Short notes

Just a quick update.

–Drove over to the Wairarapa (that’s over the mountains to the northeast, for Viewers At Home) for a BBQ for the local members of the lifestyle block mailing list. Some really neat people !

–We’re in full-on pre-event mode for the upcoming Cantebury Faire. SCA folks play a lot more authentic here, plus our new role as The Local Mongols has made us want to play the part less slackly, so we’re tossing together some new garb. Plus we need a new door for the yurt.

–There’s this show in March that we’re doing (dancing and storytelling), and there are choreographies to do and practice for that. I’ve got brain-lock for the piece I’m supposed to do. Choreographies for “Please, O King, don’t marry my sister, or behead me, or anything” don’t spring to mind as readily as they do for, say, “Look at me, aren’t I the cutest thing ?”, or “My Baby done left me, and I feel so blue”, you know ? :^P

–Stephen managed to twist his knee at fight practice yesterday — not fighting, but playing soccer afterwards. Now he’s grousing around the house, annoyed because he can’t go out and cut brush. (I think he’s definitely feeling the only-three-TV-stations thing, too.)

–We may have eels in the stream out front. At least, the Maori guy who asked if we minded if his kids went eeling in the front paddock seemed to think it was a possibility. I wonder if they caught any ?

–There was seal in the harbor this morning, fishing along the waterfront. Huh !


So the Northeast US has been freezing. Up until two days ago, we could enjoy our Southern Hemisphere locale and bask in 80 degree F sunny summer weather. Then the rains came. For the last two days it’s been in the 50s, wet and windy. “Wet and windy” in this instance meaning “the creek isn’t *quite* up over the bridge yet, but keep an eye on it”, with the rain lashing against the windows and the wind howling and scrabbling at the house like a very large animal trying to claw, pry, or shake its way in.

Back in the States (at least, the bits of it I’ve lived in), this is the sort of weather that would last maybe three or four hours (and then maybe settle into a steady rain), and everyone at work the next day would be all like, “Did you hear that wind last night ?” “Yeah, wow, what a storm !” Here, folks talk about the weather just as much, only it’s been doing this for two days straight. And it’s not even “a storm”, per se. It’s just “the weather”. There’s just a staggering amount of energy out there, and it’s… unsettling, is how I’d describe it.

Life in the Roaring Forties.

In other, bigger news, Linda dropped off Pointer yesterday afternoon. He’s still apparently a little wobby, but he may as well be a little wobbly over at our place. Stephen says he’s been eating mostly flowers (and how cute is that ?) — all the catsear and dandilions and clover — so hopefully he’ll avoid all that nasty ryegrass. I haven’t gotten to see him yet, because we kept waiting for the rain to ease up a bit after work, only it never quite did, and then we had to go to a planning meeting for the show we’re putting on in March. But tonight for sure, before A&S, no matter what the weather’s doing. Stephen got some pics yesterday, so we’ll get those up, too.

The Sisyphus Game

So here’s the pics of the adventure Wednesday evening:

Yes, thanks to fine citizens of the local SCA Shire of Darton (all or nearly all of whom are in these photos) the new water tank is now resting comfortably in the hole Stephen dug for it on the hill behind the house. Let me tell you, our grazers (visible on horsebank in the second photo, and that’s Joanne in the riding helmet to the left of the last one) and the neighbors across the valley were vastly amused to watch the proceedings.

Would you believe we had a dance practice right after this ?

More stuff we've been up to

This Saturday, we went to the local joust. Yes, they joust here. For real, too, full speed with frangible lances, just like they did historically. Very cool.

Some of the SCA friends we enjoyed the day with:

Stephen *is* Chatelaine now for the local group. “Welcome to Darton. Here’s your seat on the Council” indeed.

What else have we been up to ? More digging. This lovely big hole is for our new 22500 liter water tank (currently in the front paddock, rolling on its back like a big green plastic turtle — high winds the other day, you see). Stephen is very, very butch (and tired).

And meeting some more of the locals:

The cute rays were devastating, I assure you. Funnily enough, the cats not only weren’t interested, they barely noticed it at all — I don’t think it registered as a critter. Wacky.

Rasputin the Brave

Friday evening we had a visitor. Lex, the brother of our neighbor Roger, dropped by with his (16 year old?) daughter Katrina, as he wanted to show her the ‘paca. He also had Roger’s dog with him. Rasputin and the dog were staring intently at each other through the glass by the front door, so we let the kitty out. He advanced on the 50-pound dog in full “Halloween-cat” mode, back arched and tail puffed, not at all intimidated by the dog more than 3x his size. The dog got rather freaked out by this, so for the sanity of the dog we put Rasptuin back inside.

Later, after looking at the ‘paca (and watching their reaction of intense curiosity to the dog- amusing since they chase the cats out of the paddock), Rasputin and the dog had another meeting, this time in the side yard. Rasputin was not so agressive in his advance this time, but he came right up to the dog and sniffed his nose. Lex was amazed, as he had never witnessed a cat deal with a larger dog in such a way. Rasputin- always full of surprises!

2003, a year of change

It’s now been more than 4 months since I moved down here, and nearly 7 weeks in the new house. So I though it was time for an update on my NZ experience.

As some of you know, I have been talking about moving to New Zealand for about 20 years now, since high school in fact. Back then I joked about moving down to NZ and becoming a sheep farmer, though I had very little real idea what either farming or NZ was like. It is now quite odd to find myself on a farm, in New Zealand, and with two sheep no less! (Okay, the sheep belong to a neighbor, but you get the point.) It is a very strange sensation to fulfil a dream after two decades of thinking and planning. I was worried at first that this would leave some void in my life, or that the experience would not live up to the expectations. So far that has not happened, and I am really enjoying myself. It is hard work, certainly, and there have been occasional frustrations, disappointments and setbacks, but on the whole it has been a hugely positive experience.

My Boston friends all no doubt remember how in the months before I moved down here I was always commenting that they should move too. I know this was endearing to some, and annoying to others. In retrospect I now realize that this was my own uncertainty about the move, getting other people excited about moving here was simply a way to validate that I was not, in fact, making a stupid decision. Since I arrived and “made my dream come true” I now realize that it is not about moving to NZ, it is about following your own path, your own goals. If that involves moving around the world- go for it! If that involves staying right where you are, with friends and family around, well that is just as great a decision! NZ is no promised land of milk and honey. It’s very cool, but it has its own quirks and flaws. No place is perfect, it is a matter of choosing what you want in life. (But you should all come and visit of course! We actually have some loose plans to build a little 2 room guest flat on the concrete pad in the side yard, so that if people wanted to stay for an extended time they would have a place of their own. That would be cool.)

As you may have also noticed, I have arranged a major lifestyle change. Having 25 acres and farm animals will do that. I have always liked making changes to my lifestyle when I move, since I find that the natural confusion and dislocation caused by the moving process makes it easier to slip in changes and escape the rut. Also, it would have seemed rather pointless to move all the way around the world and then resumed the exact same lifestyle I had in Boston. In that case I could have stayed in Boston, and saved a whole lot of money! 🙂 (And not left friends and family behind, either!) I figured I would never know if I liked being a small-farmer uness I gave it a try. It will be very interesting to see where I am in 3 years time. More land? Less? What animals? What goals and dreams?

So now I sail into uncharted waters. For the first time in my adult life I not longer have a “I would love to do X…someday” dream that I can talk about. I have changed country (US to NZ), changed locale (suburb to rural), changed lifestyle (hobby-farmer), and changed job (lab scientist to writer). I guess that makes 2003 a pretty exciting year of change. What comes next? Well, the next year will be consumed with getting the farm up and running properly after 10 years of neglect. There are fences to build, brush to clear, trails to blaze, trees to plant, and stock to acquire and wrangle. Once that is past, who knows? I may still try my hand at writing fiction, or maybe some other activity will come along. Whatever it is, I will just strive to make it fun.

Good luck, and good sailing, to you all in 2004!

Stuff we've been up to

We *have* been doing stuff other than digging ditches and clearing gorse (although those activities have their charms — we’ve cut a track almost half-way up the back hill; we’ve cleared some fenceline; we’ve discovered that we could re-build the stockyards under the elms out front with the aid of a brushcutter and some fencing…)

Here’s some of the other stuff…

Fight practice:

Mowing the lawn:

Feeding the stock:

Playing with the Clydes at Murrayfield Clydesdales:

And just hanging around enjoying the weather:

Two by Two

So Trixie, the red pony, only minds the fence when she feels like it.

A bit of background: the front paddock, with Takapu stream running through it, is not *actually* fenced. It’s fenced from the road, and from the neighbors’ property, but there’s nothing to keep any of the critters down there from wandering up the driveway and into the garden or the house or wherever. So Yvonne, who’s grazing three of the equines (Max, the big Clyde cross, and two of the ponies — Jason and Casey), has set up “temporary” fencing to keep the beasts in the paddock. The temporary fencing — which has been there for four years, mind — consists of some electric tape that isn’t actually electrified. Luckily, the horses for the most part will respect the boundary even if it’s really little more than a bit of string through some wire poles.

There are exceptions, though. Jason, when he’s decided the paddock has run out of suitable grass, will simply step over the fence (pretty good considering he’s all of 13hh). Trixie will flout the fence when she reckons she’s missing fun somewhere, as when Yvonne and the girls take their three out to ride or brush or whatever. Only Trixie doesn’t step over the fence, she just runs right through it, leaving white tape and wire posts scattered everywhere.

Since Yvonne and the girls (whose names are Joanne and Sarah, BTW) will be doing more riding now it’s summer, we’ve moved Trixie and Smurf (the white — excuse me, *gray* pony, the littlest of the lot) up to the Triangle paddock, where the fences are, if not exactly great, at least present a little more challenge than a bit of white tape, and where they can stare bemusedly over the fence at the alpaca to amuse themselves.

So at any given moment, two humans, two alpaca, two sheep, and two ponies, all sort of regarding each other with tolerant bemusement. (We haven’t yet gotten two of the cats to follow us all the way up at the same time yet.)

Do you know what’s really kind of silly ? The more I’m learning about pasture management (you *have* to have something eating your grass, or it all goes to weeds and gorse, and right now we are *way* understocked), the more I’m seeing that running a lot of different kinds of critters is a Good Thing. They all eat different things — for instance, sheep eat the ragwort that’s poison to the horses, cows eat grass that’s too long for the sheep, etc. Keeping just one kind of critter is *not* good, because then nothing eats the weeds that particular critter doesn’t like, so those weeds take over, and there gets to be a build-up of that critter’s parasites, and so on.

Do you know what that sort of thinking *leads* to ? It leads to me flipping through Lifestyle Farmer Magazine and thinking, “Hmm. We *could* get some Highland Cows !”