It seems hard to believe, but today marks two years on the farm. Those of you who have followed the blog over those years know that much has happened. Much more than ever happened in the four years we lived in the Boston house. I think this is due to (a) the basic necessity of many of the things we have had to do here, and (b) the fact that working by part-to-full time as a farmer, I have the time to get the tasks done.
When we bought the place it was pretty badly run down. The house was in good shape, thanks mainly to a new carpet and a new kitchen. We leanred later that the place was a bit of a “bomb site”, and that Dave had tried to sell it a year earlier and the Real Estate agents had laughed, and given him a copious to-do list. We have since discovered that many of the “improvements” were done on the cheap. The classic being the fence that was only painted on one side.
The property was also pretty badly overrun by gorse. You have heard me complain about this stuff before, but if you have not experienced in up close and personal, you really don’t understand the horror. If we had known how much work it would be to clear the gorse we might have backed away from the place. But in retrospect, we are very glad we didn’t, as I could not image finding a place so nice that was both affordable and only 15 minutes from the center of town. While it is a 25 acre property, when we first arrived only about 10 acres were effective, as the rest was either under gorse, or cut off by a 200-meter deep wall of gorse that split off the entire back half. At first I went to work with loppers and a hand saw. Madness, that, I tell’s ya. Then we got a big beefy brushcutter, and the real destruction began.
Here is most of the back half of the property, including the hill-o-gorse, at start, year 1, and year 2.
These are the corresponding pictures taken from the top of the hill on the same days, looking back down. The pictures looking up were taken standing right in front of the 110 kV power pylon in the middle of the frame.
That first year we also got our first alpaca. We deliberately “struck while the iron was hot”, and had the first alpaca within weeks. We knew otherwise it would be too easy for time to slip by. We bought 3 wethers (castrated males) from Willowbank Farm. These were Oak, Chris and Pointer (pictured here on Pointers arrival with Linda, who used to be Willowbanks herd manager and is a very nice and helpful person). Later that year Chris died of liver failure, which was very sad. Linda came ot help the day he went down, which was very kind of her. By the end of the first year we were feeling confident enough to start expanding the herd. We bought Jim the llama. He is the “herd uncle” of our ‘paca. He is in chrage, teaches everyone the rules of proper camelid behavior, and keeps a keen llama eye out for any trouble. Jim is quite a character. We also bought Victoria (aka Agresearch M250) and her daughter Princess Cariboo (aka Caithness Farm-unnamed)as our first females. They were supposed to be pregnant, but were not sold as such, so we could not complain when they turned out to be empty. A bit irksome that we lost a years-worth of breeding from the two of them, waiting for babies.
Of course the other big project/accomplishment the first year was getting the new water tank installed. We have spring water which flows by gravity down about 400m of pipe into a tank on the hill above the house. The original concrete tank only held about 3 or 4 tons of water, and leaked like a sieve. We got a 22.5 ton capacity tank, and planned to site it further up the hill (more head = more water pressure). Of course, I needed to dig a slot into the hill for this tank. I started my valley reputation as a madman that day, as I dug it all by hand. Sure, hiring a digger would have been much more sane, but when has sanity ever stopped me? Then we duped… I mean invitied the whole shire of Darton, the local SCA group, over to help us roll the tank into position. Of course, we didn’t tell them that is why we were inviting them. I like to think of it as the Sisyphus game. Lose your grip, and you start over.
Year two started with a discovery on Takapu road while I ws out running errands. As a rural dead-end raod, people sometimes dump unwanted pets, and right after Christmas is apparently a common time for unwanted “gifts” to get the boot. I found this hideous little malnourished sack of skin in bones in the road, and she became Tam’s 12th-night present. Amaya has turned into quite the little cat, not at all shy in her demands for play and attention. Like a small, plush Slow Top on speed. We also have it on good opinion that four cats is perfectly sane. Really. Five is the cut-off for crazy-cat people.
Year two also saw us add three mroe females, two of which produced lovely little cria. The first was Hankyo, who came from Galadrial, our black bug-eyed girl. Then came Hyouki, from prim little Concetta. Just recently we added Joy, who looks like she may be the smartest of the bunch. All five of our girls are off at the stud right now, so that next year we can look forward to some more cute little cria! (and hopefully plenty of girls this time!!!)
Year two also saw the first major construction project. We had the nasty old dog kennels demolished, and a lovely 3-bay shed built in its place. John Dewar drove the digger to smash the kennels to pieces, which was a fun 90 minutes entertainment. We then built the shed. Well, we had help from John and his little digger to auger the holes and lift the poles into place. And Steve and Jennifer were invaluable during the framing and cladding. We all felt very butch and competent, having built our first building. Go us!
What will year two bring? That is a good question. I had hoped to be done the gorse by now, and I am very close. Hopefully no more than a few months to go. We would like to have a nice track put in up the back hill this summer, to make it much easier to get up and down- and incidentally make it accessible to horse riders and small vehicles. There will be lots of fencing to get the back hill subdivided into smaller and thus more useful paddocks. What else? Who knows! We will see what inspiration strikes us! Watch this space.