Preserving Garston History

Whenever I want to know about Garston’s history, I go straight to Peter Naylor and Noel McMillan. 

These two farmers were born and bred in Garston and have lived here all their lives. And both men are passionate in their own ways about preserving our history. 

Peter has albums filled with photos of farming life back in the day and a story to go with each one. He kindly let me use some of these photos in 

Winter Feeding On The Farm   and  Making Hay While The Sun Shines

History on the Garston Green

One of Peter’s main passions is restoring old vehicles to their former glory. When Russell Glendinning found that two of his old railway jiggers had gone to rack and ruin he brought them to Garston, hoping that Peter would work some magic. 

And Peter did. Now, Garston is lucky to have them on display as part of our railway heritage precinct on the Garston Green.

Red and yellow 1910 hand-operated railway jigger restored by Peter Naylor.
This 1910 hand-operated railway jigger is part of the railway heritage collection on the Garston Green. It was donated by Russell Glendinning and restored by Peter Naylor.

Noel, on the other hand, has dedicated much of his time to collecting and preserving documents from the past. He’s got files, folders and books galore of fascinating documents and photographs showing farming and community life as it used to be.

The way we were. Garston railway yards, hotel and garage. Winter, 1950-60’s.

Now, Noel is collaborating with his granddaughter to bring us a new Facebook page. Amanda has been posting photos and articles from Noel’s vast collection and reminding us of a bygone era. If you’ve lived in Northern Southland, you might well recognise places, events and faces. You might even spot yourself at these special events.

You can check it out at Preserving History

Thanks to Noel, Peter and all the dedicated historians who collect, sift, store and retell the stories of their districts. Our lives are richer for your work.

More History on TOML

Locking Down For Harvest On The Farm

Well, hasn’t it been a crazy few months? 

When you sang Auld Lang Syne in 2019 could you even have guessed what 2020 had in store?

While New Zealand locked down and hospitals geared up, the food industry went into essential service mode. 

Supermarkets did a fantastic job of keeping us fed at the service end. Meanwhile, at the production end, no-one told the plants and animals about Covid 19. They just carried on growing and ripening as usual. 

On our farm alone, we harvested four crops between March and May. 

So, here’s the tale of our lockdown harvest.

The Grain Harvest

Paddock of ripe barley during the lockdown harvest month.
Paddocks full of oats and barley awaited the lockdown harvest.

We own an ageing Massey Ferguson harvester. It’s given sterling service over the past 20 years, gathering grain on our farm and two others as well. Consequently, the grain harvest was in full swing when Jacinda announced that NZ would be locking down. 

Rumours flew that we’d have to sit in our houses and let things rot. That was nonsense, of course. Farmers could carry on so long as we observed all the rules and made everyone safe. 

It was a strange, old time. Gone were my hours in the kitchen, whipping up lunches and snacks galore. Now, everyone brought their own food and ate it separately. The truck and tractor drivers stayed in their cabs and occasionally waved as each passed by. 

It was a lonely old time for our combine driver, too. 

Usually, he has plenty of visitors at harvest time. Grandchildren, nieces and nephews, past and present farmers and the occasional townie all love to man the spare seat in the cab. And Pat enjoys a bit of company cos it’s tedious travelling around and around paddocks of yellow grain.

There were no visitors in 2020. This season, poor Pat was on his own. 

Harvesting The Hops

Hops on the bine
Some of our newest hops ready for harvest.

While grain poured into the silos, the hops were going gangbusters. 

Our plans for the hop harvest festival went out the window. Abandoned, the idea of Woofers and caravans by the woolshed. The good folk at Altitude Brewing shelved plans to create another Garston green-hop brew. 

Instead, our farm’s two little family bubbles were on their own with rows and rows of hops to pick in a race against time.

Last year, we cut all the bines at the same time and carted them to a central location. Music was blaring, and the tables were surrounded by people plucking thousands of hops. 

In the 2020 lockdown, we cut the bines down six at a time. Each afternoon, Terry and I piled two or three onto the back of the Polaris and trundled them up to our house, leaving James and his family to deal with the rest.

It took me about five minutes to decide that standing on a cold, concrete carport for hours by myself was not going to work. So, we lined the lounge carpet with tarps and brought the hop vines inside. 

Afternoon and night, I cut the vines into manageable chunks and piled them on the living room floor. Thank goodness for hot drinks and Sky TV! 

Despite the tarpaulins, hop leaves went everywhere. So did spiders, large and small. Eeek!  

Hop plants filled the lounge with aroma, leaves and spiders.

I vacuumed FREQUENTLY, but tiny creepy-crawlies still crawled out of the sofa and bit me on the arm. 

The hop harvest seemed to go on for days, but suddenly, the flowers were too far gone. It hurt to admit defeat and leave some hops on the bines.

The Saffron Ripens

Ripe red saffron strands emerge from the purple flower.

Hard on the heels of the hops, the saffron’s delicate purple flowers began to poke their heads above the earth. 

Still in our separate bubbles — Terry and I at one end of the paddock and James’ family at the other — we began the saffron harvest. 

With thousands of two-year-old bulbs in the ground, there was no way we could do this one on our own. But, equally, lockdown rules made it hard for Kiwi Saffron owners Jo and Steve Daley to travel or to bring in their usual WWoofers to help. 

Fortunately, there were only a few hundred flowers at first — one or two buckets — each day. They were easy to pick but time-consuming for Lizette and the boys to process in their carefully-cleaned sleepout. It kept them busy each afternoon — an essential for lockdown — but they were more than relieved when Level 3 arrived, bringing with it a bubble of Wwoofers to take over the job. 

They came just in time, for the flowers were multiplying and producing bucket loads every day. Thank goodness there were plenty of Wwoofers who stayed in New Zealand when the borders closed. The saffron harvest would have been ruined without them.

It takes hours to process buckets full of saffron flowers. All you want are those tiny red strands.

Trudging up and down the rows over clumps of uneven soil was hard on my knees, so I retreated when the Wwoofers arrived. But, Terry went out into the paddock every day to pluck “his” end of the saffron rows. What a trooper.

Apples galore

2020 was a bumper year for all the apples too.

The gorgeous apples by the woolshed — best described as “sort of like a Cox’s Orange” — ripened crisp and tart in mid-April. Often these apples are only on the high branches, but this year there were lots within reach. It was fun to pop down with a bucket for apples and sacks for dry pine cones which littered the ground. (Pine cones make the best kindling ever.)

We don’t usually get so many beautiful apples on this particular tree.

There were plenty to pick from our unique, heritage apple tree up the gully too. 

This year I had the time to process and freeze many apples and to carefully wrap others individually in newspaper. I stored them in a crate, and so far, they’ve stayed perfect, so fingers crossed.

When the autumn winds came, as they always do, apples tumbled to the ground. Lizette and her boys rescued cratefuls of these windfalls and sent them up to Laura Douglas at Real Country to feed her pigs. 

Like all tourism businesses, Real Country is devastated by the lockdown, so Laura did appreciate the piggy treats.

As for us, we’ve eaten so much apple crumble that we’re well over that particular dessert now. I really must add more apple recipes to my collection. 

What’s Your Story?

So, that’s our lockdown story. But everyone had a different experience of lockdown, of course. What’s yours? 

I’m hoping to put together a post-lockdown series of stories about how innovative Kiwi businesses are pivoting to survive and thrive.

Contact me now if you know someone who’d like to be featured or share this story to spread the word.

Have You Seen These Lockdown Posts on TOML?

Experiments in the Art and Science of Soap

Remembering Russell Glendinning

Railway-sleeper & cartwheel seat, memorial information board and life-size cutout figure of Russell Glendinning make up the memorial.

Russell Glendinning was a giant of a man in Northern Southland. I think you’d be hard-put to find anyone as passionate and dedicated to trains and community as the man known to many as Mr Kingston Flyer.

A Crowd Gathers In Garston

On February 22nd a crowd gathered near the little railway shed on the Garston Green. They came from all over Southland and beyond.  Railwaymen caught up with their mates. St John’s personnel leant against their ambulance chatting to friends. 

Locals from Kingston, Garston and Athol came along. Family, friends, dignitaries… 

We were all there to honour one extraordinary man.

The Russell Glendinning Memorial Seat

The Russell Glendinning memorial, railway sleeper & cart-wheel seat with information board. The Kingston Flyer cutout runs along the top.

This rustic seat is a heartfelt tribute to a legendary Southlander. And, like Mr Glendinning, it’s down-to-earth yet complex. Aaron Abernethy built it carefully, from railway sleepers and cartwheels. Russell might have blushed to read the information board created by Donna Hawkins and Chris Chilton. But he’d have loved the attention to detail on Macaela Hawkins’ re-creation of the Kingston Flyer perched on top.

“I think it is a great tribute to Russell,” said Kingston Flyer Ltd Director Neville Simpson. “It’s a place to come and remember him, to sit and contemplate. 

Russell used to do a lot of that. He’d go up the track, do a few sleepers then lie back in the grass and contemplate life.”

But, who was Russell Glendinning and why did 100 people gather to honour him on that rain-threatened afternoon?

Let’s find out.

Continue reading “Remembering Russell Glendinning”

Behind the Scenes: The Revenant Community

Two things that Scott Worthington and Welcome Rock’s Tom O’Brien stand for – Community and Challenge. They’re building both in The Revenant Ultra Adventure Run.

I love the outdoors and I love a challenge. And I love people that love a challenge. It’s really important in my heart and in my wife’s heart to recognise the strength in everybody.”

Scott Worthington at the close of the 2020 Revenant Ultra Adventure Run
Scott Worthington and Tom O'Brien at the closing ceremony table with the Welcome Rock Whisky bottle and shot glasses.
Scott and Tom about to present the very first Revenants with their ceremonial shot glass full of Welcome Rock whisky.

One of the very special things about the Revenant run is its community feel. The runners, their families, supporters and all the volunteers feel a sense of connection and belonging. 

It’s not an accident. Everyone has a part to play in the Revenant family.

Continue reading “Behind the Scenes: The Revenant Community”

The Revenant Ultra Adventure Run: 2020

Revenant 2020 was all we hoped for and more. It had drama, heartbreak and challenge a-plenty.

I was lucky enough to be out on the course in this year’s event. Here’s how it unfolded.

The 2020 Revenant Ultra Adventure Run challengers meet at the race briefing at the Welcome Rock Trails / Blackmore Station woolshed. The next time they’ll all be together will be at the start line in the early hours of a January morning.

Can You Imagine Going Deep Into The Revenant?

“ I saw a black and white cow pulling a caravan up the river.”

That might have bothered Shaun the first time he clambered up the Nokomai River. But as he scrambled over boulders and under logs for the fourth time in 60 hours, the cow didn’t faze him at all. 

When you’re pushing body, mind and spirit to the limit, hallucinations happen. Your brain starts to play tricks when you’ve been running and navigating with no sleep. And when you’re climbing, descending and racing for 190km over three days. 

It happens when you go deep into The Revenant.

25 men and women lined up in the 2020 race on Welcome Rock Trails this year. Some had been there before — they had demons to conquer. Last year, no-one came close to finishing the race. 

Others were there to discover their own limits. How would they face the challenge that is the Revenant Ultra Adventure Run?

Two Revenant racers clamber over logs in the beech forest beside the rocky Nokomai River bed.
It’s tricky terrain down in the beech forest near the Nokomai River. Photo supplied by Scott Worthington.
Continue reading “The Revenant Ultra Adventure Run: 2020”

The Garston Cemetery: A Very Special Shelter

The normally-tranquil Garston Cemetery was a-buzz early in November.

Residents past and present were gathering along with SDC mayor Gary Tong and councillors John Douglas and Rob Scott, for the opening of the cemetery memorial board and shelter. 

The ceremony marked the end of two years planning, fundraising and organising for the Garston Cemetery Trust. Designed by Gordan McMillan and built by Aaron Abernethy and Jordan MacGregor, this lovely little building is one-of-a-kind. 

Cutting the ribbon on the Garston Cemetery Memorial Board Shelter.
Noel McMillan and Gary Tong open the Garston Memorial Boards’ special shelter.
Continue reading “The Garston Cemetery: A Very Special Shelter”