Finding perfection: Leonie and Terry’s lifestyle block experiences

Leonie and her husband Terry have twenty years’ experience living and working on lifestyle blocks, and they’ve lived with the good and the not-so-good over that time. Their present site, 18.5 acres of easy, rolling, slightly elevated land with big established trees and some very spacious outbuildings, close to Dannevirke and Norsewood, suits them very well, although Leonie says that they are reluctantly looking to sell in order to move north to a smaller property nearer their daughter. Arthritis is taking its toll and while Leonie loves her horses and her sheep, routine management of the property is becoming increasingly difficult and the priority is for “quality horse time” with her daughter, while she can still enjoy riding.

Horses have always figured large in Leonie and Terry’s life: their first block was 17 steep acres near Kaitaia, purchased to provide grazing for the horses and a place for their daughter to have her own dressage training area (even though it did have to be carved out of the hillside with a bulldozer). This was where they also started breeding a few beef animals and sheep.

When daughters Jo and Toni left home, Leonie and Terry fancied a change and moved to a block just out of Hunterville. As Leonie describes it “It was beautiful: 15-plus acres with another 20 acres free lease...the land was picturesque, the stream meandering and there was bush and trees and great places to ride, nice house ,fabulous outbuildings, great community and much more. We loved it there but once Terry started working in Marton (a 50k winding long trip each way) we reluctantly sold there and bought in Marton.”

The move had its problems. The property had an old villa and “ten flat boring acres”. The couple arrived with 8 horses including a stallion, their sheep and a couple of beef animals, but soon realised that the property could not sustain that number of animals and were obliged to sell some, including the stallion. They disliked being so close to town and the renovations of the old villa proved very costly, but the biggest problem was the mud. Leonie recalls “The mud there was so depressing: the most sucky sticky stinky mud in the world...gumboot gobbling was that mud! All in all we lasted about 4 years there but I hated the house and the mud so much that I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally sold.”

This was the point when they moved to their current property. Their friend Jenny was looking to buy an extra farm property as a runoff for heifers and the idea arose to subdivide part of the property for Leonie and Terry including the house, buildings, yards, and woolshed. Jenny didn’t need the house and buildings as she lives down the road on her own dairy farm. So as Leonie comments “We have our place and it is surrounded by our friends' land.”  

The huge outbuildings make the property unique among lifestyle blocks. Leonie notes that “the working woolshed is such a blessing and most unusual on a property as small as this ... it is really big so apart from shearing sheep we also store all our hay in it ...nice, dry and elevated and leaves the lovely huge 3 bay shed for the animals when the weather turns nasty ...we also have an old tractor shed with a concrete floor that we use as an animal shelter, along with the old small milking shed and vat room.”

Another much-valued asset on the property is the well. Again, it is on their friend’s property but services all Leonie and Terry’s troughs as well as Jenny’s. In the summer it also provides flush water for the toilet in their house. They will get an easement drawn up if needed to formalise the situation when they sell.

The house is a big old 1940s farm house built from native hardwood timber and is very solid. Leonie and Terry have insulated and reroofed but otherwise have done little to the inside apart from some painting and papering. Leonie describes it fondly as “a warm comfortable home and suited to a family.” The garden cares for itself by and large: Leonie cheerfully states that she isn’t a gardener; she just enjoys keeping the lawns tidy. Her passion is with the animals: she is proud to say that “My sheep are all tame and follow me around ...including all their lambs ...I can be followed by in excess of 120 sheep and lambs at this time of year!” This is where the physical issues of life on a block are beginning to make themselves felt – Leonie comments that due to the arthritis “I am finding doing things I used to do painful and hard... lambing was intense because of the rain, as we don't leave things to nature and try to make every lamb and ewe live!”

And of course, there are the horses, Leonie’s passion. She has bred them and at one time had up to eight on her property. Her aim was always “to breed sane, safe horses that would take any rider where they dreamed of going ...my horses do NOT bite, kick, rear, or buck. They are bought up loved and respectful.” Now she has just two: “my darling old girl Rockin Robin (a quarter horse rescued by us when she was 11 and on her way to dog tucker ... we did not realise she would still be with us over 22 years later) and her grand-daughter, my last and forever horse, Mo.”

Leonie says that she is past the worry of horse-breeding now, so when she and Terry move, they just need enough land to have the two remaining horses. As she says “I do know neither Terry nor I could ever go back and live on a section in town ...YUCK ... we still need space and privacy!”

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