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By AMANDA BOWES

A log house is rising on river terraces above Lake Sumner Forest Park, fulfilling the long-held dream of Steve and Debbie Board.

The couple intend to plant walnut trees on their land, once home to a chicken farm and a commercial pine plantation.

The 39 hectares of marginal terraces was planted in the early 1980s. The block was owned by Tegel, which also had a large hatchery on the land. The pine forest was looked after by a manager.

Twenty years ago, the Boards bought the property from Tegel when chicken production ended at the site.

Steve says the 17-year-old trees had been well managed on the land, which came with the chicken sheds and a manager’s house.

At the time, he and Debbie had been living in Waikari at the old post office while running a shearing gang.

Steve had become interested in log houses while shearing in the United States. Ten years ago, he built his first log cabin from windfall timber.

Steve says Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley had asked him if he would look after the nearby Waitohi Domain. He agreed if he could build a cabin there.

“I wanted to demonstrate what could be done using untreated timber.”

Steve milled the wood and built the cabin with squared off logs, all dove-tailed at the
corners. Between the logs, a sealant called called chink was applied to keep the
building draft-proof.

When the mayor saw the finished cabin, he asked Steve to build another. Taking six months to complete, it was transported to the domain by the late Mike Earl for free as it was for use in the domain.

In 2016, the first trees on their block were harvested by Trans Tasman Forestry (TTF) and exported to China.

Steve harboured a dream to build a log house of his own and through TTF, sourced
Oregon trees being harvested at the nearby Island Hills Station, owned by Dan Shand.

The trees had to be big enough to form the huge square logs for the new house.
More Oregon was sourced from Flock Hill.

Waikari builder Simon Fricker is the principal builder. His father, Urs, is the joiner and Steve also helps.

Veranda poles come from windfall pines. The build is about half complete.

Last year, trees on the second half of their property were felled.
Walnuts are their next project. Steve says their terraces have a microclimate with few frosts and they sit the right height above sea level.

Walnuts should grow well, he believes.

“There are lots of wild walnut trees which have always grown well, so they seemed an obvious choice.”

Steve is also preparing for his slink run. He began the slink collection service 20 years ago and still enjoys it.

Most of the lamb skins go into high end fashion, gloves and soft toys.

“It’s great what a waste product can be turned into,” Steve says.