For more than 10 years as I went to sleep, I spent 10 minutes every night building my dream property in my head. This has been my dream and purpose for a long time, and I set my compass to it daily.
But since we bought this place, my night-time frolicks on my visualised paradise have changed. Instead, my head is filled with anxiety about things like rates, water, animal health, and what feels like an incredible lack of progress. It feels wrong. Like my path led me to my destination, but now I am here, I’m completely lost.
So I’m going back to the roots of where this whole thing began and re-visualising this property, in its future form. For the rest of this post, I’ll be talking about a point many years in the future. In this magical time, the important aspects of my dream have been achieved. I’m going to show you what it looks like, and how we use it.
A cat and a chicken in a caravan, because why not?
We live in a house with an indoor toilet. Water is reliable, and we have big windows that allow us to take in the magnificent views. It’s not huge, but it’s got room for people to stay. I have an office and the walls are covered in my certificates and awards, including a bunch of wins at local A&P Shows from over the years.
The house remains at a comfortable temperature year-round. It’s completely accessible, and has the meanest outdoor kitchen around. It recycles its water; has renewable energy with mains backup; and costs a minimal amount of time and money to maintain, clean, and run.
The gardens are vast, spanning over two levels. Trees and a food forest have been planted to provide shelter, food, stability, and organic matter. We work to save seeds from lines we have grown here for many years. We have a gravity-fed compost pile that makes all the compost we need for the property. We don’t use herbicides, insecticides, or other sprays because we don’t need them most of the time.
Every year we harvest enough food to feed far more than just ourselves. Some we sell, some we donate directly into our local community. We make our money from our property. A couple of my crazy ideas really worked out and we have a few staple crops that support us. The old compound area has become a processing unit. It allowed us to ‘level up’ and go into retail stores.
Our productive timber forests are looking good. We are regularly turning prunings into biochar for the gardens. We will be making money off it by our retirement. There’s not a single pine tree amongst them.
We have a beautiful, covenanted wetland that we have restored using science-backed methods and grants from everywhere we could get them. It has become home to some rare and threatened species. It has a boardwalk running through it, and we get a lot of fieldtrips visit to learn about why wetlands are important. It’s been an inspiration to restore more wetlands in the catchment, and is making a measurable difference to the health of the ecosystem downstream.
Our native forests have safe, reliable tracks, allowing us to easily monitor for pests and weeds. We have worked with our neighbours to knock pests down within our area and the birdsong is now incredible. Tūi, pīwakawaka (fantail) and kūkupa (wood pigeon/ kererū) are seen regularly around the property. The native bush has been strengthened with extra planting and there are no non-native weeds inside it. Sighting a wild pig is a rarity.
On hot days, we go swimming in our own private swimming hole. We also have a choice of two outdoor baths in stunning locations to relax and watch the ruru and the stars while the kiwi call into the night sky.
There’s a few cows and a few more sheep. They’re friendly and graze the firebreaks mostly. Kikuyu grass has been eliminated and the stock graze on a mixed pasture. We put them in our freezer periodically and throw a BBQ every night over summer. There’s also a couple of dogs and a couple of kunekune pigs we adopted. The pigs are friends, not food. They clean up under the fruit trees to stop any pest buildup.
There’s a dedicated mini-camping ground with composting toilets, a shower, and even a washing machine. Our friends and family have an open invitation to come pitch a tent for a few days.
We serve food mostly sourced from our own property – meat we have raised, and fruit and vegetables we have grown. Even cider we brewed! There’s an epic waterslide running down the hill for the kids (and the kids in aging bodies) as well.
For those who need something for a longer period, our old cabin has been set up in the back fields. It’s completely off-grid, and surrounded by trees. It’s there for anyone who needs it when life sends them spinning.
When no-one else needs it, artists are invited to take it up for a few weeks and use it as inspiration – maybe even paint a mural or design a sculpture somewhere. We’ve got a few very special pieces that have been created over the years and they always bring a smile to my face when I pass.
We are connected to our community. We employ local people at living wages to help when extra hands are required. We train them and support them. We have connections and healthy relationships with local Iwi. We donate portions of our harvests to local initiatives that can use and redistribute them.
Our property has won prizes for its sustainable approach to conservation and horticulture. We show people that it’s possible to make money and grow top quality produce without sacrificing the environment. Country Calendar just got in touch wanting to do an episode on us too.
We are happy, and healthier than we’ve ever been, and we are looking to the future knowing we are secure.