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Ren and Alison Ellett (right) run their farm a bit differently from their neighbours. They “energize” their pastures using the gentle art of dowsing or divining, a practice long the target of sceptics.

Ren Ellett’s been farming his land in West Auckland since the early 1960s, and has the hands and weather beaten face to prove it. His red hair probably didn’t help either.

Alison Ellett has the round cheeked and smiling face of an archetypal farmer’s wife, although she insists she hasn’t worked at their milking shed for years. The day I visit she’s been experimenting with fermented cream. It’s delicious by the way.

The Elletts’ 200-hectare Wharepapa farm lies between Waimauku and Helensville, about 40 kilometres from downtown Auckland. They have 120 dairy cows and 400 head of cattle. All the milk gets sold by the bucket in its raw, unpasturised form.

Wikipedia says dowsing as its practised today may have originated in Germany in the sixteenth century. Martin Luther apparently declared it an act that broke the First Commandment, and Ren Ellett agrees he would probably have been burned at the stake like a witch.  

But to demonstrate, first he gets out his home made dowsing rods and shows me how he improved the health of an ailing tree in the farm house garden. It’s now surrounded by a copper coil to dispel negative energies he discovered.

Then he bows over a chart on his dining room table and shows me how he applies necessary trace elements to all his land, just by holding his crystal dowsing rod and a pendulum... and asking for it to be done.

dairy Dowsing equipment c Alison Ellett
A selection of dowsing tools.

Ren says his animals are calmer, and they even grow bigger. He hasn’t used fertiliser for years but the dairy herd produces ten to twelve litres for cow per day The New Zealand average is 11.3 litres. Alison says the people who come to buy their milk are in awe of what they’re achieving.

Alison thinks Wharepapa farm is the only one where dowsing is practiced. When I suggest that they should be promoting it more, she laughs and says “ There’s a lot of learning that’s gone into where we’re at now, and you just can’t explain it to people without them thinking; ‘My God and what planet have their come from’!” Alison says she and Ren are actually very normal people.

Who am I to quibble?

Find out more about dowsing by going to the Dowsing Society website.

Dairy Dowsing Ren Ellett dowsing in his garden c Alison Ellett
Ren dowsing in the field.