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Running the Farm

This section of the website holds articles on everything you need to know about running your lifestyle farm. Choose from the menu on the left to browse our articles.

We are told it’s ‘climate change’ that has caused the recent mayhem up and down the land, from too much rain in some parts to drought in others.

What happened to the world all of a sudden? Things far away are affecting everyone and rising costs are going to make farm folk look very carefully at how things are managed. For us older folk, we can remember the ‘Make do and Mend’ slogan of WWII which could come in useful again.

It’s been another difficult summer with the long dry periods in many areas, going to make it necessary to have plenty of feed supplements available.

There can’t be many folk left who believe that climate change is a myth, after the weather in January from floods to fires. It’s going to be the future and farming and is sure going to be a challenge when you don’t know what’s coming next!

This summer the weather has been kinder to us than it has in many recent years and the forecast is for high temperatures and normal rainfall.

December this year is going to be interesting – not because of the virus and it’s affect on festive celebrations, but because of rainfall.

November is a critical month for pasture growth and we have to get rain, because the rain we get now dictates growth for early silage, and preparing for summer which is many regions is predicted that it could be dry if long-term trends are to be believed.

Are we in for another summer drought? This is now the worry every year as records show declining annual rainfall over the last three years.

It’s a good time to have a small block to get on with jobs outside away from TV and radio with all the misery which leads all the bulletins.

There can’t be anybody around now who doesn’t believe in global warming after the massive damage done in many areas in July. The cleanup will be massive and take years.

One thing we can be sure about is that it’s winter and time to make plans for next season.

As of the 9th May 2021 there is a change to animal welfare regulations. The changes cover a wide range of surgical procedures, including ones often carried out by the farmer such as tail docking and dealing with bearings.

The shortest day has gone and seeing young calves around and early lambs can fool you.

There are good reasons to control possum.  They are a threat to our ecosystems in many ways:

Unless you've deliberately set out to study them, grasses are just grass to most of us.

Apples have been eaten for thousands of years and the number of varieties is staggering.

This article describes several tiers of more serious offences that could result in a criminal conviction and fines of $3000 to $5000 for an individual and up to $25,000 for a body corporate.

Codling moth is one of the most common pests in New Zealand orchards.

There is an old saying that you put a $1 tree in a $10 hole. Inflation may adjust the figures but it still holds true. Put tenfold the effort into planting and you set your tree up for life.

Keith Olsen never considered keeping a small apiary on his 10 hectare South Otago lifestyle block but when a close family friend wanted to offload his bee-keeping equipment, the opportunity suddenly presented itself.

Truffles are types of edible mushrooms (fungi) that grow on the roots of certain trees.

Watching my friend labouring passionately on a windy, exposed hillside at a sloping Kaimai lifestyle block, I thought she was a little bit mad.

Animal Welfare Act Regulations make it easier for offenders of lower grade infringement offences to be fined without the need for prosecutions.

Animal Welfare Regulations highlight certain management standards that are expected of animal owners and make them more readily and quickly enforceable.

Australian Sedge is a nasty species I tried to ignore for many years, hoping it was a native which wouldn't need eradication.

New Zealanders spend significantly more on bananas than any other fruit. On average, each family consumes 18kg of imported bananas every year.

The almond is a dry-fleshed cousin of a peach with a tasty kernel. It is one of the first trees to blossom in spring and is long-lived for a fruit tree, living up to 70 years old.

The avocado fruit has a completely unique taste and can take over 12 months to mature on the tree.

The yellow and black bullets of evil seem to be everywhere. But not all wasps are equal. Knowing what wasp is what helps deal to these flying menaces. Annette Taylor takes a closer look.

They say that firewood warms you twice; once when you burn it and once when you chop it.

In July 2012, the first stage of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme was introduced for all farmers in New Zealand – even lifestyle block owners.

While the water trough in your paddock is just a very large drinking bowl, it comes with a lot of extra bits.

There are at least 19 chemical elements required for plant growth.

A septic tank is the main component in a small-scale sewage system that works with no connection to the main sewage pipes.

The utility vehicle, also called a ‘side by side’ is growing in popularity on lifestyle blocks and farms around NZ and it’s easy to see why.

A riparian strip is the piece of land alongside a river or stream.

It’s an easy concept to think of the soil as a bank.  If you remove nutrients then you need to replace them to keep a state of ‘nutrient balance’ in the bank.

This tough South African import is not the sort of immigrant that our environment needs.

There's nothing that fuels arguments between the 'experts' than Organic Matter.


Despite NZ having a temperate climate with plenty of rainfall, water is still one of the most precious resources we have and we shouldn't take it for granted.

You cannot consider fertilisers without knowledge of the soil. 

A very fast growing, though thankfully short lived tree - popping up on cliffs, banks, hillsides, slips and cuttings. 

In this first on an in-depth series on understanding fertilser.

If you buy a bare block one of the first things to think about is your water reticulation system.

It has been estimated that around 400,000 people in New Zealand rely on roof water and it's a fair assumption that many of them are lifestyle farmers.

This smelly South American scrambler is happy sneaking its way through, under and over whatever plants and trees get in its way.

We live on the Wairua River in Whangarei. Kate lives in Helena Bay.

This Chinese climber is loved for its strong scent and delicate white flowers, and hated for its tough, vigorous, twining stems that rapidly swamp everything it grows over.

Climbing fences is a bad habit - it damages or weakens them a little bit every time and will eventually compromise the integrity of the fenceline.

Rosemary is such an important medicinal and culinary herb it seems that there is a great opportunity for good quality locally grown product. 

This exotic, ginger-scented perennial with massive, taro-like rhizomes close to the surface has shiny leaves, and cream coloured flowers overlapping in cone-like clusters from May to June.

Running a few head of livestock is one of the reasons we choose to live on a lifestyle block.

Some years ago I bought a punnet of fennel seedlings from my local garden centre.

"I'm about to build a 7 wire fence and don't know what the spacing between the wires should be".

AgResearch weed scientist Trevor James says he didn't know what he was looking at, at first. It was a photograph of velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti), one of the worst weeds in America and possibly the world.  And it had just been found growing in the Waikato.

Jerusalem Artichokes are a strange plant, or you could say a wrongly named vegetable.

Fences don't last forever, at some point they'll need fixing or replacing.

Despite its silver coated leaves, this creeping groundcover is no little treasure. 

What should you do if you hit an animal with your vehicle?

The Soap Nut or Soap Berry is an extraordinary tree that produces a nut with high saponin content.

At some point on your lifestyle block you'll need to join 2 wires together on a fence line.

Buying a tractor, whether it's new or used, is a big investment.

This large, luscious Tahitian interloper has leathery deep green arrow-shaped leaves and thick trunk-like stems, supported by a fleshy underground root system.

Ever wanted to make the ultimate statement of self sufficiency at Christmas time?

This macho Mediterranean creeper is a hard one to get control of once it is established.

Figs are deciduous and grow to become very large trees - an ideal niche crop on a lifestyle property looking to supply an urban market.

If you've got fences, you'll need gates.

This set of plans is for a simple set of yards, suitable for the average small lifestyle block.

Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to discover Chillies.

Originally from Brazil, the exotic sounding alligator weed is a dangerous invader sneaking into wetlands, rivers and even subdivisions around the North Island. 

If you are going to have livestock on your lifestyle block - you'll need pens or stockyards.

Saffron - Crocus Sativus has been cultivated for its valuable stigma for over 3000 years. Growing saffron is a delicate balancing act.

If you're building a fence the old fashioned way, you'll need to dig holes.

The original Fencing Act of 1908 has had many amendments over the years.  There was a major main amendment in 1979, and then the Fencing of Swimming Pool Act 1987.

Captain James Cook first introduced rabbits to New Zealand as an emergency food source for shipwrecked sailors.

Pine Nuts not only taste fabulous and are rich in protein, oil and a great source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), but what would pesto be without pine nuts?

This article contains all the standard fencing measures you're ever likely to need.

Chainsaws are not cheap to run, but they get really expensive with neglect and lack of servicing. 

Not only do Daylilies have an extraordinary variety of blooms to enjoy but they are also delicious to eat.

 Many lifestyle farms have no access to town supply water and rely on bore or rainwater.

Most lifestyle properties will need fencing. If you're keeping livestock, you'll need fences to keep them in.

The chainsaw is the most dangerous tool on the farm, and its potential for damage to life and limb is underestimated every day.

As an animal owner, you have certain legal responsibilities towards your animals, and these obligations are set out in the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Lavender seems to have it all. It looks fantastic when it's flowering - painting the countryside in a haze of purple.

Fencing to subdivide a farm is a basic requirement to keep control of pasture growth.

Hhoneybee numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate, and this is of concern because honeybees are hugely important as pollinators of plants.

A chainsaw is an essential tool on many lifestyle farms.

For those people with a relatively small amount of land growing garlic may be worth considering. 

Meat sold in NZ and exported from NZ is subject to a number of standards under the Animal Products Act, which ensures that the meat is fit for human consumption.

The Australian Brushtail Possum (Trichosorus vulpecula) was introduced into New Zealand in the late 1800s to establish an export fur trade. 

If you have deer or cattle on your lifestyle block you need to make sure you meet TBfree requirements - even if you only have one or two animals.

Animals that are not healthy are not productive, and they add cost to the business. 

Through the summer months the natural population of rats and mice rises as increasing quantities of food such as fruits, nuts and grains are available to them.

Bees are among the hardest workers on the farm and in the garden

Pasture grows well in New Zealand, and that's the key to our low-cost farm export business. 

If you own any land that is worth protecting, consider protecting it permanently by applying a covenant.

There is a wide range of pests in New Zealand that damage pasture.

New Zealand "moggies" are due for a lifestyle change, and the outrage will come from their owners and not the cats, as felines are a very adaptable species.

 On a lifestyle farm we usually either have too much or too little and the grass that does grow is often not where we need it - on the lawn, not the paddock!

Famously known as the poison which killed Socrates, hemlock is alive and living in New Zealand, and is still capable of causing death or at least birth defects in pregnant animals which eat the foliage.

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