Tips from new lifestylers

Prepare, then embrace the unexpected

Rob and Jess have been on their Canterbury lifestyle block for a year now, and are still appreciating the huge changes, as well as laughing off the occasional shocks. Here’s tips from their picturesque “frontline”.

The shopping revolution

When we first considered moving, our criteria on how remote felt too remote was, “how far to the dairy?” Bless our suburban minds! It seemed practical to consider food and milk emergencies, but we ended up doing something far better – bought a ginormous fridge and freezer. Now we take great pride in stringing out gaps between shops – and save loads of money compared with “just popping to the supermarket” as we did in town. Other savings happen naturally too. While hygiene is as important as ever, you’ll spend a lot less on your personal appearance and grooming – without going so far as to horrify your loved ones, of course. Let’s face it – all that the chickens care about your appearance is whether or not you’re carrying a bucket. Satisfying side effects of all this – less household rubbish, less petrol. Win win.

When your local P dealer is Watties

Before you rent or buy your slice of heaven, research the activities around you. If living amongst “real” farming, you get no say in what happens when. Crop can be harvested, animals can be moved, grain can be dried in silos, at any time of night or day.

These things are loud. Massive machinery may trundle past, flooding your environment with dust/water/nutrient spray/weed killer/chaff/light/sound – tough luck if you’ve just hung the washing or have lured your urban friends to a BBQ in your country idyll. Bird scarers are the worst. The curse of autumn, these gas guns can legally let off regular gunshot sounds from 7am till 8pm. No one cares about your sleep in/zen mindstate, so it’s you that has to adjust.

Make new rituals

Speaking of the above, you’re here because you want to change your life – so do it. Nature is the easiest thing to make rituals around – do coffee or yoga at sunrise, find different places around the property to picnic, go for a family walk at sunset, enjoy your last drink of the evening under the amazing starscape.

Managing livestock

One of our harshest wake-up calls was a farmer who grumbled “Lifestyle block? Life sentence, more like.” Newly-arrived townies are unlikely to know that you can’t just let grazing animals eat grass. The right nutrients have to be in the soil for the animals to survive, and this takes time and money to rectify if the land has been ill-managed for years. Prove the grumpy farmers wrong, and do it right. Free range chickens are stereotypical, but it has to be done. Yes they poo everywhere, dig up the garden, try to break into your house and can get sick and die quite quickly, which is sad. But they eat your food scraps, and the eggs are delicious. And they burble away, follow you around, and look simply hilarious when they run. Also, if you’re trying to become more “farmery”, these dudes are nature’s alarmclock. Much better for the soul than the clank of your neighbour’s garage every 6am.

Stereotypes rearing their ugly heads

It was a lovely chat with a little old lady, until she announced that she hates the Chinese. OK, so we moved from Brixton, the Jamaican and clubbing capital of London, to the Labour stronghold of Christchurch Central, to one of the few districts that voted in a new National MP in the recent electoral thumping – true blue Selwyn. You’re going to see less diversity and come up against some conservative mindsets, including about drugs, sexuality and race. Tackle it when it happens, accept that you might not win, and remember that it happens everywhere.

Amazements we never expected

• “Our” land is actually owned by a fairytale collection of wildlife. Sharing with hares, pheasants, little owls, nesting herons who return to the same tree every year, makes random moments magical

• Every weather is beautiful. Thunder and lightning storms are massive. Wind in the trees sounds like rain. You can see all of rainbows. On the Canterbury Plains, fog blankets the whole world

Every weather is beautiful. Thunder and lightning storms are massive. Wind in the trees sounds like rain. You can see all of rainbows. On the Canterbury Plains, fog blankets the whole world

• Watching our pets blossom and change. From stuck in their mid-life ways in an over-densified suburb, they switched from horror to caution to lords of the jungle within weeks. (This principle probably also applies to children – with the added bonus that they can do chores)

• Animals and birds make some really weird noises! We often stare at each other, going “what the hell was that?”

• The local junk mail. Our minds have been boggled at the extraordinary range of farming equipment and accessories available. Let’s just say… rams’ crayons. They come with a harness, and they’re not available at Whitcoulls…

All in all

Do your research, choose your spot well, then throw yourself into the experience. We can’t believe how grim our lives were when we see urban housing and traffic now. You’ll never go back.

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