Lavender, animals draw visitors to farm

Rows of lavender in full bloom are vying with tame animals, including miniature horse Trixie, as...
Rows of lavender in full bloom are vying with tame animals, including miniature horse Trixie, as drawcards at Samantha Laugesen's new venture. Photos by Sally Brooker.
Luke the Pook, the star of a children's book written by Samantha Laugesen, strides across a...
Luke the Pook, the star of a children's book written by Samantha Laugesen, strides across a paddock on the farm.
Jazz the Border collie is determined to distract Hakataramea Valley visitor Abbi Murdoch (10)...
Jazz the Border collie is determined to distract Hakataramea Valley visitor Abbi Murdoch (10) from the kunekune pigs behind the fence
Wilbur, a 4-year-old kunekune pig, is one of the most popular animals on the farm.
Wilbur, a 4-year-old kunekune pig, is one of the most popular animals on the farm.

A piece of paradise is open to the public just east of Kurow.

Dairy farmer Samantha Laugesen has converted part of her property into a lavender garden and petting zoo, where visitors are experiencing some of life's simple pleasures - feeding chickens, patting animals and smelling flowers.

The idea was generated last summer when Ms Laugesen was weeding the 1800 lavender bushes planted by the farm's previous owners in 1999. Several motorists pulled over and asked if the place was open.

She thought it made sense to allow others to enjoy the lavender, and provide something to do on the long drive between Oamaru and Omarama.

Ms Laugesen's menagerie is now housed in a series of small paddocks near the flower beds.

''They're all tame and safe to pat,'' she said.

There are two kunekune pigs, 4-month-old Ludo and 4-year-old Wilbur; two 4-year-old miniature horses, Trixie and Stuart Little; two purebred Highland cattle; halfbred Highland cattle beast Handbag, so named because he was small enough to be carried in one when he was born; Chinese silky hens; a Pekin bantam with chicks; a sheep; and full-size horses.

Ms Laugesen's Border collie dog, Jazz, loves to greet visitors, too, in the hope they will throw a stick for her to fetch.

The main character in Ms Laugesen's children's book, Luke the Pook, stands in the paddock.

Ms Laugesen has landscaped the site, saying gardening was her ''absolute passion''.

''My inspiration is English country gardens.''

It was ''a work in progress'', she said. Already, she has installed a gazebo, reached by wandering through the rows of lavender, and park benches where visitors can relax.

Circular beds of young lavender bushes surrounding a fountain would grow into a maze-like walk in future years.

Another initiative was installing an old railway signalman's hut Ms Laugesen bought for $100 on Trade Me.

She had it moved in from Timaru and restored it herself, finding native timber floors beneath 2cm of guano from its former use as an aviary.

It now stocks a range of lavender toiletries for sale, mostly made by Ms Laugesen. Oil from her flowers has also gone into soaps made by a friend.

The lavender heads were steam-distilled after flowering last year, producing 17 litres of oil.

That went a long way when only a few millilitres was used in each product.

Ms Laugesen opened the garden to the public for the first time last weekend and is delighted with how well it was received.

''We take for granted the pleasure of feeding chooks,'' she said. She loved seeing the visiting children's faces as they interacted with the animals.

Her sister, Jackie Laugesen, helps in the shop and helps feed the animals.

Ludo follows her devotedly, snorting with each step.

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