Six months ago, I never would have thought I would be sitting on my own slice of rural landscape looking out on my productive vegetable garden with the smug self-satisfied grin of a lifestyler.

In a few short months we have a well re-established vegetable garden having taken over from a previous owner who was an avid gardener.

Greenhouse and all, it grows tomatoes like mad and they are now pushing to get through the nova-lite roof and producing king-sized fruit ripened on the vine which taste like those dads used to grow when we were kids.

My misbehaving chooks have dealt to the spuds on several occasions when just as the tops were starting to get through, the poultry asserted themselves and king-pins by kicking away all the dirt and exposing the seed potatoes. The little beggars kept finding a way of breaking into the garden despite best efforts until I built a brand-new Chook palace — called "Waikeria" — which stopped them in their tracks.


Now they are only allowed out on release to work for a few hours each evening to maintain their status as free-range hens. I was permitted to buy more chickens as we had only two previously which we brought out from town. I introduced the newbies to the chief of the pecking order and it did not go well. The old matriarch had stopped laying and was only kept on for sentimental reasons, but there was no denying it; she was a bitch.

I say "was", because she pecked and bullied all the new chickens as they were trying to get used to new surroundings, so was summarily executed and thrown down the offal pit. This was a public execution in full view of those I was seeking to protect. I am pleased to say that everyone now plays together very nicely and five eggs per day from the five remaining hens is a good result.

Four weaner steers look on bemused, wondering what their lot will be in months to come, but I can assure them that with this very timely mixture of gentle rain and warm summer sun, the grass is growing faster then the boys can eat it, so life looks pretty good for the bovine in the family. For now. They say if you have livestock you have dead stock, and besides the chook, we have lost a duck to a 4x4 when she decided to cross the road at the wrong time. It wasn't a good match and she found her way down the offal pit slightly ahead of the chicken.

Living beside a QE2 covenanted reserve makes for an easy start to the day. There is a big, fat kereru sitting on a kahikatea outside the kitchen widow as I brew the first coffee for the day, which is mesmerising, as are the fantails and swallows skimming the pond for insects just on dusk. Parakeets flew out of the gully the other day but are reclusive and too damn fast for my reactions to catch a glimpse of them when I hear their chatter.

A tui spent all afternoon out of sight but within earshot giving me my pedigree as I weeded the garden, mowed the lawn then dug over what I had weeded. I thought it couldn't get much better than this, until I sat outside as the sun set and drank craft beer as I puritanically surveyed my handiwork and wondered how the hell I was going to keep those chooks out of the garden.

In my day job as chair of Te Uepu, the Justice Reform Advisory Group, I really get a kick out of fighting for truth and justice, dicing between reform and compromise, worrying about the vulnerable and the impoverished, and how we will make this country and the planet a better place to be. But this week it has been about chooks and ducks and the old-fashioned taste of vine-ripened tomatoes.

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government