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

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.

Raising Turkeys (and assorted birds)

This week on KiwiHomesteading;

The challenge of raising turkeys

When Victor and I decided to move to Canterbury we were very interested in finding a place where we could become self-sufficient and build a sustainable life.  We started small by raising chickens in the city and growing a veggie patch. We always knew we wanted to do bigger things.   Now, I come from a long line of people who are used to eating turkey for a special day in November.  You might know what I’m talking about… That big day in the US when two birds are on death row for being turkeys and one is famously pardoned?

Yes, I’m talking about Thanksgiving.  Well in New Zealand it is really hard to come by turkeys prior to Christmas and even then they are extremely expensive.  Americans are used to basically buying all the “fixings” (ingredients) for Thanksgiving dinner (and pre-Christmas shopping for presents) and if they spend enough money the shops will often throw a whole turkey in for free! Even a small (by American standards) frozen turkey would cost about 90 New Zealand dollars.  That’s out of our price range for just the meat for one meal, to be honest.  So instead we’re growing our own.

Turkeys themselves are very interesting creatures.  They tend to be excellent “egg-sitters” and go broody easily but they’re terrible mothers who often lose track of their turkey (or chicken) chicks.  They are also not very smart and will accidentally squish a bantam chick that they’re trying to keep warm.  The males are stunningly feathered and have very hilarious and comical “strut-dances” as they eye their females.

Now it happened that our three species of hen — turkey, chicken and guinea fowl — all started laying eggs at about the same time. It also turned out that at least one guinea fowl, at least two turkeys, and several of our chickens were male. Barnyard complications ensued. For example, the females would all share the same nesting boxes when laying, and so the broody birds ended up sitting on assorted eggs that would take different lengths of time to hatch. Moreover, even though we had more nesting boxes than simultaneously broody females… You know how in real estate, it’s said that the three most important words are, “Location, location, location?” It turned out that some nesting boxes were particularly highly sought after, so that we might find two turkeys and a big chicken in a nesting box that might comfortably accommodate one large bird or two small ones.

We also discovered something biological. As mentioned previously, turkeys don’t make very good mothers, so we salvaged a lot of our early eggs to incubate them at home (we’re still living off site). Many of the hatchlings were easily identified, but there were some that confused us. They came from little white speckled eggs, so we thought they were guinea fowl chicks, but as they grew they looked way too much like either chickens or turkeys. Well, as it turns out, guinea fowl are capable of interbreeding — and producing viable offspring — with both chickens and turkeys! So we now have guinea chickens and guinea turkeys running around. Do not try this at home, kids — guinea fowl hybrids are high-spirited animals.

It was shortly after that, for (mostly) unrelated reasons, that we decided to sell our adult guinea fowl. But that is a subject for another post.

We will leave you with a picture of our star turkey, Tom, although his career is now drawing to a close.  Jerry will continue on in his place as per tradition!

Verses of the day

2 Thessalonians 3:5 “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as  you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

~Grace

Tom Turkey 2019

It’s a beautiful world

The equinox has just passed us by, and in true Canterbury style the nor’wester is back, like an old friend. The birds are happy with the warmth, though, and laying in earnest, and the house continues to make rapid progress. It’s said that the windows and doors were supposed to go in today.

Last night, though, a wicked southerly change came through. Grace texted me, exhorting me to take care on the roads, and saying that the animals – our dog and two cats, that is – were rather distressed by the thunder and lightning. Nevertheless, I resolved to go out to our block and check on the birds. It was as well that I did so: unexpectedly, the chicks had eaten nearly all their food, and the big birds had drunk nearly all their water.

Having decided to drive by the back way, I was treated to the two ends of a rainbow, framing the Waimak as it flowed out of the gorge onto the plains.

This morning, too, I was treated to a dusting of snow on the top of Mount Herbert, and also the North Canterbury foothills. The last of the season, perhaps, and the storm went as quickly as it came, with a fine warm day today.

All seasons have their joys, but Spring is a favourite of mine, a time of new life and hope, and fitting for where we are in our journey.