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Archive for the ‘South Canterbury’ Category

The entrance to our farmhouse was always much grander than the farmhouse or in fact the farm itself. The house was situated on the corner of the road, but set back probably about 100 metres, which gave us added privacy. Road noise wasn’t a problem, as the only people who drove up this road were the few people who lived on it (a total of six houses) and the mailman. A driveway wound its way in front of the house, and around to the yard. (I’m using yard in the NZ context, which means a dirt (or mud, depending on the season, or maybe concrete) yard around work buildings.) From the yard, with the dog kennels, farm buildings, haystack, and carports for the cars and tractors, and the cowshed (milking shed/dairy) at the end, there was a large macrocarpa hedge separating the work area from our private garden and little house.

Lining the driveway off the road were large walnut trees.  They’ve been there forever – I realise now I don’t know when they might have been planted, but they’ve been there at least 60 years and probably 80 or more. At times they’d get so huge, joining together at the highest, leafiest points, my father would decide to “top” them, cutting them back sometimes by a third, sometimes more.  They provided luscious shade and privacy in the summer, and in the winter, after they’d lost their leaves, they were a stark but still constant presence.

The walnuts would fall from the trees, and we would harvest them in autumn – around April – and spend winter evenings shelling the walnuts for sale. We only did this in my teenage years – before that they were largely left, I think – and there was never much (any?) money to be made from them. My father was really the only one who liked eating them – though I quite like them now. It was always damp and cold picking up the walnuts that had fallen to the ground, and was not a task I particularly enjoyed. I do love the trees though, and I’m always happy to see that subsequent owners of the farm have kept them. I checked they were still there when we passed by in 2018 in pouring rain, though this photo is from two years earlier. Long may they last.

IMG_20161116_153107 Hook farm walnuts

Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

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Today is the final day of the Nature Photo challenge. I had hoped to include the major regions of the world that I’ve visited, but doubled up on Europe and omitted North America. That simply reflects the amount of time I’ve spent in Europe, and the number of eligible photos I have. So today, I decided to come home. Right back to my roots, in fact.

The photo below is of the beach paddock on the farm where I grew up. This paddock was right on the coast. Just a stony beach stands between it and the Pacific Ocean. Our house was about half a mile inland, where we could still see and, when the wind was easterly and the breakers large, hear the sea.

I took the photograph just a few years ago when I took my mother for a nostalgic trip back to the farm and the district where she spent most of her life. It looks exactly as it did 40 years ago.

Green paddock filled with sheep, with Hunter Hills in the background.

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My father died ten years ago today. I’m in a different city today, so I don’t have the flowering blossom trees outside the hospice on Broadway Avenue to remind me – in fact, I haven’t seen blossom trees yet this year — but it’s 17 August, and I’m never going to forget that.

Dad was, except for his last few months, a cheerful man, someone who looked on the bright side, with a ready, mischievous, grin. He spent his life in isolation on the farm, but he loved people, and places, and was interested in and curious about them. He’d pick up international hitch-hikers on the main highway, and try to get as many stories as he could about their lives and their countries – I think he was always a little disappointed if he picked up a kiwi hitch-hiker – for the too-short time they were with him in the old Vauxhall. When we went on holidays, he’d always strike up a conversation in the camp kitchens with other people, eager to learn about them too, or maybe just to be sociable, because he believed that being friendly was just part of being a decent person.

Moving off the farm in retirement could have been a huge shock to him, but he joined the local golf club and made friends with neighbours, and – I like to think – relished the social aspects of life in the city surrounded by people. And when he needed solitude, he’d get in his old Niva four-wheel drive, pack a sleeping bag and a fishing rod, and head for the mountains and lakes of the beautiful Mackenzie Country, where I know he revelled in the landscape, and his connection to nature.

I like to think of him here.

I like to think of him here.

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