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Norm and Kaye Yardley

I got to know Norm Yardley when he took on resurrecting a home-made spinning wheel that was given to Eyebright.

Norm Yardley was born in Auckland during the depths of the 1930s depression, but when he finished school, at the end of the war, the economy was moving again. By the time he finished a six-year plumbing apprenticeship, it was booming. Wool prices were stratospheric thanks to the US stockpiling in anticipation in the Korean war escalating.   It’s a pity wool is no longer considered a ‘must have’ staple.

Things were very good for newly-weds Kaye and Norm Yardley.  With 3% interest rates they bought their first house.  It was built as part of a government initiative called the ‘Group Housing Scheme’.  The government of the day addressed a housing shortage by encouraging builders to construct new homes using plans approved by the state, with a pledge to buy any houses the builders couldn’t sell.  In short: Taking all the risk out of building a spec house.  It worked so well that the supply over-shot demand and in 1955 the market tanked. That was when Norm landed a new job, and he and Kaye needed to sell up so they could move to Kaeo in Northland. 

If you’ve never heard of Kaeo, you’re not alone.  Kaeo is much smaller now then it was then.  It had three general stores, a separate greengrocer, a butcher, and a hospital (where Norm was the new storeman).  The reason for all this activity was employment created by a dairy factory.   Norm and Kaye also did their bit to boost Kaeo.  Arriving with a baby girl and then adding two more during their time in Kaeo.   In 1958 Norm was transferred to Whangarei where he became the supply manager for the Northland Hospital Board.

In the mid 1980s Norm and Kaye bought a three-bedroom house with 100 acres of blackberry and gorse.  Slasher in hand, Norm set out to quelling the vegetation.  When Kaye called Norm in for lunch, he would acknowledge her by waving his slasher in the air.  She could just see it above the growth.  Working alone, Norm wasn’t going to win the battle, so he enlisted goats.

Neighbouring farmers were dubious, but the novice, Norm Yardley was onto something.  It took years, but the goats cleared the land.  At their peak Norm had 200 goats of all colours and sizes.  As they cleared paddock after paddock, he was able to cultivate and sow ryegrass and clover, although Kykuya grass came to dominate, as it does over most of Northland.   Norm and Kaye were then able to graze cattle.

In 1993 Norm retired, and was able to totally devote himself to the property.

With the land tamed, they now had attractive parcels to sell to others wanting to escape the city.  A zoning change allowed them to split off lifestyle blocks, and through the 1990s and early 2000s Kaye and Norm incrementally sold off their property.

In 2003 Norm was seventy two.  Kaye was seventy.  They decided to sell their last ten acres and move to Taranaki to be close to one of their daughters.  Eleven years later they moved to Nelson, once again to be near family.

About the time Norm and Kaye arrived, the Eyebright wool shop opened and Kaye became a regular.  She’s now a part of a small group of spinners who meet at Eyebright once a week.  She also produces ‘home spun’ for sale at Eyebright.

As for the homemade spinning wheel Norm started on, it is tantalisingly close to being operational. 

Of course, we also supply the world-famous Ashford spinning wheels and weaving looms.  You won’t need Norm to get them going. 

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