Richard, Christel, Judy, Daniel and Sarah Vinbrux | Self-sufficiency practitioners
Oamaru, Otago, New Zealand, April 2013
‘We don’t earn much money but we eat like kings!’
We are just south of Oamaru, 300 m away from the coast. Our land has got bits of everything, but our longest hill looks to the north west. There are about 20 acres of pasture, 6 acres of woodlot and creek, about an acre of garden, another acre of orchard, various bits here and there with trees and sheds...all in all it totals 34 acres.
On our bottom flats we have Kakanui loam, very good soil, but with a strong tendency to go very "mineralic" .
We already had sheep, a vegetable garden and poultry back in Germany. Since arriving in in New Zealand 15 years ago we have expanded to about 90% self-sufficiency. We think it is worth the effort, we don't earn much money, but we eat like kings!
Our lifestyle keeps us fairly busy but we like what we are doing and it gives us plenty of free time. We breed Icelandic horses, kill our own meat, brew our own beer, bake our own bread make our own cheese, wine, schnapps, cider and apple juice. We grow our own fruit and veges.
The biggest inspiration for us all are still the farmers of our home region in Germany. Until 40 years ago, a farm the size of ours would have still been considered a decent sized place. Most of these small farms were mixed livestock farms, with big gardens, orchard and sometimes a bit of forest. These people made a good living until the specialization in agriculture slowly forced the last ones out of business.
I bought my copy of "The Complete Guide to Self Sufficiency" when I was 15, and John Seymour still inspires me today. We are often asked about permaculture but this is something we don't really refer to in our way of farming/ gardening. The reason for that is that we farm traditionally like we know it from our home region. People have farmed the same places there for 400 years, that seems to be permanent enough.
Most of the buildings, gardens and sheds we built ourselves, sometimes with the help of friends. Judy and myself (Christel) are doing most of the gardening. Crops and produce vary from year to year but capsicums and citrus trees struggle to grow here. In spring the gardens and looking after animal offspring take up most of the time whilst in winter it is feeding our stock.
Our livestock consists of 6 cows, 4 ewes and a ram, 5 goats, 15 horses, 2 breeding sows and a boar, 20 chickens, 5 geese, 6 turkeys, 10 ducks and 6 beehives.
Rats are our number one pest and we control them with 2 cats and 2 border terriers.
What do we each love most about the way we live?
Christel: When I was 4 I told my parents I wanted to be a farmer. I love most my work with the animals.
Daniel: Harvesting (apples, vegetables and meat)
Judy: Horse riding and general stock work.
Sarah: Taming foals, picking up eggs and checking on new-born animals.
Our lifestyle gives us good and fresh produce - we like to socialize in the orchard with home made food and beverages. The best time of day to be out on our land is in winter, when the sun is shining or in summer when it is over cast or early morning or late afternoon.
Richard: It seems whenever I am fed up with a season the next one is just around the corner...
We’ve had many high moments, this year it was knowing that we have a barrel full of cider, a barrel full of cider vinegar, and 200 bottles of apple juice. Set up for the next 1-2 years again...
We try to observe nature, and garden in accordance with it. There are always things for us to learn. We gain knowledge by listening to farmers, reading books or using the internet.
When things go wrong or don’t work out and animals become sick we try to deal with it as good as possible. Where there is livestock there is also ‘dead stock’. The most important thing for anyone to remember when considering self-sufficiency is ‘One step at a time!
To contact Richard and Christel Vinbrux go to: www.selfsufficiency.net.nz , or look for their entry on www.wwoof.co.nz