We will soon have two lambs at our place. At the moment they are being bottle fed four times a day at their first foster home; they’ll come to us in a couple of weeks when they’re down to only one or two bottle feeds a day and have started to eat grass.  I have cut the grass in our cattle race so that it will be short and sweet for them when they arrive, and they will have a comparatively small space to occupy while they get used to us and a new home.

Michael-van-der-LamzenThis is Michael Van de Lambzen – named after the Food Truck chef, Michael Van de Elzen.

Annabelle-LambeinAnd this is our very first ewe lamb – named Annabel Lambein after the lovely host of the Free Range Cook TV show.

Aren’t they the cutest? If I hadn’t made the decision to become a vegetarian 18 months ago, seeing these two would have tipped me over the edge. Although I have no problem with other people eating meat, I just know I can’t eat it any more.

Michael-finishes-a-bottleI had never bottle-fed a lamb, and loved the experience of feeding wee Michael. He and Annabel were just a week old when I took these pictures and had the joy of feeding them. I am looking forward to their coming to live here, with a bit of apprehension thrown in, never having had to manage such young stock before. I’ll post again when they are here, and you can see how we get on.


Olive harvest time

Ripe olivesI am very aware of seasonal changes since we became involved in a horticultural enterprise. Our lives are governed by the growth, ripening and harvest of our various tree crops, and now it’s the turn of the olives. It may seem strange that anything ripens through autumn – but for olives we usually pick in early June. Last year the olives were not ripe until July and I felt unsettled by the departure from the usual pattern. This year we are back to the usual pattern and I feel much better!

Are there any things in your own life – apart from the weather – that tell you the season has changed?

A tale of Hugh Sheeply-Wittingstall

Once upon a time there was a generally well-behaved sheep named Hugh Sheeply-Wittingstall. He lived on an olive grove in the country, and had a long rope tether to one of the trees. He could wander around the trees, out into the surrounding grass, drink from his water dish and generally have a good time – to the end of the rope but no further.

At the end of my ropeOne day Hugh discovered his rope had got a whole lot longer. At first he stayed close to his trees and ate the long grass near the water race, but when that stopped being interesting he started to venture further afield. He had a look at this, sampled a taste of that, and was wandering past the house when he heard a surprised voice say “Well hello Hugh! What are you doing here?”. Hugh was pleased to see one of the people as he was beginning to wonder just how long this rope was. It was nice to walk beside the woman, but he decided she wasn’t that nice after all when she put him in a pen. She took his collar off and Hugh felt decidedly uncomfortable without its familiar weight. When the woman came back with a bucket of water for him he played it cool and drank lots to lull her into a false sense of security. Then he charged at her!

Very wet!She obviously wasn’t thinking clearly because she held the bucket in front of her as a buffer. Ha, ha, she forgot it was half full, and the force of the charge meant the water ended up all over her!

However she had the last laugh, as the bucket was rather old and it broke – ending up jammed over Hugh’s head. The woman wasn’t any use at first, because she was almost helpless with laughter – but when she finally stopped laughing she took it off him. Hugh shook and shook to get all the water off his face, and then sulked in the corner of the pen, pretending that none of this had happened.

Ex-bucketHugh would like it known that he didn’t mean any harm, and asks that you join the “Free Hugh Sheeply-Wittingstall” campaign by leaving a comment.

I'm innocent, I tell you!


It’s been a year since some of my on-line friends, the Scrapmates, visited Fantail Grove for a retreat (you can read about the 2012 event here).

Last weekend we did it all again – and it was just as good this time around. As you can see from the image below, we worked hard. (Followers of this blog may realise why we are working in the living room this year, and not the garage craft space – go here to see the reason). Hard at work I was very pleased to get my 2012 Photo-A-Day project album up to date as far as the beginning of December, but the highlight for my own creativity was completing three layouts:

Waterfront WellingtonDH takes amazing photographs. These are from his daily walk between the railway station and his place of work and showcase just a little of how lovely (and busy) Wellington’s harbour can be. I wanted to try something new with my title lettering, and used plain chipboard letters from Kaisercraft. I inked these and then embossed them to give them a shiny finish. Next time I will have to remember that the grey of the chipboard substantially darkens the colours – but I’m pleased with how they turned out anyway.

Really Good at SleepThis layout was my response to the challenge I laid down to the Scrapmates: use machine stitching. I have stitched on the scalloped border strips, and over the lettering. I also used up some Scenic Route journalling cards that were already quite old when I got them – as part of my challenge to myself to make a good sized dent in my stash this year.

Haymaking with Farmer TomThis is my favourite of the three layouts I made. I think I am at last beginning to get to grips with layering items and I love how the clusters look. I am so glad to have used the Kaisercraft chipboard embellishment and some very old diecuts. I will forever be grateful to Shimelle for showing me how to repeat elements to bring unity to the design and lead the eye through the layout. I am sure I have lots more to learn, but I think this this is real progress.

Have you found that working with others inspires you to create more than you might have if you worked on your own?

At the Expo

While most of my friends may find it hard to believe, I CAN get up early when I have to. Here’s proof – the dawn sky yesterday, as I left for Wellington. Isn’t it lovely? Slightly foggy and almost ethereal.

The reason I left so early? Destination Wairarapa invited Fantail Grove to be one of their ‘tasting partners’ at the Women’s Expo. They choose a different providore from the Wairarapa to share the stand each day. It means they can be located in the popular food section, and also attracts people to the stand. So glad they invited us this year!

To say it’s a “lifestyle” expo is an accurate summary. There were exhibits from service organisations like Women’s Refuge, Hearing NZ, and Breast Cancer NZ; stands from financial and life planners; products for the home and garden; educational institutions for women and their daughters; clothing, jewellery and other accessories; lots and lots of yummy food and drink – and other products that defy categorisation! It was a feast of colour and the buzz of conversations between visitors and stall-holders was constant.

Barbara (of Destination Wairarapa) and our stand at the beginning of the day – it didn’t look quite so tidy after a day of tasting, brochure-collecting and competition entry form-filling!

Although it would be hard to spot any in this picture, there were some men brave enough to attend – and some of the stalls were being operated by men (the one next to us was being run by a mother-and-son combination – not so unusual you might think, but the son was only 11 and he did an awesome job!).

After a day of this I was absolutely exhausted! I haven’t even unpacked the car yet – that will be a job for Monday. So thankful that I have tomorrow off work to recover further – but I also have to say that I enjoyed every minute of the expo and meeting so many lovely people.

Feed the hungry

Harvesting the olives is once again underway – we had a three-week pause while we waited for the olives to further recover from the hard frost of mid-May, and to ripen a bit more.

Each weekend day the grove is a hive of activity, with olives being shaken, combed and picked from the branches; nets being dragged along the ground, laden with fruit; and the fruit gathered from the nets into trays ready to be taken away on the tractor. The kitchen is a hive of activity too. Here’s what was on the menu last Saturday:

Leek and potato soup

Freshly baked bread rolls

Home baking – oaty choc-chip cookies, prune loaf and Jenny’s brownie

…and fruit to finish off with.

Here’s a photo of the table before the hungry hordes descended:

Unfortunately I never remember to take an “after” shot to go with the “before” one! However I do have this photo of some of the hungry hordes!

Gathering up the net ready to drag it along to the next trees.

Olive Harvest begins

It was only 9.05 on Saturday morning, but already the 2012 olive harvest was underway. We started with our Leccino and Pendolino olives, always the first to ripen. We have 119 of these trees – mostly Leccino.

The picking team of 14 people included our niece and her mum. In 8 years of olive harvesting, this is the very first time we have been successful in getting any family to come along. Thank you, Lucy & Rose, for breaking this dubious trend – and long may your involvement continue!

While one group is picking with rakes and fingers, Jonno (who has appeared anonymously on this blog before) was operating our branch-shaking machine on other trees. Together, these techniques netted (there’s a pun there, if you look closely at the photo above) nearly 20 kg of fruit from each tree.

The next job was to sort out the twigs and leaves. The press has a blower to remove most of the leaves, but those still attached to twigs or fruit are generally too heavy for this, and a hand-sort is more effective.

Once the picking was over for the day (with liberal applications of food and drink applied at two-hourly intervals) we sent 824 kg off to be pressed. 42 trees had been picked – so it was back again the following day for a dedicated team of 7 who continued the job. Even after two days and a total of 1339 kg harvested, there are still more Leccino to pick (not to mention the other cultivars as well). There will be two or three more weekends of harvest to come!

Unexpected visitors

Not long ago I got home to find these little chaps wandering about:

Yes, I know they are cute – I thought so too.

I rang the neighbour and asked, “Do you have three little pigs?”.

“Oh dear”, she said, “are we playing musical stock again?” (The cows on our land, leased to a local farmer, had recently been across to the ‘greener grass’ on the neighbour’s side of the fence). She promised to remove the piggies post-haste.

Just as well – the following day we had a walk around to check the porcine visitors had gone, and found this (and similar sights) all over the olive plot and grape rows closest to the house:

There was time to replace most of the turf and give everything a going-over with the roller before olive harvest begins, but we have really gone off piggies! Cute they may be – but they’re staying penned and on their own side of the fence from now on!