North Island


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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In the South Island we would often get spectacular sunsets. I’d catch a glimpse of bright oranges and yellows through the trees and (being Australian) immediately think BUSHFIRE. Then I’d calm down and enjoy the show the sky was putting on for me.

I find the light in the Far North less harsh than down south. The blue of the sky is more muted and the surrounding light seems soft and hazy. Might need to go to Specsavers 🙂

We also get rather beautiful sunsets and I captured this one on my trusty iPhone the other night. Look at the gorgeous apricot, lemon yellow and mauve slices in the sky.

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We’ve been in the Far North now for six months. Can’t believe how fast that time has gone by. Last time I checked in with you, I think it was four months. I will do a post soon on how we are getting by off-the-grid and I’ll take photos of how we’ve landscaped. One very large totora tree has a family of five Tui. I talk to them every day and they look down and chortle and warble at me. They are beautiful birds. I really didn’t experience them in the South Island.

What is amazing here is the lushness of vegetation. You plant something and it grows overnight. We’ve travelled a bit around the area – about an hour’s drive each time – and the scenery is so varied. Not to mention the stunning bays and beaches. What I really love about the Far North are the giant ferns and glorious trees.

In the town near to where we live, there is a stunning pink tree. I have no idea what it might be, so over to any experts out there. I snapped a shot with my iPhone and the woman you see in the photo went back to the tree and took a ton of photos. It’s quite the tourist attraction actually. I recently saw a horde of tourists mingling around the tree, taking selfies and group shots.

Just around the corner from this tree is a working backpacker’s hostel and we recently gave work to two 19 year old German lads. They helped us plant over seventy plants and trees – liquid ambers, flaxes, native grasses and fruit trees. Very hard-working and polite. We intend to provide more work to the backpackers if these two are any indication of quality and work ethic.

 

 

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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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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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Been a busy month settling in to The Shed. To tell you the truth, we feel like we’ve lived here for years. The Far North of NZ is amazing. It’s the end of Autumn (or Fall) right now and it’s still warm during the day. T-shirt weather warm. Nights and mornings you get the warmer layers on though.

My friend down South tells me that they’ve had a dusting of snow, very strong NW winds and an earthquake. Not missing any of that! The Far North region does not get earthquakes we’re told or, if they do, the last one was decades ago. And speaking of NW winds – last week, the weather report said strong winds were expected. We battened down the hatches as they say; something we used to do down South. Along came the strong winds….a mild breeze. The farmer behind our property said yep, that’s as strong as they get.

Meanwhile, Zeph is very curious about a giant hole El Hubs has been digging. It’s a dog’s job to dig isn’t it?! The giant hole is our greywater system. Greywater is waste water from kitchen sinks, showers, baths, and washing machines. It is not from toilets (toilet waste water is known as sewage or black water).

So you dig a huge hole and fill it in. We’ve filled it with scoria (volcanic rock material) and planted. The plants will use the food particles and other components of grey water that they need for their nutrients and growth (which is why you don’t use toilet water).

El Hubs then built two raised vegetable beds and a floating deck. Everything grows overnight here. We seeded some grass about two weeks ago and already it needs to be trimmed. The floating deck was built for us to have coffee and breakfast on but Zeph and Zsa Zsa have taken it over for sunbathing purposes 😉

Don’t remember digging such a big hole!

Zeph and Zsa Zsa enjoy the sun on the floating deck. Behind them, you can see the two vege boxes and the plants in the grey water system.

 

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Well, Dear Reader! I’ve been offline a bit due to no Internet connection. We moved into The Shed (as I call it) on April 22 (after nearly 3 weeks in the pet-friendly motel) and then spent the next 10 days or so trying to get connected to the outside world.

We had to get the telecom company here in New Zealand to give us a phone connection thingo. This is technical jargon for some wire that they embed in the earth after having dug around a fair bit 🙂 Then, we had to get a long trench dug from this connection to The Shed. After trying to find a contractor to do this, El Hubs gave up and dug it himself, with me laying the phone cable in the trench.

Then….the real circus began. We needed the same telecom company to come back and do its thing. They were supposed to be here April 26 but it was a no show. El Hubs rang on April 27 and they said Yes, Sir we’ll be there today. You guessed it – another no show. We were shopping for food on April 29 and we get a frantic call from the technician to say he’s on the property and where are we?

We rush back and the technician fiddles around and leaves us saying you need VDSL. We go get VDSL and then ask the telecom company to come again because it wasn’t working. The company says you need VDSL. Ah yes, we have that now, we reply: thanks to your technician telling us. Then they say Nope, not our issue; it’s your service provider. So we ring them and they say No, the telecom company will sort this out.

Flummoxed, El Hubs decided to fiddle around and lo and behold, connected us. What a legend. He rings the telecom company back to cancel the request for them to come out again.

So now I can bring you photos of The Shed. We are still tarting it up though. Our 10 solar panels are fired up and give us light, and we are off-the-grid yeah!! We have two water tanks that hold 45,000L each, so we now have water. We use gas for hot water and we bought a huge Weber BBQ, which is amazing – I’m sure it could dance if I asked it to. We boil up our water for coffee on it; produce pizzas and BBQ chook; we’ve even baked a cake in it.

After two weeks of living in The Shed, I can tell you that I prefer the smaller scale of things. Our house down South had two-storeys but, in The Shed, everything is compact. The dogs love the property and their new home.

We are still decorating but I will show you the inside of The Shed soon.

The Shed, nestled in the landscape, with a contractor’s truck outside. You can see the two water tanks to the right of The Shed.

The dogs are far more active here. Zsa Zsa is exhausted from all the running and sniffing. We let her rest in our truck, which is one of her most favoured of places.

Long-distance view of The Shed – I took this photo from the bank of one of the streams.

We have to pave from the bottom of the property up to The Shed. It’s about 400m, so quite a bit to pave. We could have left it but, with the rain you get in the North, the driveway up to The Shed can get very muddy. We have been stuck a couple of times already. This is the first layer of paving and you can see Zeph and Zsa Zsa trying it out!!

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