Bush tales

Swanning Around: A Kiwi Bird's Wild Life

ANGELA CROMPTON
Last updated 05:00 28/10/2012
Kim Swan
Scott Hammond

Hunting buddies: Author Kim Swan, pictured with jack russell Fred, who thinks he’s a real pig dog, shares Rai Valley stories in her new book, Swanning Around: A Kiwi Bird’s Wild Life

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Have fun, give it a go.

That's a life principle for Rai Valley woman Kim Swan and it fills the 40 short stories in her latest book, Swanning Around: A Kiwi Bird's Wild Life.

All are based on her day-to-day life in the valley and are told in a light-hearted way to let readers laugh at her exploits.

The book is Kim's ninth and she says writing feels easy.

"It's only taken me a short time to write; it's mainly about me. In other books I involve a lot of other people, which is time-consuming."

Kim and husband "Possum" Bryant live on a lifestyle block in the Rai Valley. Rivers rather than neighbours border its boundaries, and Kim loves the self-sufficiency such a setting requires.

She and Possum are silviculture contractors, looking after forestry block trees from the time they are planted until just before logging.

Asked if she feels sad when trees she has tended for years are felled, she says she cried when she saw hundreds destroyed in the 2010 forestry fire near Canvastown.

"But it's a girl thing," she says, smiling.

"We're a bit more emotional than the average bloke."

Few women her age - 48 - work in forestry, and she suspects her time in it is limited.

"Carrying big wood buggers your back and your knees," she says, but shakes her head when asked if she knows how much longer she has left.

"I will know when the time comes - probably when I'm not enjoying it any more."

Kim was born a country girl, growing up on Matakana Island in the Bay of Islands.

She and her siblings caught a ferry each day to school in Mount Maunganui and at home they played along the beach or in the forest.

"My parents had both done that stuff all their lives so I'm genetically inclined [to adventure]."

The family's next base was National Park Village at Tongariro. .

Snow and ice aren't much fun for poor kids in bare feet, Kim says.

"Other kids skied on prime [iced] tennis courts . . . poor kids got stuck!"

But rural settings are great places for growing children, she says, with few of the threats urban families have to worry about.

Her own son, Cody, "25 or 26", grew up in the Rai Valley then left school to get a Marlborough Sounds-based job with the Department of Conservation.

Kim ventures occasionally into the Sounds to go fishing, but loves life in the Rai Valley.

"[It] has got everything that everyone like myself could want - and good people, trustworthy people."

Trust is important among people who head into the hills with their guns and packs of dogs on hunting trips, a favourite pastime for Kim and Possum. Pigs are their usual game, Kim says.

"Physically, [hunting] can be quite extreme. We have pre-dawn starts and winter is the best [hunting] season so it's extremely cold.

"But you start walking up some bloody steep hills so you get hot and sweaty and soon you're casting off clothes."

She has her pack of old, "real" pig dogs and a two-year-old jack russell who "thinks" he's one.

"[But] I have to carry him across the rivers or he would get washed away!"

Part of being a good hunter is knowing each dog's abilities, she says, and it is as important they have a good day in the hills as their owners.

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Ask what makes a good day in the hills for her, she says it can often be something simple: coming home with a nice photo of a deer; or reaching the top of a hill and seeing wonderful scenery.

Pigs and the occasional deer are shot and carried home, though, and Kim says two large freezers at home are filled with wild meat.

Along with the roasts, there are venison and wild pork sausages, salami, patties and "beautiful" bacon that a butcher makes for them.

Swanning Around has been sent to book stores with no official launch but "Kim Swan" has become a familiar author's name to people who like reading backcountry Kiwi stories.

There are no plans for a 10th book, Kim says, but if it feels right to write one, she probably will.

"It's really nice for me to be able to write my stories and have people who can't do that sort of thing share them.

"And then there's the humour. I like poking fun at myself."

- The Marlborough Express

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