Reader story: 3 lessons from a first-time lifestyle block owner

There’s nowhere else in the world Michelle Holmes would rather be than on her slice of paradise.

Words Michelle Holmes

Our lifestyle block is just a wee one, one hectare (2.5 acres) sitting up above a waterfall near Tauranga.

My husband Ryan, son Julian and I have been here two years now, along with the other members of our family: Cocoa the cat, two hens (and chicks), 10 lambs, 10 ewes, and Henry the ram.

Ryan works FIFO (fly in, fly out) in Western Australia, coming home for a week every month, and Julian is only a year old. I have the job of looking after everything myself. I love doing it, but it is very full-on, especially with a baby.

We are Kiwis through and through. We love nature and New Zealand, and we’d always dreamed of owning a lifestyle block.

We had been living in Perth for three years and came home in 2014 for a Christmas holiday. We stumbled across an ad for a block and went for a look. It was love at first sight.

Our block is a breath of fresh air, that “living in the country” feeling but still close to civilisation. I loved it from the first time we came down the long driveway lined with cherry trees and got that warm welcoming feeling. Like we were coming home.

The house itself is a cottagey-type with a porch and white roses. It’s just perfect.

The whole place gave us a feeling of serenity on the first day and it still does. It’s quiet and peacefu,l looking out at the countryside, green hills and trees, the never-ending starry sky at night, and beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

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People who own lifestyle blocks have to be hard workers and passionate about their land and I guess that’s why we do it.

We love the lifestyle, and most weekends or even after work is spent busy on the farm.

It is a lot of work and maintenance – mainly because I’m doing it on my own with a baby – but I know that won’t be forever. I also have great neighbours, friends, and family who are always helping me out.

Our block has been a big learning curve. There’s been so much to learn about gardening, lambing, chickens, animals in general (NZ Lifestyle Block magazine is very helpful).

The first year I was working full-time and didn’t do too much around the place. The second year I was home and realised there were things I should have done the year before!

Lesson one: There is always a list of jobs to do. It’s a little joke that when family come to visit, they ask “please, no jobs this time, we just want to chill and relax.”

I’ve found it best to try and keep on top of jobs, especially when it comes to looking after animals. If you don’t then problems can end up costing you.

Worse, you can lose livestock. That’s how I came to be trimming hooves while eight months pregnant.

It’s why we have a photo of me at the start of my labour, still out in the garden, captioned “I just want to get my last garden weeded before this baby comes!”

Lesson two: A lot of the time, effort and money you put in isn’t for any profit – really.

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Lesson three: My biggest lesson of the first year would have to be about thistles.

I didn’t keep on top of ours (not wanting to spray while pregnant) but I sure am paying for that now.

California thistles have taken over our block so my advice would be to make sure you are aware of what’s in your paddocks and to keep on top of thistles.

I have spent hours spraying, weed-whacking and mowing over these persistent weeds. I can’t wait to have clean green paddocks back with plenty of feed for our flock.

NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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