I live in Whangarei!

One thing I don’t think I’ve brought you up to date with yet is that after two and a half years of living between cities I am now halfway through my first full-time year in Whangarei! Yes, after stretching and reaching for what seemed like the longest time I’ve finally landed. And right side up, thank goodness.

Sunset at Whangarei Airport

Sunset after landing at Whangarei Airport

For the first six months after we moved to the farmlet I was still working in Auckland four days a week. I would drive up to Whangarei on a Thursday night and drive off again on Sunday afternoon, leaving the Forbearing Husband and Favorite Stepson to endure a bunch of rural maintenance upheavals, and look after the animals and weeding. Two city boys transplanted wholesale to rural Northland; their only solace a 40 inch television (lent by friends to replace our own much smaller screen after Favorite Stepson lamented his up-coming rustication), and the prospect of undertaking an extremely thorough and systematic review of every fish and chip shop in Whangarei. Times were tough, and the boys were very forbearing, especially since the move to a location far, far away from a BurgerFuel outlet had been mainly my idea (okay, it was entirely my idea).

The menfolk did a masterful job looking after the farm, but we were all very happy when I decided to kick in my salaried job at the end of December 2015. For me that happiness was accompanied by moments of sheer terror. We still hadn’t sold our Auckland house, and I was responsible for a too-large-for-my-liking bridging finance loan.

In 2016, to keep up with the financial obligations, I took a 12 month contract which required one or two days a week in Auckland. This, combined with working my own Auckland gig one day a week, still meant travel, but, with some late night driving, I could sleep at home six nights out of seven. The balance had shifted. Familial solidarity is a wonderful thing when pumps fail and horses escape in the night. Between traveling back and forth to Auckland, weeding, and photographing fungi, I started growing a business in Whangarei with the hope that it would eventually provide an income north of the Brynderwyns.

View of Whangarei Heads from a car

Whangarei Heads from a car. I wasn’t driving, that’s the Forbearing husband’s hand.

By mid-way through last year I was down to just one day a fortnight in the big city, and when that finally wound up in December I breathed a big sigh of relief. It makes me ridiculously happy to be based in Whangarei and to wake up every morning next to the Forbearing Husband with my ponies outside our window. I feel as though I’ve finally arrived in the life I was hoping for when we started this journey.

On the minus side my blogging has slowed down. I think this is partly a side effect of settling into a new routine, but mainly because I no longer have 4+ hours a week driving time in which to compose blog posts in my head. That blog planning time, and relaxed evenings with my dear friend The Doctor (who very, very kindly let me stay at her place on my Auckland nights) are the main things I miss about that two and a half years of Auckland work trips.

There’s a bit more to tell yet. I expect you’ll want to know how that Whangarei business worked out and whether it’s covering our hay and gin expenses. Those are good questions, but this post is getting long so all that will have to be a story for another day.

In the meantime though… What transitions have you survived and how did you manage them?

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

Earworm

Comments from Sassafras and Deborah on yesterday’s post reminded me of this cartoon. It’s from an Awkward Yeti book given to me a couple of years ago by someone on her way to a Brilliant Career (you know who you are).

It sums up one of my brain’s annoying habits perfectly.

Heart and Brain. The Awkward Yeti. Singing in Bed.

From: Seluk, N. (2015). Heart and Brain. Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City.

Which terrible song is your brain singing to you today?

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

I’m All out of Gloves*

I’ve just finished a full weekend of weeding**, which has reminded me that before relocating to ‘the land’ I would have been wise to buy shares in a garden glove company.

black bull gardening gloves

Feeding weeds to the worm bin after a  long overdue weeding blitz in the veggie garden.

I can’t count the number of pairs I’ve worn out in the last three years. Work gloves are almost as useful as gumboots in our new-found rural lifestyle. They are, if not actually essential, certainly highly desirable for all manner of tasks: weeding; chainsawing; chipping (no not that kind, this kind); fertilizer pick-up, moving firewood, more weeding; planting trees; planting pretty things; throwing weeds on the bonfire; splitting firewood; brushing muddy ponies; and did I mention weeding? And as with gumboots, we have a healthy selection of gloves on the back verandah. No visitor’s offer of weeding is ever turned down on this land.

Worn garden gloves

The family glove collection in various states of disrepair

There are five of us on the property, all tearing (literally and figuratively) through gloves. So, if you’re reading this and you happen know of a glove manufacturer in need of a full and thorough product testing service, consider this a wholehearted offer to assist.

Interestingly it’s the left thumb and the right middle finger on my gloves that always seem to fail first. Goodness knows what I’m doing with those digits to account for resultant holes, but I’m pretty sure my regular reader Sukalati will have some lewd suggestion to make in the comment box.

 

* Kudos to those children of the 80’s who recognised the truly awful pun.
** That was last weekend. Took me a while to get this post written.

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

Sold on Instagram!

So, funny story… Today, at 1pm precisely, I changed my Instagram username. I’ve been paid a stack of beans to do this by a little handbag company who coveted my handle @deadlyponies.

Whodathought?

NZ currency fan

Money for nothing!

I’ll miss being deadlyponies (I kinda thought it suited me), but really, the name is just an ephemeral social media tag. A couple of thousand dollars worth of farm equipment is going to be much more worthwhile.

And now I’m @cowboybootsandbrokenfingers if anyone is looking for me. Or click on the Instagram icon below this post. See you there.

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

Stranded

After raining most of yesterday, it continued to rain all through last night. Not just a gentle sprinkling either, rather the sort of torrential rain you wouldn’t believe could possibly keep bucketing down hour after hour.

Early this morning Stephen of House Kragbol took this photo of the end of our lane where it meets the main road. It probably goes without saying that having driven out there planning to go to work, he very quickly decided to abandon that idea. A wise choice, those little lumps sticking out of the water are the very tips of fenceposts.

Those are standard farm fence posts. They sit around a metre high. That’s a lot of water.

So here we are — Deborah and Stephen, The Forbearing Husband, Favorite Stepson, myself, and the others in the handful of properties on our street — all stranded by floodwaters worthy of a diminutive ark. Fortunately the big wet sits several hundred yards away from our place, and although the stream around the Seven Acre Wood is running as high as we’ve ever seen it, there is still a goodly way to go before that breaks its banks.

Mind you, the rain hasn’t stopped yet so there’s no saying my next post won’t be typed from a kayak.

Happy Winter!

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

Please remain seated

(I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but for some reason never got around to hitting publish. Here it is, for what it’s worth).

 

This summer was busy. One of the Forbearing Husband’s projects came to fruition in a most satisfying way, which meant more than the usual number of trips away from home for both of us.

Because of all the excitement it’s been a bit harder than usual to keep up with a regular riding schedule. I’ve been trying to get out every chance I can though, and this afternoon, riding bareback on a rather grumpy pony during duck shooting season (she hates the random gun shots sounding out from various neighbourhood properties), I rode through a spook that would have unseated me just a few months ago.

It’s so cool when practice starts to pay off don’t you think?  I’m still a very novice rider. Summer, bless her, kindly puts up with a whole lot of human error, but after every ride I figure a few more things out and — slowly, slowly — I’m moving closer to being the rider I’d one day like to be.

This is my inspiration, Stacey Westfall and Whizard’s Baby Doll (aka Roxy) at the 2006 American Quarter Horse Congress — it makes me smile every time I watch it. If only I had enough practice hours left in my lifetime!

 

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

The Nom-Nom lawn

We’re starting with a pretty picture of a rose because links in Facebook insist on featuring the first picture shown in a blog post. Last week it was an ugly fly-swat and I feel the need to up my aesthetic game. As you probably know, social media doesn’t reward reality unless it is either visually attractive, or downright shocking.

Charles Rennie MacIntosh rose

The beautifully fragrant R. ‘Charles Rennie MacIntosh’, kindly bought for my English Garden by Deborah

Ok, on to the actual reason for this update.

When I first posted about the English Garden last spring, I finished with this un-Facebook-worthy-but-honest shot of the pretty bits surrounded by a veritable wilderness of long grass (you can see why I stooped to the gratuitous use of that photogenic rose).

Weeds around English Garden

Weeds around English Garden

On our arrival at the farmlet the grass around the English Garden became part of an unfenced paddock. Whenever the ponies grazed there electric fencing had to be put up, and then moved with them to the next location. It was a lot of work and the grass would grow to  jungle-like proportions between grazing rotations. Still, I called the area my Nominal Lawn. Because every English Garden needs a lawn, even if it exists in name only.

All hail to the fencing crew though, because after Phil the Fencer and his lads completed a second round of fencing late last year (the round I call our fencing extravaganza, for reasons outlined previously) the English Garden gained an actual lawn.

What used to look like this:

Horse and electric fencing

Previous solar-charged electric fence. The same fence the horses once escaped through at 2am. Note Summer’s yoga pose* as she reaches under the tape for a mouthful of extra yummy grass

Now looks like this! You may just be able to make out that the tree behind Summer’s backside in the first photo is the same one that’s in line with the gatepost below.

Fence and horse

New post and rail fence. No more escapes and an ACTUAL lawn!

After it became real, rather than nominal, we started calling the new lawn the Nom-Nom Lawn. It seems co-incidentally extra appropriate because there is usually at least one old bone lying around on the grass ready to be nommed by one or other of the dogs.

The long grass I showed you at the top of the page has gradually been tamed. And because the kunekune pigs, contrary to their advertised qualities as grass-eaters and not diggers, actually dig like billy-o, we are mowing. Yup, it was a fine plan to go mower-free, but in lesson number 4021 of my farming education I’ve learned that petrol mowers are more easily controlled than animal mowers. And anyway Favorite Stepson is open to bribes.

Garden with roses

Grass near the English Garden looking marginally closer to something Vita would recognise as lawn.

So now I have an English Garden with a Nom-Nom Lawn and a fence for the ponies to hang their necks over; all is right with the world. Rule Britannia, and pass the cucumber sandwiches.

* She’s doing a pretty good impression of Trikonasana, the Triangle Pose. It’s obviously a bit harder with four legs.

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

Professional

Last year I was an amateur swat-a-holic. This year I’ve moved my game up a notch or two. Behold my professional-level fly swat.

Fly swat

Pictured in as-new condition prior to entering battle

I found it in New World on Willis Street during last year’s winter Wellington trip. It was languishing on a shelf, on special for $2 (I guess there’s not much call for a fly swat in a Wellington winter). Imagine my excitement in finding the instrument of death some of The Readership referred to after my post on The Great Northland Fly Plague of 2017.

Those of you in step with interior design trends will sympathise when I tell you the only two colours available were fluorescent yellow or fluorescent green. Picture me reluctantly setting aside my ambition to create the restrained neutral-with-an-industrial-vibe decor featured in all the recent shelter magazines, and buying the fluro yellow one. Such are the sacrifices one must make.

Natural / industrial kitchen

The people who own this kitchen probably wouldn’t buy a fluro yellow plastic fly swat

Mind you, given that my previous swatting implement was a rolled up Supercheap Auto flyer I probably can’t afford to get too precious about aesthetics.

Thankfully the advantages of this new model outweigh the brutal colour. It boasts minimal drag, a flexible handle to add flick to those delicate edge-of-the-fruit-bowl shots, it’s fully washable and has little fringy bits on the front to sweep up the corpses. After a full and busy fly season, during which it sustained minor damage to one corner after a particularly enthusiastic swipe, it is still dispatching those nasty little visitors.

yellow fluro flyswat

For those who requested an after-battle shot.

Two dollars well spent I say! Anyone else upgraded their anti-vermin arsenal recently?

 

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

I’m Spinning

One of the things I appreciate about living on the farmlet is all the resource on my doorstep.

Need a Christmas tree? No problem, head out to The Strip and chainsaw down one of the stunted pines on the west boundary.
Biomass for the compost heap? We grow great weeds.
Didn’t get to Mitre 10 to buy hooks for your homemade coat rack? It took me a while, but eventually I figured out I could just raid the Seven Acre Wood for some hook-like sticks.

Coat rack with natural timber hooks

After all, weren’t the very first hooks just sticks?

The arrival of the sheep got me excited about a new resource. Those self-shedders leave cute little tufts of wool all around the paddock. Now how cool is that? Visions of hand dyed, home knitted socks and jerseys danced in my head. Naturally I shared my ambition with my friend, and inveterate sock-knitter, Nurse Jenny, and after we’d jumped up and down a little bit in excitement and Googled how to dye wool with lichen and onion skins (we got a bit ahead of ourselves), she suggested something wonderful.

Castle spinning wheel

Jenny’s spinning wheel

A few weekends later Jenny and her Auntie Cynthia arrived at the farmlet with this spinning wheel which once belonged to Jenny’s mum. It’s a beauty, and they are very kindly letting me have it on long term loan so that I can teach myself to spin. That’s right people, I’m going to spin that cute fluffy sheep wool into yarn. Eventually (just as well it’s a long term loan).

Learning to spin is a bit like my memories of learning to drive; there are multiple physical and cognitive tasks involved, all of which need to happen simultaneously, continuously, and at speed. Thankfully the worst consequences of a brain freeze during spinning are lumpy wool and colourful language (yup, I’ve been talking in all the colours). The process is a sobering reminder of the effort that was involved in keeping yourself clothed until just a few hundred years ago. It makes me very grateful that I’m creating yarn from raw wool for fun, and that I still get to buy my undies at Kmart.

Homespun raw lamb's wool

Homespun raw lamb’s wool.

As you can see, my early attempts are considerably more ‘textured’ than is desirable, (let’s just be kind and label it bouclé?), but I’m sure that eventually the wheel and I will come to an arrangement. After all driving soon became second nature, and even though I once thought I’d never manage to ride Summer bareback at a trot (she’s got a very bouncy trot) I eventually mastered that too. It’s all about practice.

And once I get going I will be able spin yarn to knit into all sorts of things. Well, all sorts of very, very small things anyway. Anyone need an egg cosy?

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube

Playing Statues

When Paul the-farmer-down-the-lane asked whether we could accommodate his 23 calves for a week we were happy to oblige. After the recent wet summer we have grass to spare, and calves make for adorable paddock ornaments don’t you think?

Frisian calves

Gratuitous photo of the cute calves currently adorning our paddock

Then, while I sat in the paddock waiting for the troughs to top up yesterday, I noticed a disturbing similarity between cattle and a certain predatory race encountered by the Tenth Doctor.

Cattle NZ

One…

Two…

Three…

Boo.

Don’t blink!

Follow
Pinterest
Pinterest
Facebook
Facebook
Follow
YouTube