Wednesday, February 16, 2011

End of an era

The Farmer is the only man I have dated twice - that's as in boyfriend/girlfriend, not dinner and a movie.  The first episode ended in tears (mine) after several months.  He had only recently returned from his OE in the UK and was charged with minding the family farm while his parents enjoyed their OE.  I had just completed my undergraduate degree and was a farm novice.

The second episode, some three years later, again lasted several months and ended in tears (his).  It was a low point in my life, and one for which I have never truly apologised; all the more agonising because the dear Farmer died in June 2009, just shy of his 41st birthday. 

During our second-time-around we moved to a little farm cottage owned by the Deans family; the First Family, as it were, of Canterbury's early European settlers, arriving in the 1840s from Scotland and farming at Riccarton Bush, Christchurch and Homebush, Coalgate.  The Farmer was managing one of the family's surviving sheep and cattle farms. 

Homebush Homestead
via The Press

Jim and Louise Deans run the home farm, Homebush, plus garden tours and their working-farm tourism business.  A bus-load of tourists would arrive Wednesdays (from memory), and observe the farm dogs working the sheep, the demonstration sheep shearing, and then partake of a full farmhouse afternoon tea and a stroll around the historic outbuildings, gift shop etc.  

Occasionally, The Farmer would be called upon to put his heading dogs through their paces and shear a sheep or two, to the absolute delight of the (mainly Japanese) tourists.  They adored the dogs; absolutely couldn't get enough of how clever they were. 


Jim and Louise also kindly opened the homestead, a wonderful triple-brick house built more than 150 years ago, to viewing by appointment.  The house and grounds are of significant local and national historical interest, and more recently, the property was used in the filming of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe, starring Tilda Swinton.

Photo: The Press

Sadly, Homebush was demolished in November 2010 after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake of September 4th rendered it uninhabitable.  (The quake's epicentre was just 10 minutes down the road at  Darfield.)  The central staircase collapsed and external walls were sheered off.  Because the earthquake struck at 4.35am, Jim and Louise were miraculously unharmed.

A still taken from aerial footage of Homebush
via New Zealand Herald

I'm sure The Farmer would have been saddened to see Homebush like this.  And even sadder to see it flattened. 

Louise Deans said the repair costs were simply prohibitive, despite being fully insured. What can you do? They have plans to use some of the bricks in their new home which, surely, must be a heart-wrenching process.


Miss Whistle said...

That's incredibly sad. It's a beautiful house.
And Michelle, thank you for all your lovely comments on my blog. I'm afraid I'm rather behind on my blog reading and comment moderation, but I'm very happy to see you visiting.

Miss W xx

Michelle Trusttum said...

Thank you so much, Miss W. It's lovely to hear from you.
I was so pleased to see the lovely Pepper has found a home with you. Three Dalmatians gambolling in the woods must be a fantastic sight.
Michelle x