Teresa Chousal and Tony Reeves, Southbridge

Our lovely black labradors Tony and I are both in our second chance at life as a couple, we both had marriages that ended, grown up children, grandchildren etc. We got together 7 years ago, Tony was living in Wellington, I was living in Christchurch. I moved up north to be with him as he was finishing his contract and he’d be down in Christchurch in a few months, 18 months later we decided to move.  Tony flying up to Wellington Monday to Thursday, we rented a house in Springston with the idea of looking around to buy a bit of land.  We thought it was going to take around 2 years to find the right place.

Every spare minute we had together was spent looking at places from the Waimakariri river to Rakaia, decided that Ellesmere was the area for us and found this place, only 2 1/2 acres, an old house but needed sprucing up, shelter trees around the house protecting weeds and 3 paddocks full of weeds.

Calla lily - the last quilt I madeOur first idea when we bought the place was to plant shelter trees around the boundary, after that was fruit trees, and a big vegetable garden. We dreamed what it would be like in a few years time, grandchildren running around picking fruit and us taking vegetables and fresh eggs to friends and family.

We bought a chook house and 2 hens with 1 rooster; I wanted lavender araucanas as I am originally from South America and used to have green/blue eggs as a child. Then we got some more hens and people started asking if we wanted to sell eggs, that started us thinking that maybe I could make some pocket money and use some of my spare time with hens, so ended up with 250 araucanas and around 8 hen runs, selling every single egg that they produced.

Tomatoes, the first lot in the tunnelhouse We did the numbers and to be able to have decent pocket money we needed at least 700 hens and twice as much land. We decided against it.

While all of this was happening I was also growing a lot of vegetables that I was not able to buy at the shops, we have a small glasshouse where I discovered I really had green fingers.  As I was been asked by friends and family if I was willing to sell some of these vegetables, we decided to go ahead and use some of the land for bigger production, we sold everything we grew, so following year we planted more, when I thought I was not going to sell enough, contacted restaurants and they told me they were very interested in borlotti beans plus roma tomatoes, we decided to invest in a tunnel house to extend the season and control the growing conditions, so hens had to go and we sold them all except a dozen or so for us to enjoy.

We got the tunnel house and planted it, we have had no serious problem with production, anything we grow we have been able to sell, we have bought a second tunnelhouse but that has not been installed yet. With the second one we will have 1000m2 under cover. We also installed a boiler that not only heats the tunnelhouse but also heats up our pool.

2005 production of Borlotti Beans Looking back at the four and a half years we have owned this place we feel we were born to be here, we love the peace and quiet, the lack of traffic, the birds waking us up in the morning, the sense that we belong to this community, there is nothing compared to sitting outside in summer, dogs running around, cat tormenting the dogs, hens around us.

We have invested a lot into this little block of land, more now that we are renovating the house, but we would not change it for the world, we plan to stay here until we are not able to lift a spade or walk to the tunnelhouse, this is our little heaven.

Of course there are things we wish we had known before we went ahead with some of our projects,  we found for example  that Tordon is not a good herbicide to put in an area to kill thistles if you are planning on planting vegetables in the years to come, but the lot has been a learning process. Tony and I both feel we could not live in the city unless our health deteriorated.

Both of us have plenty of hobbies that keep us entertained in those long winter nights, Tony has his computers and is for ever fixing things or planning some project, I have my quilting, cannot think what I’d do without it.

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