Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Day on the Farm

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
10:25 PM

Today we got to change up our routine and get a real treat- a day out on a Taranaki farm! We connected with Michele and Merv, the farmers, through Workaway, originally thinking we might stay with them when we first arrived in Taranaki. Since that didn't pan out, we recently asked if we might come out for the day, see their place and do a morning's work in exchange for lunch, and they said yes! We've really missed doing farm and garden work since leaving Opotiki, and it felt great to pull our gumboots on and get out on the land again.

Michele & Merv live on 15 acres just outside of Urenui, about a 40 minute drive from Oakura, at the very northern end of the Taranaki Bight. They run about 30 head of cattle and also have chickens, a garden, and a large orchard. Their home is really nice, and we couldn't have had more gracious, fun, and welcoming hosts.
 Awesome farm dog Buddy, sacked out in the backyard.


We got there before 9 AM, and after coffee and chatting, headed out to shift the cows onto new grazing. We obviously don't think like farmers, because we've been constantly thinking how grand the weather has been these last few weeks, not taking into account that without rain, grass doesn't grow quickly enough to provide sufficient pasture for cattle. Also, the strength of the sun in this part of the world actually scorches grass if there isn't enough moisture in it. So when we see patches of brown, dry grass here, it's not just that there isn't enough moisture in the soil, but the sun is actually drying it out! Anyway, it was a bit drizzly in the morning so M&M were excited, but it didn't last. We did move the cows into the driveway to graze on the verges there for a few hours, which meant taking down the electric fence around the section they had been in, and repositioning it on a new section of forage to drive them into later.
(Click on photos to enlarge)

Matt rolling up the portable fence.

Merv and Matt setting up the fencing on new ungrazed sections.

After sorting the cattle out, we got to work weeding. M&M have an awesome wood-fired hot tub set up in their yard, with a gorgeous view out through the valley and to the mountain beyond (which didn't make an appearance today, staying up the clouds), and the whole area around it was overgrown, so we all put in the time to pull out all the grass and clear that out, and then moved on to a section below their garden, which will be tilled and planted later on. 

 Merv driving the cows back down the driveway so we could get out. 

The bull, One Ball. One of his bits was missed during docking when he was a wee one, so he is now in charge of "servicing" the lady cows. Apparently there was some doubt as to whether he was "firing" last year, but the arrival of several calves since put that to rest....

After a good several hours' work, during which time the weather had cleared up and things had gotten very hot, we headed in for a delicious New Zealand farm dinner- a lamb roast, potato mash, roasted kumara, salad, and gravy. Then it was off to the beach! We feel we got the full Kiwi experience today, between the cattle, the food, and the recreation. Michele & Merv live back in the country, but are still only a 5 minute drive from Onaero Bay, where we went for a swim in the sea! Actually, Merv & Michel & I went for a swim- I couldn't convince Matt that it felt great. I was so refreshed and of course totally stoked to be swimming comfortably in the ocean! Onaero Bay is beautiful, full of amazing cliffs and rock formations, and it was a gorgeous afternoon. 

 Matt was very taken with some of the cool rocks on the beach:

It doesn't get much better than this. 
Oh, wait. Actually, it does:
Soak in a wood-fired tub, anyone? It is made from a recycled milk vat, and the views were spectacular, as was the company (cows included :) [You can see the dirt area all around it that we cleared- when we got there this morning, it was all knee-high in grass and weeds]

We had such a wonderful time, learned loads, asked a million questions about cattle and stock in general, learned that our hosts are incredibly well traveled, and had a truly Kiwi day. We asked if we could come back, and left with M&M promising to call us to come help on various projects, take us to watch the milking at Merv's brother's dairy farm, and let us know if they hear of any farmers wanting paid help. We didn't head home until evening, stopping on the way for an ice cream, just to add to the Kiwiness of it all (more on the ice cream phenomenon later). Driving south on the surf highway, with a view of gum trees and Norfolk pines and the evening sun shining blindingly on the green sea, I was pretty convinced we had truly found Taradise. And also, we're totally knackered. With that, good night!

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