The Frozen Farm

Posted by Nick  | 26 Jun 2015  | 3 comments

Who’s daring enough to go outside at dawn to photograph the frost?

Not me.

Char, however, does have the balls. (Surprisingly, she doesn’t actually have balls, which might be the driving factor in her ability to venture out into the crotch-numbing dawn.)

Subzero mornings seem common at this time of year – something we’re not accustomed to coming from Auckland.

A delicate layer of ice forms on nearly every exposed surface – this is as close as we’ll get to a winter wonderland at this latitude. Though the locals have reported snow on more than one occasion.

The crystalline structures are quite beautiful up close.

Man, these strawberry plants are tough!

There was even an icicle starting to form at the end of our garden hose…

Char reported, in fact, that the whole hose was frozen solid. It also took a little time for water to flow through our pipes, which is a little worrying seeing as some of them are copper and could potentially burst.

You know it’s cold when the sheep’s water has frozen over…

And the bathtub/trough/duck pool has become a little frozen lake. If the Pugging were still around, we might have seen an ice-skating duck!

The ladies don’t seem to mind, though. Up bright and early foraging in the garden.

We wish we had feathers at this time of year…

The Case of the Missing Duck

Posted by Nick  | 15 Jun 2015  | 3 comments

Have you seen this duck?

This is Echo, affectionately referred to as “the Pugging”, or simply “Pug”. A couple of days ago Echo went missing. We’ve searched far and wide but cannot find her anywhere.

Echo is usually found shoving her shitty bill into mud holes down at the chicken coop, foraging through leaf litter in a little stand of bush near the cottage, or sifting from any puddle of liquid she comes across, no matter how foul. When we’re outside, she’s always seen following a few steps behind.

Two events coincided with Echo’s disappearance. Some severe south-west winds hit, and some cows were moved into the paddock near one of Echo’s local haunts, the chicken coop, in which they guzzled down her pond (read bathtub) water. Last time this happened we found Echo stuck in the empty bathtub unable to get out. Maybe she saw the cows this time and decided she’d had enough of their crap, and flew the coop, so to speak. We haven’t actually seen her fly at all, however, so it’s doubtful she actually up and left. (Though I don’t blame her if she did – it’s friggin’ freezing down here.)

There’s also the possibility that a falcon killed her, but we’d expect to find her carcass somewhere, or at least a bunch of feathers… But I guess the high winds could have blown them away.

On our search we came across a conspicuous looking ponga. It looks like someone might make a home in there.

When I parted the curtain-like branches I was surprised to find…

…a clutch of eggs! At first I wondered if our chickens had started laying, but they were greenish eggs (we’ve no Araucanas) and slightly larger than your average chicken egg.

These are duck eggs!

Finding these raised another possible reason for our missing duck: Had she gone broody and hidden herself away somewhere? It gives us hope that she’s still alive.

We searched and searched, but still no sign. We’ll keep looking over the next week, but ducks are pretty good at hiding themselves and their nests. We might just have to wait until she emerges, all emaciated from not having eaten during her futile brood.

Let’s hope that’s the reason she’s disappeared, and not something more sinister like a hungry falcon.

Where are you, Pug? Come back… The farm’s not the same without you.

The Road to Nowhere – Revisited

Posted by Nick  | 10 Jun 2015  | 3 comments

Over a year ago, before we had made the move to the middle of nowhere, we ventured down the vacant unsealed road that borders our farm – a road that leads, not surprisingly, also nowhere.

The little stream which meanders through our farm crosses under that road before joining the larger river. This is where we usually access the road from, by jumping over the fence.

Our cottage is near a different road which sees frequent use by the locals, but the Road to Nowhere borders the back of our block and literally disappears into forest and farmland. Maintained only for access to a nearby pine plantation, it rarely sees vehicles.

It’s a special road woven into a peculiar landscape, and for that reason I think it deserves a bit more of a photo-shoot. Come walk with me…

With a torrential waterfall and river on one side and pockets of native forest along its course, this hidden road is a splendid nature trail amidst a sea of open pasture.

Fortunately the river running abreast is public property, which means in summer we can freely stroll down to cool off. At the moment a few deciduous trees are bearing their skeletons; in summer it’s somewhat prettier.

The Road to Nowhere is the kind of lonely track that, when you’re walking down it, you can’t help but pause every so often to contemplate your isolation. Out here there are no people or houses literally for miles. You try to envisage where you are on a map – a mere speck halfway up some dotted line on a big patch of empty green. That isolation turns to solitude, however, and even the simplest of things captivates you.

Let’s take a moment on our walk to behold this stony fa├žade:

This is the very edge of our property, and it looks dangerously eroded.

If those pines blow over in a mighty wind, I think they’ll be taking a bit of that rock face with them. Being our pines, I wonder if it’ll be our responsibility to clear the road if they do…

If we turn around we can see a deep gorge trailing off through native forest, cut through the land over aeons by the raging waterfall – which at this point in our journey is quite deafening.

You can’t see it very well from up here – the trees obscure it – but you can certainly hear it. It’s about a twenty metre drop to those rapids you can just make out, and then it drops again another twenty metres. We bushwhacked our way down to the bottom a couple of times, but I must return for some better shots.

Back up the road a bit you can see that the river had begun to cascade before turning into the gut-wrenching drop. You really wouldn’t want to slip on the edge of the road here. That would pretty much spell the end of our walk, and your life…

Let’s continue on our stroll. Oh, look, what are those? They look like a colony of silky nests. Obviously this overhang is prime real estate for web-slingers.

The snaking road reveals interesting changes around every corner, and each twist feels like you’re on the cusp of discovery. Just around the bend…

Well, would you look at that… Another bend!

This little grove of ponga is interesting. Had they self-seeded sometime after the land had initially been stripped of bush, or had they been spared?

The stony bedrock that pops up through this area is ubiquitous along the exposed road. I’m overjoyed by this fact – there’s something about stone that speaks to my inner Neanderthal.

Now that’s disappointing to find…

Someone had deliberately dumped a whole bunch of trash down a steep bank. What was the thought process of this individual when they decided it was okay to dump inorganic waste into native forest? I imagine it would have been along the lines of “no one will notice“. Or perhaps there wasn’t much thought at all, maybe that’s just what’s done in the middle of nowhere.

This junk will eventually make its way down to the river and pollute farther afield, snagging on rock and branch and adding to the agricultural clutter that gets collected by the river upstream. I’m going to try to tidy it up as much as I can, but it’ll be difficult since the culprit dumped it over one of the steepest parts of the gorge. Grr.

Moving on, let’s set our sights on something prettier. The offended native forest, for instance, which thrives throughout the moist gorge. What a jungle.

I enjoy spots where one particular species has thrived, for whatever reason. Like the pongas we saw earlier, these ferns have dominated a niche:

As we make our way farther down the Road to Nowhere, we come across an open quarry.

Presumably it’s used for maintaining the aggregate on this unsealed road.

The view from up there is quite pretty. You can even see some of our farm from the top, which at this point is over half a kilometre away. Maybe I’ll take you up there sometime.

Do you smell that? Buck musk. Goats. It’s pungent, like floor mats at the gym. And look…

Yep, there’s the evidence.

It’s not their poop that stinks, it’s the musk the bucks spray about the place. There’s a whole extended family of the mongrels out here. I once stumbled on a dozen of them loitering on the road. They all stared at me, frozen in place. I had a flimsy walking stick. They all had horns. Long, sharp, pointy horns. And they were big. So, I did what any inexperienced city-boy would do… I let out a nervous fart and made haste in the opposite direction.

Thinking about gangs of large horned goats has made me edgy now… and that’s some potent musk.

Wait… what was that?

Yeah, let’s get out of here. We’ll come back with bigger sticks.