Page 1




issue 58

add a water feature to your property p.10

Going nuts: a macadamia success story p.2 Building an eco house p.6 Horsin' around: the flighty horse p.13


Energy efficient homes are much more of a focus these days as we have moved on from thinking solely about solar hot water heating to considering the energy efficiency rating of our homes and the carbon footprint they create. We’re also interested in learning how to maximize the energy we harvest from the sun. One of the biggest drivers for me is to find a long term way of becoming independent of power companies for electricity. As energy prices climb, and the cost of solar panels continues to fall, financial motives for moving to more energy efficient options increase. To explore some of the options, last issue we featured a story on grid connected solar homes, while in this issue we continue the theme by featuring an off-grid passive home. Our story on the macadamia nut farm is close to our hearts. An attractive feature of the property we bought 10 years ago was the 600 or so chestnut trees which were starting to produce a reasonable volume of chestnuts, but unfortunately there hasn’t been a market for chestnuts significant enough in NZ to make it worth our picking them off the ground. The market for macadamias, on the other hand, hasn’t been as tough a nut to crack.

Helen talks to Henk and Cheryl van Wijk to find out how they have been able to make their venture into a cottage industry so successful. On the landscaping front, we have finally made a start on the back yard concept devised for us by McKechnie nurseries (Issue 52). It started with our buying a house lot of Buxus hedging. In order to get it transplanted quickly we needed to hire an excavator. Four metres of garden mix and one backbreaking weekend later the hedge was in and looking great. This month Grant tells us how to go about planning a pond and what to plant around it to enhance the view. Even as a non-horse person I’ve found out how easy it is to get on the stubborn side of a horse. In this issue, Ben Longwell reveals some very simple tips and strategies for working with easily spooked horses and tells us what works in getting them to trust us. Our big news is that Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle Magazine has a new owner, Jay Bocock, who is working on expanding the readership, both online and in the printed version. Have a look at the newly re-vamped website (rurallifestyle.co.nz).

Macadamia success

This is just the start, so do keep checking in. As a subscriber you can see the changes as they unfold while accessing the rich variety of content available to you.

Neville Walker – Editor

Visit www.rurallifestyle.co.nz for a FREE subscription. Letters or enquiries to Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle, Strategic Marketing, 1/15 Auburn Street, Takapuna, Auckland. PO Box 302, Te Puke. Phone: 07 02160708. Email: jay.bocock@strategicmarketing.co.nz Advertising enquiries: Marlene Brown 021-854-946 Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle ©2012. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form without permission of the publisher is prohibited. No responsibility accepted for any direct or indirect consequences arising from reliance on any content within Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle. Editor: Neville Walker. Sub Editor: Helen Martin. Writers this issue: Helen Martin, Neville Walker, Grant McKechnie, Ben Longwell. Designer: Dan Stenhouse, Bgraphix. Printing: PMP maxim.


By Helen Martin

Making a living from a cottage industry is no option for the faint hearted. There are so many things that can and do go wrong that a business born of great energy and good intentions can end up foundering. On the other hand, with all the right ingredients such an enterprise



can be a boomer. Nuts About New Zealand is a case in point.

experience, expertise, high standards of

It’s no surprise that, in summary, the success of Henk and Cheryl van Wijk’s business can be attributed to hard work,

Added to that, there’s a pleasure in the

professionalism and more hard work. work that, as the couple talk to me on the wrap-around verandah of their beautiful

Rich soil and shelter from prevailing winds make this an ideal orchard site.

self-designed home, is a very evident element of their success. The name of the business is no accident, as Henk and Cheryl decided to emigrate after they fell in love with New Zealand on a

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family sailing trip. Arriving here 12 years ago, they wasted no time buying their South Head macadamia nut farm. Deciding what to grow, given their many years’ experience growing macadamia nuts as part of a large co-op in Port Edward, South Africa, was based on the philosophy “do what you know.“ For starters, then, they knew exactly what they were doing. They were also confident the product would be popular in New Zealand, given that the nut is gaining popularity as one of the healthiest because of its anti-oxidant levels and the omega-3 and omega-6 nutrients in the oils. As a high energy food low in sodium, with no cholesterol, and a good source of protein, calcium, potassium and dietary fibre, the macadamia nut is highly regarded as one of the good guys.

Setting up Getting advice from the experts is essential if you’re beginners, and joining the New Zealand Macadamia Society www.macadamia.co.nz is a good start. Anyone setting up a macadamia orchard needs to do their homework on what varieties best suit the region. Henk and Cheryl grow the Beaumont and Pa 39, as having two varieties aids cross pollination and extends the flowering period. Deciding on the right number of trees is also important. The van Wijks’ 6.1 hectares were originally planted in 1400 trees, which they have now thinned to about 1100. If you were growing for somebody else, Henk says, you’d want about 3,000 trees on 20 hectares.



Healthy nuts and high yields are the result of a comprehensive management regime.

For good crop yields it’s also important to consider soil conditions and position when choosing your site. At Nuts About New Zealand advantage is gained from the richness of the soil and the fact that the site is well sheltered from the cold southerly winds. If you’re starting from scratch, the trees will be beginning to fruit

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by year 4. “Ideally to run a business you’re most probably looking at 8 – 10 years before the trees are in full production,” Henk tells me...

Caring for the trees The van Wijks’ place looks immaculate, with not a weed nor a damaged leaf in sight. Besides the aesthetic pleasure of a well-kept

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orchard, the practical business of keeping the trees healthy is paramount. A small flock of sheep, shared with a neighbour, keeps the grass and weeds down. The macadamia is no different to any other orchard tree in terms of diseases - fungi can be prolific in spring and Botrytis cinerea (blight) can knock a lot of flowers off – so pruning and spraying régimes assure tree health. An irrigation system using a local bore keeps the trees watered. There is also a well organised fertilisation programme, with Henk and Cheryl making their own mix using the discarded nut shells as a base. Complete control is not possible, of course, and a very wet or very windy season can affect the success of a crop.

Pest control Rats are a perennial problem in the country, and Henk and Cheryl spend a lot of money on bait stations in targeted areas to protect not just their trees, but also the abundant bird life that inhabits the nearby wetland. “If you don’t look after what you have you’re providing a haven for pests,” says Henk. “The best thing to keep rats down is good horticultural practice. So if your trees are nicely pruned and your ground is clean you’ll eliminate at least 50% of the rats.”

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Sales Important to making a go of self-sufficiency in a cottage industry is a good business sense. Having always been entrepreneurs in one way or another (in South Africa Henk ran a multi-million dollar property development business, for example) the couple were confident they could create their own work and jobs.


There’s a huge demand, they tell me, and in New Zealand they sell through farmers markets, retail outlets and their online store (www.nutsaboutnz.co.nz). With the continuing demand for high quality New Zealand products their export market is growing throughout Asia and Europe, no mean feat for a small, familyowned operation. “It’s just a bit bigger than a cottage industry and we’re at a stage where we move all the products we grow. We don’t have time to grow anything else, but we don’t want to get bigger.”

And the rewards... There’s so much that can go wrong that a poorly-run macadamia nut enterprise can turn into a nightmare. Run well, it can be very productive and extremely satisfying. “It’s such a beautiful, flexible crop,” says Henk. “As long as you have high standards in all aspects of the way you run your business it’s absolutely ideal.”

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Photography: John and Hazel Owen.


Eco house

By Helen Martin

Building a sustainable home in the country was a long-held dream for John and Hazel Owen. In particular, they were keen to have a passive solar (or climatic) building design, where the walls, windows and floors collect, store and distribute solar energy as heat in winter and reject solar heat in summer. While they’re talented people - John works in telecommunications and Hazel is an education and e-learning consultant - most of the issues they had to tackle in supervising the design and build of their dream home were new. With their home now completed, John and Hazel tell Helen Martin about the process, the challenges and the rewards.

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We wanted a rural property suitable for grazing and planting and we wanted to live off grid and collect our own water. We found 8 hectares of bare land near Kerikeri and felt instantly connected to the place – it has a great feel, is coastal and is surrounded by hills. It’s at the end of the road and Kerikeri is just 20 minutes away by car. For the house site we spent 2 years camping in the paddocks at weekends and observed the view, the weather and the sun. We talked to our architect (and friend) Gary Underwood, and finally selected a site, only to find we were in the coastal zoning and

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Planning considerations A northern orientation for passive solar, views and shelter from the weather were important. We wanted a dry, mould free house, spacious, but simple. We were looking to combine a country 'feel' with modern convenience. We wanted a private and sheltered house is on the other side of the passive solar wall, tucked away out of immediate view... we don't have cars sharing our sunsets :-)

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The long wall ties the house together as well as acting as storing solar energy.

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Being off grid, power is generated by solar panels and stored in batteries.

It would have cost a fortune putting a cable across. As we were both keen on being off grid we generate our electricity from solar

panels and store it in batteries (one of the concessions we had to make to not being environmentally 'sound'). We added a backup generator. Hot water is generated using the sun, as well as a wetback on the range. This is also used for the underfloor heating in the bedroom and bathroom and provides a way to cool excess hot water when everything actually gets too hot! We selected a power-efficient water pump, and use an accumulator to store sufficient water pressure to fill kettles or flush the toilet without engaging the pump every time. Rather than a powerdriven sewerage system we use the power of gravity and worms with our Wormerator. Grey water is separated and diverted to our newly planted orchard. Because electricity is a very limited resource we have to be careful what appliances we use. We use LED lighting where we can. There is no opportunity to heat water with electricity so we have a gas califont for when the sun isn't shining and the range isn't on essential due to the regulations designed to prevent Legionnaires’ disease. We have a gas hob in the cottage and a gas cooker in the house - electric hobs and ovens use too much power.

Pitfalls and challenges We were very fortunate Kerikeri has some great builders, tradesmen, and craftspeople. There were the usual mess ups and hiccups that are all part of building a house, but we spent time at the design stage changing the house so we didn't have to make many modifications during the build. We had a leak as the result of poor flashing, but fortunately identified this almost immediately, and it was fixed. When we lost our original electrician to Australia the handover offered a few challenges when we were trying to figure out what some random cables were for.



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Add a water feature to your


By Grant McKechnie

One of the best things about being on a lifestyle block is that you can add a water feature into your landscaping — its size most likely dictated by the size of your property. Will it be a small lake, a pond or just a big puddle? If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll have to make that decision.

an existing farm dam. That was the case for Christine and Tony Peek, of Woodbridge Gardens, Coatesville, when they bought

But you might have struck it lucky and bought a property with

their property 20-odd years ago. Woodbridge (woodbridgegardens. co.nz) is now recognised by the NZ Gardens Trust as a Garden of National Significance, with its beautifully planted pond very much a feature of the garden. When Christine and Tony started on their journey to develop the garden, the pond was definitely just the farm dam, with no airs or graces, surrounded by pasture and weeds. Since those days, the change that’s been achieved with dedication and patience, as you can see in the photo, is quite striking. Cyathea and blechnum (native tree ferns and ground ferns) regenerated naturally in the damp ground when stock stopped grazing and have been augmented over the years by other plantings. Julie and I weren’t so lucky with our lifestyle block — we didn’t have an existing pond to start with. But we did have a swampy, low-lying area. Starting from that point, it took just buckets of money and a good digger driver to create our pond. If you are starting down the track of developing a pond, make sure there’s a good supply of water to keep it fed. That’s stating the obvious, I know, but it’s amazing how many dry ponds you see around. A spring bubbling up is always handy.


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Christine and Tony get run-off from the surrounding countryside. In our case, the council funnelled all the road run-off into our top paddock. We saw that as a disadvantage when we bought the property 31 years ago, but are quite pleased now as we channel that water into our dam, keeping it nicely topped up. Another important aspect to consider when it comes to dam

Grant and Julie’s pond on a frosty winters morning.

building is the depth. The deeper the better. Ours is 5m at its deepest point. Shallow dams are far more prone to drying out. When we built ours, we left an island (treasure island, of course) in the middle, with the idea that we would plant a golden weeping willow on it, and in time the kids would be able to climb the willow and jump into the water. Our calculations were a tad

awry, as the kids outgrew the willow, but they and their friends certainly enjoyed paddling out to treasure island in the kayaks.

When it comes to planting around a pond,

What we do have diving in and out of the pond, though, are lots of birds. We’ve got shags diving for food, kingfishers swooping on insects, and ducks just messing about.

by using plants that get too tall. And if you

there are some considerations. First up, it’s a very common mistake for people to obscure their views of the pond want your lawn to sweep unobstructed to the pond, simply leave that side unplanted. Take care also with your choice of plants

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for any man-made sides of your pond. Big-growing, vigorous trees are capable of sending their roots through your man-made banks, causing leaks. Plant these areas with smaller shrubs or plants such as cabbage trees, flax, oioi (jointed native rush) and some of the tougher members of the carex family, for example, C. secta, dipsacea, lessoniana or virgata These manmade banks are predominantly clay so are dry in summer and gluggy in winter, as well as wet near the water’s edge. Tough conditions for plants, but the species I’ve mentioned above will cope. To be able to include less hardy plants on the clay banks, you’ll need to dig good sized holes, chuck the clay away and back fill with good soil. Big trees can go on the non-man-made edges of the pond. Weeping willows are lovely, of course, hanging as they do into the water. As you can see from the photo, our treasure island willow (planted 17 years ago) is now well established and looks great at all times of the year. In summer it’s lovely and lush, in autumn the leaves turn yellow, in winter we see its bare golden framework of branches, then, in spring, it pops back into growth again with new leaves and flowers which the kereru like to feed on. It’s truly a tree for all seasons. Taxodiums (swamp cypress and pond cypress), kowhai, liquidambar, pin oak with its semi-weeping form, and maples, to name just a few, all look good by ponds. The taxodiums and willows will both grow in standing water, so can go in very wet spots at the edge. Or how about a stand of majestic kahikatea at the ponds edge? Taxodiums will happily grow in standing water.

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horsin' around

Building confidence in the flighty


By Ben Longwell

As a young fellow of 16 I learned a valuable lesson from a flighty filly, the first horse I ever started (broke in). Seeing she was a little high-strung and not knowing any better, I kept things quiet and easy around her and really took my time in the training process.

fair and consistent. In order for the horse to gain confidence in new situations, it is very helpful if the rider also has a soft “feel” and precise timing in hands, seat and legs.

She eventually learned to accept the saddle, bit, and rider, but only at a certain level of “life” or pressure. If something unexpected occurred she would come unglued and either take off or start bucking. The end result was a horse that was quiet as long as everything else was. But that’s not real life.

I believe it is a mistake not to teach horses to calmly and safely handle a variety of situations with differing levels of pressure. If we tiptoe around them all the time and never ride as if we might have to get there quickly, then we are probably setting them up for a false reality. Consequently, when something unexpected happens (to them, or maybe to you too) there is real potential for a dangerous situation, because the horse has never been shown how to handle things outside his comfort zone and to trust you in spite of his fear.

Without us digging deeper and training confidence, the flighty horse will be just that, perhaps for the rest of his life. At the very least, it will take a considerable amount of time to try to slowly get him better by trial and error and it will be quite dangerous. If you back off after you’ve asked him to do something and he has become “reactive”, you’ve rewarded the wrong behaviour. To avoid this, you may need to adjust the way you’re asking or the amount of “life” or pressure you’re using. It’s always best to get a “try” from him towards what you are asking. When the “reaction” stems from an outside source, it is important that as his leader you do not also become “reactive”. Sometimes it’s easy to get jumpy or nervous when your horse is, whether the cause is another rider, a foreign object or inclement weather. A highly-strung horse needs a confident rider who’s firm, but also

The flighty horse needs clear communication to help build confidence; otherwise it is very easy to just be constantly confirming his fear of everything. Too much pressure and/or poor timing of your release can make a nervous horse into a jumpy, tightly-wound, ticking time-bomb. With a nervous horse it’s important to build confidence every time you work with him and to work with him regularly, especially when he’s young. When a horse gets scared it is crucial to help him find his way out of “reaction” and back to “response” to you. When this is done quietly and consistently, in spite of tense situations, it will build confidence in any horse.

Rt Hon John Key MP for h el ens v il l e

365 Main Road, Kumeu p 412 2496 e John@Johnkey.mp.net.nz w w w.johnkey.co.nz




S E R V I C E D irec t o r y ANNUAL OCTOBER

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Bill LEMMEN MOTORS MOBILE & WORKSHOP • Repairs • Servicing • Parts Massey Ferguson, Kubota & Zetor. All makes and models. 1151 Woodcocks Rd, Warkworth 09 422 5852

TL Adams Ltd

Hay • Silage • Cultivation

Phone 09 420 5119

COLIN HAWKEN FENCING DESIGN AND BUILD Farms • Lifestyle Blocks • Domestic Deer • Post & Rail • 7-Wire • Stock yards • Property Fencing Plans

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New Service: Water delivery

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S E R V I C E D irec t o r y REGISTERED VALUERS Lifestyle Block Specialists for Southern Rodney.

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• Sectional-tilting Roller • 22 colours or powder-coated to match your joinery • We service all makes of doors and automatics • Free measure and quote

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Homekill & Game Meat Processing Sheep * Beef * Pork * Venison * Wild Pork * Wild Goat Wild meats and game are a speciality and we can process, pack & freeze to suit. NZ AWARD WINNING SAUSAGE MAKERS

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Ph 09 412 9210 or 0274 924 494

email: burnetts.sts@xtra.co.nz


Compact beef cattle for lifestyle blocks.

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Garden and Lifestyle Block Specialists


- Plant Centre - Plant Nursery - Landscape Design - Planting - Re-vegetation - Fruit tree specialists We grow a huge range of plants suitable for the Auckland region Book a detailed site assessment and report now for only $195 Enjoy our garden centre, and take a walk on our 1km sculpture and garden trail. Over 60 sculptures by leading NZ artists. 2012 exhibition now on.

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Open 7 days 9am to 5pm Established 1988

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Need Sales? Talk to us now... Deadline for November issue is 31 October. Deadline for December issue is 22 November. For rates and availability, email neville@rurallifestyle.co.nz or phone 09 947 3580 / 021 377 580 or Marlene on 021 854 946. Don’t delay – space is limited.

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Rural Lifestyle Magazine Issue 58 October 2012  

Rural Lifestyle Magazine Issue 58 October 2012, Energy efficient homes, macadamia nut farming, adding a water feature and tips on flighty ho...

Rural Lifestyle Magazine Issue 58 October 2012  

Rural Lifestyle Magazine Issue 58 October 2012, Energy efficient homes, macadamia nut farming, adding a water feature and tips on flighty ho...