Musings


Really loving life in the Far North. We’re now well into Spring and the weather is t-shirt warm. Nights can be a little crisp but nothing compared to the South Island.

And have I mentioned before how things just grow overnight?! We now have grapefruit from our grapefruit tree and our pear trees have busted out their leaves.

The other thing I love about living here is the cafes. SO many to choose from. About once a month, I like to have poached eggs on toast – that is when I can drag myself away from our property. There is such an amazing amount of vegetation that I can literally spend all day walking in the forest at the back of the property; staring up at hawks flying overhead; walking in the English Garden part of our property (that’s what I call it); or walking up the hill that is to the side of the forest.

I really feel Zeph and Zsa Zsa prefer this property to the one we had down south. There’s two streams for them to explore and splash in; the forest to find rabbits; the hill to run up and down. It’s also sunnier up here and Zeph has a new routine. After breakfast, he likes to sit on his favourite chair and soak up the Vitamin D. Zsa Zsa prefers to luxuriate in soft blankets inside (she loves her blankets) but will often lie on her pet bed in the sun. The dogs spend more time outdoors here than down south because it’s not as cold and we don’t get those nasty NW gales.

Really loving it.

Grapefruit tree.

Pear tree.

Zeph in the sun on his favourite chair.

Nothing better than poached eggs on toast.

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I believe I’m turning into my mother. Not such a bad thing really. After all, she was a wonderful woman. Yet, I always felt I had quite a different personality and was far more like my dad (who was also wonderful I might add). Where my mum was introverted, I’m extroverted. My mother hated going out or being among people. I get energy from being out and about and meeting new people.

My mum wouldn’t even consider travelling overseas. She was born in Wellington NZ but moved to Australia with my grandparents before her 20s, married and remained in Australia all her considerably long life. Despite offering many times to take her on a trip to see how much Wellington had changed over the years, or to go for a couple of weeks to Hawaii (she often said she’d like to go) – she always refused. Yet, I have travelled a ton in my life. Mum would often comment that I must be restless to want to travel so much.

My mum died in 2007 at the age of 91. Over the last five years or so, I’ve often felt I was turning into my mother. I have not been overseas since 2014 and really have no desire to do so. I don’t like going out much now, preferring to live the quiet life on our property. And now….I have proof that I’m turning into my mother. Camellias. Lavender.

My mother loved gardening. Something I’ve never been into. She grew lavender, dried it and then produced small lavender-scented pillows that she would pin to my bed pillow and dried lavender would be all over the house in little bowls (potpourri). I cringed at this stuff as a teenager, growing up in Sydney. It seemed old-fashioned to me. A waste of time. Why create something when you can just go out and buy?

My mum also grew camellias in our shady front yard. In one corner, she had a rare white camellia. She would often show it to me and she’d also paint it (she was a china painter and also painted in oils). I think this camellia tree would be gone now because the people who bought her property 12 years ago basically chopped down every single tree and tore down the house to build a McMansion.

We have now been in the North Island for six months, can you believe it? We have a little vegetable garden and….I have a small white camellia bush and some lavender growing in a pot. My first attempts with lavender failed, as I planted them in a spot that was too wet. I now have some Italian lavender in a fancy blue pot and, so far, it seems to be happy.

I guess the camellia is a reminder for me of my mum. The lavender is the more sinister thing – I have visions of drying it and producing potpourri to scent the house. Maybe even use it as an ingredient in the face creams I make up. Or use the flowers and whip up some lavender biscotti. Sit alone in our outdoor room. Opposite magnificent totora trees, sipping my coffee and being thankful I don’t have to mix with people.

See? I’m turning into my mother.

There’s even a stick insect on this white camellia!

 

 

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We’ve been in the Far North for over four months now. I can honestly say I would not live anywhere else in New Zealand. I have travelled far and wide in this country – with my Dad when I was a teenager and since I’ve been living here (seven years now). The only part of NZ that I’m not familiar with is the Tauranga/Bay of Plenty area.

There is more rain up in the Far North but it comes and goes. One moment it’s sunny; then there’s a downpour; then it’s sunny again. There is no snow and, frankly, I don’t miss it. No horrid north-west gale force winds; just gentle warm breezes. The soil on our property is volcanic so the rain water drains quickly. Even with stock on the property (cows and sheep) there is no mud to slip and slide around.

Winter here has been very mild. A few cold days where I had to break out the fleecy-lined tops but, other than this, we survived with no heating. El Hubs does not miss chopping and stacking the wood or fuelling the fire.

The people here are friendly and you meet a lot of foreigners. Many are called swallows because they spend the summer in NZ and then return to their own country for their summer. I’ve met Dutch, Germans, Americans and Italians so far.

I love our property so much I rarely venture off it. When I do, there are plenty of shops in our area to get whatever we need including a boutique with great clothes and handbags. I’m afraid I succumbed. I saw this large black tote made in Florence. It’s not leather and I’m trying very hard to be more sustainable in my purchasing and eating habits. Needless to say, I bought it and now carry around the whole house with me LOL I like the gunmetal hardware; very on fleek as they say.

You can also get great coffee with some fun designs. I have to stay out of the fabulous chocolate cafe we have here. I’d love to go every day because I love my chocolate and the cafe has a great vibe. But I’ve cut out all processed sugar from my diet; all carbs; all meat. Been at this for two months now. I do not miss meat at all. Mind you, I rarely ate red meat as I preferred chicken, turkey and fish. I still eat the occasional carb (rice or bread) but not every day.

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At the top of our property is native bush. I’m still coming to grips with what the trees are but I think they are Totora. They’re very tall and are home to wood pigeon and harrier hawks.

In the bush (or forest as I call it) are these amazing rock formations. The Far North is volcanic so I’m sure these rocks have been formed by past eruptions. Only the North Island of New Zealand has volcanoes and there is a long history of eruptions. It’s said that Auckland is sitting on a super-volcano – let’s hope not!

I’ve been told that the previous owner of our property, when he was a kid, would play in this forest with his siblings and they built rock walls to play behind. Zeph and Zsa Zsa love to sniff around these walls because rabbits hide there. I’ll try and do a video soon – a walk-through of the forest.

Can you spot the dogs behind the wall?

 

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We have been very busy planting. The thing about the Far North is that everything grows – lush and very fast. We hope to start the build of The House in January 2018 but, for now, it’s living in The Shed. So we are trying to make it as comfortable as possible. We are already eating salad from our garden. We just couldn’t get stuff to grow in the South: the frost or the cold would kill things off.

It seems that we are always at nurseries and El Hubs is learning about native plants and bushes. He is the one with the green thumb. Zeph loves to supervise and I run around taking photos LOL

This is one of our vege garden raised beds. In this we have lettuce, spring onions and spinach mainly. Where Zeph is, I planted some lavender but it’s not doing well, so I will replant elsewhere.

Saw this gorgeous trees outside one of the nurseries we visit.

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Have you noticed the name change for the blog yet? Can’t change the URL but I thought it was time to pick a new name. So the Daily Oxford is now Up North.

In this post, I’ll give you a first look at our (rather large) property. We decided to downsize. We had 30 acres down South and we shifted to….wait for it….47 acres. Yep. We simply fell in love with the property and that was that.

We arrived on April 3 and went immediately to the property and let Zeph and Zsa Zsa run wild and free. This was before going to the pet-friendly accommodation! I promised the dogs that they could sniff and explore their new home as soon as we made it up North.

We will be living temporarily in a shed, which I refer to as The Shed. Next post, I’ll show you what it looks like. It is a serious downsize – from a two-storey home to a shed.

The Shed was not quite ready for our arrival. We started the build around November of last year not knowing when we’d actually sell our house. We have no power or water on the property, so we have to install solar panels, a composting toilet and get a phone line put in. This has taken a bit more time than we had hoped because it was hard to organise things whilst still living in the South Island.

We’ve been at the pet-friendly accommodation for two weeks now and I think one more week to go before we can move into The Shed. But we take the dogs to the property every day so they feel right at home there already. El Hubs is now project managing the build so things are moving faster.

The best part of the property for Zeph and Zsa Zsa I think is two places. The first area I call The Forest. No idea what the trees are but they are massive, tall trees and underneath them is a lovely shady area with mossy rocks and a small stream. The second place is a part of the stream. We actually have two streams that merge into one. Near The Shed is a gorgeous spot – shallow pools of water with green ferns.

When Zeph first saw the water he was a bit scared. He gingerly put one paw into the water and drew it out immediately. Two weeks down the track, he runs through the stream and uses the mossy rocks in the water as a bridge to get to the embankment on the other side. This embankment is a bit steep and Zeph and Zsa Zsa found it tough the first few days. You could see they were worried about their footing. But now they are like a couple of mountain goats.

These photos show you just how happy they are to be on their new property.

Into our last week here now. I’m a bit sad as I really like the property, but I’m looking forward to a new adventure up North. It’s been raining a bit and getting crisp in the mornings and evenings – you can feel Winter’s approach.

I intend to blog our move as much as possible. Pretty sure I’ll be without an internet connection from late March to around April 25 or so. That will be interesting. I really do want to spend less time online and more time on writing. We don’t watch a lot of TV but I’d like to dispense with the TV too.

I’ve decided to raise Monarch butterflies up North. Yes, really. It’s something I’ve always been interested in and I’ve found out that a Monarch expert lives very near to where we’ll be living. And I can do an online course to learn all about how to provide a safe Monarch habitat. Doubt I’ll get around to this until early next year but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I accidentally shut Zeph and Zsa Zsa out of the house the other day. Zeph was not impressed at all. I really like this photo of Zeph – you can see he is not amused.

 

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