Michelle Busby is growing her dream life in South Taranaki
Constant rain and sodden soil two weeks out from her garden festival debut hasn't dampened newly-fledged market gardener Michelle Busby's enthusiasm.
Having just built an off-grid new home (they moved in last year), developing a commercial garden and running workshops, along with juggling paid work and caring for their young daughter, she and husband Jarrod are used to challenges.
Michelle's mission is to supply local markets with freshly picked, nutrient dense food, and eventually grow herself a full time job on their Hāwera property, Goldbush Microfarm.
She has just begun selling produce at the Saturday market in the Hāwera square, and is growing strawberries, tomatoes, kale, radishes, garlic. beetroot, carrots, turnips and a variety of green vegetables.
Five varieties of cherry tomatoes are thriving inside a caterpillar tunnel - a 20-metre-long shelter of plastic stretched over plastic hoops.
Instead of potted plants, she has more tomato seedlings growing in trays in the dining room.
The couple are opening their 3.8acre property to visitors for the Taranaki Sustainable Backyards Trail from October 27 to November 5.
There's always a long list of jobs to do, but it doesn't get her down.
"When I feel overwhelmed by the million things that need doing, I remind myself that I'm living my dream," she said.
Michelle grew up on a dairy farm near Mokoia, and wanted a country life for their daughter, Adelyn.
Jarrod was raised in Hāwera. Both had gone travelling and returned to their home town, before they met.
She was studying horticulture at night classes when she met Jarrod, who was not a gardener, she said.
"He's the dirt carter, he's the muscle. Before we met, I don't think it ever crossed his mind that he would want to buy land and live in the country. I've always been interested in gardening, my mother and both my grandmothers had gardens, it was natural for me to want to grow our own vegetables."
Their respective skills complement each other.
Jarrod is a trained chef who enjoys creating gourmet lunches for guests, using produce grown by Michelle, or sourced locally.
He's also a whizz at tasks like welding parts for a new tunnel house or making tools including a special large gardening fork.
The couple spent lots of time researching sustainable housing and reading about solar energy before they built their home, which is insulated well beyond the NZ building code requirements, built to catch the sun, and includes a Wormorator system for the house wastewater.
Going solar made sense when they discovered how much it would cost to connect to the electricity grid, she said.
"We decided we wanted to go completely off-grid and did the calculations. It's around an eight to 10-year payback at current prices."
Goldbush Microfarm is the only South Taranaki garden in the trail, which has 29 gardens around Taranaki.
The event aims to celebrate local efforts in living sustainably and demonstrate what everyday people can to do reduce their impact on the environment and get involved in their community.