Author(s): Dot Smith
Dot Smith, Grande Dame of Riverstone, is a one-of-a-kind, engaging and entertaining original but, best of all, she's soon to become queen of her own castle. Dot Smith first exploded into our living rooms via the '3rd Degree' television documentary 'Dot is building a castle'. The next day, 'The phones went absolutely bonkers! Everyone wanted to know more about her!' according to Melanie Reid of TV3. Dot describes herself jokingly as 'A woman's dream and a man's nightmare!' The exuberant 60-something, with bright pink flourishes in her hair, is the Grande Dame of the Riverstone complex u a popular spot just north of Oamaru on State Highway 1. It's known as the South Islanders 'Big Day Out', complete with Riverstone Country u an eclectic array of overly abundant giftware shops; Riverstone Kitchen u an award-winning restaurant; a massive children's playground; oceans of organic vegie gardens and flower beds; orchards, poultry runs and even a few peacocks and pheasants. Dot and her husband Neil moved to the Riverstone site over 30 years ago when it was still 'a gravel pit'. Now, after years of hard yakka, they also own six dairy farms running over 4000 cows. When Dot isn't presiding over her shops, she's supplying the restaurant with all their herbs, greens and vegetables, or making some of the 12,000 jars of jams and chutneys sold at the restaurant each year. Or she could be in Botswana or visiting gardens in Italy or attending a trade fair in China. This green-fingered, exceptionally clever and eccentric retailer is soon to become the queen of her own castle. She and husband Neil are building an Oamaru stone castle at Riverstone. Dot's castle is set on an island in a lake and will be graced with a jetty, a dungeon, a secret passage way, a drawbridge and towers u something Dot's dreamed of ever since first reading The Famous Five. In Dot u Queen of Riverstone Castle Dot tells of growing up during the 1950s as one of five daughters on a small, impoverished dairy farm north of Auckland; she describes the hard lessons learned while she and husband Neil struggled through their early days of dairy farming, the effects of the dairy boom and the overseas travels that inspire her gardening, cooking, retailing and of course, building a castle. A vibrant, engaging, and fascinating story: 'All this industry is really the result of a lack of brains; the creative side is so full there's no room for the other side to tell me not to do it.'
Dot Smith farms with her husband Neil in the Waitaki Valley, North Otago. Starting with selling dried flowers in the implement shed, Dot has expanded Riverstone into a visitor and retail destination, where thousands of visitors each year enjoy the eclectic retail experience, Dot's magnificent gardens and the terrific, award-winning food at Riverstone Cafe, run by her son Bevan.