Remember Remember

Just sayin:

 (we even had fireworks)

This month we had 4 french canadians wwoofing with us, and it was pretty damn awesome actually. They were hard workers and close friends so the house and grounds were constantly full of laughter while the work got whipped through with so many hands.

IMG_4368

(Helene, Fanie, Alex & Camille)

It was also Craig’s birthday so we snuck off to Jester House together for lunch.

IMG_4409

More vegetable beds were constructed:

IMG_1235
IMG_1236
And sooooo much lawn mowing and gorse removal!

Also the blooming of my sweet Williams by the front door:
IMG_1228

Speaking of sweet William:
IMG_4372
It’s certainly starting to warm up, not quite enough to get me out in the sprinkler but the kids certainly enjoyed their brief squeal session:
IMG_1230

End of a productive month

This month has just been so busy and exciting. The vegetable beds are coming along nicely as are the new trees and their gardens. I’ve put in the first lot of seeds that will then be transplanted out around the tree circles. One is a strawberry and edible flower bed and the other is a “tea” herbs bed (chamomile, peppermint, bergamot and lemon balm).

Here’s Craig’s 3am inspiration:

Untitled

It’s wonderful making this into a reality.

Untitled

Most of the work is going into the building of the 8 raised vegetable beds.

Untitled

It’s also been a huge month for visitors, I do love the kind that like to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, it would have taken at least a week or two longer to get these footings done without the help of Simon and Mikey.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

What else has happened? Oh, we’ve been spoilt by Edouard, croissants and crepes, oh my!
Untitled

Untitled

The boys all went off the snow with Carla & Lucas, while I stayed home and enjoyed the sunshine and kept toasty warm 🙂

Untitled
Untitled

I’ve learnt to prune fruit trees with the help of another villager, Sharon (learn being the operative word). Aren’t the almond flowers just lovely?

Untitled

We had to make some repairs on the new pump but that should now be a little more resilient. We accidentally left it on and it began pumping air instead of water, so it broke, all good, it’s all learning and now we shouldn’t be able to make the same mistake again.

The cows at TeMara farm have started to calve and the milking is also beginning to happen. We all went over on Monday afternoon to give Bob a hand to bring the girls down for their first turn on the milking machine.

Untitled

It was really nice to know I still have a handle on the basic ins-&-outs of milking a cow by hand and now I also know how to get them onto the milking machine.

Untitled

(and yes, I did cuddle them).

Untitled

Can’t wait to see the progress September will bring (even if I will be taking a two week break over the holidays to spend with family in Australia).

April Update

We officially moved in this month! WooHoo! 5 years in the planning and we are finally in our new house! And we had our first visitors even. Fiona & Mark come over from the UK (which is what actually prompted the move, we’d originally planned to be well and truly settled into the house by April, delays delays delaus). So, although the builders are still working around us while they finish a few things, we have made our selves at home. Untitled Pip in his new room Untitled Craig’s new office space UntitledOur first family dinner Untitled I has rainbows 🙂 Untitled View from the village working bee Untitled Although not house related, Pip is back at horse riding lessons and going strong. Untitled Our first official WWOOFers!

With Craig’s help and guidance, Letti and Fiona built us a wood storage shed, just in time for winter:
Untitled

House update

IMG_1561Lounge room – gib is up

IMG_1563 Looking up the stairwell – installing gib

IMG_1564Looking into the kitchen from the dinning space (& that’s Croydon, our master builder)

IMG_1565The cubby space under the stairs

IMG_1566Those are the stairs, one set on the ground on it’s side, the other in place

IMG_1567Another peek up the stairwell

IMG_1568Drain layers installing the grey water system

IMG_1569They dug a huge moat around the the whole house

IMG_1570 It was a little worrying to see them dig up so much of flat yard and pile the dirt up

IMG_1571More pipage

IMG_1578Cola 🙂

IMG_1595Stairs! Oh beautiful stairs.

IMG_1596Kitchen

IMG_1598Picking out the curtainage 🙂

Is something happening?

It’s been a long time between posts around here. Mostly it’s because it feels like nothing much is really happening for us. I’ve been more unwell then in the past year or so, or at least it feels that way. The looms have been seriously under-utilised, cheese making has been non existent and even knitting has been slow plodding. And yet, things have happened. I have woven a series of beautiful, colourful placemats, I just haven’t cut them apart, sewed them up or wet finished them. I’ve almost finished my first ever attempt at fair isle knitting, a vest that just needs me to finish off one sleeve  edge and I’ve learnt the art of Kumihimo braiding, which is a lovely relaxing activity for making braids.

In recent weeks I’ve also started developing a passion for knitting machines, here is my new electronic Brother machine, a KH-930:

Knitting machine KH930I’m still figuring it all out and will start, today, doing a sort of beginners course from Diananatters. It’s really hard to fight that urge to instantly create a really real item right off. Playing around with a friends machines that I also have on hand, I have managed to produce a couple of beanies and a few infinity scarfs and I must content myself with these items for now and put my desire for a giant shawl with intricate lace patterns aside until I really understand the machine and the processes.

Now for the newer, and most exciting news of all, the thing we have been in limbo about for so long… that’s right, we have building consent! Yes, you may dance and cheer and celebrate with pent up excitement. It has really felt like this was never going to happen, what with various back and forths with council and contractors on certain aspects and then key people going on holidays during the process, delay delay, delay. But finally it is happening and we are set to start everything next week. Now by  everything I mean mess around with the site to poor the slab and setup the frame blah blah blah, but the truth is that we had managed to council to sign off on the traditional timber frame aspect of the build a few weeks ago and so the folks at Timberworks are actually about 2/3rds of the way through building it which is awesome.

By the end of this year, Atamai Village will have I think 8 houses finished. It will be sooo nice to be on THAT side of the hill this time next year. I’m so looking forward to being off the farm and really settling into our property and our life. We seem to put everything on hold living here, plodding along waiting for our ‘real life’ to start. It’s been hard to really do a great deal of work on the property while living on the opposite side of the hill, trying to fit that around my good days, Craig’s work and weekends of overtime and the needs of a four year old. All to be made a great deal easier once we are living on site.

Basically this was just a quick post to remind myself that this blog actually exists and I have things to write about if and when I can just find the time.

 

The Mission

The house we’re renting is being sold by it’s owners, so it seems an excellent time to move to our lovely ecovillage homestead. The only problem is, our “homestead” is currently just a paddock. So, we’re instituting a crash program to get our household shifted from a three bedroom suburban house (with heating, water, electricity, all those wonderful modern things), to a patch of bare grass with no services.

To start with, we carefully budgeted out the costs for what we saw as the minimum requirements for living in a paddock. Electricity connection, composting toilet, solar hot water heater, wood stove, and some sort of comfy roof over our head. The cheapest option would probably be a prefabricated metal shed, but I can’t justify that in my personal carbon budget. Also, our preferred option, of a nice big yurt, and perhaps a second smaller one for the bathroom, is fairly similar in price. So, with the budget drawn up, we stared at it, and looked at our bank balance, looked at our estimations of the next few months, and stared back at the plan again. It wasn’t going to work, we simple couldn’t save enough money to buy all the things we need to move, and we really don’t have any credit available for this.

So, plan B. Plan B involves buying less, and making the yurts ourselves. I’m aware that if I work evenings and weekends for the next couple of months in front of my computer, we could afford to buy the yurts and not make them. We’ve found however that in practice I can’t keep that up for more than a couple of weeks, and even then I need a break afterwards. The only way I can do more work, over and above my normal work week, is if it’s off the computer, and ideally physical.

This means, that for the next couple of months we’re going to be scurrying around like mad making all these things during evenings and weekends. We’ll be blogging the yurt construction here. Lets start out with a bit of an overview of what we hope to achieve. First up, for those of you who aren’t terribly familiar with yurts, they describe a range of different traditional wooden framed tents from various peoples in eastern europe, russia and mongolia. In particular, I’m really talking about the traditional Mongolian house, called a Ger. Here’s an example:

A Mongolian Ger

Here’s a more modern example, built by our excellent local yurt and tipi manufacturer, Jaia Tipis.

Jaia Yurt

Inside Jaia Yurt

As you can see from the inside shot, gers have vertical walls of wooden lattice. This is contained by some sort of tension band. We’re going to over-engineer ours, and use steel cable for this. I figure that will ensure that the thing wont fall down, even if I don’t get the dimensions of the wood quite right. The weight of the roof and it’s wooden rafters bears down on this tension band, trying to spread it outward. The cover will be a waterproofed canvas, and we’ll put an insulation layer (probably wool) inside the canvas.

Before we can start, we need to decide on the height of the walls, and since we’d like that to match up to the width of the canvas that we can get, first we need to find a source for our canvas. So, we’ll go away and research that, and hopefully by next post we’ll have some rough sizes for our design, and a rough idea of cost.

A time of great changes

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.

…how does your garden grow

I just got an email with pictures from Zooey who is in charge of watering my 3 sisters (the corn, zucchini and beans) I planted before leaving New Zealand, and am very happy to see loads of growth.

3 sisters 1

3 sisters 2

Last Day – Otamatea & My 30th Birthday

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!

Day 2 – Otamatea

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).