Paul and Jen are regular contributors to our discussion group and own their first lifestyle block in the Wairarapa near Featherston.
Paul works for ANZ as a foreign exchange systems techie. Jen’s also a banker but with WestpacTrust. They travel 1 hour by the train to work everyday and then only have a short walk to work. They both enjoy the city and are not considering giving up working there at present (although Jen is nesting!). They both love Wellington as a city, the friendliness of the people and the compact nature of a city with plenty of sun.
They find commuting by train has one more advantage - the last train leaves at 5.42. Paul points out that if his company want him to work later, they have to pay for a taxi - so he doesn’t end up working late. This has its down side as well, they don’t get much opportunity to socialise with friends during the week.
They spent a long time searching for the right property, about 18 months in fact, and interestingly they were not a couple when they first started looking! Paul is from the Wairarapa and Jen from the opposite coast in Porirua. A series of day trips with Paul taking Jen to see the really neat places he knew, like Mount Bruce and other areas of natural beauty, with native bush and lots of native birds, ended up with them both recognising their dreams were shared ones and a relationship was created.
Jen always dreamed of living in the country and wouldn’t have it any other way for her family and Paul had decided that he wanted to return to the country and have some land. Their dream is to bring his children up in the country, with fresh air and high regard for their environment.
The property they both ended up looking for was a property where they can have a bit of everything: fruit, nuts, composting toilet, hydro electric pump, spring fed water supply, with a vision of a dam for electricity eventually. Coppicing trees, under plantings, olive hedges, pine nut trees for shelter oh the list of their future aspirations and developments goes on! (Jen also has a bit of a thing for frogs!) Well, each to their own! When they found a property that matched up to those values, they bought it together. What a fairytale.
The property that was chosen had to match a variety of criteria: the Wairarapa is very hot, so a natural water source was seen as a must. Native bush was also a priority as was a reasonably flat contour.
The real estate agents who took them around had to drag them by the nose a little, to a property as they termed "a bit rough" and they were told it was probably not what they were looking for. As soon as Paul and Jen saw it, they realised that they had already seen it…it is on the main road and the For Sale sign had a great picture of a cottage. They really liked the cottage - it has some interesting history; the previous family had 6 children and each had a named stair for them to collect their laundry from. Having bought the property, Paul and Jen have chosen to preserve the names. They have called the farm "Heavenleigh".
The native plants and trees are a real passion for both Paul and Jen, they have a fabulous range of native birds on the block: native pigeons, tuis, kakariki, rosella, wax eyes, kingfishers. A morepork is heard each night and Jen has sighted a shining cookoo - they really enjoy sharing their lifestyle block with such diversity!
When they bought the property, just a year ago, it was very run down. Being an ex-pig farm there was a big rat problem (as well as empty plastic bread bags spread to the four corners of the farm). They chose Talon poison to control the rats and there is not longer any problem. They found using cheap novaflow cut into 40-50cm lengths to house the poison was ideal for keeping their two puddies safe from eating the bait.
Another pest that has been given the heave-ho is the magpie. Paul and Jen bought with their three neighbours a magpie trap. This was used with “Judas” the magpie calling the others to the trap. Jen is happy to report that since the magpie numbers have been reduced, there has been a noticeable increase in the native bird population.
Jen is working on a garden outstanding enough for a tourist destination. Paul and Jen carry out all improvements on the property themselves, with the exception of a little help from Transit New Zealand who were persuaded by Jen to erect barriers to protect the front fence, which was previously under regular attack from traffic.
Paul and Jen's property covers 15.5 acres. They have a variety of crops already established - broom, gorse, tea tree and foxgloves by the million! A lot of work goes into dis-establishing these pesky plants!
There is an oxbow creek running through the block, complete with trout, and lots of native bush, which backs onto a reserve. Just idyllic - except when it floods!
As for animals on the block, there are plenty. A few sheep, including a coloured sheep, are helping to break in the gorse. Two goats, one a Saanan, and Molly the feral goat. Molly is always trouble - getting out and eating Jen's roses, ring barking trees and breaking fences. So she spends a lot of time tethered - though Jen does not like to do this, sometimes there is no alternative! She may have to join the neighbour's herd of feral goats in the near future.
One pig, Ruby, is still around, Roast having already found her way into the freezer.
On the cattle front, there are a couple of young Friesian x Hereford girls, "Mabel" and "Beatrice" who are halter broken and in training for future careers as nurse cows. They are very easy to handle and were bought trained to drink from a bucket at 3 weeks. Their names are derived from 'Maybe' as Paul and Jen were not sure whether to get them because Jen had an operation on her foot and was not allowed outside to feed them. When they joined the family they became more than Maybe, Paul ended up with the job of feeding, hence Mabel and Beatrice.
30ish hens roam the farm, with 4 roosters Henry, Rupert, George and Albert. Jen is in full business swing selling her Bantam x chicks at present.
Regulars to the lifestyleblock.co.nz discussion group will know that Paul and Jen are rearing orphan ducklings after Lily blew away in a storm. Another storm partially destroyed the infamous Chook House Hilton, Paul's one man mission to improve the lot of chooks in New Zealand. (See pics below)
No wonder storms don't worry them, Paul and Jen both work above the 10th floor level and are pretty comfortable with the earthquake risks associated with Wellington. When an American visitor experienced his first earthquake, Jen was incredulous that he had not experienced one in his life before - yep, that proves our Jen is a true blue Wellingtonian!