August 19th, 2010

Reed is almost a month and a half old, and I still haven’t written anything about his birth or these special early weeks!

The birth was pretty fast and intense and it all felt really good — although I think I sounded like a cow stuck in a fence. . . or maybe like a creature off Jurassic Park. At around 7.30am on the 7th of July I woke up wondering if perhaps our little one might be born on this day. Well, Reed was born at 9:33 that morning at Kaitaia Hospital and was enjoying his first feed just a few minutes later. I’m just glad we managed to hold on until Kevin and the second midwife got there! The second stage (“pushing” stage) started at 9:10am. When Owen was born I had bad tearing and tissue trauma and lost nearly 2 litres of blood. It was a nice change to have an almost bloodless birth this time — not even a single scratch, and swelling was pretty much nil. Reed’s shoulders did get stuck on the way out (like Owen’s did), but our wonderful midwives flipped me over and released them so quickly and calmly that I hardly had time to register that he was “stuck” before he was fully born and lying on my chest. We went home a few hours after Reed was born.

Baby Reed soaks in the low winter sun

Owen cuddles his baby brother

Reed is sleeping and feeding very well. He loves to bask in the warm winter sun by the living room window. He loves the sound of Kevin’s voice. He sleeps soundly during the night in the big bed with his parents and brother, and he loves to be held (or worn) in his baby sling.
Owen is a very loving big brother. He enjoys looking after Reed, and holding and cuddling him. It is so wonderful to have two little boys!

I think we are very lucky.

Country Calendar: Growing Strong — Whangarei Growers Market

July 19th, 2010

Crossposted from Cryptogon.

We were over at my mother and father in laws’ house on Saturday. They have a television, so we all watched Country Calendar.

Country Calendar is usually very good, but it was particularly good this time.

Most of the food purchased in New Zealand is sold through the retail networks of just two large corporations. There’s New Zealand based Foodstuffs (which operate New World, Pak’n Save and Four Square stores) and Australian based Woolworths Limited (which operate Woolworths, Countdown and Foodtown stores). This duopoly has led to New Zealand having the second highest food price increases in the world over the last decade. (The cost of food in South Korea increased the most.)

The duopoly that has a death grip on most of New Zealand in the retail food sector exists to screw everyone over, except shareholders, to the extent possible. The people who produce the food are paid the minimum possible price. The people who buy the food are charged the maximum possible price. Yes, while that sounds like a good business model for the vampire middlemen, it pretty much sucks for everyone else.

Now, you know how I’m always going on about the power of many small scale producers selling directly to the retail customers.

Well, don’t worry, I’m not going to write it all out again.

Just feast your eyes on what happened when a couple of small scale growers got fed up with being screwed over by Foodstuffs and Woolworths. HAHA! This is fantastic.

Behold: The Whangarei Growers Market.

The retail customers are buying more varieties of higher quality food for lower prices. The growers are earning more, having eliminated the vampire middlemen. Foodstuffs and Woolworths, aren’t allowed to have stalls at the Whangarei Growers Market because they’re not growers. The purpose of the market is for local producers to sell locally produced food. And by the look of it, people seem to like the arrangement quite a lot. The vampire squid duopoly middlemen… Not so much.

Watch: Country Calendar: Growing Strong.

Here’s a bit more from Transition Towns Whangarei:

Via: TVNZ Country Calendar:

When supermarket price-setting was threatening the livelihood of Northland growers, they fought back by cutting out the middle man and selling their produce direct to consumers.

Today the Whangarei Growers Market is a thriving venture providing a living for around 30 local producers. Many more seasonal suppliers jostle for space throughout the year.

The market was started 12 years ago by Robert Bradley and Murray Burns in what has been likened to a David and Goliath struggle.

Robert Bradley says the supermarket chains were using their buying power to dictate prices, with low returns driving small to medium sized growers out of business.

Tomato grower and market co-founder Murray Burns was one of those whose margins were being whittled away.

“The only way to deal with that was to get much bigger or close down – and we wanted to do neither,” says Murray.

The pair were inspired by the concept of village markets in Europe and the United Kingdom, and a resurgence of farmers’ markets in the United States.

They found other growers who shared their predicament and a group of 12 held the first market in a car-park in Whangarei in 1998.

It now takes place every Saturday morning and, when Country Calendar visited, everything from fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, milk and cheese to macadamia nuts and olive oil was on sale. The market has a rule that all produce must originate in Northland.

The local-only principle has kept struggling growers afloat and encouraged new businesses that may not otherwise have been viable. Asparagus, for example, is now grown in Northland for the first time in many years.

The market is also a venue for growers and consumers to meet face-to-face – there is a requirement that growers are also the stallholders.

At the peak of the growing season, the market attracts up to 6000 shoppers over the four hours it is open. Around 50 pallets, or 2000 cases, of produce is sold each Saturday.

Robert Bradley says the key to success has been offering significant qualities of high quality local produce at moderate prices.

Many similar markets have sprung up around the country in the last decade but the Whangarei enterprise deliberately distances itself from the popular farmers’ market movement.

Robert believes some of the newer markets have got sidetracked into “food fashion”.

“For us it is a matter of ‘keep it simple stupid’ – and it has really worked.”

Reed Brian Flaherty

July 8th, 2010

Reed Brian Flaherty was born on July 7, 2010 at 9:33am. He weighed 3.535kg (about 7 pounds 13 ounces). It was a natural birth in every way. Becky and baby are absolutely fine. During Owen’s birth, Becky had a very rough time. This time, she emerged without any tearing at all.

Becky may want to share more about the birth later, but I want to thank our midwives, Tania and Leeann, of Far North Independent Midwives, for their incredible assistance with this birth.

Reed Brian Flaherty

Our Next Son Is Due Any Day

July 6th, 2010

Becky is growing an astonishing baby bump. The official due date is July 12th. Owen can’t wait to meet his baby brother.

Mummy, Owen and baby enjoy a cuddle

Bask in the Glory of Cornelius, Our New Barred Rock Rooster

July 6th, 2010

We recently swapped roosters with a woman who keeps a variety of chicken breeds in Kerikeri. She had this particularly handsome Barred Rock rooster that she couldn’t bring herself to turn into a meal for her family. Since New Zealand is a village, and the Far North is an even smaller village within the village, news of this roo soon reached us.

We took our biggest Barred Rock rooster down to her, hoping that he would make a succulent meal for our new found friend and her family. She took one look at him, though, and said something like, “Oh, he’s beautiful too… Hmm. Maybe I’ll breed him.” So, he didn’t wind up in a pot, as far as we know.


The rooster that she wanted us to have had already gone with some mutual friends of ours. Since our roos aren’t ready for the pot, our friends offered to board this Kerikeri roo for us. Several weeks passed by and the time came for him to get settled in on our farmlet—although our roos still aren’t ready for the pot. We met up with our friends and picked up the rooster. (We gave them a sack of organic wheat in appreciation for keeping him for as long as they did.)

They had a different name for him, which was pretty good, but as soon as I saw him out and about, all I could hear in my head was, “Cornelius.”

Now, the friends of ours, who were temporarily keeping Cornelius, thought that he wouldn’t have any trouble with other roosters, since they had been keeping him with some roosters without incident. We decided to let him in with ours, hoping that it would go ok.

And it did go ok, for about five minutes.

But after that, the situation became a bit more tense. That is to say, I witnessed my first cock fight.

Our biggest rooster, who was scheduled to go to Becky’s cousin’s farm, had just managed his first, juvenile and pathetic crow the day before. Well, as far as that rooster knew, he was the boss. He strode over to Cornelius and stared him down. Cornelius cowered a bit. That wasn’t good enough for our Young Punk rooster, who had a peck at Cornelius. I waved a stick around and called out, “Enough of that.” Young Punk persisted in his pecking and Cornelius continued to cower and retreat. I started making my way into the run as this clearly was going… in a sub-optimal direction. Then Young Punk pulled on Cornelius’ comb and, how should I put this…

Young Punk started it, Cornelius was going to finish it.

Obviously, I know very little about keeping chickens, but I knew that this was very different than the rooster confrontations I’d seen so far. This was a full tilt cock fight. The loser was going to be dead, or wish he was. They were swirling all over as I tried to break them up. The hens and other roosters ran away. It couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds by the time I separated them, but they were both bloody. Cornelius, not so much. Young Punk, on the other hand, got his ass handed to him. He would have definitely bought the farm had I not intervened. Young Punk was stunned, wobbly and bleeding. He didn’t mind that I picked him up. As long as he was out out of striking range of Cornelius, he remained calm.

I looked Young Punk over and determined that his injuries were superficial. I asked Becky to call her cousin to see if she was still interested in this roo, and, uh, is it ok if he’s just been in a cock fight with an older, bigger and stronger opponent, and is looking a bit worse for wear?

Claire was keen to have the rooster, even in his current wretched state, so I packed him up in a fish bin and drove him over there. In case you’re feeling bad for Young Punk, definitely don’t. I turned him loose into a beautiful enclosure with about a half dozen Red Shaver hens who thought that he looked pretty good—even if he did just have his clock cleaned by Cornelius. By the way, Young Punk’s new name is Charlie.

Once Cornelius installed himself as the undisputed hierarchical dominator, there was peace with the other roosters. The lesser roos are content to simply stay out of his way.

Should we have brought Cornelius here earlier, before Young Punk/Charlie had any chance of challenging him? Would Cornelius have simply been the de facto boss at that point? After we discussed this situation with a veterinarian friend (and veteran chook lady), she said that we should have pulled the one that was making the play for boss (Young Punk), and then immediately introduced Cornelius. The lower tier roos would have thought, “Meet the new boss, older, bigger and stronger than the old boss,” and peace would have been maintained.

I’ll conclude by posting a video of Cornelius, basking in the glory of his victory, and surrounded by the hens and lesser roosters. His beautiful comb and wattles are a bit battle scarred, but, as you can see, he’s doing just fine.

Note: Make sure that your computer’s volume is turned down toward the end of the video! Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

A much higher resolution version of this video is available at YouTube: