Wow . . . two months since the last update. Just confirms what I already knew: we have been busy!
Muntanui is exploding with life at the moment -- baby animals, rampant weeds and the beginnings of what looks like a bumper season of produce. Our trees have been laden with more blossom than we'd ever seen before, we desperately need to cut hay before everything bolts to seed and my vege garden's assuming triffid-like proportions. The mild winter and very wet spring seem to have triggered a massive mast (flowering en masse) in the surrounding beech forest. Our hills are tinged with gold and red -- a palette you'd normally associate more with a New England autumn than an alpine Kiwi spring.
It's an incredible time of year.
If there's one thing we managed to nail properly this year, it was lambing. Waiting until May to let Spidey in with the girls was the best thing we could've done. We had a higher pregnancy rate, more lambs born and the mortality rate was halved. The weather, although very wet, was a great deal warmer than it was last year and we used a paddock with plenty of shelter as the nursery.
We had a no-interference-unless-absolutely-necessary policy this year. It paid off -- no ewes rejected their young'uns, And, to top it all off, Farmer Wan became a dad, delivering two lambs all by his big, soft-hearted self.
If you'd like more of a blow-by-blow account of this year's lambing, including numbers and stats, check out our 2013 Lambing Diary.
We remain committed to converting Muntanui to biodynamics, so on Sunday 17 November we stirred and sprayed our second lot of Preparation 500. We distributed it over a paddock we're re-vegetating (more on that in the next post), with some left over for the orchard.
This time, we managed to get through the entire process without arguing, so we're counting that as a win.
It's way too early yet to know how successful our biodynamic practices are, especially when the conditions generally have been so ideal for rampant growth. The grass in the orchard is the lushest it's ever been and while it's true that we sprayed Prep 500 over it in autumn, it also got the benefit of drift from all the soil amendments we spread back in June. So it remains to be seen but we're very happy to persevere with the process for the foreseeable future.
The vege garden is totally full of plants for the first time since we arrived here and I'm feeling smug about that. Planting it all out was set back by a month because October rained solidly and I couldn't work the saturated soil without risking damage to it. We won't have our own tomatoes for Christmas, but we should have them by late January, which is better than this year, when we didn't get them until May.
The warmer weather means we've had our first wave of visitors and they've willingly donned gloves to help us out, for which we're very grateful. Big thanks to Kim and Jan, who cheerfully assisted with everything from tailing and rubber-ringing the ram lambs to weeding my woefully overgrown knot garden. Thanks also to Big Lil, weeder extraordinaire and best mate of St Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. I'm still not sure how much he had to do with Farmer Wan's sunglasses turning up again but hey, we're very grateful nonetheless.
Last, but not least, this:
Posted by Farmer Nik
Over the course of a weekend back in May, our minds were blown, our senses were bombarded and we set off on a new farming tangent that will change the way we do things here forever.A nice, big steamer for the compost heap. Thanks, guys!
The catalyst was the New Zealand Biodynamic and Gardening Association's 2013 Conference.
Yep, biodynamics. What's that? you ask. Well, it's basically turbo-charged organics; very concerned with building up soil and fertility. It treats properties/farms as unique, living entities, just like the people who inhabit and work on them. Biodynamic teachings also recognise, and allow for, influences coming from outside the planet: not just the sun and moon but also the planets of the solar system and the constellations.
Then there's the stuff to do with burying manure-filled cow horns for six months and sticking other stuff in deer's bladders and hanging them in trees, etc.
So maybe you think that's extremely weird. No worries. Lots of people do. My logical, scientific, atheistic Farmer Wan definitely struggled with some of the more "out there" conference sessions and we met a lovely wine grower who sat scowling with her arms and legs crossed for most of the weekend. The more esoteric the subject matter, the further down in her seat she slumped.
Yet all the committed biodynamic practitioners we met and spoke with were grounded, intelligent, practical people. And really nice. And party animals. We made some wonderful new friends at that event.
"It doesn't matter if people believe in it or not," a successful farmer and one of New Zealand's biodynamic luminaries told us. "Biodynamics is a system. If people follow it, they'll get results."
Alrighty, then. So less than a week later, we'd stirred up our first batch of Preparation 500 and were trundling it around one of our paddocks in a wheelbarrow, spraying it over the ground with a small manuka branch and bickering over the right way to go about it. Not the most auspicious of starts but a beginning nonetheless.
The conference set a lot of things in motion for us, with the decision to finally get a tractor being the first. At this stage, I can't see any major conflict between the permaculture design plan for Muntanui and the application of biodynamics for our soil. Neither philosophy is meant to be dogmatic, so they should be able to live with each other. We'll see.
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.