The Leasons

Written by Ruth Hill with photographs by Dion Howard, this article originally appeared in Freerange Volume 2: Gardening & Violence in 2009, edited by Barnaby Bennett and Gina Moss.


A small organic holding in sunny Otaki, New Zealand, sprouting kids and pigs and walnut trees, seems a world away from the devastation of war-torn Iraq. But for Adrian and Shelley Leason, the two are intimately connected.

A hail of arrows, knives and tomahawks fly through the air as Adrian Leason strolls through the paddock pushing a wheelbarrow full of small children.

“Gardens are violent places,” he muses.

“Full of creatures eating other creatures, plants struggling for primacy, strangling other plants….”

He pauses by a small bonfire.

“I’m not happy about that fire, boys,” he remonstrates gently with his older sons, who are practising their marksmanship on distant targets with a variety of weapons.

“Piss on it, please.”

This peaceful rural idyll is home to Adrian and Shelley and their semi-feral tribe of beautiful children – Jack (13), Finn (11), Che (9), Mana (6), Ari (4), Samuel (2) and Davy (born in April). The Leasons have rejected many of trappings of modern life, including television, but the couple have ensured their family is attuned to world events in a way many of us manage to comfortably avoid.Read more