26Nov

Thankful, indeed.

I’m wrapped up in my most favorite cozy faux fur blanket listening to husband hum along to some James Taylor. Thanksgiving is in two days and everybody’s planning their dishes and deciding which turkey-themed activities we should do with Andrew’s nephews on Thursday afternoon before we all stuff our faces. It’s good to be back in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

We’ve been back for a little more than a month and our WWOOFing recap video has been sitting on the desktop waiting to be edited the. entire. time. I guess you could say we’ve just been too busy to post. (Hah!) But it’s going up this week for SURE, you guys. I promise.

These days, we’re hanging out with Andrew’s folks in Marietta. They were kind enough to hang on to most of our junk when we left for New Zealand are acting as home base for us until we pack everything up to move on to our next (and conceivably most permanent) home at the start of 2015. You’ll learn more about that in another post soon.

In the mean time, I am making absolute mountains of art, baking more bread than you could shake a stick at (as if any of you would ever shake a stick at any bread) and walking the dogs a whole lot. Andrew’s acquired a taste for building model ships and the two of us are working to learn a couple new programming languages on the side.

The treadmill and I have become good buddies over the past couple weeks. The floor has too, since I spend just about as much time laying there- waterlogged by my own sweat and gasping for air- as I do actually running on the treadmill. But it is what it is.

Can I tell you, too, that it is such a relief not to NEED my camera phone to document everything I do now? It’s good to be back.

Happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours, folks. Love on your friends, your families, your pets, and be sure to eat whatever you darn well please. Also, keep an eye out for upcoming posts after you’ve gorged yourself on Thanksgiving leftovers. Some pretty neat little tidbits coming soon!

17Oct

BIG NEWS: Saying Goodbye

The last couple of days at the McMillans have been wonderful. Living and working with them has proved to be the Kiwi experience of a lifetime for sure! The last two times we left Glenfellen, there were lots of hugs and “see you soon!”’s. This time, it was a little bit different, because this time we’re leaving New Zealand.

For the past couple of months, we’ve been in touch with a few Kiwi companies, working towards settling down on the South Island, specifically near Christchurch. I got a job offer from one absolutely spectacular company, E2 Digital Marketing, who has an impressive clientele, great experience, and what seems to be an enthusiastic, fun marketing team. For months I thought it would be the perfect job, but the closer we came to the end of our WWOOFing journey, the more Andrew and I realized that we didn’t want to settle in any city’s downtown after all, no matter where it was, and that’s exactly what we’d have to do in Christchurch.

We hemmed and hawed for weeks trying to decide what to do next, but for many reasons, have decided that coming back to the States would allow us the opportunity that we’ve always wanted to “go Kiwi”… just in a different place.

About a month ago, we booked our flights home. We’ve been keeping it a secret since then so we could surprise a few friends and family members upon arrival.

We’re so sorry to say goodbye to all of our amazing new friends in New Zealand, but we suspect we’ll be back for a visit sooner rather than later. New Zealand IS God’s own country, after all.

On Tuesday afternoon, we took one more walk up the back of Glenfellen farm to enjoy the views, reminisce a little bit, and say goodbye (for now) to what is perhaps our favorite place in the world.

You can see Shannon’s expert tractor work down on the hilltops.

You can see Shannon’s expert tractor work down on the hilltops.

Gorse Farm Road

Gorse Hill

Gorse Valley

We got up just in time on Wednesday morning to get a teary goodbye from Judi, hugs from Ross and Shannon, and lots of sloppy doggy kisses.

Judi & the Creamers

Ross Shannon & Creamers

Kait and Pups

We made our way North to Christchurch just in time to pack our bags and sell our car.

Andrew and Subaru

Kait and Subaru

And now, here I am on the final leg of our flight back home from Christchurch to Atlanta, eager to see what the next big adventure’s going to be.

‘Til next time, New Zealand. Cheers and thanks for all the laughs!

17Oct

A Vacation From Our Vacation

A lot of WWOOFers sign up to work on organic farms because it’s an opportunity to travel all over the world cheaply: no paying for food or accommodation as long as there’s a host. While the low cost and travel benefits are certainly great perks, we prefer to look at WWOOFing as an opportunity to learn about real- hard- farm work with a few little adventures on the side.

That said, we were pretty darn excited when Ross and Judi McMillan invited us to go on a mini holiday with them to their vacation house in Wanaka.

Saturday afternoon, we piled into Ross’s cream and orange ’55 Chevy and hit the road.

Inside Ross's 55 Chevrolet

Stopping at the Garston school fête further proved that everybody seems to know everybody in small towns (especially when you’re friends with a teacher!). We admired some local artwork, competed in a gumboot throwing tournament, and pet a few show calves before piling back into the car for a few more kilometres of dusty, curvy, beautiful mountain roads.

Andrew and I had mentioned on a few previous occasions that we were particularly interested in storage container buildings, so we were thrilled to stop by the Gibbston Tavern next. Ross and Judi shouted our drinks (oh goodness does New Zealand know how to do mulled wine!) and we all wandered around this amazing little establishment, taking photos and getting big ideas.

Gibbston Tavern

Gibbston Tavern Dining Table

Gibbston Tavern Entrance

The owner even invited us to poke around out back and see the work-in-progress brewery they were building!

Exploring the Container Brewery

Inside Storage Container Brewery

Ross's 55 Chevy

After a couple drinks and a bit more driving, we finally arrived at the McMillans beautiful Wanaka home. After a little bit of throwing beds off balconies and hoisting them back up, Judi told us to do absolutely no more work. Ross maintained that we were slaves meant to continue working forever, as usual. Har har. :) We even got the room with the view! (Because they’re just that wonderful.)

Wanaka View

Andrew and I thoroughly enjoyed a lovely little dinner date near the lake, and the next day, we wandered around town, visiting just about all of Wanaka’s great little shops, enjoying the views, and eating some very very tasty food. The seagulls were jealous.

Wanaka View

Downtown Wanaka

Boaboa Food Company

Yelling Seagull

When we said goodbye to Wanaka on Sunday evening, we figured we’d be heading straight back, but Ross & Judi managed to squeeze in one more exciting little surprise for us: a visit to the old, old fashioned Cardrona Hotel and Pub. Apparently the place had been around since the lakes district’s gold mining days in the 1800’s, and part of the floor inside the pub was glass to show a descending old mine shaft. A chalkboard outside the hotel also told us that yes, the hotel is haunted, and the ghost’s name is Jimmy. Who knew?!

I was so excited about the place that I forgot entirely to take pictures until we were in the car and driving away. But it really was great, I swear!

I was so excited about the place that I forgot entirely to take pictures until we were in the car and driving away. But it really was great, I swear!

A couple of pizzas and beers later, we were on the road once more to go “home”.

16Oct

The Baking Bug

Guys, I have a problem. After years and years of roasting; sautéing; baking cakes, cookies, and pies; broiling; braising; stuffing; whisking; and everything in between; I’ve finally learned to make things with yeast. And now I just can’t stop.

During our first visit with the Hellewells, the trip to the Eltons, and our visit with Chris, the alternative lifestyler, we enjoyed heaps of various homemade breads and rolls with LOTS of butter. I was more than happy to consume absolutely everything, but was always a bit timid about helping out with the bread making. I think recipes that involved growing and feeding wee creatures intimidated me.

Neroli finally got me baking her signature homemade wheat bread recipe on my own this time around. It turns out that those little yeasty beasties are quite friendly little critters once you get to know them, and they make some darn tasty treats.

It started with plain white and whole wheat bread.

Homemade Breads

Then, the Glenavy Flower Show had a baking competition that prompted a sudden burst of inspiration for this Raspberry White Chocolate Yellow Cream Cake.

Raspberry Cake

Then I realized I had approximately four pounds of hazelnuts in a bag from our dear friend Swan Ronson, the tree man. Which (of course) prompted hours and hours of cracking, roasting, peeling, and crafting into homemade Nutella.

Homemade Nutella

And then hazelnut and orange cinnamon rolls.

This WAS eventually rolled, sliced, baked, and glazed. But it was so quickly eaten I didn't get a photo, so you'll have to settle for this as evidence.

This WAS eventually rolled, sliced, baked, and glazed. But it was so quickly eaten I didn’t get a photo, so you’ll have to settle for this as evidence.

And then! When we’d left the Hellewells and there was no yeast left to be found, I just kept on at the McMillans with a berry crumble (fondly referred to as simply “diabetes” by Shannon) and then. FINALLY. my very first pavlova.

Pav is New Zealand’s national dessert with good reason. It’s a meringue-y, marshmallow-y light, creamy, fruity dessert perfect for literally every occasion ever, as far as I’m concerned.

Mixed Berry Pavlova

I think I might have a problem, but it is so very, very tasty.

12Oct

Returning to Our Roots

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”), the times I just said “Agoo” over and over (Aptly named, “Agoo”), and there was even one entitled “Hoity Toity Baby”. 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!

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