“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is a common saying that originated from a famous Chinese proverb. To live ‘land to table’ and ‘sustainably’, it is not the first steps but the last ones which are proving hard for us, especially as the Hobbit and I enjoy coming up with ideas and doing new things, rather than doing the finishing off. Fourteen years ago when we bought Fernlea our first steps felt like such an adventure, we felt like real pioneers and to be honest we were younger and the bones held up better!
We moved permanently to Fernlea literally at the same time as our first lock down in NZ, and once we had unpacked and settled in we sat down to write our final TO DO list….
- Remove the remaining gorse (about 2 acres)
- Erect a small shed
- Build cattle stock yards
- Upgrade driveway
- Finish glasshouse build
Say it quickly, while sipping a glass of vino, and it really doesn’t sound too bad. August is the date we are aiming for, plus/minus, to get it all done! Fortunately we have fabulous neighbours who have tools, diggers, and know how, and they will help us meet our ambitious deadlines.
The first item on the list sends shivers down my spine. Gorse is so prickly and particularly difficult to get rid of. Introduced to New Zealand by our Scottish ancestors it has taken a strong foothold in the country and it grows very tall here. On the plus side it does add nitrogen to the soil and it blooms nearly all year round providing nectar, in winter, for our bees. Most of our 13.5 acres was covered with gorse and over the years we have adopted all sorts of ways to remove it; from spraying, to burning, to cutting it down one plant at a time. What has made it especially hard for us to remove it, is that our property is very undulating, to be frank, in places quite hilly . I have vivid memories of the Hobbit (my darling husband) cutting thick branches and ‘throwing’ them to me, waiting in my downhill position, to then put them in a pile for burning later, and while he didn’t mean to throw the branch ‘directly at me’ there was many a time I found myself having to dodge flying prickly branches. There doesn’t seem to be protective clothing out there that really stops the prickles from getting under the skin, so every time we worked on removing our gorse I knew for months afterwards I would be digging the spikes out of my body. Heaven forbid you fall over and land with your ‘bum in the branches’, I have done that and it is not fun! This time, for our last 2 acres of gorse removal, a neighbour will come with his digger and in one week he should have it all pulled out. Once stacked and raked into piles all we have to do is burn it when the fire ban is lifted.
The second item shouldn’t be a biggie as we will be getting a kitset shed to assemble, but once it is up it will be getting a creative touch by me and that may add to the timeline. I am wanting to paint it with a copper patina rust effect, arrange a display of rusty farm tools against one of its sides, and then hope to soften the look with planting. The paint effect I want to use I have seen on You Tube, only I am not sure that the Dulux stylists Heather and Bree, intended their ‘how to use Dulux Copper Effect’ (go to https://www.youtube.com/watch? ) to be used on a shed, but hey so much of what we do on Fernlea gets the creative touch to lift the ordinary to something special, so why not the little shed?
Our stock yards won’t need to be big as we only have 4 cows and 2 sheep, but we do need one. The yards will make routine activities (drenching, ear tagging, vaccination, shearing) easier, as up till now we have had to get our animals to neighbours who have yards, this is tedious and not ideal for the animals. We have researched and will be getting what they call relocatable yards. These are made of high quality steel, are extremely strong and designed to be easily erected and altered, or so the brochure says. We have a flat area prepared for the yards so hopefully can organise this with minimal fuss.
Mmmmm, the driveway! This will be the third time we work on the driveway. It is long, steep and graveled, and in the past when we have had heavy downpours we have watched the rain create ‘rivers’ in it, and we have seen our gravel washed into the paddocks on either side. Hopefully we have learnt a thing or two. This time we will be investing in drainage down and across the driveway before we re-gavel it. We will also be widening the driveway so cars can pass one another as reversing back up it, because there is an on coming car, could be incredibly challenging for some.
And for the final flourish – finishing the glasshouse. The Hobbit bought the glasshouse frame second hand for $100 from a farm south of Auckland where it had been forgotten and left to rot in a paddock. He took it down, transported to Fernlea and then reassembled it. It has been up for five years and slowly we have worked on it, between doing other jobs. If we want to live land to table and aim to be 80% self sufficient we need the glasshouse to work, and work well with raised beds and automated irrigation. The Hobbit bought the roofing material last week and he has collected much of the glass, so in theory we have what we need to complete the build. Oh yes….and I do have another wee creative idea for the glasshouse, I am wanting to paint flowers, butterflies, bees, ladybirds etc. on the interior of the glass, obviously not all over the panes but around the edges so I don’t block out too much sunlight. As promised we will end with a flourish, this image is a start point for my inspiration.
Why August to have our list completed?
In August we are hosting a fortieth for a dear friend and colleague, in September we are having a Pink Ribbon Breakfast and the website is now set to take bookings from the first weekend in October, so no turning back, we have to be ready.
Watch this space as I will blog on progress as we count down to August.
All for now
Jenni (The Missus)