Farm endeavours.

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.54.18 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.52.35 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.54.57 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.53.59 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-14 at 5.11.23 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.55.40 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.53.13 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.54.07 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.54.29 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 6.00.20 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.53.41 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.53.32 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.52.14 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.52.48 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 6.00.42 pmScreen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.52.59 pmIn a few short months we’ll have been living in this little house for a year.  When we first arrived there was considerable time spent drafting a plan to rejuvenate the sand filled yards surrounding us.  It’s been many years since someone we here to properly tend to the gardens, and even 7 years ago when we first lived here we made several attempts to tame the landscape and they all failed (apart from this one strange tree that is overtaking part of the house and more pest than shade giver).

We have dreams of an orchard, lawns, veggie gardens, native flower gardens, trees to provide to luxury of shade and a new chicken coop,

With no one living in the house for a few years nature had crept in and the interiors and they needed to be reclaimed by mankind.  That would involve fixing a leaky roof, cleaning dust laid windows, vacating the space of vermin and spiders as well as painting or repainting several rooms.

Tackling these projects solo with a toddler (as a part-time single parent) is no easy feat!  Mike is away at work in the northern tip of the State every second week leaving Wesley and I to our own devices.

Thankfully we have a very happy boy who loves to participate and join me outside.  For this I am ever grateful as it’s allowed for a few projects to begin and move in slow but steady stages.

This week I’ll be painstakingly dragging a wheelbarrow back and forth 150 metres to the old shearing shed near the house.  It’s a treasure trove of sheep manure!  To make this monotonous task more fun, I’ve given Wesley a harmonica and he hops into the wheelbarrow as we traverse back and forth.  He plays a little tune, and sometimes will stop and yell at me: 123 GO! When I set the whole thing down to give my arms a break.

It’s hilarious, and frankly Wesley’s company during the whole task has made it so enjoyable that when I went to do a load during his nap today – I missed his music and silly personality keeping us both entertained.  The job seemed a real effort without him.

We’re only into the start of winter, but with these beds not completed we’re going to be missing out on crucial rains!  We should have pushed harder to get this started but it was contingent on a lighter wheelbarrow (that only arrived this week).

Our chicken coop is up and working fabulously.  There are two separate pens one about 3x bigger than the other.  Our hens are all very happy laying at the moment.  They have such a grand, shaded space that Mike and I are both very proud to have built together.

Three bottlebrush trees, 4 macrocarpa trees, and one silver princess have been planted around the yard.  Several more will go in as we see how things fare the next few weeks.  Shade around this house is lacking so it’s an ongoing project.  All of the trees are natives and should be very hardy for drought.

Our mango, feijoa and avocado trees are another story.  These are doing ok – but only time will tell if they survive.  To have these fruits at our fingertips would be so wonderful.

Some of the plants mentioned above were given to us at a native plant giveaway last weekend by a group based in Jurien Bay (of which I’m now a member!) who survey the local flora and do bush tours together.  I’ve found my people!  They were given a grant to grow and distribute these native plants to locals to encourage more people to keep drought hardy species and grow native gardens, which is a fabulous idea.

Pictured are some trees, plants and bugs found around the farm the past couple of days and some of the aforementioned projects!

Huge thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction for sharing her insanely gorgeous white cake recipe online.  We made it for Wesley’s birthday party.  It was so so so good.  Check out the recipe here. A testament to it’s goodness – I woke 2x in the night to polish of a few more pieces of the vanilla buttercream cake.  Wesley crammed much of it into his mouth during the cake cutting ceremony and discovered a love of frosting!  Even now a week later I’m still drooling thinking of it and I’m not even a baked goods person…

I’ll share more on the progress of the house and yards as we soldier onward!  For now, even though progress is slow – it still feels oh so good to see hard work coming together.  Even if it is inch by inch.

Fresh Figs and a homemade chicken coop

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.46.35 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.46.19 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.45.57 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.42.24 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.43.22 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.44.13 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.44.22 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.45.26 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.47.18 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-09 at 8.24.59 amScreen Shot 2018-02-09 at 8.25.17 amThis week Mike and I passionately worked to complete our chicken complex.  The idea originally came to us when we first moved in, that summer was particularly hard for our last lot of chickens due to the sun exposure of the last pen.

We tore down the old space and placed our 16 chickens into a temporary shade sheltered pen for the past 5 months.  In the mean time Mike, Ashley and I have worked together to meticulously measure, concrete and assemble a sustainably recycled shed and pen for our little chooks.

It’s just in time as these birds will begin laying soon.

When we first got them they were teeny tiny chicks.  Wesley harassed them quite a bit with love during their time in the back porch and I was more than happy to take the chicken poop smell outside and while I can’t speak on behalf of the chicks I feel they might have been relieved to be away from prying fingers too.

This pen has ample room and a large shed for the birds to roost and lay their eggs in each day.

We’d love for them to be free range, but learned the hard way a few years back that fox and wild cats are always looking for an opportunity to get to birds left out in the open.  There is already evidence that they have tried digging and also pulling on the chicken wire.

The concept for fox proofing the space involves laying the chicken mesh in two layers about half a foot below the sand and two feet away from the structure.

Quite a bit of sweat went into this project and I think it’s one of the biggest projects we’ve undertook as a couple together.  I call it a sustainable effort because we salvaged the mesh doors and built the hut entirely from other peoples left over metal.  Pretty awesome way to recycle and save some $ too.

For now there are three roosters testing out how fox proof the space is.  Tonight is our third night and I really believe they will be safe.

The other night I heard some terrible screeching outside by a fox and took a headlamp to investigate.  I found it climbing up a fig tree!  The sound is similar to cats fighting.

Speaking of figs, we are now collecting fresh ripened figs in the quantities of about 20 a day.   It might be time to make some jam.

Also pictured:

  • 1 tiny chunky jumping spider
  • 1 large crevas dwelling jumping spider (the spider with the white line)
  • A three inch long little lizard
  • Beyond the bamboo and gumtree there was this wonderful creamy sunset.

The Fern Walk – Tōtara Forest Reserve

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Wesley was in daycare today so I took the opportunity to drive up to the Pohongina and spend some time in the forest peering at fungus and listening to the birds whilst carefully plodding through thick goopy mud.  Within minutes my feet were soaked, normally that would bother me, but today I embraced the icy water on my toes…  It was really fresh and crisp under the shade of the trees, and the chill really invigorated me.

I came home a few hours later feeling much better.  It was exhilarating; exploring, looking to find the gorgeous colourful fungus growing on the ground, consuming the dead bark, and the fallen leaves.  I also noticed a few birds, some tui and fan tails were flitting around taking a peek at me, as I peeked at them.

A man was also fly fishing in the Pohangina river – and I thought of Mike coming out to the same spot in search of trout… Simply put, he is deeply missed around these parts and we are so looking forward to reuniting with him.  We may know in the next week!

Long distance has been challenging, so thankfully there is the forest to help me regroup and prepare for the next few weeks.

Below details a short story taken from the Papatoetoe Central Schools website about the Māori connection to the tōtara tree…  Read on!

The Totara in Maori Legend – Rata and the Tree

Rata was in the forest wandering about wondering what to do about retrieving the body of his father who had recently died when he decided he would chop down a tree and build a waka.

He selected a Totara, felled it, and went home planning to return in the morning to begin building the waka. When he did return he found the tree wasnt lying on the ground as he’d left it but standing as if it had never been felled.

He chopped the tree down again this time trimming the trunk and removing the bark and and went home with the same result when he returned the next day.

He chopped the tree down a third time, this time trimming and shaping the tree and scooping out the inside and decided to sneak back during the night to see what was happening

When he approached the tree in the dark he saw to his amazement that birds and insects were reassembling the tree to return it to its original state.

Rata apologised for chopping down the Totara and explained why he was doing so (to retrieve his Father), then offered to help lift the Totara back into place.

When dawn came Rata was ll alone, the little creatures had gone, and the Totara was back in its original state. Rata vowed to never chop down another tree, and a voice near him told him that he may, but he must ask permission from Tane Mahuta first.

As Rata returned home he came across a mighty war canoe sitting on logs in the forest, and he asked if it was his, and the voice said “yes, Rata’s waka”

It happened so quickly…

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Friday 14th April

I have been periodically looking at the stationary caterpillars this morning and was away from them about 20 minutes when this amazing transformation had already taken place.  We have one left to make the change into a chrysalis and I’m hoping to capture it on film…we’ll see if it manages to happen when we’re paying attention.

I honestly cannot believe how quickly the caterpillar shed it’s skin to become this capsule of green.

Saturday 15th April

The more smooth capsule photo was taken (3rd image down) after 24 hours.  The golden markings are quite beautiful and it’s simply amazing how delicate and yet ornate it is.

This morning we went to a little boys first birthday.  We’d wrapped a few books as gifts and were getting ready when I decided it would be nice to also gift him a monarch caterpillar with some swan plant leaves in a mason jar in the hopes that it too would transform for him and become a butterfly.  We were at the part enjoying the good food and company, when it came time to open the presents.  The mason jar was unwrapped and quickly a hush fell on the crowd.  The little boys father looked at me and said “My grandfather passed away one year ago, he bred butterflies.  My son Te Ahorangi was named after him’.  He had the faintest smile and it was apparent he was feeling sentimental…almost emotional.  It was a beautiful revelation.

It’s later in the evening on the same day – and Mike and I still are baffled as to the sheer coincidence and connectedness of the universe.  We have been pondering the odds of this happening…

Hopefully when the butterfly emerges we’ll be ready!  I’ll be posting more images as the week progresses.  I think we should have 2 butterflies emerging in approximately 6 days.

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Thursday 20th April

So far there have been little changes in the pods – the lines of the wings can be seen more clearly and the top end of the structure appears to be getting darker… this could mean maybe tomorrow we may see one open?  Finger crossed!

When bees swarm

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The other night Mike rushed out and caught a hive that was swarming.  He had a bee hive box ready and promptly brought the lot to our house.  He found a nice place for them and hoped that the queen was inside.  When we checked in the morning it looked like all was well.

Yesterday afternoon however, as I went out to hang some laundry to dry, there was a mass of bees frantically flying around the house.  They were moving so erratically that I stayed inside until they settled on the trunk of a tree in our driveway.

I’ve not been stung by a bee in a few years now (despite having spent plenty of time around native bees in Western Australia by the thousands) I learned early on – it is true if you stay calm you’ll be of no notice to them.  These images and video were taken only one foot away from the swarm.  Mike and his brother called the “bee doctor” (a relative) after work and got some advice before they collected the bees, conditioned the hive again and transplanted them back

Collecting them is quite simple.  In this case (we had a bee suit) the guys placed the hive back under the low hanging branch and gently pulled the swarm from the very top of it’s perch downward.  This causes the bees to fall en mass.  Which is actually a really cool thing to see happen.

So far this morning… all is well.  Hopefully soon they will start to tend their eggs and begin to gather pollen and nectar.