A mon­i­tored se­cu­rity sys­tem is use­less for us as the re­sponse is at least 20 min­utes away

NZ Lifestyle Block - - THE GOOD LIFE -

Not only are the stock thirsty, but the sum­mer’s wa­ter sup­ply just drained away. Hav­ing two wa­ter tanks, dis­con­nected from each other, means at least you will have one tank of wa­ter to come home to. We have one large un­der-floor tank with a timer on the pump that will switch it off af­ter 30 min­utes of con­tin­u­ous use.

An­other op­tion is an elec­tronic ir­ri­ga­tion con­troller sys­tem which will cost around $700. This is con­trolled by your smart phone and can be set up with a flow me­ter to alert you if there is ex­ces­sive flow. You can use the same elec­tronic sys­tem to wa­ter your vege gar­den or nurs­ery while you are away. Raised beds are great, but they dry out faster than the ground and one hot week can be death to your year’s sup­ply of toma­toes.

Cheaper wa­ter­ing op­tions are tap timers that screw onto your hose. Pro­gramme for a good soak early ev­ery sec­ond or third morn­ing, en­sure the bat­ter­ies are good, and set up a cou­ple of weeks be­fore you go away to check they are op­er­at­ing prop­erly and suf­fi­ciently.

Nurs­ery trees and pot plants can be set in a tray or bath, raised up on a stand of bricks or up­side-down saucepans. Drape an old towel over the stand and fill the base with wa­ter so the towel wicks wa­ter up to the base of your plant.

Coast to pre­tend it doesn’t hap­pen. It’s also why our pig pad­dock is be­hind the house, nei­ther vis­i­ble or ac­ces­si­ble by road.

Self-suf­fi­cient an­i­mals

I hate leav­ing an­i­mals unat­tended but we planned our block care­fully so we could es­cape for week­ends. With the neigh­bours keep­ing an eye on them, they are ok for a cou­ple of nights.

Plan­ning in­cluded mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing had am­ple space, food and shel­ter. The ducks and guinea fowl freerange in the or­chard, with open ac­cess to their nest­ing boxes, a small dam and an old bath for wa­ter. The bath has a ball­cock so it re­fills, and a lit­tle wooden ramp so they can get out if the wa­ter level drops.

Chick­ens also free range, as far as pos­si­ble from my vege gardens. They hap­pily put them­selves to bed each night and au­to­matic feed­ers sup­ply din­ner. The only an­i­mals caged are the lit­tle Ja­panese quail whose seed is dis­persed by an old cat bis­cuit feeder.

The pigs free range and have nose rings to stop them turn­ing the grass into mud. We’ve chan­nelled a spring through an old bar­rel to pro­vide con­tin­u­ous fresh drink­ing wa­ter be­fore it runs into a nat­u­ral wal­low.

We also chose Devon pigs which are black and so well adapted to out­door life. They the­o­ret­i­cally will do well on grass alone but mine in­sist that this is a fal­lacy and en­joy their shel­ters and a daily meal. How­ever, I know they have plenty to graze on to sus­tain them over a week­end.

Cows and sheep are more in­de­pen­dent and I have a few pad­docks that are highly vis­i­ble to my neigh­bours. It is just a mat­ter of sched­ul­ing my graz­ing rou­tine so they are in there with plenty of feed when­ever we are away. The neigh­bours will no­tice as they drive past if some­thing is caught in the fence, look­ing ill or out of wa­ter.

The milk­ing cow al­ways has a calf or two share-milk­ing with me, hap­pily keep­ing her ud­der empty for a week­end with­out over­dos­ing on milk.

Our en­tire house sec­tion is dog-proof fenced and two Dober­mans guard the house and cars while we are away. They have their own ken­nels, heaps of room to run, a cou­ple of bones to munch on and each other for com­pany. Any would-be bur­glars would be ex­tra en­ter­tain­ment.

These are our nor­mal daily rou­tines so there is no ma­jor change if we are scoot­ing off for a week­end. Feed­ers and wa­ter­ers are all tried and tested and the an­i­mals well used to it all. Every­one gets a good feed and last-minute check on Fri­day be­fore we leave, and again as soon as we get home on Sun­day. The neigh­bours are told if we go­ing away and will keep an eye out for any­thing amiss. Week­ends are easy, it is longer hol­i­days that need more plan­ning.

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