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!)


  1. You have a painting, no socks, and an awesome story to go with your painting.

    Hannah wanted me to tell you to check your facebook, because she has some friends in New Zealand and she sent you their contact info (I think that's right).

    I finished my knee high socks and they're awesome.

    Miss you at knitting, but keep having great adventures!

  2. Hi Bristol !
    Many Blessings on your journey in New Zealand !