Sunday, December 20, 2009

Home Kill Lamb for Christmas

Jeff had his 50th birthday last night and we all trooped over for a hog roast and a quiet drink (or four!). There were some fireworks to enjoy and a bar that Kirsty ran for most of the night ... she had the job sussed in a matter of minutes (not bad for a 9 year old!) . She would have given Betty from Coronation Street a serious run for her money!

I started talking to Mark's (of electric fence testing fame) Uncle Gavin who is a farmer from the north island. Gavin asked me if I would like him to kill one of our lambs for Christmas. It was an offer I could not refuse.

We got up early this morning and played a game of sheep dog in the front paddock. After being given the run around for 15 minutes or so, Mark finally caught the biggest lamb; it weighed in at 26kg. After looking at my array of blunt knives, Mark took them over to his place and got his grinder out.

Some minutes later, with the now sharp knives, Gavin promptly dispatched the lamb and we took it over to the wood shed to skin and gut.

Once complete, the lamb was dressed in a muslin cloth and left to hang to cool. I should be able to move it to the garage later today and butcher it on Monday evening. I used to work as a butchers boy as a young lad in Tom Horsefield's shop in Hornsea, East Riding of Yorkshire, so I am quite happy cutting it up into joints.

I guess we'll be bar-b-que-ing over Christmas and the New Year and no doubt the neighbours will be coming round to help!

I wouldn't have it any other way!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oxford Sweet Oxford

Oxford is the largest settlement close to where we live in Canterbury. It has a population of approximately 2,000 people. However, it enjoys some fantastic amenities that would put my old village of Holme-on-Spalding Moor, located in the East Riding of Yorkshire, to shame. Both villages are about the same size. I have listed a few of them below:

No1: Clean and working public toilets.

No 2: A fire station (eat your heart out Cllr Engall - you can't close this one!)

No 3: A farmers market on a Sunday morning

No 4: A council service centre, library and post shop

No 5: A police station (not that we have much crime)

No 6: A skate park (didn't Holme-on-Spalding Moor used to have on of these - what happened to it?)

No 7: An outdoor heated swimming pool

No 8: A sports ground with squash courts, a bowling green, cricket and rugby pitches and a nice sports pavilion.

No 9: An adventure playground for the children

No 10: A community hospital with beds (so the old folk can be cared for close to home and friends)

No 11: The Town Hall

No 12 - A monthly craft market.

No 13: An observatory at the local school

No 14: The A & P Showground

It just goes to show, 'There is no place like Oxford!'.

I'm a Dad again!

The first chick hatched out this morning. I had been told it was really hard work to hatch chicks - I found it to be really easy - I was laid in bed at the time!

You have to remember to turn the eggs 2-3 times a day and make sure the temperature stays as close to 102 degrees F as possible but it is very easy to do.

I feared I may have lost the eggs due to the temperature surging well past the recommended level on the first day. I now know not to adjust the thermostat when you first set the eggs in the incubator!

The chick will be going into a nursery in the pump shed and hopefully joined by its brothers and sisters in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rural Broadband speed in NZ

I see there are complaints regarding the speed of broadband services where I used to live in the UK, a small rural village called Holme-on-Spalding Moor in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

I live in rural Canterbury about 7 Km away from the village of West Eyreton. NZ Telecom have invested in fibre to the cabinet and I can download in a very rural location (I am 500 metres from the nearest road!) at 4.8 Mb per second which is very reasonable especially when you consider the service is sold with a theoretical maximum speed of 7.6Mbps.

If New Zealand can deliver the services out in the sticks then I have to wonder why the UK struggles to provide similar services? Perhaps more importantly, why do the local politicians allow British Telecom to provide a sub-standard service?

All credit to Howdenshire Cllr Paul Robinson for raising the issue even though he lives outside of the village. What is the resident Conservative councillor, Cllr Doreen Engall, doing about it? My guess would be very little!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tunnel House Update

The tunnel house is running away with itself this year. We have been already eating lettuce, basil, spring onions and radish. I can now report the new potatoes are rather tasty too.

Tomatoes and peppers to look forward too soon.

Vegetable Garden starts Growing

Our vegetable garden is starting to grow. We have put a lot of time and effort into the garden this year and it is starting to come together. We have lost a lot of seedlings germinated in the tunnel house due to late frosts; the last of which was earlier this week. The potatoes are doing well as are the cabbages, cauliflowers, beans, peas, pumpkins, courgettes and sweet corn.

Over 300 leeks have been planted this week along with a load of onions. There are a load of tomatoes in the tunnel house that we will be planting outside very soon.

It is all work in progress but it is coming along very nicely.

Sheep Shearing

My four ewes needed shearing so I gave Gayle a call.

He came over this afternoon to give the four ewes a short back and sides.

He checked out their hoofs and teeth and concluded that I am actually running an old folks home for elderly ewes! I will now refer to them as a parish council of sheep - over the hill, not fit for purpose with too much to bleat about!

I should get some more lambs next year from the the remaining 3 ewes who are still fit for purpose and the new one born earlier this year. They are still a good return on $200.

Anyway, they all seemed pleased to be finally rid of all their winter woolly coats.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Eggs in the homemade Incubator

In you have the chicken run you might as well have an incubator to populate the chicken run. This incubator is built from MDF, some chicken wire, two light bulb fitments, two light bulbs, a PC power cable and a central heating thermostat. The whole project came in at under NZ$20 - about GBP8!

I have 24 eggs (Shaver and Leg Horn cross) that cost a NZ$1 each with another 2 dozen to follow. It will be fun to see how many eggs hatch.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Garden Expands

With all the planting I have had to increase the size of the vegetable plot to over 250 metre square.

I still need to dig some of it over and pick out the stones which will be re-used as a foundation for the drive up to the garage. There is still quite a lot of preparation to do but the hard work is largely completed.

The Fruit Orchard

We have expanded the soft fruit orchard by planting another 12 trees. We had added a walnut, nectarine, apricot, green gage plum, cherry, bramley apple, mandarin, pear and a couple of others whose names escape me.

The Tunnel House

Our tunnel house is stuffed full of seed trays, salad stuff, potatoes, cauliflower and brocolli. This year we will be growing a whole load of vegetables including tomatoes, cabbage, sweet corn, leeks, onions, courgette, cucumber, lettuce, basil, peas, beans, water melons, pumpkin and many other things besides.

Spring at White Rose Farm

We have had a cold snap over the last few days. A cold southerly came through and dumped a load of snow on the Oxford mountains. We escaped the worst of it although we were concerned for our lambs which were born a few weeks ago. Our four ewes (we had 5 but the dog got one of them .... a 22 rifle then shot the dog!) have had 5 lambs - 4 boys and a girl. We have named the boys Fisher & Paykel, Kelvinator and Electrolux.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sterling Collapse

When we moved out to New Zealand in 2006 we got NZ$2.89 for every£1 we brought with us. If we were emigrating this week we would have received only NZ$2.26 for every £1. By my reckoning, that is a de-valuation of the UK pound of 22% against the kiwi dollar in just three years! This is on top of any loses we would have incurred from the UK property market slump which has been struggling for the last couple of years.

It is not bad for a country at the bottom of the world that only has a population of 4.5 million and exports milk solids, meat, wool, timber, coal, wine, kiwifruit, apples, aluminium and has some of the most breath taking scenery in the whole world!

New Zealand ... you cannot beat it!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Scout Geek Camp

It is Pre-JOTI (Jamboree on the Internet) aka Geek Camp time again but this year it is bigger and better. We have again returned to Cotswold School to give 18 Harewood & Bishopdale Scouts a change to get familar with the chat program we will be using for JOTI.

We have replaced all of our old computers with 40 Pentium 4 machines kindly donated by Chrischurch City Council and the University of Canterbury. Each workstation has a 19 inch monitor and upto 1Gb of RAM and will be used for a variety of scout activities.

Jaymo_Black can be seen in the above photo running a workshop showing the scouts how to embed scripts within the chat program for doing things like writing text is different colours.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Southern Alps

On my last trip to Perth (and the one before that for that matter) I flew with Pacific Blue to Sydney and then onto Perth. The cloud cleared over the Southern Alps so I got chance to take some photos as the sun went down.

If you look closely you can just see Mount Cook in the distance. The next photo is my favourite as the aircraft leaves the west Coast and heads across the Tasman to Australia.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bah ...... Bah

When my parents asked me what I would like for my birthday I replied by saying, "I would like a flock of sheep please.". Above is our latest addition to our small holding - 5 Romney and Corriedale cross ewes. The black face amoung them is Rambo. Rambo is a Suffolk ram whose services have been kindly lent to us by some friends who live just up the road.

When he first arrived, Rambo had a bit of an attitude problem; he was tapping the bottom of the trailer with his front hoof to express his disgust at being moved. However, after being introduced to his new lady friends he seems to have put that all behind him. He is so comfortable here, I think I am going to have to build a holding area to stand any chance of getting him back in the trailer to get him home again!

I have never played midwife before ........... but I have watched James Herriot on the telly. How difficult can it be? I'll probably be in Perth anyway!

I am already looking forward to the spring.

The Wood Shed

After spending too many cold Sunday afternoons chopping wood last year we decided to get our winter fuel in early and fill up our wood store during the summer. The tunnel shed holds something like 8 cubic metres and it looks like we have already used something approaching 4 cubic metres. Will we have enough to see us through until the spring?

It's Cold Outside

Will somebody put another log on the fire?


It's Snowing Again .....

A cold southerly is working its way up New Zealand with snow down to sea level ...

One to Avoid ......

I had a book a room at short notice for my visit to Perth. I looked on the internet and I found a hotel which was described as a three star. Alarm bells started ringing when I checked in and they gave me the tv remote control.

My worst fears where confirmed when I entered my room. The room was small, it had no desk, the paintwork was generally grubby, the bed spread had a cigarette burn, the only ironing board was on the 4th floor - it was grim!

The fan in above the bathroom sink had not been cleaned for months.

The bathroom door was also coming apart.

I have to go back again to Perth this week and needless to say, I will not be booking in to Aaron's Hotel!

Nobody is Flying .... ... oink, oink

Last Monday I was sat at my desk in Christchurch looking forward to a quiet week in the office. Cutting a long story very short on Tuesday I was on my way to Perth to help our partner finalise their project plan.

The international departure lounge at Christchurch airport was deserted as I boarded DJ73 for Sydney to make my Perth connection.

When the aircraft arrived at Sydney we were asked to remain seated. Two Australia quarantine officers boarded the aircraft. They went to the back of the aircraft to see a young man. They put a face mask on him and escorted him off the plane before the rest of the passengers were allowed to leave.

The travel industry now not only has to face the economic slowdown but it also has swine flu to add to its current list of woes!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beware ... Slumps Ahead!

This road sign on the road between Reefton and Westport provided advance warning of the current economic conditions.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Papabear 'washing' his Dishes in Reefton

It is almost the Queen's birthday weekend so it is off to the West Coast with a party load of scouts. Myself, Roger and Reinhold (aka Papabear - pictured above) paid a reconnaissance visit to Reefton ( which is to be the destination for this years camp.

Reefton was the first town in the southern hemisphere to enjoy the delights of electricity (scouts take note!) and was one of the major centres of the gold rush in New Zealand.

We have a range of activities planned for the long weekend which include a treasure hunt, a trip around a working gold mine, some tramping and not forgetting Jorja's cooked breakfast with bacon, sausage, egg, baked beans, fried bread and black pudding!

As to to my favourate pie ... well that has to be the one with wild bore from the bakery across the road from the Three Miners! Again scouts take note!

Hopefully Papabear will remember to pack a dish cloth, some washing-up liquid and a tea towel although I feel absolutely sure he will manage without!


It is that time of year again! Snow fell last week on the Torlesse range (and for that matter over large parts of the south and north islands). Mt Hutt one of the ski resorts about 40km from where we live has already opened for business two weeks ahead of schedule with a snow base of 1.2 metres. More snow is forecast too! I can't wait!

In the above photo you can see the snow on the mountains at the bottom of our road.

Weekend in Dunedin

We recently took advantage of a weekend in Dunedin courtesy of Air New Zealand. We have never been to Dunedin before so it was a chance to spend a bit of quality time and explore.

Myself and my wife secured return flights from Christchurch to Dunedin and enjoyed a night in a rather nice hotel for an all inclusive price of NZ$300 (approximate £120) - that price is together and not each!

As soon as we got off the plane we picked up our hire car and drove towards the city. Our first port of call was Lanarch Castle and Gardens.

The castle was built by William James Mudie Larnach in the 1880's. Cutting a long story very short, the house lay in ruins until the 1967 when the house was discovered by Margaret & Barry Barker who have restored the house and gardens over the intervening years.

Our next port of call were the botanical gardens close to the centre of the town.

Then we went to the railway station - what a building that is!

We were very tempted to go on the Taieri Gorge Railway but we decided to go to the beach instead.

On the beach at Sandfly Bay we came across some sea lions who were having a bit of a frollick.

So back into town we went and we paid a visit to Baldwin Street which is the steepest street in the world with a gradient of 1 in 2.86.

It was a lovely weekend - Dunedin comes highly recommended!