Mai mai Southland is hot

Southland’s summer hasn’t disappointed nutrient specialist Rachael Hoogenboom.

In Home Block5 Minutes
The mud pit as seen from the mai mai.

Southland’s summer hasn’t disappointed nutrient specialist Rachael Hoogenboom.

WHEN I MOVED TO SOUTHLAND in April 2021 I feared never seeing the sun again. The wet, cold, and miserable winters which I was entering wouldn’t come to a close.

I worried that the firewood would need to be restocked at least four times a year. That at some point I would give in to Steve the pet huntaway sleeping by the warmth of the roaring fire, hoping to defrost his nose after being curled up in his kennel surrounded by snow.

However, September arrived and the big yellow has not disappeared and I’m starting to think as if I had packed the Hawke’s Bay sunshine into my bags. It is slowly growing on me that Northern Southland may just be the ideal summer location.

I’m writing from the comfort of the leather couches at Cam’s (my partner) family mai mai, as the men gather for a working bee; although this May is not looking to be as successful when the normally overflowing duck pond can only provide a mud pit.

Unlike most duck enthusiasts who camp out to be up at dawn for the first sight of wings, this mai mai is like no other. With bunk beds, a big screen TV, fireplace ,and a dishwasher, you can only imagine how tough the foggy and brisk mornings are, as the duck shooters at this mai mai step from the kitchen to the shooting gallery in their slippers.

I’ve come to realise that my assumption of wearing a raincoat every day of the year was very much fuelled by North Islanders who have never stepped foot on to the mainland.

The optimism I hold for future Southland summers has prompted Cam and me to start on our next adventure, buying a pop-top camper. I joke that this is the closest thing we will get to buying our own property and have convinced myself that a mobile home has many more advantages. Advantages such as when it ticks to 5pm on a Friday we are on the road into a location I have most likely spotted on an influencer’s Instagram account.

Spring through to autumn is peak season within my role as a nutrient specialist in Northern Southland due to the range of farm systems in the area, but I’ve found the pop-top is great encouragement to leave work behind for the weekend.

The importance of getting off the farm and disconnecting from work is often something I speak about with farmers I am working with. It is a factor I am now ensuring I follow through with for my own mental wellbeing.

Our February roadie led us to Omarama, a destination we would normally skip through but the MacKenzie Basin did not disappoint with activities to fill in our time. Our next trip is planned a little closer to home, along the Catlins coastline in the hope of spotting some penguins, a lazy seal or, if I’m lucky, maybe even a whale.

It was almost three months before the pop-top was even towed out of the shed to explore, as a few minor repairs needed to be attended to. Then I decided that this old girl needed a bit of a facelift.

Without hesitation I allowed Cam’s dad, Norman, to pick the base colour for the outside shell, however I had one instruction for them that it was not to be New Holland blue. The painting started before I had arrived and their argument was that it was more chilly bin blue. The pop-top has now been transformed and named The Esky.

As winter slowly draws in, I endeavour to hold my optimism that the sun will stay high in the sky and having named our pop-top The Esky, won’t result in all future trips needing to be accompanied by a few extra blankets.