Watch the Birdie

As those of you who follow me on Instagram will already know, over the last week the Forbearing Husband and I morphed into bird watchers. I don’t mean of the twitcher type though, I mean the full time, close up, feeding with tweezers every hour kind of bird watching.

Meet Frankie. Identity: gender-fluid. Pronouns: Ze/Hir.

Fledgling sparrow

Frankie, ready to fly.

I found hir as I was clearing cabbage tree leaves off the lawn in preparation for mowing. I almost trod on the little pink scrap in the grass before I saw what it was. I could see where ze might have fallen from, but that nest was so high, and in such spindly cabbage tree branches that there was no way to get baby back to it. We attempted a family reunion by wedging a spare nest into a lower branch and hoping mum or dad would feed baby there. No such luck. By dusk it was clear that without some help little bird would be dead by morning.

And so it began.

Nestling sparrow


For eight days we did all the things you do for a newborn human baby. Hourly feeds, waking at 6am, sterilising utensils, cleaning up shit, soaking cat biscuits in water and poking them into a wide open mouth with tweezers — oh sorry, that bit probably doesn’t apply to human babies.

Due to the derelict nature of the cabbage tree that Frankie fell from, we have a few spare nests. They fall out all the time; mostly after the babies have left home, thank goodness. Why birds insist on making homes in a tree which any sane DIY nest builder could see is highly unstable and vulnerable to wind gusts I’ll never know.

Anyway, we popped Frankie in one of the spare nests. It wasn’t long however before ze made it clear that hir preferred accommodation was someone’s hand. The Forbearing Husband and I took shifts at carrying hir around as she slept, chirping gently (her to us, and us to her). It was rather comforting for all concerned, but neither of us humans got much work done.

Hope in one hand, shit in the other

I call this shot ‘Hope in one hand…’.

We did revive a few of our old one-handed skills from days carrying around our own babies though. Tea making, watering the garden, pouring gin and tonic — you know, the essentials. After a day of this we struck on lining a bigger nest with wool from our Whiltshire sheep. Frankie settled. Peace reigned. And we congratulated ourselves on creative use of local resource.

Baby sparrow in nest

Catch that mohawk.

The respite was short. After a few days Frankie was developing feathers and starting to get itchy feet. On day five ze began executing drunken-like crawls between nests (the small original nest and larger wool lined nest). By day seven this had evolved into episodes of dangerous teetering towards the edge of the basket we had the nests in. Ze would lurch around, struggling for balance by flapping hir, as yet non-flight-ready, wings. With this kind of recklessness I could understand how ze might have ended up on the grass in the first place. We started talking about whether it was time.

This morning we knew. As I took Frankie for our customary stroll around the garden to listen to the chattering of hir friends and relations, ze sprinted up my arm. I returned for a serious conversation with the Forbearing Husband and made a phone call.

Fledgeling sparrow in nest

Resting between forays.

When baby sparrows fledge their parents feed them on the ground as they rest between practice flights. This is a stage of baby bird development which humans like us, who live with two dogs and a cat, are categorically not qualified to assist with. The day had come to take Frankie for a long drive —

Basket with nest

The empty nest.

— to the Whangarei Bird Rescue Centre.

It’s a fabulous place. When we dropped Frankie off they had three ī and a kererū in the aviaries outside. They told us they’d just rehabilitated a bunch of morepork/ruru babies, and in the bird hospital was a little blue penguin/korora with a damaged eye. I made a cash donation — and, if you like, you can too. Here’s a link.


Jet, one of the tūī at Whangarei Bird Rescue.

As we left one of the bird rescue volunteers mentioned what a good job we’d done raising Frankie, and said that someone had just dropped off a nest with three sparrow nestlings in it. She paused, the Forbearing Husband and I exchanged looks.

Whangarei Bird Rescue

Whangarei Bird Rescue

We resisted — this time — but let’s just say there may well be some volunteer baby bird fostering in our future. <baby-bird emoji, heart emoji>.


* Our first bird baby was ‘Paul’, who fell out of a tree in our Laingholm garden in late December 2011. After fledging he went to the bird rescue centre in Green Bay to learn to fly and be re-integrated into sparrowdom.

Ride On

Truth be told I have yet to find an animal that works well as a lawnmower.

Pigs dig. Sheep eat roses and fruit trees. Horses eat both of those, plus grapevines, tree ferns, and newly planted shelter belt trees. They especially like to do this when you are watching and they want to demonstrate how life-threateningly hungry they are. As far as lawn-mowing on the farmlet goes, the humans have had to take matters in hand themselves.

Lawn with dog and horse

Maisie reclining on the freshly mowed NomNom lawn. Summer and Bonnie in the Bottom Paddock.

I had never thought we would be the kind of family to own a ride-on mower. Mind you it’s easy to discount technological aids when you are not the person actually pushing the grass cutting equipment. Until we came to live on ‘the land’ that person had always been either the Forbearing Husband or Favorite Stepson.

When we first arrived, however, the matter of who pushed was moot point. We had only a Nominal Lawn, and Mrs Williams and I had yet to create The English Garden.  This meant we were quite safe using our original ride-ons for grass control.

Kaimanawa pony

The larger of our two beta version ‘ride-on mowers’, revving hard (and enjoying every minute of it).

For a while after the new fencing and flower garden went in, I was able to persuade Favorite Stepson to mow. It wasn’t long though before our elderly and well used motor mower took a final one-way trip to the repair shop. It was pronounced beyond resuscitation, and we were faced with a dilemma — invest in a replacement push mower, or grasp the nettle (Buttercup? Dock leaf?) and stump up for something rather more bourgeois.

In a twist of universal fate, at almost exactly the time we were wresting with this problem I was offered a large amount of money for literally nothing at all. It seemed like a sign. Swap the bunch of random pixels denoting an Instagram identity for something to bring my lawn up to Vita’s standard? Yes please!

I invested that $2,000 in a ride-on mower, and let me tell you friends, I have never looked back.

Mowed grass path with Queen Anne's lace

The Grass Highway. It runs between the barn and what used to be called The Copse, now Kingswood.

Mowing the lawns has become one of my favorite activities. Half an hour pootling on the mower and we have a beautiful green short back and sides. With the help of Stephen of House Kragbol, and the Forbearing Husband, I’ve even mowed a path alongside the stream. Stephen walked ahead of the ride-on for the first mow, wading through through the hip high grass, checking for large holes that might unbalance the mower and I, and send us down the steep bank to a watery grave.

Queen Anne's Lace with horse in background

Queen Anne’s Lace. Tell her from the common carrot weed by remembering ‘the queen has hairy legs’.

The Forbearing Husband later filled in those big holes with some of the earth the pigs churned up in the clearing, and the result of our team effort is a very pretty walking route lined with Queen Anne’s Lace. We call it ‘The Grass Highway’ and it forms part of our regular dog walking circuit, and sometimes a riding route for the ponies.

Goodness, the things one can do with a ride on mower. Now if someone could just invent a ride on vacuum cleaner…!


Chrissy B reporting here from Plague Farmlet, where residents at House CEDAR are still recovering from a dread lurgy. The sound of coughing reverberates through the halls, and regional sales of paracetamol have spiked. Don’t worry, I’m holding my breath while I type this, so you are quite safe.

What I’m really here to tell you about is the progress in the kitchen. Since I last updated you we have had a flurry of activity, during which cork tiles have been laid and polyurethaned. Here, let me show you how it looks.

Kitchen with cork tile floor

Kitchen resplendent with cork tile floor.

Now how about we take a trip through time and I’ll lay out the changes so far step by step like a good blogger. Links to the original posts included in case you haven’t been around for all of the transformations.

Where we started. This was the real estate agent’s photo from when we bought the farmlet.

March 2016: I pulled out a cupboard with my bare hands, and installed the dishwasher.

dark cupboards pink bench

September 2017: In which I painted the cupboards indigo. That ugly mark on the vinyl is still there.

Kitchen bench 2

July 2019: With the stainless steel kitchen bench. Still have the that stain on the vinyl!

There are some smaller changes in the photo above I haven’t blogged about.

  • The stainless steel panel behind the oven was levered off by a small and determined Serbian woman wielding a large screwdriver (thank you Mira).
  • The pantry doors (those louvre doors on the right hand side of the picture) were spray-painted white.
  • I removed some shelves to the left of the sink.

And now here we are, up to date again.

Kitchen with cork tile floor

November 2019: Floor completed. Note the new shelves above the dishwasher.

The next big change will be installing a white tile splash-back all the way up to the ceiling (my inspiration pic for that is here). In preparation for that:

  • The diagonal ‘pine crime’ from the top of the walls will be removed (you can see the actual line of the ceiling best in the July 2019 pic).
  • The hole below the range hood will be patched and the off-centre oven power switch moved (I have strong opinions about having things centered).
  • I may, or may not, paint the tongue and groove backing of the bench in the foreground. When I first painted the cupboards it seemed like a fairly obvious ‘yes, paint it white’ — I held off, knowing that once you’ve painted wood there is no going back. I have this inkling that after the rest of the pine has gone that bit of rustic-ness might be a welcome contrast to all the hard shiny surfaces I’m installing. Thoughts anyone?
  • Stephen of House Kragbol* has very, very kindly agreed to help me flip that ugly fuse box above the microwave around so that it sits on the outside of the house instead of the inside.
  • The window architrave will be reinstalled and painted white, the pantry door architrave also.
  • And I might, might, might splash out on double glazed windows to replace those single glazed, very 1980’s style brown aluminum ones. It would be a huge extravagance, but if I’m ever going to make that change it needs to be now before the splash-back tile is installed. That’s the thing with renovations; one thing leads to another. Big decisions. I’ll keep you posted.

So, plenty to keep me busy, and a few more hours of pleasant decision making to entertain my brain any time I have trouble dropping off to sleep.


* Don’t try this at home. I’m just lucky that Stephen has all the necessary electrical qualifications to move meter boxes.

After a Break

Aaand we’re back! [I know there are at least two more Sports Night fans reading this].

It’s been a hectic few weeks in the life and times of Chrissy B. The Forbearing Husband had a looming and Very Important writing deadline, the kitchen had to be cleared in order for the floor to finally be finished and then it had to be reassembled again (blog post pending), and in the midst of all this chaos poor Little Quail had a really nasty bike accident.

She’s doing better now after a couple of nights in Auckland Hospital being patched up. Two nights during which she discovered that a hospital is about the worst place ever to get sleep, and that ‘quiet time’ between 1pm and 3pm on Ward 75 is anything but quiet. She is highly relieved to be back in her own bed to catch up on some zzz’s.

Hospital sign

Ward 75. Good at mending bones, but not so good at quiet time.

The Forbearing Husband has submitted, and now has a truly terrible cold*. Very likely induced by the bacterial perils of airline travel, combined with lung scarring polyurethane fumes and more than one all-night writing session. He is taking a short breather (well, as much as one can do through a very blocked nose), before cracking on with his next project, due on the 1st December. At least he won’t have to endure kitchen upheaval and an uncertain meal supply on the way to this deadline.

I’m still gradually getting the kitchen and laundry back into working order. Having your floor raised by 5mm creates a variety of ‘fun’ little DIY challenges. Doors, dishwasher enclosure, laundry tub and skirting boards all need to be adjusted accordingly before re-installation. I can only manage a little of this problem solving at a time before I have to get out into the garden or cuddle a pony to rest my brain. Sure do miss your clever solutions to tricky renovation tasks, DIY guy.

The outdoor kitchen. It was fun, but it’s good to be making scrambled eggs back inside now.

Big thanks to all who helped out during the recent craziness by: giving me a place to sleep during the unexpected jaunt to Auckland hospital; lending moral support while Little Quail was laid low; donating an electric jug for her to use upstairs in her flat when getting her downstairs was tricky (like her mum, Little Quail Must Have Tea!); helping Little Quail get to hospital appointments and get fed after I came home; and letting Forbearing Husband and I cook in your kitchen while we didn’t have one. You know who you are. x

* I wrote this post last week. Since then the Forbearing Husband has gifted me his cold. Just refer to our place as Plague Farmlet until further notice.

A Pig Tale

There are not too many stories that start: “So, let me tell you about the time I inserted a thermometer into a pig’s bottom”. This is one of them.

Kunekune piglet

At the time of the events recorded here, Nell was only about this size. Photo by Mira.

It was our family thermometer, the one I use to closely monitor my nearest and dearest when they complain of a headache. Since hearing about Clive Wearing in a psychology lecture I have a morbid fear of encephalitis (thanks for that tertiary education), and the kids got quite good at pre-empting my questions. ‘Yes mum, I can look at a bright light and put my chin  on my chest’*, ‘Go on then take my temperature’.

Anyway, since it’s the only one we have, on this day it was that same thermometer I was sliding into Nell’s rear. Family members will be relieved to know that I popped it into the finger of a latex glove first for purposes of hygiene (so we’re all good yes?).

Nell was really sick. We were in no doubt about this, as she had declined to eat breakfast. It takes a lot to make a pig stop eating, and when they do, things are critical. I’d tried hand feeding her and dripping water into her mouth, to no avail. I was on the phone to the vet. The advice was to take her temperature, so here we were.

The good news? Her temperature was normal (for a pig). The vet’s next hypothesis; could Nell have have eaten something poisonous? Okay, like what? I consulted Dr. Google.

Muddy pig

Nell, recovered, and being a muddy pig.

And was informed that pretty much everything is toxic to pigs. The list was so long it made me wonder how sus scrofa domesticus have made a go of the evolutionary process at all. After a quick scan of the pig pen though, I was able to confirm it was free of any of the named toxins, with the possible exception of a large eucalyptus tree. Could this be the cause of Nell’s sore tummy? The bark around the base of the trunk did look a bit nibbled. Best be on the safe side and move the pigs.

Pig moving at that time involved dismantling and re-erecting a temporary fence consisting of 25 metres of electrified mesh. Relocating Nell was no problem, she was too sick to leave the large dog kennel which was serving as a pig house. Fig, by contrast, once the mesh was down, saw wide open spaces and legged it. If I had known more about how Summer would react to a piglet running loose in the paddock I might have moved the ponies out of the area first. Only I didn’t.

Picture this pony looming over you with a much less benevolent expression, ‘MY paddock young pig’.

Chaos ensued. Fig ran. Summer chased Fig, looking as if she might stomp on her (wild pigs eat wild ponies, and Summer was taking no chances). I tried to place myself between the piglet and the pony, all the while telling Summer ‘no’ whilst trying to scoop up our little escapee. I can tell you right now there’s nothing like a few laps around a paddock to improve your fitness, and to make you wish fervently that you had signed up for a nice straightforward gym circuit programme instead of a farmlet.

To top things off, by the time I managed to catch Fig and get everyone settled again, the puppy inside our house had become so agitated she’d destroyed an armchair (Act of Dog). Nell recovered. The armchair, did not.

So was the culprit the eucalyptus, in the paddock, with the lead pipe toxic bark? I don’t think we’ll ever really know, but all’s well that ends well, as a certain famous playwright once said. And it did. End well. Even for the chair, which, truth to tell had been on my reupholstery list for some years.

So there you have it, a pig tale about the tail end of a pig. And by the way, if you need to check your temperature, you can find the thermometer in the hall cupboard. Don’t all rush at once.


* Symptoms of encephalitis for anyone who wants to start worrying are a headache, with some or all of: a stiff neck, photosensitivity, vomiting and a raging temperature. You’re welcome!

Evening Dress

In which Chrissy B provides, for your entertainment, photographs and description of her Friday evening pony wrangling outfit.

Aussie hat and jewellery

… topped off with a singlet, an oilskin hat and a bit of bling.
Oh, and that’s a random stalk of hay stuck to the hat band.

This is what happens when you come in from work and change into something comfortable; then, forgetting you are still wearing jewellery (having made an effort in your work ensemble), you head out to coax your little fat pony into her overnight ‘low grass’ area.

Fortunately when you live on a fun size snippet of land in a rural area, only your nearest and dearest are subjected to your unusual outfits. I’ve been known to stay in sleepwear all day, even walking the dogs and mowing the lawn in my PJs. I love the sartorial freedom of living on a farmlet.

What’s the weirdest outfit you’ve worn recently?


What sheep do when they think no-one’s watching…

Our neighbour’s sheep concentrate hard as they skilfully arrange themselves into a tableau. This particular scene quite clearly depicting a moment from the 1984 Olympic medal ceremony for synchronised swimming.

Sheep on logs

Evidence of sheep antics captured by Stephen of House Kragbol.

Meanwhile our sheep are playing poker in the bottom paddock.

What are you getting up to in your spare time?

Three of a Kind?

The Forbearing Husband and I have just returned from a few days in the capital. While on the bus travelling to the airport for our return flight, we exchanged these messages with those holding the fort at the farmlet.

Messenger screenshot


Messenger screenshot


So there you have it. The adventures of three delinquent Whiltshire ewes, an explanation for the non-appearance of our anticipated final lamb, and a heads-up about a pending post on a thermometer and a piglet’s bottom. The excitement just never ends.

Stay tuned…

Leg of Lamb

For reasons which will be explained in tomorrow’s post, maternity ward productivity on the farmlet remains at a stand-still. While I leave you to wonder what’s up with that, here is a blog post about this year’s first-born lamb. He had a little adventure all of his own.

Read on for a story about the leg of a lamb. It’s okay — nothing culinary.

Lamb with splint on broken leg

Fluro accessorising for the Discerning Lamb About Town. Or in this case, in the Bottom Paddock.

See, that’s the leg we are talking about. The one with the bandage.

A few days after this little chap was born we noticed him limping. Puzzled as to what might be ailing someone so very new to the world, we asked Linda-Down-the-Lane if she would mind coming over to have a look. Linda-Down-the-Lane sold us our sheep, and she still kindly helps us out when sheep-wrangling tasks exceed our limited expertise. We are gradually learning the ropes, but this was a situation we thought best handed over to a Real Farmer.

On examination our consulting shepherd diagnosed a broken leg. We’re all at a bit of a loss as to how this happened, but Linda thought Broken Lambie’s mother may have accidentally sat on him. Careless!

Lamb with splint on broken leg

Could this doting mother have been the cause of a broken lambie?

Well, there we were, with Linda holding 15kg+ of lamb, while Daredevil Deborah and I sprinted around looking for leg-mending materials at short notice. The options were fairly limited, but we managed to gather together a couple of sticks and a cohesive bandage with which to improvise a splint.

Linda cuddled our patient, who seemed quite relaxed. He even had a little nap while I played at being vet. One thing about living with a menagerie is that you do get a bit of practice at impromptu animal repair. The last time I stabilised a broken a leg it was with similar materials. That crippled white chicken made a good recovery, so we felt cautiously confident that our makeshift splint would do the trick.

Whiltshire lamb

Splint removed, Mended Lambie sneaks up behind one of the twins to say ‘BOO’.

And it did. We removed the splint last weekend, and little lamb seems quite well-mended. I spotted him this morning bouncing around with the young twins looking for all the world as if we’d replaced his leg with a spring. The wonderful thing about baby lambs is… they heal up fast.

Anyone else been fixing things? Next on my list is a tea towel with a hole.