Marie Mullins' hands are never idle.

She's either gardening, cooking or head down dealing with mountains of office work. Otherwise she is thoroughly entertaining customers with a bright smile and a hearty laugh.

And she moves fast.

"I have to keep moving to get everything done."


With husband Phil, the couple own a lifestyle block in Marton where her gardens flourish all year round.

They need to because Marie, who has been known for years as the pickle lady, produces a huge range of glorious jams, chutneys, pickles, sauces and cordials sold from her Eclectic Country store in Sanson.

The store is a converted Methodist church hall with a large commercial kitchen at the rear. Pantry shelves in a special corner are stacked with gleaming jars of produce.

"I started out in the what is now the barber shop in Marton. But I always wanted somewhere on a highway. There wasn't a lot of foot traffic in Marton."

Because of the slow stream of customers in Marton, Marie would head off every weekend to markets like the Farmers Market in Feilding.

"I did really well and people got to know me and my produce."

But because because she's now on a main highway her customers are from all over New Zealand, she said.

"I have people who travel weekly, for example between Auckland and Christchurch, and of course dozens of truck drivers stop in and buy up their favourite pickles and sauces."

Marie said her grandmother was instrumental in teaching her how to grow and make delicious food.

"And how to work long hours and enjoy it.

"My grandmother was a very hard worker. If she wasn't cooking she was in the garden. It was all about work and I grew up with that."

Marie's gardens are spread throughout their block and at different times of the year there are vegetables, fruit and flowers.

Vegetables including gherkins, beans, cabbages, corn, carrots, garlic and onions.

"It's time to plant garlic right now."

Fruit from Marie's land includes lemons and grapefruit, feijoa, huge Monty's Surprise apples, quince, tamarillos, cape gooseberries and rhubarb.

And as well as her own produce Marie has also created in her special country store an array of other goods.

Throughout the old hall are ranges of natural wool knitwear, body products, soft bright leather handbags, outdoor furniture, handcrafted jewellery and pottery.

"I love everything here it's all so bright and cheerful."

The Sanson store opens seven days a week between 10am and 4pm.

In the warmer weather it is constantly busy, she said.

Even though she has help a few hours a day and a fulltimer one day a week, when Marie closes the doors at 4pm she's straight out back and into her kitchen.

Out come the pots, pans dishes, jars, the range is switched on and the cooking is underway.

"There's no putting it off it has to be done. I'm used to just getting straight to it."

But if there is a a large amount of stock needing cooked then it's nothing for Marie to cook for hours and sleep overnight at the back of the hall.

Though she is passionate and self confessed workaholic, she said the day is fast approaching that in "about a year" it might be time to shut up shop.

However. her success has been thrilling, she said.

"I've realised my dream. Cooking pickles and gardening."