Time to get growing! #farmvoices #Kaipara #NorthlandNZ

Well I've bitten the bullet. I've thought about this for years, but never really did much about it until now. I'm proud as a peacock for making the decision I have made. After eleven years of not really doing much with the farm other than let my animals run riot everywhere I've decided to start a horticultural venture and finally do something with the land and for me. I need it. I've battled depression for a long time now. It got worse after I gave up my cows (yes I know that sounds so soppy) and even worse still when I found no matter how hard I tried to get a fulltime job it seemed nobody wanted a 51 year old woman who had spent the last seven years raising her last two children to be decent upstanding young people. Next year I'm starting a fulltime course in Sustainable Rural Development and Horticulture at Northtec (I hope!) I've got the enrollment form filled out and now all I have to do is send it in. In the meantime I've signed up with the Open Permaculture School based in the USA. I have to start somewhere so it seemed the logical choice given I have next to no funds for paying for a course! The peacock in the photo was taken down at Hamilton Gardens in the Waikato. I have more news to write about but just for now I thought I'd let you all know about my step into the abyss of the unknown. Wish me luck I'll be needing it! I've started a daily diary as well. You can read it here


Calf club again after five long years #farmvoices #agchatnz #Kaipara #NorthlandNZ

Back in 2010 Michelle quit calf club, after she couldn't catch her calf she had chosen. It was a huge heartbreak for a little girl at the time. She didn't go near calves much until 2012, when she took one of the Cullen family calves to the school pet day, She did all the work herself that year and took out the champion calf on the day. There she is back at calf club after so long at Anne's complete with a very carefully chosen Fresian calf now going by the name of Blueberry. Over the last few years Michelle has gained a lot of experience showing cattle in the ring, last year she took out the handler's class at the Otamatea Group Day, has a trophy for Dexter cattle handling and just keeps on getting better. Now it's a serious business in her view. Blueberry has a cover and lots of Michelle's attention whenever she goes to the dairy farm three times a week. I like the teeth and the look of "Oh please just go away"  My youngest daughter is one determined young woman. It's been a real joy seeing her grow from strength to strength. One day I bet she will be a top cattle judge. Maybe I need 400 acres She's making plans already for a beef stud as it is. I love my girls.


The times - they are a changin' #farmvoices #Kaipara #NorthlandNZ

It;s been over four months since I wrote my last blog post.  A lot has happened and a lot has changed. I no longer have the cows on the farm, after consecutive droughts, a bad winter and not enough money left over to feed them all I cut the stock down. The old man was given away as well but now he is back. I guess he won't be leaving. Cutting the animals down made a huge difference. I actually have grass for a change unlike the previous couple of years when it struggled to even grow. All that aside, a lot has happened. Inaya got her Grand Prior for St John Cadets which is the highest achievement a cadet in the youth programme can achieve. Next week she turns 18 years old. How my girls have grown up so quickly over the years. Michelle has done really well of late. She has sung with international performer Yulia McLean, and has been involved with our local community theatre. Over the  agricultural show season she managed to achieve the highest points for handling Dexter breed cattle and ended up with a fantastic trophy. Next month it's down to Waikato University, Inaya is going to be a law student for a day, and see if she thinks it's something she would like to study next year. Michelle needs more time, but quietly she is setting her own goals and still has an ambition to be a beef cattle breeder, as well as persuing a career in the arts. I'm just the same old crazy Mad Bush Farmer with that bad attitude gleam and grouchy face. I've been through some tough times, but in saying that I've come out a lot stronger. I've had to start thinking about what I can do for my future now my kids are almost both adults and will soon be leaving the nest so to speak. I'm still not 100% certain of my path but I do have some ideas I'm working on. Hopefully it will all work out. Recently our dairy farmers had a bad payout forecast from Fonterra. From $5.80 to $3.85 per kg of milk solids is a huge drop and sadly some farmers will end up losing their farms and their livelihood.worry for them and their families. These guys work so hard seven days a week. Farming is a profession of hope indeed. Let's hope next season's forecast brings better news. I can't think of much more to say right now, but I'm still here and still as mad as a hatter. What will be around the corner this spring we have yet to see. I'll leave you with Bob Dillon and the song written in the same year as I was born. That's cool.


First grape harvest #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

As I've gradually been clearing up my wilderness of a so-called garden, much to my delight the heritage grapevine "Bishop Pompallier" had some grapes ready to pick. I didn't even fertlise the poor vine this year or even bothered to redo the supports for the canes. Before the cows left I had all but given up hope of ever having any kind of decent farm kitchen garden. Now they have gone I've been able to actually start growing vegetables and fruit again without the worry of finding them destroyed a day later by my naughty jerseys. I found a basket to put the grapes in I had picked. They make for a lovely late summer photograph. Happy me!

Farm Photo of the Day: Yep I can do the fencing job (or my dad can) #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

I met this little guy back in 2008 keeping an eye on his dad's stuff at the Northland Lifestyle Field Days in Maungaturoto. He was all ready to do a deal on a new fence. He certainly made for a great photo opportunity.


Farm Photo of the Day: Where's the bread gone? #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

One little equine visitor looking for the last of the crusts I put out for the birds yesterday afternoon. The birds got to it first.


Farm Photo of the Day: Sea Gulls at Ripiro Beach #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

We visited Glinks Gully back in February 2014. It was such a gorgeous day the gulls on the wet sand made a perfect photo opportunity.


Farm Photo of the Day: Dry hills and green valley #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

I took a short drive earlier and stopped to get some photos of the valley on the western side of Maungaturoto. The pasture on the hills is parchment brown. The valley itself is a little greener. It's almost the end of summer. Haymaking is over and preparations for the coming winter will be next of the farm calender.


Farm Photo of the Day: Turkey Crossing #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

We've had this brood of young turkeys living on the farm. No adults in sight so I was thinking most likely the mother turkey was either shot or became a victim of a hawk. This little group has no fear of humans just yet. They haven't seemed very worried about my presence or the dog either. I got this shot as they were crossing the driveway. No hurry at all either.


Farm Photo of the Day: Commercial Hotel Mangawhare, Dargaville #NorthlandNZ #farmvoices

The Commercial Hotel replaced the original that burned down in 1886. By 1896 the new building had been constructed by the well known trotting legend and builder John Rowe. Rowe built a number of hotels in the Kaipara District and Northland including the Central Hotel in Dargaville, as well as the Maungaturoto Hotel, Pahi Hotel, and Kaihu Tavern. It's a lovely old building now used as a bed and breakfast.


Farm Photo of the Day: Two old boys #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

Dak and Ed back in 2007. I sent Dak on to a horse sanctuary in 2008. Still going strong and being much loved. Ed is now at a new home as well aged 34 years with a lovely family. Good memories. I'll miss my big boys.


Farm Photo of the Day: Spur-winged plover #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

I took this down at the Maungaturoto Country Club one afternoon. We have several pairs of these birds on our farm. None of them are friendly. Plovers are highly territorial and can be agressive when they're nesting.  Protection of these birds was removed in 2010.


Hearing the songs of Angels - Yulia & Friends Concert last night #NorthlandNZ

Last night the family and I went to see Yulia & Friends at the Kaiwaka Sports Complex. It was extra special because Yulia was one of the reasons why my autistic daugher Michelle at age five began to sing and talk. My mum bought Yulia's first album Into the West back in 2004. She had it on and Michelle went upstairs to listen. She sat there rocking back and forth listening to the beautiful voice singing equally beautiful songs.. So mum gave it to her. I had to put it on every day for over a year. Every day Michelle listened and started to sing the words. I never thought that just over ten years later the very person who inspired my daughter would invite Michelle to perform in her charity concert at Kaiwaka. We had a fantastic night. Yulia looked after Michelle on the stage. It was just magic. Below is Michelle on stage last night singing the beautiful song Panis Angelicus.

Farm Photo of the Day - Batley House at the Roadley family farm #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

One of my most favourite places in the Kaipara District. Batley Bay is home to the gorgeous now restored Batley House owned by Rex and Rae Roadley who farm on the shores of the mighty Kaipara Harbour.


A local culture of giving #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

A few months back one of the Maungaturoto locals came up with the idea that food should be free and thus Maungaturoto Crop Circle came into being. Every Thursday at the local kids playground a group of people from all over gather together bringing the excess they've grown in their garden. Everything from eggs to vegetables and fruit. I took home some chilli jam, and a jar of cucumber pickle. My contribution was some parsley seeds and some succulent plants. All sorts of things get given away at the weekly crop circle gathering. Not just that it's a great way to catch up with people and get to know some new folks as well.

Actually I can't get over the generosity people can show. In a world full of the old "Greed is good" concept a quiet culture of change within communities is going on. People have become tired of having the every man for himself attitude, and have chosen now to go and help each other. Out there in the wider world every day people end up homeless and without any means to feed themselves. As I've grown older over the last few years I've started to question why society is geared so people are missing out on the basics of life. It's staggering the amount of perfectly good food that gets thrown out every day by the large chainstore supermarkets. Literally thousands of tons of food that people could eat end up being processed for animal feed.

I think our society does need to change. There seems to be a few haves and a lot of have-nots out in the world. I don't like the idea that somewhere out there tonight will be a family or an individual going without because they don't have the means to pay for food. We need to learn again how to grow our own vegetables and fruit even if it's in a pot. What do you think?  I'm all for sharing the bounty that comes out of the home or farm garden. Hopefully next year we will be overflowing with fruit and vegetables we can share at the Crop Circle. Hope everyone has had a great Thursday. I know I certainly have.

Farm Photo of the Day- Boat at Batley Bay on a warm summer's day

Batley Bay is just a short drive from our farm. It's a quiet spot with a gorgeous beach and few people around. This old tin boat belongs to a local farmer - and it's still in use. It makes a great summer photo.


Farm photo of the day

Tempest with all his wild tangle of a mane. He reminds me of Thunderhead from the Flicker books by Mary O'Hara. We almost called him Thunderhead. He kind of suits it.


Reclaiming my garden now the cows have gone

The idea of living off the land isn't new. Once a long time back I used to have a thriving garden. It fed me and the kids without the fear of certain (now departed) bovines destroying everything in sight. Now they have gone I've been reclaiming my garden back again. Winter after winetr it got pounded into the ground by the cows - in the end I just gave up bothering! The only thing that survived their onslaught was the mandarin tree, and the heritage grape vine. Everything else ended up demolished.

The empty tyres that had been scattered everywhere are slowly being put back into use again as glorified planters. My soil is so bad that nothing likes growing in it; except maybe for the blackberry which is rampant as all heck. My quiet persistence has paid off I'm gradually knocking the nasty things back with loppers, and a deadly brew of rather nasty spray I put on the stumps. I was so happy I had planted a sunflower with the rather colourful name of "Moulin Rouge" an F1 hydrid put out by McGregor's Seeds. I didn't think it would even germinate, but there it is growing like mad. It will reach a height of two metres (6.5 feet) in height with a gorgeous red/purple flower. I can't wait to see it in bloom. Happy me.

After being trapped in a tiny pot for months I planted the zucchini I had bought from the local store. Despite the weeds there I picked our first yellow zucchini yesterday, and added it into a salmon quiche I made for me and the girls last night.  It was delicious.

This is a young pomegranate tree I got from a lovely lady who lives locally. Since I've planted it the little tree has taken off. Thankfully there will be no cows to eat it all!

And last but not least my rather sad looking Meyer lemon tree. I'm going to give it a good dose of blood and bone, plus some magnesium. In couple of years it might be okay to fruit. The mandarin struggled for years in my horrible soil until I gave it a good dose of horse poo. Since then it has thrived. Well that's another post done. Hopefully I'll be able to have something else new in the garden to show sometime in the next few weeks. We'll just keep at it bit by bit.


On the road I met something to crow about

I was driving down on State Highway 16 to Auckland yesterday when I decided I needed to just stop for a short while and have a break. I pulled in at the Kaukapakapa rest stop and met up with this little guy. Naturally all he wanted was a free meal and all I wanted was to sit down get some fresh air and get a photo. He posed nicely. I do miss my chooks but not the feathered psychos and their 3 am crowing competitions I used to put up with. Quiet here since the cows have left the farm, I've got over their going and feel relieved I don't have to put up with their garden wrecking any more. Hope everyone has been having a great week,


A season of change has come to the Mad Bush Farm

I've had to make some very difficult decisions over the last few weeks. One of them involved rehoming some of the animals here on the farm. Three summers of drought, followed by a very difficult winter led me down the path to considering just where I wanted to go with things here on the farm. It came down to what I could afford to keep and what I couldn't afford to keep. Animals are expensive and sometimes budgets can't stretch enough to pay for the proper care they need. Ours was at the point where it just wasn't logical anymore to have animals we couldn't really afford to keep. So I made some decisions. After looking at the impact the cattle have made on the land, as well as the problems I've had keeping them contained I decided it was time to send them on. Fortunately they have found a lovely new home where they will be loved and taken care of. Going into the freezer wasn't an option. The old man has also found a new home along the road where he is enjoying being spoilt by a family who just adore him and will take good care of him in his twilight years. He has got very old and very slow. Still bright eyed but the day will come when he will have a final sleep. I'm keeping two of the little horses because my small budget will allow that small pleasure. The other two will be going to another lovely family who have the time to give them attention they deserve. I'll get some calves later this year and raise them until they are weaned then send them on. The farm has to pay for itself even if it's in just a small way. I'll consider keeping one beef animal for our freezer. It will not have name otherwise I'll get attached. It has been a very sad few days for me. I almost caved into keeping the Terrorist but common sense has prevailed. She is leaving tonight. I'll cry.


Life is a beach - Happy 2015

I never thought I would say this after feeling rather anti-christmas in the end I had a great christmas day with the family down at my sisters. It was great to be able to take mum down. She hasn't been well for a while. We're doing our best to make sure she is helped out and things are done so she doesn't have to do so much at home. I've really enjoyed the last few weeks. I have so much to write about that it won't all fit in one blog post.  There is me (with my gumboots on) enjoying an early evening down at Whakapirau beach a few days before the new year kicked in. I couldn't resist taking my trusty old mad bush farmer gummies and getting a gumboot selfie just for the heck of it.

We had a very wet start to our summer with lots of unseasonal rain and storms along with it. My grass though has bolted. After two consecutive droughts, and a horrible very wet winter the warmth and the rain combined have been very welcomed. Finally after almost three years I have grass again. It's helped I've been slowly but surely fixing all the fences so the animals aren't running all over the farm. I'm a bit sad though that our local dairy farmers have been told they will have a very low end of season payout. That makes it very difficult for many farming families across the country. One thing I love about our community here is that people will help others in need out. Hopefully our farmers will get through this difficult time. One of my Twitter followers Marilyn calls herself an AGvocate,. That's a cool term Me too. Maybe I'm an AGvocate too because I love farming life and fully support our farmers who feed our country.

We sent the old man off the farm for a while because we just didn't have the grass to support him. He's come home for a few days while my neighbour is away. He looks so much better. Little Shadia (photo above) has really improved in her temperament. No more biting or kicking people. She's doing really well. I'll handle her more over summer then break her in so my little great nieces and nephews can ride on her when they visit.  I'll leave you with my youngest daughter Michelle at her end of year school concert singing the beautiful song Linden Lea. Sorry about the poor quality my little camera isn't the best for indoor recording