Friday, 26 January 2018

Homesteading vs Lifestyle Block or Hobby Farm

Our farm is 5.5 acres or 2.17 hectares in size and when we purchased it in 2012 it was one big grassy paddock of almost flat land with a dip in one area towards a pond in our neighbours land.  We are 6 km from two small regional towns Bulls and Marton, 20 - 30 minutes from two small regional cities Whanganui and Palmerston North and 2.5 hrs from Wellington the capital.

In  New Zealand land the size of ours is termed a lifestyle block as people generally choose to have a bit of land to keep a few animals, enjoy having a bit of space for their family and pets but tend to work elsewhere and not earn anything from their land. 

Wikipedia provides the following definition for a lifestyle block:

A hobby farm (also called a lifestyle block in New Zealand) is a smallholding or small farm that is maintained without expectation of being a primary source of income. Some are merely to provide some recreational land, and perhaps a few horses for the family's children.

Moving to a lifestyle property can be rewarding and provide plenty of opportunities to learn new things, in fact for many people, they will have no choice but to learn a huge range of skills. 

These may include animal husbandry, small machinery use (think chain saws, weed whackers/line trimmers, ride on lawn mowers, rotary hoes and tractors), towing and backing trailers and horse floats, fencing, tree pruning, managing your own water and sewage systems and lots lots more.  Every skill that you don't have will be one you have to to pay or barter for or find a mentor to teach you.   For some people the acquisition of these skills, the new opportunities and the new community of people around them leads to a feeling of fulfilment.  However some people have a romantic vision of living in the country and are unaware of the time and work required to maintain a lifestyle property (it takes a lot longer to mow an acre of lawn, move the cows, shear the sheep, and clean out the chicken pen than to sweep the front porch of a townhouse and clean out the budgie cage) which can become a burden that interferes with other hobbies and activities.

Homesteading on the other hand is more about self sufficiency and may or may not involve making a living from your land and Wikipedia defines it as:

Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterised by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craft work for household use or sale.

Homesteading is a term that might conjure up images of people living an agrarian lifestyle toiling away to eek out a life from a parcel of land in the country and for some people this is still the case, but there are of plenty of variations on the theme of homesteading and you don't even have to live in the country or have a lot of land.  Modern homesteading is a mindset of doing as much for yourself as you can, acquiring practical skills and shortening your supply chains.  It is about being responsible for you own well being and living a life that allows you do more for your self and others reducing your dependence on the consumer society. 

You might learn to make soap or cheese, spin wool and knit, grow your own food and learn to preserve it, learn to forage and collect wild edibles or medicinal plants, grow willow and take up weaving, learn to hunt or raise livestock for personal consumption, you might live in town so start a community garden or find some land to share, or you might go completely off grid, move into the wilderness and fend for yourself.

Having land in the country is not a pre-requisite for homesteading and it is always better to start where you live now.  Skills take time to acquire and when you are not also having to manage a larger parcel of land you have the time to dedicate to learning new things.

I was fortunate to grow up in the country on 10 acres of land where my parents built on bare land and started from scratch.  We raised most of our meat, grew fruit and vegetables which we preserved, had bees, gathered our own firewood, cooked all our food from scratch, had pets and a house cow.  My dad is an engineer from a farming background and my mums a nurse from town.  Between them they had quite a few skills but they still had a lot to learn along the way.  We are a bit like my parents with Randall being born and bred in a city while I grew up in the country.  We first started our homesteading journey when we lived in a 2 bedroom town house 3km from the CBD of Brisbane Australia.  We grew citrus in a pot, planted a vegetable garden that we watered with grey water, collected and propagated plants, built a pond, started composting, shopped at the produce market and preserved what we grew and brought and cooked from scratch.  At the same time we worked hard and saved as much money as we could so that we could move to the country.

We were able to purchase a rundown old farmhouse on 3.5 acres in the Queensland countryside and set about expanding our skills further to include managing our own water and septic systems, caring for chickens and cows, fencing, soap and cheese making, dehydrating, fermentation, permaculture and much much more.

Home made soap
We have now moved to New Zealand to a slightly larger parcel of land but it has good soil, regular rainfall and a temperate climate so will be incredibly productive compared to our land in Australia.  But this time we are starting from scratch.  What was once a big grassy paddock is gradually taking shape and becoming a rural homestead.  We will use the skills we have to do what we can and work of learning new skills a long the way.  It's not a race as rushing in can be expensive.  We want to live closer to nature, making the most of each season doing as much as we can for ourselves, learning new skills, meeting like minded people and reducing our reliance on the system.  

For us this is definitely not a hobby farm, and while it is about a lifestyle what we are aiming to achieve is much more about providing for ourselves, doing it for ourselves and being as self sufficient as we can and perhaps in the future even making a living from our land.

So come along for the ride as we set up our homestead from scratch, learn from our mistakes as no double there will be many, have a go yourself where ever you live and challenge your self to try something new.  Our homesteading journey in underway and hopefully we can provide you with the inspiration to give it a go no matter where you live.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

2017 - July - December

The second half of 2017 was filled with a range of activities that supported the development of our amazing little boy, took steps towards our future, worked towards the development of our new property and developed new connections.  However there was a big low point which came out of the blue and left us in a state of shock for a few months, the death of my Nan.

Now for someone who is nearly 40 I realise that loosing a grandparent is to be expected especially when she was 87, but my Nan seemed like she had at least another 5 + years in her and had only stopped skiing in 4 years ago.  Her death was also as a result of an accident.  She had gone into hospital for a routine operation and had come through successfully.  But the night following her operation dosed up on pain medication she tried to get out of bed (which had the sides up) slipped and fell hitting her head and causing a bleed on the brain.  Because of the anticoagulants the bleed put her into a vegetative state but sadly stopped before she passed away.  So because she had a do not resuscitate order we then had to wait for her body to shut down and for her to pass away, no IV fluids (as this would have just kept her alive) just pain meds.  Our family travelled from all over the country to be by her side and after 5 days of our bedside vigil she passed on.  The funeral followed and over the following few months so did the selling of the family home and moving my Pop into a nursing home.  It was a tough few months and not a day goes by that I don't miss her.  I am extremely grateful that we moved back when we did so that she could meet Kingsley and I could share some more moments with her.

But life has also provided many opportunities for us to grow and learn and enjoy each other.

I have joined in at our local community garden which is organically run along permaculture principles.  It has been great to meet like minded people as one of the concerns I had when we moved was the opportunity to meet people with similar values in quite a traditional small rural community.  Kingsley and I go every Friday for coffee morning where he digs in the dirt and enjoys green smoothies and picks himself strawberries.  Kingsley a a sociable little bunny and shares his hugs and kisses around adopting new nanna's and poppa's wherever he goes.

Green smoothies .... mmmmmm.

The original windbreak we have been planting for the past few years is doing ok, we have lost a few plants due to water logging and some to salt spray (even though we are kms from the coast) but we still have plenty of survivors and once we plant some giant flax  down the road side of our planting strip that will suck up a lot of ground water and create a thick buffer for wind.

During the year we also planted out a row of trees that will form the base of our orchard windbreak.  We are using all natives that we have grown from seed to keep costs down as purchasing the potting mix is cheaper than buying the plants.

My cousin and her kids helped out on planting day with the kids pushing the wheelbarrow, picking up pots and entertaining Kingsley in his makeshift playpen made up of possessions we haven't unpacked and have stored at the farm.

Makeshift playpen set up by the roller door so he could see out
We have since been back and added more plants to this row and the reality is that we will be planting a lot more over the next 5 years just for shelter and shade for us and our animals.
Kingsley is a really busy kid, which is not surprising since he has a very busy mother who is pretty task orientated.  He is happiest outdoors which is great most of the time but sometimes results in tears when he gets brought back indoors.  We have also learned not to put any footwear on him until the last minute as he associates this with going outside and heaven help us if we are not ready to go yet.

We are getting to spend lots of time with my parents and they love having a grandchild who they see a few times a week.  They have 5 acres so this also provides lots more opportunities to be out doors, visit the animals at their place and in the neighbourhood and to help Poppa do jobs.

Kingsley my not be getting another sibling but he has an incredible bond with Jessie our dog.  Jessie was one of the first words he said and he starts asking for he as soon as he gets up each day.  Lucky she is only 7 so should be around for a while yet.

We think he will make a good farmer as he loves animals.

The weather has been brilliant since the start of November with lots of sunshine and just a little rain.  Brilliant for being out doors but a little dry for many farmers.  Kingsley's older cousins treat him like a bit of a toy and fight over him but I am sure the novelty will wear off when he gets a bit bigger and starts getting into their "precious" things.

All year I have had one big splurge to look forward to and that was Cat Steven in concert.  I went with my mums brother and mum and dad and it was amazing.  It was held in an outdoor venue and packed with nearly 20,000 fans all enjoying the great weather and great music.  We got there early and got an awesome seat along the top of a wall so we had an uninterrupted view.

This year my family hired some holiday homes at a beach for 3 nights over Christmas.  It is a spot we have all holidayed before as there is good fishing minimal people and sheltered spots for the kids to play in the sand even if the weather is not great.  This was Kingsley's first trip to the beach and he loved it, especially breaking the sandcastles people built for him.

We followed up our 3 days at the holiday house with my parents and one of my brothers and his family with 3 nights camping at a different beach.  This was with my Aunt (mums identical twin), uncle and my cousin (who is like my sister) and her family.  We all grew up very close and still see a lot of them so to Kingsley this is just another Nanna and Poppa.  We did lots of bike riding, more fishing and playing in the sand.

We wrapped up the year quietly and then launched our selves into the new year (more about that another day).
We have also continued to make the most of the good weather with a trip to a local river for a dip when my brother, his wife and girls came to visit.

This year is going to be a big one for us with our friends Liz and Pete from Queensland visiting in February, our new house build will start in April, I have a trip to Melbourne in April, I am studying full time at Uni, my best friend is visiting in the middle of the year for my big 40, a couple of camping trips are already planned and I am sure there will be lots more happening too.

I am sure there are things I have missed but that is a brief look at the last 6 months.  Really glad you stuck around I have missed this space.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Happy New Year

Yes I am still here.  So much has been happening here already this year and over the past 6 months since I last posted.

Our little baby is now a happy little boy who is busy busy busy.  At 15 months he runs he jumps he climbs he throws the dogs ball for her and walks her on a lead.  That's what happens when you walk at 10 months old.

I have lots to tell you all if you are still there and care to tune in.  I am also working on updating my blog so hopefully I will get that done over the next month and a half before heading back to university.
Life has not allowed a lot of time for reading blogs so I am well out of touch with what most of you have been up to over the past 12 months so feel free to tell me about the big moments of your pasty 12 months in the comments section.