Christine and Martin have lived on their 4 acre Makotuku lifestyle block for almost two years. When asked what made them buy that block, Christine answered that it was a good question! “We had been looking for about 2 years and just wanted an acre or so in the country with a reasonable house and a building that could eventually be turned into self-contained accommodation so that we could have people to stay. While we were looking, the house market went crazy and we were rapidly finding that the sort of thing we wanted was going out of our price range. Having said that, we did like the area and the house. The land was a bit more than we wanted, but still only 4 acres. The idea of living in a vineyard was a bit seductive.”
The area was appealing as they live only a few kilometres from the Cistercian abbey at Kopua. Martin has a long association with the monks and he and Christine aim to share in their Benedictine lifestyle in their own place. Martin is an Anglican priest whose work involves training clergy in Waiapu diocese. He is able to work from home and also travels throughout Hawke's Bay, Bay of Plenty and Eastland.
When Christine and Martin found the block, one acre of the vineyard was planted, growing mainly virus-resistant rootstock which would be sold to nurseries where wine grapes would be grafted on. There are also a couple of rows of pinot noir grapes as a trial. The vineyard venture is in partnership with a couple of the neighbours, one of whom also has an acre planted in rootstock and a couple of rows of pinot noir, while the other is a sleeping partner. At the moment, another 2 acre paddock is is leased to a neighbour for grazing.
Christine said that farming rootstock and grapes wasn't originally what they had in mind. “To be honest on first viewing the vineyard almost put us off the property, we knew nothing about this stage of the wine process, being somewhat more familiar with the other end, the bit after the cork comes out! After talking to the owners and the two other partners in the venture we were satisfied that we could handle the work involved.”
”We rapidly discovered that although growing rootstock and it's pruning is not difficult, it is very time consuming and there is no guarantee of a sale at the end of the process. So we have decided that over the next few years we will take out the rootstock and replace it with grapes. The pinot noir have done very well this year, the first year there has been a harvest, so it does look promising to expand these plantings. At least if no one else wants the product, we can drink it ourselves! In an effort to keep costs down, and because we have our own rootstock and a couple of different clones of pinot noir grapes which seem to do quite well in this area, we want to try grafting our own plants, so that is the project for the coming spring. We have also planted a bit of an orchard and are planning a small olive grove.”
Neither Christine nor Martin were from farming backgrounds – in fact far from it. Martin stayed on his god-mother's dairy farm when he was 12 and has not drunk milk since! When Christine was young she had holidays on a family friend's farm and wanted to marry a farmer, trouble was she didn't know any.
Without a farming background is there anything they’d wished they had known before taking on this block? “Not really”, said Christine, “We have learned heaps as we have gone along so the process has been gradual. We are really fortunate to have great neighbours who help us, and we can repay this by helping them as required.
And the benefits of living on a lifestyle block? “We love having the space and solitude around us with no close neighbours. We have a large garden which we both enjoy, a few chickens wandering around producing the best eggs and room to grow fruit trees and bushes and a large vegetable garden.”