Friday, October 30, 2009

(Written on Tuesday earlier this week!)

So my next blog post was going to be a proper photoshoot with the handspun socks so charmingly modeled under my Chaco's in the last post. But, as you do, I traded them to an artist for a painting. The artist is a former weaver and a friend of my WWOOF host, Susie, who recently put up an art exhibition around a "trading table". Susie had gone in to trade a weaving for a triptych, and I just couldn't handle leaving this painting behind! She had painted it during a period where she explored the idea of "shelter", but, to me, it's just the rocks on the coast of Maine. Which is my own form of comfort and shelter, I suppose. So I scuttled off home, collected my socks, and offered them up. Hence, now I have a painting, and no socks. Such is life.

Today is my last day here at the farm in Upper Moutere (which, I only learned about three days ago, is pronounces "Moo-tree". No wonder everyone looked at me funny when I told them where I was going). I have gone out with a bang, getting my first, rather spectacular, New Zealand sunburn while planting corn. I'm headed into Nelson for the llama sorting job tomorrow--things got complicated last week, so I just stuck around at the farm for another week. When we got home Saturday from the market, I found three little reasons to be glad I did:

Left to right: Giselle (the lighter tall doe), Naomi (the darker tall doe), and Spud (the little short, stubby boy) were born on Saturday morning.

Spud is obviously my favorite, as he's built like a tank and has a bleat like a squeaky toy getting stepped on. He also eats like it's going out of style, his tail wagging fiercely the entire time.

Giselle (or Gizzy, as she's better known at this point) is a little finicky about eating from the feeder, and so I get to bottle-feed her about four times a day. I try not to plotz from the cute every time!

Besides the baby goats, I've been having a wonderful time on this farm. There are some standards that happen every day, like mixing goat food (you add about a kilo of molasses and hot water, which leaves the most delicious smell throughout the house for the rest of the day), milking goats, and bottling the milk. Then some days I make the tramp down the hill, through the creek, to feed Bucky the buck and Chalky, his wether boyfriend:

(check out Bucky's fierce topknot.)

Other days we move the sheep from paddock to paddock, or chase down a cow, or separate off the yearlings and six-month calves for sale. There's always weeding, composting, and planting to do, and the everpresent bleat of baby goats (both the batch from Saturday and the older bunch I mentioned earlier) to remind you that you might have forgotten them and they haven't eaten for a whole fifteen minutes. Fridays are picking days for the Saturday market, so I spend the day cutting lettuce, picking arugula, parsley, and spinach, and washing the lot for sale the next day. I've come at the dead time of year, where all the root vegetables are done, and the spring stuff hasn't quite come up yet, but the salads--oh, the salads. I could happily live the rest of my life eating just these salads.

Both Susie and Kevin, my two hosts, are immensely knowledgeable about both the day-to-day life of farming, as well as the business statistics of making this farm both sustainable and profitable. I really enjoy the conversations over tea (oh, the endless, wonderful cups of tea!) about what the profit differential would be between an autumn calf and a spring calf--I guess you can take the girl out of nerd territory, but you can't take the nerd out of the girl!

Mostly, though, it's the little things that get me about this place: the cheesecloths air-drying out on the line, wafting in and out of prayer flags so old all the color has faded:

The sight of a storm coming up over the hills, fighting against the light of the golden hour before twilight; the sad, annoyed bleat of Panda, the Hokanui sheep who thinks she's a goat, as she gets left behind with those other sheep again; Kevin singing every variety of English folk song as he walks over the hills to the cows; playing cards and drinking wine during a power outage. It's been a truly wonderful starting point for my New Zealand adventure.

I'll be in Nelson until the 7th of November, and then I'll be heading back up to the North Island to work on a 2,000 head sheep farm in Hawkes Bay. After that, who knows? On with the adventure!

(I'm finally uploading this on Saturday, the 31st. I've been working in Nelson for the last couple days, de-hairing the most magnificent llama fiber by hand. The fiber is amazing, and I love the woman I'm working for, but there is definitely a reason they invented a de-hairing machine!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

A quick pictoral explanation of my trip south from Auckland, near the midpoint of the North Island, to a farm in Upper Moutere, near the North coast of the South Island:

The rather astonishing range of mountains we went through about three hours south of Auckland:
The bus driver pulled over for about ten minutes to let us have, as he put it, "a biff in the snow". I remained nonplussed.
(And here comes the requisite Mastercard commercial):Superwash merino fiber, from Fat Cat Knits on Etsy: $20
Spinning and plying to a fingering/sport weight: about 10 hours
Finishing knitting a pair of lovely, warm, squishy socks just in time for really cold feet on the bus ride: pretty darn good
Being That Kid who attempts to take pictures of her besocked and besandaled feet against the New Zealand backdrop on a very crowded double-decker bus: priceless.
The next morning, after a quick overnight in Wellington, I got up disgustingly early and hopped on the Interislander Ferry to Picton on the South Island. I was lucky enough to catch the sun breaking up the mist and the clouds over the sea:

After finally arriving in Upper Moutere, the view from my bedroom window:

(The little white things on the hill? Totally sheep. I am surrounded by sheep. I might be in heaven.)
And one of my favorite bits about this farm:

Baby goats!
This is Peony. She's trouble.

So, all in all, I am having a lovely time! I'll be out here in Upper Moutere until either Wednesday or Saturday, then I'm moving into Nelson proper for a while to work sorting and grading llama fiber for a felter. After that, who knows? It's all a big adventure!
And more baby goats, because I just can't help myself.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Southward Ho I Go!

My body is still, unfortunately, running on my leisurely home wake-up schedule, which means that a lovely 11 am wake-up at home is 4 am here. Oh well! It means I get to see the city wake up and play lots of games on my iPod, so we're all good.

I've had an absolutely wonderful time in the city--I am really not a city girl, but this is a good 'un. We lucked out on timing somewhat, since this weekend is the Diwali festival on the harbor here. Last night after dinner we walked down there and people-watched for a couple hours, cheering on the Bollywood dance competition and drooling over all the amazing food. Auckland has a much more diverse and much more populous Asian community, both East and South Asian, than I expected. All the little alleyways are crammed with some seriously amazing little shops and restaurants, and I am proud to say that I managed to secure myself a bubble tea on my first night in town! It's like I've got bubble tea radar!

I'm headed out in about an hour with a friend to catch a bus down to Wellington, where she'll stick around and where I'll hop on another ferry and two more buses tomorrow to get to my first farm in Upper Moutere, near Nelson on the South Island. I'm really looking forward to the drive: Auckland is the population center of the country, with over a million people in the metropolitan area. The entire country, on the other hand, only has *four* million people. So once I hit those city limits, I'm looking forward to farmland! And once I hit the South Island, it should be even better--they only have a million people total! Total isolation in a beautiful landscape, here I come.

Well, I'm off to make sure I've packed everything up and to see if I can't rustle up something interesting to eat for breakfast. See you on the South Island!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Well, after about twenty hours in the air, I am in New Zealand! I am currently hogging a corner of a couch at Auckland Backpacker's Hostel, a massive, 500-bed hostel in the center of the city. I'm torn between using my internet time responsibly, and eavesdropping on all the conversations and all the different languages going on.
I'll be laying pretty low here in Auckland--I'm not a very good big city tourist! I'll probably just find a coffee shop and camp out and look mysterious and aloof. Or, you know, trip over my own feet on the way in. Whichever.