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
At last, I bring to you our tale of the journey over the mountains to the West Coast of New Zealand. We had bought two chicken coops on Trade Me, and they were for collection by the buyer. Victor got up bright and early, and nipped down the road to collect a car transporter, as there was no way our ordinary trailer would hold even the bigger of the two coops by itself, let alone both together! Would we be able to collect them both and bring them back in one day? Would they fit, and would our vehicle be up to the task?
Our drive over was uneventful, except for a heavily laden cyclist on a tricky hill, but we were happily entertained by the use of the age-appropriate children’s radio broadcast Adventures In Odyssey by Focus on the Family as we drove through sunny hill country, grand beech forests, and remote farmland. We had a few stops for toilet breaks and for food (plus one to collect our old chicken water barrel), but our adventure didn’t really start until we arrived in Stillwater, on the outskirts of Greymouth.
We stopped to pick up our first coop, the larger of the two, and were asked to wait around fifteen minutes for the front loader to come from next door. We spent the time mostly looking over our purchase and talking to the man who built it. He is a retired builder, and we could tell that he puts his heart and soul into whatever he does. His other coops, dog runs and other sorts of small but well-designed buildings were all over the small farm section. He even offered us some extra things like a bag of clean wood shavings to line the coop when we got it to our home. When the front loader arrived, the builder took time to make sure that the coop was properly loaded, and he and his grandson helped to secure ratchet tie-downs and add orange flags to the coop to make it stand out more on the road. He offered a little advice on driving such a heavy load that was also very much appreciated. We left feeling very happy with our purchase and wondering strongly if we might see the kind old builder again.
Our second big stop was to pick up the little colourful “maternity coop” as Victor calls it. We waited what seemed like forever to find someone who could help us load it. We had tried to call in advance to tell them when we would arrive, but no one had picked up. We certainly had arranged to pick it up that day in any case.
Honeybee and Stargazer spent their time wandering around looking at the ponies, climbing random things, swinging on the little two-person swing and generally having a good time. Duckie spent most of the time waiting asleep. Victor and I wandered around mostly just talking about the big coop. It wasn’t that the little coop wasn’t nice… it just isn’t quite as grand as our big coop. Eventually, the landowner was able to get his forklift and helped to load the coop.
By now it was getting dark, even though the West Coast is supposed to be only three hours drive from home and we had left at ten o’clock in the morning. By mid-April, the days here are getting noticeably short. We certainly wouldn’t have wanted to go on such an expedition any later in the year!
We had originally expected to be home in time for dinner. In typical Kiwi Homesteading style, where everything takes longer than expected, that didn’t happen. So it was dinner in Greymouth, where the golden arches came to our rescue, and then off down the highway. Ducky’s cherished blanket toy was a casualty of war, sadly, lost (we think) on the side of the road.
Now there are two main roads over the Southern Alps between Canterbury and the West Coast. The longer, gentler, more northerly route is the Lewis Pass, which we took on the way over. Since it was already so late, we decided to come back over Arthur’s Pass, the more direct route. As we headed east along Highway 73, we passed grim signs: “Ye who bear heavy burdens, beware the road ahead,” and, “Turn back now, lest thy carriage prove unworthy,” and finally, “Fly, you fools!”
Well, actually the sign may or may not have been more mundane like this: “STEEP GRADES. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR TOWING VEHICLES.” But this is Middle-Earth, after all.
At first, we wondered what all the fuss was about. It wasn’t until we left the gentle valley of the Taramakau and started up the Otira Gorge itself that it became evident that the warning was not in vain. Victor watched as the gear counter, which started at a healthy 5 out of 6, went inexorably down to 4, then 3, then 2… the accelerator was on the floor… the engine toiled manfully as we crawled, inch by inch, up the perilously winding road and the long slope of the dreadful Viaduct.
Just as we thought that the engine was at its final gasp, we started to climb faster, and I exclaimed that it couldn’t be the car doing this, it was God pushing us up the hill! The girls and I all praised God as we continued to gain speed in our climbing efforts. Each time the car seemed like it would slow we in earnest prayed loudly something like “Please! push this car up the hill, God!”. Stargazer yelled “You can do it, God! I know you can!”.
Not long after that, the slope lessened, and we soon saw, standing tall in our headlights, the Dobson Memorial, marking the summit of the high pass.
There were two remaining questions for us. The first and most vexing was that of fuel. There are very few petrol stations in the Southern Alps, and even though we had filled up in Greymouth, our car needed lots to drink to get over Arthur’s Pass and the gentler but higher Porter’s Pass, and on the further side of Porter’s there was still a long road over the plains. Mercifully, the petrol station at Springfield was still open. It is fairly rare petrol stations to be open late at night in the country. Victor certainly sighed in relief when we pulled up and noticed that it was actually a 24/7 pay-at-the-pump type petrol station.
The second was whether we would fall asleep, especially Victor, whose eyelids were starting to droop. I wasn’t in any better shape myself, and my eyes were sore and my vision blurred. The roads were almost deserted, and the river mist lay thick on the land. The music was either grating on our ears or sending us to sleep. Finally, we were resorting to trying to name animals, chemical elements, books of the Bible… anything to keep our minds alert as we drove those last few miles.
We made it home in one piece, and after cleaning up a carsick Ducky and putting to bed the older two, we were only too pleased, after a successful but very tiring expedition, to collapse into bed ourselves.
I hope you have enjoyed our story for the evening. We will follow this up with a post with more photos of our coops and the work we have done to set them up. Please follow us on Facebook if you haven’t already as we will likely post quite a few more pictures there than on here. You may also get a few sneak peeks at our new animals.
Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
…the newest member of our merry band, the vivacious Bella!
When we first decided to get a large block of land, and considered running stock on it, our minds turned to Man’s best friend. What better time to look for a helper? We — and by “we” I mostly mean Grace — thought long and hard, but not too long nor too hard, about breeds and such like. We wanted a dog who would be fast, energetic, easy to train, loyal, good with children, and quiet (mostly; we have to make some concessions to reality). And while we’re at it, why not world peace? But we were pleasantly surprised. We went on Trade Me, which is New Zealand’s answer to eBay for our international readers, and found a family who were selling a border collie / huntaway cross for a relatively inexpensive amount.
It would seem that the family dog, the border collie mum, had some unexpectedly personal contact with Nana and Grandad’s unfixed huntaway. The result was a litter of no less than eleven puppies, which was a bit much for a town family to keep at home! So we stopped by for a visit. Most of the pups were mildly curious about us, but mostly just wanted to sleep, eat or play. One of them, though, a very little girl, climbed into my arms and nestled herself there. To this day, I say that she chose us, and Grace is quick to correct that to, “She chose you.”
Bella was born in March 2018, and we took her home in May. This is how she was about when we first got her:
And last month, when she was about ten and a half months old and had been living with us for nine months:
Bella is very much a puppy. She enjoys chasing frisbees and balls, and doesn’t always bring them back, preferring to run rings around us while holding them in her mouth. Grace remarks that the one thing she will catch and bring back to us is her own tail, which is frequently seen swinging rapidly from side to side. She will absolutely lick a small child to death at the slightest opportunity, much to the displeasure of Honeybee and, to a lesser but still significant extent, Stargazer. Ducky, on the other hand, doesn’t seem unduly concerned, and likes to put her fingers in Bella’s nose! Our life with Bella has been in some ways as much about learning ourselves as training her. For instance, we spent part of this evening trying to teach Stargazer that when Bella gets in her face she has to remind Bella who’s boss. Collapsing on the ground and crying is not an option unless you wish to be licked even more fiercely.
On the other hand, with grown-ups and other dogs, Bella is remarkably submissive, even timid. It’s not because of any harsh treatment from us; we think she was the natural runt, and we were told she was picked on by her litter-mates. She has started to come out of her shell a bit as she’s grown, and we hope she will be able to keep spending time as appropriate with other well trained dogs. In the meantime, she very much enjoys going for a run with me of an evening.
While I have been dealing with a mighty cold, our dear Victor was recently hit by a loudly roaring stomach bug! He woke up sometime around 3 AM last night and just… well you know. It was everywhere. Much like when Stargazer or Honeybee get bugs Victor gets walloped too. So we did our best to clean up our room and attempted to get more sleep. As you may know, that never happens to me, I can’t ever get back to sleep!
At the first sleep, I do reasonably well. That is until I wake from one of my many repeating dreams. Any further time awake adds to my inability to fall back asleep. The only exception to this seems to be during the day. I feel that some days I may suffer from a form of narcolepsy because I will find myself waking up when I don’t have any memory of going back to bed.
So what’s a Mum to do? Well rather than trying to go to bed early tonight, I’ve decided to write a little. It seems like it has been ages since I talked with you all. Most of that time I have been recovering from surgery, dealing with my Dad’s near-death experience, dealing with various household chores and trying to play the “real estate game”. Occasionally our good Lord gives me a bit of time to paint. Other-times like tonight He has suggested rather strongly that I continue to write and search out the questions that my heart seeks to answer.
One of those tough questions is “Where to from here God?”. Another is “How will we afford it?” and “Where do we start?”. I still don’t quite know the answers to any of these, but I can say that after I had nearly come to giving up the Land Search, I realised that there was one form I had not tried. You see, while Victor and I had sold privately, I didn’t even think to try to find a private vendor. So when I set out to do just that God showed me one that fit our needs and our desires to a “T”. It was pretty much exactly what we had asked for, and it is in our budget range.
The land itself is flat pasture land which means it is easier to build on and more straightforward to farm. It has 3 phase power and water to the boundary. It has lovely and close mountain views on three borders as well as shelter belts to protect from harsh winds. It is fully fenced, and it is within the “25-minute drive” cut off from Rangiora/Woodend that I strongly desired. Best of all it has NO covenants.
I hope to be able to show all of you the land. As Victor stated, our offer was accepted. It was a perfectly straight-forward arrangement. The landowner showed us the property, and then a little while later we said we wanted to buy it and he drew up the agreement, and we both signed it. We still have much due diligence to do before we confirm, but I’m hopeful that God with His full knowledge of our needs will help us to achieve our goals within our time constraints.
If any of you homesteaders have any advice for where to start once we have the land and house, please feel free to share a comment below. I love hearing about how every unique family has gotten their footing. Victor and I are very eager to get back to our roots so to speak and start living more wholesome lives. The rat race doesn’t serve us well!
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A major challenge of starting any new initiative, like a blog, is incorporating it into the rhythms of life, and time flies by, so a weekly update is the order of the day. Grace is asleep next to me as I write, battling a cold; we are both looking forward to a restful break over Christmas as this has been a demanding year. We are also looking forward to celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary. Time flies when you’re having fun, and marriage and family are a great adventure.
Our week was thrown out of gear when Grace’s dad became seriously ill and was rushed to hospital. Coming home from work to find an ambulance parked in the driveway is an interesting welcome, but panic is for other people. By God’s grace he has pulled through and is now back at home recovering.
Meanwhile, negotiations on the block of land we mentioned last week went very smoothly: our offer was accepted and we now have to complete a due diligence investigation. This is multifaceted, and I think each aspect of it merits a post of its own. Nevertheless, we are greatly encouraged, and look forward to next steps.
Grace, meanwhile, is looking into the raising of birds. The conventional option is of course chickens, but we’re looking at other options including turkeys and various kinds of game bird.
Meanwhile, the year draws to a close for Stargazer and Honeybee, who have their kindergarten’s Christmas party next week. Our children have a love for learning and taking on new challenges, which we think will stand them in good stead for our adventure.
Well, it has been a long time! And of course much has happened in the world outside, and in our little family too. When we last posted it was the depths of winter, and all felt dull and dreary, with sickness and stress… and now it is the first day of summer (as New Zealanders reckon these things) and it feels like everything is full of life and hope. For those who follow such things, tomorrow is also the first day of Advent, which means in some sense it’s the start of a new year… what better time to reboot this humble blog!
Anyway, since we last left, we have these updates:
We understand better Grace’s health condition, and she went in for the procedure that had been postponed. It revealed nothing structurally wrong, which is good! We have also been able to test out some new alternative therapies that look very promising.
We finished and sold our house in the city! That has at times felt like a real mission, but God has led us through it. We opted to sell privately (i.e. without using a real estate agent), which turned out to be a very good decision in this particular case. It won’t necessarily work for all people, though, so use your best judgement if you need to sell a house – but if you are selling privately we’re happy to share something of our experience. By God’s grace, we got more for the house than we had put into it (including improvements we made), so we are now even better set up for our next steps (and, as Grace has reminded me, for our nest as well).
Not only have we sold, but we have settled and moved out. This itself was a massive undertaking, and made even more tricky by the fact that we had only two weeks from “confirmation” (the contract going unconditional) to settlement and possession, and the first of those weeks I was out of the country and Grace was recovering from the aforementioned surgery. What a pickle! But with the help of family and many kind people from our church, we got there in the end.
Now for the really fun stuff. While all this was going on, we put in two offers on land, both of which fell through (Boo! Hiss!). But we believe it was for the best. In one case, the property was really in the sticks, the boonies, what have you… it was a beautiful plot of land, but internet would have been by satellite if at all, and it was quite a way from the nearest sizeable town though doable. More awkwardly, though, the people trying to sell it to us didn’t own it themselves yet. It was very complex, and by the time they could confirm to buy it, we were moving on to other options and had to withdraw.
The other property turned out to be a bit of a trap for the unwary. The owners were subdividing their land, and didn’t want to go to the trouble of running electricity to the boundary fence. Instead they said that on the other side of the road was sufficient. No big deal, right? Just as well we checked with the electricity distribution company in the area! They said it would be probably about $30,000 to put in a new transformer and jump the street. With that kind of commitment needed to even start developing the section, we offered a lower price – as you would do – and the owners wouldn’t have it. It’s their choice, but we definitely think we dodged a bullet there.
And now comes the really encouraging part. Grace had spent weeks bashing her head against the keyboard, so to speak – I think she probably has a permanent QWERTY indentation on her left temple by this time. Finally, she tried a different approach, by going on to Trade Me and looking specifically for private vendors, after getting frustrated with real estate agents who don’t call back (though some of the real estate agents we dealt with have been exceptional, like Linda, Jessica, Glen and Kate). The rest of you, some friendly advice – don’t take on too many listings, for the sake of your vendors! Anyway, we found a property advertised by a fellow who has put a lot of work in to develop it and it seems to be just what we want – a little over four hectares, stunning views on all sides, and a complete lack of covenants. We aren’t going to go into detail yet, because we’re putting in an offer – but watch this space!
We know you’ve all been waiting patiently and urgently praying for our family’s health recovery. Thankfully, it seems we’re through the worst of it! We are about a week and a half away from listing our old house and eager to start a renewed push for finding that “special” place to call home.
Many of our readers will be aware of our previous property offers which were not so successful, and some might ask why we’re still making this move at all. The critical thing to be reminded of is that this isn’t just a “whim” or a “dream” to us. It isn’t something we’re jumping into without research, and it isn’t just a phase or emotional response to our situation as a whole. This is our goal, our future. This is something that we know must happen and we’ve heard God’s firm call to it. There have been many setbacks, but that hasn’t changed what we are hearing from God himself.
For reasons unknown to us God has asked us to walk through a dark and scary, illness and chaos, filled valley to show us His grand plan for our lives. We feel He’s shown us that the right section will come not only if we are patient, but if we fulfil His requirements of us first. One of those has been for Grace to learn to trust Him more and to fight once again with a renewed spirit for her own life. She had many setbacks healthwise which made her doubt her purpose, but through attention to detail and a whole lot of prayer, Victor and Grace have worked through those health crises.
We’re reminded of Today’s Verse of the day in our experiences:
Matthew 6:34 says: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”.
Whenever we’ve doubted God’s plan, we’ve been made aware that He is listening to our every thought. Just recently Grace mentioned out loud that she was disappointed Victor would not be able to carpool with a workmate if we move further out to Oxford. Then God showed us (when we visited a potential section recently) that a likely new neighbour was working right across the road from Victor and that neighbour even brought up the desire to carpool with Victor as a desirable thing.
When Grace had doubts about her ability to traverse the steep slopes of one property in the rain and mud, God showed her that another property was as flat as a pancake and had excellent drainage but and no possibility of damp setting in. Grace’s desires that the children have a place to play with trees has also shown up there. Victors love of mountains and hope to not get “bored” with what surrounds him was also taken into mind. Even the chickens and the dog have been considered with fencing where we need it right away.
All along God has been guiding us, showing us what we need to do, and what we need to avoid. He’s given us lessons to guide us in our choices as the landscape of the earth changes. We know now that we can’t do this ourselves and we’ve been truly humbled by the amount of help we’ve received in hard times from our church and our friends. We will be forever grateful for the support that God sent our way to help us push through these seemingly impossible feats. Our only wish is that we’d not doubted in the first place and trusted in Him entirely from the beginning!
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