Coming out of Level 2 lockdown Micha Johansen buys a horse, walks barefoot, and plans to grow a crop of broad beans.

As I write this we are (hopefully) in the dying stages of Level 2 Coronavirus lockdown and heading into Level 1. It also, hopefully, means that the incessant advertising of “be kind” will sod off and we can be treated like the adults we are instead of kindergarteners, although my overreaction to said “be kind” advertising is quite like that of a stroppy kindergartener at times … oh just SHUT UP.

In my last column I mentioned a new obsession with harness racing, and I stated that I wasn’t looking to get a horse any time soon because I wasn’t that crazy. Well, it turns out I actually am, and I am now the proud 5% owner of a future champion. He arrived up to the trainer in Bulls from his breaker in Christchurch only at the end of May. We have been to see him once and he is full of energy and cheek and can pack a bit of a nip, so he has been gelded to make handling him a lot easier.

In typical Micha fashion I have totally overstepped my 5% ownership and gave him his paddock name, Clyde (after Clyde “the glide” Drexler, an NBA player from the 80s-90s). It uses the same first three letters of his race name “Clymenus”, which means “notorious”, involves names from Greek mythology, and is also one of the Argonauts. These things mean he will be super fast, of course. Giddy-up!

Being in Level 4 lockdown was an absolute dream for me. I ventured off the farm only twice, which was two times too many. Now the garden is looking better than it ever has, the kitchen finally got painted, I got fatter from mountains of baking, I re-acquainted myself with the night sky, and I managed to (unintentionally) make hooch from my sourdough starter. I also found myself far, far down the YouTube rabbit hole where I discovered “Earthing” where you spend time each day barefoot in contact with the Earth, Wim Hof breathing, cold showers, permaculture gardening, and a reignited interest in regenerative agriculture.

I believe that all methods of farming offer something of value, so I try to be open minded, pick the bits that I view as having value, and give things a try. I also really like ecology and the environment, so if I can do something for the soil that is beneficial, doesn’t take away from anywhere else, and increases the biology on the farm, then heck, why wouldn’t I have a play. Plus I have always thought that if I were a cow I would far prefer the variety of a vegetation salad to ryegrass, all day, every day. Yawn!

Knowing TJ as I do I realised bringing up regenerative ag in conversation would get me instantly dismissed as being a hippie, so I was very, very cunning. I rewatched “Greening the Desert” in his proximity so he, being a bit of a nosey bugger, would start to watch and be impressed. It worked! He was a bit blown away, and I now have permission to experiment in a 1ha paddock. My original paddock of choice was swiftly given the big NO due to its proximity to the roadside where it would become the talk of the district as to what poor TJ has been talked into by that crazy ‘wife’ of his now. I now have one paddock way up the back and out of sight.

To get started I contacted Jono Frew, who is in the “regen ag biz”, to help me come up with some form of plan. In other words I ask annoying questions such as “can it be done on hills, I’ve only ever seen it done on flats?” Answer is yes, although I think it may kill me. And “Do cows even eat broad beans?”. “Yes”, he replies, “they love them”, to which I reply “Then why don’t they eat them when they break into my garden?”

Jono assures me that they will eat broad beans, so I shall trust him, for now. There’s no harm in giving it a whirl. I mean, why would you want to own property if you can’t run a few experiments here and there? Whether I have the energy and drive to actually get it done properly is a question only the future can answer.