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

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Of mushrooms

Growing up in semi-rural Canterbury, one of my joys was the occasional opportunity to collect wild mushrooms. These were typically the field mushroom, which I’m told is Agaricus campestris, though some of the larger specimens may in fact have been the horse mushroom (A. arvensis). Even then, I wasn’t one to turn up my nose at free food, and in these days of getting all kinds of food and drink from the supermarket, there is something special about finding fresh food in the wild (these weren’t the only ones; we would occasionally harvest mussels from rocky beaches, or catch fish).

It so happened that the other day I found a wondrously large mushroom (though not nearly as big as some, such as the giant puffball, large specimens of which have been rumoured to be mistaken for sheep) growing in the overflow car park at work. So naturally I brought it home, as both a learning and a culinary opportunity.

A cluster of horse mushrooms (Agaricus arvensis). Copyright Wikipedia user “Luridiformis”.

Stargazer was delightfully mercurial in her response, one minute declaring that she didn’t like it, and the next completely changing her tune! That girl definitely responds well to a courageous example. Having eaten some bits of it fried up with butter and a little garlic, she declared that she loves horse mushrooms. Honeybee on the other hand cut to the chase and demolished her portion. The truly reluctant members of our little band were Grace’s parents. Apparently, they aren’t really to be blamed: the wilds of North America are full of toxic fungi of all kinds, and children there are told that distinguishing between the toxic and edible specimens is all but impossible unless you’re a mycologist. Myself, I think that’s probably over the top, at least as a lesson to carry into adulthood when the more subtle distinguishing characteristics can be observed; but I digress.

I would of course be remiss if I didn’t point out that gathering wild fungi is not for the unobservant. Even in New Zealand, we have instances of the aptly named death cap, Amanita phalloides, which in one of God’s little jokes looks more like either the field mushroom or the horse mushroom than most other species of edible mushroom do in New Zealand. But it doesn’t look extremely like either if you know what you’re looking for:

  • The field mushroom and horse mushroom are white to light brown on top; the death cap is pale yellow-green.
  • The gills (on the underside of the cap) of the field and horse mushroom are pink or flesh coloured, darkening to a dark brown as the cap ages; the gills of the death cap are white.
  • The death cap has a bulb at the base of the stalk; the field and horse mushrooms do not.
  • The death cap has an upwards opening collar on the stalk; the field and horse mushrooms usually don’t have a collar at all, but if they do it opens downwards.
  • The death cap when bruised, cut or damaged turns vivid yellow.
  • The death cap emits a foul, sulphurous odour while being cooked; the field and horse mushrooms smell, well, like mushrooms.

Amanita phalloides, the death cap. Do not eat! Copyright Wikipedia user “Archenzo”.

Having said all that, if you’re unsure what a mushroom is, do yourself a favour and leave it alone. This is especially important if you have young children with you at the time, as it’s important to set a good example!

Happy foraging,

~Victor

CARPE NOCTEM

Dear readers,

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!

As always my beautiful readers if you enjoy reading our posts please like, share, and subscribe for more of them. If you’d like to get in touch, please leave a comment below. We can’t do this without your support whether it be through prayer, advice, business or donation. We appreciate every single one of you!

God bless you and yours!

~Grace

Tempus fugit

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.

New beginnings

Dear friends,

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!

Take care,

~Victor

Back in Action

Hi Everyone!

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!

If you like reading our blog please feel free to click the like and subscribe buttons so that you can stay informed about everything that happens as we keep exploring God’s creation and bringing you more of our fun adventures!

May God be with you today as always!

~From all of us here @kiwihomesteading

 

 

Two steps forward, one step back

Dear friends and readers,

Please accept our apologies for this long break. While we have been doing our best to keep this blog updated, the complexities of life have threatened to overwhelm us. We’re surfacing for long enough to give this update.

We’ve posted before about a few days of illness. What we didn’t say at the time is that Grace has been unwell since partway through her pregnancy with Ducky, a sickness that has caused her ever-increasing pain as well as fatigue and heart trouble. After several months of this illness, and multiple doctor’s appointments with no clear way forward, last Friday (29 June) we went to Wellington to see a specialist. While Grace was able to get a provisional diagnosis and start treatment, it was too late to prevent her from becoming so unwell that she needed emergency treatment in hospital.

She is now well enough that she has been discharged, but is still weak, tired and in considerable pain. We are resting at her parents’ place so that we have help with the children, since I am still working full time.

This chain of events hasn’t weakened our resolve. On the other hand, it has strengthened it, for two reasons. One is that Grace’s condition seems to be exacerbated by mould and pollution, both of which are very common in Christchurch during winter. The other is that while we hope that Grace can make a full recovery and enjoy many healthy years, it may be that we face times when she or another member of our family is temporarily disabled. The best way to be able to manage that is to have a suitably accessible house.

At the same time as all this was unfolding, we discovered a feature of our current home that was contributing to our particular mould problem. While we try to keep a clean and dry home, the grounds outside were not so dry, and flooded every time we had a substantial rainfall. I thought this was simply a result of a blocked storm drain, and called in a tradesman to flush the lines. It turned out that most of our storm drains went not to the street, but rather to a device called a “soak pit”. A soak pit is a hole in the ground filled with rubble and surrounded by a filter cloth, which collects water in the hollows between the rubble, from where the water gradually drains away. But over time the filter cloth becomes clogged, and eventually the soak pit stops working. This happened to us during a heavy rainfall last year.

So, in preparation for sale, we have had to get new storm drains put in. In the short to medium term, this will help us to have a better property and a healthier life while we’re there; in the long term, the new owners will have a superior drainage solution.

Peace,

~Victor