The Secret Waterfall

Posted by Nick  | 15 Jun 2014  | 2 comments

Did you ever go exploring in nature as a kid and stumble upon one of those places that somehow felt… magical? As if it were a very real possibility that fairies and gnomes might emerge to greet you? We discovered one such place in the forest neighbouring our farm, and it made me feel like a kid again. I became as giddy as a schoolboy.

In an earlier post I wrote of a waterfall that we could hear more than see from up on the forestry road. Well today we braved the steep thicket and bushwhacked a path down to its base. Wow. No words, they should have sent a poet…

A place like this needs a name.
A place like this needs a name.

The photo doesn’t do it justice. It seems more of a wonder in person, naturally. To truly appreciate the full majesty of any waterfall, I think, you need to see it in action, be deafened by its torrential crash, feel the mist against your skin. It’s a sensory buffet. It’s like the hand of nature has smacked you upside the face, stunning you just long enough to forget who you think you are. It washes away your mind. It was roaring so loud that when I screamed into it I could barely hear my own voice. Behold it for more than a moment and you’d be drenched by plumes of spray billowing off the rocks. It was invigorating.

Yes, I’m probably overexcited by this. Of course there’s bigger and better out there, but having something like this so close to where we live (or will be living) and practically all to ourselves is pretty thrilling. It makes it all the more special. It feels sacred. I feel somehow protective of it.

The river continuing to cascade away from the waterfall, cutting through dense native forest. Every stone, boulder, and tree trunk is carpeted in moss, perpetually saturated by the waterfall's spray.
The river continuing to cascade away from the waterfall, cutting through dense native forest. Every stone, boulder, and tree trunk is carpeted in moss, perpetually saturated by the waterfall’s spray.

It’s a little challenging navigating your way down what could be described as a gorge, but on our way back we found a route that was clear of brush and less steep. We plan on trail-blazing a wee track and clearing away some of the dead sticks and tree limbs from the bedrock at the waterfall’s base to make for better viewing. That way people coming to visit can enjoy it, too. The fresh pools that form along the river and under the waterfall will not go unused when that summer heat rolls in. Taking a break from farm work in the middle of a scorching day for a refreshing dip in the cool river beneath the forest canopy… mmmhmm!

What a precious natural treasure, and just a hop over the fence! We’ll be going back soon for some long-exposure shots. Standby!

Felling Trees: The Price of Internet

Posted by Nick  | 14 Jun 2014  | 0 comments

Internet access was high on our list of priorities when choosing our farm. As sad as it sounds, we mightn’t have settled with the farm we now know and love if it didn’t have access to the lifeline that is our cherished internet.

Not only do we need a reliable connection for income once we make the move, but its value as a source of immediate knowledge cannot be substituted, especially for the kinds of ambitions we have. Satellite is available almost anywhere, of course, but the technology just isn’t good enough for our requirements and the data plans are bollocks.

I remember during our road trip searching for land we had fallen in love with this place after seeing it for the first time, but we didn’t know if it had internet access and so for the rest of the journey we were biting our nails, eager to get back to Auckland to make some inquiries.

To our great relief it turned out there was a relatively new wireless internet provider servicing the area. Yus! It was the last box to be ticked and a month or so later we had our farm. When a technician came out to survey the area, we learned that the wireless transmitter was up on a high hill overlooking the farm. Perfect… only, a shelterbelt of massive cypress trees stood between it and the house, blocking direct line of sight. Damn. There was only one thing to do. The woody giants had to be sacrificed.

It's 4.00pm and do you see that? Cottage swallowed by shade.
It’s 4.00pm and do you see that? Cottage swallowed by shade.

The fellow who’s leasing our land for grazing at the moment just so happens to work for a logging company (the owner of which also just happens to be the son of our real estate agent). He said it would be no problem to organise some tree felling, so we got a quote which included milling of the wood to be done on-site.

Only the left half is to come down. See the large spiky macrocarpa stunting the neighbouring lawsons? There's actually more timber in the half of the shelterbelt that we'll leave standing (for now).
Only the left half is to come down. See the large spiky macrocarpa stunting the neighbouring lawsons? There’s actually more timber in the half of the shelterbelt that we’ll leave standing (for now).

As much as we’d prefer to be planting trees rather than having them cut down, there are multiple benefits for having this particular lot felled. Most importantly it has to be done for a direct line of sight between the cottage and the transmitter. However, the trees are also on the north-west of the cottage. In winter, which is now, they block the sun from about 4.00pm onwards. Having an extra hour and a half of rays hitting the house in the colder months certainly won’t go unnoticed. Then there’s the timber. We’ll apparently get about five cubic metres of milled wood out of them, which will come in handy when we renovate the cottage and get to building furniture and other doodads. Finally, it will obviously take time for the trees we intend to plant for firewood to mature, which means we would have to find firewood elsewhere. Having these trees felled means a few years of firewood at least, even after milling, giving us time to get ahead with planting.

The trunk of the largest tree to come down, the single macrocarpa.
The trunk of the largest tree to come down, the single macrocarpa.

So we turned up at the farm today and – whoa – what a shock. The loggers had been and gone during the week in our absence. The farm is quite bare as it is, so to see a large portion of what trees it does have on it cut down felt quite exposing. It’s not quite so private anymore – not that there are any houses in that direction. It will take some getting used to, but at least we can now see the transmitter on the distant hill from our cottage. The fellers did a top job; everything in tidy piles and minimal damage to the paddocks.

The sight upon our arrival. The cottage feels suddenly exposed.
The sight upon our arrival. The cottage feels suddenly exposed.
The pile of logs on the left is to be milled, and the pile perpendicular is firewood. Seems like a waste, doesn't it? We've been assured that no good timber can be milled from those lengths because of their diameters and how they taper.
The pile of logs on the left is to be milled, and the pile perpendicular is firewood. Seems like a waste, doesn’t it? We’ve been assured that no good timber can be milled from those lengths because of their sizes and shapes.
The mighty macrocarpa conquered.
The mighty macrocarpa conquered.
The massive trunk of the macrocarpa.
The massive trunk of the macrocarpa.
The "waste" pile. We were told just to burn it off, that it wasn't worth our time. But there's loads of good firewood in there still and the rest could be mulch for the many trees we'll be planting soon.
The “waste” pile. We were told just to burn it off, that it wasn’t worth our time. But there’s loads of good firewood in there still and the rest could be mulch for the many trees we’ll be planting soon… I guess we’ll see.

We’re looking forward to seeing what they can get out of these massive logs. There should be some pretty delicious timber slabs in that macrocarpa. In the mean time we have our work cut out for us… there’s a heck of a lot of firewood to saw and chop. Does this mean I get a chainsaw and splitting axe?! Finally I get to be a real man! (Or at least pretend to be.)

Cottage perspective before felling.
Cottage perspective before felling.
Cottage perspective after felling. Line of sight to the transmitter on the distant hill.
Cottage perspective after felling. Line of sight to the transmitter on the distant hill.
The log lifter, asleep in the barn.
The log lifter, asleep in the barn.

National Agricultural Fieldays

Posted by Nick  | 14 Jun 2014  | 0 comments

Fieldays, as it’s commonly called, is a gigantic annual trade expo for all things agricultural. It’s apparently the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, boasting over a hundred thousand visitors each year. We hadn’t been before so we thought it was probably something we should visit seeing as we had recently stepped into the world of agriculture ourselves.

Fieldays runs for half a week and we went today, Saturday, which was the last day. We had heard reports of horrendous traffic to the expo on the previous days, so made the decision late last night to deprive ourselves of sleep and leave Auckland at 5.30am. The expo is held down in Hamilton, about one and a half hours away. The prospect of sitting in traffic for triple the amount of time didn’t excite us, so we chose instead to tackle the day with tired eyes.

We arrived at dawn just before the gates opened, encountering not a smidgen of traffic en route. Our plan had worked. It was chilly but the weather was perfect – not a cloud in the sky. The previous days of the expo it had rained and thousands of vehicles got stuck in the nearby paddocks that were outfitted as parking lots. Lucky for us the ground had dried up by the time we arrived.

We meandered for a few hours around the bustling expo, learning about various inventions and knickknacks, and staring agape at the immense large-scale farm machinery on display. Tractors and all their various attachments don’t look how they used to. They still look powerful, but more like curvaceous sports cars than the industrial juggernauts of yesteryear. They’re wholly impressive but almost too sleek to put to the rigor required of them.

We stopped to watch a lamb deboning demonstration. It was interesting to see how they processed the various cuts of meat. Those deboning knives are scary sharp. We also watched part of a wire fencing competition. One competitor had gouged his cheek with the sharp end of some Number 8. Blood ran down his face. Oh the importance of wearing eye protection. Thankfully all the competitors were.

Whilst it was somewhat fascinating to see all the new technology in the agricultural industry, such as the automatic laser-guided milking machine (which isn’t actually all that new it turns out), I think our interests are more suited to the smaller scale A&P shows, which are bent towards lifestyle block enthusiasts. After all, what’s an ag-day without some goat petting?