Waitomo News : NKC Farmer January 2015
Thursday, January 15, 2015 3 FROM P2 Lew grew up near Whangarei “fell- ing trees, lugging logs and spending time in the bush” with his father Ernie Pickens. “I have always taken an interest in the old bush camps and I can remem- ber as a kid, the old man would cook all sorts of food using his camp oven.” After running his own farm and doing a bit of shearing in the north, he and Julie moved to Waimiha 11 years ago. The extra woolshed, which houses his bush kitchen, is also a living trib- ute to all things farming. Since before he can remember, Lew has collected all sorts of “bush, farm and bullock gear” and now displays them in his personal museum. He says he has “without a doubt one of the best bullock yoke collec- tions in the country” and everything else from racing axes, side saddles and possum traps to 14-point stag heads, cockatoo saws and pig snout- ers. “We trucked (everything) down from up north where most of it was just stored away. “It gives people a look into a life that once was and it has given me plenty of enjoyment.” He can’t say how many items he has collected over the years but “eve- rything has got a story about it”. Of all the hundreds of items that hang from the ceiling and line the walls, he points to a simple pair of pliers lent by a fellow farmer he met up north. “He (Fred Stephens) was originally from Waimiha, a contentious objec- tor, who gave me the pair as a gift, so I’ve hung them on the wall so I don’t lose them.” BULLOCK BREEDING Lew’s love for everything farming has also culminated in carrying on his family’s tradition of breeding bullocks, with Julie’s help. His great-grandfather Thomas Pickens first bred teams of bullocks in Tutukaka, north of Whangarei, then his grandfather Joseph, followed by his dad Ernie. “The Pickens’ have four genera- tions of rearing bullocks. My old man, when he was 60-years-old, had a team until he died 25 years later,” says Lew. “So we started off a team in 2013. At that stage they were only seven- month-old calves. Now they are close on 20 months.” Julie reared the calves, a mixture of friesian-jersey cross, straight frie- sians and a couple of Herefords which form the nucleus of Lew’s team. “We also bought some Shorthorns down from up north, for a bit of colour. “Now I have seven pair going. It isabitofhobbyandabitofachal- lenge.” The Australian term for a bullock driver is ‘bullocky’, also referred to by Americans as a ‘bullwhacker’, but Lew simply calls it “mucking about”. In the past, bullocks were used to haul building materials and essential food supplies to isolated areas as they were less excitable and more depend- able than horses. Nowadays Lew takes his team out three times a week “to keep on top of them”. “You are meant to have an offside (another driver) on the right-hand side to help navigate the bullocks around gateposts and trees, but I’m doing it by myself.” He hopes to one day lead his team in a Piopio Christmas parade. Despite only “a few jangles” with his team, he and Julie invite anyone interested in seeing them in action, walking back in time through their mu- seum, or enjoying a ‘bush camp’ meal to visit their Waimiha property. “We want to give people an incredible experience they won’t get anywhere else, and teach them a little about the good old days too. Where else can you go to see half a dozen camp ovens cooking?” They also have accommodation available for those wanting to stay after the “roast bush camp dinner and a few beers”. For more information, contact Lew and Julie Pickens. RUSTIC APPEAL: The woolshed, which houses the ’Bush Camp Kitchen’ and a dining table, is also a living tribute to all things farming and contains hundreds of items for guests to admire.
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