Thursday, 21 November 2013

A New Zealand Working Holiday

At the beginning of November I headed off to NZ on my own (hubby stayed home to renovate and look ater the animals) for a working holiday on our property over there.
The plan was to fence off a 4 metre wide strip down our western boundary and plant it out with natives to get established as a windbreak.  The boundary is nearly 200 metres long and the West is where we will experience most of our strong and cold winds from, so we wanted to get some plants in and give them some time to get established before we actually move there and build a house.

Of the 10 days I was there I had set aside 5 days for solid work and the rest for catching up with family.

Day 1: 
Pose for a selfie among the long grass before starting work.  The weather was great, in fact for the job I had to undertake it was really quite hot.

The grass was thick and lush and well past my knees.  It was quite an effort to move through it and so a call was needed to the local hay making contractor to come and cut and bale it.

But the job for day 1, was to dig a cutting through the big pile of dirt near the gate way, to create a gap for the fence to go through.
Ideally we need a bobcat to come and move the entire pile but we will get that done late on.  For now it was up to me and my (wo)man power to dig through the 6 foot high pile of dirt.

The hardest part was getting through the long grass but with the pick and shovel slowly but surely I made progress and the trench got deeper and wider.  After about 5 hours of hard work the trench was pretty much finished so I called it quits.

Day 2 and I drove Dads ute up to the farm (Mum and Dad live 25 minutes away) with all the posts, wire and fencing gear on the back.  You can see in the photo below exactly how long the grass was, I almost thought the ute was going to disappear.
When we purchased the property we discovered that there was a pile of fence posts hidden in the long grass.  I turned out that there were nearly 40 in the pile and although they were only quite lightweight posts once they were alternated with some heavier ones, that I purchased, the fence would be plenty strong enough.

The first job on day 2 was to mow a clear strip down the fence line.

Once the strip was cleared it was on to pacing out the distance between posts and laying them out ready to be rammed into the ground.

The first post of many was rammed in and things progressed from there.  We worked for a few hours and then the weather closed in so we headed for home.

Day 3 saw us get most of the posts in and string the top and bottom strands of wire.  In NZ the standard fencing is an 8 strand straight wire fence with posts at 5 metre intervals.  For cattle you can leave it as is once completed but if you want to run sheep you need to add battons (small  fence posts in between the large ones).  For now we are not adding battons but we can add them later if needed.

Dad is an engineer by trade and as such everything is done with precision measurements, and a in this case a spirit level.  Needless to say the fence is perfectly straight and every post is the same height.  Dad's motto (which over the years has rubbed off on me somewhat) is do it once and do it properly, and this was certainly one of those times.

Day 4 and Mum was on hand to help out with the planting.  For the past 6 months she has been digging up and potting up self seeded natives from her garden.  Then my bother grew some for me as well so in the end there were nearly 150 plants to be planted out.

Some of the trees we planted were Cabbage Trees, Coprosmas, Five Fingers, Kowhai, Lancewood, Karo, Lemonwood, and a few others.  They are all New Zealand natives and we have mixed them up so they look more natural.  They will do well planted out together and form a good dense hedge.  Later on we will also be planting out a tall (2 - 2.5metre high) growing variety of New Zealand Flax in a solid hedge along the back of all the other plants.  We will not be planting them until the the other plants are established as Flax is quite a water hungry plant and they also establish really quickly.

The plants were all laid out and we got started with the planting.  It took the rest of day 4 and day 5 to get the 150 plants in the ground.  We don't have water at the property so we brought a big barrel of it up each day to water in the plants and Mum and Dad have been back to give them a bit more since I returned to Australia.
To help keep the weeds down and the moisture in the soil we recycled some old woolen carpet that Mum and Dad had.

Good work Mum

It was lovely to spend so much time with my parents and I am really grateful for all the help they gave me in getting this task done.  I even let them take a tea break now and again.

Time for elevenses "Come on workers break is over"
While I was there I also arranged for the grass to be cut and baled.  We got 36 large round bales that we will be selling off.  We will not make a huge amount of money for it, probably a few hundred dollars after paying the contractor to do the work.  But it is better than nothing and now that the grass has been cut we can look at running a water pipe the length of the property so that down the track we can tap into it at regular intervals.

While were putting up the fence I noticed a tree growing on our boundry and it looks a bit like a hazelnut tree but I am not really sure.



It had some buds on it and they look like the flowers on a hazelnuts but have a look and tell me what you think.
Have we lucked in with a hazelnut t


  1. How lovely to have your Mom and Dad help you with the fencing and all those wonderful plants. this is an exciting time for you I am sure. It looks like lovely fertile ground.

  2. Well done with the forward planning. Along with "The List" you guys are certainly organised. The family that works and plays together, stays together. Awesome family time despite the hard work, i bet.

  3. It just looks so gorgeous and green. I'm sure you will be rewarded imensely by all your hard work Fiona.


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