An Old Pump and a New Pipe

Posted by Nick  | 24 Jan 2015  | 5 comments

Status update from the middle of nowhere: Devilishly dry. Hellishly hot. Last rain a distant memory. Forgetting what an overcast day looks like. Sanity in jeopardy. Survival uncertain.

Okay, so it’s not that hot, but damn I wish it would rain – we’re running out of water! Our cottage’s water tank is quite petite and without a good downpour every few weeks it can almost empty out.

That there is our little tank. And see that rusty thing at its base? That’s this crazy old pump:

No, this is not the means by which we pump water to our cottage, thankfully (our house pump is old, but not that old). It is, however, the means by which we can pump up from the much bigger barn tank, we were told, which acts as our reserve:

Having almost run our little cottage tank dry, we tried our luck at pumping up from our reserve. We hadn’t done it before, so had no idea what to expect. We ran a power cord out to the pump and plugged it in. The little motor ticked away with more guts than you’d expect from something so old. But alas, it coughed up only air. Our suspicion was that the buried pipe had been crushed by the logger when we had some of our trees felled.

With only one course of action to pursue (and our water situation a looming emergency), we decided to try our hand at joining a new pipeline.

First, we haphazardly uncouple the thingamabob from the doohickey. Here we learn a major lesson: The old adage “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” does not always apply!

Instead of loosening the nut (if you can call it that), we were tightening it onto the pipe! It’s hard to explain if you’re not familiar with this kind of stuff (we aren’t), but the nut needs to “tighten” on the thread in order to release the pipe, and we were turning it counter-clockwise, which you’d think was correct but indeed was not.

Anyway, I’ll refrain from waffling further; long story short, we actually managed to pull it all apart, albeit incorrectly. Luckily nothing was damaged in the process. It seems really dumb in retrospect, but hey, we learnt something about pipe fittings.

We then successfully attached our new pipe and uncoiled it. At fifty metres, it reached perfectly between the two tanks with a metre to spare.

Don’t fret, we won’t be leaving it out there like that to be squashed by tractors and the like – we’ll only unravel it when we need to pump up from the reserve tank, otherwise it’ll stay coiled up out of the way. Here’s hoping we won’t have to pump up more than a couple of times over the summer months.

We then went up to inspect how the old pipe had been attached to the pump.

Electrical tape concealed the attachment… Why? What were we in for…?

Ah. Of course. Like most things around this farm, someone had whipped up a make-do “solution”. So here we encounter our next challenge. As you can see, the kind of pipe used for this endeavour is too small for the pump nozzle. And our new pipe was exactly the same type as the old one, so we ran into the same problem.

Our instinct was to heat the end of our new pipe and stretch it open, so we did a quick search online to confirm. Sure enough, that’s supposedly what you’re meant to do. One method of heating if you don’t have any other means is to boil the pipe end. So, threading the end of our fifty metre pipe through our kitchen window and into a pot of water, we did just that.

Wham, bam, what do you know – works a charm! It was a snug fit, but with the help of a screw driver and a pair of nose-hair pliers, we managed to get it on without incident – no electrical tape necessary.

All that was left to do was to run the pump and hope for the best. There was still a chance that the old pipe wasn’t busted at all and there could be a problem with the pump itself. It certainly looked old enough to have a few issues.

The anxious anticipation and desperate hope for water to gush forth…

Hooray! Success! What an accomplishment for a couple of clueless city-slickers. We excitedly shoved the pipe down into the house tank and watched the flow, as if it were liquid gold, slowly replenish our worryingly low supply.

As the water level rose over the next few hours, a weight simultaneously lifted from our shoulders. With a working reserve pump, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about our tiny tank supply. It is so easy to forget how much we take for granted a resource as crucial as H2O. How fortunate we are to have access to it at all.


The Farm Purrs

Posted by Nick  | 15 Jan 2015  | 5 comments

Meow. That’s right, we have ourselves a god-damn kitten. It was one of the things we were most excited about when moving here – getting our very first farm pet (though an unexpected duck changed that plan). Meet Mica (my-ka), our tortoiseshell kitty:

When looking into online kitten listings we found they were being snatched up like hot cakes, so we decided to take a trip to Hamilton to visit the pet shop and the SPCA. The SPCA had a few kittens, and they were as cute as any other, but it wasn’t until we saw playful little Mica at the pet shop that we fell in love. She happened to also be an SPCA rescue, but we were happy to pay the pet shop premium for this bundle of joy.

Mica’s personality is all you could hope for in a cat – just the right balance of affection and mischievousness. She thoroughly enjoys pouncing on the evasive finger-worms that insist on surfacing from the cushion underworld. She’s very loving and trusting, and her antics provide us with hours of entertainment. We’ll even overlook the fact that she’s pissed on our bed three times already. D’aww, who could stay mad at that face for more than a split second? In any case she’s learning fast with the aid of a spray gun. A look of bitter scorn crosses her face whenever we bring it to bear.

Pet toys can be pricey, so I decided I’d fashion her a hand-crafted scratching post. I had in mind some materials I could use, and it came together all right, albeit a little grubby-looking.

We took to climbing it right away. Then it was off to investigate the curtain again.

Mica is named after the schist which her mottled coat resembles, but we’re still looking for names in case a better one pops up – it’s not set in stone yet (mind the pun). Other potential names were “Marble”, “Gillie” (like a sniper’s camo suit), “Freyja” (Norse goddess who rides a chariot drawn by CATS), and boring old “Pepper”. Do any of our readers feel inspired enough to suggest some more potential names?

This weekend we’ll be taking her to the vets to get her final vaccinations and the sutures out from her de-sexing. And maybe while we’re at it, if she’s lucky, we’ll pick up some more of that delicious jelly meat that came free from the pet shop. Nom nom purr.

After her first week getting to know her new home we’ll let her outside into the wide open world of our farm, which she’s been super curious to explore. She stares longingly out the window at all the flitting swifts and fantails that can’t wait to be mauled.

In the meantime Christmas tree baubles will have to do.


2014: What a Year!

Posted by Charlotte  | 13 Jan 2015  | 3 comments

With the transition into a new year it’s only fitting we take a look back over the last year and see what we’ve managed to accomplish.

The biggest and most obvious change this year is, oh, um, I don’t know – maybe the fact that we bought a farm! Holy crap, what a life changer! But really, it’s the thing we’ve wanted above all else for many years now. The start of 2014 saw us road tripping around almost the whole of the North Island, searching for the right piece of land to call home. Once we’d found it, we then had to go through the emotional rollercoaster of trying to purchase a property that already had another offer on it… Did we get it? Is it ours? No, we missed out… Wait, we did get it?

After the thrill of learning we’d got the land, then began the month-long wait until settlement when we could finally visit the property again and reassure ourselves that we had made the right choice

Then began seven months of long drives in the weekends to visit the farm whilst still working in Auckland. We slowly settled into a routine. Friday nights became: come home from work, franticly pack, then set out from our little unit in our little car, picking up greasy takeaways en route. We’d arrive at about 10pm at night in winter, wrapped in big jackets and beanies, so the first task was to get a fire going to warm the frosty house. We’d unpack the car in the dark, wait for the hot water to heat up, then after a toasty shower crash onto a foam mattress on the floor.

In the evenings we kept toasty by the little wood burner in our makeshift living room.
In the evenings we kept toasty by the little wood burner in our makeshift living room.

Weekends were spent cleaning up the outbuildings, exploring the logging road that runs next to our farm and the waterfall there too, grubbing thistles, restoring the old veggie patch, replacing a bit of old fence, demoing a water tower, restoring a rusty old iron bench and planting trees. Probably the most important thing that happened was getting a whole lot of big cypress trees cut down so that we could get internet on the farm and move forward with our plans. Of course this also meant we spent many hours chainsawing and splitting the offcuts from the felled trees into firewood for the coming winters.

After the weekend chores were over we’d pack up and tidy the house, then drive home on Sunday night, arriving back in Auckland at about 9pm with enough time to unpack and go to bed before getting up for work the next morning.

In November I was lucky enough to be able to start working from home so we were finally able to move to the farm. We packed all our belongings into the back of a couple of utes and a horse float and drove off into the sunset. Oh, and who could forget our moving day surprise! What a cutie!

We ended the year with our very first Christmas on the farm. We even felt festive enough to get a real tree!

Nick’s family came down for Christmas lunch, and his sister Caroline had outdone herself with handmade gift wrapping.

Overall, I’d say that 2014 has been a very successful year. Let’s hope we can say the same for 2015…

Fun facts for 2014

  • 145 native trees planted
  • 122 hours spent driving 9,800 kilometres to-and-from the farm
  • 1 duckling rescued

Coming up in 2015

Looking forward to 2015 – we’ve got big plans, of course. Here are some of the things we want to make a start on this year:

  • Start an orchard – obviously growing our own food is a big part of what we’re trying to achieve here so getting some fruit trees in is a high priority. We already have a small orchard close to the house with some old plum trees, but we’ll be striving to create a bigger one with lots more variety.
  • Expand our veggie garden – ditto about growing food. This years garden is rather small but enough to help us learn about the climate and soil we have here. Next year we really need to take growing our own veggies more seriously.
  • Get some livestock of our own – at the moment we’re leasing the land out and while this makes us a small amount of money it’s doing little more than paying the rates. Part of the reason we wanted a bigger-than-lifestlye-block piece of land is that we wanted to be able make a bit of money off the land, so it’s time we started doing that. Not only will getting our own livestock generate income, but it will also be another integral part of producing our own food. This year we’ll be looking at getting some cows and a few sheep.
  • Keep planting our native boundary – we already planted 110 metres along the road front of one of our paddocks, but that’s just the beginning. Eventually we want to plant a native border along all road fronts and also along the stream we have going across our land. We’ve got many years of planting ahead of us yet.
  • Plant some specimen trees – we’re not planning on being hard-core farmers – we’ve only got 40 acres, after all – so a big part of what we want to do with this land is beautify it. In addition to our native boundary, adding some lovely specimen trees at strategic locations will help with that.
  • Make a start on renovating our house – it’s very small and old (have you seen the mauve walls?), but comfortable enough to live in for now. We really would like to make a start on doing it up this year and DIY the hell out of it. This one is going to be dependent on finances…

We’ve got some big plans ahead that will probably take longer than expected. But hey, we’re here for the long-haul!

A Construction of Convenience

Posted by Nick  | 17 Dec 2014  | 1 comment

The main entrance to our cottage is located up a ramp on the side of the building. So whenever we want to go to the garden, laundry, or tool shed (located on the other side), we have to take an inconvenient and indirect route around the house. It can be a little annoying because we’re always having to pop back inside to fetch, say, a drink bottle or a hat, or take a mid-morning poo.

There’s a small deck on the north… Now wouldn’t it have been smart to include some stairs there?

So, one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I decided to build some.

In the above picture you can see the small deck on the north of the cottage. You can also see the cloak room attachment on the right, which has the main entry on the south. Doesn’t seem like too much of a hassle, but when all your activities are undertaken on the other side of the house, it can become a little tedious going back and forth.

Luckily, thanks to the supply of wood left from the previous owner, I was able to scavenge decent scraps for what I needed to build some simple stairs. I had a rudimentary plan in my head, and was confident I could pull it all together on the go. The first step was pencilling the forty-five degree cuts in the supports.

I then took a skill saw to it. Mmm, don’t you love the smell of sawn macrocarpa?

I used the first one as a template and made a second.

I dug a post into the ground and tamped it firm, then nailed on the first support.

Before putting on the second, I made sure to cut five equal lengths of the correct dimensions for the steps. They’re old and rough but solid, and will come away with a good sanding.

After taking some measurements and fluffing around with a cumbersome drainage pipe, I dug the second post in and nailed on the second support. Then came the easy part of biffing on the steps.

I called it a day at this point and beckoned Char to come see. She’d had no idea what I’d been up to, as I’d wanted to surprise her. I was a little nervous, because I had made a structural change without first consulting the Woman of the House. Lucky for me, she was impressed by my work and excited at being able to access the yard more easily.

The next afternoon I set out to add a railing for safety and support. I made measured cuts into the steps to secure the railing post.

Yus, it fits!

I then counter-sunk some long screws to secure the post.

I hurt my brain trying to get the angles right for the railings, but I came out on top in the end.

All it needs now is a bit of a sand to smooth those hard edges and faces. I was surprised at how easy this little project was – I expected to run into more trouble considering I hadn’t made a proper plan, let alone ever built stairs before. It’s super solid, and although forty-five degrees is a tad steep for stairs, it’ll do the trick for now. It is a temporary solution, after all, until we renovate for real. I look forward to doing it all properly in the future and getting my build on!

Since the creation of this construction of convenience, we’ve rarely used the main entrance. The porch slider is preferred ninety-percent of the time because of the stairs now; the main entrance only ever being used to fetch gumboots. It’s great, because it means we’re more inclined to just pop out to visit the garden or chuck on another load of washing. It’s funny how such a small convenience can impact your motivation like that.

What the Duck?!

Posted by Nick  | 09 Dec 2014  | 12 comments

Oh dear. We have acquired a duckling.

It’s not our fault! We forbade ourselves from having any kind of pet until next year, after we’d had time to settle in. We surely don’t need more commitments during this busy phase. But this little fellow dropped into our laps on the very day we moved to the farm! Such serendipity is hard to brush off.

A duckling is one of the most adorable baby animals – everyone knows this is fact – so how can we be expected to have turned it away? We take no responsibility for our choices in light of such will-crippling cuteness.

That’s Char’s little sister, Aria. She and her mum were en route to the farm, towing a horse-float filled with our furniture. When they stopped for lunch near a pond, Aria found the duckling abandoned “in mud and covered in bugs”. She briskly rescued it, and when she turned up later that day at our farm, presented us with the sweet little orphan. As they live in the city with a dog (who had a taste for duckling in the past), it was decided that the best place to rear the little guy (we’ll assume its a dude for now) was our farm.

The duckling survival rate is pretty low, and without proper attention it’s quite easy for them to perish. We immediately jumped on the net and did some reading. The most common cause of death, it turns out, is hypothermia. You’ve got to keep your duckling warm! Without the comfort of a mumma-duck’s insulating down to snuggle into, it’s imperative that the duckling is kept toasty, usually under a heat lamp, or, if you’re willing, in your perpetual embrace:

We didn’t have anything suitable, so for the first couple of nights we kept it in the hot water cupboard atop a hot water bottle in a box. It was fine the first night, but the second night it somehow fell out of its box. When we found it that morning it was limp. Couldn’t even hold its head up. We were distraught. We thought we’d lost it. For an hour or so we sat with it in the warm sun and administered egg diluted in water with a bit of sugar mixed in. To our relief the poor little guy came right. That day we took a trip into Hamilton to pick up some chick-starter food and a few supplies, including a lamp to keep the duckling warm overnight.

By this stage we had affectionately named the wee thing “Echo”. Echo loves egg. We boil it and mash it up for him and he gobbles it down. We’ve also made a blend of spinach, oats, corn meal, and chick-starter feed. We chuck some brewer’s yeast into the mix, which contains niacin. This is to prevent a deformity called “Spraddle Leg”.

His favourite food, hands down, is live blowflies. They’re dopey enough for us to catch by hand, and he gets beside himself with excitement when he sees us reaching down with a fat crunchy insect for him to devour. Better yet, if there’s blowflies on the windows, he can catch them himself, providing you hold him like a little duckling gun:

Echo is super active. He’s quicker than you’d think, and runs around us so fast that we lose sight of him. When he loses sight of us for whatever reason, he immediately sounds his ear-piercing alarm, and continues to do so (annoyingly) until he feels safe again. Sometimes I think he does it just to be a little shit.

When he’s not snuggling into a poop-covered towel in a little box we made him, he frequently accompanies us on trips to the garden. He’s an avid gardener himself. Oi, not the basil!

When he’s fully-grown, hopefully he’ll stick around to keep our garden free of slugs.

He took to swimming like, well, like a duck to water. He’s a boat with legs.

The first thing we do in our nice new pool is, of course, poop.

When we’ve had enough of swimming in our own faeces, we find the most awkward and alarming way to get out.

Feeling sorry for the lonely little guy, we put a mirror in his crib. He pecked it a few times, but quickly made friends. We catch him from time to time peering longingly into his twin’s eyes.

We’ve had Echo for two weeks now, and it’s amazing how fast he’s grown. He doubled in weight in three days. He’s beginning to shed his soft duckling down and starting to look like a gangly teenager. He’s preening with the use of his oil gland now, too, which makes his feathers hydrophobic. It’s fascinating watching water just bead off him. When he dives under, his body is encased by a thin film of silvery air. It’s great that none of this instinctive behaviour needs to be taught.

What a pleasurable waste of time it is caring for a duckling, or any defenceless baby animal for that matter. You can watch them explore the world for hours. And what a handsome photographic subject!

Echo’s getting big. He’ll be too big for his little cardboard box soon. He’s taken to sifting his water, which seeps right through the cardboard to the floor. He poops A LOT. As such, this cute little nightmare is starting to stink out the house. Egg, poop, water, feathers… it all adds up to one pungent duckling. So, yesterday I built him a run. Outside.

Yes, that’s Char in there. I’m keeping her outside, too.

He has some steps up to his own swimming pool, a spacious area for running around, and a watertight home filled with straw for keeping cosy. Not a bad pad for an orphaned duckling! He’ll start by spending the day outside, but we’ll continue to bring him in at night while he’s young. In a week or so he’ll be big enough to sleep out there. Hopefully like any teenager he will relish his independence.

What will the future hold for little Echo? Will he hang around the farm once he’s come of age? Will he remain tame and affectionate? Will he fly off to mate and return every now and then? Will he be a “he” at all? As is the business of blogs, we will keep you posted!

In any case, what better way to celebrate our new path in life with new life itself.

Welcome to the farm, Echo!