Visitors welcome!

Over the first 8 days or so of moving to Rotorua we were graced with visits from three family groups, ranging in age from pre-school, teenage, through to mature adults. It was great to see these families from Auckland and to have the sense that relationships can carry on, even if we do not see each other as often or share activities together so much. We enjoyed showing people around and sharing a bit about our hopes for this place. We also enjoyed, time around the table over a cuppa and some food. We do want to value the relationships which are established and look forward to new ones developing.

As we walked the grounds, weather permitting, a tradition was set. Families were invited to take what they wanted from the citrus trees which have ripening fruit. Bags and pockets were filled. Some of the mandarins didn’t last long! Actually, I’m (Kevin) aware that giving fruit away is also self-serving because there’s plenty here now and there’s the promise of much more to come, so it helps us out because we’d hate to see it get wasted :-).

So, yes we want people to come and visit. In months to come there will be 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 2 lounges spare which give space for for people to stay in. There’s also turn around space for holiday homes. Basically, we’re saying that loving relationships and generosity are two of the building blocks in our lives going forward.


Kevin & Miranda


Settling in!

Here’s something humorous to get things started. How we marked our territory after moving in. Xara (Beagle), by weeing on the carpet in any room she could get into – this went on for about 3 days! Effie (the cat) by curling up in a tight ball in strange places and then refusing to go outside even when she was allowed to. She has now claimed her rightful place on the mat in front of the fire. Miranda by cleaning down the walls – incessantly (open wood lockwood style home, so lots of grooves to hold dust)! Also, by positioning and re-positioning pictures on walls and pretty things on shelves. Kevin, by getting some plants and putting them into the garden even though it is mid-winter and they’re not going to grow much for 6 weeks (also garlic and shallots -Charlottes – have gone in and its the right time for them). Getting the chainsaw going and cutting something down helped a lot too :-).

So, here we are and after a week we’re beginning to feel more settled. not sure yet whether it feels like a “holiday” home or “our” home.

Go well

Kevin, Miranda, Xara & Effie.



I am not a great believer in what might be called providence.  At a wedding one might hear word’s like: “what a blessing it is to have a fine day for our wedding”.  What does that mean for a couple who happened to have rain on theirs? Are they cursed?  When one family is praying for a fine day in summer, another will probably be praying for rain for their dry farmland.

A classic example of this happened recently.  When searching for the lost goat (previous blog) I got talking to a neighbour about a fire they had lit and found out, that regardless of the weather conditions, at this time of the year you have to get a permit to light a fire.  I wanted to burn a whole lot of branch prunings which had been left by the previous owner (too much for mulching).  So, I duly got a fire permit and on the day I set aside to have a burn off, the weather was absolutely still.  Even in the middle of the afternoon, there was only the slightest breeze.  It has been a typically windy spring season, so, although it was a very hot day for working near a fire, the conditions were perfect.  By the end of the day it was done!  The fire burned hot and clean.  The only smoke was created when Miranda threw some damp material on it late in the afternoon as a welcome home present for our neighbours.

Now, we were very thankful for the gap in the weather to get this job done, however, was I being especially provided for? Was I being blessed? The reason for the unnaturally hot weather was because the weather flow was coming across from Australia.  What has been/ is the big issue for New south Wales and Queensland? Out of control fires, fuelled by unusually hot weather. So, if I am blessed, are they cursed? Does God love me, but not Australians? Does God hear my spoken, or unspoken prayers but ignore theirs? You get the point.  I don’t have a resolution for this issue.

The hot embers took days to cool.  I would rake them over in the evenings and it would be red hot underneath.  Now the paddock has three sheep in it who arrived yesterday.  I am very happy that the fire was completed before they arrived.  Apart from one incident when the goats got into the chook-shed and did some damage, all is calm with them too. 


Kevin & Miranda. “


Goat-proof fence.

Learning experiences continue.

Without any lawnmowers in our small paddocks the grass grew rapidly through early spring.  The arrival of 3 wether, weaned lambs was delayed and so, two weeks ago, as a start to reducing the grass we got a couple of young goats.  People had told us that goats were trouble, but we had this idyllic view of these cute animals occupying the paddocks.  We strengthened some fencing before we got them.  Although a bit scaredy, for the whole of the first week, they stayed inside the fence. Then, last Saturday, they got out.  We found them over on the boundary in the orchard and promptly guided them back to their home.  I did some further improvements to the fence and left them for the night. 

On Sunday morning they were out again.  This time they were over the boundary on the neighbour’s property.   This neighbour’s house sits within their paddock. Half an hour before leaving for church, there we were chasing these goats round and round their house.  Fortunately, they were away!  We had to leave the goats there.  Arriving back mid-afternoon, we saw these goats sprawled over the neighbour’s out-door furniture on their deck.  Again, we try to catch them, in their garden, around their spa-pool, behind their sheds – no chance.  These goats are part Boer (a South African meat breed), no one told us they were also part antelope!  Eventually we got them back to the boundary and both of them decide to push through the fence.  Whew, they are home!  I thought one had gone into the vegetable garden and so we guided the other in that direction and into the home paddock.  However, by the time we got one there, the other had disappeared off the face of the earth.  We looked for her everywhere.  We asked other neighbours – no sign of her. 

The next day, the remaining goat jumped the fence and took up residence up by our cottage.  If I put water out for her by the front it would go round the back – through the dog-proof fence – and if I gave it water round the back… it would go round the front!  There it remained.  I put notes in letterboxes and it was posted on a local Facebook page, admitting to the neighbourhood we’d lost a goat.  We waited.  No word.  Then, early Tuesday morning there was a call: ‘there’s a little goat in my garden’ – two properties away.  We got over there asap and found her trampling some corn seedlings.  She took off away from us and behind a garden shed and got stuck in-between it and a fence.  The age of miracles is not over! 

Rescued, we put her back into the paddock.  She promptly jumped the fence and joined her mate up at the cottage.  There they stayed for the day (going through the dog-proof fence at will to avoid me).  I had ordered a multi-wired fence with a solar powered energiser to make it an electric fence.    I was able to pick it up during the day and set up a circle of fencing around their shelter.  Then we had to get them from the cottage to the paddock and secured inside the electric fence.  We made a barricade with cars, rubbish bins, a set of shelving and some bird netting.  We positioned Xara (Beagle dog) to try to put them off going down one lane, and we gently moved them. Perfect! They slipped reasonable quietly into the vege garden and then into the paddock.  The fence got electrified and we had them! 

And … nearly a week later … its working.  They don’t like the fence at all and even though they can jump it, (don’t tell them that) they don’t want to.  Like children feel safe within boundaries – these goats have settled down.  They are eating the grass down in their area now.  We are also trying to befriend them by feeding them stock pellets each day, which they love. 

It has been extremely stressful, sometimes you can only laugh in hindsight.  The wether-lambs arrive in a week’s time.  We’ll work that out when they arrive.  


I have not run out of ideas nor energy for blogs, but have been very busy over recent days and tired at nights, so have been a bit blog-quiet over October.

Something, has been on my mind which is time specific, so needs to be done now. With Labour Weekend coming, an old adage has been on my mind.  “Labour weekend is when you plant your vege garden”.  Some people are quite emphatic about it and the garden stores play on it.  However, in the same places where “plant your vege garden on Labour Weekend” is heard, there is another view.  If you do, then a lot of your veges are ripening in January when watering is needed, pests are most active and, often people are away on holiday, so lots of veg is wasted.  

Certainly, planting on Labour Weekend has some merit.  In places where gardens are put to bed and rested over winter, then it would be a good plan to get the garden ready for seed and seedling planting, this weekend.  I like the idea of not pushing the ground too hard and giving it time to rest.  Also, some of the things which I planted a while ago have not done well.  I have corn up, but its not growing very fast.  If I plant some this weekend it might be ready at about the same time as what was planted a month ago.

Some things you might not yet plant because the weather is not warm enough.  It angers me, leading to a rant every year, that plant shops have tomato and pepper seedlings on sale right through October.  I still think its too cold for these to really grow well outside, and so, mid-November might be better.  Also, if you work to the “Labour Weekend rule”, then you don’t grow your own garlic, yams, and other plants which are planted in winter.  So, the “Labour Weekend rule” is arbitrary and, for some plantings, unhelpful.

Reflecting on arbitrary/ absolute views in life, I wonder, if people who live by a set of arbitrary views do so as a way of putting boundaries around life (like separating winter from summer)?  Living by a set of rules can simplify life, making it easier to be clear on what is right and wrong, and helping with decisions.  We can hold hard views on such things as abortion, euthanasia, care of the elderly, race, immigration, employment and sexuality.  

I have some things which I am quite arbitrary about. However, in a recent conversation a person was very strong on an issue which I saw quite differently.  While I was quietly formulating a response to their view, they carried on talking and told some of their story which led to their hard-line.  This helped understanding.

Certainly, we can’t go through life without some core views.  Maybe one of those might be that we should not hold onto those things we regard as absolute too tightly?  Maybe, everything needs to be open to question – but that’s being arbitrary.

Go the All Blacks!



The practice of thankfulness is a part of both the phenomenon of Mindfulness and practices in Christian faith.  Each night I try to think of three things I (Kevin) am thankful for from the day.  Usually I fall asleep somewhere between one and two, but at least the intent is there.  Here are some things we have noted recently and are thankful for.  

There were some things which were expected in moving to Rotorua.  At least 20 cents a litre less for petrol was one.  Last week when the news reported petrol prices jumping up overnight, most prices remained pretty much the same.  Also, when traffic’s heavy for Miranda to get to work, it maybe takes 12 minutes not 10 to get there.  There is a petition circulating, calling for the road to be widened.  Such traffic congestion is unacceptable! 

There are things which have been more unexpected.  When we booked the materials for a perimeter fence to close off an area so Xara could have a place to go off leash, after four of the team at the trade centre had all attempted to get their heads around the job so we could be sure we had all we needed, we held our breath to ask about how much the delivery would be? $40.00!  To get a delivery from the local hardware store to our home in Auckland (1500 metres) cost a minimum of $70.00, but here the charge was $40.00 to deliver 14km’s!   Then, when they realised they were a panel short, they delivered anyway and brought the last piece out another day – no extra cost.

Recently, we decided to go with a self-propelled lawnmower rather than a ride-on, or paying a contractor to mow the lawns for us.  Once a beast of a machine was decided on, the question was, how will it get to our place? It was far too big for the boot of our car.  I broached it with the lawn-mower shop owner, who said, ‘we’re heading out your way on Saturday, we’ll drop it round and give you a demo’ – no cost!

We also attended our first live show, a matinee one a Sunday.  It was something worthy of $80.00 per person in Auckland, but it was $25.00 each.  Parking was free, the only extra costs was for fish and chips on the way home.   

Lastly, there’s no worry finding a post-box to post snail mail into.  Being on rural delivery, they pick up our mail for delivery – and they are out here 6 days a week!  

It’s not all plain sailing.  The first time Xara was let loose in her off leash zone

 she got out and went to say hello to some pig dogs next door.  Also, this week we have experienced just how severe a cold blast from the south-west feels and things still seem to take longer than expected.  However, right now we’re feeling very thankful.

Nga mihi nui

Kevin & Miranda.

The Mice Saga

The last blog “Dilemmas” was broadly about taking care of the world we are given, but in doing so decisions have to be made which play off against each other.  Chopping down a tree reduces the amount of living green matter which produces oxygen.  However, it does give other plants a chance to be healthier…

In terms of faith, in the creation narrative in the book of Genesis, God gave people “dominion” over creation.  Dominion has been mistaken as domination and, from the vantage point of the present we can look back at the way much damage has been done to the creation as people have dominated their world.  Today, hopefully followers within Judeo-Christian traditions are at the forefront of conservation efforts taking seriously that people do have dominion and with that comes a responsibility of care.  This is conservation week and so hopefully we can all plant a tree, pick up some rubbish or do something this week which is good for the environment.   I planted some celery – does that count? 

This mouse story is related to caring for creation – somehow.  One philosophy is that everything has its place and that we have to learn to co-exist with all of creation.  Sounds ok – maybe.  How about mice? To the mouse I say ‘you can exist, but NIMBY (not in my back yard).’  Actually, its alright to live in the back yard, but not in the house or in the garage!   Firstly, we had mouse poo in the kitchen cupboards.  For several nights we put peanut butter onto 2 standard traps and each morning the peanut butter was gone.  Sometimes the trap had been sprung, but at other times the tasty treat had been consumed without setting the trap off.  Eventually, we got one mouse and that has stopped the deposits of poo – at the moment. 

Next, out in the garage we noticed that holes were being chewed in fertiliser bags and different fertilizers were being spread all over the place.  Again, night after night, peanut butter was taken and no mice were caught – did catch half a tail one night.  So, the humble field mouse has evolved sufficiently to know how to get the food and avoid being killed in a mouse trap.  Did I do the sensible “co-exist” thing and put the fertiliser into containers so the mice couldn’t get to it? NO! I wanted those mice dead. 

Enter Effie the cat.  She has now learned what cat-flaps are used for and so she comes and goes as she pleases.  Great – except, she found a nest of mice and started bringing them in.  Maybe one died from exhaustion, but she’s not interested in killing; it’s a play thing and a friend.  She’s had a ball, putting them down, letting them run a bit then catching them again.  Picture also, Xara the Beagle trying to catch it in her mouth as a snack and me trying to urge Effie to take it outside, then trying to contain it and remove it outside.  There have been a number of episodes which would have gone viral on youtube, if had they been recorded.    

A week on from getting two predator traps designed to catch rats, but sensitive enough to catch mice, one mouse has been caught, but otherwise, every couple of days or so, guess what? The peanut butter has gone! The mice are seriously winning this tussle!  It is interesting that the care of creation, involves the attempted extermination of harmful predators (which are a part of creation) to save other plants and animals.  Its a good thing we have a constant supply of peanut butter in the house.  

Arohanui (but not to mice)



I want to treat a serious issue in a somewhat humorous way.  Early on in our stay here we took out a good number of big overhanging branches and even a few trees.  This is not on the scale of forest fires in Brazil, but chopping trees down is a bad thing, alongside driving a petrol or diesel powered car or having cows.  There are now less trees for oxygen creating photosynthesis, the “lungs of the earth” have been dimished! So, I have been feeling a little guilty, even though the space created by opening up will give more light for other plants to thrive.   Planting some blueberry bushes does not nearly compensate for the destruction.  I almost volunteered for a programme which is re-establishing a wetland in Hannah’s Bay, before I found out it was a youth programme – how agist!

Pieces of wood from the cut down trees, over about 3cms in diameter are being cut for firewood.   We save on electricity usage next winter – so that’s a bit like having solar panels.  Our fireplace is efficient giving off little smoke pollution and the ash remaining is used for fertiliser.  Reduce consumption and re-use, that’s a tick – right?

Reduce waste is another plus right? We had the best part of a day with a chipper and chipped all the small waste wood in the orchard.  Chipping is good right? But, the chipper is made of manufactured steel and it had to be towed here, using a petrol powered vehicle.  It ran on petrol and it created a great deal of noise pollution.  Still, the wood chip will be great in the hen house, under the trees as a weed suppressant and will eventually break down to feed the earth – that’s good. 

We have re-used, recycled, re-purposed, and reduced what had become waste, but still the dilemma remains, should those trees have come down and if so, should we not have left it to nature to break them down naturally over time?       

In another save the planet type initiative, we have become members of a trap library as a part of a pest free scheme on the eastern side of Rotorua.  We got 2 free predator traps which are designed to catch rats, but which do the job on mice and stoats as well we are told.  I did have to drive the car to get them though. We’ll let you know how that goes – maybe without photos of dead rats?  There is another story about mice – but that’s for another time.   

Kathleen (Kevin’s sister) & Bruce Gavin & Miranda.


Ian Brown farmed in Western Southland, near to the quaintly named Cosy Nook, between Riverton and Tuatapere.  Ian was one of the intital Trustees for the Youth Trust I worked for in Tuatapere.  He had dogged determination and a dry sense of humour fashionned through many a day of farming in bad weather.  I remember him most of all for being completely supportive of who you were and what you wanted to achieve. He also loved to work with steel and one day he made a boot stand for us.  This boot stand has not really had a good home for many years and there has not been so much need for it, but now it has a perfect place in our carport and is very handy.   

Pauline Boyes was a true Howickian living her whole life in, or near Howick. A Pharmacist by trade, she owned her own Pharmacy at a time when that was unusual for a woman.  Although Pauline never married and her siblings moved away, she had a family within the Church and would keep a watchfiul eye on children and youth as they progressed.  I most remember Pauline as someone who had a gift of faith.  She simply believed God had good plans for those she met and so she engendered hope.  Pauline had a great, old, peach tree.  The last Autumn she spent in her home before moving into a retirement village we were blessed to get some of the harvest.  I planted one of the stones and it came up.  It has been sitting in a pot, waiting to fill a spot where there was a gap in an orchard.

Doug Matheson’s funeral was just last week.  Doug was a someone who never stopped enquiring about life. Even to the age of 94 he was encountering aspects of life as if they were fresh and new. A lasting visual reminder of Doug lives on in our garden in Rotorua.  Doug grew amazing stalks of rhubarb.  One winter, Doug gave me a root of this rhubarb which he had divided off.  I believe that over the years, as I have divided it off, it has gone to half a dozen or more different homes.  When I see the rhubarb, as well as remembering Doug, I’ll be reminded of the power of sharing and the importance of being generous.

A boot-rack, a fruit tree and a rhubarb plant.  Reminders of people who have impacted my life and of what they have left planted in my life.

Ngā mihi nui

Kevin tenance_��9��

Observing some change?

I have noticed that I am less tied to my mobile phone.  I am not checking it repeatedly for messages and missed calls, sports events and results.  I am not constantly checking for weather predictions – actually there’s no need, because just by looking out one window or another you can see what the weather is going to do next.  I leave my phone behind when I am in the garden or walking Xara, so I don’t always know what time it is and I don’t have a check on how many steps I have done in the day.  The number of games of solitaire I play on it has reduced as well.    

What’s going on? Over the last six months before leaving Howick, it was all go on multiple fronts.  I was: getting people in to do small “do up” jobs around the house, in conversations with Real Estate agents, trying to finish well at Howick Presbyterian and also with the people I had developed relationships with over the time we were there.  I was always waiting for someone to get back to me, or finding out about one thing or another.  Because of the busyness and stress, I always felt I had to keep doing things. I felt on edge.   The worst was slipping into checking my phone while at dinner with friends.  This is something I hate others doing and which Miranda got cross about!  Actually, if I’m honest with myself, although it got worse in the first half of this year, it had been with me for some time.

Now that some pressure has reduced and the lifestyle changed, I do believe that, initially anyway, there has been an improvement. I am less addicted to my phone (Miranda scoffs).  Its not perfect (I have checked cricinfo for cricket updates while writing this) but it is better.   

Other noticed differences, less sleeps in the afternoon, even though I’m doing more physical work and am more physically tired.  Going to bed earlier and sometimes sleeping all the way through the night.  Being a little out of town means stopping at a cafe is becoming more of a treat than a regular habit.  I’d like to say I’ve reduced my coffee intake, but that would be going too far!!!

This week: Miranda has nearly completed her first week back into Social Work.  In between the rain storms I have been constructing fencing to create a space for Xara to have some off leash space.

Photo is one example of a burst of colour all over the section – stunning.

Magnolia somethingoranotheraflora

If not “Economic Man” who am I?

People have said to us: ‘oh you have trees laden with grapefruit and oranges and lemons, you must set up a stall and sell them.  You can’t eat all of them yourselves; they’re an income stream for you.’

Others, noting we have a 2 bedroom unit on the side of the house, have said: ‘oh you could make a bundle from it as a bed and breakfast unit. ‘

This, along with a few weeks now with little income, and the plight of a person we met who reported being unfairly paid for work they were doing, has made me reflect a bit about who I am. 

Also, we were given a strange sort of a farewell gift, which was a book on Dementia. This discusses how we view people and raises some hugely important questions.   If someone can no longer work to earn a living, are they still a person? In the instance of the book – which Miranda is reading and telling me about – if someone can’t remember what they had for lunch, are they still a person?  

What if I choose to give fruit away to people who would appreciate it, rather than try to make money off it? Am I less of a human than someone who worked it for all they could get?  Maybe being “Relational Man” is more important for me now at this stage in my life? Maybe there’s something in here about being free to be generous?  To date, there have been a number of opportunities to give fruit away. There would be a conflict in me if I was eyeing them as a cash crop.   Maybe I’m just lazy and should get off my butt and get the fruit to market?

Through one’s early life, earning is important.  Bringing home the bacon has significance when there is a family to feed.  But, is that all I am? Can I be more than  “Economic Man”?

Now… off I go to work out a budget because Miranda starts work next week and I’m getting some part time work as well!

travel well

Kevin & Miranda