Noel Sweetman is a lifestyler and a luthier whose customers are among the finest musicians in the world. Outside his workshop he has 40 acres of rolling hills in the tiny settlement of Te Miro in the Waikato.

Block: 40 acres on a hillside in Te Miro, 40km from Hamilton in the Waikato.

Real job: Luthier

For the uninitiated, a luthier is one who makes, restores and repairs orchestral stringed and plucked instruments. Noel primarily works on violins and cellos.  He is currently crafting a replica of the famous cello 1739 'Sleeping Beauty' by Domenico Montagnana.

Background: Born and bred in Hamilton, Noel spent weekends and holidays on farms with his relatives. In 1975, after a career in electronics and aircraft engineering, he became a solo parent and moved to the country. A spell of building and farm work followed, which allowed him to spend time with his growing family. In 1981 he made his first violin and within five years was a full-time luthier.

Stock/Crop: Fat lambs. Noel raises fat lambs on his block - minimum weight 30kg. His 120 ewes lambed in August and half of the lambs went to the meat works before Christmas (just after weaning) and the rest in February. In winter he occasionally grazes dairy cattle.

Block vs. Job: "You have to be disciplined. When I'm lambing or feeding out dairy grazers then that's my first job of the day. Otherwise it's fixed hours in the workshop and leave what I can of the block jobs for the weekends. When I'm cutting hay, of course, everything else has to wait." 

Problems: Noel has no doubt what his biggest problem was as a lifestyler, "Not having adequate facilities. I needed handling facilities for crutching and shearing. I've built yards and a shearing shed now, but before that I had to use a neighbours facilities. General facilities are important too - having gates in the right places and good shelter, especially for lambing ewes."

Why do it? Working out in the open with animals is the total antithesis to being confined in his workshop and Noel has no intention of moving back into town.

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you do differently? "Nothing - this block was just about bare land when I bought it. I built everything - the house, fences, gates and yards. If I had to change something then I would have liked to have had more money to pay other people to do some of the work."

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