Monthly Archives: June 2016

Chasing cows

After a busy day, it was time for the fire to be lit, wine to be poured and feet to be lifted.

My favourite time of day.

I’ve gotten very used to the incredible peace and quiet of Paradise, even though we have assorted animals sharing the space.

However, you know that feeling when something just doesn’t quite stack up? I can never usually hear our three Belties ( Oreo, Tollhouse and Anzac) from their paddock, but this time it felt like they were just outside. Funny that – as that’s exactly where they were.

Now until you have eye balled a one tonne Beltie outside your front door, you just haven’t passed your ‘ I survived the country’ test…. I can also now say I’ve played ( and lost) a game of ‘who’ll blink first’ with Tollhouse.

Who’ll blink first…..?

As I feared, three one tonne cows can cause quite a lot of damage to a garden however my positive side welcomes the natural fertiliser I now have in abundance.

An urgent call to M (who conveniently was on another island) advised me not to panic them ( them??!!) and then added that at least it gave me more material for my next blog…..( thoughtful !)

While waiting for a helping hand from neighbour T ( who helped last time I thought I had lost all 3 cows : see previous blog ), I decided to take action and well and truly earned my cattle wrangling 101 badge.

Single handedly, over a period of an hour ‘steering’ them through gardens, cars, vineyard, paddocks, stream and bonfire ( which, incidentally is still going 10 days on ! – see other previous blog), I managed to coerce them back to their own corner of Paradise – none the worse for their adventure.

Back behind bars……

What I’ve learned:

  • cows can run – really fast.
  • cows dont respond like dogs. Actually our dogs don’t respond at all so no help there.
  • gates are usually shut for good reason.
  • Belties are REALLY big when you’re standing a metre away from them.
  • Belties have beautiful eyelashes.
  • you really can do things you never thought you would ever have to, if you have to.


Fun time over.

Back to the fire.

Pass the bottle !








The joy of olives



Under Tuscan Sun has a lot to answer for .

For many years I have hankered after long lazy lunches amongst the olive trees , feasting with friends on local produce, washed down with the local tipple . Olive trees always featured .

I was a late adopter of olives. Somehow my taste buds didn’t quite want to acquire them but I’ve been a firm fan of olive oil ( pure extra virgin, of course) since I started to cook – it always felt like a nod to good health, whatever I was making !

An unfulfilled dream for M & I since moving to NZ was to grow our own olives and press them into our own oil .Our last attempt produced zero results for us, but the local bird population still thanks us. However, last week it happened .

Now we don’t quite boast the plentiful olive groves of Tuscany – or even as many as almost everyone in Marlborough  who all seem to have a grove tucked away or at least access to one .

We have 7 trees.

And only 4 have fruit .

And they’re not even hugely productive. By calculations based on a complex equation shared over a recent dinner with friendly local experts , they were expected to provide me with a whopping 2 litres of olive oil .

So , not enough to retire on really….

Undeterred I looked to other means to supplement our meagre crop . Having been dissuaded from procuring more from laden roadside trees ( ” that’s stealing you know “),   I sent a message to new friends and neighbours to ask if any crops were going unharvested. It’s at this time I start to realise that not everyone was quite as excited as me and most saw their olives as little more than a windbreak at best . “Yeah we did all that once , said a very over-it neighbour “.

So the offers flooded in ! With the much welcome help of M and my wunder sibling D , we managed to pick a mighty 42.5kgs over a few hours .

It’s not easy work but it’s not as hard as grape picking that’s for sure !

I really enjoyed every second of it .

We are very lucky to have a olive press cooperative in the area so I threw the olives in the Ute and went in search of good oil .

“So how many containers in total” he said . “3-  they’re all there ” I replied, pointing to the Ute.

“How much have you got” he said . “About 40kg ” I said beaming with pride .

“It’s minimum 250kgs” he said ( with a look I’m beginning to recognise in people now ).

Ok so I’m getting that ‘newby from another planet ‘feeling again .

It doesn’t get any better when a nice old guy comes up behind us and says to him , “where do you want my first tonne ? “.

Whether it was pity or kindness or perhaps a Marlborough blend of both , my ( now not so) impressive crop was accepted and overnight magically transformed into 7 litres of deliciousness .

I couldn’t have been happier collecting it in my new , shiny and very expensive olive oil container complete with tap ! (M didn’t fail to notice – or comment –  that everyone else made do with plastic buckets…..!)

It was a truly joyful process from start to finish .

So, future plans :

  • We’re going to plant more olives ( they’re also apparently good wind breaks!)
  • I’m going to stay enthusiastic for more than the first year.
  • We’re going to aim for 250kgs next year but if not I will hope for another benevolent and sympathetic sort to turn a blind eye at the Press ….

And I’m definitely going to have my long lazy lunch amongst the olive trees with my very own good oil but,  Under Marlborough Sun 🙂


My beautiful shiny olive oil thingy and the first tasting!
Molly the Doodle, my trusted quality controller
The place that does the magic !


Light my fire…

I’ve never been a fan of bonfires.

One of my earliest memories was of a Scottish winter night at the local bonfire celebrating the burning of the Guy on 5th November. It was cold, very cold. The smoke was strong and I didn’t feel safe, although I absolutely was. The only redeeming factor was the sparklers – which again I have to say I wasn’t a huge fan of, for fear of sparks causing me to catch fire and become the sacrificial offering. No shortage of drama queen moments in my childhood……

However, fast forward a  few bonfire-less years and we now have more grown up demands being made of us on the fire front. We inherited a bonfire waiting to happen when we bought Paradise. It had started after the “great flood of 2008” when several large trees came sailing down the local stream and landed with us. No one had ever got around to burning them and we, through new developments in the vineyard, started adding to it. When the pile started resembling a medium sized house, we knew we had to take action.

After much procrastinating about what potential damage we could do to neighbouring vineyards should we mis-manage the event, I called our (very) friendly rural fire officer explaining the magnitude of the bonfire facing us and he offered to come and take a look. Setting fire to New Zealand’s premiere wine region was not something we were keen to be remembered for. On reflection, I couldn’t have sounded more ‘ towny’ if I’d tried , but still there’s a time for trying to act knowledgeable and this was not one.

When he arrived at the door, he had a oddly huge and sympathetic smile – which was nice , but confusing. You see , on his way into the property  he had seen our pile of recently cut plane tree ( not in itself small , but nothing like our bigger issue to hand) and took to understand that this was what I was talking about. As he started reassuring me that this pile couldn’t in any way cause any concerns and would probably burn out within minutes, I twigged ( pun intended ) what he was on about and beckoned him around the corner where our bonfire behemoth was looming in the distance.

“Ah’, he said. “Indeed “, I said.

We tramped across fields to see it close up and thankfully ( for my pride anyway) he agreed that it was good to have called and that this was indeed a very large pile.

After offering many tips and tricks of the trade he wished us luck and told me to put his number on speed dial….”just in case”.

As a parting thought he said , ” Just be mindful of small animals running alit from the pile as they can act like mini fireballs ” and he was gone, with that thought indelibly etched in my mind forever.

So D day came, a still day with wind unlikely to pick up, blanket neighbours and set fire to many hectares of prime Sauvignon. Off we went, Lucifers and matches in hand.

I have to be honest. It was quite thrilling setting fire to it. No fear. Hours passed quickly just watching the destruction it caused weaving its own powerful way through the pile. It was intense and fierce. There were (thankfully) no animals affected.

We only had one minor ‘moment’ , when we tried to assist the fire get to an area that stubbornly refused to burn. Let’s just say, even the smallest amount of fuel can cause very big flames and a very loud explosion that can be heard from very far away….but that’s another story…

It took 3 days to go out.

Mission accomplished and yet more lessons learned.

Roll on 5th November……



All my own work !


Anyone else sees a dragon breathing smoke….???



Day 3 and nearly out…