Tag Archives: farm

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 12

434 Tennent Drive, Palmerston North, New Zealand

February 2014 – December 2014

By now we worked from home so it didn’t matter a great deal where we lived provided there was internet access. But as you know from the previous narrative, there was a reason why we wanted to move house fast.

We had searched the internet and newspapers all over the country and there was nothing suitable. The problem was we had a dog. These days rental agencies and land lords and ladies don’t like dogs.

One of my sisters lives six hours away at Palmerston North. She has a deer farm next to farms owned by Massey University. Massey University is primarily an agriculture university that specializes in animal and plant research. These university farms all had houses that were rented out because farm managers rarely lived on the farm. They were not resident farmers! Who my sister didn’t know wasn’t worth knowing. Yes! There is a farmhouse available on a university farm! And yes! It is two minutes away from where I live so you can visit me often!

The removal lorry (truck) was loaded. I set out in the car with one dog, one cat, and six ducks. Eric set out in the ute (pickup) with the goat. Six or seven hours later we arrived.

It was a typical farmhouse, quite small; in fact so small that none of our furniture fitted. We stored our furniture in the garage and bought some smaller stuff from second-hand stores. But a house is a house – especially when you don’t have one. There was only one electric plug in the kitchen, so we had the microwave, the kettle, the toaster, and the bread maker, on a bench in the narrow corridor!

There was a henhouse to house the ducks at night. During the day I would let them out and they would waddle down to the nearby river and mess about all day. They would return for the evening meal, following me across the fields like I was the Pied Piper. These ducks were a breed called Magpie Ducks – quite an uncommon breed. They were developed in Wales (this is true) by a man called Mr Drake.

We had the use of a field for the goat. Eric made a goat house. The field couldn’t be used on the farm because it was a farm water system experiment and there were plastic funnels here and there that could not afford to get trampled on by livestock. Billy, our single goat, was okay. A fence is no barrier for a goat, but Billy had a long, long chain. It didn’t of course stop every other goat on the university farms from coming for a visit.

We had a good vegetable garden.

Being in the middle of spacious farms we had field after field of wild mushrooms which my sister explored with grandchildren, teaching them which fungus is poisonous and which is edible. It’s a skill one takes for granted!

Twice a kamikaze blackbird smashed into a bedroom window, killing itself on the bed and scattering shards of glass from one end of the room to the other. They must have been attacking their own reflection.

We had always regarded the place as a temporary abode. The office was in the bedroom. The dining table was in the lounge! It had a wood burner but the wind sneaked in through ancient window frames. In winter I had taped up every window to stop the draughts! The house was next to a huge woolshed which was not only the scene of erudite lectures, but was the venue for hordes of aspiring country bumpkins to hold their raucous parties.

Even though we quite liked it, the place had its limitations. We quietly began to look for a more amenable lodging; and an amenable lodging we did indeed find! Although I had to sell the ducks!

2118. Hills and codes

(Grateful thanks for the many likes and messages yesterday on the passing of one of my brothers. Your kindnesses were greatly appreciated and moving. Today’s story was “pre-posted” and life continues! Thanks. Bruce)

As I have said many times: when it comes to a significant number in this blog’s story numbering I like to deviate from story-telling a wee bit and chat about other things.

Today’s story number is significant because it’s the password I use to get into my bank account. I also use it as the password for my computer and WordPress and social media and everything else. These days it’s almost impossible to remember heaps of passwords so I stick to 2118 for everything. Also for the pin number for my phone.

To celebrate this number I thought I would simple show some photos of my environment around the house. It is very hilly, so I wandered around the outside of the house this past week and took photos willy-nilly. That way you can see where I live. Incidentally the code to turn off the house alarm is also 2118. Also to unlock the keypad on the door. As I said, I use the number for everything.

The number 2118 was the number of our car’s registration plate when I was a kid. It’s actually just the first four numbers of the plate because in those days there were six numbers: 2118-46.

Anyway, here are pictures taken from the paths around the house:

Fields of rape (I always think it’s an unfortunate name for this turnip-like crop).
Looking East
The water tank (to feed the troughs) on the highest hill
Making hay.
Devon cattle – one of the oldest breeds in the world
Water tank is next to the distant pines
The disused woolshed from when sheep roamed the farm (now cattle)
Some neighbour’s sheep and water tank
Volcano Mount Taranaki as seen from the gate.
Don’t you just hate it when the neighbours crowd you out? Almost 2118 legs to pull..

2048. Shoo!

(This particular posting was inspired by one particular posting of the brilliant bloggings of Sarah Angleton).

The sensory heritage of the French countryside was recently protected under a new French law. Towns’ people had been moving onto rural lifestyle blocks and suing farmers for animal smells, and animal waste, and mud, and noisy farm machinery, and rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doos at three in the morning. That is why the sensory heritage of the French countryside needed protection. Farms were entitled to continue to smell and make noise and get all grubby. Complaining “townies” would have to bite the bullet.

Beau-Roderick and his partner, Constantia-Belle, were new rural life-stylers.  (One should perhaps have said Constantia-Belle and her partner, Beau-Roderick (in that order) – but Beau-Roderick was the one with the money and Constantia-Belle was happy to sacrifice a little bit of gender equality for a substantial bank account). Anyway – all that is irrelevant. What is relevant is the neighbour’s domestic turkeys that would fly over the fence, peck at Constantia-Belle’s flower garden, and leave squishy green droppings everywhere. All over the lawn. Yuk! It was embarrassing to have friends from town call in for an evening of barbeque and lawn bowls.

Beau-Roderick knew he wasn’t allowed to sue. He had asked the neighbour (nicely) not to let the turkeys fly over the fence. All to no avail. “Just shoo them away. Shoo! Shoo!” said the neighbour.

That wasn’t good enough for Beau-Roderick. He got a gun. The turkeys flew over the fence.  Constantia-Belle was weeding her little flower plot. “Shoo!” she said, “Shoo! Shoo! you horrible critters!”  She waved her arms. Beau-Roderick pulled the trigger.

Oops! It was an accident. Anyway, he was getting sick of her.

2047. Animal Farm

Farmer Jack loved animals, and had all sorts of different mammals on his farm.

He had goats which were alright. Goats were the most common farm animals around the world apparently. He could see why but they simply were not at the top of his list.

He had cattle, but they were not the normal cattle beasts. He had a breed of oxen that had been originally bred to pull heavy machinery in the old days. Personally he found them too strong altogether, and difficult to manage, but they were certainly a talking point with anyone who dared get involved with them.

Sheep were smelly; oily and smelly. In fact they were a lot of work. They had to be shorn and crutched and so on. To get them even to the lamb stage was a substantial hassle.

Pigs, like sheep, were smelly. He had only a few and it was a good way to get rid of household scraps.

Then he had horses. Horses were his favourite. Horses were wonderful! It warmed the cockles of his heart to see horses cavorting in the fields. Yes! Of all the animals on his farm, horse meat was definitely his favourite and the tastiest.

2024. A couple of cows and a few pigs

When Frank bought his little farmlet (big enough for a couple of cows and a few pigs and room to pursue his special hobby of growing asparagus) he never warmed to the guy who sold it to him. Harvey was the previous owner’s name. Harvey had lived alone, made stupid blunt observations, and couldn’t even crack a smile at any of Frank’s little break-the-ice jokes.

What Harvey clearly needed was a wife to moderate his bluntness and turn him into a human being. (Sorry if that sounds sexist but it works both ways). Having a wife and a few kids might have softened his edges a bit. Anyway, he was single and that was that. On the other hand, Frank was married but with no kids. His wife had certainly made him more open to other points of view. In fact, he had learned over a few years to agree with absolutely everybody about absolutely everything – and especially to agree with his wife. Oh! She could make life a living hell if he disagreed with her.

The small farm (apart from a rather attractive post-card cottage) had a hay barn and a garden shed. The hay barn was filled with hay bales. The hay would last Frank with his couple of cows for two or three years…

It was now his second year on the farm and things were going well with Frank. He would have to get more hay because it neared the end of the supply. Just six hay bales left. And then he noticed…

Sticking out the end of one of the bales were a couple of partly decomposed leg bones wearing bright blue stiletto heels.

That gave Frank an idea.

1869. Water tank winter walk

A little while back (in fact last week!) I took the dog and headed for a winter walk to the water tank on the nearby highest hill. The water tank gravity feeds all the troughs on the farm. The farmer had told me that the best view around was from the water tank. He also said to take the tractor. But the dog needed a run so walking it was!

I set out from my house. In the photo you can hardly see the tank on top of the hill.

The path starts almost on the flat. We pass the old, disused woolshed, the corner of which you can see in the picture above. The farm used to be a sheep farm, but now it’s all cattle. Hence the disused shed for shearing sheep.

The last flat bit before the hill!

The upward track begins.

We pass a gladed valley!

There’s a herd of grazing cows, and a pile of baleage. For those who don’t know:
Hay = cut grass dried in the sun and baled.
Silage = cut grass compacted and stored in a silo (like a pit in the ground) without being dried.
Baleage = cut grass of a relatively high moisture content that is baled with a round baler and then sealed in plastic to keep oxygen out.

The native trees stay green all year; the introduced trees are bare – except for the pines.

There are a number of small dams. Someone likes them!

Suddenly a corner is turned and the volcano, Mount Taranaki, comes into full view. My photo simply doesn’t do the scene justice! Let’s hope it won’t erupt! Click on the photo for a full picture.

The climb goes higher. Another volcano, Mount Ruapehu, appears in the distance. (Difficult to see in the photo but the mountain seems much “closer” in real life!)

The climb continues. Almost there!

Arrival! But… I didn’t come to see the tank!

I came to see the view! My house is shown by the arrow! Click on the photo for a full picture without the arrow! Isn’t it amazing how the Vikings must have come here and buried so many of their ships? Hence all the hillocks!

It’s easier going down! (Note the Corona no-haircut lockdown look! The most difficult part of the walk wasn’t having to walk uphill – it was the difficulty of having to maintain social distancing in such a people-riddled environment.)

Thank you for walking with me and the dog. May your day erupt into joy!

(Note: During the coming week I’m going to post two or three “stories” that involve myself. It gives a bit of padding to the blog, and anyway, when you’ve got fame and fortune hanging out your ears, you can do what you like…!)

1845. To find someone nice

Destiny said she didn’t marry her husband’s job; she married her husband. Quite frankly, she hated her husband’s job; cows, cows, cows. All he did every morning was milk cows. All he did every afternoon was milk cows. Was there ever time off?

Roman was doing his best. He’d grown up on a dairy farm. Dairy farming was all he knew. He’d worked hard throughout his teens. His father left Roman the farm. He built a special house on it for his widowed mother. He met and married Destiny. That was about his life.

Destiny didn’t merely love Roman; she fell in love with the prestigiousness of his habitation. How wonderful to live on a farm! How wonderful to have all this space! A house! A garden! Some chickens! A pet calf for the children when children came along! Fresh milk! All her friends married labourers of one sort or another; plumbers, carpenters, truck drivers. They lived in hovels in town. She lived in a mansion; more of a manor. She alone had married into proper bliss.

Can’t you take some time off so we can get away? asked Destiny.

The cows can’t not be milked.

Pay someone else to do it.

We can’t afford to do that yet.

Since a while Roman’s mother cooked one decent meal a day and brought it over. Destiny has gone off somewhere in pursuit of happiness. It’s all over. Roman wished he could get out sometimes and perhaps meet someone nice. If only he could find someone to milk the cows say one night a week.

Success! He found Ned Burton’s daughter from up the road to milk the cows on Thursdays. Betty knew the ropes; she was brought up on a farm. In fact, Betty helped milk the cows twice a day every day of the week. And on his day off Roman would give her a hand to milk. He didn’t need to look too far to find someone nice.

1773. After the pandemic

It was only a few years after the pandemic that swept Planet Earth. No, not the Coronavirus (Covid-19) several hundred years earlier, but a new and far more fearsome pandemic. Without warning, like a tidal wave of infection, it swept through the world’s population, killing them, and leaving only half a dozen or so humans, who had some sort of natural immunity, on each continent.

What a dream come true to have the whole of the North American continent almost to oneself! What a wondrous fantasy come true to set ones bed up in a corner of St. Peter’s in Rome and be able to say, “This is my bedroom”! When a vehicle ran out of gas, it was easy: just pick up another limousine!

Oh, but the stench! The several dozen on the planet inevitably wore face masks for a few weeks to facilitate breathing. What a happy thing it was when quite by accident a survivor bumped into another survivor! One couple early on were even able to start a new family.

Don’t think that these survivors were irresponsible creatures who didn’t give a hoot about others. One of the first things each did, almost automatically, was to wander through farms and zoological gardens and open gates and doors. That way the animals were free to fend for themselves and not be enclosed and starve to death. Of course, there were so few people that only a small percentage of animals were freed, but it was enough.

Time ticked on and new families began to form. How marvellous to have no pollution. The growing populations didn’t just sit on their haunches and do nothing. They learned to make their own flour and cider and everything else.

But the freed animals from farms and zoos also grew in numbers. They needed to eat. It didn’t take long for the tiny human populations to disappear.

Without humans the planet thrived.

1477. Selling up

That old lady, Mrs Tucker, has let her farm go to wrack and ruin. It used to be so well run, so orderly. These days, buildings are falling down; it’s under stocked with very few head of cattle; there are never any crops. I don’t know why she ever bothered to think she could farm the place. It was great while her husband was alive. And then her boy took over but he died in the flu epidemic way back. After that I don’t know what got into her head that she thought she could do it herself.

She is such a silly old lady. We hardly ever see her, and no one ever talks to her. She’s a bit weird really.

The other day I accidentally bumped into her in the grain shop. She said “Hello, Nigel”. I got a hell of a fright because I wouldn’t have thought she knew my name. And then she said she was hoping to sell off her remaining animals and then sell the farm all together. She said she didn’t know much about farming and had been doing her best since her husband and son had died, but the time had come to bite the bullet and sell up. So did I know how to go about selling the animals?

I said to her – I like to call a spade a spade – I said, lady if you don’t know how to do that after all these years then you never should’ve started. I’m not here to give free advice.

She said thank you and went on her way. Such a strange lady. A bit weird really, as I said. No wonder the farm’s so run down.

1464. War families

Enid’s husband had died in 1910. In the traditional, old-fashioned way, Harold ran the farm and Enid ran the household that included a son. The farm was the sole source of income of course, but it was a partnership. One spouse couldn’t do without the other.

When Enid’s husband died fortunately her son, Jack, was old enough to run the farm on his own and do all the heavy work. It was a partnership as before, although Enid was inclined to help more on the farm than she had previously.

And then Jack was called to war.

Enid ran the farm as best she could, but it wasn’t good enough. She sold the farm for a song. The farm wouldn’t take care of itself while she waited for a millionaire to come along and buy. She went and lived in town, but had no experience of the work force. Her skills lay in other areas. She couldn’t find a job.

And Jack didn’t come back.

It’s not only soldiers who make sacrifices in times of war.