Around the Farm: Part II

Posted by Nick  | 29 Apr 2015  | 4 comments

It’s often the simple things, the little joys, which enrich life the most, don’t you think? That old piece of advice to “stop and smell the roses” has always been, for me, more than a mere suggestion to clear one’s head every now and then. Call me a dreamer. This place – where the skies are open and the hour hand bends like a loose rope in a river’s current – urges one, dreamer or not, to embody that advice as a part of everyday life.

What hidden delight might a flower impart if given the time and space to be truly appreciated?

Around the farm there are many small observations that don’t warrant a post of their own, but nonetheless remind us of the preciousness of little joys.

There are autumnal flowers, dahlias and others, which have bloomed radiantly for almost two months now. A last show of colour before the dormant grey settles in.

They emerge like heralds from another dimension.

Our neighbour kindly dropped by with a tub of mushrooms picked from her pastures. We’ve seen few on our own land for reasons unknown, but we do have plenty of useless toadstools popping up all over the place. I wonder if this Wonderland grows any psilocybe…

Our daily routine of visiting the ladies and watching their soap-opera dramas unfold brings us many smiles.

The shade is becoming a cold place, so we’ll often catch them basking in the sun when it peeks out from behind the clouds.

Someone else brings us many smiles and laughs. As a young teenager, Echo the duck was reluctant to be touched. Nowadays her growing maturity (or, perhaps, resignation) allows us to pick her up, stroke her, and even turn her upside-down…

She’s become a placid and friendly critter, but is also quite excitable. She loves the sound of gumboots squeaking together, and attempts to communicate with them. I don’t think she knows she’s a duck; she either identifies as a human… or a gumboot.

She still has yet to take to wing, but thoroughly enjoys bathing and flapping around in her (very green) bathtub.

We wish we had a larger pond for her nearby. We often take her down to our little waterfall which has a pond at the base.

It’s great having a growing family of animals with us on the farm. I didn’t realise how much verve animals could imbue a place with – and all we have is five birds and a cat!

Speaking of cat… Mica is on her way to becoming a seasoned mouser. We’ve found three dead already, and caught her toying with another two on different occasions. I felt obliged to put one of them out of its misery. It appeared noticeably distressed and Mica seemed intent on drawing out its inevitably violent demise as long as possible. I bashed its head in with a piece of wood – my first kill.

The darling doesn’t seem like a skilled predator… She’s just cute and cuddly. A devious disguise?

How can this oddball be so good at hunting? And they say you see only a tenth of what your cat kills…

As the weather begins to cool, Mica, like the chickens, is spotted seeking out the sunny spots.

“Ooo, I’m being photographed… Aaand POSE!”

There are other animals out and about, too. Wild ones. Many kereru (wood pigeon) are returning to the area at the moment, and we’ve spotted on numerous occasions hares as big as small border-collies. We’ll be needing a .22 rifle soon I imagine, with all the saplings we’ll be planting over winter. I haven’t photographed either of these creatures, but I did get pretty close to a large blue dragonfly down by the waterfall:

Another sizeable arthropod emerged from a log I was splitting. It gave me a bit of a fright since we don’t have many common large bugs in New Zealand.

Does this give you the shivers? Is something crawling up your neck right now? I’ve never encountered a spider this chunky in New Zealand. It gave me the creeps – and I grew up in Australia! This fine specimen is a type of tunnelweb spider native to New Zealand. Its bite is apparently quite painful due to its large fangs, but it doesn’t cause any lasting damage.

And then when my friend Dingus helped chop wood on his visit, he, too, discovered a different wood-dwelling mini-beast.

A huhu grub – the larvae of the largest beetle in New Zealand. The THUD of their metamorphosed forms colliding with the windows at night sound like the bodies of birds hitting the glass.

Larger rotund beasts roam the paddocks.

Soon we will arrange to have our own livestock on the farm, to make something more out of this rural paradise than just a pleasant vista.

The noisiest beast of all is the man-beast. Here he is making all sorts of racquet, doing multiple passes overhead in his flying machine:

One neighbour was having their pastures limed. For some reason this necessitated multiple days of flying a mere twenty metres above our house with an engine that sounded like a dozen grunty motorbikes at full throttle. I guess they were surveying the area before the lime drop? It’s not always peaceful in the middle of nowhere.

With the changing seasons comes the craving for carbohydrates. Char baked a simple white loaf which turned out really good.

We fried some of it with butter and dunked it in my cream of mushroom soup. Time to put on that “winter coat”.

Char also dried some basil and catnip in our dehydrator. A humble step towards preserving for self-sufficiency.

Living at least half an hour from anything, it has taken us a while to explore the local area, especially since there’s so much to do on the farm as it is, and we are admittedly homebodies. Recently, however, we did pay a visit to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatauri, which is an ecological “island” amidst a sea of pasture. The mountain, a volcano, has an impressive pest-proof fence surrounding its perimeter. It is a haven for native New Zealand bird life.

As soon as you enter you can tell it’s a special place. The greens are so rich and vibrant, there’s a noticeable difference in the colour between rainforest down here and of that back up in Auckland, which is much browner.

Ascending a platform, we were greeted by a friendly kaka (a species of parrot) who wasn’t the least bit camera-shy.

We will definitely be returning to Sanctuary Mountain; there are some decent hikes up to the peaks therein.

As with flowers, the stars out here deserve a mention. On a clear night the glowing band of the Milky Way is outstanding. In any place far from cities, one can get the feeling by staring at the night sky that they are in a deeper part of space, yet closer to it. It’s both a mind-blowing and deeply satisfying experience. And with any camera capable of long exposure, you’ll be able to see far more than you’d expect.

Even as far away as we are from any major city, a long exposure shot will still pick up the distant light pollution, such as the photograph below I took, whose orange glow might be mistaken for the residue of a sunset (that’s the Pleiades cluster top-left).

Stargazing one evening I aimed the camera at what looked like a small patch of cloud in an otherwise crystal-clear sky. I zoomed in, adjusted some settings, and took the shot. What emerged on the camera’s screen was stunning, and I recalled what it was immediately. I’d seen it before in Hubble images – the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.

Whether it’s something as small as a flower, or as grand and vast as a galaxy, the opportunities to appreciate the wonders of nature seem so abundant out here. Of course it’s all a matter of perspective, but it affirms to us each and every time that we’re precisely where we always wanted to be. You can’t help but stop and smell the roses, and that suits us just fine.

Stay tuned for part III of “Around the Farm” – there’s no end to the little treasures of country living!

4 comments Leave a comment

| Reply

These posts are so so wonderful 🙂


Lovely of you to say, Lauren. Just what an aspiring “blogger” wants to hear 😉

George Shears
| Reply

Emaho!!! These personal “shots of awe” are absolutely exquisite. To view them brings much joy to my heart. I’m also delighted to know that you two “featherless bipeds” have become true farmers by adding feathered bipeds (namely chickens) to your farm community. I’m equally happy to learn that you have taken an important step toward species equality by bestowing endearing human names upon them. This is exactly what I did with a great many chickens that we raised when I was a kid. Along with my dearly beloved “Annie,” there were Bill, Bandy, Lars and Charlene, to name a few I can still recall. Bill and Bandy were both roosters who regarded me as some kind of competitor to attack at every opportunity. I recall quite vividly emerging from our four-room log house when I was, perhaps, 4 or 5, to see Bill, a large plump Plymouth Rock starting to charge me. My older brother, Harry, was splitting wood between Bill and me. He told me to just stand still, instead of fleeing back into the house. As Bill was passing by him in full charge, Harry intercepted him with the broad side of the axe, sending Bill flying skyward like an over-sized shuttle-cock. It was shortly after that, as I recall, that we had Bill for Thanksgiving dinner! In spite of my generalized attachment and affection for most of our chickens, I don’t recall any ambivalence at all about feasting on Bill’s mortal remains.

Having been honored with such elegant names, I’m sure that your four “ladies” will lovingly honor both of you in the not-distant future by laying a small clutch of organic, free-range eggs each day. If you’re accustomed to “store bought” eggs, you’re in for a real treat by having them replaced by “the real deal.”

I’m curious as to just how cold it is likely to get on your farm as fall turns into winter. I’m sure that, by northern Minnesota standards, it will be relatively mild. I hope that you, as well as your feathered friends and Mica, will have no difficulty in keeping warm.

I eagerly look forward to your masterful, pictorial documentation of your ongoing “adventures in Paradise.”


Thank you for this comment, George. I read it 11 months ago when you posted it, and I thought I responded, but obviously that wasn’t the case. I just came across this comment again by chance. It’s always a pleasure to read your similar tales of rural life.

Oh yes, it gets very cold here, but like you say, nothing compared to Minnesota standards, far far from it. It doesn’t snow here, though I wish it would. It gets cold enough that the prettiness of a little white dusting would be appreciated as a reward.

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