Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live an environmentally conscious, low impact, self sufficient life?
We did! Becky was teaching writing and women’s studies to college students while working on her Ph.D. in comparative literature. She liked it, but we only get one life, and sometimes she found herself wondering whether this was really the best way to be spending hers. Kevin was working in IT. We used to sit at our desks, thinking about raising chickens, surfing the internet for organic gardening tips, and wondering what it would be like to live our dream. Now we’re happy to say that we’re doing more than just wondering about it. This website is all about our lives here on our small, beautiful farm in the Far North of New Zealand.
Our names are Rebecca and Kevin. We came to live on our Farmlet in May 2006. Our son Owen was born in November 2007.
Below are some questions and answers to help you get a picture of us and our lives here:
How big is your Farmlet, and what is the land like? What do you do for water?
The Farmlet is 4.97 acres in total, with about 3 acres of grazing (this excludes the stream and native bush area, driveway, and house paddock. We have about 2.5 acres of extra grazing for our animals on our neighbours’ place. The contour is mostly rolling to steep, and the soil is heavy clay. We have a gravity feed water supply from a spring on a neighbouring property. We also have a dam which we intend to use for the animals and the garden.
Where are you?
We are located about 20 minutes drive from Kaitaia, in the Far North of New Zealand. Kaitaia is a town of about 5,500 people. We live in an enchanted world of trees, mist and rainbows, on an un-sealed road in a rainy green valley. The Farmlet is positioned on the north-facing mid-slope of the valley, which means our place is warmer and sunnier than many others around here.
How did you end up in the Far North of New Zealand? Are you New Zealanders?
Becky is a New Zealander, born in Kaikohe, about an hour south of here. Kevin is a native of Southern California. The two of us met in Southern California when Becky was at university there. Kevin’s a long way from his old home, but it didn’t take much coaxing to get him here. Having watched The Lord of the Rings, and read about New Zealand on the internet, he was ready to buy a one way ticket and take the plunge! Immigration is generally no problem (…relatively speaking! Is immigration ever really no problem?) if you are married to a New Zealander.
Why did you choose to live in the Far North of New Zealand?
One of the main reasons we came here is to be close to Becky’s family. Her parents live on the coast about 25 minutes away from us. We also chose to live here because we like the beautiful natural surroundings, the climate, the isolation, and the slow pace of life. Also, the price of land here was reasonable enough to fit our modest budget.
How do you make a living? How can you afford to live the way you do?
Once we had decided to take the leap from our old lives into this new one, we pooled all our resources, worked and saved like crazy, and sold all our other assets in order to avoid being saddled with a mortgage. By the time we moved here to our Farmlet, we owned the place outright. Because we do not spend money on rent or mortgage payments, and live quite frugally, we can manage on a relatively low income. Of course, we save more money each year as we produce an increasing amount of our food here on the Farmlet.
All this said, we still need some money for property tax, petrol, and other basic expenses. There are also costs involved in developing our Farmlet (eg. putting in more fences, buying a solar water heater or materials for a hen house). So far, we have managed to live off the income from Kevin’s Cryptogon website, plus what we get from Farmlet. We feel lucky that this is working out, since the local economy is relatively depressed and it can be quite hard to find a good job in these parts. It is also neat that both of us can be at home to enjoy seeing Owen grow up. Having said that, Kevin’s website takes up more time than a regular full-time job! It’s always a challenge to balance income-generating activity with work on the Farmlet.
What experience did you have with farming and gardening when you first started out on the Farmlet?
Becky grew up on an orchard, and has been a keen gardener since childhood. Kevin is a relative newcomer to gardening, but got himself off to a flying start: In 2004 he became fascinated with the idea of growing his own food, and took a spade to his back yard in suburban Southern California. So… between us, we started out with at least a few clues about gardening. We have a lot less experience with animals, though Becky spent quite a lot of time on her grandparents’ farm (they had cows, pigs, sheep, hens) when she was growing up. We are very lucky to have the generous help and guidance of some of Becky’s relatives when it comes to dealing with our animals. Both of us love to read, and we enrich our practical learning here on the Farmlet with endless reading.
What animals do you have on the Farmlet?
We have two jersey cows called Rosie and Coco. We breed them each year so that we can milk them and raise their calves for meat. This means that, depending on the time of year, we also have a couple of calves on the place.
We also have a pair of saanen dairy goats called Daphne and Lulu. We have not bred them yet, but once we do it will be a similar story to the cows. We hope to milk the does and raise their young for meat.
Coming soon: Hens! We are working on a chook house and run.
What is the climate like where you live?
It is mild and humid. The average high during the hottest months is about 24 degrees C, and the average low during the coldest months is about 9 degrees C. Of course, it does get a good deal hotter and colder than this. We usually get a handful of frosts each Winter, even here on our warm, sunny slope. It rains a lot: Average rainfall is 1,334 mm per year. The winter months are the wettest, but, believe me, it can rain any time!