A long while back I said that we had a new adventure ahead of us, I promised details and now I have a few minutes to tell you about it.
As you know, we have a new son, William, who is now almost 10 weeks old. He’s growing well and developing wonderfully well, keeping us very busy and pretty tired and deliriously happy. 2 weeks ago tomorrow we bundled him up into his car seat and headed off on a long drive from Auckland to Wellington, stayed with friends over night and then hopped a ferry to the South Island, another 2.5 hour drive and we ended up in our new home. That’s right, we have moved islands, from the wet and grey winters of Auckland to the perpetually sunny crisp winters of Motueka.
Now you might think that it’s simply the joy of living in a sunny environment that would encourage this move, well that turns out to be just a bonus. We’ve actually moved here to be part of a new eco-village called Atamai. Atamai Village Council currently owns around 30 ha (74 acres) of land on the Motueka Valley Highway, and has the option to lease or purchase a further 69 ha (170 acres). The sight is divided up into mostly commons plus 11 lots around 1 to 2.5 acres and an intensive housing area similar to Earthsong eco-neighbourhood (where we are selling our gorgeous studio apartment).
We plan to purchase a 1-2 acre block where we will build our traditional timber framed home. There are still several lots available for sale in Atamai and they haven’t even started on the intensive housing sight. We’ve been here for less then 2 weeks and already we are organising pot-lucks and a heard of 20 goats. It’s an extremely exciting time, with everything at the very early stages. The land has been purchased, the council permissions received and development just starting. Transition Towns, Carbon Neutrality, Climate Change, Community Development and Community Currency are all high priorities for those fueling the project.
I’m going to end with a few photos of the sight from our January trip and a link to more.
Currently this is the only pond on the sight, but once the main earth moving has been completed every property will be in easy access (I believe bordering) a body of water like this.
This is the river across the road from us.
More photos of the property are here.
We have had to leave Sabine and Wolf’s today as the internet wasn’t able to be fixed and his work has gotten a little crazy
I don’t think I could have started the first day of my 30th birthday better though. Purple pancakes for breakfast! Well they were made with purple wheat (which I never new existed before this week). When I think pancakes, I think refined white flour, sometimes buckwheat flour, lemon and white or brown sugar, certainly not purple wheat pancakes with apple preserves, honey and home made yogurt! YUM! We are hoping to go back to stay at Wolfgang and Sabine’s for a whole month in June next year while they are away which would be a great experience for us and hopefully a huge help for them. Fingers crossed this happens*
We arrived home to find my birthday present from Craig’s mum awaiting us, which included the cutest little crochet bag, some new very nice jewelery and a very very cool book on weaving. I’m simply dieing to start reading this book but have a million and one things to catchup on and arrange today and probably no time until after my party on Saturday either, grrr! I need to weave damnit! I’ve decided that I really really want an Ashford knitters loom so I can cart weaving projects around with me when ever I want.
We went out for a yummy lunch this afternoon and will be going out to dinner tonight (hmmm Thai food) and that is all for now. Actually, one thing I forgot to mention was that Sabine told me that this was a good time for us to come and visit as there wasn’t a great deal to day at the moment, I shall be very interested to see what the busy time is like around there!
As last night I was down with with the sun it is only natural that I was up with the sun this morning and bounced outside with my newly repaired camera to take some photos of what looked to be a stunning day. The light was gorgeous, the scenery inspiring, the camera – still broken! Grrr. Thank goodness we had the little point and shoot with us or I would have been a mightily pissed of shutter bug (ok I’m still pissed off but at least I’m pissed off with some photos).
The dogs took me for about a half hour walk before we arrived home to find the rest of the house (include Craig!) awake. It was about 7am. Sabina and Wolfgang had headed down to the cow pasture and Craig was admiring the morning view. I had a new experience for breakfast courtesy of Sabina. Over night she had soaked the muesli in water with sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and almonds and served it with home made yogurt and steamed/preserved apples & raisins. My body will take time to get used to something like this for breakfast, it was a little uncomfortable about eating a cold breakfast, relieved at there being no milk, but still unsure how to deal with this new food as well as my juice and various pills and powders, I had a very difficult time swallowing them all. If I wasn’t taking the pills and powders I think I would have enjoyed the breakfast a little more, especially with a nice cup of tea or warmed apples. I will try it again tomorrow morning at least.
This mornings work involved us wondering down to one of the communal paddocks and attempting to de-thistle some of it. Unfortunately it’s a little late to really do much good since many of the thistles had all ready gone to flower and by digging them out your really only preparing open soil for their seeds. A few weeks earlier and another 20 odd helpers and the job would have been done quickly.
Mid morning we sifted more compost for the bed I had prepared yesterday and then we added mulch (pond weed that had been drawn off the pond the week before and left to dry out). It looks great on the new beds, makes them look really rich and ready for new plants.
Lunch! A delicious meal of home baked bread, home made cheeses, salami, preserves, fresh brewed coffee and ginger biscuits. I was in heaven with the cheeses. I got to help prepare the fetta cheese which was rather exciting and makes me feel a little less nervous about attempting some cheese making myself. Here they make cheese about once or twice a week.
I have learnt today that you need about 3 litres of cream to make 2 sticks of butter (that’s about the size of my hand each and about 2-3 inches high). To make 60-80ml of cream (without using a centrifuge which will get you a little more cream but you end up with skim milk) you need around 1 litre of cows milk.
Sabine and Wolfgang have been on this property for about 9 years. They are self sufficient in milk, eggs, cheese and most of their fruits and vegetables. They have put a lot of work into this place and they are only just now getting the fuller benefits out of it. There are eventual plans for a glass house for seedraising, growing rice and grain but this will go through the stages of a research project first to see the viability of it. I believe with Craig and I, we go through 50 kilos of white flour, plus about 25 kilos each of wholemeal and rye flours and around 25 kilos of rice. It will be interesting to find out how much rice and grain we need to grow to satisfy these needs.
I’ve also discovered that an annual supply of garlic would require around 2.5 beds of 6 square meters each (and that’s for people who probably aren’t nearly as obsessed with garlic as I am – perhaps an acre of garlic would be good, lol).
I’m in turns enlivened and disheartened by our stay so far. Their is so much work in self-sufficiency, but at the same time it’s immensely satisfying. I’m enjoying feeding the chickens (which is now our morning and evening job), I’m adoring having dogs to play with again and completely astounded with my own level of health and ability, I feel healthier and more alive then I have in over 2 years (in fact even before I got so sick). It’s just amazing and wonderful and I’m trying hard to combat my overwhelming desire to be lazy and desire to not get dirty (ick mud and cow poo ahhh).
One of the other areas I’m trying to get my head around is electricity and the decision to be on the grid just drawing straight of it, being on the grid and feeding power from your own solar panels and wind mills etc back into it or producing all your own power. I’m so used to my electrical devices, my laptop, my sewing machine and overlocker, the hair shaving thingo, lights, fridge, microwave, mobile phone and camera rechargers and then come the power tools. These guys use 8 solar panels running and they don’t have a fridge although they do have a deep freezer (which takes up about half the power they produce) and they couldn’t really run “real” power tools (router’s, jointers etc) on this system. They also have solar hotwater and a wetback on the wood stove (they have a wood stove and gas hot plates). Apparently if we added a diesel generator to our setup and made the biodesil ourselves that has enough power to run our tools. I’m so glad the rest of my “hobbies” don’t require much power.
I must remember to check tonight if the cooler draws they use (rather then a fridge) will make my bottle of Chardonnay cold or do I need to stick it in the freezer first (added later – if I put it in the night before then it will. The fridge boxes are basically fish buckets in insulated draws with a drain underneath to catch water condensation drips and they are kept cold with blocks from the freezer, they are giant chilly bins basically).
We are all alone today. Wolf and Sabine have gone off to the big smoke for the day and left us in charge *evil laugh* Ok so our list of duties is limited to feeding the chooks and the dogs twice a day, collecting the eggs, locking up Darling (the calf) this evening, cooking dinner, weeding the willow circle again and digging up Dock.
The wind here is really strong, the wind shield trees are still growing but at the moment it’s pretty constant and string which is taking its wear and tear on my poor lips. They are so chapped, cracked and sore that it’s not a fun thing to even smile at the moment. I can’t believe I left my lip balms at home, I’m resorting to coconut oil to help but I have to keep reapplying it every to minutes or so.
Tomorrow is my birthday, I turn 30. Not sure how I’m really feeling about that yet.
The chickens got fed, as did the dogs
, bean wigwams got made,
Darling got looked after, more weeds got pulled out around the Willow circle
(in this shot you can see a cleared section next to an uncleared section, we were pulling out grass taller then me!)
, there was quite a bit of me dancing around the garden singing to myself and playing air guitar (which apparently was very amusing to watch), but most importantly I planned and cooked a delicious dinner by first walking around the vegetable garden and harvesting what was available, some kale that we had missed, broad beans, celery, fennel added some sunflower seeds, pumpkin & potato from the pantry and brown rice and garlic and had a delicious stir fry. I was pretty pleased with myself. After dinner Sabine pulled out a magical polenta, wheat and citrus fruit cake that she had whipped up who knows when, and Wolf brought out some home made liqueurs (I’d already shared a bottle of red with Sabine while the boys polished off some homebrew beer), talk about a decadent lifestyle
Much to Sabine’s distress we ended up having another slow start to the morning, it’s a public holiday after all, but eventually she got us all out and working. Now, when I say a slow start to the day, I’m not including the fact that Wolf and I were up at 7am milking Molly, but really talking more about when we all got around to sitting down at the table for breakfast (which is increasingly including a short black coffee for me, normal for everyone else, strange and newly enjoyable for me). The chooks got fed and then onto the real work. Sabine and I harvested the last of the Kale, stripping the good remaining leaves of all half dozen plants. Many of the leaves had mites which required me to clean them carefully before we cut a huge sink full of them up to make sourkraut, a small handful made it’s way into the pressure cooker with tamari, lemon juice and salt for lunch (delicious – and another new vegetable for me). I’m enjoying this new experience of vegetable discovery. Looking at the range of things growing the the garden here and plans of other things, I’m astounded at how little modern supermarkets really provide. If something can’t be grown on a large commercially viable scale it basically disappears from our diets, this is really, really sad. Where once I was worried about planting a variety of beans I’d never heard of or leafy greens with strange names, I’m now looking forward to putting them in the ground and experimenting with cooking them. Anyone who has known me for a long time will now how strange it is to hear these words coming from me. I grew up eating only peas and potatoes voluntarily and anything else from corn and carrots to pumpkin and brusselsproughts had to forced down my throat on pain of death (I took death of BS). I ate only the whitest most refined bread and found ways to have meat 3 meals a day. I am less interested in what I can do with meat now and more interested in meals based around fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and grains. In less then a week I have been introduced to some really delicious food and very little of it has actually included meat and yet Craig and I feel like we are being spoilt with what we are being given, I mean who doesn’t feel spoilt when every day you are presented with a platter of new and exciting home made cheeses, fresh yogurt and a multitude of truly fresh fruit and vegetables.
I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but Sabine and Wolf have no mains power, no mains water, no mains sewerage. They have one litte wind turbine, solar panels and solar heated hot water, with a wet back on their wood stove (no instant oven here folks). They also don’t have an electric washing machine but a very cool hand operated one which I just love.
We had another slow start to our day today (it’s a long weekend) but a no less productive one. We installed the recycled windows to the potting shed – doesn’t sound like much but with three of us working it took us an entire day to finish the job. It’s not a work of carpentry genius but will be a serviceable potting shed when completed.
(Wolf hard at work)
(Jessie helping with some actual work)
(two windows in)
I also made a batch of english muffins which went down wonderfully as a late lunch with home made cheeses and preserves.
Dinner tonight was at the neighbours strawbale house which was interesting to us as this is our preferred building method. Unfortunately we didn’t get to spend anytime actually talking about their building experience, costs, holdups, never do agains and successes but we do have an invite to come visit again which we will certainly take up at some point. Dinner itself was so good. Roast beef (from one of their cows), roast veggies, asparagus in tamari, beetroot sald with fetta and beans, and one of Sabine’s yummy tossed salads. I’m afraid I wasn’t too fussed on the prune and millet dessert.
My evening ended with Wolf and I going to visit the house cow Molly, one of the most beautiful cows I have ever seen, and her adopted calf. We locked the calf (actually she’s a yearling really) away for the night so that Molly would have milk for us in the morning then made our way down to one of the neighbours houses for dinner. It was a nice evening, with several bottles of rather nice wine, a dinner of seafood soup which was delicious and finished off with a slice of the roast veggie fritata I made and a salad. About 10pm Craig and I walked home with one of the dogs for company.
(Darling, Molly & Wolfgang)
I was up with the sun again this morning and around 7am Wolf and I went back to milk Molly, who I actually got a chance to milk. I’ve discovered I’m much better with the scrapping method then the squeeze method and can get a fairly get rhythm happening, although I still need a great deal more practice. There is a lot of hand stamina required to milk a cow fully, but it’s a worth while experience. Molly has a very good nature and is easy to deal with, after watching her for a little while with the calf we are starting to wonder if perhaps she is starting to ween it. This means that they will need to milk her every day now to ensure she doesn’t dry up.
After our visit with Molly and Darling we went to visit a new nursing mother who’s calf is getting a little confused about where the teats are. The calf is only a day or so old and is still wobbling along and is completely comfortable with our presence and enjoyed a scratch and a cuddle. We managed to get the mother into the stocks to hold her with the calf and then watched and directed just a little as the calf found the teats rather then just a flap of skin, the only problem now is that she seems to associated the stocks and us with the milk and still doesn’t seem to be going for the teats when her mum is out, at least she is now feeding though.
After these adventures we wandered into town for breakfast and a quick look at the Koanga gardens shop before heading home where I crashed into bed and have slept the rest of the morning and early afternoon away. Craig spent the afternoon weeding Dock and is now considering doing some work work.
We think we may have blown our airport hub (we did, and the spare phone charger). It’s supposed to be able to handle Australian and American power but isn’t perhaps able to withstand the fluctuation in the power. Wolf and Sabine’s computer seems to have a similar problem, we are unsure as to why this is as their solar power setup here is very good, there’s a regulator for the power among other bits and pieces so it should work. Unfortunately this might mean we have to head back to town on Monday so that Craig can work rather then us staying for the entire week as previously planned. The only up side to that is that I can apply some of my new found enthusiasm to Earthsong gardens and half an entire week to plan for my upcoming birthday party rather then just one day. Ohh, I must mention this yummy little bakery that has just opened in Kaiwaka called La Nonna’s Italian Bakery. They do yummy cinnamon donuts and what looks like a large range of real breads (not just one dough formed into a bunch of shapes). We shall have to pop back in there before we head home as their pies looked scrumptious.
Ok, off to see if there is anything I can do to earn my keep.
We arrived at Sabine and Wolfgang’s house in Otamatea eco-village at 12.30pm for a week week stay. We were greeted with a wonderful lunch of homemade cheese, chickpea casserole and bread. with coffee and tea afterwards. After lunch we unpacked and then got right into work.
Firstly I deflowered all the Chamomile bushes then did the most physical labor I have done in a very very long time.
With gardening fork in hand I loosened up the soil of a new garden bed. This involved digging the fork into the firm soil, wiggling it forward and backwards and little side to side and continuing that motion in strips down and along a bed about 3 square meters (1 meter x 3 meters) and also weeding it, separating the noxious weeds from the compostable weeds. Then I helped Sarah to sift the compost through a wire mesh frame, throwing the big lumps back into the newer compost piles to continue breaking down and shoveling the wonderful rich compost from under the frame onto another pre-prepared garden bed.
(I did that bed on the left in front of the green fence)
We had a chance to inspect the difference between the garden compost and the composting toilet’s compost. Both have a very similar end product and overall richness, although you don’t want to dig too far down into the newly made compost toilet’s offerings as it does start to smell just a little. The compost from the loo was placed around the fruit trees as it’s not recommended to plant your vegetables into human compost.
I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Jess, a very excitable little dog who thinks fetch means she gets the stick and teasing you with it but is stupid enough to drop the stick she has if you pick up another one, dogs are so great. Craig finished helping empty the compost loo, scattered it around fruit trees, weeded around them and mulched them with more of the pond scum and had a great deal of fun slashing at the grass with the scythe.
Later we helped feed the chickens. There are 3 sets of chicken feeding to do. Two sections have 4 hens and 1 rooster each, they got a small container of dry feed and one lot got the protein/carb rich scraps from the kitchen (this gets rotated between each coop). The third group is a hen and her clutch of 5 babies (only one is “hers”). These guys have to be kept in an enclosed area as they are still too small and thus prey to hawks (but they are oh so cute). We collected around 7 eggs, this is about the daily average for these hens.
In the evening I helped prepare a dinner of roast vegetables – pumpkin, beetroot, garlic, purple potatoes which Sabina coverd later in an almond, sesame seed dressing that was to die for. She also (baked?) a cabbage cut into quarters and the four of us had one hunk of cabbage and loads of vegetables and some scrambled egg slices (ok so the egg wasn’t actually scrambled but it wasn’t exactly fried eggs either). It was surprised at home much I enjoyed this meal. Partly because I had helped prepare it, partly because it was delicious and a lot because I knew the how much real effort went into it being there at all.
It was an early night to bed for us after all that with the day only just reaching dark. Dishes, bath, bed!
We really spoilt ourselves for our two nights in Wellington with accommodation at the Museum Hotel. Craig and I are both huge fans of Wellington and came very close to deciding to move there. We found the best Indian resturant we have ever been too (and we have been to many). We did a little shopping and then decided that we wanted to meet some locals. We posted an email to the SCA group in Wellington and ended our stay with fish and chips and lovely company (with other enthusiastic 14th century peoples).
After leaving Wellington, we headed to Taupo, it was a lovely drive that (as always) included a dip in beautiful Lake Taupo. I was sitting by the lake watching Craig swim around when I noticed what looked like a huge rock, floating in the water, I soon discovered (from the encylopedia that is my husband) that it was pumice stone. I was fascinated by the pumic stone everywhere after that, picking it up, breaking it open and throwing it into the water to watch it float, I was entertained
Once we reached Taupo we found ourselves some accommodation at a lovely Tudor style hotel across from the lake, compleate with our own private plunge pool, the hot water was fed straight from the surrounding hot springs and apparently has great healing potential. That day Craig decided to try and teach me to windsurf. It was a lot of fun (I have much better balance then him and if I could just figure out the whole direction thing I’d be great at it).
Most of our North Island tour ended up being unplanned activites. We ended up visiting the falls in Taupo. Somehow Craig convinced me to get in a jet boat! ***WARNING THIS IS A VERY FAST RIDE THAT IS FOR THRILL SEAKERS! THE BOAT DOES NOT ONE BY MANY MANY MULTIPLE 360 DEGREE TURNS, SWEARVES RIGHT NEXT TO TREE TRUNKS STICKING OUT OF THE WATER AND RIGHT UP TO THE EDGE OF CLIFFS! NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED** and thus not for me! I hated every minute of it except when the boat would stop (like at the foot of the falls) and Craig had a blast.
We really began to notice how much more energy I had these days when we did a walk around “The Craters of the Moon“. This was about a 45 minute walk around earth that oooozzzzzeeeeeddddd steam from everywhere. The space of land consumed by this rising heat expands every year. It was really something to see.
We left the next day and headed for Rotorua (with only one wrong turn to add another 1 hr of travel to the day *sigh*). Now Rotorua didn’t sound so bad, there was some very interesting things to see and do there, but WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THE SMELL! I spent the night with my head under the blankets because I couldn’t get to sleep from the smell.
But we did have a “cultural experience”, we saw bubbling mud, a geyser, a kiwi’s bum, and watched a welcoming ceremony. It was all very fascinating stuff. Oh and there was a really cool little paddle pool infront of the information centre with benches to sit on where we could rest our tirede footsies after long days of shopping and sight seeing.
Finally we headed to Auckland, where we would be spending our last two nights.