Category Archives: Rural

An Interesting Week

Today is my last day at home for a week as I am heading back to Wellington for work. The past week has been interesting, to say the least.

The week started with a storm that saw quite high winds pummel much of the country. There were trees coming down all over the place around us, several blocking the only road into the valley. I drove down to the bridge to see what the river was like and on the way back this pine came down. Didn’t have saws so me and another guy just snapped the branches back to clear it.

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On the Monday night our power went off about half five in the afternoon as lines were taken out somewhere.  We were OK though. The oven had just gone on to bake a fish so I took the fish over to the Woolshed and baked it in the BBQ instead. With no power it was candles and torches and the whole family was forced into that weird and very un-21st Century activity called “Talking to each other”.  Our power came back on about nine at night, so it wasn’t too bad. There have been power cuts out here that lasted days or even weeks after some storms. I really need to get a generator so I can keep the freezers going. We have insurance on the frozen meat but it would be a terrible waste if it thawed. The freezers only need a few hours a day of power supply to keep the contents frozen.

A slip on the road at McCain’s Cutting, two kilometers south of us.

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And then…it started raining. Man did it rain. It bucketed down basically all Monday bight and most of Tuesday.  Half a kilometer north of us the road was cut and two kilometers south it was as well. The river came up quite quickly.  We were in no danger, but to add to our joy the phones went out as well.  These three photos show the creek and bridge that connects the house with the Woolshed. Normally it is a dry ditch but takes the run off for some large paddocks in the farm across the road.

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Down at the river, the road was blocked and a bunch of road workers who were clearing slips further up the valley almost got stranded. They ended up parking their utes and flat bed truck at our place and making their way through all perched in the bucket of their digger. The water came up almost over the top of the digger’s wheels.

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Alexander and I went down about half seven when the river was supposed to peak and it was even higher. Check this ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot of the same spot.  The river is now about 5m wider at this point.

ImageImageNorth of us the valley widens and it was a lake (dodgy shot taken with cell phone and it was almost dark)

Image and the next day when the water had receded.

ImageWe were left with mud. Lots of mud. Too much for a car to get through so until the roads were graded clear we were stuck at home.

ImagePhones were out for four days, which made this week a quiet one for me seeing as I was On Call.

One benefit of the weekend was that I think I found all the places in the Woolshed’s roof where it leaks water.

Woolshed Besieged.

Last night the Woolshed was besieged by somewhere between 40 and 60 teens for my daughter’s birthday party. It took a real hammering. All my gaming stuff, wall ornaments, pictures, swords, bat’leths, steel helmets and so forth were moved into the office and bedroom along the right hand wall and I put a couple of bolts and locks on those doors.

One thing about living a long way from town is that once people were dropped off there was no where else to go – they were stuck here. On the other hand, the chances of gatecrashers out this far from town was almost nil. All in all, the Woolshed was a safe environment for these kids to let their hair down.

There were about 40 girls who slept over at the house and a dozen boys who ended up asleep in the woolshed amongst the wreckage. It was the first party for her ‘year group’ at school and seemed to be a success, depending how you measure it. I would suggest to all fellow gamers with teens who are contemplating a big party to reconsider:)

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Bleary eyed kids the morning after. Image

More floor pie than a dog could eat – and believe me – the dog tried his hardest.Image

Dead Soldiers. Despite what it looked like there was not a lot of alcohol consumed. A few over did it but everyone was right in the morning.

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After a good breakfast they were all a lot chipper. I made them do the bulk of the clean-up before dishing up breakfast. Apart from cereals and left over sausage rolls and pizza from the night before, there was a big bowl of fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and two kilos of bacon.

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The Big Dry

What has this post got to do with wargaming?

It is too bloody hot to paint.

In the last two months we have had about half a day of light rain that barely wet the ground before it evaporated.  Pretty much the entire North Island of New Zealand is now officially in drought. The only places we have any green grass is where there is shade from trees – fortunately I have a few big trees on the property.  Everywhere else the grass is being burnt away. Got quite a lot of bare patches in some paddocks already.  We are feeding the cows the apples, grapefruit and veges we would normally reserve for preserving and eating.

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Here is a link to a news item on the drought.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/8405004/North-Island-drought-worst-in-history

I hope we get some rain soon. The sheep are going to be culled this week. Not enough feed for them. I might have to get another freezer.

The only thing keeping a bit of greenery in our valley are the morning river mists. They have been quite heavy but it burns off by about 0800.

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Of course, we have a lifestyle block. Our livelihood is not threatened by the drought. The farmers around us are stressing.  Already they are having to use the supplementary feed that should be used for winter.

Too Hot to Paint

It is insanely hot.  Too hot to paint. I tried and it was hopeless. So I lay in the shade instead and listened to the dulcet tones of someone over the river blasting seven types of hell out of something with their shottie.  I read on Scott McPhee’s blog that it was too cold where he is to undercoat. Right now I would swap. Maybe.

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Rural Life: Homekill.

When I started this blog I thought that from time to time I would do posts on rural life in New Zealand. This is my first such post.

Living in an urban setting it is easy for people to become distanced from the source of the foods they eat.  Meat, for most people, comes in bloodless packaged and wrapped portions nicely sitting on a styrene tray. When we moved to the country I had to learn a whole set of skills that were not needed as a ‘townie’.  Probably the most interesting was learning how to process meat.  I will take you through some of the steps involved in getting that lamb from the paddock to the plate.

The first step is killing the lamb.  I hold the animal down and cut it’s throat, simultaneously breaking it’s neck. Death is almost instant.  The head and lower legs are removed. I hang the animal to drain all the blood.

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Then it is a matter of removing the fleece. A few cuts with the knife to get started and then it is in with hands and forearms to peel the fleece off the carcass, starting at the rear end and working down to the neck.  You end up with this.

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The next step is to get rid of the insides. You have to be careful when slitting down the belly that you don’t perforate the guts. If you are careful you will note that nature keeps everything enclosed in it’s own neat and non-smelly packaging.

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Once the insides have been removed, the carcass is cleaned up and left for a day or so for the meat to set. It can then be cut up into the cuts you want. I am no butcher, so I do leg and shoulder roasts, chops, a nice lamb fillet and a big pile of mixed lamb meat that I can mince or use for stir fries or whatever. The meat goes in the freezer and we no longer have to ponder the price of a lamb roast at the supermarket. The first bit that gets eaten though is the offal – heart, liver and kidneys make a great fry up for breakfast the next day.

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When it comes to beef there is just too much there for me at the moment. If I stuff up a lamb I am out less than a hundred bucks. With a steer it is more like being out thousands. So, I use a local homekill professional to kill and process my beef. He comes along and dispatches the animal on site and does the preliminary butchery here. The process is basically the same as for the sheep except on a larger scale.

Here is the first steer I had processed. Bubba was a four month old calf when we got him. Killed at 2 years. He was the guest of honour at our inaugural Bubba-que.

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Here is Kevin the homekill guy skinning the carcass. He kills the beast with a shot to the head and then cuts the throat to let it bleed out.

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This is what is left – a side of beef. Or in this case, two sides of beef. It goes away and is hung for 2-3 weeks and returns packaged into whatever cuts I ordered. I like to get it mostly as steaks, roasts, stewing cuts, mince and a variety of small goods such as sausages and salamis.

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The quality and taste of homekill meat is fantastic. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the animals are killed when they are not stressed. An abattoir killed animal has been removed from it’s familiar surroundings, been jostled about in a stock truck, been penned up with animals it doesn’t know in a strange location.  The stress and anxiety levels are huge. Bubba, by comparison, was happily munching grass in the paddock in which he was king, and then blammo – light’s out.

And how does this relate to wargaming? How else do you think I feed all those hungry wargamers who come to stay for a weekend of gaming?