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The bridge which leads the way to Jeanette Fitzsimons' Coromandel farm is daunting, with handwritten signs issuing a stern warning to drivers.

Not quite the welcome we expected, but later we discover it is the result of a very overweight truck attempting the bridge and nearly destroying it.

But the stream safely negotiated, it is up the driveway into a picturesque valley that could easily be part of Hobbiton.

A stream runs along the bottom, bare-branched russett nut-trees fill the orchard, and macrocarpa pines and native bush cover the hill above the valley. Farm dog Wiki lopes over to greet us, and the sound of chainsaws fill the air. What? They are pruning the macrocarpas on the hill paddock, Fitzsimons explains as her husband Harry chugs up the hill on a quad bike, back from watching over the pruning gang.

The couple's wooden farmhouse is tucked into the hillside, fronted by a stone terrace overlooking the valley - perfect for kicking back with a cold beer on a hot day. Even on a grey winter day, it looks inviting.

"The moment I turn into the valley, the weight lifts and my spirits rise," Fitzsimons says.

It is easy to see why, but harder to understand leaving it for most of the year. Fitzsimons spends just two days a week here, and after lunch she's off again for another 10 days on the road.

But for a few hours, she is home and proudly shows us around while gathering vegetables for lunch.

On the flat is a large, organic vegetable garden - a bit bare as it is the middle of winter, but with enough lettuce for a salad. She grabs free-range eggs from the henhouse and watercress from a stream that runs behind the house. "The farm provides all of our food. We can eat a dinner entirely grown here."

Even lamb. Contrary to the popular image of the Greens, Fitzsimons is not a vegetarian. "Why would I be when we have some of the best meat in the world?"

Inside, their home feels, well, homely. Something to do with a combination of open space, macrocarpa and pine joinery, lots of sunlight and comfy, lived-in furniture.

Apart from Green Party stickers on the fridge, little else indicates Fitzsimons' busy political life. A photo of their baby grandson takes pride of place on the cork board.

In the well-laid-out kitchen, the practical, good-quality cookware attests this is a cook's kitchen. "I like to cook but I don't like it when every single night of the year you are responsible for getting dinner."

Although it is just the two of them today, the farm has lots of visitors, with friends and family dropping in constantly. Only last night, eight people sat down to a big roast lamb dinner, Fitzsimons says.

A massive woodburning oven dominates the dining area, providing warmth, hot water and food. Getting it in place was a mission, says Harry. "It weighs about 400 kilos and had to line up with the wetback piping."

Harry settles down to read the paper while Fitzsimons uses a battered blender to whiz up pumpkin soup, with leeks, left-over potato and "lots of cumin".

Last night's left-over roast lamb will be turned into pilaf, "which is rice with fried lamb, almonds and sultanas - if Harry remembered to get some". A quick rustle in the pantry reveals he didn't and he gets a wifely chiding.

But as they work together in the kitchen, chopping and peeling, they exude the easy intimacy of a couple happy in their own company, Harry's laidback style the perfect foil to his high-energy wife.

Over lunch, I ask her if she is looking forward to retiring and spending more time at home.

"One day I'll leave politics behind and get involved in the valley.

"I want to get possum control fencing up the valley and get involved in an organic co-op."

What about just sitting back, and enjoying the view?

"Not yet, but one day I will."

The freshly cut watercress perfectly complements the soup, and the lamb pilaf is delicious.

Then it is time for a quick tidy-up before Fitzsimons says goodbye to Harry and hits the road to start election campaigning.

As we drive away, Harry jumps on the quad bike and heads off to check on the pruning, a Green Party sticker proudly adorning the trailer.

- Herald on Sunday