Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some time since the last post...

...and much has happened in the interim period.

A bit of success; the chicken coop and run is completed and is operational.  The chickens all went in to their new home on Sunday evening, after the run was assembled, the perches installed and the gate hung.  We'll leave them in there for at least a week before letting them free range for several hours of each day again.

There's a number of innovations I'd like to add to the basic structure.  I intend to collect the water off the roof to fill the water bowls.  The kids want us to build a self-refilling feeder that they saw constructed on a TV programme recently.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

10 Things that are Never Quite Finished or are Inevitably Ongoing on the Block

Some things never go away, or never stop when living on a rural lifestyle block. And not that we'd really want most of them to go away anyway...
  • Looking after the needs of the animals in your care
  • Finding something that needs fixing
  • Conceiving and planning the next project
  • Finishing the last major project you started
  • Mowing the lawns and managing the plant growth
  • Eradicating the weeds
  • Thinking of a new tool or piece of equipment that would be useful
  • Preparing for the next season
  • Paying it all off…
  • Enjoying the peace and quiet and the space

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dog Food - Make Your Own!

Just a short list today; 2 dog food recipes, albeit only links to great recipes that we've tried and are now regularly using.

We have large Golden Retriever. His name is Valentine, and he's about two years old. He's very active around our lifestyle block and thus needs plenty of healthy food. The great thing about making your own dog food is that you know exactly what has gone into it, there's no empty filler, and it's definitely cheaper.

- Down to Earth's dog food recipe

- Gourmet Sleuth (make sure you add the supplement mix also)

Wendyl Nissen also has a great recipe in her book; "Domestic Goddess on a Budget"

Try these, and let me, and also the people who own these recipes, know how they've gone down with your dog.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Valentines Day Follow Up - Giving a Goat

I had some good online and offline feedback about my Valentines Day list posted last week.  But I think i surpassed myself by getting my wife a goat this year.

Her name is Thimble (the goat that is) and she is a Saanen goat from an organically farmed milking herd.  We picked her up on Saturday and have really enjoyed her presence on the block since then.  She is full of personality, loves company, is quite inquisitive and great to milk from.

Some photos;

The developing new chicken coop is in her paddock, and Thimble spent some time checking on progress.  It's a little bigger than her own shelter, and she seems to prefer this larger, newer shed....  Our Dexters found Thimble's appearance quite a pleasant surprise also. 

So to the list then....

Why a goat?

- She will provide all of our daily milk requirements
- She is a friendly and interesting addition to our stock
- She eats things that other animals don't eat (like blackberry and gorse)
- Her milk will eventually be used for cheese and yoghurt.
- The kids love her

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

List of 10 Valentines Day Ideas on the Block

Valentines Day is coming up this weekend. The day can be overly commercial. The real opportunity is to use the day to let your loved one know that they are loved. The following ideas are 100% original and conceived by me just now;

- Scratch “I love you _____” into the metal / stone chip on the driveway.

- Alternatively, mow a message into the lawn, or maybe a paddock if you have a lot to say.

- Find somewhere nice to have a picnic. Perhaps a home cooked breakfast under a tree. Use your own free range organic eggs.

- Leave a little note in the letterbox. Maybe a little chocolate too.

- Get the kids involved. They make singing “You are my sunshine” so much cuter.

- Write a wee note on one of the chicken’s eggs. She’ll see it when she goes to collect the eggs.

- Pay your oldest child to make a valentines card for you. Print out a valentines poem or message from here; and stick it in the card and sign it.

- Make some creative garden art. For example, two flax fronds (not the leaf, the long stalky bit that grows over summer) with hooked ends could be pushed into the ground so that the ends cross over and form a heart shape. With ground conditions so dry at the moment you may need a post hole borer to get the hole started…

- Tie small bells to the dog and the cats. Give your partner a note that says “Whenever you hear bells you’ll be reminded of just how much I love you!” (my personal favourite)

- Put the kids to bed early with the excuse that they have school tomorrow. Enjoy a wine on the deck watching the sun go down together.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


It's not all hard work on the block.  We've taken a few weekends off for some summertime adventures.

I've taken each of my kids out for a kayaking adventure recently;

I've made them each a single ended wooden paddle which is much easier for them to use.

The top pictures are the adventure which started in Matakana, went through farmland and estuary to Sandspit and then round the coast a bit to Buckletons Bay.  

The next trip was from Buckletons Bay, up the coast and into Campbells Bay, collecting cockles, and then home again.

The critical components of successful kayak adventures with kids are;

- Talk it up.  Build the excitement.
- Take plenty of breaks.
- Bring some warm gear (just in case) and make sure they wear a lifejacket.
- Take a snack pack.  We take chocolate, lollies, drinks, some fruit, maybe a sandwich and then some more chocolate.  I'm pretty sure this is currently the highlight of adventures for our kids.

Friday, February 5, 2010

List of Money Saving Ideas in the Garden

Reuse the laundry water.  We use Eco Laundry Balls, so our water is left with no washing powder remains. We intend connecting the washing machine to an outside tank so that the water can be reused in the garden. There’ll be a bit of capital outlay initially, but savings thereafter.

Composting – save on fertilisers and avoid buying in soil to top up the gardens. We have bins in three areas on the property so that there’s no excuse not to put compostable waste in one when it arises.

Make your own fertilisers - I’m still keen on the comfrey tea. Try collecting seaweed. Try worm farming and using their castings as fertiliser. Castings have a NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, potassium) ratio of 3.2-1.1-1.5. These nutrients are readily available to the plants and will never ever burn your plants.You’ll avoid buying fertiliser and will greatly improve the productivity of your garden.

Stale coffee and coffee grounds also make great organic fertiliser. They provide many trace minerals and low, gentle levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous

Reuse stuff – our blocks are bigger than a city site so we can afford to have some unused resources lying around. You never know when that piece of wood, or tire, or wire netting or plastic bin or whatever might come in handy.

Grow from cuttings.  Ask neighbours for cuttings of desired plants instead of going to the nursery and buying one.

Eco-source some plants.  We’ve successfully transplanted Karo, Totara and Five Finger from local properties where these have self seeded.  Ask permission first.

Keen on flax?  There’s always people keen to get rid theirs so place an ad in the local paper and offer to dig it out for them. Replant at home. Its hard, hard work, but you’ll get free plants.

Collect vegetable seeds. Okay, we don’t really do this yet, so I can’t say how to do it.

Used carpet can be cut it into wide strips and laid it down between the rows in your garden as a walking strip. Or you can use it as mulch/ no weeds layer.

Cutting up pine trees for winter firewood? If left for a while the bark falls off. Collect it and use the bark to make garden paths or mulch. It rots down eventually and serves as a useful compost.

Water in the evenings. The water is more efficiently taken up by the plants. Water less frequently but in decent amounts when you do water. This allows the plants to root deeply.

Use flax flower stems as garden stakes. This idea came out this month’s NZ Gardener magazine. The flax stems are ready to be cut, and this is what they’ll be used for on our property in the near future.

Any other great ideas?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

10 reasons for friends and family to visit/stay at our lifestyle block

- It’s very peaceful out here. The evenings are long and warm.

- Paddocks are a nice place to contemplate in.

- There are plenty of jobs you could assist us with (splitting wood is the current big job on the go)

- It feels rural out here, but we are really still very close to town. You won’t be stranded.

- Please come and stay if you are a professional electrician, plumber or builder. We have a variety of issues you may be able to help with

- We have two spare rooms and three spare tents, if required.

- My wife is a marvelous cook and my children are fun and entertaining (I may have some bias here)

- “It is only in the country that we can get to know a person or a book.” Cyril Connolly

- Visit us and meet our animals; “Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” George Eliot

- We have fresh homekill beef in the freezer and it is still barbeque season…

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Proof of progress last weekend - the Chicken Coop emerges

Here's an update on one the weekend's projects; the new chicken coop.

The coop is progressing well.  Further materials are needed however.  Maybe it didn't need to be quite so large... 

One of the coop's intended occupants came by to check on progress.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Comfrey - a list of its uses and benefits

Comfrey has become a well used plant around our lifestyle block.  I was previously completely unaware of its existence or uses.  Here are a few things it can be used for;

Comfrey is very rich in Potassium, Nitrogen & Phosphates, so makes an excellent fertilizer in a variety of ways;

Comfrey liquid fertiliser - can be produced by either rotting leaves down in rainwater for 4–5 weeks to produce a ready to use 'comfrey tea’. We have some on the go constantly and frequently use it as a liquid fertiliser.

Use comfrey as a mulch – A 5 cm layer of comfrey leaves placed around a crop will slowly break down and release plant nutrients. It is especially useful for crops that need extra potassium, such as fruit bearers but also potatoes. Avoid using flowering stems as these can root.

Include comfrey in the compost heap - to add nitrogen and help to heat the heap. It’s a great compost activator. Comfrey should not be added in large quantities as it will quickly break down into a dark sludgy liquid that needs to be balanced with more fibrous, carbon rich material.

If you make your own leaf mould potting mix, then add a little comfrey to it also to further enrich it.

It can be added to salads, as it tastes like mild cucumber.

It attracts bees.

We feed comfrey to our chickens.  It is a high protein, low fibre feed source.

It can also be fed to, or made available to, other animals, including pigs. Organic farmers say that the stock will eat a lot of it or perhaps none at all, which suggests that they will eat it if they need what the plant contains.

Comfrey is one of natures greatest medicinal herbs - it has been used since about 400 BC as a wound healer and bone-knitter. Comfrey was used to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from bronchial problems, broken bones, sprains, arthritis, gastric and varicose ulcers, severe burns, acne and other skin conditions.

A simple practical home use is to use it for any swelling. Bruise the leaves and wrap the injury with a wet bandage containing the leaves.

Apparently both the roots and the leaves of comfrey contain alkaloids, and these have been found to cause liver damage and interfere with iron absorption in high concentrations. So all things in moderation. Also it should never be applied to open wounds or broken skin.

We haven’t really explored comfreys food or medicinal uses, but we are sold on its gardening and stock feed uses.