Wednesday, September 29, 2010

At Home in Opotiki

Written 2:50 PM, Thursday, 30th Sept. 2010
Opotiki, New Zealand

Posted 3:15 PM Same day

I’ve felt a bit behind and out of communication, so it feels good to do lots of posting. There’s so much to tell, I know I’ll never be able to include every detail, but I love to try! This time I’ll bring you up to speed and up to where we are now, at a fantastic workstay in Opotiki (oh-POH-ti-kee –we’ve been pronouncing it wrong for weeks).

Monday night we camped on a roadside in a tiny place called Matata (MAH-ta-ta: nothing here is pronounced with the emphasis in the place we would give it in the states), right on the ocean, and then packed up first thing when we woke up (as we were camped at the end of a neighborhood) and drove a few klicks up the coast to a picnic area at the beach where we had breakfast and strung out a few items of still-damp laundry which dried up in a hurry in the bright sun and wind (one of many reasons why hardly anyone in NZ owns a drier). We spent the rest of the day exploring Whakatane (FAHK-uh-tahn-ee), which is gorgeous, and then exploring Ohope and Port Ohope, which are out on a sandspit that ends in a wildlife refuge, and then lunch at an oyster farm, where we had possibly the best fish and chips (fush en chups, as it’s pronounced here) of our lives. We ordered what we wanted, and then they went and pulled it from the catch of the day, breaded it up, and fried it right there.

After a nap in the back of the van (it’s handy for that) in Opotiki, we came out to our workstay in the evening, where our wonderful hosts, Lyn and Kate, welcomed us with hugs and a meal of mashed kumara (KOOM-er-uh, Maori sweet potato), sausages, mushroom and onion gravy, and salad from their garden. Their place is fantastic, and we will be doing some work here and some on Lyn’s family’s farm a few sections over. The house is amazing, in an old, practical, and slowly-being-renovated kind of way, and the land gorgeous. We are very happy to be here, where the people are kindred spirits, the house is lovely, we have a lovely bedroom with bright orange walls, and there are 20 chickens, two ducks, two and a half dogs (because the neighbor's terrier is always around), and three cats to keep things interesting! Some of the “chooks” are sitting on duck eggs (as the ducks don’t make the best mothers), so there will be ducklings in a few days!

The arrangement here is that we will be working 4-5 hours every morning in exchange for the run of the house, property, kitchen and pantry, our lovely bedroom, and three meals a day. If we want a day off, then we can work a full 8 hours the day before. The food is incredible- the yard here contains a grapefruit tree, mandarin tree, lemon tree, avocado tree, and macadamia nut tree. There’s probably more that I haven’t figured out yet! So between the fresh fruit and avos, and as many fresh eggs as you can ask for, and Lyn’s delicious home cooking, we are in very good hands. They are such gracious hosts, very flexible about when we work our hours, and are making use of our skills in gardening, tree pruning, etc. We will help sand and paint the house while we are here, so Matt’s work experience in painting will come in handy. Yesterday morning we went over to the family farm for a couple of hours and grubbed scotch thistles out of a series of sheep paddocks with Lyn, and then after lunch Matt and I put in a couple hours more on the property here, where we’ll be doing most of our work. We are helping clear and weed and get the yard borders cleaned and mulched, and expanding the vegetable garden. This morning we repaired part of the fence to the chicken run where it had been damaged by a fallen tree, and transplanted a grapevine! It is good, fulfilling work, but not back-breaking, and it feels very very good to be working the land, taking binfuls of weeds and wild herbs to the chickens in their (quite large) enclosure, and helping our hosts get their property the way they want it. I can honestly speak for both Matt and myself when I say that we are utterly satisfied with our situation here and the simple, hardworking lifestyle at this, our temporary home. We are so glad to be here.

Here are some photos of the place and a few of its inhabitants:

(Click on photos to enlarge)
The house from the chicken enclosure, with Paddington the dog, and Jinx, the neighbor's Jack Russell.
Jinx and the back of the house. 
The backyard. I've been clearing out weeds at debris at the right, where the black wheelbarrow is. 

Kitty and a veritable rosemary TREE!

The chookies and gorgeous Mr. Rooster. They all come running whenever one of us comes near, hoping we are bringing treats. They are friendly and beautiful, and now I'm convinced I want chickens!

The 18-year-old spry old gentleman dog himself, Paddington Bear.

We're settling in nicely, and the library in Opotiki has ulimited free wi-fi, so I should be able to make it to internet every couple of days. Lyn and Kate have also offered their satellite internet, but I have yet to figure out how to change the settings on my laptop to access DSL instead of wireless. 

I hope you all are well wherever you are, and thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Oh Piolot! It sounds like you are having an AMAZING time!! So glad you posted your blog so I can read as you go through your journey!! If you get a chance you should pick up some of the New Zealand honey. Amazing family owned and run honey farm based out of NZ.


FlowerLady said...

I love where you are and am glad you made it there and are settling in nicely. Is this where you'll be the whole year you are there? I think I missed on your blog how this all came about. It all sounds peaceful, even with the work involved.

I like this older house and gardens, with chooks, dogs, cats, and geese.

Enjoy each and every day of this wonderful experience.