We are at the farm and it is wet. Not overly miserable, as the wind is gentle and the rain only falls in large bursts occasionally. The plants are so happy as the moisture mostly meanders from the sky in a melancholy mist and has plenty of time to be soaked up by thirsty roots rather than just washing away in surface floods.
I adore autumn. It is my favourite season everywhere on this earth. From New York city’s central park to the Swiss Alps, Gatineau’s or Appalachian ranges. Autumn does not signal the end of anything to me, it is a time of pregnant possibility, crisp apples picked right off the branch, leaves that litter forest floors and most magnificently fruiting bodies of mycelia more commonly known as mushrooms. Autumn is my happy place and it is tough to catch me in a bad mood this time of year. You’ll find me irritatingly chipper most days as the sun sinks lower in the sky and feijoa fall from heavy branches.
The only day in the Southern Fall you will find me miserable is the 28th of April. It is the day I was born 44 years ago in Edmonton Alberta to a farming and oil drilling family who did not like me then and are inextricably estranged from me now. A decision I did not take lightly and have genuinely never regretted. I’ve carved out a new existence focusing completely and tirelessly on social and environmental justice and taken the trauma of my terrible childhood and turned it into care and concern for mother earth and being a champion for the underdog, as it was champions who saved me and placed me on the path that I am now firmly moving forward on.
Today is the 20th and tomorrow I take my youngest miracle (James) on a birthday trip to Taranaki then Wellington then home to Auckland on the 22nd of April which is his 8th Birthday and Earth Day. He is obsessed with airplanes, and therefore I booked us on an ATR and Q300 as this was his greatest wish to fly on them as he watches YouTube videos over and over again. I am keenly aware of the effect of aviation carbon and blessed to be working peripherally with many electric aviation pioneers and securely ensconced with carbon divestment and sequestration projects throughout Aotearoa and the world. I pick my battles bravely and am bold in my resolve to be a part of a solution to restore balance in our delicate ecology and hope that my children will continue the work we have started.
As you will clearly already realise, my first marriage ended some years ago, as did my public appearances as the High Priestess of Electrification of Transport. Since then new friendships have blossomed and old have been fortified as I embark on my second marriage and new career as the co-founder of Matakana Off-Grid Retreat and Experimental Farm.
These 50 acres of Matakana Clay have saved my world weary soul. My fiancé and biggest fan Damon has nursed me back from the brink and together we have loved and learned our way through thousands of daily decisions to improve the whenua, plant trees, nurture bees, and create off-grid experiences for guests of all kinds.
Our Wedding has been cancelled and rescheduled at least four times already, so we will elope to Rarotonga in July and host a festival style wedding reception on the farm on November 5th.
April 30th was set to be the day of the wedding, but more covid outbreaks and countless close calls have meant we down-scaled the wedding and have arranged a catered gathering for around 50 of our closest friends and collaborators on the project. Here we will let the world see our newest tourist offering, a stunning safari tent designed only for couples to come and recharge and digitally detox amidst the birds and the bush overlooking the incredible predator and pest free island/motu of Little Barrier/Hauturu. Having her peaks in clear view places our paradise directly on the NorthWest wild link and we have already seen an increase in native birdlife and met some taonga species including Tuna(eels) and Koura(crayfish) in our streams.
Healing my very broken heart alongside this land has been an honour and adventure that I relish every single day.
We are only getting started, and this is the second year of our focused efforts to restore and regenerate the land and its natural ecology. Soon Kiwi birds will be returning to the mountains around the corner from this place, and that means our predetor and pest control efforts need to be focused and fiercely administered, so that, Rangi and Papa willing, we might one day have the furry little flightless birds visit us in this place.
If you are a Rodney local interested in sustainability and eco-tourism, we would be absolutely honoured to hear from you soon, and perhaps welcome you on April 30th for our first official event. I popped in to see the team at the Te Manuhiri headquarters and am hopeful that some of them will be visiting us soon as working with local Iwi is one of my most fervent goals. I have so much to learn about the language and the Kaitiaki and Rongoa that has been passed down for generations, and am determined to listen to any advice or collaboration considerations I’ll be honoured to receive.
Have a lovely day wherever you are on this earth, and thank you so much for reading.
Dianna (Dee) Birchfield-West