That simple, that difficult

February 14, 2017

Prime Minister Bill English and his wife Mary were profiled in last week’s Women’s Weekly.

It’s a story of sacrifice – he gave up farming to enable her to follow her career as a General Practitioner. She accepted the loss of privacy and family time which a life in politics demands.

It’s a story of a strong partnership, built on mutual respect, shared values and faith.

It’s a story of a love built on a foundation of friendship, a story of two successful individuals working to be a successful couple and of a loving, and for modern times, large, family.

Behind the gush is the story of a marriage that has endured and in it is the answer to a whole lot of New Zealand’s problems – loving each other and your children, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

It’s that simple and that difficult.

The Herald and Stuff also have stories with the PM at home in Dipton.

 

 


Two of those days

July 7, 2008

Katherine Mansfield said it so much better than I could: It was one of those days, so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.

I’m not sure if I’ve got that word perfect, though I ought to have because it’s on a Marg Hamilton painting which hangs on our living room wall. But that’s at home while I’m in Wanaka and in awe of the scenery which brought the quote to mind.

We’ve had not one but two of those days. Yesterday we drove tup the Waitaki Valley and through the Lindis Pass, which no matter its mood is beautiful.

In Wanaka we called on friends whose living room window frames the view straight up the lake to the mountains, scenery so stunning it makes you wonder why you’d ever bother to go anywhere else.

Today we left Wanaka by starlight to go to Southland. Our route took us down via Alexandra to Ettrick then south through West Otago to Gore. The views there may not be as awe inspiring as the ones round Wanaka, but there is beauty in those gently rolling, bright green paddocks.

We did a whistle-stop tour of farms at Otahutit, Riverton and Dipton before turning north again up SH6 which follows Lake Wakatipu from Kingston to Frankton. We were treated to many more Mansfield moments as the late afternoon sun spot-lit snow clad hills and reflected them back on the water.

Tussocks poked cheeky heads through the snow as we climbed up the Crown Range then down through the Cardrona Valley and back to Wanaka to marvel again at the breathtaking combination of mountains, snow and lake in the sunset.

Two of those days, and the clear, starry sky is promising a third tomorrow.


Emotion Beats Facts

June 14, 2008

We pride ourselves on our agricultural efficiency but I have yet to see anything here to rival a small farming cooperative on the outskirts of Sorrento, in Italy, when it comes to using every square centimetre of land.

 

Eleven families pooled their small, uneconomic units to form a four hectare farm. Their main crops are lemons and olives. They plant olive trees between the rows of lemons and the olives grow taller so their fruit is above the shade of the citrus trees’ leaves.  Some of the trees were grafted so they produced oranges and lemons from the same trunk to diversify production without taking up any more space. They grew grape vines along the outside rows of trees too. The farm also kept four pigs and three cows – all of which were housed inside; and in a bid for both self-sufficiency and organic production, their manure provided the fertiliser for the orchard.

 

The farm produced its own olive oil, and made cheeses, wine and limoncello. It also welcomed tourists to walk through the orchard, inspect the olive press, watch the cheese making, taste their produce and of course buy it. Our guide didn’t talk about budgets or bottom lines, but the cooperative looked prosperous and if the slick operation of the tour and size of the farm shop, where the visit ended, were anything to go by then tourism made an important contribution to the income.

 

The main emphasis of the tour was horticulture and only passing reference was made to the stock, but as we passed them I wondered about the quality of life for animals which are housed inside all year round. This thought was reinforced by an article headlined “The Ethics of eating Meat” which I read in a Bangkok newspaper on the way home.

 

The author argued it was unethical to eat meat because of the environmental cost of growing and harvesting feed for animals raised on feedlots, although he had no problem with pasture-grazed stock. He didn’t mention welfare issues but I remember looking at cattle standing on concrete under mid summer sun in both the United States and Argentina and wondering how happy they were. Those who knew more about animals than I do, assured me that their demeanour, health and condition indicated they were quite content, and pointed out that there was shade available which the stock chose not to make use of.

 

 

I couldn’t argue with that, but I still felt something was wrong and in matters like this science takes second place to sentiment. I remembered that when we passed a herd of cows standing in the mud on a cold, wet day as we drove from Queenstown to Dipton. It was obvious they were being break-fed and were about to be shifted which I know gives animals better quality grazing, does less damage to soil structure and is a more efficient use of pasture than letting them roam the whole paddock at once. But anyone who knew nothing about our farming practices, and on this prime tourist route there would be many of them, would have seen abject misery. That is not the picture we want them to recall when next they see our meat in their supermarket chiller.

Efficiency of production and quality of produce will count for nothing if customers think our practices are unethical; and arguments to the contrary will be worthless because emotion beats facts in marketing.


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