12Oct

The road to Garston from Waimate is a B-E-A-utiful drive. We passed Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook, the ever-famous Twizel Salmon farm; all while crossing through wonderful alpine passes with gorgeous vistas.

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki in the foreground with Aoraki (Mt. Cook) in the background. In my opinion, one of the most stunning views we have seen in NZ.

It feels like home now when we drive up the McMillans’ driveway.

Glenfellen Farm Entrance

We wanted to finish off our WWOOFing experience in the places where we felt most comfortable. The minute we drove up, a somewhat familiar face greeted us. Tess – she’s huge!

Tess and Pip taking a break. Tess obviously has bone envy.

Tess and Pip taking a break. Tess obviously has bone envy.

For those of you who didn’t see Tess and Pip when they were just three months younger.

For those of you who didn’t see Tess and Pip when they were just three months younger. Sorry for potato quality.

In a testament to our growing friendship over the months, Judi and Ross treated us more like guests than workers this time around. These guys are first-class WWOOFing hosts. That said, we were still able to accomplish a lot in our last week as WWOOFers.

First up: the grapevine and greenhouse! Kait did an excellent job spur trimming the grapevine while Tess did a wonderful job murdering a newly planted tomato plant (the tomato plant I had literally just planted).

Grape Vine

 

Grape Vine Pruned

Our next big job was actually a continuation of our last visit here, sowing the new lawn with grass seed. Ross pulled out the very old (I’m talkin’ grandpa old) rotary hoe that a previous over zealous WWOOFer named he who shall not be named had broken a couple times and fixed it up for me so I was able to get the entire backyard hoed.

Me enjoying the only break I took all week. ;-)

Me enjoying the only break I took all week. ;-) 

After rotary hoeing, we raked and rolled the yard to prepare for sowing. Once the seed was out we raked and rolled one last time before watering.

For two full days, while I was working on the yard, Kait had the wonderful opportunity to do some tractor work. This isn’t some small tractor either. This is a large piece of machinery and I’ll be the first to say, she is a natural. Basically she was disking to make way for spreading effluent (poo) and seeding. She wants me to mention how she artfully (her words, not mine) dodged a Plover nest in the middle of the paddock and spared a couple baby tweeters (I swear that isn’t me).

The “old” cable connecting the two pieces she was dragging behind this tractor broke the first day, so Ross moved her onto a different older machine for day two.

The “old” cable connecting the two pieces she was dragging behind this tractor broke the first day, so Ross moved her onto a different older machine for day two.

There is always time for a tractor selfie.

There is always time for a tractor selfie.

The Product

The Product

One day in the middle of all this we went out to fix up the hoggets electric fences. They were in one large paddock that is divided into six sections that are rotated every 3 days to give the grass time to grow up again. I love the theory and planning behind this concept and can’t get over how well it can work if done correctly.

This beautiful place is the hoggets' current home, though they are all away getting haircuts at the moment.

This beautiful place is the hoggets’ current home, though they are all away getting haircuts at the moment.

One final task that Kait and I tried to help with was moving the rather large water tank about 15 meters from the center of the back yard to a designated depression to allow for a better looking lawn. I got some GoPro video, but have yet to edit it, so I’ll have to leave you all with a photo or two.

Getting the tractor past the greenhouse.

Getting the tractor past the greenhouse.

Kait took this standing right where the big ass water tank is supposed to go.

Kait took this standing right where the big ass water tank is supposed to go. 

As usual it’s been an exciting visit. Kait has a post about our vacation away from our vacation coming up soon! I leave you with the obligatory Blackjack picture.

BlackJack

9Oct

Happy Anniversary To Us!

1 Year Anniversary Picture

I can hardly believe that Andrew and I have been married one whole entire year already.

Wedding Photo

Everybody talks about how lucky they are to have married their best friend and to have made so many great memories and that kind of lovey, cliché stuff on anniversaries, but man. I feel like we lucked out with so. much. more.

I fell in love with (and married!) a guy who was willing to quit an amazing job, pack away just about all of his earthly possesions, and move across the world to roll around in dirt and cow shit every day with me. (I am so not even a little bit joking, either.) We spent nearly every hour of every day of the last seven months together, and I just can’t believe we still manage to like each other more with each day that passes.

He’s seen me at my best and definitely at my worst. I’ve learned to step back and follow when we’re working on projects that he excels at, and he cheers me on when we’re doing something I love. Believe it or not, herding cows and sheep together has been one of the biggest (and most rewarding) challenges to our marriage. And we love it.

Anyway, we’ve been working hard here in New Zealand and have done a fair wee bit of the touristy stuff in our time off, so we thought we’d celebrate October 5th with something perfectly: a visit to Whitestone Cheeses and a lovely little wine and cheese picnic on the beach.

Beach on Anniversary

Andrew on the Beach

Anniversary Food

Anniversary Selfie

I honestly think it would be hard for any couple to match our first year of marriage. That said, I suspect year two will be even better.

8Oct

The Lonely Bull Blues

When I was a little girl (and still on rare occasions now), my dad made up really ridiculous songs for the most random and usually mundane occasions. I never really noticed exactly how frequent it happened as a kid… or, for that matter, the fact that nobody else’s Dad was equally enthusiastic about making up a soundtrack for everyday life.

But my dad did. There were songs about me being a chubby baby (“Buddha Baby”), a very willful, independent child (“I Wanna Do It Myself”), themes for every character in my dollhouse, and many, many more. And the funny thing is… I’m starting to realize how very like him I really am in that respect. Thanks, Dad!

I’ve FREQUENTLY found myself singing silly little songs to all of the farm animals we work with. I had a particular knack for herding the dairy cows into the milking shed with song (“Come On Everybody!”) and have made up songs for any number of ducks, lambs, sheep, dogs… you name it.

But lately, at the Hellwellls, we’ve been dealing a lot with the five big, scary, black bulls. A couple jumped a barbed wire fence into the neighbor’s paddock the other day. Another got into the heifer paddock just in time to get one in calf. And we’ve had to work around them to move sheep a few times. It can get a bit hairy.

The Bull Squad

According to Maurice, the bulls don’t like me. Apparently I was about donezo a couple times, but most of the time they just bellow and moo over and over and over again when I’m nearby, which has provided absolutely endless entertainment for me.

Eventually- much to Andrew’s dismay- I would up singing this song every time they were near. I hope you all like it.

 

The Lonely Bull Blues

(Sung mostly to the tune of “Bad to the Bone”)

 

I’m just a bull

Singin’ the blues

I ain’t got no life

So I just stand here and mooooo

 

They don’t give me no ladies

I don’t get the news

So I’m just a bull

Singin’ the lonely bull blues

 

I’m stuck in this paddock

with a whole flock of ewes

I ain’t got no heifers

It’s just the sheep and some dudes

 

We need some fine company

In this bachelor herd

The mamas would do

But the yearlings are preferred

 

I’m just lookin’ for lovin’

I won’t give no abuse

Please open my gate, man

I’m singing the lonely bull blues

 

The Bull in Question

5Oct

A Little Something Extra: I Arted

One of the major benefits of WWOOFing for me has been the opportunity to do some artwork for other people. Having an hour or two extra every day to devote to guitar playing, reading, cooking, or artwork has done wonders for my creativity. (Not to mention building my portfolio.)

My most recent drawing was a simple colored pencil piece for the Hellewells. When Andrew and I came upon the two of them planning the year’s veggie garden together on one particularly pleasant afternoon, I knew I had to try capturing the scene.

Maurice and Neroli Hellewell Garden Sketch

During the Glenavy Flower Show last week, I was lucky enough to meet one of Lucy and Thornton’s teachers, Mrs. Lynn McCullough, and was invited to teach a couple art classes at the Glenavy School for the 6th and 8th grade kids.

Glenavy School Art Class

They even brought cookies and the absolute cutest homemade thank you cards for me the next day. These kids, man. The sweetest.

I mentioned that I used to love my Converses and this little girl even got the iPhone in the back pocket and my striped shirt. How cool is that?!

I mentioned that I used to love my Converses and this little girl even got the iPhone in the back pocket and my striped shirt. How cool is that?!

 

Thank You Card for Kait

One little boy MADE this! With his own little 6th grade hands. I can’t even.

Thank You Card for Kait (Inside)

These kids did some really impressive drawings, but man, was I exhausted at the end. As much as I’ve always respected teachers, teaching those classes was an incredibly revealing experience for me. I could never do it full time but I SO respect and admire those spectacular people who do.

Anyway, next project on the list was designing, gridding, and applying a vinyl decal to Lucy’s newly refurbished horse float. It took heaps of brain power and a couple silly mistakes before I got the whole thing up intact. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the flash new float.

Horse Float Vinyl Sketch

Gridded Horse Sketch

Cut Out Horse Float Vinyl

Finished Horse Float

Now, last time we went to the McMillans, Ross’s mother, Jan, gave me the sweetest set of Thank You cards for tilling her wee veggie garden (which was hardly a chore at all!). I’d noticed that her front yard was just starting to bloom absolutely wild with daffodils, so I thought I’d go back down once more to give her something special so she could enjoy the flowers year round.

Daffodils

Of course, I can’t get away with doing anything for ANYONE around here without getting an even nicer gesture of thanks in return. (It’s the Kiwi way, I suppose!) Jan sent me home with a heaping bunch of little white and yellow daffodils, and I spent the walk back with my face buried in the sweet smelling flowers.

3Oct

Farm Managers

Early in our travels throughout the South Island, we decided we would have to come back to the Hellewell’s place. If you haven’t already read our blog post about this wonderful family, check it out here: http://goingkiwi.com/2014/04/meet-the-hellewells/

I have some serious respect for this family. They are one of the only families in our WWOOFing adventure who actually have a 100% organic farm- something that takes an incredible amount of dedication. Arnstead is a beef, sheep, and crop farm about an hour south of Timaru (near Waimate).

Coming back to the Hellewells worked out especially well for everyone; it gave Kait and me opportunity to stay for a month and learn more from Maurice and Neroli, but it also gave the Hellewell family an opportunity to go on a well-deserved holiday in Marlborough, leaving us in charge of THE WHOLE FARM. It was awesome, albeit somewhat stressful at times.

One ongoing task is collecting the eggs laid by the 50 or 60 red hens that make their home out in the mobile chook house.

Chicken Face

One of the lovely red hens.

Organic Red Hen Eggs

Lots and lots of eggs.

Once collected, the eggs are cleaned and organized into Red Hen branded egg cartons by the dozen, then put in the egg hutch our front for sale.

Collecting the eggs led me to finding the largest chicken egg I have ever seen. May I present: MEGA EGG..

MEGA EGG

MEGA EGG

Andrew and the Mega Egg

Andrew and the Mega Egg – another favorite possible band name

One of the bigger continuing jobs is shifting the young heifers and steers to keep them well fed and healthy. We keep an eye on the health of the grass in the current paddock and shift electric fence breaks accordingly to keep the cycle going. Certain species of grass have different life spans and cycles, and they can regrow within 15 days or so. Because of this, stock can sometimes stay in the same paddock for a couple of weeks at a time, but when they’re done, we have to make sure new breaks and paddocks are ready to go.

Electric Fencing Equipment

All the equipment needed to set up new breaks.

Sometimes you have judgy cows watching you while you set up new breaks.

Sometimes you have judgy cows watching you while you set up new breaks.

Something very exciting happened while we were managing the farm! We picked up a new family member. No, unfortunately she’s not ours; she was actually Thornton’s 11th birthday gift, but we were able to take care of her for a few days before the family returned home.

The beautiful Kai, and Australian Working Kelpie.

The beautiful Kai, and Australian Working Kelpie.

I liked Kai, a whole lot.

I liked Kai, a whole lot.

All in all, our second stay with the Hellewells has been everything we hoped it would be: feeding Lily Rose the pet lamb, looking after Kai, shifting cattle and sheep with Jock, tailing lambs, finishing a new chook house, building gates… You get the picture, we’ve done a lot and learned more. We love it here.

Kait and the Highland Cow - yet another potential band name

Kait and the Highland Cow – yet another potential band name

Looks like a picture perfect Windows background, right?

Looks like a picture perfect Windows background, right?

Stay tuned for A Little Something Extra from Mrs. Creamer!

9Sep

Everything Big Happens in Christchurch.

Last time we were in Christchurch for more than a day, we were frantically shuffling around the city for four days, carless and phoneless and needing desperately to get ourselves in order. We ended up with a passable phone, and had the keys to our Subaru about an hour before we were scheduled to leave. Big things.

After our second stay with the McMillans, we headed on up to Christchurch again for a couple days. I had a few meetings to take care of involving lots of digital marketing and a fair bit of guacamole, and Andrew and I were eager to get everything important knocked out in just a couple of days. We wanted to quickly get back to the land of abundant parking and doing our own cooking. (Not that we don’t love going out to eat, but good lord it gets expensive here.)

We spent a couple nights in jail to cut the cost of the trip, and we actually quite enjoyed it.

Technically, Addington Jailhouse stopped housing criminals in the 1920’s but it still- lovingly- makes you feel like you’re staying in the slammer for real.

Jailhouse Accommodation

Andrew in Addington Jail

The Jailhouse's single maintained cell from its days as a prison.

The Jailhouse’s single maintained cell from its days as a prison.

Jailhouse Hallway

Of course, every visit to Christchurch requires a walk through beautiful Hagley Park as well, and at least a couple good restaurants to cap it off.

Andrew and Giant Flax

Fern Conservatory

An aside: Many thanks to my fellow ethnic food fanatic, Brigitte, for recommending the best Japanese restaurant Andrew and I have ever visited. We spent one gorgeous evening absolutely drooling over every sumptuous course at Ace Wasabi- salmon and avocado sushi rolls, perfectly grilled teriyaki beef, and wakame, all topped off with hot sake and chocolate caramel mousse. Unbelievable.

I was too busy scarfing down my food to trouble taking photos.

We hit the road again after just two nights in town, but made significant strides in setting our post-WWOOFing plans in action. Big decisions were made, and we’ve been holding on to a bit of great news since. Keep on the lookout- there’s an exciting post coming soon!

6Sep

A Little Something Extra: Hand Drawn Maps V4

I’ve been working on these maps off and on for two months now and I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of them. I’ve never considered myself an artist, but it is heartening to see a finished product that I think is so cool. When the scan shop guy looks at you and says, “These are awesome”, it’s exciting and motivating to keep going. I hope people can get as much enjoyment out of viewing them as I did creating them.

I present: A Song of Ice and Fire map series, consisting of five separate maps.

The Lands Beyond the Wall

The Lands Beyond the Wall

The North

The North

A Song of Ice and Fire - The South


The South

A Song of Ice and Fire - The Free Cities


The Free Cities

A Song of Ice and Fire - The Lands of the Summer Sea

The Lands of the Summer Sea


Now that we are nearing the end of our WWOOFing journey and continuing to figure out what our next steps will be, I’m hoping to create a map of New Zealand that depicts our travels throughout the Southern Island. I’m always looking for maps to draw, so if anyone has any requests, don’t hesitate to message or e-mail and I’ll see what I can do. If not, then I hope you still enjoy these maps!

4Sep

So Many Flocking Sheep

If New Zealand has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I love sheep. They are useful, they’re funny, sweet, and I want to be around them pretty much always. They’re not overly smart, though. (I know this.)

They are definitely herd animals, which means that where one sheep goes, all of the sheep go. This applies even when the herd is several hundred thousand strong. One of our favorite sheep phenomena to watch was the hourly “location of interest” migration. Even though ALL of these sheep were in the same paddock for several days in a row, the sheep would regularly flock to various spots in the paddock for no reason other than “but that’s where everybody else is going!”. And they would all bahhhhhhh to each other to say “We’re going to the spot now!” when it happened.

I love it so much, and I took a video to share it with you. It took a few tries to get one where I wasn’t laughing.

1Sep

Glenfellen Round Two

I know, I know… we haven’t posted anything about WWOOFing in more than a month. I’m ashamed. The past month has been an absolute whirlwind of travel- we’re talking 6-8 hour drives on a pretty regular basis- in order to sort ourselves out to settle down. It’s wild around here.

Anyway, we spent another week with the McMillans (near Queenstown) after we departed from Stu’s. While we hadn’t envisioned return visits with any of our hosts initially, we so fell in love with a couple of families along the way that we just had to go back.

Our number one goal when returning to the McMillans was to rotary hoe the entire yard, front and back, and get grass seed sown for the coming spring.

Rotary Hoes

Fortunately, we had the help of Tess- chocolate lab and soil shifting technician- to get the job done.

Tess Chocolate Lab Digging

Andrew Using Rotary Hoe

We had a few hiccups along the way: dirty spark plugs, rocks stuck in blades, broken handles and a slight mishap involving a tank filled with diesel instead of petrol… but we got there in the end and were so excited about the result. It helped that we were also working in PERFECT weather (I had almost forgotten people could wear shorts and tshirts outside) with great company.

Andrew & Slim relax in the dirt together.

Andrew & Slim relax in the dirt together.

Pip in doggie bliss.

Pip in doggie bliss.

When we’d first arrived, Ross and Shannon told us about the newest farm pups, the offspring of Flit and Tip, who had- to date- avoided capture. Of course, Andrew made it his goal to catch one right off the bat, and within hours, we’d decided to spend some time with them every day to introduce them to the wide world of making friends with people.

It took a little while (and a little food) to earn their trust, but after a few days, we finally got the tails wagging and some good playtime with these lovely little fellas. Ross was always asking how I was getting on with my flea-swapping. :) Worth it for these wee fuzzballs.

Andrew and Heading Pups

Pups Looking Over Sheep

We also had the opportunity to see Ross & Shannon work together to get their sheep ready for shearing, and spent some time in the wool shed watching the shearers and rouseabouts hard at work afterwards.

Ross in Sheep Yards

Shearers in Wool Shed

Rousies Getting Wool Ready

Loading Wool Baler

I would absolutely love to learn how to shear a sheep so quickly… the right way. But goodness gracious, I do not envy the kind of backbreaking work they do every day. These guys (and ladies) work so hard!

After shearing, each of the sheep goes down the chute naked and ready to roll.

Sheep in Wool Shed

The other big project I took on this time around was designing and painting a logo on the outside of the singleman’s quarters that we started renovating a few months ago.

Cattle Stop Quarters Logo

Cattle Stop Quarters Logo Finished

It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly not bad for a day’s work!

I even got a little visit from Flit while I worked.

Flit Says Hi

I wish Andrew or I could even begin to express how much we enjoy time at Glenfellen. Cups of tea with Grandmom & Granddad, quad bike rides with Shannon, evenings hearing Judi’s teacher stories over a glass of wine, and absolute side-splitting laughter over Ross’s sass make the place feel just like home.

Blackjack

Only a couple weeks before we return to Glenfellen once again for visit number THREE!

25Aug

Many Mini Moos

Our stay at Stu’s kicked off with milking a couple cows daily, planting flaxes, and finishing odd jobs around the farm- cleaning pens, building fences, replacing gates, the lot.

We prepared for calving season with a few full-on days of vetting all the mamas. 200+ cows came through the crush to get vitamin B12 injections, salinium drenches, magnesium bullets (mega pills), shaved tails, and even some new ear tags. It was a doozy.

Andrew Doing B12 Injections

Andrew gets ready to inject the last of the cows with B12.

Nariko is ready to tag Moonlight Kath.

Nariko is ready to tag Moonlight Kath.

Stu working hard to get her to swallow the magnesium bullet.

Stu working hard to get her to swallow the magnesium bullet.

Fortunately, with the help of our awesome Japanese co-WWOOFers Hiji, Nariko, and Ayumi, we were able to get everything done without too many hiccups.

Fern Valley Jersey Helpers

Well… mostly, anyway. Hiji got in the way of one very determined cow on her way out of the race and was laid out in a small mountain of poo. As soon as we were able to stop laughing, we all- naturally- took pictures.

Coveralls and Poo

Now that calving is in full swing, our days are even more fast-paced, filthy, wild, and super duper exciting. When all the cows are due to calve at roughly the same time, you start out the season with one or two babies… which rapidly turn into four or five… then fifteen or so… and all of a sudden you are completely overwhelmed with the sheer number of tiny little creatures everywhere.

Calves in the Yard

You’d think that newborns would tend to stay with their mothers for the first few hours of life, but cows have no such ideas. We’ve trudged through who knows how much bush, swampy drains, and seemingly deserted paddocks in search of escaped infants who were born mere hours earlier.

This especially wild little lady had wandered off on her own and (like plenty of others) had to be picked up in the car and driven back to mama.

This especially wild little lady had wandered off on her own and (like plenty of others) had to be picked up in the car and driven back to mama.

The pay off for all of this hard work, though, is enormous- both in terms of milk and sheer adorableness.

Heifer Calf Playtime – YouTube Video Coming Soon

Every morning, we milk roughly 100 mama cows, bringing them into the yard and milking shed in mobs. Getting the cows to file into the shed requires a lot of pushing, jumping, loud noises, and persuasion (in the form of gallons upon gallons of molasses). After that, we all pile into the pit to wash udders, put on cups, and spray teats.

Before

Before

After

After

Chicken after enjoying a big mouthful of molasses.

Chicken after enjoying a big mouthful of molasses.

If we’re lucky, we get a run of mild-mannered cows who stand still and wait to go to the bathroom. Otherwise, there’s a lot of getting stomped on, pooped on, peed on, and occasionally kicked. You learn to move fast in the milking shed.

Hiji just seconds after being peed on. You learn quickly to just grin and bear it.

Hiji just seconds after being peed on. You learn quickly to just grin and bear it.

Once there’s enough milk for the calves, we take roughly 100 liters of milk over to the calf sheds for breakfast time. Now that they’ve all learned how to drink on their own from the milk bar, we spend most of the time pouring milk in their feeder as fast as we can, trying to keep up.

Pouring Milk

Milk Bar Madness – YouTube Video Coming Soon

You also have to watch out for the rogue calf who has gotten confused and has started sucking on your jacket/pants/boots/fingers/hair/elbows thinking that one more whack with her head will make the milk come.

It IS mildly frustrating, but 100% hilarious every time.

Every few days, we get a group of newbies to teach, but they’re quick (and hungry!) learners. Usually, we just take the calves to the milk bar, stick a couple milky fingers in their mouth, lead them to the teat, and close their mouth around it a couple times before they catch on.

Munchkin/Sambo the lamb (Stu calls her Sambo, but she is a girl so whatever.) gets her breakfast as soon as the calves slow down and after a lot of MEHHHHHing on her part. Now that she’s bigger, she stays in the calf shed but escapes every morning to follow me around as I feed the mini moos. She is HUGE now compared to the tiny, shivering, muddy being we rescued a few weeks ago. She’s also entered the exciting realm of jumping on and around all of the calves because she can, which is massively entertaining.

Munchkin Lamb Aging

We are leaving Stu’s place soon, and will be sad to leave all of these little fuzzy buggers, and our lovely new friends.

Fortunately, we got the opportunity to take one last drive up to Hokitika with Hiji and Nariko yesterday before we had to leave. Just in time to see the stunning blue gorge before sunset!

Hokitika Gorge

There’s nothing else quite like that beautiful New-Zealand-river blue.

There’s nothing else quite like that beautiful New-Zealand-river blue.

© Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved