So, we've been here exactly five months today, what have we done?
The veggie garden has gone from this in 2010/11 To this in 2012
Our first livestock (worms from Farmer Bob, an organic worm farmer in Nelson) were purchased and are now living happily in the custom built Wormstead, enjoying all of the sawdust/compost/kitchen scraps/grass clippings and blood & bone they can eat.
The Polytunnel of Love was covered in September with much-appreciated assistance from Davidsons, Foxs, Moriartys and Davidson-Foxs
In October, 'No-Gate Paddock' got a new name and a new gate thanks to the tremendous efforts of the Howards, who came all the way from Australia to celebrate the All Blacks winning the Rugby World Cup.
J & M were also instrumental in moving (dragging/hauling/lifting) the old chook house from the pond area to its new home in the recently re-christened 'Chook Paddock' where renovations commenced immediately in preparation for our next new arrivals.
Cinderella and the Three Amigos arrived in early November to great hopes of eggs by Christmas (a little bit optimistic, perhaps). Construction then commenced on the new chook run, closely followed by the new Palais des Poulets, an opulent chook house in the style of Rennie Mackintosh (not the architect Charles; his fictitious brother, Arthur, the chicken farmer). There is plenty of room for future flock expansion.
All the hard work paid off and we had our first egg on 6th January 2012. The shriek of delight from Farmer Nik on discovering the first egg could be heard far and wide.
We are now enjoying the delights of our own produce, including potatoes, broad beans, green beans, pak choy, rocket, shallots, radishes, lettuce (various varieties), snow peas, garden peas, raspberries, strawberries, red currants, black currants and gooseberries with more to come.
Hay cutting (by hand with scythes) took place around Christmas, followed by trials of the soon-to-be-patented Muntanui Baling Machine (commonly known to others as a 'cardboard box with some string'). Unfortunately the day after the rustic haycocks were built we had 110mm of rain. We were able to salvage enough dry hay for a dozen micro-bales, let's hope our animals appreciate it when the they're hungry in the winter.
By the end of the Christmas/New Year period we were "Covered in Bees!!!" and loving it.
All these things we've achieved, along with raising vegetables and plants from seed in the polytunnel, building compost heaps, fixing holes in rabbit-proof fences, repairing fences, building gates and windbreaks, mulching, weeding, pruning, scything acres of grass, pulling up wilding douglas fir trees, cutting firewood, helping out with organising the inaugural local festival, having a stall at the local festival, joining the local volunteer fire service and fixing the water supply.
Plus there's been the arrival of our largest livestock, young Hamish, (see below) with more to follow in the next couple of weeks. Keep checking in for more updates on the ewes, cows, calves and the ram.
In 2012 we are looking forward to planting, growing and harvesting our first saffron crop; remediation of our pasture to encourage healthy, happy new livestock in the spring; increasing our water storage options; investing in alternative power sources; meeting new people and welcoming old friends.
Thanks to all who have come and visited in our first five months and contributed to the results we see today. And to all those following our progress: please come and see us, there's lots to do!
Posted by Farmer Wan
OK, it wasn't quite as dramatic as that ill-fated camping trip in remote West Australia when we spent eight hours trying to dig our 4WD out of a river while an electrical storm raged overhead, and Farmer Wan had to walk out the next morning to call for help from friends in Karratha, 100km away... but it was still pretty big.
Firstly, we had guests in the form of BLT, dear friends from Oz who we hadn't seen in six years. Their gorgeous little girl quickly made Buddy the Dog her willing slave.
Then, on Saturday, we launched Muntanui onto an unsuspecting public at Festival Nelson Lakes.
The Viva Muntanui! stall featured a select range of produce, mostly donated by kind souls who'd heard me moaning that I didn't have anything to put on it.
My unique sales patter ("Welcome to the Muntanui Festival! I don't know what all these other people are doing here but feel free to check out what we've got!") seemed to strike the right kind of note. Farmer Wan's more subtle approach was a huge hit as well. Meaning, people actually bought things.
After taking out the cost of the stall hire and the money owed to friends on whose behalf we'd sold stuff, we made a grand total of $30. Factor in the time we spent in the lead-up, not to mention the cost of the promotional material we had printed, and we're deeply in the red. So we're not going to do that 'factoring in' thang. At least, not for our very first market stall. We prefer to bask in the thought that we made 30 bucks. Yay!
The absolute wonderfulness of the weekend culminated in the arrival of a handsome, hairy, red-haired Scotsman called Hamish.
We've arranged for two Highland cows and their calves (a steer and a heifer) to join him in early February. We're also getting ten Wiltshire ewes, with a complimentary ram thrown in.
2012 is the year of livestock at Muntanui. It's the year we become proper farmers, rather than the glorified gardeners we've been over the last five months. This year, it gets serious.
Posted by Farmer Nik
As promised, Bee Boss Alex turned up between Christmas and New Year with bees, approximately 100,000 of them in two hives, and set them up in one of the paddocks facing all the soon-to-be flowering manuka.
Soon, the bees were well settled in and the serious business of making honey was started once more. There are two queens in the hive on the left and heaps of honey boxes at the top of both hives.
We look forward to tasting the fruits of their labours very soon.
Posted by Farmer Wan
About Ewan and Niki
Scottish mechanical engineer with a deep and abiding passion for good food. Outstanding cook. Builder of lots of stuff. Cattle whisperer. Connoisseur of beer. A lover rather than a fighter.
Kiwi writer and broadcaster who hates cabbage, even though she knows it's good for her. Chook wrangler. Grower of food and flowers. Maker of fine preserves. Lover of dancing and wine. Definitely a fighter.