Welcome to our first blog.
The driving force behind us wanting to share our experiences with you, is that when we needed information and advice on a multitude of subjects that were new to us, mostly it was hard and time consuming to find - everything from birthing sheep to the best spray to use on californian thistles!
We have been extremely lucky having wonderfully generous neighbours, the expertise of a great team at Franklin Vets (Waiuku), the very entertaining and helpful crew at RD1 (Waiuku) and Kane, our good natured stock agent from PGG Wrightsons who always delivers with good looking beasts, I do ask for "pretty ones" - is that the same Kane? - who have made us feel welcome and have willingly shared their knowledge when we needed it - many thanks to all of you!
So after 17 months on the farm and very used to gummies covered in poo, we can say we've survived without too many casualties and we are still talking to each other.
So where are we at...
Sheep - we have 150 sheep on the property made up of 4 rams (3 suffolk and 1 southdown), 6 orphan lambs from last season which somehow I convinced my good husband I HAD to keep. They are affectionately known as Wonky (pictured), Brutus, Jimmy, Lucy, Daisy and Rosie. Our stock agent has great delight in telling me they would be perfect now with a splash of mint sauce! These little munchkins still run to see their "mum" everyday (I deny it has anything to do with the bucket of sheep nuts I'm carrying). They also have their own house for protection from the weather and can be found peering out from the doorway at the slightest sniff of rain - oh dear! The rest of our mob (if you can call it that) are Romney ewes.
Cattle - no milking here - just fattening. As newbies to farming, it was suggested that white faced blacks (we had to google what they were) would be the best solution for us, nice and calm, easy to manage - they were right, they've been a dream. We started with a policy of not naming any animal that would be sold or go to slaughter as it may cause tears before bedtime - mostly that has happened (mostly!). My good husband didn't go to the sales the day "Ginge" went through... We currently have 20 heifers at approx 400kg, 30 weiner steers at approx 180kg and "Big Red" and "Bubba Gump" (I said mostly!) weighing in at approx 600kg and we need a few more little ones but so does everyone else who like us, has stacks of grass!
The Dog - Tubby, the twelve and half year old border collie we took on with the farm (thanks to our daughter who fell in love with him at the property viewing!). This dog has cost us more in vet fees in the last 17 months than all our kids at the doctors in the last 27 years, however what a dog, hes just gorgeous. He's become my good husbands best mate and is at his happiest blasting around the farm on the back of the buggy. We won't spend too much time dwelling on that fact that he's scared of cattle, sheep, orphan lambs who want to play, chickens... you get my point. So he has been put into full retirement, a position he has embraced with all four paws. His mornings are spent in the dining room basking in the sun and in the evening in front of the TV/fire.
The Chickens - Colin the buff orpington rooster - Georgia, Bella, Henny & Penny our buff orpington hens - Flossie, Token and Betty our blue orpington hens - Alice the gold laced wyandotte and two stunning cockerels who need to find new homes (see our Livestock page). These chickens free range wherever they wish (and sometimes in the house when they find a gap) decimating the plants in my garden, moving mulch from the garden to the lawn, laying eggs everywhere but the hen house (currently in a bunch of canna lillies, under the deck and in the barn), laying stinking deposits on the deck and so on. I do love my chickens but would like to contain them to the orchard - that involves a new hen house, a birthday present, well thats a whole new blog on its own...
The Bees - my good husband has always had a fascination with bees, me not so much! However when we did get the opportunity to have some hives here at the farm, I enthusiastically jumped at the chance - as much for pollination of the fruit trees/plants and clover as well as doing our bit for the bee population. I must now admit to joining the swell of people who are fascinated with bees and really enjoy our hive management sessions. Our first honey extraction session was messy but fun.
The Orchard - somehow (I can't yet figure out how I managed it and I think my mother-in-law is still amazed) I convinced my good husband that the house paddock should be repurposed into an orchard/garden extension. It probably had something to do with the swell of fruit trees that kept arriving home and his unwillingness to let anything suffer or die needlessly (this includes plants luckily!). So with a "well hurry up and get a plan together" and "make sure you've got everything you need!", all said rather tersely from him who kept also reminding me that "he had much bigger priorities other than playing in the garden!", rest assured, I got that planting plan done quick smart and had everything ready for the big planting day/s and whola - the orchard looks fabulous and despite those westerly winds that bear down on us, the trees have survived and are thriving.
The Vege Patch - the xmas present - its getting there...
The Gardens - have you ever just stood and wondered where to start first? If so, then you'll understand where I'm at. I am however very fortunate that my mother-in-law, Madam President at the St Heliers Garden Group, has taken me in hand and is showing me the way. What she doesn't know about plants and garden planning, isn't worth knowing. She is generous with her time, advice, encouragement and is a constant supply of plants - for which I am forever grateful. There is a deadline, however, to some semblance of order in the garden as the local gardening group is coming for inspection in October!
This is a very broad overview - there is a long list of projects that will become fodder for discussion and debate moving forward...
A big thank you to Amy Hollier, designer and illustrator, who has patiently assisted us through designing and setting up our website, product labels etc. She has done a superb job and comes highly recommended.
I would also like to thank our son James, who has fantastic camera/editing skills and is credited with taking some of the great shots we are able to share on this site. Thanks mate!
Until next time...