Published: May 11th 2006April 29th 2006
Grey St. House
Our little house from the outside...interesting, isn't it? Daddy loved it's uniqueness
Wow! I know it's been a while, but the wait was worth it, I promise! Daddy and I just got back from an amazing, whirlwind trip to the South Island. Before that I was working on an organic farm over Easter weekend, so there's lots to tell!
I'll start with the farm. It was through a program called Wwoof - Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Basically farms become a part of it so that they can get extra help in exchange for room and board and a great experience. I worked on Castle Craig Farm, owned by a family, the parents, Colin and Dorothy, living in one house and their daughter and her husband, Christabel and Guy, living in another house they had moved onto the property. They all moved over from England in 2001, where they had been dairy farmers. The oldest daughter was born in New Zealand when Colin and Dorothy were traveling around after they were married, and since she and their son were already here, and farming in England was becoming less and less profitable, they decided to begin again in New Zealand. Colin and Dorothy (the Gilbert's) and Guy and Christabel (the Pilgrim's) share about
This is basically the front door, since we don't have one of those...Erin's and my room is immediately on the right
1000 acres of land, raising sheep and cattle.
It was a beautiful farm, with a river running alongside it as the boundary. There were hills and almost-mountains, and sheep and cattle cover all of it.
The whole weekend was an adventure, beginning with my bus ride to the farm. I took a bus to Waitomo Caves, about 40 minutes away from the farm. From there Christabel had instructed me to find out when the mailbus was going out, and catch a ride with it. So I inquired after the mailbus, and was told that it would come in a little after 1. That gave me almost 2 hours to hang out at the little cafe and information centre that made up Waitomo Caves. I ate and finished a book, and when I looked up there was the mailbus outside, and the man I had asked coming to find me. I got on the mailbus, where the newspapers and mail were in the front seat, the packages in the back, and 6 seats facing each other in the middle. There were two other passengers, both locals. I introduced myself and went through all the expected conversation - where are
A sign at university, with the Maori on the left
you from, what are you doing in New Zealand, how long have you been here, how long are you staying, what farm are you going to, etc. Then they started talking about the recent sheep-shearing competition, and telling me about the land we were passing, all while the driver tossed newspapers out the window. It was a fun ride.
From the mailbus I caught a ride with the school bus to the farm. It was about 2 when we got to the little primary (elementary) school, and the kids got out at 2:30, so there was time for me to sit in on the end-of-the-term assembly they were having. The bus driver met me outside and we went into to a tiny classroom with about 12 kids, aged 5 to 12. One of them, about 7, was in the middle of a 'talent' - reading a book to the class. The driver and I sat on the couch and became part of the audience. The boy finished the book and the teacher asked him if he had anything else. He obviously didn't want to give up his position, so he looked around the room for something else he could do, and his eyes landed on the magnetic alphabet letters. He went over and grabbed a few, and held them up one by one for the class to identify. Next a couple girls, about 10, did a dance they had choreographed to a pop song, then a group of guys about 8 or 9 did a skit from the movie Madagascar. Then it was over, and the whole class got up and said a karakia, or Maori prayer, then did a Maori song and dance. It was such a great experience! Once in a lifetime. Between the acts the bus driver had introduced me as an American going to stay with Guy and Christabel, and they all immediately became much more interested in me. After school I got in the front seat and they all piled in the back, and the guys started asking questions right away. First question - "What's your favorite football team?" I said the Carolina Panthers, and the kid that asked just nodded in approval. I asked what his was, astounded that they would know American football teams. He said the Patriots. I told him they had won a superbowl, and he had no idea what I was talking about. I asked how they knew the teams, he said "Playstation." Of course. It even reaches New Zealand. Then they started talking about wrestling, and I disappointed them by knowing nothing about it. Soon we were at the farm, and I had to go. The driver went to get Colin, and all the kids got in their last-minute questions. Then it was time for me to go, and they all waved out the window to me. I felt very special :).
Alright, I'll try to summarize a bit, or this could take forever. First I met Colin and Dorothy, because their house is at the bottom and closest for the bus. They made me a sandwich and we talked about their travels in their states. After a while Colin took me up to the Pilgrim's, and I met Guy and Christabel. The auditor was there, and she and Guy were talking about the requirements for organic status with some of their cows. Christabel and I left them at it and went to move the cows. : ) It wasn't really moving them, but extending their electric fences to allow them more grass. We rode to the fields on the four-wheeler (they just called it a bike), and all the cows (they were small - about a year old) welcomed us with lots of complaining and mooing. Very cute. When that was done we went to clean the hall that she had recently catered a wedding at. We talked and she told me about their family and how they'd come to New Zealand, etc. As we were leaving she mentioned another important piece of information - she and Guy would be leaving the next day for the weekend. Fabulous.
It turned out great. They had another visitor staying with them - Margaret, a 73 year old British woman who has been living in New Zealand the last 12 years. She was very eccentric. We got along great. She would tell me to do things from her armchair, I would say "um...how do you do that?" and she would say "oh my goodness, you don't know how to make tea?!" (for example), and then direct me, from her chair, on how to make a proper cup of English tea (the most important part is bringing the teapot to the kettle, not the other way around). I learned lots of cooking over my stay, including a really yummy puffy omelet (beating the whites and yolks separately), fruit cake, apple/fig/pear/fejoa crumble, bread, and how to bottle pears.
While Guy and Christabel were gone, Dorothy helped me with their work (moving the fences), and I helped Dorothy with their work. With her, I literally moved the cows and sheep. There were three cows that had escaped being moved a few days before, so we had to set up races (electric fences along the road) and folllow them with the bike along the road and hills, open and close gates, and encourage them and get off the bike and redirect them when they wanted to go another way. We also moved a flock of sheep, which involved a bit more time off the bike as the electric fences didn't work so well (they just go under them). Guy and Christabel got back Sunday, and it was great having different company again. Monday was my domestic day, filled with cooking and gardening. Cooking was a different experience because they had different equipment - it was a 1920's house with a 1920's woodfire stove in it. So cool! I wouldn't necessarily want it in my house, but it was great experiencing it for a little while. Another different thing about the house was that they didn't have electricity - they have a generator that they use at night, but use it as little as possible. I used a candle stuck in a wine bottle for my light in my room, and a torch (flashlight).
Other fun first-time experiences: milking a cow and drinking fresh milk, eating English scones, saving a lamb after it fell in a drain pipe, and being the first human a little foal ever saw. That story: they have about 5 little Caspian sea horses on the farm, and one of them was very pregnant when I arrived, due any day. It decided to give birth the night Christabel and Guy left. Margaret and I weren't too worried about it - this was its 19th baby. We got Colin to check on it before we went to bed, and I got up early the next morning, and there it was! A pretty little brown foal wobbling around on its new legs. I couldn't get close to it, but when Christabel got home she was able to and found out it was a boy. So that was pretty exciting : )
Alright, that's the end of my farm story and the first installment of my break adventures. I don't have pictures from the farm (I know, I know...sorry), but these are some my dad took when he got here of more of my house that he thought people would want to see. More soon!