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Hello again, I just wanted to let everyone know first off, that if you write a comment on this blog it won’t show up right away because I have to approve it first. What that means is that I get a notification when you write a comment and then I usually don’t log in and approve them until I write another post. So, they don’t show up until then, but I read them right away. Anyway, I really do appreciate your comments and feedback because I love to stay in touch with you guys over there in the states. :) If ever you want to say something a bit longer or more private, just send me an email, I’ll likely respond much quicker. My email is katherinejustine@hotmail.com

 

So, life has moved on and it’s gotten colder here. I carried on with school until the end of the last term which ended about 4 weeks ago. So, now as I’m on maternity leave I’m happy to have more time to get on top of things before baby arrives. I’ve been madly sorting through areas of our house, trying to get rid of old things and give random things homes so they don’t feel like clutter anymore. Our house is small, but it’s cozy, and along with that goes limited storage space. So I’ve had to become inventive to get things looking tidy. One major thing I’ve been doing though has been sanding the floorboards of our kitchen, bathroom and hallway. Someone thought it was a good idea to put carpeting in these places which makes it really hard to clean properly. So, I’m hoping to have them all smooth and clean in a few weeks. I think this must be what everyone has been talking about when they mention ‘nesting’. I promise you, I’m taking it slow and easy so I don’t hurt myself.

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Beautiful native timber underneath those carpets.

 

Also, last time I showed you all sorts of plants that were going in our winter garden. Well, about that….. yes, this year we happened to get an unreasonable amount of rain and a large portion of our land was flooded, including the garden. So, our plants have rotted and died. I suppose that’s the way it goes sometimes. Thankfully, our house is old, and the people that built houses way back in the 20’s knew how to look for high spots when building houses. Our house didn’t get any floodwaters. It’s taken about 6 weeks and it’s just starting to look normal again as the water table falls back down. I’m glad I have a good pair of gumboots. :)

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Our front yard and garden…

 

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The acre next to us turned into a large lake that the swans liked to hang out on.

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The chickens didn’t get too wet.

We’ve been taking advantage of the early dark evenings by sometimes cooking outside. We’ve done this twice now and have roasted our food on a fire by star light. It’s been pretty fun.

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Bon fire and roasted veggies.

We have been so blessed. If you look around our living room there is only one thing that hasn’t been given to us for free, and that’s just a small book shelf that I bought for about $50. The rest, table, couch, two lounge chairs, large bookshelf and coffee table all cost us nothing. We are so thankful and I’d love to be in a position to help out others in the same way sometime. We were also given a baby crib recently which I’ve assembled and put in the baby’s room. We won’t be using it until baby is a bit bigger but it’s great to have it ready. Also, since we are waiting until the birth to find out the gender, my students baked me some blue and pink cupcakes as a goodbye gift a few weeks ago. I’m due in 7 weeks now. Baby likes to move a lot and Darren can hear it’s heartbeat when he puts his ear to my belly.

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Crib is ready.

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Boy or Girl?

 

And the most eventful thing we’ve done recently was to take a trip down to the south island a few weeks ago. We visited some of Darren’s family that I hadn’t met yet and had some fun with some friends. It was a nice time. Darren doesn’t seem to get cold, which is why he is wearing shorts and a vest.

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Split Apple Rock Able Tasman Park.

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Fishing, Darren caught a bigger one. We used this one for bait.

 

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Pancake Rocks.

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Hokitika Gorge. The water is so blue because it runs off from glaciers in the mountains and picks up minerals.

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Arthurs Pass. A road through the mountains going from west coast to east coast.

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Kea. These parrots were everywhere. They have a taste for rubber, so you don’t want to stay parked for very long or they will pop your tires and take your windscreen wipers. ha!

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Lunchtime!

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In the mountains.

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Castle Hill. This place was cool to explore. There are paths all in and around the rocks. You can even get up to the top of those big ones.

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Clear ice.

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Nice day for skating.

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Snow Angels.

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Playing in the snow.

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fun!

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Doing some donuts…

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Another pretty lake in the mountains.


So overall having autumn makes me think it’s November and I’m tricked into thinking about Thanksgiving and Holidays. Last week I made a pumpkin pie and it was wonderful… I found an overly priced can of Libby’s canned pumpkin which isn’t popular here. It made a delicious pie for my nostalgia. I also learned that the pumpkin they Libby’s uses don’t actually look like what you think of when you think pumpkin. They are a species they have cultivated themselves for their product and it looks a lot more like a butternut squash. All of the pumpkin grown for the millions of cans of the stuff is located within 8 miles of each other on a few farms in Illinois. Fascinating… Now I want to make my own pumpkin pie from butternut squash. Anyway, the days are getting shorter and shorter and the weather is getting cooler. We’ve been lighting more fires and Darren put in a heat transfer system so the heat in the living room can get to the bedroom. It makes it much more comfortable in our uninsulated house. Autumn is so different here in that most things get greener, but it’s also very similar with the weather changes and the few trees that do lose their leaves.

Winter Gardens

These are a new concept to me. In america where I’m from you wouldn’t even imagine growing something in the winter. There is so much ice and snow and cold that your garden would be better off as a ice skating rink. Well, in NZ winter gardens are very popular. People will grow all sorts of things that don’t need lots of sun and don’t mind a frost here and there. So, this year I’m going to give it a go. Things don’t grow as fast because they don’t get as much sunlight, but they get plenty of rain so you never have to water anything. We still have beets, carrots, and celery in the garden from the summer and I just pick what I need when I need it as they won’t die from the cold. I’ve just finished potting up some seedling from the local nursery here and will pop them in the ground when they are a little bigger. We’ve got Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Spinach, Silverbeet (another green, nothing related to beets) Lavender, Dill, and two kinds of Parsley. Darren is also planning on planting some garlic and onions in the next week or so. I’ve also been trying to collect seeds from our summer crop and was able to get seeds from the tomatoes, celery, broccoli, beans, zucchini and lettuce. And what’s really cool is that some of the lettuce seeds blew onto the soil after I pulled them out and have started sprouting on their own! So I’ll leave them be and we’ll have more lettuce soon.

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Chicken rearing is unpredictable

Remember last time I told you that I was hatching all these eggs and was going to have 30 some baby chickens to look after? Well, of the first batch of 10 I only have one left as some of them went mental and started attacking each other. By the time I put the injured ones down and culled the culprits I had 6 left. Two of which were eaten by a suspected cat and the rest were torn to bits and left in their night box by a stoat (similar to a weasel) who like to kill for fun.  The next lot had a problem with the incubator and the humidity, so out of 18 eggs set I only got 8 to hatch. These are still alive and are happily living with the one chicken a month older than them. And of the last lot I hatched, of 12 set only 4 hatched as I had more issues with humidity. So, I only have 13 chicks. I’ve learned a lot, maybe next year will be better.

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4 Wheel Driving

A few months ago we bought an old 4 wheel drive vehicle that Darren has been tinkering with. We took it out with some friends and had some fun the other weekend. We road up a dirt road and watched the sunset, had supper in the freezing cold outside and then drove back down in the dark. It was a good old time!

4 wheel drive

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Baby is growing 

I had my anatomy scan a couple weeks ago and got our first photo of our little one. When we got the photo I couldn’t help but pull out whenever I had a free minute to just stare at it. I try to imagine who it looks like. It’s presence is very well felt now as he/she especially likes to bounce it’s head on my bladder and other organs down in my pelvis. All is well and normal so far, and I’m for the most part feeling pretty good. We are waiting to find out the gender and have it as a surprise for the birth. We still haven’t picked any names though. I have had a go at sewing some clothes. I found this great tutorial on how to make a onesie which I tried out.

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Soap Making

About 6 weeks ago I made some soaps from scratch. They smell of Lavender and Spearmint. I’m hoping to make more of different scents and to even try making liquid soaps like shampoo.

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A visit from the neighbours sow

Last week Darren and I woke up to the sound of ripping and tearing. It took us a while to figure out that there was a large pig ripping holes in the bag of apples we had on the back porch. One of our neighbours had a hole in his fence and their pig decided to spend the day on our land, ripping holes in the dirt and gardens and eating our apples. It was mostly amusing but kinds of annoying and the neighbour gave us some money for the apples and has fixed his fence.

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Currently I’m hatching out baby chickens. I’ve hatched 10 so far, have 17 in the incubator scheduled to hatch just after Easter and then I’ll probably do another 12. What am I going to do with all of these chickens? Well, of those 39 babies, I’ll be giving 6 to Darren’s dad who requested some. Then of the 33 left, I’m hoping to get at least 50% girls which would be around 16 add the two hens hatched at christmas and that’s 18 hens. Then when they start laying, which will be Springtime 6 months from now I’m hoping to sell them. How am I going to sell 18 hens? Well, since these hens have come from chickens that have the blue egg gene, I’m hoping they will also lay blue/coloured eggs. I am convinced that there are people out there wanting to buy layers that lay blue eggs but there are not very many people selling them. So, that’s the plan.

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Also we have recently been collecting a harvest from our garden. We have pretty sandy soil so some things did great, like the leeks, zucchini, cabbage, carrots, beets, and lettuce. But some things didn’t like the sand such as our tomatoes, and beans. We got a very small bean harvest. Only 1 cup beans from 20 plants. Our tomatoes were very sick and we got enough to use now, but nothing to preserve for later. We think maybe we need to bulk up the organic matter in our soil to do better. Oh, but the picture of the pitchfork is what I found buried 2 inches under the soil while I was weeding… I wonder how long that’s been there!

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Several weeks ago I returned to school. I’ve dropped down to part time because I think I’ll be much happier working less until the baby arrives. It’s been interesting catching up with the students and I’m looking forward to one more term with them before I go on maternity leave.

The baby in my belly is 15 weeks along now and I”m starting to get a bump. It’s kinda funny because I look down to do something and I see it and think subconsciously that I need to correct my posture because I shouldn’t have such a gut, and then I remember, ‘Oh, right…’ So baby is about as long as an orange and I do believe I occasionally can feel something in there, not sure though. Morning sickness is finally over! Nausea lasted from 6 weeks to about 11 weeks and fatigue lasted from 6 weeks to 13 weeks. I feel mostly like myself again and it’s very refreshing. I haven’t really gained any weight yet, so wondering when that will kick in.

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So, on sunday we leave for our big trip to America. We are very excited and trying to make sure we don’t forget anything… But before we go I’d like to post a few photos about what we’ve been up to. I do plan on posting some wedding photos later on, but will wait until we get back. We’ve been married for 3 months tomorrow. Time has flown by! We have been very busy! Here are some of the things we’ve been up to:

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Darren had his 30th birthday. We were invited to lunch on Sabbath by some friends and we brought a trifle and I put candles on it so we could sing to him. He didn’t want a big party so that’s all we did and it was delicious. :)

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We hatched out some chicks from the eggs that my chickens laid by putting them in our incubator. A few days after they hatched I gave them to a student at school because we had too much to raise them at the moment. I hope to hatch some more out when we get back from america.

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Darren has been having fun pulling an old lawn mower to bits to try and get it working. He got a great deal on it because it was broken but he is trying to make it into a tractor even if it can’t mow.

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We lost one of our ducks shortly after my previous post. I accidentally stepped on him and he died shortly after. It was quite sad. Darren said, ‘And that’s why ducks have so many babies…’ So down to three. Then I let them out to see if they would go or stay. They hated being confined all the time and I didn’t have time to watch them all day so I said, ‘well you can go, it’s better that you’re free and happy than a slave and safe.’ They went exploring and came back that night. Now they hardly ever wander very far. They love their little pond. and sit in it paddling around most of the time.

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Darren made some progress on the lawnmower and attached the push mower to it to try it out. It works pretty good, and it gave us a good laugh too.

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A lady in our little town has offered to teach me how to spin. She’s lent me her wheel and even given me some wool for free.

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It took me about 3 or 4 sessions to finish this much wool. I had two colours and spun them together. It’s kind of hard at first but she said I did very well for my first time. I’m excited to knit something with it as it will be handmade from the raw materials.

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After it’s spun it needs a good wash. So I did that in our bathtub and then hung it up to dry.

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I think I might make some socks or maybe a hat. We’ll see and I’ll be sure to update.

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We lost yet another duck. I had noticed that as their feathers came in two of the three had a green sheen other their head even thought they don’t get their gender determining feathers until later. So I’m pretty sure I had 2 boys and a girl. The boys were Lucky and Webster, with Lucky being my favourite – he was almost eaten by a dog. And then Dina is the girl – Short for Houdini as she is the little escape artist. They went for their normal little wander last week in the morning and when I came home from work Lucky and Dina were on my front porch and they were very happy to see me. I think they were scared and Lucky had a limp. I’m pretty sure a cat or something must have eaten Webster. Anyway, I hope the other two have learned to stay away from cats. They are just about ready to fly and I’ll be away in America. I hope they are still there when I come home.

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We have one hen that has gone broody. She sits on the nest all day, so we put 8 eggs under her and they will be 1 week on Sunday. When we get back, if all goes well, they will be 4 weeks old by then. Kind of exciting. I hope she’s a good mum. Darren’s parents will be looking after out place while we are gone.

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The birds like to eat all the chicken food I put out so I made this automatic chicken feeder:

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They have yet to figure out how it works and I have to modify it a bit so the parts don’t stick when it rains… but this was my first wood working project ever, and I’m pretty excited about it.

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Anyway, all is well with us. We hope to see many of you during our trip overseas and we also hope to make a few posts about our adventures while we are there as well. Until then!!


Darren and I have been spending most weekends and some evenings getting our garden set up. It’s a lot of hard work, but I think its nearly ready to just let it grow. We’ve been mowing, tilling weeding, mulching, planting, transplanting, watering, patrolling for pests, replanting etc… Most of our tomatoes plants were killed by a frost, but fortunately Darren’s Nana had some extras that she gave us. Our goal is to be as self sustainable as possible. We want to produce our own produce and then process it so it can be stored when it’s not in season. We’ve planted the following so far: Tomatoes, Leeks, Lettuce, Sweet Corn, Beets, Carrots, Celery, Beans, Peas, Cucumbers, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Rhubarb, Pumpkin, Artichoke, Silverbeet, Potatoes and Zucchini.

One of our first projects after our wedding was to build a chicken run for our chickens so they didn’t eat our garden. They love scratching and having dust baths in the nicely prepared soil. So After that was finished we could plant, but then the frost came… So after about two weeks we planted again.

I’ve also realised that we have a slug and snail problem here. every time the pumpkins would come up I would rejoice only to find them eaten all the way down to the roots by the darn slugs and snails. I used to think their were cute, but now I wish for their death. I went out on a rainy evening a last week and collected about 150 of them and fed them to the chickens the next day. Finally I bought some slug bait and our pumpkins are finally thriving. The ducks are great in the garden. They love to eat bugs AND snails! and they don’t scratch.

Anyway, below are a few pictures. Hopefully we will have a good harvest in a few months. We are having Darrens parents water it while we are away over christmas and when’d we get back everything should be just about ready to eat. Yum!

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Ducklings


We have ducklings at the moment. They’re two weeks old. Darrens dad found a duck sitting on his farm and asked us if we wanted any of the eggs. He doesn’t want the ducks to eat his crops so it would be a help to us to take them. So, we took 6 eggs and put them in our incubator bought to raise chickens. One of the eggs turned out to be infertile and the rest hatched but one was killed by our dog AB. We ended up deciding to give AB to Darrens sister who has two little girls. That way he’ll have kids to play with and won’t have to worry about not eating ducklings and chicks.

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Anyway, they are so adorable. I thought I’d share some pictures with you. Another one almost got eaten and we’ve named him Lucky. Another one is always trying to avoid being picked up even though he likes to snuggle too. We call him Houdini the little escape artist, haha. The other two don’t have names yet and we don’t know which ones are boys or girls. They are growing really fast. It’s amazing how different they are to chicks. They know how to swim right after they are born and their bodies are made for that purpose. Their feathers  are made is just the right way on their belly nice and thick and full of air so they float like boats. Their bills are nice and flat so they can siphon water through to catch any food in the water. They make a royal mess doing this, spitting water from their food bowl all over their box. Their webbed feet allow them to paddle effortlessly and quickly. Their stream lined body lets them dive to get things a little deeper. I’m really amazed by these little creatures.

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Oh, and they also think I’m their mother, so they follow me all over. We are hoping they remain friendly and so we bring them where we go when there are lots of people around. They like to fall asleep in your hands. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed seeing them. I’m sure I post more pictures when they grow up.


Here’s a complation of videos from the trip with Tania and Adrienne. It was a blast and full of memories. I hope you enjoy the footage as much as we did making the memories. :)

If you want to read about the trip it’s below in 4 posts:

South Island Road Trip Part 1

South Island Road Trip Part 2

South Island Road Trip Part 3

South Island Road Trip Part 4

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