A “Grace-full” evening

My birthday fell this year on a Monday.  Birthdays are the few days a year that we go out for dinner, so we decided to go a night early.  This year I wanted to try a small Japanese Restaurant in Rangiora called “Secret“.

Secret Japanese is hands down the best Japanese I have eaten in New Zealand.   I have tried many different restaurants all over the globe, but this one is up there with the better ones.  New Zealand Japanese Food is usually about par for the course (excuse the pun) with the likes of pop-up sushi shops on every corner, but tonight I got to taste some pretty darn good sushi from their sushi and teppanyaki chef.  The evening’s meals consisted of 3 sushi rolls which were quite large quantities compared with most and reasonably priced.  The most substantial roll had 14 large pieces.  We shared one rainbow roll, one dragon roll and a new one for me which was called a Godzilla roll.  The Godzilla was a California style roll with shrimp instead of the usual imitation crab.   It also had cashew nuts sprinkled on top and a wonderfully sweet glaze with a sharp, tangy ending note.  We also had their teppanyaki, mostly because it was late and the kids get bored quickly.  Little Duckie is still feeling unwell too, so it was nice that she wasn’t too easily disturbed by the shouts and cries of her older sisters which have become standard experiences when out to eat.  The manager was very accommodating and came around many times to clear dishes or entertain the little ones so that we could enjoy our evening in peace.   The customer service at Secret is fantastic.  When they did not have an item they sent someone out to get it rather than having to change my order.

The teppanyaki was delicious.  Each course was not overly rich or oily and had mild to moderate spice to complement the choice of meat, vegetable or fish.  Our two oldest girls had salmon (a treat I know, but they eat it rather than play with their chicken, so it works out more cost-effectively with very little on the floor).  Victor and I had a mixed set from the menu which came with seafood, steak, veggies, chicken, and rice as well as the customary miso soup and salad.   My parents also had set menu items as well as my brother.  After dinner, the manager greeted my husband and I privately and said that the kid’s menu item did come with a bit of frozen yogurt, but he didn’t want to offer it to them without speaking to us first.  So they enjoyed a nice dark chocolate one.  He also informed me that I would be welcome to have a frozen yogurt on the house because it was my birthday.  I shared this with Victor too as it was much too large for me to eat after such a wonderfully large dinner meal.

Cost wise I’d rank Secret as somewhere in the modest middle for a meal of this size and quality.  Each of adult dinner sets runs from $35-50NZD, drinks are extra, but water is free and served cold.  The restaurant itself is immaculate and well presented.   The music played varies from classic rock, soft rock, and some lighter notes with classical music.  It was not loud and even when other families were chatting I could always keep up with conversations around the table.  As I’m hard of hearing on my left side it’s quite nice to have a conversation and not have to shout because of the noise.

We ended the night’s meal and returned to my parent’s house to round out the night with an ice cream “Mud Pie” which is my preferred dessert for a birthday cake substitute.

It was a good night.  Hope you had a good one too!

~Grace

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10 Subscriber Milestone!

Hi everyone,

I thought I would share that we’ve reached 10 subscribers! Wow! I want to thank everyone who has followed our journey thus far and encourage you all that even though things haven’t quickly moved in the direction, we’d like, we’re still striving for our future goals.  We haven’t given up our dream of building up a small rural lifestyle block, and we’re still working to find solutions to our property situation!  Your support means everything to us, and with your help, we’ll eventually reach our next milestone of 50 subscribers.  When we reach that goal, we’ll host a special event so don’t miss out.  As always, please like and subscribe if you enjoy our page.  Visit us on facebook too if you’d like to get in touch! Keep busy and have fun! God Bless you!

~Grace

The Lord speaks and we obey

In today’s post,

I will talk about something I’ve had on my heart to write about, but I didn’t really know what to say. You see, Victor and I are firm believers, but we are also cautious to write much about our views in a public forum because topics like religion and politics are very polarising (and quite emotionally aggressive) today. We don’t want to end up with people trolling us or making our lives difficult, but at the same time, we do want people to know where we are in Christ. We are reformed Presbyterians. We believe that God, through His son, Jesus, saved us from our sins through grace alone.  By this, we mean we cannot do anything to “win” or earn our salvation. It’s not up to us to try to get His love because it’s a free offering to anyone who believes and puts his trust in Jesus (John 3:16).

In New Zealand, there are a lot of different people from different backgrounds. Religion and belief in God are not central to the New Zealand way of life. Practising Christians aren’t exactly rare, but they are not as common as they used to be and the world as a whole is becoming more hostile to anyone who does not share the same beliefs as the status quo.  We want this site to be a page where anyone can come to gather information without feeling judged, but also a page where many might see through our actions what a real honest family does to represent God on the Earth.  We are by no means a perfect family, and we will undoubtedly make a lot of mistakes, but God offers forgiveness and helps us to grow.  That growth is what we want you to see.

This week we have learned that God is asking us to wait on Him for the right time to sell our current house and purchase the next.  He’s shown us that right now the market isn’t strong enough to list our home. There are properties that we could buy, but we believe that God is telling us a better option (or perhaps even one of the same options) awaits us in the future. So for right now, we will stay where we are and wait until springtime to sell. We will continue to blog on this page, talk about our progress with our home, bring you stories about our newest companion, and have many more fun adventures as time goes on. Please stay in touch and share our adventure with your friends!

~Grace

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

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