And it’s June in Whitecliffs.
For me, life in the Southern Hemisphere is involving the consultation of many seasonal calendars to aid in my orientation. What does “June” mean now? I have vague ideas about bringing extra layers along on day trips and expecting to be changing them frequently. It’s early winter and so the temperatures are dropping and the leaves are falling off of the trees brought in from the Northern Hemisphere. Mornings are frosty though afternoons have been warming up nicely. The differences between the micro-climates in our little valley and Christchurch – only an hour’s drive apart – are fascinating. It’s generally much warmer in the latter – a reminder of the differences made by nearness to the ocean (among other variables).
In these early days of winter, we have had some thinking-heavy days. This has been something good and productive. Toi Toi Manawa, the charity that has brought Andy and I to this beautiful place, has been doing some good soul-searching as it nears six months since its January launch date. Reflection has been a key word as we look back together at the past months to see what has worked best and what we can build on. The result is a heightened focus on the use of this space to host events for the local community – guest speakers, hands-on workshops, and more, all under the umbrella theme of sustainability. I’m taking on the role of Program Manager to see that we provide a fun and engaging set of events at Manawa this year. Meanwhile, Andy is also taking on an additional set of responsibilities as the on-site Land Manager. To begin with, he is rolling up his sleeves and digging into the world of Holistic Management. This is a style of land management that has resonated well with many of the organic farmers that we know and respect. It gets down to the real roots of what matters to farmers as land stewards and as human beings, and it incorporates quality of life in goal setting and farm planning.
In between brainstorming sessions and planning meetings, a few recent highlights have included:
- our first time to the Oxford Farmers’ Market followed by a gorgeous (albeit muddy) Sunday hikes at Ashley Gorge and Glentui
- breaking down and investing in a small bottle of maple syrup
- helping with building work for some friends over the hills who are constructing a new building where they will milk their water buffalo and make cheese
- getting to know some folks from the North Canterbury Clydesdale Club and attending their AGM
- time spent visiting with new friends in Whitecliffs
- moving about 150 small trees that have been given to us to plant on the property
- a visit to our local Glentunnel Museum and a walk to the old coal mine and the tunnel that gives the village its name
- waking up to the best rainbow of my life (so far)
Meanwhile, the main entryway to our building is now missing only finishing touches. Our shipping container abode is set to arrive within the week. Power from the grid is on the horizon too. All of this is really just the icing on the cake as we have been very happy and very grateful for our warm, dry, and very comfortable place to stay.
As I write, delicious smells are wafting towards me from the wok that Andy has heating on the woodstove for dinner. Dominique is sorting through the flax that she is preparing for weaving. Lien is enjoying the power of a solar light sent to us by our friends at Glenergy. And I am struck once more by how good it is to be experiencing Whitecliffs in June.