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In 1969 we purchased about 100 hectares, just 10 kilometres from Brown Owl on the right hand side of Akatarawa Road travelling north.  It cost about $6,000 and we paid it off over a couple of years.  It was very steep, sort of tiger country, and it was difficult to get to, as it took nearly 20 minutes drive to the top from the road.  There was some grass in steep areas and the previous owners had planted 12,000 pine trees.  They were about a foot high and were very much wind thrown.  They were loose in the ground and their hold on the earth wasn't strong.  From the top we could see the South Island, Wainuiomata, Upper Hutt and round the back to Mount Horrid.  There were no buildings.  Although the scenery was great and we enjoyed it to a certain extent, it didn't cry out for a real commitment.  We persevered, pruned the young pine trees and after five years, we decided to look elsewhere for the ideal retirement spot. Early in 1976, on a brief jaunt up the road travelling north, I came upon a “for sale” sign.  It was on a 4.2 hectare property, just 2 kilometres north of where we were.  I walked down the track to a rigid walk bridge which crosses the beautiful bush clad gorge and river which bisected the property.  At that moment I knew that I had to have the place, no matter what.   It was one of those moments of clarity that came from within.  Glass hard, and crystal clear.  I knew I had found the spot. Mr Don Denovan, the owner, asked $30,000.  I accepted but with a small deposit, and payment in full in 2 years, with immediate occupation.  It was a deal on a handshake (properly documented later).  It was an immediate decision, like so many I have made,  I am not prone to fannying about..  Opportunities are like attractive coloured butterflies, grasp them and hold them before they fade and are gone forever.  They seldom disappoint.  Sometimes opportunities hang about, but mostly they fade on the air of negativity and difficulty and are dead by tomorrow. The idea of having a property just 50 kilometres from home was very appealing.  You could escape for the weekend and holidays.  A family of six girls wasn't conducive to long distance holidays by car, they were difficult and travelling by other means was too expensive. 1995 Akatarawa Road is 4.2 hectares of alluvial river flat, undulating, bisected by a beautiful river, but flood free, with acid soil and “borrowed” surrounding bush landscape.  There is good drainage.  It's about 300 metres above sea level.  It has 2-3 metres of rain per year and 40 days frost down to minus 5 degrees centigrade.  It also has a good and permanent water supply. Efil Doog was named after the TV show “The Good Life” starring, Richard Briers and Felicity Kendall, it expanded our life by creating new interests, new friends and the chance for “out of town” life and the ability to dodge the clutches of work, that sometimes were stressful.  We had no telephone or electricity, flush toilet or a corner shop for that matter. Initially we had 6 paddocks and if we were going to have cows and sheep, we would need smaller paddocks to manage it better from a grazing point of view.  So we immediately set about putting in the water supplies and paddock fences, and the additional shelter protection, and planted trees and shrubs.  There was an existing fairly big shed which with the addition of a pot belly stove with a wet-back for the hot water, a trestle table, an old carpet, a kerosene blue flame cooker, and other bits and pieces, we managed quite well.  It was not flash, it was fun, different and it served.  During the day the girls engaged in the river, and in the evenings quite often we barbequed on the river beach - “bloody sand flies”! We bought 22 Perendale ewes, and a stud ram and 6 Angus weaners, that was our first farming venture, and we made all the mistakes that townies make on their first year on a small farm, namely the over- estimation of our abilities.  We over-estimated our capacity – one weekend we went out with a list of 22 jobs to be accomplished in two days – we had more animals than we could graze through the winter, and we had to get rid of some.  It was a bit stressful initially, but there were lots of rewards too  We worked hard, but we had good family time, and we had some great parties too.  It was more fun for Shirley and me, as some of the older girls were trying unsuccessfully to arrange their own weekend social programme, which involved being in town, rather than stuck out in the “wop wops”. Besides the fencing, the water supply and the farm shelter, the next priority was a large vegetable garden and an orchard on the roadside of the river.  It was great, with new friends, a change of lifestyle and we learnt new skills.  Shirley and I did three courses together at Flock House, Bulls.  Small farming, horticulture and forestry and butchery where we learnt to dispatch, skin, gut, dress, preserve and make sausages out of pigs, cows and sheep.  All of these Akatarawa capers slowed down our girls social development, the retardation of which I deeply regret to this day – yeah right! On Wednesday, usually in the evening, we would travel from Kilbirnie to care for the animals and on Friday night we would go to Akatarawa for the weekend.  We had an old blue Mercedes Benz which Shirley would pack with food, clothes and pillows (we didn't have enough pillows for two places) and the girls.  For a while we had pigs so the first stop was at the Newtown Bakery to pick up pig food, which was not as disagreeable as it sounds.  It was all good food that had not been sold that day – bread and pies.  Getting to Efil Doog from there took about an hour, depending on the traffic, but sometimes we would arrive in the near dark.  We would park on the road side of the river and carry everything across the bridge and up to the shed, which was about 200 metres.  Later we would use a bridge, six properties north of us with a drive back around the hill, which added another 15 minutes to the trip.  
Early in 1976, on a brief jaunt up the road travelling north, I came upon a “for sale” sign.  It was on a 4.2 hectare property, just 2 kilometres north of where we were.

The History and the making of the Garden Efil Doog

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