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The joy of chooks

As part of our transition to country life our plan is to ease into livestock rearing by starting with the most user-friendly animals - chooks. We ordered a flat-pack hen house which came with not so much instructions, but numbered microscopic diagrams, the interpretation of which was in the eye of the beholder - rather like fine art, but way more frustrating. Anyway, once completed and in place, we were ready to pick up our chooks (I was instructed to order '4 young pullets on the lay' from a nearby poultry farm by a chook-rearing expert friend of ours). (Without these instructions I would have been quite lost.) Once we had them for a day or two and able to observe their personalities, espec

Vignettes from country life: the dead reindeer phenomenon

I have discovered that living in the country can lead to some interesting conversations. The smallholder that lives next to us raises deer, which my four-year old daughter insists on calling reindeers - and we don't have the heart to correct her. 'Reindeers' are therefore not infrequently the topic of conversation. Take this exchange between her, myself and my 8 year-old son yesterday for instance: 4 year old (looking out car window): What is it called when a reindeer is die-ded? Mum (helpfully): You mean 'meat?' (Note to reader: this is not as cynical as it might sound - we were given some wild venison a few days back and I thought perhaps she was referring to that) 4 year old: Nope ... 8 y

'Playing god' - 1837 and 2017

Decisions made by men more than a century and a half ago led to me facing an unpleasant ethical dilemma a few days ago. That is, should I subject animals to an untimely but rapid death, or a prolonged and (I can only imagine) painful one? The animal I am talking about is the Australian brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), introduced to New Zealand in 1837 for the fur trade. And it was a decision I was confronted with when I approached the regional council to have bait stations installed on our land, which borders a gully of beautiful regenerating forest. Until now, as a town-dweller, this was not a decision I had been faced with before. It was the choice between two poisons: cyanide or

Autumn in the Pohangina Valley

It was mid-autumn when we moved to our new home in the Pohangina Valley, and the valley has been ablaze with autumn colour - one of the advantages of living in a colder climate where seasons are more delineated. This has been one of my favourite scenes: a vista from our drive, across the farmer's paddock out to the Ruahine Range. I love the vibrant contrast of colour: the red of the solitary pin oak, the green of the pasture and bush, against the backdrop of blue-tinged mountain range. See also: The influence of seasons on culture and environmental perceptions; More about seasonal change (fungi)

Life changes

About three weeks ago my family and I made a very big life change. We moved from comfortable, convenient, leafy suburbia on the Kapiti Coast to a 7-acre block of land in rural Manawatu. This involved moving ourselves out of our 213 m2 4-bedroom, double-garaged home into a garage-less house of exactly half that size. There is a very good reason for us doing this: it wasn't the plan. The little Manawatu house was built as a holiday house, a weekend/holiday getaway. But after building the house, we realised that this plan was fundamentally flawed. That's because, once completed, it became too difficult to resist living there permanently. And so, after several months of discussions and contempla

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