Homestead history

The Old Homestead

Like to thank Charley from New Zealand for passing along these great old photos of the original Dervaes homestead located in a old small gold (and jade) mining town of Stafford, New Zealand.   Charley is a nephew of the young Dervaes family’s only neighbor in Stafford, Nancy Merewether, who just only a year ago contacted us because he chanced on finding us through researching the history of the abandoned town.   The internet surely makes a small world.

Here’s what the old place looked like 1920-30’s and in the 1970s when Dervaes immigrated there to live a simple, agrarian based life.

Jules Dervaes turned the old butcher shop into a honey house and had a thriving small honey business. The homestead provided fresh vegetables, eggs, honey and even meat.   Besides raising animals (chickens, ducks and two goats ‘Ginger and Nutmeg’), Jules Dervaes killed a few chickens, even helped with a slaughter of sheep for meat to supply his family’s needs. Life on the homestead was very low impact — captured rain water (the old metal water tank in the photo) for drinking and bathing, cooked on a wood stove which also heated our water, diapers were sometimes boiled in an old copper washbasin/ on a special fireplace in an outbuilding.  When water was scarce, some clothing was taken to the nearby stream and pounded on rocks! Back then, our family had  no phone, no TV reception due to the Southern Alps, but our family kept in touch with the world through a huge 1940s radio which could even pick up Australia. For nightly entertainment played board games like chess. Our neighbor, Mrs. Merewether, did have a phone but it was the old style where you had a certain ring which was yours but you also heard everyone else’s ring too. And, of course, there was the old out house which was essential on the homestead. If there was ever a need, there was a nearby natural spring in the rocks which we could get fresh water from. Our car was an old British Morris (1940 or 1950-ish) which had a hand crank in the front to start it up when it had trouble doing so.   Stafford/Hokitka were quaint old towns where there were a few die-hards up the road like Mick who still had a gold mine he panned for gold, we even found jade on our property. One of our nearest neighbors sometimes took his horse and buggy into the nearby town of Hokitika which looked a stage setting for ‘The Untouchables.’ Life was interesting, to say the least.

I was born on a beautiful spring morning…. in August just as the fruit trees on the homestead were blooming.  

Somethings sound familiar?   Fast forward 30 year and we are still implementing many of the same principle just in a more urban setting.

Charley writes that the old homestead is still there! He even sent photos of what the place looks like now. It’s not change much.  A little overgrown but looks just the same. Amazing.

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  1. Crystal says:

    So a few months ago I got some backyard chickens. They have a moveable cage & I let them out to roam several times a week so they get to eat bugs & plants (and snakes.. seriously). Anyway, I just wondering what you feed your flock. I’ve been giving mine corn w/oyster shells and various scraps but am wondering if they should be getting a layer feed. I feel somewhat uncomfortable w/a layer feed as I don’t know what is in it. What are your thoughts?