“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” -Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright
This ever-so-delayed blog post reaffirms that I live in a part of the world where January is the busy time of year in the garden! The past month and a half have been equal-parts restful, busy, and very rewarding.
Soon after I left off here in December, we hosted friends of Toi Toi Manawa for an End of Year Celebration on the farm. The celebration included a giant harvest dinner for program donors and their families. Dinner was followed by an evening of campfire, singing, and general revelry with our friends and neighbours in Whitecliffs. A great way to end the program year!
Andy and I spent the latter half of December on the North Island with his parents. A wonderful way for us to reflect, regroup and relax. Although we did feel a bit spoiled having just had a holiday in Australia back in November! Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed Christmastime with the Pedleys and their lovely menagerie. Christmas Day was perhaps my hottest to date – somewhere in the early 30s ℃. Not to be deterred, the Christmas pudding was lit on fire and enjoyed by all. This was followed closely, of course, by a mass migration towards shaded spaces and fans!
We arrived back in Christchurch just in time to ring in the New Year. We spent New Year’s Eve camping with friends at Orton Bradley Park. This included my dear friend Christie who was visiting NZ from Korea for the holidays. Nothing like a reunion with an old friend to ring in a new year! On New Year’s Day, we kayaked in Akaroa Harbour on the Banks Peninsula. A marvelous way to spend a day! The wind that gave us good exercise on our outward journey later carried us back home easily. In between, we set up on a quiet beach for good mid-way snacks and games in the sand. Bliss!
We had a fabulous visit in early January from Andy’s Uncle Jon, his wife Karla and their beautiful children, Kira and Ayanda – all the way from South Africa! It was a real joy to have our first visit of family to the farm and we had a blast cooling off in the river, exploring the garden, jigsaw puzzling, and taking in harp lessons from the very talented Dominique.
A few days after bidding farewell, Andy and I set out on a horse trek in the Port Hills. Otahuna Horse Treks uses the principles of natural horsemanship in their rides. This was an area of particular interest to Andy as he looks for aspects of natural horsemanship that can be applied to draft horse-powered farming. We had perfect weather for our ride. I rode a horse, known for being a bit naughty, called Fire. Meanwhile, Andy was paired up with…Andy! And what a dynamic duo the Andys made!
Throughout January, we’ve been very lucky to host a number of really wonderful WWOOFers. It’s left us marveling at how many incredible people there are floating around this world! It’s been an incredible help to us to have the extra hands around – not to mention the extra skill, knowledge, enthusiasm, and great conversation. We’ve been learning a lot from these folks and are coming to appreciate our participation in the WWOOF program as one of the most valuable elements of our time at Toi Toi Manawa.
We’ve recently made the difficult decision to leave Toi Toi Manawa when our current commitment ends at the start of April. We’re going to miss the farm immensely – and the people that we have come to know through our time here – but we know it’s time for a new challenge too. We don’t yet know where we’ll be come April 2nd – but we’re getting excited for what new adventures may lie ahead!
One aspect of our life here that we will especially miss is our growing connection to the Whitecliffs community. With a small (150-200ish) population, we have gotten to know the people here quite well and have felt more and more a part of the place ourselves. I’ve been actively involving myself in the Township Committee, we recently took a number of WWOOFers down to help with clearing up a future community picnic space in the village, and we enjoy the feeling of going for a walk down the street and stopping for chats with our neighbours along the way. Last weekend, we attended the monthly community picnic and “Free Day” where local folks swap everything from clothes and toys to books and kitchen items. This month, we brought a table stacked high with all sorts of veggies from our garden. What a feeling to watch all of the kids parade around the picnic munching on our carrots! It’s an image that’s going to stick with me, that’s for sure!
I am incredibly lucky to have had visits from great friends while I’ve been on the farm and to be able to share this place with them. My friend Kate, now based in Wanaka, came by for another visit last week and found the garden much changed since her last visit in November! Tomorrow, my dear friend Mel and her boyfriend Steve will be arriving for a much-anticipated, week-long visit with us. I’m looking forward very much to a week of catching up and exploring little pockets of New Zealand together.
And with that, we’re more or less up to present! Phew! With any luck, next month’s post won’t be quite so delayed. And I won’t have to do so much head-scratching to remember what’s happened!