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

How to Survive a Lawsuit

It happens. You’re going along in life, minding your own business; perhaps a few months ago you quit your job in frustration, or there was that tradesman who did work you weren’t happy with. You go to your mailbox and suddenly your heart sinks.

There’s a letter in there threatening legal action, or, even worse, one bearing the logo of the Ministry of Justice, or your local equivalent.

The Kiwi Homesteaders aren’t immune. This was, indeed, one of our challenges for the year. But here are some survival tips.

  1. Don’t lose your head. (Also known as, “Don’t Panic.”) In retrospect, this probably isn’t a huge surprise to you. You knew there was someone unhappy with you. You haven’t lost the game at the mere sight of the other team entering the field.
  2. Pray. If you already have a routine of prayer, excellent! give the matter to God. If you don’t, now’s a great time to start. Give the matter to God anyway.
  3. Don’t assume you’re in the wrong. In the West, we think lawsuits are so tedious and costly to engage in that no-one who isn’t justifiably certain of winning would ever try one. Wrong. People file lawsuits ranging from the, “Close, but no banana,” to the completely frivolous and utterly devoid of legal merit all the time.
  4. Don’t assume you’re in the right. You need the humility to see things from the other fellow’s point of view, and from that of the judge.
  5. Keep everything. You were doing this anyway, weren’t you? Quotes. Contracts. Bills of Materials. Invoices. Receipts. Payment confirmations. Bank statements. And of course any time you agreed something verbally you sent a follow-up email stating what you thought you agreed to and inviting the other fellow to reply if he thought different, and you kept (and responded to in a timely manner) any such replies you received. Always remember: “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.”
  6. Do your homework #1. Research the law you’re going to rely on. (References here are to New Zealand law; adjust as necessary for your own jurisdiction.) The most common area is a dispute over goods and services; so look at the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993, the Fair Trading Act 1986, the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017, and (if this was a construction contract) the Construction Contracts Act 2002. If it’s an employment matter, it might be the Employment Relations Act 2000. And so forth. If it has been a long time since the matter arose, consider whether the statute of limitations applies: plaintiffs are expected not to muck around.
  7. Make sure you follow all the steps. Some laws, like the Construction Contracts Act, set forth particular steps you have to carry out (e.g., a payment schedule). Not following the steps won’t necessarily ruin your case, but following them in good faith and within the expected time period will certainly help you.
  8. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. For example, if you really think you don’t have to pay, because the job was done improperly and the supplier is chasing you for the money, don’t pay. But do pay as much as you think you should. It will make you look better. Also, use common sense. If for example your mechanic is sitting on your $10,000 car because you’re not paying a $1,000 bill, you’re probably better off paying the bill and getting the car back, then chasing him up later if you still think it worthwhile. You won’t be able to recover extra costs that you incur solely due to your own stubbornness.
  9. Do your homework #2. Get your facts in order. If you’re talking about work done improperly, take photos and the like. Get opinions from experts. All this is your homework. The judge won’t do it for you. Remember that in civil matters the standard of proof is “more likely than not” which is a pretty low bar to have to meet.
  10. Make sure you give the other party your case and your evidence. Usually, you are expected to do this at least a certain time before the hearing. The only time this doesn’t apply is when the onus of proving the case lies entirely with the other party. This rarely applies in civil matters, but we have an example below. If you don’t do this, you can be sure you’ll waste time and more uncertainty on adjournments while the other party “considers your new evidence”.
  11. Gain the sympathy of the Court. This is not evil psychological manipulation. It can be, and often is, as simple as showing up on time, properly dressed, and treating the judge with respect and good manners.
  12. Play the ball, not the man. In other words, you’re trying to help the judge get to the truth, not slagging off your opponent. Yes, if your opponent’s conduct or attitude at the time confused or misled you as to what your obligations were, bring that up, but only to the extent that it’s relevant.
  13. Be prepared to settle. This could be an out-of-court settlement, or it could be an agreement negotiated in the hearing and signed off by the judge. If the other party offers you 99% of what you were after, and it doesn’t come with all manner of uncomfortable conditions attached, you might choose to take it. Do you think you’re likely to do better if the judge makes the decision?
  14. On the other hand, don’t settle if you think a settlement is being extorted from you. This is a tricky one: parties and judges can and do use the uncertainty inherent in the judgement process (“you don’t know what the judge will decide; this could be the best offer you’ll ever get”) to encourage you to take a settlement. But if you think the settlement being offered is humiliating and degrading to you, don’t take it. This is equivalent to the logic of, “Don’t quit; make them fire you.” Your case for an appeal is stronger if you don’t voluntarily agree to be mistreated.
  15. Pray. Give the hearing to God.
  16. Don’t lose your head. The actual hearing is just a discussion. You’re not proving your worth as a human being, and you’re not having to perform for the public gallery. Don’t worry.

Example: Motor vehicle accident

This is the example I referred to, when the onus is on the plaintiff to prove their case. At one point several years ago, Grace was sent a letter telling her that her vehicle was involved in a hit-and-run accident, that the victim was obliged to rent a car from the firm sending the letter, and that if she didn’t pay them some hundreds of dollars they would refer the matter to their “external lawyers”.

A little digging revealed that the offending vehicle was a make, model and number plate that neither of us had ever had anything to do with. We of course couldn’t prove that, according to the rule of logic and evidence that you can’t prove a negative, but that meant they had the burden of proof, and they had not a shred of evidence to support their contention. Unsurprisingly, we never received a notice of hearing.

Endings and Beginnings

The best-laid plans o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley.

Robert Burns, in To a Mouse

That, I am sure, describes many of our experiences this last year, notably dominated by attempts to control the spread of a certain (alleged) Coronavirus. We of course had a short, sharp lockdown for four weeks in our autumn, with less severe restrictions since. Other countries have fared differently, some better, some worse.

Nevertheless, the dominant theme of 2020 was fear. Fear of disease, fear of economic consequences, fear of the Government, fear of the future. “Fear is the mind-killer,” wrote Frank Herbert in Dune, and indeed it has seemed as if the Western World has lost its collective mind.

Some hope that 2021 will be better; many fear (there’s that word again) that it will be worse. The truth, however, is that what happens to us matters a lot less, in the spiritual sense, than how we respond to it.

With that said, I will share some highlights from 2020.

  • We welcomed the little one who had been sharing Grace’s body with her. Her birth was not easy for various reasons, but she came out safe and well. Felice, Italian for “lucky” or “blessed”, shall be her nom de blog.
  • We discovered that a 12-acre block with an outside playground is a relatively good way to pass an enforced lockdown.
  • I, Victor, kept my job, for which I remain grateful. In a country with an economy so heavily dependent on tourism and assorted exports, not everyone has been so fortunate.
  • In the spring, we welcomed five baby Waipu goats: two sets of twins, and one singleton.

Sadly, at the end of the year, we lost the singleton Waipu goat’s mother, who was only a little over a year old. Our stock troughs were poisoned, by a person or persons unknown, and we believe she succumbed to the poison though it could have been natural causes. The same poison attack also cost us numerous quail.

Sadly, death and suffering are everywhere, as is human malice. But so too are life and joy, and human kindness, of which we have seen many examples and hope to be able to add our own as we can.

Our Waipu Goats

Hello Readers!

It’s a beautiful day here on the Kiwi Homestead.  As we’ve almost finished settling into our new home I thought I might take this opportunity to share with you our new herd.  As part of our long term goals, we set out to find only rare breed or heritage animals for our farm.  We looked at several different kinds of goat breeds before settling on one of the rarest and most endangered pure breeds in the world known as Waipus. Waipus are thought to be related to the original angora (mohair/woolly) type goats but unlike the modern angoras of today, they are not hybrids.  They have pretty much kept to themselves as far as breeding and there are fewer than 50 in the world today.  We found a local breeding couple who have been spearheading the efforts to save this beautiful heritage breed.  They just happen to be quite close to us locally and were very much looking for other families such as ours to help take on some of the 30 odd goats that they had! As a result of many discussions and quite a lot of thoughts and prayers, we decided to get 6 Waipu goats of our own.  Normally a starting flock would consist of 3 females and 1 male, but in our case, one of the females we had chosen had recently given birth to a boy so we ended up with a little baby goat buckling and the bigger goat buckling we had picked out.  The breeders were also trying to rehome an older retired female goat, but we fell in love with her and we have plenty of space so we agreed to take her as well!

Our new herd’s names are as follows

  1. Tansy (doe), age approximately 8-9 years old (retired goat)
  2. Lily (doe), born c. 2015
  3. Marshmallow (doe), born c. 2016
  4. Elder (buck), born in August 2019
  5. Betony (doe), born in September 2019
  6. Pumpkin (buck), Lily’s kid, born in October 2019

Our verse of the day is Proverbs 27:23-27

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever and a crown is not secure for all generations. When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing and the goats with the price of a field.  You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls.”

As always please follow us along our journey and enjoy the photos below!

~Grace

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Happy New Year!

…and a much belated Merry Christmas. The Kiwi Homesteaders hope all of you had an enjoyable and relaxing Christmas season, and could remember those things and people that are most important.

New Zealand is on summer holidays, after the insanity that is the month of December. The country virtually shuts down by degrees, and most businesses and Government organisations are shut by Christmas Eve, and don’t open until after New Year. Many people travel to see family at Christmas, or immediately afterwards head to the beach or preferred holiday spot.

We have spent our holiday season finally moving into our new home.

The Council held its final inspection on Friday 6 December, and our house passed with flying colours. We were blessed with a pragmatic building inspector who, while ensuring that the work was up to code, didn’t mind if it departed from the submitted plans or from the way things are conventionally done in certain respects. Some of the cosmetic work has yet to be finished – a small amount of painting (apart from wet areas) and such – but we are chipping away at that slowly.

Armed with our inspection results, we went out and got insurance right away, to remedy an unsettling gap in cover. (Contract Works insurance can be a nuisance, especially when Principal-Supplied Materials cover should have been included but wasn’t.) The little ones had to sit through a very lengthy meeting. Middle-class grown-up activities are not friendly for kids, but it had to be done.

And just as well. A mere two days later, we decided to do the first burn on our wood-burning stove, and cook some bacon and eggs on it. I had just called the children into the nursery where I was doing some cleaning, and Grace was in the living area wielding the pots and pans, when BOOM! I turned around to see the entire living room lit up with firelight. Interjections were uttered, along with shouts and screams of panicked children. Attempts were made to call emergency services while freaking out, administer First Aid to Grace, and douse the fire with a hose. Neighbours came to the rescue, followed by the local fire brigade and eventually the ambulance. It had to call for reinforcements after one of the firefighters went down with a heart attack. Fun times all round. Grace ended up being treated urgently in hospital, and our move was delayed by about two weeks while she recovered sufficiently from her injuries.

It transpired that a full, or nearly full, can of high temperature spray paint, of the sort used to touch up log burners and wood stoves, had been left in the ash tray during the manufacture and installation of the fire. The ash tray is invisible to the operator, and the operator has no reason to check it when the fire has never been used before. Or so we thought.

But God watches over his people, better than we could ever deserve or hope for. Grace’s injuries, and the damage to the house, could have been much worse than they turned out to be, and the insurance was in place in time, and the house is still habitable, and we moved in just after Christmas. The ambience out here is very peaceful and calming, and so far we don’t at all regret making the move.

Next, I hope to introduce our new “woolly” friends!

V.

Cresting Heartbreak Hill

Since I was about 18, I’ve been a keen runner for training and exercise, though seldom for any competitive purposes. But at times I’ve trained with other people, and in particular on a visit to a friend and fellow runner, T., who was doing a postdoc in Boston, Massachusetts, he introduced me to the concept of Heartbreak Hill. Boston has a particularly famous one, only a few miles away from the end of the Boston Marathon.

Apparently the point of Boston’s Heartbreak Hill was to throw a gruelling obstacle in the way of runners who had done the major part of the race and believed the end was in sight.

This is how Grace and I have felt these last few weeks. For better or worse, we opted to do our own house painting instead of having a professional painter come and do it, in a move that probably saved us several thousand dollars in labour. But the process has been challenging and at times demoralising, as we have been under the pump, trying to fit painting around work, caring for children, helping Grace’s parents with their own house, and so forth. Sleep flees away, work suffers, tempers flare.

But at last there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our final inspection is booked for Friday. If the final inspection passes, our house will be deemed fit for occupation.

My brief reflection on the whole thing is that building a house requires flexibility, patience, and no small amount of faith. Otherwise, one ends up with considerably less hair than one started with, and what remains becoming greyer than it needs to be.

We may also be able to celebrate Christmas having moved into our new house.

While Thanksgiving is not celebrated here, more and more retailers are starting to introduce Black Friday. “A consumer and his money are soon parted,” seems to be the thinking of the day. But as pointed out by fellow blogger Weka, it’s good to put aside these distractions, and remember that this is Advent, a time of year when we can look forward to the fulfilment of God’s promises.

And the little ones enjoy their daily chocolates in their Advent calendars.