NZ Lifestyle Block

Good From Scratch

This month it’s figs, and farm equipment.

- Words Michael Van de Elzen

Michael’s favourite farm things (& his fabulous fig cake)

We're finishing up all our figs and tucking into a slice of cake with a perfect balance of sweet and wholesomen­ess (get the recipe on page 39). It's the signal that winter isn't far off. It's also the time of year I find myself scrolling through listings on TradeMe for farming equipment, as I plan projects.

Our block is only 6ha (15 acres), but it's far bigger than our old city section in Auckland. I've slowly had to replace pretty much every bit of city hardware with sturdier farm-specific machinery.

And nothing in the city compares to my favourite piece of equipment, a Kubota tractor.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about and buying what I consider the must-haves for our block, and these are what I recommend.

A small tractor

I have a Kubota 3150. It's not huge, but it's 31hp, enough power to do a lot of work.

We needed a tractor with a grader blade attachment to maintain our 250m of driveway. From the road, it heads down a reasonable slope to the house and cookery school. The grader blade is also good for levelling soil.

I got a front-end loader too. It's perfect for moving pretty much anything from one spot to another and essential when your gardens are as big as ours.

There's also a slasher for mowing down old pasture.

The only thing I can't do is ram posts. Post-ramming is specialist work and quite dangerous, so I found an excellent local fencer to do the work instead.

A log splitter

When you have as many fires as I do – a couple of big Engel cookers and a smoker – you need a lot of firewood.

I bought a big log splitter so I could process large rings of wood. I split the wood, then age it. Last year, I also split my finger (not recommende­d).

A ute

Paying for freight can be a huge expense when you're ordering things by the tonne or the hundred and transporti­ng them out into the hills of Muriwai.

We traded in our city car for a 1985 Hilux flat deck ute. It has done a lot of work in the last six years, delivering stones, dirt, wood, and equipment.

Water tanks

These are imperative. When we moved here, the first thing we did was install a 'top tank' which sits at the highest point on our block. We pump water up to it, and the water returns via gravity to our gardens, orchards, and troughs.

We get a lot of power cuts on the rugged west coast, so this gives us a reliable supply and good water pressure whether there's electricit­y or not.

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