Young Nick’s Head station

Anyone can buy land in New Zealand. Even if you are not a citizen. Even if you are not a resident. There is controversy around this fact, and fairly so. After all, China is said to be buying big dairy farm, the feedlot style. And there’s also the place where they bottle our water and send it to… China? Everywhere else? The most amazing is that from what we are told it’s legal. As in they can bottle our water for next to nothing and sell it overseas, while our rivers get more and more polluted and our drinking water has to be chlorinated (among other things).

And then sometimes there’s a person from overseas who happens to be more altruistic and see value and benefits in conservation. Well, that’s my interpretation, but how else can you define what New York financier John Griffin is doing on Young Nick’s head station? Take it from wikipedia: “After acquiring the property in 2002, Griffin engaged in a long-term plan to restore the area’s vegetation and wildlife.[9] Across the station over 600,000 trees were planted, 26 hectares of wetlands were restored, and a 2-metre-high predator-proof fence was constructed as native species such as Tuatara, Blue Penguin and Weta were reintroduced.[10] In 2005 Ecoworks, an ecological restoration company in Gisborne, successfully used solar-powered, acoustic-attraction methods and artificial burrows to establish breeding colonies of six pelagic seabird species at Young Nick’s Head which had previously been severely affected by human colonisation and the introduction of new predators.”

Coming from someone who is not even from here, I find that pretty admirable. That guy rocks.

YNH 10

I had been wanting to take a peak ever since I heard of this project. Young Nick’s head station is a prominent feature when you’re looking at the sea from Gisborne, the eye naturally draws our curiosity to wander over the steep cliff. It’s all dirt by the way. I had thought there was rock, but it’s just dirt crumbling to the sea. Makes even more sense to want to plant some bush up there to hold the soil a bit and fence off the browsing animals.

The walk started very steeply (as in hold-the-fence-to-help-you-climb-up steep), then took us along the ridge all the way to the tip of Young Nick’s. The steep cliffs had the effect of diverting the wind from us most of the way, which made the walk that much nicer. There is a regenerating bush reserve right at the tip, complete with pest proof fence and some very happy native fauna and flora on the other side. It was great to explore our home  bit more and see what great work other people are doing on this land.


New arrivals

A bit of cuteness to celebrate spring. We went from cold rainy muddy weather and even a bit of frost (last week) to warm, sunny and definitely spring king of weather (this week). No crazy high wind yet but I guess it won’t be too far behind.

Our heifer cow had her first calf, a heifer. Textbook birth, she was pushing for a while (one hour, feels like ages when you’re watching wondering when to ring the vet), in the end the calf came peacefully into the world, shook its head and snorted to get the mucus out then just sat there and contemplated life for a while, in no hurry to either get up or get its first feed of colostrum. After an hour I decided to encourage it to get up. Once up and not so wobbly it started heading for its mum’s udder. Unfortunately being a first time mum and very anxious to have her calf in sight at all times, Alzina (the mum) kept turning around to follow her calf. Needless to say the calf wasn’t getting anywhere, or more to the point wasn’t getting any milk in a hurry. She ended up giving up and wandering off (beyond the electric tape of course). Alzina got even more distressed and jumped over said electric tape to follow the calf. At that point I decided I should do something before the calf got too tired and more importantly before it got dark and cold (the wind was cold and the night promised to be even colder, not great for a calf with an empty stomach). So I carried it to the cow bale, Alzina in tow (cows have very strong bonds to their calves and will not leave them out of their sight if they can help it. They would literally follow them to the moon if they had to). Once in the bale, I tied Alzina up and guided the calf to the udder. Once it got some of that liquid gold it kept going for more and Alzina finally understood that she should just stay still. The next morning the calf was doing its thing and I let them out into the paddock again.

The calf stayed calm through the whole thing, will let us go near it and pat it, even handle it, without trying to run away. So I named her Zen.

The goats are all having kids, and this semi tame one had beautiful twins. We can get near them and pick them up, which of course the kids love!

Underground feast

We invited some friends over the other day for a hangi. No particular reason other than celebrating the good life. It turned it was another beautiful sunny winter day, of which we have had many this year.

A hangi, for those who don’t know, is a traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. basically, dig a hole, heat up some volcanic rocks, put them at the bottom of the pit, put the food basket on top and wait a few hours before digging it up. Many traditional culture have similar ways of cooking. Here in New Zealand, it is usually composed of meat (pork and chicken, maybe lamb?), potatoes, kumara, maybe some greens… We had something similar in Tonga (called “umu” there), where meat (chicken and pork) and a bit of coconut cream was wrapped in taro leaves and put in the ground. So tasty.

This was the first hangi we ever had at ours. Josh made the basket with number 8 wire, in true kiwi style (they like their number 8 wire here, haha!). It’s saying here, that kind of means that kiwis are very resourceful and can make something out of nothing.

It was perfect.

Science and homeschooling

I’ve been trying to include more science in our curriculum. We received a great practical science book last Christmas, and I have been using it lots. It’s easy to use and implement, well explained, and most of all, it’s fun.

A selection from last term:


Cloudy bacteria

Potato race (they haven’t raced anywhere yet…)

And some good old fun with clay and water

Autumn at Te Punga

While the northern hemisphere is sizzling in the heat of climate change, autumn and winter have been amazingly sunny and warm (considering). Rain has been heavy at times, and there were two or three stormy high wind times (part of the roof of the cabane flew off in one, the shower in the other). The ground is wet and muddy in places, it’s cold in the evenings and mornings but when the sun is out, the days are glorious.

It’s a great thing to watch the seasons pass, and we find we are always looking forward to the next one to come (spring right now). I also like to reminisce on the seasons past… these photos are of the past autumn.

We’ve officially named our land Te Punga, the name the maori gave the southern cross.

Earth floors

A few months after moving in, our earth floor started cracking and breaking in places. The floor just seemed to be peeling off, leaving dusty earth pits behind, some as small as an orange, others sizeably bigger… Josh first attempted to fill them with a new earth floor mix (as we were doing the earth floor next door it seemed the easy thing to do). Unfortunately that mix didn’t stick either, so the holes had to be dug out again.

patchwork floor

Next we thought we’d try filling them with mosaic. An artist friend kindly donated some of her beautiful collection of broken tiles for us to experiment with. It was a really fun thing to do and the results are actually pretty satisfying, so much that I’m thinking I’d quite like the whole kitchen area in our future house to be entirely mosaic… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves (still a long way to go!).

The mosaic seems to be holding pretty well so far. It’s a great lesson to see things as an evolving work in progress and try to find solutions rather than stay stuck with an idea. I like the creativity and resourcefulness it brings.

Celebrating winter solstice

We celebrated winter solstice this year by organising a planting bee followed by a great big bonfire. The two weeks leading up to the shortest day of the year were wet and cold, which made it hard to gather firewood (and keep it dry) and gave me doubts about how well the day would go. We still managed to fill two truck loads of wood and take them to the top of the hill (with the help of our lovely Belgian wwoof family). Miro designed the sculpture, him and Josh put it together.

The actual planting bee and bonfire event happened two days after the official winter solstice, and it was just as well because it was the most perfect day we could have wished for, and it was a Saturday so lots of our friends could come.

We successfully planted about 350 native trees, some of which we grew ourselves (the aim is to grow most or all of them in the coming years), had a great day, the bonfire was a huge success and was still warm enough the next day to cook potatoes in.

There’s nothing like the warmth of a fire, especially when it’s cold and dark and when you have friends to share it with.

When all of it is over, we were left with a beautiful big mound of ashes that I can use in our new gardens. What goes around comes around.

Tahi’s flying machines

It’s about time I wrote something about Tahi’s new obsession: flying machines. Since January he has hardly touched his Lego. For anyone who knows him even just a little, that’s like saying he’s not himself anymore. He used to spend hours making things with Lego, last year’s focus was on creating robots, dinosaurs or machines that walk.

He’d started looking up tutorials on YouTube to find different ways of building. One day he stumble on someone showing how to fly/ make an ornithopter. He started gathering material he found around the house and in his stash, made his first model. Six months later he’s still exploring flights, although he recently moved from Ornithopter to other flying machines and is (impatiently) waiting for his remote control plane to arrive.

Tahi is the perfect example of a self directed learner, ideal for homeschooling not so ideal for schooling. While having fun making and flying his machines, he has learnt a lot about so many different subjects as well as used existing skills: science of course (flight, aerodynamics, wood science, …), model making (his first machines were made very roughly as opposed to the well made made current models), maths, reading and writing (he sketches his models sometimes), computer literacy (researching plane/ ornithopter builds), … It’s hard keeping up with his demands on supplies! He has learned along the way that the quality of the materials make a huge difference in the finished product: The wood has to be strong but very light, the rubber bands need to be strong and of good quality (who would have thought there could be so many types of rubber bands?), the material for the wings light ans strong. He also realised he had to be very meticulous when measuring and building.

Somehow he hasn’t quite worked out that being tidy could help too, his little desk is threatening to overflow and take over our living space.