New life month two: Vol 2; Nov 10 – Dec 10, 2006

This month went much more quickly than the first. The days zip by so quickly; I’m amazed at what we’ve accomplished.

TractorPull RacesOur four-month anniversary coincided with the Royal New Zealand A&P Show, the big agricultural show for the Canterbury region. Being newbies to the area, how could we not go? And what a day it was. The weather cooperated for once and it was downright balmy. BMX bike stunts, showjumping, stuntriding, sheepherding (‘man, sheep, and dog, as one’ said the emcee), tractor pull races, sheepshearing contests, alpaca shearing, and woodchopping races were all but a few of the events we were exposed to. SheepsheeringI don’t think I’ve been to a county fair since I was a little wee girl so I was quite enthralled by it all. I particularly enjoyed walked through the livestock stalls and seeing every imaginable kind of cow, bull, sheep, goat, duck, hen, and barnyard animal imaginable. We also had a lengthy chat with a super friendly guy from the local beekeeping club and I got to see some bees up close and personal – I’m just about ready for Bruce’s foray into home beekeeping.

All of our classes are now completed. Bruce’s organic horticulture got cancelled less than half-way through as the teacher came down with a serious illness. We were both bummed as the teacher is very well respected throughout New Zealand as being an expert on organics and permaculture and a leader in the organics movement here. City PermacultureI finished up my permaculture course and took Bruce with me on a couple of field trips. One trip took us to visit a woman here in the heart of Christchurch who’s turned her relatively small section into a gardening paradise. Her property was half the size of ours (about 1/8 acre) and was bursting with a dozen or so fruit trees, herb garden, and thriving veggie garden. She’d been at it for ten years and it was amazing to see what one can do with small spaces. The other trip took us out to the Banks Peninsula to the small town of Little River where my instructor has owned a property for ten years. Little RiverHer & her husband had bought it as bare land and have now built a very nice ‘green’ home with solar panels for water heating, composting toilets, and an interesting pump system that pumps stream water from the low end of their property to the high end so that they can water their fledgling hazelnut orchard. We heard about the trials and tribulations of getting both these properties developed and it became apparent to me that we have quite a bit of research to do before we undertake our big permaculture/sustainable land project! All in good time though.

We finally got our bees. Ttreecuttinghis took a lot of hard work by Bruce. He bought a bee-house kit and had to string together all the frames (10 in all, small wood frames with thin wires running through) and then melt the beeswax onto the wires. He also had to build the boxes and paint them and then figure out where the boxes were going to go — no easy task. (The beehouse photo below doesn’t do justice to all the work he’s done). Bees like warmth and sunshine and need to be somewhat out of the way. After looking at all the possible places in the yard, we determined that the best place was in a corner that wasn’t particularly sunny but could be if we cut back some trees. And so, in conjunction with my thoughts on needing more sun in the yard anyway, we got some bids and hired a crew to come in and whack back a bunch of trees. This was a seven hour job by three guys — a lot of cutting! One of the best things was that they put everything through the chipper on site and we were left with tons of great mulch and some very nice logs which we used to build the new veggie beds. Bruce is also now going to dabble with growing mushrooms which like to grow on logs and in mulch. beesBut back to the bees — Bruce picked up the initial colony from a local bee guy and installed them in the hive. (A little accident happened during transport a few bees got out and into the car – thank god I wasn’t there!) Actually, the initial colony comes in a little box and sits on top of the beehouse for a few weeks while the bees get adjusted to their new area. We’ve been monitoring and the bees are doing well, zipping in and out and establishing their bee line. It’s just about time for Bruce to don his bee-suit and open up the box and move the hive from their temporary home into their new home. Bruce has fashioned together a bee-suit by purchasing used one-piece white coveralls, a wide-brimmed hat & some netting with elastic, and I’m sewing together some long sleeves onto leather gloves as arm & hand protectors. If all goes to plan, we’ll have a couple hundred bees and a whole lot of honey by this time next year. Yum!

I think these were the ‘worth-mentioning’ things we did this month. We continue socializing with friends and have met some new ones through the ex-pats list on Yahoo. We were invited over to dinner at our gardener’s house and had a lovely evening getting to know him and his wife. We’re attemting to get ourselves out once a week to try out new restaurants in the city. I’m working part-time for Mellon Capital, my former employer in San Francisco. We’re chugging along……