Recalling the cute and nasty, birds and bees, gorse and trees

Right when we want to be basking in summer sun, here comes the long white cloud.

But that suits my mood as I write this, my final Town and Country column.

I calculate there have been at least 250 of them, through good and bad times in all seasons.

Early on I wrote about the Small Farmer, who loved looking after orphaned lambs, didn't like us trapping possums, and thought we lived on the best farm in the whole world.

Time has marched on, and now the Small Farmer's 3-year-old son helps us plant potatoes, harvest broad beans and hunt for eggs in the long grass.

There have been plenty of animal stories.

Some were cute: the tiny black wild piglet someone found and brought me to bottle-feed; the hen who turned up with 24 multicoloured chicks which she managed to shelter in her fluffed-out feathers.

Others were nasty, like Roger the wife-beating ram, who smashed one of the ewes against a fence and broke her pelvis, or the story of Skinny Mini, the tiny lamb I babied through to hoggethood, only to find her dead one day in the top paddock.

Joe the tui used to feature, chiming in from the top of the tallest pine, but the Orokonui Ecosanctuary is quite close as the tui flies, and now we have so many I don't know which one he is. We are overrun with bellbirds, kereru and fantails, as well. It's great.

Gorse has been a recurring theme, and we've tackled it many ways - bulldozer, root-rake, grubber and husband with scrub bar, to name a few.

Sprays are not in our arsenal, since until last year we depended on spring water for our house supply and wanted no possibility of polluting it.

However, after all these years I've found a use for gorse.

It's a great resource for bees, and I plan to take full advantage of that.

I first wrote about planting trees so long ago we are now harvesting those ones for firewood.

This year we'll be planting more.

Like the others, they will be suitable for coppicing, which means they should regrow from the cut stumps, giving a continuous supply of fuel for our woodburner and the wood stove with wetback that keeps our power bills down.

However, there's now a conflict of interest.

Most of those we've chosen for the woodlots are also good for bees: eucalypts, acacias, willows.

To cut or not to cut?

That is the question as I think of future honey crops.

And so the seasons and the years pass, full of the same routine: shearing, feeding out, lambing, managing the water supply and keeping animals away from beehives and woodlots.

It's been a privilege to share it with you.


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