Almost Seed Sowing Time

Why is it that when you are young, you think you can change the world? When I first came to Pukeokahu, Taihape, I was certainly full of thoughts around what could be achieved in making a better world. If not for everyone else, at least for myself and those close to me. I was a University drop out, full of ideas, wonderful ideas, many of which, unfortunately, were not rooted in the real world.

When Nicola and I got married, we were able to rent, then purchase a house and five acres from the Rangitikei District Council. This block was no longer required by the Council. This small block had previously been used to accommodate County Roadmen and their families. Small blocks of land that are available for sale are rare in our area, as most land holdings are primarily large sheep and cattle farms.

This period was an exciting time in our lives. We had the beginnings of a young family on the way but were a bit hazy (make that a lot hazy) about exactly what we wanted to do, both with our bit of dirt and I suppose with the rest of our lives.


Humans primarily learn from making mistakes; in other words, learning from failures. It is somewhat unfortunate that society takes a contrary view of mistakes and failures. Instead, mistakes and risk-taking should be avoided at all costs.

Well, we made plenty of mistakes and in doing that, learnt a great deal.

At that time (the early 1980s), I was fully motivated by the back to the earth, self-sufficiency movement. My favourite go-to books (no internet then) were titles written by John and Sally Seymour such as “The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency.” and “The Self-Sufficient Gardener”. Other publications such as various editions of “The Whole Earth Catalogue” also kept the faith high.

One important subject was not well covered in these books, and that was no matter how self-sufficient you were, you still needed money, and if you had a mortgage as we did, then you needed quite a good steady income. Life took quite a few more turns after this realisation and reality check.

Eventually, our path, along with many twists and turns on the way, led us to the development and growth of River Valley, where we are today.

One Thing Never Lost

However, one thing I never entirely lost from those early experiments in self-sufficiency was an interest and passion for growing plants and animals, and to a certain degree, being a little more self-sufficient, at least in food. For a number of years, I simply did not have the time, inclination or energy to resume growing vegetable gardens.

That all changed about ten years ago when I began to read about the worldwide industrialisation of agriculture, the growing health problems associated with highly processed food and then observing for myself the disconnect most people now have with what they eat. They do not know where their food comes from, what is in it, whether the animals, if a meat or dairy product, were well cared for, and what the environmental impact of their food choices are.

It was this interest and concern that lead me to once again, set up a vegetable garden. The goal was ill-defined at first (a bit of a theme here). It simply seemed a good idea. It felt as if we were doing something worthwhile, and after all, that early garden did produce enough ingredients for a few lunchtime salads at the Lodge.

This Lodge vegetable garden has now taken on a life of its own. It grows in size almost every year, and the range of crops we produce will eventually supply almost all our annual vegetable needs.

The journey we are on is to serve at River Valley Lodge food that is seasonal, local and organic. Good food not only for our guests but also for us.

In some ways, I feel as if I have come full circle. But really, I have not. The underlying passion that I had all those years ago regarding fresh, healthy organic food, can be better expressed now, more than ever before. Learning is not lost. Mistakes are not wasted.

In the next couple of weeks, we will be sowing seed for Spring planting. This planting will lead to some great garden produce being available for the Lodge kitchen this coming season.

Good Eating.

Brian Megaw

river valley vegetable garden - seedlings

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