“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Zealand farm and wild life

We have 5 chicks, hatched from eggs by our Araucana hen. She's a really good mom, but didn't lay any of the eggs she hatched. The chicks are a Barred Rock cross. One of them has 5 toes, and another has blue/grey eyes, different from the others with golden eyes. They hatched just after we returned from our Labour Day holiday in October, so they are about 4 weeks old now. They've joined the rest of the girls in the yard, but are still snuggling with Araucana at night.
This photo is the new trailer we bought in association with my sister and BIL. It has a cage around it, that is removable, for transporting small stock. Lots of work has been going on at our land in Maungaturoto:
The building pad for our KiwiSpan garage:
The fence around the orchard is finished: We have a large gate for access from the driveway, and there's a personal/walk thru gate on the opposite side. The small gate gets us down to the stream to fetch buckets of water to water the trees. The dogs love to play in the stream, playing tug and fetch with old branches or logs from trees. Sadly for Fargo, he bit his tongue trying to run through the personal gate (3 feet wide) while carrying a 4 foot long log in his mouth. I was worried he'd broken a tooth, it bled so much. The wound healed really fast, to my delight. As we watered the trees recently, we noticed small freshwater shrimps in the buckets. We rescued them and re-homed them in the newly-created and still filling pond at the ravine crossing of our driveway. We heard a splash while there, and suspect a toad has moved in. Good! We've also noticed rabbits in that ravine. Also in Recent Wildlife News, we saw a turkey hen with an adorable, fluffy turkey chick. Yes only one, and we suspect the hawks we see flying around have taken a few. Finally, do you know that song, Thank God I'm a Country Boy by John Denver (watch here on YouTube, funny!) Well, there is a bird that sounds like it's singing the tune to this part of the song (lyrics):
Well I got me a fine wife I got me a fiddle
When the suns comin up I got cakes on the griddle
It is incredibly annoying, being reminded of this song and having it go through my head as I walk up and down that hill hauling water. In all honesty though, I must agree with him that being out there on the farm is incredibly gratifying (despite the lack of pancakes).

Two weeks ago, Darin and I took our new trailer up to our farm and camped overnight for the first time. We went possum hunting along the ravine after nightfall, but didn't see any. We have seen them as roadkill up there, and we worry for our tender young fruit trees. We worked so hard planting them, and the cost of them and all the gas/petrol going to and from the farm to water them almost every weekend is large. So, when Darin spotted a possum as we walked past an area near the road this weekend, he killed it. We knew something was wrong with it- possum are nocturnal, and live in trees. This one was on the ground, in the middle of the afternoon. When it was dead, we noticed that it had a road rash on it's back. It had been hit by a car, but survived, and crawled down the embankment onto our property. We brought it home as food for our pets. I've blogged before about possum, that it's a pest in NZ, and good to eat (for people and pets). The major benefit in my eyes is that it is a wild food, so no factory farming, no dis-assebly- line slaughter, and it's free (except for the butchering time). Darin found when he butchered it, that it's back was broken. It probably had happened earlier that day, because it still had food in it's guts. So he actually stopped the possum from suffering an agonizing death by killing it right away. Awww, poor fellow...er, I mean, wait, not this evil nasty beast?!Well that is the before photo, and here's the after: A VERY happy kitty, who was eating an animal about his own size:Here's a photo of the dogs' dinners. You can see that they also got some homemade vegetable soup (chard, potatoes, carrots, squash, tomato paste, Emeril's seasoning, ginger, olive oil, and oatmeal) and fresh apple.

The reason this was all very exciting is that possum is very healty, for both the environment and the eater. I think more people would feed it if they knew where to get it. I did find this canned dog food, a New Zealand product, called Possyum. I haven't fed it to the dogs yet, but it looks quite good. It also has venison in it. I think it cost about $4 or 5. I can also buy raw possum quarters for pet food from K9 Raw Food Barn for about 7 or 8 dollars a kg (2.2lbs). For the readers among you who want more information about raw feeding your dog or cat, look here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

South of the North Island

View of the Tasman Sea from New Plymouth.

In my previous posts, I described the road trip from Christchurch to Greymouth, and from Greymouth to Nelson. We took the ferry from Picton, on the south island, to Wellington, on the south end of the north island. We felt so disappointed to be back in civilization. The south island of New Zealand really feels like another world, or at least a different country. On the other hand, we stayed at the nicest bed and breakfast places on the way back to Auckland. The first, Oceanus Holiday home in Papapapaumu, north of Wellington on the Kapiti coast, was like a nice home-away-from-home. We could have cooked dinner there, with a full kitchen. Even better was the accomodation outside of New Plymouth, a cabin called Logger's Retreat. New Plymouth is supposed to be one of the nicest places to live in New Zealand. It is pretty remote, but has beautiful parks and convenient access to Mt Taranaki (below).Those beautiful photos of the New Plymouth coast don't display the bitter cold wind that was howling all day, and prevented us from going up the mountain at all. As we discovered the following day, it's only about 6 hours drive from Auckland, so not that remote that we won't go back some time.

Back in Auckland, the following weekend was Halloween, and friends Adam and Roberta hosted a "fun as" party. Check out Sara Palin and POW John McCain, and the other awesome costumes of our friends.

This year, I was a Lucha Libre. I had bought that mask at the San Diego Comic-Con some years back.

Book reviews:

I finished Pitcairn, Paradise Lost, by Kathy Marks. She was one of only 6 journalists allowed to cover the trials on the island. This book has shocking descriptions of child rape, which has basically been going on since Fletcher Christian and his crew basically kidnapped women and brought them there. Apparently, several of the men convicted are here in New Zealand, as well as the victims, making it more personal. The story is very sad, but shows that due to one woman's courage to speak out, and the pursuit of justice by New Zealand and England, behaviors are changing.

Following that, I started Roots. I'm 400 pages into it. This story is a real tragedy. I mean, the writing is fine, but the detail of the story made me physically nauseous and repeatedly brought me to tears. One quibble I have with the writing, is that the level of detail is a bit much. The whole book is 688 pages, and even reading about 1.5 hrs a day, it's been a long read. I understand that the author (Alex Haley) is trying to include a lot of relevant history, but it's sometimes a drag on the plot. Some of the things he writes just slap you in the face with relevance to the world even today. The most interesting thing I have learned is that slave taking is a part of nearly every culture, even in Africa. And today it persists. I just saw an article about a "baby factory" in Nigeria, on BBC news, where women were raped, and when the babies are born, taken away and sold.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

South Island surprises part 2

In my previous post, I described the road trip from Christchurch to Greymouth and up to Pancake Rocks. The road (highway? 6) runs along the coast before heading inland and north toward Nelson. You can click here for a map of the area. We were awed by the lower and upper Buller River Gorge, as we drove along for what seemed like hours. I developed an understanding of why the poison 1080 is applied here for possum control. To hunt the critters out of this rugged terrain would be next to impossible. Unfortunately, this poison is dropped over mountainous forests via helicopter, and kills deer and other ruminants, besides possums. It's a horrible, agonizing death for the deer. Sometimes cows, horses, or dogs get poisoned by it. But I digress.We had lunch in Murchison and discovered the winner of a NZ bacon competition located here. I had some on a BLT sandwich for lunch at the Rivers Cafe across the street. Yum! We would really like to go back there and go river rafting. For our afternoon entertainment, we stopped at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge "adventure and heritage park". We did the tandem comet line, wihch was fun, but not long enough. The swing bridge was narrow and bouncy. We had a bit of rain during the drive, but it was just overcast when we got to Nelson. We went for a stroll on the beach to stretch our legs before heading to dinner with friends Don and Angela. We had a great time with them. Angela wrote a good bit about NZ elections on her blog, here. As immigrants with permanant residence, we get to vote for a new Prime Minister this Saturday. I already voted in the US presidential election (for Obama, of course).
The next day, we went to the fabulous Nelson Saturday Market, where you can buy fresh produce, cheese, sausages, plants, art, crafts, clothes, and other good, fun stuff. I got a skirt from Vintage Heaven. Have a look at their clothes here. I also replaced my torn raincoat with a new one.
We had an afternoon ferry crossing with our rental vehicle, so we headed out of Nelson toward Picton. The Queen Charlotte Drive into Picton is super twisty and scenic. I would like to go back some time to do the Queen Charlotte Track. Hopefully when it's not raining, as it was when we got on the ferry. I dashed out of the lounge on board the ferry to snap a few photos, but it was too windy, wet, and cold to linger.
I'll have to save the North Island for the next post.
We have put a deposit on a building for our Maungaturoto property. It is a Kiwi Span garage, with two roller doors, one window, and one personal door. We will have the ground prepared sometime this month.
The trees in our orchard are now fully fenced, and the neigbor's beasts (cows and sheep) have been let back on property to mow the grass. They have to be kept away from the trees, because they love to eat them. Darin took the mower up this week, and spent 4 brutal hours cutting the grass in the orchard. Though the trees were spared from the cows and sheep, some of them fell victim to aphids. Poor, innocent little trees, with their fresh young leaves, corrupted by the nasty, ugly aphids! They were treated with pesticide, and we'll have to keep a close eye on them for recurrence.