“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”
I have just returned from an exciting but exhausting trip ‘up north’. A lot of driving, getting things organised, meeting the neighbours and finding my way around the farm. February is an ideal time to see the place at the end of summer, there has been average rainfall this year and the place is dry, but not unduly so, fruit is ripening on the trees and things are looking full of potential.
It was a good opportunity to get a better grasp of the scale of the work that is ahead of us. Getting everything tidy is looking quite daunting, but by prioritising and breaking everything down into small tasks we’ll get things looking good in no time at all.
First order of business is the water, most of the area relies on rainwater tanks for drinking, and dams for stockwater. There are very few permanent streams or rivers in the Hokianga due to the nature of the topography. When you install rainwater tanks, make sure you have a leaf diverter as well. This allows the first flow of water from the roof to be diverted away from tank, otherwise leaves and dust from the roof get into your drinking water. Its a bit of bugger that no one thought to install one on our farm, and getting that sorted will be the main priority. The stock water is also an issue, poorly constructed dams which have either silted up, or blown out the spillway. When constructing a dam you should avoid having the overflow water running near the embankment. It’s best to add in a ditch on contour leading the overflow water away from the dam structure and then constructing a perfectly level spillway of compacted earth. This is critical to maintaining the integrity of a dam. I can’t wait to get up there get it sorted. Unless your a chemist water is pretty boring, but you can’t get by without it, and having good systems in place is pretty important.
I am more excited about getting some pigs and not just because I love bacon! We are going to need some income, and I am counting on pigs to get the money flowing in. I’m no expert here, but I want to try something that was common practice a hundred or so years ago and in NZ at least is making something of a comeback. Free range pigs. Sure people have been keeping one or two pigs in a stall around the barnyard for many years but most of the pork eaten was of the truly free range variety. The pigs would be fed just enough corn, milk or other scraps to keep them tame and manageable but the bulk of their diet came from foraging. It’s rare to see much rooting from wild pigs during the summer while the ground is hard, they still come out into the paddocks making up the majority of their diet by grazing pasture. Combine these with a bit of electric fencing, strategic introduction of crops and pasture, sounds good to me. NZ still imports a lot of pork, at the same time there is pressure on producers to treat pigs more humanely, so free range pigs from the past are looking as though they should make a strong return.
I also have similar plans for chickens, we can sell eggs without hassles from anyone, if we have less then a hundred hens, and they also are surprisingly good at feeding themselves, if they have enough space. The key is to be able to shift them around, while giving them a comfortable place to lay. The idea I like best is a mobile chicken wagon, which you shift at least 100m while the chickens are asleep. This stops the chickens getting so comfortable with their surroundings that they look for a better place to nest, I have been told that shifting the wagon during the day doesn’t work because if you shift it more then a few meters the chickens wont find it.
Of course we want some beef as well, and I have heard good things about Wagyu beef, I was looking for low input, high output systems and the wagyu sounded good, we will be investing in breeding stock. Per head the returns are about as good as it gets, and at this stage space is going to be a limiting factor so Wagyu just makes sense.
There is a random scattering of fruit trees on farm, and I am excited about adding to it. Already we have grapefruit, lemons, peaches, apples, plums(?), pears, grapes, almonds and olives which is very cool. I also noticed a straggly banana circle planted in shady hollow which desperately needs to go somewhere warmer. I think its a bit sad that people can spend so much on landscaping and not even add any fruit or berries (so a big thanks to whoever planted all those trees), my pet peve is cherry blossom trees, why not just plant cherry trees? My goal is to grow enough of our own fruit that we can stop buying it, the kids eat so much which is great but can be expensive.
I also need to get a veggie garden set up, and come up with a new strategy for combating my nemesis the Stink Bug. There are over 80 species of stink bug, but they have two things in common; they are invasive and stinky. They eat anything and multiply overnight. They have destroyed my tomatoes for the last three years, not many people have much trouble with them, so hopefully a change of location is all I need.
I imagine it will be a lot of work getting everything established, but once things are up and running it shouldn’t be too hard. Lots of time for planning, we don’t shift until June, I can hardly wait.