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.
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.
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!
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.
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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