Back in the Kitchen

In order to avoid accidental injury I suggest my friends and family seat themselves for this shock announcement…  I’ve spent the last 10 minutes having a most enjoyable time washing dishes!

Washing up

Including my very favorite horse mug which was a present from AntiGene and UnklEd

Fun fact about Chrissy B for those who don’t know. Washing up is my very least favorite thing to do. I am the woman who owned a dishwasher long before she owned a television. I despise doing dishes.

Today was different though. It’s the first time in six weeks that we’ve had running water in the kitchen. Hence, although I have a working dishwasher right beside me I have been indulging in the excitement of turning the kitchen tap on and off, admiring the the way hot and cold water flow out of it, and listening with pleasure to the gentle gurgle of water escaping down working waste pipes in the sinks. Not to mention the satisfaction of putting clean dishes onto a kitchen bench on which they have no chance of being up-ended into the cupboard below by a less than perfectly balanced chopping board. My goodness, it is all SO VERY convenient.

In the spirit of this fair old bonanza of kitchen excitement, let me show you some progress shots.

Kitchen bench 2

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Kitchen bench 1

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Now let’s not for even a minute pretend I’m finished renovations here. Try to ignore that large hole above the stove, the architrave round the window that was removed for the bench to be eased into place, the taped on power points (!), the insane amount of 1980’s ‘pine crime’, and the screaming need for me to get on with that white tile splash-back. In the meantime though, how about we just stroke the new bench-tops and wash up a few of our favorite mugs?

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EXPENDITURE UPDATE: As foreshadowed in this post, I did finally decide on stainless steel benches. They were a (very) big outlay, but I was sold on the durability and ease of cleaning. Macrocarpa slab, although a cheaper material, required a separate sink purchase, and a cabinet maker to mitre cut and join corners and adjust the bench to fit our out-of-square walls. In the end the difference in cost wasn’t going to be as big as it had initially seemed. Still, never having bought a kitchen bench before I’m horrified by how expensive they turn out to be. Perhaps you’ll want to sit down again before being apprised of the cost.

Kitchen expenditure so far:

  • Secondhand Smeg stove (Trade Me): $350.00
  • F&P dishwasher (Harvey Norman): $1678.00 (ouch)
  • Plumbing parts for d/w installation: $31.00
  • 1 litre of Resene paint ‘Indian Ink’ (used about 2/3 can for 2 coats): $54.00
  • Sylvan cabinet handles ‘Gatwick’ in brushed aluminium 14@$7.08ea: $99.12
  • Stainless steel benches: $5430.67 (double-triple ouch — counting on them lasting for-eva!).
  • Greens Volt Kitchen Mixer Tap: $199
  • Paul the Plumber for install of new tap and waste pipes: invoice pending
    • Subtotal spent so far = $7841.79
  • Income from selling the stove that came with the house on Trade Me: -$246.00
  • Income from selling old bench and sink to Restoration Warehouse: -$30
  • Total spent to date = $7565.79

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Force Tape

“If your background is in media you call it ‘gaffer tape’. If your background is in building or DIY you call it duct tape’. Motor racing crews and fans call it ‘speed tape’ or ‘panel tape’.

power point with duct tape

Binding the universe together, one kitchen at a time.

If you came through the Jedi temple you call it ‘force tape’. Why? Because it has a light side and a dark side, and it binds the universe together”.

Thank you to Darling Daughter for sharing this quote with me. She is a prolific ‘force tape’ user.

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Hubble Bubble, Kitchen Trouble

Well everyone, I finally decided on the material for our kitchen benches. I nearly managed to get them installed as well, except that when they arrived last week the sink bench was the wrong size. Consequently it has gone back to the manufacturer to be altered.

So now we are frozen in that wonderful part of renovation hell where nothing is where it usually is, and every available surface is covered with a random selection of homeless items.

Chaos. Even more so than usual.

Making eggs on toast and a cup of tea has become an adventure all its own; the closest running water is in the laundry, a makeshift kitchen bench is comprised almost entirely of chopping boards precariously balanced, and all the saucepans now reside under the dining room table.

Ah well, eggs, omelettes… Wish us luck!

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Death of a Time Lord

Today our very own familial Time Lord slid out of this timeline. He was either 91, 92 or 93 years old (if you find that confusing the link above may help to explain), and he had just published his book about the founding of the Samoan Methodist Church in New Zealand.

Papa was something of a man of mystery, even to his own family. He shared information on a ‘need to know basis’. And, for the most part, so it seemed, people didn’t need to know. Even, on occasion, an exasperated Mama.

Silipa Mamea

Papa’s passport photo circa 1976. An international man of mystery.

Every so often though I could get him on a roll and he’d tell me stories about his life. You don’t live to 90-something without having a few good stories to share. When those stories start with growing up in a remote Samoan village, one of 10 children, then meeting your dad for the first time at four or five years old because he has been away with the Mau since before you were born; your audience (that’s me) can stay fascinated for hours.

I’ll remember him for those stories, for his affectionate chortles at the antics of his grandchildren — and sometimes his wife — and for his full and fearless commitment to the things he believed in. One thing is for sure, Papa Silipa was a force to be reckoned with. And if some of his ideas were a bit at odds with those around him; well, you get that with a Time Lord.

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Silipa Moeimanu Siauini II Le Mamea

? October c1926 — 17 May 2019

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Bearing Fruit

Stephen of House Kragbol is our resident possum sniper. Many’s the evening he’s ventured out with his headlamp and rifle, while the rest of us tender-hearted snowflakes lurk inside, grateful that someone else is doing what needs to be done.

This summer, after two years and over 100 confirmed kills, Stephen’s extermination efforts are bearing fruit. And not just metaphorically.

Nashi pears on tree

An abundance of nashi pears

Apples

Apples — possibly Granny Smiths. On bare branches due to the sheep having hoovered up all the leaves.

Pears on tree

Pears aplenty.

Black Fig

Literally hundreds of figs.

Lady Finger Banana

And this dubious looking article is a Lady Finger Banana.

Lady Finger Banana

The inside looks familiar. More starchy and sweeter than supermarket bananas, they are delicious.

Yes, we have bananas! A tree full of pears, where previously we had only a handful, also apples, nashi pears, and more figs than I’ve ever seen before. I knew the possums must be eating some of our fruit, but I had never realised just how much went down those furry little gullets. 

With that in mind, we all pitched in to buy Stephen a possum control assistant. A humane and self-resetting Goodnature A12 trap, which we’ve installed near the bridge into the Seven Acre Wood. So now, although I’m still a spineless townie when it comes to offing possums up close and personal, at least I feel like I’m contributing. Let’s not judge.

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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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