A Woolly Tale, by Nurse Jenny

This is a guest post from my lovely friend Nurse Jenny. No-one is more qualified to write about wool than she. Rumor has it that the many skeins of wool she has collected, laid end to end, would stretch from her office all the way to Crave Café.

It’s a slightly boring story of how I’ve ended up doing a Guest Blog so we’ll leave that out. The important thing is that Chrissy and I share a passion for things crafty and woolly, although only Chrissy has attained the heights of actually producing her own sheep.  So when I spotted a notice for the Creative Fibre Northland Expo featuring pictures of both a Spinning Wheel (for Chrissy) and Sock Knitting Yarn (for Me) we considered for 20 seconds and knew we had to go.

The show was back in July but Time is only relative after all

Leaving our bemused (and forbearing) families behind we set off on A Mission to discover the delights of Northland Fibre all in one place. We were not disappointed. I was quite overcome by a stall of Sock Knitting Yarn, having only ever seen such a thing before on The Internet (very surprisingly it’s only recently that NZ has either produced or supplied good quality sock knitting yarn). Chrissy herself remained calmer and picked up lots of handy Spinning Tips from the locals.

Very pretty sock knitting yarn

As well as the delights of Spinning and Socks there were various yarny stalls to browse through and some stunning works of art by local crafters. Quite a bit of time was spent ooh-ing and ahh-ing and feeling inspired. We did ponder giving up our Day Jobs to make more time for yarny pursuits, but Chrissy has ponies to keep in hay and I have teenagers. I might however have slightly supported the local economy by coming away with a lovely haul of woolly goodies, always a Good Thing …

Fibre arts Whangarei

Just amazing and the pictures don’t do it justice

Balls of wool and an alpaca

Nurse Jenny’s Haul, including Annie the Alpaca

Feeling tired but happily woolly we returned to The Farmlet for a cup of tea. We shall return, next year.

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Lambing

I’m feeling like a real farmer today after Deborah, Stephen and I watched one of our ewes deliver a lamb. I suppose I might have felt even more like a farmer had we needed to intervene, but thankfully mama sheep managed just fine on her own.

The other pregnant ewe produced twin boys on Friday. We completely missed that birth. The first we knew was when Stephen’s possum hunting headlamp illuminated an extra two pairs of sheep eyes late on Friday night. I snuck this photo on Saturday morning.

Ewe and lamb

Cute baby animal photo alert.

Spring is off to a great start in our little corner of the world with these three babies boosting our sheep population by 100%. What are the spring happenings in your neighbourhood?

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How to make a project last

Are you wondering what’s been happening in the farmlet kitchen? I mean any blogger worth their salt would have finished that room by now. We would have had the big ta-dah ‘before’ and ‘after’ reveal, and I would have moved on to another suitably impressive project.

Instead it still looks just like this (only a lot less tidy on any given day).

Don’t worry about those dubious looking jars on the bench. They are just my kombucha scobys.

Sorry about that. Progress only ever inches ahead around here. In some ways it’s frustrating not to rip through. I have a picture in my head of how this house will look when I’m done and I want to get there faster. To comfort myself I concentrate on the advantages of going slow. What, you didn’t think there were any? You’ve been brainwashed by too many ‘have it all and have it now’ reality tv programmes on renovation.

From where I’m sitting (with not much money and big ideas) the advantages of the slow approach are (1) more time for research, and thus a better likelihood of saving money, and (2) allowing for my ideas to change. I’m always pretty clear on the sort of look I want before I start a project, but usually only couple of key elements are really definite. In our kitchen the things I know for sure are that I want indigo blue cupboards, and square white tiles laid offset all the way from countertop to ceiling. See this tile inspiration pic.

One of my 357 inspiration pins for the kitchen. Now if only I could have that floor!

Having sorted out a couple of the basics in my head other parts of the plan morph as I creep forward step by step. For example, in this kitchen I originally hoped for a farmhouse sink (how lovely is this one?). And I still really want a farmhouse sink. Unfortunately the affordable IKEA sink is too wide front to back for our cabinets, and all the other models I’ve sourced are both cripplingly expensive, and because of the depth of the apron, would need a whole new under-sink cupboard built specially to accommodate them. Goodbye farmhouse sink; at least until I come into enough money for a full kitchen remodel (not holding my breath).

That’s okay though because as things develop I keep having EVEN BETTER IDEAS! The Forbearing Husband is used to this. As I announce each newly altered plan he looks a little worried and shuffles his feet, while saying supportively ‘What a fabulous plan my darling, if only I’d thought of that!’. As mentioned previously, the man is a saint.

So here are a few of my Even Better Ideas. Try to keep up.

  1. No farmhouse sink might mean instead a stainless steel sink (which on the plus side solves my worry about a porcelain sink cracking if we drop a saucepan into it).
  2. A stainless steel sink opens up the possibility of a stainless steel bench with integrated sinks (ooooh!). And because I’m slow working in a calm and considered manner, the good news is that I haven’t yet ordered the wooden bench-tops I felt sure I wanted, so I have flexibility.
  3. A stainless steel bench would remove all my worries about the stains, scorch marks and the water puddle induced warping that can befall a macrocarpa slab bench top (all of which were experienced at our old house, much as I loved the counters there).
  4. In the intervening ‘low-progress’ months Deborah has found a product which means we could have a solid tongue and groove floor at an affordable price (something I previously thought impossible). If I’d already ordered the macrocarpa benches I might have hesitated to use wood on the floors. Our kitchen is quite dark and we already have wooden ceilings, so some light reflective surfaces are called for to brighten things up. Now I’m thinking that floor and ceiling in warm rustic look wood planks, balanced by semi industrial style stainless steel counters and white shiny tile walls could be just the ticket. I’ll keep you posted.

What is your renovation project style? Are you a quick decisive type, or a slower sort with a mountain of morphing ideas? And what are your thoughts on wood vs stainless steel kitchen counters? The comment box is open.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

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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.

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