Saying goodbye to country haven

Peter and Eunice Martin are ready to move on to the next chapter.

Peter and Eunice Martin have had a great 25 years on their rural property, but now it’s time for some new blood, they reckon.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make for the couple, who have run guided eco-tours of their property at 44 French Pass Rd since 2000, sometimes hosting two busloads of tourists a day.

“It will be a challenge to move back into town,” Eunice said, “but once the thought-patterns were right the rest just followed.”

With a rammed-earth home, built for them by Paul Geraets and the first of its kind in Waipa, there are a lot of memories on the 4-acre property just out of Cambridge.  Sitting in the macrocarpa-lined kitchen, with the scent of freshly-oiled wood in the air, this is no town house plonked out in the country.  “It was always a country house built for the country,” Eunice explained.  Back in 2012, the construction was put to the ultimate test when a one-in-one-hundred-year flood sent water flowing through the house.  It survived unscathed, with only a fine layer of silt left on the outside walls.  Since then, the council has replaced the old metal drains running alongside the property, which had collapsed in the deluge, upgrading them to cope with storm water running off Maungakawa.

Eunice has been teaching mosaic tiling in the barn for the last 15 years, and it is also home to Peter’s olive press and damson plum liqueur still.

Also on the property is the barn where Eunice has held her mosaic classes for the past 15 years, and where Peter’s hand-built olive press produces olive oil from the couple’s 90 trees each year.  Originally, they were going to share the barn, but Peter said he quickly realised he’d need a ‘man shed’.  “I got thrown out of the barn when the girls took over,” he chuckled.

With an olive press he made himself – he’s an engineer by trade – Peter has been pressing olive oil from their own trees and for people with small groves but no equipment.  People whose driveways were lined with olive trees would bring their fruit along, getting a couple of bottles of their own oil from the press, he said.  Peter and Eunice have planted eight varieties of olives, with some for pickling and some for pressing.  The process uses the whole fruit, crushing everything up including the stones, then mixing the pulp in giant mixer with a paddle.  “Within about an hour what floats to the top is the best oil,” Eunice explained.  Then it’s layered into the hydraulic press where the oil is extracted, ready for bottling.  “I just bottle it until I’m fed up with doing it,” Peter said.  The press will be staying, but it’s up to the next people if they want to use it or not.

And let’s not forget about the still Peter has for making his damson plum liqueur.  Trying some purely for research purposes, it is a taste of summer reminiscent of the syrup in mum’s bottled plums.  It’s definitely a tipple that could be dangerous in large quantities, as it went down alarmingly easily. Much to the relief of family and friends, no doubt, Peter said he will be taking a damson tree with him to their next home, so he can carry on production.

Where that will be is still up in the air, but it will be back in town.  Peter has bike riding and plenty of tramping to keep him busy, and he wants to join service clubs, while Eunice has negotiated with Resthaven to use their craft room to run community mosaic classes.

With stories for every square inch of the property, it is clear that Peter and Eunice have put their hearts and souls into the place, however at 77 and 75 respectively, they know it’s time to hand over the reigns to the next owners.

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