Disappointing Our DNA

Whichever line you follow back on the Homestead family tree, in the beginning you will find Agricultural Workers. We’re not big on war heroes or cannon fodder, monarchs and nobles, renaissance men or pontificators. No, at the end of the day, the majority of our ancestors tilled someone else’s land in order to put food on their table and a roof over their head.

Sometimes, when we’re out tending the vegetable garden, collecting the eggs, or coaxing Leia onto the milking stand (there’s nothing as stubborn as a free-thinking goat) you can almost feel the echoes of past generations doing the very same thing, albeit more skillfully. Progress so often results in loss of knowledge and we on the Homestead have so much to rediscover.

Speaking of which, Farm Girl has been learning about early Canterbury recently and in the One for All and All for One Homestead ethos, we’ve all been enjoying the spillover. Those early pioneers had it hard. Breaking in the land, building their livestock bloodlines animal by animal, scratching a living at the mercy of the elements (no shelterbelts back then – not until they planted them, at least); We are in awe…and also a little embarrassed.

The First Four Ships, carrying the first Christchurch residents, anchored in Lyttelton Harbour

You see, in every account we’ve found of those tough, doughty folk who upped sticks and moved halfway around the globe, there’s a hastily erected hut that grows surprisingly quickly (once they kick out the rats and weka) into a cosy, beautifully-decorated-with-home-crafted-vigour, family home. The house is always spotlessly clean despite the raging Nor’westers and you can bet it’s surrounded by a garden crammed with hollyhocks and Canterbury bells, rambling roses, daisies, and baby breath making it the pride of the district. Always, out the back near the pretty chicken coop (they’re always pretty), alongside the laden fruit trees, you’d invariably find the vegetable garden. Oh, the vegetable garden with cabbages as big as young Jack/Bill/Ned’s head, a forest of the darkest of green, dense, and squeaky spinach and/or puha, and profusely flowering potato plants that never fail to produce basket-upon-basket of nuggety goodness!

Faced with this documented evidence it’s hard not to feel like failures.

Shamefaced Evidence of the Homestead flowers fighting for survival among the weeds

At our whare, it’s the flowers that are doughty and tough – they have to be to fight against the weeds that we never quite get round to properly knocking back. There’s always something else more important to tackle.

The vegetable gardens are hit and miss as we learn what likes to grow here and work to juggle off Homestead commitments with doing the weeding. We sadly must report our cabbages got nowhere near the size of any Homesteader’s head (well, possibly one of the smaller chickens), the spinach and kale was adequate but nothing you’d write home about, and the potatoes…well, the least said about them the better. Basket-upon-basket? More like four and a half meals. Tasty ones, though, it must be said. However, we’re feeling cautiously optimistic for the upcoming harvest, probably because none of us have had the time or energy to create the obligatory Settler sampler

Our hastily constructed hut (for the chickens) remains just that, although the backwall lining (a left-behind land agents sign – sorry, Ferg but we needed something fast) has been reaffixed after a blackbird family decided the wall-cavity was the perfect place to raise a family.

As for all those homey touches crafted by the light of flickering candles after a long days work, the wool mountain in the garage continues to grow at a rate matched only by the spiderwebs on the spinning wheel. I can only blame Netflix, well-priced, local vineyards…and maybe a watering down in the tough- and-doughty gene – because at the end of a Homestead work day, everything aches!

We’re happy to report, though, there is still energy for traditions and last Sunday, being the first of December, meant it was time to dig out the Christmas baubles.

Compliments of the Season from the Homestead. We may not be a patch on our ancestors, but we’re having fun re-learning the ropes.

13 thoughts on “Disappointing Our DNA

  1. Function over form in chicken houses, that’s my motto. Mine is falling apart – the gales that I can expect in February are actually a bit of a worry. I think those doughy pioneers are just lucky that cameras didn’t exist – their descriptions may well have been in the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” line of reasoning. I think the spot you’ve got the chickens in is fantastic, they must love that shade about this time of year. Realtor’s signs, lol – my farm abounds with them (thanks to a realtor husband). The little ones stop holes in fences (Open House—>) the large ones have been used as lids for field pens, proclaiming Gina S’s phone number to any nearby skydivers (there is a jump zone a few fields over).. And when you need to corner a panicking escaped hen, two signs are just the job. Pioneers had the tremendous advantage of powerful motivation – literally “do or die”. We don’t have that. Should the potato harvest fail, the supermarket is just down the road. And as you said, jobs in town and modern distractions play their part. You have made great strides in just a couple of years when you consider the change from the back forty in New Brighton to the expanse of acreage in Darfield. Top of the season to you and yours as well – from dark, damp, rainy Tyddyn-y-morwr.

    • We’re being blasted by gales at the moment but all seems to be standing…for now. The chickens have a pretty nice spot under the walnut tree but we are still gutted the “farmyard red” paint we shelled out for turned out so pink.
      I think the retelling of the Settler’s stories by their progeny helps to pretty things up a bit.
      It must be handy having a ready supply of realtor signs…maybe you could come to some arrangement with Gina S particularly if skydivers start beating a path to her door😊
      Sending you some blustery norwester blasts to combate your damp.xxx

  2. I think you are doing just fine! It takes some time to understand what grows well in your soil and to get a proper routine and rota of work that actually works well. I admire you greatly! Have a wonderful Christmas!

  3. My Uncle has published a book about our ancestors, (the promise land) I cried all the way through as the connection between us & our land & lifestyle is so much a part of who we are. Love the family Christmas photo so beautiful. How blessed you are & really no family is complete without a free thinking goat.

  4. Totally agree about free-thinking goats completing the family. I wish we retained our ancestors knowledge of working the land and tending livestock rather than relearning it all, but it does add to the fun. Thanks for your kind words; We are a raggle-taggle bunch 😂

  5. Hi, Yes, as I was reading this post I was thinking of the lyrical language often used by writers of the Victorian era. Perhaps you should read some Henry Lawson to counteract the cosy imagery of abundant vegetable gardens and picturesque hen houses.

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