Christmas

It’s been a sobering year for our family and there may be a few tears today amongst the joyful moments. We send our love to all of you and hope for a less eventful 2018.

Now run away and hug the ones you love. x

Dogs and Christmas tree

Happy Christmas from the farmlet

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Sheepish

Thanks for waiting. Now we can get on to talking about the sheep.

The same weekend we acquired kune kune pigs we also bought two ewes, one with a set of twins, and one with a single lamb, from a neighbour who farms Wiltshire sheep. The Wiltshire breed shed their wool in spring which makes them a good choice for amateurs like us who don’t want to have a clue how to shear.

Two of the lambs are wethers (that’s farmer-speak for neutered boys), who, when they reach about a year old, are destined for the freezer. In autumn we plan to send the girls for some sexy-time with our neighbour’s ram, and if all goes well we could be raising farmlet-born lambs by next spring.

Wiltshire sheep under trees

Wiltshire sheep looking pretty in the Bottom Paddock

For obvious reasons I’m going to keep the Forbearing Husband well away from the cute little lambies. Fortunately for our culinary hopes, our sheep show no signs whatsoever of wanting to interact with us, so perhaps the Forbearing Husband and I really will manage to eat those lads. If not Stephen and Deborah will just have to find it in them to mop up any excess meat. I’ve already decided that if I can’t bring myself to eat our home reared animals I’m going to embrace vegetarianism.

All in all it’s feeling rather pastoral around here.

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Two little pigs

We have officially moved to the next level in our efforts to make ourselves look like Real Farmers. In a recent flurry of animal acquisition, beasties have fair-to-flooded through the gates of our little acreage. In just one weekend we added two kunekune pigs and five Wiltshire sheep to our livestock, more than trebling our previous stock count of one-and-three-quarter ponies*.

Kunekune pigs

The kunekune girls, Prunella and Fig

The pigs are named Fig and Prunella, that’s Fig and Nell for short. As in, ‘Fig ‘n’ Nell, where have those pigs got to!’. Deborah named them, but you can thank the Forbearing Husband for their bawdy joint sobriquet. Fig ‘n’ Nell can look forward to a future providing orchard grass control and porcine entertainment. The idea was always for them to be working pets rather than sausages.

Kunekune pigs

The face that made a grown man consider going pork-free for life

We do have a plan to eventually raise a couple of larger breed pigs to make into bacon and ham, although that may now have to be taken under advisement. Soon after the arrival of the piglets we sat — proud piggy-parents — watching the girls enthusiastically chow-down on loquats. As juice dripped off their little chins, and happy grunting filled the air, the Forbearing Husband turned to me. ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to eat pork ever again’ he confided sheepishly.

Kunekune pigs

Fig finds herself unable to stand after a bumper intake of yummies (photo by Stephen)

That’s certainly something, coming from a man who when brunching at a cafe habitually orders meals that include bacon. I wonder how long he can manage without a slice of bacon and egg pie!

Now don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the sheep. I’ll be back soon to fill you in on all the woolly gossip. I know that Nurse Jenny for one is probably raring to find out about our potential for creating hand spun knitting wool.

*  I’m not counting the dogs and cat as stock. They would like you to know that they consider themselves well above that status.

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Gimpy

After an Unfortunate Incident on Tuesday morning I’m laid up with a sprained ankle. If only I could say I sustained the injury vaulting off a pony, or leaping daringly in front of an escaping sheep, but no. In a (literally) pedestrian manner I slipped on a road marking slick with rain as I crossed the street on my way to work.

Resting a sprained ankle

The Forbearing Husband is referring to me as Gimpy.

After a day of ingesting painkillers, sitting with my foot elevated and hobbling about on crutches — while also of course maintaining a (passably) professional presence at work — I realised that driving was out of the question. Forbearing Husband was on a work trip to Auckland so I had to ask Deborah to come and drive me home. Thank you Deborah.

It’s all rather annoying as it was my turn to be in Auckland yesterday. I had made plans to take my lovely friend The Doctor out for dinner on Wednesday night, and then today I was meant to be nose to the grindstone earning some dollars to pay Phil the Fencer and his boys. They are back here working on more fencing, and I fear the bill will be horrendous.

Instead I’m sitting with my feet up drinking tea, reading and blogging, and listening to the Forbearing Husband digging. He’s trying to find where those expensive fencing boys have broken through our stream water supply pipe. Hold on, it’s not sounding too bad after all. Enforced down time? I’ll take it. Just pass me that arnica cream could you?

What’s your advice on how to heal a gimpy ankle?

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Bonfire Night

We had a bonfire.

Bonfire

Thank goodness for Little Red

Bonfire

imagine moving all that wood by wheelbarrow.

Bonfire

That head-height pile to the right of the fire is twelve months worth of weeds. Mainly our collection of JC.

Bonfire

By 6pm the bonfire was looking lively.

Bonfire

The boys had fun prodding it with pokers.

Bonfire

We loaded on the JC and up it went. A fitting end for those nasty weeds.

Bonfire

8pm

Bonfire

9pm

Bonfire

10pm. Contented firebugs.

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Snail

How is it that tiny baby snails are cute, while tiny baby slugs are not?

Baby snail on broccoli

Baby snail on broccoli

This mini-muncher was sleeping in the broccoli I brought in from the garden for dinner last night. Overcome by sentimentality I relocated hir* to the compost bin rather than performing my usual snail squashing routine.

I’m pretty sure that saving baby snails marks me out as Not A Real Farmer.

* Hir is a gender neutral pronoun.

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It’s a Riot

There’s a riot of green in the veggie patch just now, plants are falling all over each other as they jostle for space. Even though I expanded the food garden last year it’s currently more crowded than an Auckland motorway at Labour Weekend. Here’s a snapshot.

Violas and kale

Violas, sweet william, celery, leek, and kale (and a photo-bombing weed — left of centre leaning towards us)

Brocoli head with snail trails

Broccoli head (with a couple of slug trails)

Potted bay tree

Potted bay tree sending out new shoots

Sweet pea flower

Sweet peas cosy up to broad beans

Curly kale

Curly kale sports a green afro

Chamomile flower

Chamomile. On hand to create a calming brew when…

Talo / taro leaf

Mama tells you your talo is planted it in quite the wrong place! (seems to be growing just fine to me)

Cat on a rock

My supervisor likes to sit on a sun warmed rock whilst directing my work

I’m hoping to get the last section of the vegetable growing area cleared and planted before the dry of summer sneaks up. At the moment I have a tangle of weeds where weed-mat used to be. Not worried though — those weeds are busy doing the first stage of soil restoration for me. Thank goodness for nature, always striving to re-balance whatever damage us humans cause.

So, what’s happening in your garden this spring? Or are you busy with non-garden spring things? I’d love to hear. Please share in the comments.

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We Swam!

Today was the day. First up a couple of hours of cutting, moving and chipping branches in preparation for Phil the Fencer to slug out the next wave of fencing. Then Deborah and I hit the pool.

swim season

It’s swim season.

Bather with pink towel

Deborah doing a credible impression of the Botticelli Venus, only with a little more modesty.

It wasn’t actually my very first swim of this spring. That happened about two weeks ago — but I’m counting it as my first official swim because last time I was in and out faster than a small fat pony looking for a carrot. Today I swam a respectable ten laps. It was, as AntiGene likes to say, ‘refreshing’, but this time in a fairly pleasant rather than mostly painful sort of a way.

While Deborah and I were drying off Mama re-established herself as ‘Most Athletic 85 year-old on the Property’, in this revival of her 2016 pool bombing performance. I didn’t happen to have the camera on video setting so you’ll just have to look back here to view last years’s full heart-stopping experience.

Grandmother about to dive

Mama’s on the edge.

Grandma jumps in

And she’s in.

Us ‘young ones’ upstaged by Mama as usual. ‘Oi ‘ka fefe!*

* translation: ‘Oh my goodness!’

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I went to Omokoroa

I was there the weekend before last and had a lovely visit with two of my favorite people, AntiGene and UnklEd. Here they are:

AntiGene and UnklEd

UnklEd and AntiGene.

As of Friday they’ve been married for 55 years, and they are still not only talking to each other, but listening to each other as well. The Forbearing Husband and I want to be like them when we grow up.

While I was staying AntiGene and I indulged in a little light op shopping, during which I found (another) old tartan-patterned thermos flask. I have four now, but are they not adorable? I’m in Auckland today and tomorrow, but I’ll add a picture when I get home.

We also went to a concert at the Tauranga Art Gallery,

Opus programme

Mozart, Strauss and Dvorak

and admired this exhibition which was on display at the same venue.

Afterwards we had dinner at a little Italian restaurant where AntiGene charmed the owner by chatting away in la bella lingua. When she was 19, AntiGene spent seven months in Italy working as an au pair for an Italian family. Apparently the village gossip was tantilising so she learnt the language pronto to keep up with what Signorina Rossi* got up to last weekend.

That all happened on Saturday! On Sunday UnklEd and had coffee with Omokoroa Joe and his wife Lynn (whose cousin turns out to be the owner of our local tavern. No, really! Who’d-a thought?).

Because both UnklEd and Joe are geniuses at fixing things and solving problems. I left with Ed’s inspired suggestion to use a steam weeder for organic weed control, and Joe’s savvy ex-farmer’s tip to stop algae growing in the troughs by adding a little bluestone (copper sulphate) to tuck into my bank of farmlet ideas.

It seems there’s no end of things to be learned from the Omokoroa crew. I’m looking forward to going back soon for another burst of inspiration. Thank you AntiGene and UnklEd.

* Signorina Rossi is a made up Italian with a steamy social life.

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Little Red

There are so many things that need moving from place to place on a smallholding. Horse poo is transfered from paddocks to gardens, firewood is schlepped from the Seven Acre Wood up to the wood-sheds, old hay from the chicken house is spread under the trees in the orange grove… and so on.

Up until now we’ve been making do with a wheelbarrow and muscle power. This has provided excellent exercise for our glutei maximi, but after two years of moving large and heavy loads by hand the shine was beginning to wear off goods locomotion as a form of exercise. ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a quad bike?’ farmlet residents muttered with increasing frequency .

So, look at what just arrived.

Can Am Quad

Introducing Little Red,

Can Am Quad

our new farmlet helper.

A chance conversation at Farmlands a few weeks ago put us in touch with a sheep farmer selling up to move into town. After a phone call and a road trip to Wellsford we lucked into a sweet deal. The low-use quad he was selling came complete with a trailer and a set of spray equipment for fertilizer or weed-killer. For an extra couple of hundy we picked up this spreader too.

Spreader

The spreader. Fill it with lime or seed and tow it behind the quad to disperse the contents across your land

Having Little Red around makes me feel just a little bit like a Real Farmer — even though we are living on just a snippet of land. Actual farmers regard an acreage of this size with the sort of contempt the Forbearing Husband affords a ‘fun size’ Snickers bar.

Small it may be, but getting lime onto seven acres-ish of paddocks (to help counter those acid loving dock and buttercup plants) was still going to be a mission. Putting a full size lime truck across the land seemed like overkill, and besides the top paddock is only now recovering from the soil compression left by Phil the Fencer’s tractor. Deborah and I had been considering using a hand rolled lime broadcasting system, but owning that spreader will make things a whole lot faster.

Because I know you want more, here are a couple of gratuitous photos of Stephen playing at being a farmer and standing in for a bikini model (yup, thought that would get your attention).

Can Am

Farmer Steve

Can Am

And then, since the local bikini model was unavailable

Welcome Little Red. We hope you’ll have a long and happy life running us around.

** Many thanks UnklEd and Omokoroa Joe for asking all the right questions to help us make the decision on buying this particular quad. These two lovely men know so much more about engines, farming, and quad bikes than we do. Big hugs to you both. x **

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