in this malarkey are fair game and the normal protection afforded them can be waivered, so our bird better behave itself when the sheep and chooks arrive!

Which segues nicely into the next thing that has happened – the man’s rather dodgy sign has worked! We have got someone to graze sheep on our land. So here is the low down on it: our tenant farmer is a young farm manager, Karl, who looks after two farms on our road and the main road (1000 acres in total – one owner). The deal is that he looks after the land and fences and grazes his sheep for free. If we want to take it over, we can buy the sheep from him.

Now our 5 paddocks have been let go, so our keen young farm manager has been here the last two nights with a huge tractor cutting the fields (two different flash blades) in preparation for making hay.

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Karl doing the first mow of the paddock closest to the road.

Once the hay is made, he will clean out the pond with a digger and fix up a water supply to one trough (the rest of the troughs are fine) and then the sheep arrive. We think this will be in the next week.

Meanwhile the man and I are slowly working in the garden. There is an overgrown vegetable patch which we will reinstate and expand come next spring. We are so committed to this that we have signed up to buy a pre-loved rotary hoe with a myriad of amazing ‘must have’ attachments from the fellow we bought our ride on from. I have got a funny feeling that we are going to be suckers for a lot of machinery!

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The drive looking towards the barn. On the left of the drive is the overgrown vegetable patch which borders the orchard.  The harrier hawk lives on the left (not in picture) further towards the road.

Two weeks in and life is amazing! We have made sterling progress with the house, shed and now the land is well on the way to getting sorted. I am getting prepared to start on the sequel to book 1, and the man is busy designing a small boat.

The same can’t be said for landing the perfect jobette.. that still remains a work in progress, although I’m not losing any sleep over it. To be honest, I am not sure how I am going to fit it in!

New life – Week 1.

Did you notice the change in the title format? Yep, I’ve gone from two words to four in celebration of our new life – this girl knows how to party, right?

So how has the first week gone? The answer is simply stupendous.

Here is a round up:

The move went well – the only two things lost were my spectacles and the tv remote. The specs were found on day 3 safely tucked in with the socks; the remote remains missing in action.

On day 2 the man and I were visited by neighbours from down the road. It was quite early in the morning, and luckily we were up and dressed (note to self: make sure I am fully and respectably clothed when the first rooster crows so as not to frighten visiting neighbours). John and Marie were lovely and joined us for a cup of coffee. We then exacted the price of the drink by interrogating them about the vagaries of this farming lark (don’t be picky – 3 acres to us is a farm!) and they were ever so patient and full of wonderful advice. We haven’t seen them since.*

Sunday saw us heading off to the Parua Bay market. This is a bijou market 5 mins drive from home. Well patronised, it was a chance to wander around the stalls and talk to the locals.  Our purchases included some amazing dry cured bacon and a Jerusalem artichoke plant. We could have spent squillions more on some artisan bread, sausages and vegetables. Next time, we’ll take more cash.

During the week we have done a fair bit of exploring: Pataua South, Pataua North, McGregor’s Bay, McLeod’s Bay and the beaches to the end of the Whangarei Heads. And yes, we have done more than our fair share of oohing and aahing at the beauty of the area. It is breathtaking scenery with soaring volcanic peaks, white sands and clear blue water.

Back at the ranch, we have started knocking the place into shape – there is about 3/4 acre of gardens around the house that just need a bit of TLC. I am attacking it logically garden by garden. I am well through the tidy up of the first one which has involved some trimming  and removing of unwanted plants. In spring I’ll put some replacement plants in. This garden actually contains a cross. As there is no name on it, I am unsure as to whether it marks a dearly departed pet or someone’s ashes. Regardless, I can categorically state that there has been no deep digging done in that area. Some things are best left alone.

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Looking towards orchard and farmland which surrounds us. The garden with the cross is to the left of the photo.

The man has spent an inordinate amount of time down in the vicinity of his shed. Needless to say, he has sorted out his work space, but he’s also renovated what is going to be the tractor shed and hand mowed the knee-high grass in the small paddock in front of it.

Which brings me to the knee-high grass in the paddocks. The man and I need to tame this. We did consider getting the local guy with his tractor mower to do the first cut, but after talking to Marie and John and the rural post lady who is another local gem, getting one of the local farmer’s in with their stock seems to be the way to go so this is our intention. A couple of phone calls has not produced any likely candidates to date (although everyone was super helpful) so we have taken a more global approach:

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Credit where credit’s due: Thank you to Bayley Real Estate for providing the board which the man converted to this spectacular sign!

And while we are on the topic of taming unruly lawns – we have sourced a ride on at a garage sale today. We went specifically to see it and thought it had been sold as we couldn’t see it . The farmer started chatting to us and blow me down, he hadn’t sold it as he still needed it for the next couple of weeks. To cut a long story short, we have bought it on a gentleman’s handshake. No deposit required. We’ll pick it up when he’s ready to hand it over.

Week One: We are happy as pigs in muck and are pinching ourselves at how lucky we are.

*We have been invited down to John and Marie’s for a drink when it suits us.

Marmalade days

In 7 days the furniture truck will arrive to pick up our stuff to take to our new home in Whangarei.

At the moment, the man and I are too caught up with cleaning out cupboards and sorting final readings and new connections to give much thought to this new life north of Auckland.

Yes, we have a vague idea of how we want it to be: a better work/life balance, but, to be honest, the finer detail as to what that is going to look like is still missing at the moment.  We do know our income is going to be derived from several streams: the man’s business, my part time paid work, an AirBnB and perhaps some sort of payment from the land.

The property we have bought is 3 acres (just over 1 hectare for those readers who work in metric measurements) with a house,  the big shed for the man and his business plus several other outbuildings. The majority of the land is presently in pasture, although in a former life part of it was used for growing calla lilies commercially (obviously not on a huge scale).

The big question is what do we do  with the land? After some thought, we have realised that we aren’t interested in running stock for our meat supply so we have closed the door on that idea. We also don’t fancy mowing it, even though the ride on mower is going to have novelty value. At least in the beginning. So after thinking on it a while, the man and I have decided that planting some sort of crop might well be the go.

Now this is where I default to the librarian part of me. Sigh.  I have started researching options and although NZ green may be the crop of choice in the north, I have decided that we won’t be going down this track, rather Seville oranges might be where the man and I put our money.

Now for those of you who don’t know, Seville oranges are the traditional oranges used in marmalade, are quite sought after and freight well. And even better, from my reading to date, I think the land and climate we have will lend itself to Sevilles. So here’s the cunning plan: plant a trial crop of half an acre in the first eighteen months on the land and see how it goes.

If our calculated punt is right and they grow and they sell, we plant more. And maybe at that stage, we investigate the feasibility of putting in a small commercial kitchen to do the value added bit by making preserves (now those who know me well will know I like preserving so I kind of fancy this!). Regardless, if it works out and the fruit grows well, it will be magic, if not we will look at other options for our small part of God’s own.

And in the meantime, we’ll have a heap of fun doing it.

Packing up

In just a smidgen short of a calendar month we will be leaving Auckland and moving up north.

The man and I can’t wait. It feels like it has been a long time coming, but in the scheme of things it probably isn’t at all. It’s just that we are ready to go.

Meanwhile our days  are spent sorting through our worldly belongings, dividing them into the three piles of keep, chuck, and gift. It is at this stage that we give thanks that we are not hoarding folk!

Our conversations are full of  questions.  A tractor, a  ride-on or gator?  Or maybe all three? Sheep or alpaca? And if sheep, are they destined for a long life or the freezer? And can I cope with the latter thought? How many hens? What more do we need in the orchard? And how big should the vege patch be?

Our reading is now NZ Lifestyle Block. Our internet browsing is TradeMe. The farm implement bit.

And the Seek website. Because I am still applying for jobs. Sort of.

You see, I have other priorities. I want to paint the house interior and get stuck into the garden. Yes, I may be way too busy for that paid work lark for a while.

I’m not going to fret and worry though, there is enough in the kitty for the foreseeable. And besides, I have a feeling that the elusive job will turn up exactly when I need it!

 

Well grounded

For the next three weeks, I am on annual leave. I couldn’t be more pleased. I am not going to sit on my hands though. No, sirree, this girl has things to do and places to go; many of which are in the pursuit of the new work life balance regime.

The first thing happening is that I am spending time in the garden. Why do this when you are on holiday, you may ask?  The answer is it is part of the plan. The house we are living in is new to the man and me. We know it well, it was my mother’s home and is directly behind the house  we lived in for close to twenty years of our married life. In December we purchased it and after twelve years living in other places moved back to the area where we raised our children. We have a connection here. It’s nice.

The garden, however, needs work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice garden with flowers and well established trees, but we want to have fruit trees and vegetables too.  Our intention is to plant plums, apples, peaches, pears, lemons, passionfruit and saville oranges. We will put in a good sized vege patch too.

Now I know some of you will be thinking fruit and vegetables are inexpensive to buy, so why bother?  And you are completely correct; they are cheap. If you did a cost analysis, I suspect store bought may even be cheaper than home grown ones, especially when in season.

This is not a budgeting exercise however, rather quality of life is the driver here. Working in the garden, be it plunging hands into soil, watering seedlings or picking the ripened produce, is primal and therapeutic. There is no hurrying: nature is the boss and she sets the pace.

The time, labour, and patience involved is well worth it. The product is more often than not sensational: sink your teeth into a tomato from the garden and taste the freshness and flavour. It is a different beast altogether from its counterpart found in the supermarket aisle*

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Plum jam and homegrown tomato via our little garden at our last house.

There is also the personal satisfaction element.  I derive immense pleasure from preserving produce I have grown or being gifted – no bought fare here. And, let’s be honest, there is nothing more rewarding than toiling over a hot stove in the height of summer making jam or chutney!*  I have done it often. The house we moved from had two magnificent plum trees. On hot days, I would be in the kitchen  happily whipping up plum jam, plum sauce and indeed plum anything I could think of to make use of the crop. The six or so jars that had taken two hours to make made for a feeling of satisfaction, even a wee bit of unbecoming smugness! The product is quite different from commercially produced preserves; it tastes nicer.

As a pastime, the growing and cooking of produce to share with family or friends at the table or as a gift is a caring, comforting pursuit. So, if it’s not cost effective – who cares? Some things can’t be measured by price. I am pretty sure that the Danes with their concept of hygge would approve.***

So these holidays, we have factored in a fruit tree buying expedition to Wairere Nursery http://www.wairere.co.nz/ . Meanwhile, most days I put my gumboots on and in a slow living kind of way saunter into the garden to get it ready.

*We don’t have a farmer’s market nearby. We are a great fan of these and think that although they are commercial, they are a great alternative to the supermarket.

**My favourite preserving book is “Ladies, A plate: Jams & Preserves” by Alexa Johnston

*** See post Simply Present

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