It's drizzling outside.
That simple fact makes me want to leap about and drink lots of wine and dance and sing because it's the first rain we've had since 14 August.
With more on the way, I'll remove impending drought from my list of Things To Lose Lots Of Sleep Over and focus on telling you about our winter.
1. Earning a crust
Not content with merely being an enthusiastic consumer, Farmer Wan is now officially a contributing member of the NZ wine industry. He's personally responsible for pruning 9,870 of Marlborough's 24 million grape vines, a feat that took all winter.
I, in keeping with my role as a damned fine writer, spent the frigid months in my stuffy, overheated office and surfed the Net under the pretense of working.
With our finances back in a semi-liquid state, we immediately bought a sprayer, a wood chipper and food.
2. 2014 saffron harvest
It wasn't a good season. Last year, we ended up with just under 41 grams. This year, we didn't even reach 20 grams. But we had reassuring feedback from Mark, the guy we grow for:
Although your volume wasn’t as much as you want/expected, the quality is exceptional. Beautiful colour and aroma and it has a really nice feel to it indicating that the moisture content is spot on. . .
So we must be doing something right.
3. Fodder willows
As part of the permaculture strategy of "many elements for one result" we're aiming to future-proof Muntanui against drought by planting alternative sources of livestock fodder.
I've done a fair bit of research into fodder trees and shrubs, both native and exotic. I decided to start our planting this year with something relatively easy: Japanese fodder willows (Salix schwerinii 'Kinuyanagi').
This is a vigorous shrub willow, reaching 3-4m and producing up to 10 tonnes of edible dry matter per hectare per year -- perfect over summer.
In July, we planted 60 willow poles in a trial plot on our worst bit of land (it's unproductive anyway, so good for experimental stuff). Farmer Wan's sister was staying with us at the time and helped with the planting, so we named the area Fiona's Block in her honour.
If the poles strike well -- and they're doing okay at the moment -- we'll plant 300 more next winter.
4. The Bionic Hound
It hasn't escaped our notice that Buddy The Dog seems to have a strange effect on people. Confirmed dog haters, frightened little kids, nervous older parental types -- they all end up enchanted with him.
I've just discovered that he has snuck into the boot room and scoffed all the cat's food, so I am most emphatically not enchanted with him right now. However, there's no denying that the Buddy Effect is a real and powerful phenomenon.
With that in mind, I thought his fans might like to see how he brought us three thousands steps closer to bankruptcy this winter.
This medical procedure has a long name which I've blocked from my mind and an even longer price tag which I can't for the life of me forget. It's what happens when your stupid dog ruptures a cruciate ligament.
For the first 6-8 weeks post-surgery, he was confined to quarters and only allowed out on a lead for five minutes a day to do his business. We really loved that bit when it was snowing.
He goes for his next x-ray in a week. I'll keep his devotees posted.
5. Third anniversary at Muntanui
Our third anniversary slipped by on 28 August. After a frosty start, it was a sunny day. One of our heritage faverolles chooks resumed laying and produced her first egg of the season. The plovers returned from wherever they go over winter (Western Australia, I think) and started attacking any other birds that came near them.
It was a good day. We were happy. And there'll be plenty more of that to come.
Posted by Farmer Nik
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.