It’s a beautiful world

The equinox has just passed us by, and in true Canterbury style the nor’wester is back, like an old friend. The birds are happy with the warmth, though, and laying in earnest, and the house continues to make rapid progress. It’s said that the windows and doors were supposed to go in today.

Last night, though, a wicked southerly change came through. Grace texted me, exhorting me to take care on the roads, and saying that the animals – our dog and two cats, that is – were rather distressed by the thunder and lightning. Nevertheless, I resolved to go out to our block and check on the birds. It was as well that I did so: unexpectedly, the chicks had eaten nearly all their food, and the big birds had drunk nearly all their water.

Having decided to drive by the back way, I was treated to the two ends of a rainbow, framing the Waimak as it flowed out of the gorge onto the plains.

This morning, too, I was treated to a dusting of snow on the top of Mount Herbert, and also the North Canterbury foothills. The last of the season, perhaps, and the storm went as quickly as it came, with a fine warm day today.

All seasons have their joys, but Spring is a favourite of mine, a time of new life and hope, and fitting for where we are in our journey.

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Still alive.

Winter is not an easy time of year for the Kiwi Homesteaders. The coughs and colds come out in force, with three kids in kindergarten. We’ve also been house-sitting for Grace’s parents, and that has at times felt like a mission, with maintenance items coming out of the woodwork and a lot of floor space to deal with.

So this blog took, once again, a back seat. I’m sure that, like exercise, blogging requires a slog of commitment until a habit is formed.

Less than halfway through winter, though, our Araucana hen, Mary Hen, decided to start laying very pretty blue eggs, and our rooster, Robbie (yes, based on Robin Hood and the maid Marian), rose to the occasion. So we had high hopes that we would welcome a batch of pure-bred Araucana chicks.

But, alas! Disaster and disappointment were our lot! Grace had bought an incubator off Trade Me in April, and it passed its first test, but when she turned it on again it failed badly, going into an endless cycle of rebooting, and shocking me while I attempted to investigate the problem. Time to invoke the warranty.

So what to do with the eggs? Eat them, or try something else? Well, in business, there’s no sense doing anything by halves.

So off to Chook Manor we drove, to equip ourselves properly. We spent about five times as much, but instead of a product of indifferent quality that could just as easily have died in the middle of a batch of eggs and lost us hundreds of dollars worth of livestock, we now have a Brinsea Ovation 56 EX, reputed to be one of the best on the market for small to medium-sized batches of eggs. And because it has a thermostat and a hygrostat, we don’t need to worry about the temperature or humidity, once we figured out one or two knacks to operating the equipment.

And so, between Mary Hen’s contributions and a number of Waipahi eggs (the Waipahi being a recently developed breed from Southland), we started our first incubation batch of 20 eggs. It turned out that four of the eggs were duds — infertile, perhaps, or the avian equivalent of a miscarriage — and another two were stillborn, and a seventh died a few days after hatching. But the remaining 13 are healthy and happy, and we moved them into our chick coop today at four weeks old.

And Mary Hen, not content with her efforts, is still laying. She seems determined to be a mother one of these days.

Don’t worry!

It is, “Situation normal, completely crazy,” at the Kiwi Homestead right now. I don’t believe we’re called upon to practice Zen-like detachment, though. This world is real, the battle lines are real, and we’re in the thick of it.

Grace fell a month or so ago and hurt her leg. By God’s mercy it wasn’t fractured, but a good couple of months, at least, of recovery are needed. For our readers who pray, prayer for swift and complete healing would be much appreciated.

Our builder applied for a building consent (the current New Zealand term for a building permit) for our house a month ago. The Council has come back to us twice wanting clarification on many points. Peace and patience are the order of the day, and they sometimes feel like a tall order. We hope to hear back within a few days.

Grace’s parents, with whom we have been living, are off overseas for several weeks, and we are house-sitting for them. No sooner did they leave than a leak in the plumbing became apparent. Cue calls to plumbers and builders to stop the leak and repair the damage already caused by it.

Sickness has been rampant, with back to back viral illnesses brought home by our children in kindergarten. Everyone is, though, getting better.

It is the shortest day today, and winter is definitely here, with long nights and crisp frosts. Serotonin and Vitamin D are at their yearly low.

And yet, in the middle of the chaos, the sun is still shining, the world is still turning, and God is in control and will see us through.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. — Philippians 4:6

Chicken Coops

One of the most difficult things for Grace to do when we started renovating our old house was say goodbye to our six brown shavers and three chicks. They went to a good home with some friends of ours, but we missed their personalities and their eggs, which we used ourselves and sold surplus.

Now that we have our block of land, we were in a bit of a dilemma. Did we try to build a chicken coop from scratch, or buy one pre-built or even kitset? We thought the former would be how we would have to do it, as getting a decent sized chicken coop in New Zealand is not particularly economical. On the other hand, to buy building materials, transport them to site, cut them to length, fit them together, and so forth is a significant hassle, and although we have most of the tools by now we don’t yet have power to the site, nor a workshop. And we didn’t want to wait until our house was built before we started our chicken farm. Lead times are big: the egg must be hatched, then the chick grown to point of lay, which process takes approximately eight or nine months.

So, this morning we hopped on Trade Me and looked for coops. And lo and behold, what did we find but an as new coop that would hold up to 20 or 30 hens, and a slightly older and smaller coop that would be fantastic as a maternity unit! And both are on the West Coast, only a shortish drive from us.

Shortly, therefore, we will be taking a trip with a big flatbed trailer to collect a couple of chicken houses. Watch this space…

Over and out,

Victor

Good Friday

Hello readers!

I feel that I have gone completely silent of late. It’s the time of year: 31 March is the end of the New Zealand tax year, and I, Victor, was up to my eyeballs in dealing with several months’ worth of financial data. That little project is still ongoing, but there was a bit of a time crunch for our Goods and Services Tax (GST) return (for our American readers, this is our version of sales tax, but more like a European-style Value Added Tax). Anyway, I was finally able to pause and draw breath about half-way through this month.

On top of all that, we had to refinance, due to a lame bank that said it would offer us enough funds to build our house and then refused to do so. Apparently, that particular bank prefers to deal with “dinkies” (double income, no kids) like my and Grace’s parents. Having three kids and only one full-time income earner made us into a big risk from their perspective. And policymakers these days wonder why young adults aren’t marrying and having kids the way they did back in the day… but I digress.

In better news, we have finally signed the building contract! Which feels like the end of a very long process and yet only the start of another. Still, we should start seeing real and measurable progress shortly, once the builder has drawn up the full plans (much more comprehensive than the “scheme plans” done so far) and they have gone to the local council for a building consent. It all takes time, but we will get there, God willing.

And speaking of God, it has been good for us to take Easter off, as is the law and custom in New Zealand, and to pause and reflect on what God has done for us in Christ. Again, for our American readers, Easter has the same role, in some ways, as Thanksgiving, being the “other” big holiday (apart from Christmas) and a four-day weekend. Of course, most use the time for general holiday purposes, but for us, Good Friday is first and foremost a day to pause from the stresses and bustle of life, and remember.

1 Who hath believed our report?
And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of a dry ground:
He hath no form nor comeliness;
And when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men;
A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
And we hid as it were our faces from him;
He was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:
Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities:
The chastisement of our peace was upon him;
And with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned every one to his own way;
And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
Yet he opened not his mouth:
And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
So he openeth not his mouth.

He was taken from prison and from judgment:
And who shall declare his generation?
For he was cut off out of the land of the living:
For the transgression of my people was he stricken.

And he made his grave with the wicked,
And with the rich in his death;
Because he had done no violence,
Neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him;
He hath put him to grief:
When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,
He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:
By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
And he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
Because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
And he was numbered with the transgressors;
And he bare the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.

 

Peace,

Victor

De fine incepti

Dear Readers,

Thank you very much for sticking with us all these months as we’ve been working hard to find our permanent home. As you might be able to tell from the above Latin phrase, we’ve reached the end of Step 1, and we now own a beautiful farm block! Our new land is 4.65 hectares (roughly 12 acres) in the heart of Canterbury, just northwest of a little country town called Cust. Our property has a fairly gently rolling, but mostly flat landscape but it is surrounded by mountain views!

We carried out our final inspection of the land on Saturday 23 February. This inspection is properly called the “pre-settlement inspection”, and if you buy real estate in New Zealand using the normal contract, you’re entitled to one such inspection as late as the day before settlement day. We’ve found these to be very useful, as you can check that the property is in good shape and that all the chattels you’ve bought are there and in good working order. Apart from the odd deceased sheep — another farmer formerly used the land as sheep pasture — we found nothing untoward, and it was full steam ahead. Settlement itself was very smooth, as our lawyer has taken good care of us, and so the magic spells were uttered and the land became ours about midday on Thursday 28 February!

Now I would very much like a suitable name for our lovely new block of land. I like the thought of something to do with the three prominent hills around us (Mount Oxford to the west, Mount Thomas to the north, and Summer Hill to the south-east), but Victor is still waiting for that flash of inspiration. We welcome any suggestions from the readership, so feel free to post them in the comments section. The winner (if there is one) will get exclusive bragging rights and a shout-out on the blog.

No sooner had we settled on the land than we got right to work. Victor took Friday 1 March off from his day job, and we met with no fewer than four contractors on the site.

The farm came fully fenced around its perimeter, but we decided that we wanted to have a few different little paddocks fenced off and needed some water lines put in, so we could water any animals we acquire. Thanks to Austin of Homesteady for the suggestion; a water line out to the middle of the section has proven remarkably inexpensive, and is sure to be a lot better than carting water barrels around with a tractor! We also wanted a new driveway put in; all the services (power, water and phone) are in the south-west corner of the section, and the existing vehicle gate was in the south-east corner. We didn’t want to have to construct 200 or more metres of driveway; that would have been both costly and wasteful. Victor found a local fencing contractor who has done excellent work; more on that below.

Another contractor was the environmental engineer, who was there to help us design a suitable septic and stormwater system. The fencing contractor helped her by digging a test pit, since he needed to do the water trenching anyway. We’ll say more about her work in due course, but will note that this needed to be done early as a wastewater design is a necessary part of building approval.

The two other contractors were a driveway contractor, who just came out to have a look, and a water pump supplier.

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I found a “local” who was in need of a few acres of land to graze her horses, so the big portion of the grass that we don’t need right away will be kept clean and earn us some income at the same time. The pre-existing vehicle gate has come in very useful: it gives her a means of access without having to go through the home paddock.

The fencing contractor is Andy Smith, who runs a business called Rural and Lifestyle Fencing. He also does lifestyle block irrigation and stock watering. As you can see from the image to the left we’ve chosen to add three 80 litre ball float valve filled stock troughs, one for each paddock (except the home paddock, which came with its own trough). It took him less than 5 days to complete more than 300 metres of new fence lines, drive the gate posts, and do the irrigation lines and set up the troughs for us. Everything looks very professional and we think it will last for years to come.

Whenever we go out there, Victor and I feel our spirits rise. Stargazer keeps asking where our house is, and of course, that is going to be a whole journey in itself. Honeybee likes picking up objects of geological significance and seeing how they taste. I don’t know if she’ll get any beneficial minerals from that or not; Victor thinks probably not, as those rocks are likely to be mostly silica. In the end, at least she’ll have a robust immune system! Little Ducky has yet to express any certain opinion on the subject of the new property. She seems to just want to drink her goat’s milk and spend time in her Daddy’s arms. Our Bella absolutely loves it of course.

Isaiah 40:30-31 says:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I hope you find rest, renewal and comfort in this passage as I have in the past few months. I feel that God is leading us on a very big journey and I hope you will continue to support us as we follow in His steps!

God Bless you and your house

~Grace

Welcome to 2019: A year of extraordinary adventures and growth!

Hello and welcome back to our first blog of the year!

Our household has been super busy this summer! How about yours?  Did you do anything fun over Christmas and New Years? Have you added anything to your homesteads or have you done anything different in your life?  We’d love to hear about it!

Speaking of new experiences and adventures – We’ve just given our lawyer instructions to confirm the purchase of 4.6ha (11.4 acres) of wonderful land in North Canterbury! (No the photo to the right isn’t it! but that’s a hint of our next post!)

Both Victor and I are eager to start the process of building and have been in contact with many different builders in our area. We’re meeting with one of the ones we’re most likely to go with this Thursday. We’ve also got very affordable finance/loans from our bank. Our lawyer is quite happy with the situation too and has provided a ton of information to help us prepare for this huge step! We’ve looked at many different kinds of builds, and although instant gratification with a big house right away is nice, we feel that working in stages on our “dream home” will be both more affordable and will also help keep us from getting in over our heads financially. We’re going to build a beginning structure which will consist of a 3-4 car oversized workshop/garage and a small (but still good sized) 75m2 home which we can later either extend or build a newer bigger one when the time comes.

We’re also in contact with several different local farms to get an idea of the startup costs for the things we would like to do right away (raising heritage breed chickens) and things we are looking at in 6 months to a year (getting goats for example). It’s all happening at once, which is both scary and exhilarating at the same time.

Victor and I will be in touch again soon to tell you about any changes that happen before settlement. If you enjoy reading our blog, please consider sharing and subscribing and let us know in the comments section if you have any suggestions or have any tips for young families in becoming more self-sufficient!

May God bless you and yours!

~Grace