Land(ing) in all kinds of trouble.

As a Christmas special today you get two blogs, enjoy!

The last week has been a week of much disappointment and sadness for Landy. A few weeks ago I decided to get him serviced and called up the local mechanic in Ohau. Having been assured by the mechanic that he knew the car from its previous owners and that I was allowed to drive the Landy on the road without tax or insurance I set off on the 5 min journey to the mechanic, Claire following closely behind in the Colorado.

Almost three weeks later, two deliveries of parts from the UK and many follow up calls to the mechanic I was at last told she was ready to be collected. Dreaming of a car that started straight away, stopped when you pressed the brakes and no longer smoked like an old woman sitting in a rocking chair in Cuba, we set off to pick up the car. And this is when the story starts to turn sour.

I was prepared for the bill to go from the $390 mark mentioned the last time I talked to the mechanic to more like $690 (he had replaced the brake master cylinder and rear brake cylinders with parts I had bought from the UK) but I was not prepared for the slightly nonchalant way the mechanic informed me the cost was actually $1600. Lets put this in perspective, the car drives ok and is great on the farm but it is not roadworthy and therefore probably not even worth $1600, so what on gods earth made him think he could try and charge $1600 for work that he had not even discussed with me? After a lengthy conversation he agreed to reduce the cost to $1000 and by then I had had enough of the conversation and Claire was calling me from the Colorado to ask if she could leave the forecourt where she was waiting.

I took the keys, reminded the mechanic that I was not happy and set off to the petrol station to fill up before heading back to the farm (having been told there was enough petrol for the 4 min drive). As I drove off the forecourt, with Claire heading in the opposite direction, I immediately noticed that the brakes were still VERY spongy and the speedo no longer worked. Then I got an even greater surprise, the choke handle had been moved, I do remember the mechanic had called me a few weeks ago to say the choke was tough to pull because it was caught on something, he had decided to reroute it, I thought he meant behind the scenes in the engine bay but what he actually did was drill a hole in the dashboard on the other side of the steering wheel and put the handle through the new hole, worse still it was no longer connected to the engine at all and does nothing.

Reeling in shock about the lack of improvements for $1000 I carried on along the road for 3 mins until with a splutter and a cough she ran out of fuel (within view of the petrol station). Having been forced to buy another fuel tank and $10 worth of fuel for $30 I filled her up and drove the 50m or so to the station. Landy hasn’t had a good drink in a while and so I was not surprised she was thirsty, but as the pump racked up $120 – $130 – $140 I was getting a little ashen faced. She took a total of $156 worth of fuel to fill and when I got back in the car I  was excited to find the petrol gauge seemed to work (it had not done so before). I headed back home thinking that I would never run out of petrol again now that the gauge worked, how wrong I was. As I pulled in to our bumpy house drive the fuel gauge wavered wildly from left to right with the flow of the fuel in the tank and as I stopped I noticed that the strong smell of petrol had followed me  from the petrol station and was infact emanating from a leak in the petrol tank where the fuel gauge sender unit went into the tank and had not been sealed properly…

The next day.

Rueben and I decided to drive the large field over the river and draw up a plan for the paddocks where I would house the breeding sows and boars. As we circled the field, taking GPS readings, we came up to the swampy section at the back and decided to see just how swampy it was, here is the answer:

Land Rover, farm

Landy, bogged down by earthly problems.

So as Reuben and I sat in the Land Rover, slowly sinking to the bottom of the earth, I called Claire on the (very newly replaced – thanks Uniden) UHF radio:

“Um…are you busy?”
“I’m working, why?”
“Um, cos we need you to come over the river and rescue us…”

Like an angelic Ginger version of Lara Croft, Claire jumped in the Colorado, forded the river and arrived like a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark at the gate of the paddock. Within about 10 mins we had managed to free Landy from his resting place and everyone set off in their respective cars, my brakes seeming to get softer and softer as I came down the hill to the river. A quick inspection under the car and I found the source of the problem, whilst trying to get out of the bog I had managed to wind a good percentage of the field around the drive shaft which in turn had ripped the brake pipe from its location and twisted it around the shaft until it had snapped.

In summary, after spending $1000 I now have a car with no brakes, a leaky petrol tank, a wildly over excited fuel gauge and a choke that doesn’t work sticking out of a new hole in the middle of my dashboard. Bringing me neatly to this weeks Farm School Detention which is: if you really want something done, get on the internet, buy a book and do it yourself. I am now researching for a brake pipe plan/design for a 1987 110 Land Rover and I will be fitting it myself, no more Mr Mechanic for me.

And finally I would like to wish you all, your families and friends, a very Merry Christmas from us all here at Woody’s Farm. May your stockings be full of presents and your supermarket bought Christmas hams be unfulfilling (because next year I hope they will all be from Woody’s Farm….)

Tucker and trough vs. farmer

This week has been  mostly a physical week with things needing lifting, carrying and towing. Lets start with the most important matter, the pigs, those of you who want to know how the pigs are getting on and are worried about their eating habits, I can confirm that they are getting on very well and I swear they are growing in size by the day. They have basically decimated the grass in the small Transit paddock they are currently in and have taken to their new diet of  Sharpe’s Multifeed, Korker Porker and leftover vegetables, from a local veg shop, with relish. My spreadsheet is also coming along nicely and for those of you interested in the wonderful world of Excel charts then this is a real corker (pun intended):

The amount left over before each meal is dropping and to compensate I am starting to feed more.

The amount left over before each meal is dropping and to compensate I am starting to feed more.

Claire and I stocked up on both types of feed this week and I now have a shed full of bags of lovely pig feed just in time for Xmas. The Korker Porker contains lots of dried vegetables like corn and peas along with crushed grains so I have to soak it before feeding, as always this meant more purchasing and this time it was the warehouse that came to the rescue with 12 buckets at just $1.40 each – however there was a catch as the colour is questionable…

So having sorted the food it was time to resolve the water issue. I have decided to go with troughs not connected permanently to our house water tank (in case the pigs knock them over and release a flood of 30,000 litres) so I bought five 80L concrete pig troughs online for the princely sum of $75 each and this week I arranged to collect them from Fielding. All was going well and Fergusson Concrete had made me 5 lovely troughs, the guys at the plant loaded them onto the back of the Ute and I was pleased to find they all fitted, meaning only one trip. On the way back it dawned on me that these five troughs were very heavy and unless I could find someone to help get them out the back of the Ute then that would be their final resting place. Claire was out of the question and people are not queuing around the corner to help me lift heavy items out of my car so once again Reuben came to the rescue and the next morning we were grunting and groaning as we lifted the troughs one by one into the paddocks.

With another couple of feed stations completed I now have two larger paddocks ready and waiting for the pigs to be split into male and female and frogmarched up the roadway from the transit paddock to their new homes in the arcs. More on this to follow.

The stork has arrived!

At long last Claire and I have officially become pig farmers. On Wednesday 11th December Gill and her husband turned up at the farm with nine little weaners loaded into the back of their flatbed ute. Having very carefully structured the entrance to the ‘transit’ paddock so there was no way out we backed up the vehicle and one by one extracted the pigs from their overnight home in the cage on the back ute. Grabbing a rear leg with one hand and scooping them up under the belly with the other hand seemed to be the most efficient method but taught me three lessons,

  1. Even at 3 months old and about 15-20kg they have a really powerful kick
  2. They squeal when being picked up, they squeal a lot and very loud and very high pitched.
  3. They tend to urinate under stress and their urine stinks, so much so that I couldn’t stand the smell of my own clothes afterwards and went straight home to wash (it is possible that this was a boar scent and not urine but I am not sure and either way, it stank).

So after all the waiting and excitement and stress and reading books and watching videos the pigs have arrived, been settled and are happily grazing.

Pigs like grass, they have chewing the grass like crazy since arriving. It also doubles as a play area and bed.

Pigs like grass, they have chewing the grass like crazy since arriving. It also doubles as a play area and bed.

The pigs 'tucker' is a multifeed from Sharpes, basically a nut shaped pellet made of grains, legumes and supplements. I feed them on a home made 'feed station' made from two pallets.

The pigs ‘tucker’ is a multifeed from Sharpes, basically a nut shaped pellet made of grains, legumes and supplements. I feed them on a home made ‘feed station’ made from two pallets.

Me inspecting the herd on day one.

Me inspecting the herd on day one.

Ah, a wallow. I was told that if I made a small hole and filled it with water the pigs would do the rest and create a lovely big wallow.

Ah, a wallow. I was told that if I made a small hole and filled it with water the pigs would do the rest and create a lovely big wallow, seems to be working.

These pigs, like many in New Zealand (and probably elsewhere) have been fed on out of date bread from the local Tip Top bakery, bread is a good bulk food but not good for taste or health so my first goal was to get them eating properly. I was a little worried that a change in diet might be a shock to the digestive system for them but I needn’t worry as the first thing they did was tuck into the grass and the weeds, making a serious difference in just a matter of hours. Grass is an excellent free feed for the pigs but as they are omnivorous it cannot be their only meal so I have been feeding them a pellet looking food supplement designed to get them bulked up. Initially the feed was welcomed with relish but I have noticed that whilst seeming to enjoy the food the feeding has slowed, in true business man style I have started to keep a spreadsheet and maybe one day, if you are lucky, I might share it with you.

So far so good, the pigs are happy and well fed and watered, I will be keeping a close eye on them day and night because the best way to learn is to watch, and I also suspect they are hatching a cunning escape plan through the electric fence and onto freedom. They will stay in the small transit paddock for a week and then I will move them into the larger foraging paddock next door where we will get to see if the famous Pig Ark stands up to the job.

As a final note, I am well aware that most of you reading this are only doing so in the hope that one day I will post a cute picture of little piggies, well here it is, but remember that one day you may well be enjoying these little fellers in a totally different way, yum!

Buster and Little Red. Claire has already given these two names however this is not an issue because we really don't know which of the nine they actually are so all the Blacks are called Buster and the red are Little Red.

Buster and Little Red. Claire has already given these two names however this is not an issue because we really don’t know which of the nine they actually are so all the Blacks are called Buster and the red are Little Red.

All pigs are equal…but they are NOT like cattle or sheep!

At the advice of Jeremy from Longbush Pork I attended my very first NZ A&P show. I was quite pleased because my first A&P show was the ROYAL show in Fielding, surely if it had been given the grand name of ROYAL SHOW it was going to be good. I had recollections of the grand East Of England Show that I used to attend with my parents in Peterborough (UK) many years ago, with its massive tractors, trucks, shows, candyfloss and many other events slightly related to agriculture.

I arrived on the first day of the show and it was most definitely not in full swing. Amongst the crowds of stewards were a few visitors hiding away in the tents where an Italian gentleman was showing his new range of cookware and New Zealand’s most famous Port was attracting, literally, crowds of absolutely no one. I circled the show looking for two things, the pigs that I had come for and some food that I had come to need. Food came in the guise of a packet of chips and a bottle of pepsi, I simply couldn’t bring myself to eat another of those hot dogs on a stick. The pigs were elusive, studying a map I could see where they were supposed to be but all I could find were horses and cattle and a few storage buildings. I circled three times before choosing to wander into one of the storage buildings and sure enough, looking very sad, was the greatest and largest of New Zealands pigs just waiting for….anything to happen.

Dont get me wrong its not just a New Zealand thing that pigs are treated like, well, pigs but its always a real disappointment to me that an animal we know has the same intelligence of a three year old child doesn’t get the same treatment, recognition or even humanity that we give to cows and horses. While the horses pranced around inside the dry main arena and the cows enjoyed their own marquee tents the pigs laid on concrete, with no water or feed, in an outbuilding being looked after by a teenager barely capable of lifting a bucket to put water into the empty pigs water troughs (after being ordered to by a passing stranger). Are we ashamed of pigs?

So after driving for a hour to Fielding the Royal show was not the pig buying ground that I had expected, in fact it was not even a place that pigs should be if they are going to be treated like that. No wonder that pig farmers are looked upon with derision and kids don’t know that bacon comes from a pig, pigs are like the child of the 19th century – neither seen nor heard.  In fairness I should say that it was only the first day and if I give them the benefit of the doubt probably the worst day for me to visit (lets hope they had water every other day). The few pigs that were in situ were a good selection of breeds so I took some photos:

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It appears that many do not share my view but I think pigs are beautiful, all of the above breeds are special and should be treated as such. I would like to think that perhaps in some small way I can get New Zealands to start to respect the pig and enjoy them more in both life and death. Perhaps even bring the sexy back to pigs that the horses and cattle still enjoy at the A&P shows around the country. Pigs are not dirty, they are not to be ashamed off, they are to be treated with respect and eaten with relish…

The Farmers Market

Firstly I want to apologise for being so late with this (last) weeks blog. I want to try and post every Friday but last week we had a family occasion in New Plymouth and I didn’t get time. Not too worry, here we go….

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When Claire and I moved to Manakau we already knew some pig farmers nearby. Leanne and Darren run Kapiti Free Range with their son Reuben, their farm is in Te Horo just 10 mins south of us. After the six month long search for the farm was over I decided to give Leanne a call to tell her that we had found a farm and even better we were going to be neighbours. Leanne had told me months ago that she simply couldn’t meet the demand for free range pork so I decided to ask if we would be able to work together, however life has a habit of throwing a curve ball and personal matters had become a priority for Leanne and they had made the very hard decision to sell their herd and stop farming altogether. This was initially a real disappointment and shock for me but Leanne and Darren were keen to help me set up and start the business and along with Reuben they have become excellent mentors.

On Saturday 23rd November Leanne invited us to meet her at Hill Street Farmers market in Wellington. This was a great opportunity to see how the farmers market works, to meet the customers and to experience my future.

The Kapiti Free Range refrigerated stall at Hill Street Market.

Leanne and the Kapiti Free Range refrigerated stall at Hill Street Market.

I spent a good few hours watching the market stalls and seeing how Leanne worked the customers. She has an excellent rapport with her regulars and it was great to get to meet a few. People at the farmers market are there because they care about what they eat, they want to talk about it and a good few were excited to here that I was setting up a pig farm near Leanne.

The sales part of my new life really excites me and I simply cant wait to get the pigs up and running so that I can start to market the pork, bacon, sausages and everything else. Marketing and sales is what I do and at least this part of being a farmer is not completely new to me so I already have a few innovative ideas about our Woody’s Farm brand, the logo and how to market the different breeds that I will be raising. Part of this will be the ‘Pig Day Out’ experience where customers will be able to come and see the farm and really understand what goes into breeding pigs. Its really important to me that everyone becomes an integral part of the food chain and I am hoping to help that by showing people where their food is really coming from.

So for now keep an eye out for Kapiti Free Range and I look forward to seeing you at a Farmers Market in March 2014.