Rural People and Issues : The good oil Investigative Free Range writer Annette Taylor will boldly search out answers to many of the perplexing questions that beset rural dwellers.  Unflinchingly she will seek out agricultural scientists, vets, lawyers, noise control officers and even politicians to answer those befuddling questions that you haven’t the time or inclination to chase.  No question too small, or too big.  Email Annette at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. CLOAKING <!-- document.write( '</' ); document.write( 'span>' ); //--> and she will find the answers on your behalf.


Neil has a neighbour with unstable pine trees on his property, bordering a shared driveway.  On the land on the opposite side of the driveway is a shared power line, not shared by the neighbour.  Neil wants to know whose responsibility is it if a pine tree falls across the driveway and breaks the power line.

compostWaikato conservationist and permaculturalist Maxine Fraser says people get very hung up about compost.  “There’s pages and pages and books and articles written about it, all these rules about what to do and what not to do.

“Compost is just a whole lot of organic matter which, if given time, will break down into soil.  There’s many ways of doing it, and I’ve probably tried them all.  Now I make it the easiest way I know how.”

Here's a burning question.  AJ lives on a small block, a short distance from Hamilton.  She's been approached by a community group who want to hold a bonfire on her property to raise funds.  It's all for a good cause and she'd like to help them but in this modern age is a bit worried about things like liability and OSH and other scary stuff.   What's the situation, she asks.

chainsawMichael lives on a one-acre block and has a neighbour who processes firewood for charity. Trouble is, he does it about 200 metres away from Michael's house. "He runs chainsaws every Wednesday and Saturday through the summer months for most of the day. Is there anything I can do about this, as the noise is excessive and is driving us to the point of selling?"  The neighbour, when approached, says he has no intention of stopping.

goats and zinc sulphateKate has 30-odd (very odd, she says) goats who get a zinc sulphate footbath (for scald and ...) every five to six weeks. After they’ve been treated, the contents are diluted and drained into the ground.  She wants to know is this environmentally safe and is there a better method of disposing of it. “The footbath holds 40 litres but we’re about to get a larger bath that will hold more. Sometimes we use copper sulphate.” She adds that while re-using the solution is great in theory, the goats don’t understand theories so use the footbath as a lavatory while in there…

Jacques and Barb have a problem with their three organic heifers - they've just become infested with ticks.  They write: "We have read that cooking oil can be effective. Do you know which type is most effective and how is it best applied? Is there any organic treatment that can be internally given?  We are BioGro certified so need to be very aware of what we are applying."

burying dead livestockNothing ever is dead easy, is it?  Troubled of Horsham Downs, Waikato, has a tiny worry.  Her husband is often out of the country on business trips leaving her to mind their 3½ha lifestyle block.  While she and daughter are awfully competent types, she does wonder what would happen if an animal died. “Goldfish are a piece of cake, you flush them down the toilet.  But a 500kg Friesian steer is a different matter.  We don’t have a front end loader or any useful machinery for moving the thing…”

Janet is looking for an alternative to having to join her local council’s proposed new sewage scheme.  Are there any other options?

Niwa’s Chris Tanner says putting in an alternative is more than possible, it’s a sensible idea.  He says there are already examples of people working together to use an alternative system in New Zealand.

The post always gets through.  Or does it?   And there's much more at stake than a birthday card to Aunt Joan going astray.

spray driftSwaggie certainly did.  Her question:  what can you do if you or your property gets unintentionally sprayed? The family live in Australia a fair amount of time, and camp on their 80 acres in the Franklin region when the urge takes them.  Last June they were accidentally sprayed. She didn’t know what the spray was, who the contractor flying overhead was or, for that matter, who’d arranged it.

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