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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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sheep

Steering ahead

One of the things the man and I have derived great enjoyment out of is the birth of the lambs in spring. The drought, however, put paid to this happening this year.

Yes, the ram had done his thing and the ewes were pregnant, but, sadly, the lack of rain meant that by August we were fast running out of grass, so our tame farm manager made the decision to move the flock to (another person’s) greener fields.

When we metaphorically waved goodbye to the sheep that day, we thought they would be back as soon as the grass had recovered. This didn’t happen, and instead the grass grew longer and longer, and, if that wasn’t enough, the blasted carrot weed decided to make an unwelcome reappearance too.

However, all was not lost. A couple of weeks ago, our tame farm manager turned up with two steers and a ram. These have settled into our paddocks well and are munching their way through the grass and carrot weed with dedicated enthusiasm.

Of course, the steers are nowhere near as cute as the lambs, but they also don’t escape through the fences at every opportunity either!

As for the ram, well, he is best mate’s with the steers – in fact, there is a good chance he thinks he is one!

Competing for the ladies

We have sheep on our land.

When we first arrived here the paddocks had not had stock on them for a while and the fields were covered in knee high carrot weed.

This was a bit of a surprise as the former owner had offered to mow it for us, but this had not transpired.

To city refugees, such as ourselves, how we were going to get the paddocks sorted and what to do with them was quite a headache. Yes, we had no idea. Luckily, new neighbours put us right, ” Just put a sign up that says grazing available, and whomever takes the land on will sort it,” they said.

And that is exactly what happened. A local herd manager took it on: hay was made and sheep were delivered. Three years on and this arrangement is going well.

And us? We are quite the pros. No longer do we run around like headless chooks when a lamb breaches the fence. We know it won’t stray far from its mum. And we can get it back into the paddock with (limited) drama.

It is June now. The ewes are pregnant. We know this as we have been party to Mr Ram’s amorous attempts to have his way with his ladies in February/March.

This year he had a keen as adolescent ram to contend with. That young ram didn’t get a look in.

But his jealousy wasn’t just reserved for the young ram.

The man dared to wander into the paddock. The ram charged, stopping short a few inches from the man. His message loud and clear ‘Nobody, but nobody, comes near my ladies!’.

He is forgiven. In a month or two, we will have his lambs playing in our fields. And they are gorgeous.

New Life – shaping up

There is a saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I can certainly relate to this!

When we arrived on this property the paddocks were covered in carrot weed and the gardens around the house needed some work.

Six months in and we have made some great headway – often with the help of people who know far more than we do! Yes, Kayel, our tame farm manager, did an awesome job with his hay making and his sheep to bring the paddocks back to something respectable. He actually increased the number of sheep on the property while we were away by another two to nine*. This has made a huge difference to getting the paddocks under control.

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We still have a couple of patches that need work – one where the old piggery was requires some fencing repairs before we let the sheep lose to eat it back into shape – we have learned the hard way that sheep leave Houdini in the shadows when it comes to escaping!

The second bit that needs some final work is the front paddock which was used to grow bulbs by a former owner. This requires some irrigation and a gravel base to be removed before some re-grassing can take place.

There is also a dam in this same paddock which needs a bit of TLC in the way of some bamboo removed  (who in their right mind ever plants bamboo?), and the dam cleaned out. When we arrived there was a bent and broken windmill beside this waterway. We had it taken away, but the man and I fancy getting a new one to pump the water up to one of the tanks we have.  Eventually. These things cost money and although nice to have, it is not a priority at the moment.

Meanwhile we are continuing to put the  gardens in. Today I planted parsley, thyme, mint, marjoram, chives and sage beside the rosemary I put in last week. I have located this in a sunny spot a few steps away from the kitchen. Nothing like convenience!

I also have started dealing to the overgrown garden where the son found the potatoes growing. This is a mass of horrible weeds so it will take me a while to whip this into shape.

The marmalade making is continuing at pace. This week’s batch contained more lemons than the last lot and I made it less chunky by cutting the pieces a lot smaller. It set a treat – maybe it was the smallness of the pieces or perhaps it was the obligatory whiskey I threw in? Regardless, I have the mystique of marmalade making totally sorted now!

I also cleaned my stove.

No, don’t roll your eyes!

I have always been interested in using other ways to clean than the normal commercial products. I have found oven cleaners and their caustic chemicals get into the back of my throat and are unpleasant, so I decided to give a baking soda and vinegar recipe a shot.

Mr Google provided several such recipes – many of which used hydrogen peroxide too.  I decided I wanted to avoid the hydrogen peroxide so found a recipe that used only a paste of baking soda and water, a bit of elbow grease and a final clean with vinegar. It worked a treat. Goodbye store bought products – I will use baking soda and vinegar from now on.

Lastly I have had my catch up with my tame gardening guru over pruning and spraying. She has given me some sound advice which I will put into practice next week – hopefully I will end up with some amazingly shapely trees which are full of fruit!

Country life – never dull!

*There were actually 11 at their peak, but 2 ended up in the freezer.  We now have 8 pregnant ewes and 1 ram.

New Life – Simply living.

 

I am writing this on a winter’s afternoon. The day is fine but slightly cold, so we have the fire burning slowly in the hearth. The man’s sterling efforts cutting and storing firewood over the summer months means we have no shortage of this resource.

This morning I made marmalade from the fruit grown on our property.  This is the first lot of 50 jars that I want to put down this season. The man is a marmalade fiend. I chucked some whiskey in this batch for good luck.

Yesterday I planted some rosemary. This is the beginning of our herb garden.

Earlier in the week I planted a couple of rows of garlic in the newly resurrected vegetable garden. I will plant another two rows in about a month. And other vegetables too.  Although only ones we like – no point growing produce we won’t eat. The rotary hoe we bought a couple of months back is finally earning its keep!

Last weekend our youngest son and his wife came visiting and he and I cooked a roast for dinner. The potatoes were found in an overgrown garden in the corner of the home paddock. He recognised them; I thought they were weeds!* The  lamb, too, came from our property and although it took me a few days to get my head around this fact, any reservations about the meat’s provenance evaporated at the first mouthful! It was delish.  And that rosemary I planted will be the making of future lamb dishes!

Last week I made guava jelly from the remnants of fruit on our trees. The trees were fruiting when I went away and I thought they would have been well and truly finished by the time I got back. They weren’t. There is definitely a longer growing season up here.

A couple of weeks before that I whipped up a batch of feijoa chutney. Again the fruit came from our land.

Meanwhile plans are afoot for the chickens. I have a bid in for a recycled roost on Trademe and have worked out where the hens will go. I am thinking 6 might be a good number – enough eggs for us and enough to gift to visiting family and friends.

Next week we have to think about pruning the fruit trees and working out what we want to do about spraying.  As we don’t know a lot about it, I will head into the garden centre and get some tips from our favourite shop assistant there (she knows EVERYTHING about plants). It is also the time to plant more fruit trees so we will be talking to her about this too.

In the next month or so, the macadamias should be ready to harvest. Not sure what I’ll do with these; but I’ll figure it out.

Country life. Perfect.

*This is now our official potato growing spot!

** I also have a bid in on a mincer which I think will be great for mincing fruit for marmalade etc.

New Life – Week 6 – Life and death

It is 8 o’clock in the evening and I am writing this blog. In the background I can hear a quad bike,  the neighbouring farmer shouting, his working dogs barking and cows occasionally mooing as they are moved from one paddock to another. Life in the country – it’s beaut.

This blog is another farm story: a story with a happy ending for everything, except, maybe, a few possums. Last post I mentioned that the man and I had a ram on our property to service the ewes. I was very excited about this because this would mean there would be lambs frolicking – OK, initially staggering in a drunken fashion – across our land by late August, and let’s face it, newborn lambs are up there on the cuteness scale.

Except our ram had a sore leg and had no interest in fathering anything. Now Karl, our tame farm manager, had pinned his hopes on the ram recovering with drugs – this is, of course, the North, but let me reassure you, we are talking legal prescription drugs here.

Unfortunately, the drugs did not do their job and by Tuesday evening, we noticed that the ram could not even weight bear on that leg. We gave Karl a bell, and the news wasn’t good. He’d checked the animal that day, and not only was the ram going to be relieved of impregnation responsibilities, he was destined to be dog tucker. Sad, right?

Today  Jim,  farmer and ram owner, turned up with the replacement, and to pick up the injured animal. He stayed for a while and yarned about what we were doing with the land. All of us studiously avoided the subject of what he intended to do with the lame ram. Finally, Jim swung into action and did what we thought was a very tricky ram swap out using our cattle race, the stock trailer and his dog.

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One of Jim’s working dogs

 

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Jim in action sorting the ram.

I couldn’t look the injured ram in the eye. Dog tucker!

This segues nicely into the topic of possums. We have heard one. Once. Now we know that because kiwis are released near us, predator numbers are kept low. However, one possum is still one possum too many. And let’s face facts, it may well have moved its extended family in. And a friend or two. The man and I talked to Jim about dealing to them.  He suggested a trap.   I suggested shooting. That’s OK too,  apparently. If we do get a possum, we can sell it to a local possum buyer. They process possums for dog tucker. Get the irony?

After Jim left, I raised the sad fate of the ram with the man. The man told me there had been a change of plan. The problem is footrot. Jim is sure he can sort it. The ram will live.

Possums though? Yeah, nah. They will become dog tucker.

 

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