A place to call home

Below is a picture I took on our property the last time we were in Arrowtown — we were there to meet with the architect and builders, to initiate a time-plan and get the project moving into its first official steps.

We’re starting to narrow down our options and express a much clearer idea of what it is we want to do on/with the land, so even though everything is still very much in the pre-planning stage, it feels like the overall project is beginning to take on real shape and definition.

The land on both sides of the fence is ours, and it extends up the hill beyond the trees in the background, too. You can see the ripening barley field on the right, which was a great sign for us. The Otago region appears to be a great place for growing grains, which makes the idea of growing our own wheat and barley for future distilling into vodka and whisky a potentially achievable goal.

We’ll probably have to build our own storing and drying facilities, however; not to mention a small distillery. But hey, dreaming is the easy part, right?

Here’s another shot from the neighbour’s adjoining farmland looking back towards our own (and yes, we asked permission to walk on their land before climbing the fence . . . I feel like such a responsible adult as I type those words).

Elderberry trees grow with great vigour in the area, so when I plant apple, pear and cherry trees on our property, I’m going to make sure to include a couple of extra Elderberry trees to help everything blend in a bit better with what’s already surrounding us.

And we still haven’t settled on what type of dog (dogs?) we’re going to get. It’s an endless debate — well, endless until we actually visit a breeder and walk away with a pup in our arms.

My partner seems to prefer the idea of a German Shepherd, and I don’t have any real objections to that — but we’re still several years away from a completed house, so there’s not any genuine reason for us to make up our mind right now.

Hence the seemingly “endless” part of the debate. And watching the Sporting Group video from the latest Westminster Kennel Club Show only makes the choice more difficult — they’re all such terrific dogs.

How does anyone decide on just one?!!


  • Tara C

    Sounds like a daunting task ahead of you, but worth it in the end I hope. I am not a home renovation/construction person so not something I would attempt but the land looks gorgeous and I like the distillery idea. :-)

    • Tara! You must have sensed that Five and I were talking about you the other day. And yes, it does feel very much like a daunting task ahead of us, but we’re in the process of gathering the right people around us to get the job done, so I’m feeling better about it by the day.

      And I’ll be sure to post pics as time goes on. Hope you’re enjoying your own new digs!

  • Tara C

    My ears were burning.:-) Actually I think of you often and read your blog regularly but have been not posting much online lately. We are enjoying Montreal, it is nice to be able to see FiveO regularly. :-)

  • Liz

    Deciding upon pets can be so difficult. I have, we have, always simply said – let’s go to the pound and rescue. We love our mutts and mutt kitties.

    So you are moving, you have made the decision! Your land looks marvelous! Simply magnificent! Your plans sound marvelously daunting. But wonderful none the same.

    We too are moving. Old folks generally leave the city for suburban living. We have lived within a city neighborhood for 30+ years. Today we are moving further into the city. We are offering on a condo downtown in the arts district. I am really looking forward to this move. We will have to learn to live all over again in an entirely different type of neighborhood. I cannot wait.

    Your ventures/adventures sound daunting. Then I am 67 and not really wishing to engage life in this manner. But for you? It sounds divine. You better get moving, I am going to want something wonderful sent from your distillery. Let us all know when and what you begin. Congrats Nathan!

    • I thoroughly understand the impetus behind moving into a city as one gets older — I’ve enjoyed living in cities for the past fifteen to twenty years. You get so many amenities at a convenient arm’s length: good grocery shops, coffee shops, nice restaurants, neighbourhood bars, dry cleaners that will pick up and deliver, the safety of police and fire departments close by, public parks and art museums.

      It all makes a lot of sense, and also makes life a lot easier to deal with when the necessities, as well as the intellectual pleasure, are situated near by.

      I never thought I’d be the kind of person who hit fifty and then moved into the country away from it all, but here I am, and here I go.

      Congrats on the new space in the arts district (where else would a budding poet live?!!), and I hope you love it for the rest of your life!

  • FiveoaksBouquet

    Beutiful property! Already I am worried about how that whiskey is going to get through Canadian customs without being confiscated. It’s never too early to worry, right? I think the only way it will work, Nathan, is for you to bring it.

    All this talk of people moving makes me feel like moving to some new and wonderful abode too! Tara’s move to Montreal has been a great development resulting in some very enjoyable excursions.

    Can’t go wrong with a German shepherd (love them) but I’m guessing the dog dilemma will resolve itself when the time is right.

    All the best, Nathan, in carrying out your plans. Best wishes to Liz, too, in the new downtown condo, and much success and happiness to Tara in Montreal.

    • It’ll take some ageing before the bourbon gets properly tasty, but if you’re still shaking a tail feather in five to ten years’ time (and let me just say, you better be!), then Canadian customs will simply have to deal.

      But if I’m distilling bourbon instead of whisky, then I have to make sure we’re planting enough of the right corn on our property to harvest. Bourbon has to be at least 51% corn based (if I’m reading my books properly), but that means it doesn’t need to age as long as 100% barley-based whisky in order for it to taste really good. Young bourbons can be a terrifically enjoyable pastime.

      Though, frankly, I’ve never tasted a younger aged bourbon that’s as good as a very old aged whisky. But maybe, also, that’s just me, and the older I get, the more I appreciate the damage that age does.

      And you’re right — I’m going to stop chomping on the dog dilemma and let it take care of itself when its time comes. Wise words. Why am I tearing my hair out right now over something that isn’t even going to happen for a couple of years (at least?).

      Answer: Because I’m apparently a “tearing my hair out” kind of guy.


      One of these days, Montreal will be ours!

      • FiveoaksBouquet

        Non-GMO corn, right?

        • We’d likely get run out of town by an angry mob wielding torches and pitchforks if we planted GMO anything.

          But yes, our goal is to find some corn seed that grows well in our region from an organisation here called the Koanga Institute — they collect heirloom seeds and offer them to independent farmers and home gardeners in order to keep older strains of non-GMO fruit trees, grains, vegetables and potatoes/yams alive and kicking.

          The trick will be in finding an heirloom corn that has the right flavour profile and sugar content to make a good bourbon. But I’m optimistic!

          • FiveoaksBouquet

            Wow! It sounds like there is every reason to be optimistic!

  • Little Red

    Oh wow! I’ve been wondering lately what was going on with you. Glad I checked in. This all sounds so exciting.

    • LR! It’s so nice to see you back around these parts.

      Yeah, there’s been a lot of shifting and changing of focus on my part for the past couple of years, but as we gear up for the home-building project, I’m getting more and more excited about the long-term nature of the thing and just how much there is to do and accomplish as the years roll on.

      We’re hoping the first shovel hits the dirt in late July to early August. I’ll be there with my camera to record the moment, of course. And maybe break a bottle of champagne on something . . .

      It’s been a long time coming.

      • Little Red

        Interesting. Since my forty-first birthday last year, I too have been wondering about the direction of my life and what changes I want to make and what it will take.

  • CaptainMal

    Best of luck to you in your dream of becoming a small distiller. I vote for a 5-9 year old wheated bourbon-style whiskey from your NZ fields. That sure sounds like a winner. I suppose you couldn’t call it a bourbon since it wouldn’t be distilled in the US (and you are correct, of course – a bourbon has to be at least 51% corn). It’s similar to how you can’t call a whisky scotch unless it is distilled, aged and bottled in Scotland. Yours will just have to bear a catchy whiskey moniker that I’m sure you’ll create!

    • We’ve been researching half-barrels and quarter-barrels for storage, and while they have their tricky “leave it in too long and all you taste is wood” aspects, it might very well be a way we can get some aged bourbon on our hands a bit sooner (2-3 years) than the usual 5-9 years.

      I’ve read a lot of pros and cons (mostly cons) about ageing whisky in smaller barrels, but I think we’ll be up for at least the old college try.

      • CaptainMal

        You are right, all that wood per volume of product in the smaller barrels makes it a tricky proposition. But it is intriguing. Since you wouldn’t be chained to the “charred new oak barrels” rule for bourbon, as you are distilling in NZ, that would be interesting to try the half or quarter-barrels experiment and finish it for 6 months or so in some used barrels. (i.e., Sherry, Merlot, etc.) I’ve read Stranahan’s whiskey has used that to good effect with their limited release and highly popular Snowflake offerings. Jim Beam even came out recently with a “higher end” bourbon (Signature Craft) by just mixing in what they termed “rare Spanish Brandy.” They didn’t even bother to age it in the Spanish Brandy barrels, they just mixed in the brandy and charged more for the product! So there are all sorts of directions to take in this possible venture. It will be interesting to hear what you end up doing.

        • I’m laughing at the audacity of simply mixing whisky with “rare Spanish brandy” rather than ageing it in brandy barrels. Only a company like Jim Beam could get away with that.

          I’m checking out a number of terrific New Zealand wineries (my favourites, of course!) that I might buy used barrels from in the future. If I can get them to sell me barrels, I can do some very nice barrel finishing after the shortened ageing in half or quarter barrels — that might help to soften the challenging wood tones I’ve read about when dealing with half and quarter barrels.

          So yes, not being chained to the American Bourbon rules (or even the Scotland Scotch rules) will certainly allow for some creative flexibility. Thank god.

          • CaptainMal

            Best of luck to you in your venture. There is so much room for something new and interesting in the whiskey market. A number of small distilleries are making splashes, these days. I hope to read about your project in the future.