Monthly Archives: September 2010

Farm Stay in the North

Day 222 – 8 September 2010

Last night I got back from my last school break trip. Before the break we celebrated Chris’ 21st birthday at a shwanky bar down on Ponsonby and played some laser tag. On the last night before break I attended another birthday party where I ate sugar for about 3 hours straight and then stayed up all night to finish an assignment due the next day. After turning in the assignment I vowed to give up sweets until my birthday which has now turned into a five dollar bet. Chris and I mucked around in Auckland over the weekend and on Monday (30 August) we set off to stay at a farm for a week.

Originally we were interested in this farm because it was located up north (warmer weather) and the description said it was an orchard which specialized in Avocados. The farm was located right on the edge of Rangaunu Harbour. The farmer, Mitch, was a 67 year old Kiwi who had spent his life hunting deer in the South Island fjordlands. His wife was away, visiting family in Australia, but his dog kept us company. The dogs name is ‘Mo’, short for Monster, or Mongrel, or ‘black thing’. His house is located at the very top of a hill from which you can see all around to the harbour and surrounding farmlands. The room we stayed in was located at the bottom of the hill and was really more of a cement shack. It used to be a cattle run, but he had ‘renovated it’ by pulling down some walls, putting in a fold out couch and supplying running water to an outdoor sink and loo. But because the soil was so fertile from being pooed on for so many years, the area around the shack had all types of flourishing vegetation including lemons, lavender, rosemary, parsley, bananas, feijoas, plums, Monterey pine, flame tree, and other fruit trees I can’t remember. Actually he called his property a “growing ark” because he grew just about every plant that can grow in NZ.

We followed the same basic routine everyday: wake up at 7:30, walk up the hill to eat breakfast which was always 6 kinds of cereal, yogurt and fruit in one bowl, then work for a bit, then lunch which was always sandwiches packed with freshly picked vegetables, then work a little bit more, then dinner which always had some form of potatoes, then chat late into the night, and then walk back down the hill to sleep.

I helped him trim a long line of feijoa hedges, lay grass and compost on the garden, carry his shovel, clean the windows, and I was always the lucky one to do the dishes after every meal. One day he even assigned me to ‘watch after the dog’ so my job was to play fetch for 3 hours. The lameness of my duties was half because it is still winter so there is not much work to be done and half because Mitch comes from a different generation and is quite sexist and wouldn’t let me do anything that required any real effort. I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavy, including a can of paint. So, in honesty I was kind of frustrated and bored a lot of the time. But I did get to do a lot of relaxing which was just what I needed. And Chris was very happy. He got to do more jobs and he really connected with Mitch, talking about hunting, politics, and having penises (I presume).

Mitch is quite an interesting person. He told us heaps about his time in the bush and also much about his outlook on life. He said things like, “all you need in life is warm food for your belly, a dry place to sleep, and a companion” or “I want to become completely self-sustainable so when the world goes and shits itself, I’ll be prepared”. He is definitely a genuinely good hearted person, and I generally agreed with most of the things he said, except for his sometimes racist and sexist opinions. I was also very surprised of how much he knew about modern culture even though he was in the bush during most of it. Overall, I think I learned a lot from him. Most of my classes here have taught me about conservation from the government’s side and this showed me how conservation is seen from the farmer’s perspective. He is still very pro-conservation but in a different way than DOC and very different than what I would have expected.

Although most days were the same, one day we took his boat out into the harbour and jetted around for a bit. We caught a fish and he cooked it up and also made fish soup and fish cakes with the icky bits. Another day his friends that he hadn’t seen since primary school came over and we took them on a walk around the property. They ate lunch with us and afterwards they sat on the back porch and drank wile Chris and I drove out to ninety mile beach.

On the second Monday (6 September) Chris and I drove up to Cape Reinga for the day. Cape Reinga is actually not the northernmost point (that is slightly east) but it is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. And, you could actually see where the two bodies of water meet, because it is very choppy in just one section. Maori legend says this is where the oceans mate. After taking lots of cheesy pictures and hiking around a bit, we walked down to the beach and we were the only ones there. We then went and got some fish and chips at a local café and bought some sugar to make homemade lemonade back at the farm. We stayed up late talking with Mitch and the next day we left to go see ancient Kauri forest. It was supposed to clear up in the afternoon but it ended up raining the entire day. But no matter, we took off our shoes and waded through the flooded footpaths to see the two biggest Kauri trees in NZ, Tene Mahuta, “Lord of the Forest” and Te Matua Ngahere, “Father of the Forest”. Then we had a long, wet drive all the way back to Auckland.