A few years ago, a yearning for a bit of land led former Southland Stags player Tim Boys to buy a small farm in the Progress Valley, near Niagara in the south Catlins.
When the father of four stopped playing rugby about five years ago, he began working on oyster boats at Bluff for four months of the year, travelling from the family’s Winton home. Six months ago, he started a job with Advanced Agriculture delivering seeds and chemicals.
“I always wanted a farm. I grew up on 10,000 acres [3937ha] in the Haka[taramea Valley], near Kurow. This is 100 acres and I bought it two years ago, and it hasn’t had much love. It was important to me that my children have land to grow up in, and that we get out of the hustle and bustle. Its proximity to Curio [Bay] is a real bonus.”
About then, he and his two eldest children, Benson, and Lucia started to write books for their ‘‘Not For Townies’’ series about what kids like them get up to unleashed in the countryside.
The series began with Lucia’s account of deer hunting with her dad in Lucia the Hunter and carried on into the next book with Benson the Possum Trapper.
“One of the reasons we did it was because we couldn’t find books that we wanted to read,” Mr Boys said.
The books contain vivid descriptions of what they felt and experienced. An excerpt from Benson’s book reads:
“That night I couldn’t sleep and I kept wondering if we had trapped a possum. In my dreams I thought I had. It was an early start the next morning and we were back off on the long drive to Tui. I was freezing as Jack Frost but I couldn’t wait to see if we had got one.”
Benson, who was the Otago Southland under-13 road cycling and time trial champion this year, is working on the next book, about duck-shooting. It was inspired by building the duck pond last year .
“I saw a pair of paries [paradise ducks] come in,” Benson recalled. “I shot the first duck first go. It took Dad two shots to get the second one. It was really exciting. I couldn’t believe I’d shot my first duck.”
This year, they spent the weekend before duck-shooting season opened cutting broom for their new mai mai on the now well-established pond and were hoping for some good sport.
“It’s not really about the number. It’s more about the process. He was learning new techniques. Shooting into the air is a lot different than shooting, say, a deer on the ground,” Mr Boys said.
The writing will continue along with his hunting prowess.
“I let him write it himself. He’s always changing what he’s written, so it could take a while before this book comes out,” he laughed, describing the revision.
There was an added challenge; like his father, Benson is dyslexic.
“I always struggled to read and write. I went to a small school in the Haka’, and I never want my kids to go through what I did,” Mr Boys said.
“But I had my rugby, and it took me places. I was lucky, but I’ll do everything I can to help him. The main thing is that there’s good learnings out of it.”
Both his children, who go to Limehills School, near Winton, have learned what it costs to produce a book, how to market it and save proceeds.
The children’s mother, Kara Boys, a teacher, has been a huge help in putting together the books, which have been illustrated by a former pupil, Emily Cathcart.
“I like talking to the public about it. I like telling people what we get up to, and that we like hunting and the outdoors,” Lucia said.
Next, she would like to write about hunting wallabies with her father, whose parents still live in the Kurow area.
In the meantime, the family would like to spend more time at their farm and with their small beef herd.