New Ground

Hi Guys,

Instead of posting the pictures on my last blog post I will include them in this post.  Victor and I have set off on this adventure with new vigour.  We’ve contacted several banks as well as talked to the local council in the area we are considering purchasing land.  We also got some positive comments back on one property that appears to not only be in our budget but also has very sensible covenants.

A Covenant, also called a building scheme, is a restriction placed on a title or a LIM usually with the aim of maintaining the quality of the subdivision and the value of the properties subject to the covenant.  These can sometimes be very aggressive with regards to what the purchaser can do with his or her newly acquired land, but most of the time the restrictions are just about what type of house you can put on it and other things like that.  I’ve read about one particularly nasty section with covenants which mainly limited the buyer from growing anything on the 5-hectare block except for standard grass. The developer said that even pumpkins were considered “pests” and would become out of control if allowed.  Can you imagine having 10 acres of lawn?  I can’t… that’s like having your own golf course for a backyard.

Please have a look at this beautiful stretch!

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New Ground

The land is advertised to be 4 hectares (10 acres) in size. It has some extra bits which we think make it a bit more special than the others available in this subdivision.  It’s a bit more affordable because the developer believes the included creek and trees are a downside to the property.  It does contain a significant drop off on the second level, but that part is fully fenced off and contained so that animals cannot get to it.  The trees do make the middle section a bit more damp in the rain, but they made some improvements to the drainage so it won’t cause any issues for stock.  The trees are mostly over the creek area which is not somewhere we would build and not somewhere stock would go anyway!

You can’t see how significant the drop off is from these angles, but I will probably get a better shot of it at a later date if we go ahead with the purchase of this property.


The property has deer fencing, and all the paddocks are enclosed.  I’ve tried to show you as many shots of the various tiers as I could, but I didn’t go into the upper or lower sections.

So what do you guys think?  As always if you like seeing our adventures and you like reading our blog please like, subscribe and share it with your friends so we can continue to bring you content!

Thanks for reading!

~ Grace

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Sickness and more possibilities for property!

Hi all,

I’m sure you have all been wondering where we’ve been and why we haven’t posted in awhile.  Well, right after our big adventure post, Victor the kids and I all came down with the flu! We all spent pretty much the whole of last week with 39°C/102.2°F fevers.  Our youngest two children are recovering pretty slowly with runny noses, sore throats and a lot of tummy troubles.

Meanwhile, Victor and I have been browsing the internet on properties!  We found one with a small home on it for sale in our price range near one of the big rivers north of Christchurch.  We also saw a lifestyle size section of bare land that is quite desirable for us.  The section has 3 large tiered paddocks (upper, middle and lower) and a small extra bit of property that has a creek, massive trees and small waterfall in it.   It’s also wholly deer fenced so we won’t have to worry about stock getting stuck in there or mucking up the water, but we can still access it for picnics or an afternoon dip on hot days!

I’ll update this post with some pictures I took as soon as my camera and my phone are charged up enough to download them!

~  Grace

An Unexpected Journey

Yesterday was a warm Saturday afternoon in late autumn. During the week, we had found another possible rural property, this one in the valley of the Okuku River, one of the tributaries of the Ashley River in North Canterbury. About 3:30 in the afternoon, we left where we are staying, drove out there, stopped at the bridge to walk the puppy (more on her later) and were on our way back around about sunset.

This is where things got interesting. I was driving, as I usually do on family trips, and when we were in the village of Loburn and about to turn right to go to Rangiora and so eventually back home, Grace asked me to turn left instead. It was about 5:00, and late afternoon was giving way to sunset.

We headed up the valley, a pleasant green space mostly occupied by small farms. We passed one or two more farms and blocks for sale and made a note to look them up later, and through Loburn North and on to White Rock, which we think got its name from a stunning limestone outcrop, now an active quarry and lime works but still with the rock face clearly visible to travellers. We wished we had brought our good camera with us. Note to self, do so in future.

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The route over the Okuku Pass and through Lees Valley. We made it approximately 40% of the way before our path was blocked by the Okuku River.

The last few houses petered out, and we headed up towards the Okuku Pass. We climbed on a narrow gravel road through mixed pine and beech forest, and up into subalpine tussock and matagouri. At this point, we hoped to follow the road through to Lees Valley, coming out near the Ashley Gorge and the town of Oxford.

Coming down from the Okuku Pass, the road became more challenging and the countryside more isolated. Descending down a series of hairpin bends, we came upon a murky stream of uncertain depth that blocked our path. We tried to go around on what appeared to be a dry weather route, and the bank was too steep for our car. We were just considering turning around when another car (not a four wheel drive or SUV) came along and drove calmly through the ford. The driver said he was just going for a drive, but seemed a little lost and asked us if the way would take us back to the main road. Thinking he meant the main road at Oxford, we said it would and set out after him.

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The crossing of the Birds Eye Stream, the first of many fords we encountered on our journey.

For the next half hour or more, as darkness fell, our impromptu convoy drove through a starlit landscape of barren hills, punctuated by the occasional farm gate, somewhat more frequent fords over the small streams that drain the hills, and various animals (mostly rabbits and hedgehogs, but also two horses). Finally, we found our way blocked by what we think was the upper Okuku River, still a substantial stream and impassable to either of our vehicles. After some work to get out of the gravel riverbed typical of Canterbury’s braided rivers, we turned around and went back the way we had come under the dim light of the rising new moon.

The following clip is a typical ford crossing in our people mover. You can hear Grace practicing her poise and dignity while Stargazer cheers us on from the back seat.

We were a little concerned for our travelling companion, a road construction worker, who said that he was low on petrol and furthermore that one of his tyres was flat, so we took care not to lose him as we drove back. It was now well after 7 p.m. and he would have to make it to Rangiora, the nearest town by road with a 24-hour service station (or, for that matter, any service station). Seldom has a sealed road and the sight of the distant clustered lights of a large town been more welcome than when we came back over the Okuku Pass and down into White Rock.

Not long after that, our lost companion (who had been trying to make it to Waiau in far north Canterbury, accessible via a quite different road) pulled over, saying that his tyre was so flat as to be unusable. In a strange injection of modern city slicker technology into a country setting, we performed a field tyre change by the light of a smartphone (we, naturally, carrying a jack and a wheel spanner with us at all times). We finished the day’s adventures by escorting the gentleman to the nearest petrol station, taking a hungry and weary family to McDonald’s, and returning home for a long sleep.

We still don’t know all of why Grace was led to feel as though turning left at Loburn, instead of right, was the thing to be done. But for us it was an opportunity to learn more about trusting God, help someone in need, and have a family adventure. We also learned that there is a limit to the remoteness we’re physically and mentally equipped for as yet, a valuable lesson as we consider our next steps.

~ Victor

Property Woes

Hi everyone!

I thought I would start our day with a brief update on where we are at.  As you know we began our journey at our city home and have gotten to the point where we are ready to move out to a larger homestead or lifestyle block.  We put an offer in on a residence outside Christchurch, the big city on the south island of New Zealand.   The house is very old (made in the early 1900s) and in poor shape but we thought we might be able to fix it up affordably.  The price seemed right for that, but as we began to do our due diligence on the property (property inspections, engineer’s reports etc.) we discovered many things that we did not expect.  Some of the things we discovered were minor, but then we got a big bombshell dropped on our heads.  The engineer and the building inspector both reported that the house had substantial borer beetle damage in the timber subfloor and the foundations were even worse than we first believed! We took this information to the vendor’s insurance company to see if we could get continued home insurance and of course, there was a resounding NO!  They were completely unaware that the home had not received any maintenance at all over the last 5 1/2 years since the vendors had purchased it.  We think this may well cause other problems for the vendors’ insurability even now, but we won’t go into that.

The home and improvements are worth approximately $150,000NZD on Rateable Value “RV” (New Zealand’s government appraisal for property tax purposes).  The insurer says they will not cover the home unless and until a number of problems they consider critical are remedied to what they (the insurance company) think an acceptable level.  They require any future buyer to

  1. Replace/repair the foundations on the whole property where needed,
  2. Fix the subfloor by removing and replacing any borer damaged timber,
  3. Replace the roof,
  4. Rewire the whole house
  5. Replace all interior gib (plasterboard) as it is scrim and sacking which is a fire hazard.
  6. Replace all the plumbing to current code standard as it is an old type which is significantly prone to leaking.
  7. Replace weatherboard and external cladding.

If you look at this list and add them up in your head you’ll realise as we did that they’re basically asking us to build a brand new house.  The only things that are allowed to remain are any existing timber structure that is not damaged by borer beetle, and surface things such as joinery and cabinetry.  Thus we’ve come into a big problem.  We are willing to purchase the property as land only for a fair price but the vendors believe they will get the full price of RV land plus improvements value prior to our findings and are not willing to accept significantly less. We understand that they’re in a difficult situation – they probably bought the house for much more than it was worth even then and can’t afford to sustain a loss of this magnitude on it. But we can’t afford to get them out of this mess, and none of the banks would be willing to lend to new buyers on a house like that in any case.

So where does this leave the Kiwi Homesteading family? We’ve instructed our lawyer to pull the plug on our offer.  Now, this doesn’t mean we are giving up on finding land, and we aren’t even giving up entirely on this particular section.  All it means is that we’re telling the vendors that their desires for that property are unrealistic and we expect them to either come up with a better price or they can go back on the market again.  We also expect (given the recently added properties of much better quality in the area at similar prices) that they will not find anyone to buy it at their asking price.

~Grace

Raising Chickens part 2

Incubation

(Warning – this post contains a video which may not be suitable for all viewers)

Hi all,

Let me share another helpful lesson on raising chickens. I last left off telling you about our chicken breed, “Brown Shavers”. We chose this breed mainly because of the high egg production and highly regarded good health. There are many other good options out there which have unique characteristics. One negative about the brown shaver breed is that they are not very good mothers. They do not sit on their eggs reliably and rarely go broody. This fact leads us to today’s topic!

So we have a brown shaver who’s name is Reep-i-Cheep (yes, I am a fan of Narnia). She fell broody sometime earlier this year which means her instincts made her want to raise chicks. She started to steal all the other chicken’s eggs and hide them so that she could sit on them all day long. It also means that she was not producing any eggs and not eating much food. She seemed depressed that her clutch (a nest full of eggs) never seemed to hatch.

Broody Hens and what to do

There are many ways to “break” a broody hen. A broody hen’s body temperature is much higher than a non-broody hen because eggs need heat to start the incubation process. Methods to break this cycle often revolve around reducing the chicken’s comfort and warmth. Some people talk about putting them in a wire bird cage with no “secure” or comfortable place to sit. Others have suggested a dunk in a cold water bath or a block of ice in the nest.

We are not running a commercial farm, and we have more eggs than we need so we decided to give Reep-i-Cheep some fertile eggs to sit on instead of breaking her.

Incubation

When a broody hen sits on a clutch of eggs, she needs to do so for a minimum of 21 days to complete incubation. An excellent broody hen will then take care of the chicks she has hatched until they are fully feathered and able to take care of themselves. It is okay for a chicken to get up a few times each day to eat, drink, and scratch about but it is vital for a broody hen not to be gone too long or else the eggs will get cold and will not survive. Reep-i-Cheep sat on her eggs for 23 days. At 22 days 3 of her eggs hatched. The remaining eggs were a combination of apparently unfertilised eggs and blood rings.

A blood ring occurs during the incubation of chicken eggs when the fertilised egg starts to develop but then later dies. When the blood vessels begin to form, and the embryo dies; the blood vessels decompose and rather than remaining attached to the embryo, they float in the yolk and form a circle which spans the circumference of the egg. You can see this if you shine a very bring light through the egg. Though there are many reasons for a blood ring to form, the sight of a blood ring always means death.

The technique of viewing the process of egg incubation with light is called Candling.

Reep-i-Cheep was pretty upset and continued to sit on the dead eggs while trying to be a mum to the three freshly hatched chicks. She also refused to eat and drink. Her instincts prevented her from seeing that these eggs would never hatch. She was pretty malnourished at this point too.

At this point, we decided to try to replace the dead eggs with more fertile eggs. We thought Reep-i-Cheep would sit on them again, but we decided to go with a better supplier. Unfortunately, the day after we got the next batch of eggs Reep-i-Cheep chose not to sit anymore and only continued to care for her three chicks. We found ourselves with nine partially incubated eggs and no broody hen and no way to get an incubator fast enough to keep them alive. The only chance they would have was to try to incubate them with the electric hen, much egg turning, and a spray bottle. Unfortunately for us again, the power went out at a point, and the eggs did not survive. We still tried to see if they would hatch but after 25 days had passed, we had no new chicks. We decided to film the results to see how far they had developed before they died. Have a look at this video below if you would like to see the results.

~Grace

Status Update

Hi guys,

There’s no video to upload yet.  I’m still working out bugs with iMovie.  I haven’t used it before, so I’m taking my time to get the first film right before I upload it for your viewing pleasure.

In the meanwhile, we have had two forms of property inspections done on the lifestyle block we’re trying to buy.

One of these was a structural engineer’s report, to investigate the floor levelling problems that were obvious to us as we walked around the house. Old houses in New Zealand often sit on a foundation of piles made of stone or untreated timber (such as totara), and over time these piles can sink, decay, or a combination of both. Sometimes a tradesperson can put packing on top of sunken piles to relevel the house; other times, the correct solution is to repile. In the most severe cases, the entire foundation must be replaced. Especially if the house has other major problems, a foundation replacement can be so costly that it is more economical to demolish the house and build a new one. We wished to rule out the possibility that a complete refounding is needed.

The other report we commissioned is a pre-purchase building inspection. Building inspectors vary in quality, as building inspection is a largely unregulated trade in New Zealand. For this purchase, we opted to consult a member of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors. Membership of a trade association is useful there is a level of professional standards and accountability without having to seek redress through the courts in the event of poor service.

The building inspection, unfortunately, came back with some bad news. The building inspector was very thorough and caught many problems that we didn’t see. We knew that the house had some problems due to its age (floor levelling as described above, old windows, minor roof repairs and some paint needed, etc.), but we were unaware that it would also require extensive subfloor replacement due to borer beetle damage! It will also probably require a complete re-pile as well as a lot of work on the ground surrounding the house to prevent drainage issues.

Once we had this new information, we decided to contact the current insurer for the property. (Historically, we would not have known who the current insurer was, but after a series of severe earthquakes in the Canterbury region, it is now standard for house vendors to certify that a house is insurable by providing a statement from the current insurer. Otherwise, the house must be sold “as is”, which makes finance very difficult as banks won’t lend against uninsured assets.) The insurer, AA insurance, told us that the house in its current state would only be insurable if we promised to repair the subfloor without delay.  They told us that they were unaware that the house was not being properly maintained.

So we’ve gone back to our solicitor (i.e., lawyer) to ask the vendors if they are willing to complete that work or not.  If they are unwilling to do the work there are other options available to us.  All is not lost – but we may end up going back to the drawing board for our lifestyle block acquisition.

~ Grace