Ladies and gentlemen, meet the love of my life.
Mr. Peel is fully seventy-five, crotchety, and already married, but he also runs the woolcarding machine at Tally Ho Woolcarding, the next stop on my fibery tour. In this picture he's scraping one of the drums of the machine, pulling off about two years' worth of short fibers, vegetable matter, and dirt. This is one of forty drums on the machine. And you thought your drumcarder was bad-ass.
Tally Ho was absolutely top of my list when I was looking at places to work and stay in New Zealand, and it definitely hasn't disappointed. Besides the obvious draw of the wool (oooooh, the wool!), the people and animals at Tally Ho made it, almost instantly, my New Zealand home. I knew it was the perfect place for me when, whilst in the middle of a playful argument with her husband Stuart (Mr. Peel's son and the current owner of the farm), Barb (one of my favorite people in the world) took out her teeth and threw them at him. How can you not love someone who isn't afraid to use her dentures as a way to prove a point?
I settled into a quick routine at Tally Ho: mornings and afternoons were devoted to Wings-n-Things, otherwise known as the two flocks of baby ducks, one flock of adult ducks, one flock of baby chicks, and one flock of adult chickens. The first week or so of my stay, the first order of the day was to transport the smallest flock of ducks from their inside cage (as they were too little and it was still too cold for them to stay outside overnight) to their outside cage. How does one accomplish this? Through the simple use of a laundry basket, of course! Laundry basket goes inside the inside cage, you grab each duckling (frantically squirming and waving their little stubby wings the while) and deposit them inside, then take the entire wriggling basket out the door to their outside cage and repeat the process. Rinse and repeat in the afternoon. Soon, though, they were deemed big enough to switch over to the cage down by the pond (previous occupied by flock of baby ducks #2, who were now out roaming with adult duck flock #1), where they grew fat and fluffy and too cute for words.
Once these guys were all set, the adult ducks came running to the genteel call of "duck-duck-duck-duck-duck-duck-duck!" (and repeat!), and got their morning feed. The baby chicks were next, and, after scooping up any escape artists and depositing them back in the pen, they got down to eating pretty quick:
The routine was the same in the evening, but you also got to add the adult chickens to the mix, who got handfuls of grain in various places in order to distract them enough for me to collect the eggs:
Oh, by the way, the view up the hill from the chicken coop?
Besides this routine, I spent most of my time bugging Mr. Peel in the woolshed and helping him on the carding machine. Batts, roving, merino, alpaca, mohair, romney, even possum (!)--I was having the time of my life. And, well, I suppose this baby is the true love of my life (sorry, Mr. Peel):
Oh! And ever wondered how they got roving into bumps? (No, Bristol, it would just be you who's that nerdy.)
Once the fiber comes off the machine and through a series of pulleys (if the wool is behaving) or through my hands (if it wasn't), it gets fed into this fantastic contraption, which winds it like a horizontal ballwinder. How cool is that?! I want one!
Regardless of my lust for all things fibery-mechanical, this place truly became home for the short time I was there. Barb, Stuart, and Mr. Peel, not to mention Victoria, the other, long-long-long-term WWOOFer (she's at about four months, with another eleven planned!), were so completely wonderful, welcoming, and funny that it seemed right when they talked about me "coming back home" in mid-March. So I'll be back boarding with them from mid-March while I work on the apple season, and then working on the winter rush in the woolshed with Barb when Mr. Peel heads back to Britain for six months. It's so funny how things pan out sometimes; my notebook where I first made comments on which farms I'd like to stay at has the note, "VERY YES! At least a month" next to these guys, and I couldn't agree more with that. I can't wait to go back!
As an added bonus, Lucy, the donkey on the left here?
Totally due to pop with a baby donkey any time now. Baby donkey! How does life get better? Oh yeah, Pip the farm dog is pregnant, too, and should be giving birth about a week before I get back. Yep, life is good.