Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (almost)!

Our friend Tanya back home in Minnesota sent us this picture of her house around Christmas time (it hadn't even finished snowing yet).

Quite a contrast to here where we spent Christmas walking through a botanical garden and kayaking in the ocean surf. We left the farm on Dec 24 and went to Dunedin (south east coast on south island) where we rented a cabin at a campgound for two days. We baked a veggie lasagna and more kringler for our Christmas dinner. It was a little lonely being away from family on such a holiday but we called and talked to our parents and siblings.

Here are a few pictures from the farm in Roxburgh where we were before Christmas. This is Megan teaching Mariko (another WWOOFer) a knitting pattern. They both did a lot of spinning and knitting. Before we left the farm, Megan bought 6.5 lbs of roving (carded wool) since it was so inexpensive and meant a little more coming from a place we'd stayed. We're starting to realize that getting all these things home will require a little creative work packing!

I even gave in to the peer pressure and tried my hand at spinning. Here's my first ball of yarn. I tried crocheting a hat with it but it turned out way too small and not nearly as pretty (hence no picture).

One of the fun chores in the morning and afternoon was feeding the ducks. You'd come out the door with a bucket of grain and start saying "Duk, duk, duk, duk". Before you knew it there was a line of 10 ducks following you and quacking their heads off.
On our way from Dunedin after Christmas, we went through Miller's Flat on Boxing Day where they were having a rodeo. We watched barrel racing, roping, bareback and saddle bronc riding, and even a mutton buster which is where a tiny kid gets put on the back of a sheep and hangs on for dear life. Some dads were running after the little tykes holding them up by their collars.

One of the beaches we stopped at had some really interesting stones that looked like marbles. Here's Meg giving one of the Moeraki boulders a hug.

We're over in the Otaga/Fiordland area now on a kayaking club trip. One of the Kawarau River sections was called Roaring Meg so we got an appropriate picture for that one. The paddling on that section was some of the boiliest water I've ever been on (pushes you all over in an unpredictable way).

This is a photo of Skippers Road which we drove up (slowly!) to get to a campground for the Shotover River. It was only one lane wide with a steep cliff on one side and a drop off on the other. We ran that river twice it was sooo much fun with all the waves and holes for playing on. Megan did some of the shuttle driving one day and got to take our station wagon on a bumpy bumpy road with multiple fords (stream crossings). On the way back it had started raining and water splashed up on the hood on one of them.

Unfortunately there aren't too many pictures of me on the river but here's one of me getting out. This was after the Dog Leg section of the Kawarau River. Another of the biggest paddles I've ever done with enormous waves (8ft+) and minimal eddies to stop in.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Well we got rained out this morning so no Builder Bob for now. In the meantime I thought it would be fun to share some of the recipies we'd been using here in case anyone wanted to try them back home.

The first is the Melting Moments - Buttery Cookies with Icing Sandwiched from Edmonds Cookery Book

200 g (bit less than 1/2 lb) butter, softened
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 cup cornflour (corn starch)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Butter icing or rasperry jam

Cream butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flour, cornflour, and baking powder together. Mix into creamed mixture, mixing well. Roll dough into small balls the size of large marbles and place on a greased oven tray (we used baking paper and make sure to leave plenty of space between them as they will flatten out to be ~ 2" in diameter). Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake at 180C (350F) for 20 minutes or until cooked. Cool and sandwich two biscuits together with Butter Icing or raspberry jam. Makes 16.

Butter Icing (for filling)

100 g (~ 3 ounces) butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1-2 tablespoons hot water

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Gradually beat in icing sugar, beating until smooth. Add sufficient water to give a spreading consistency. Can flavor with cocoa, lemon, strawberry shake mix, tummeric (tried this to color the lemon flavor but it didn't work - grin ).

Now you have an idea of how buttery these cookies end up!

The other was for Cockeyed Cake from "I hate to cook book" by P Bracken. It is quite easy and fun to make and results in a delicious moist chocolate cake.

1 1/2 cups sifted flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspooon Bicarb of Soda (baking soda)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cold water

Sift together flour, cocoa, soda, sugar, and salt right into greased cake tin (9x9x2 - we used a smaller one and it was fine, even a little thin). Now make three grooves or holes in this dry mixture. Into one, pour the oil, into the next the vinegar, into the next the vanilla. Now pour cold water over it all.

You'll feel like you are making mud pies now but beat the mixture with a spoon until nearly smooth and you can't see the flour. Bake at 350F for 1/2 to 3/4 hour.

Tally Ho Ho Ho - Dec 19

Well Christmas is nearly here so we baked kringler, traditional Norwegian cookies Megan's family often makes. The Kiwis weren't too keen on the smell of cardamom but we don't mind because there are more for us. We also made a moist chocolate cake and melting moments (buttery cookies sandwiched around icing) so there are lots of treats around. Barb and Stuart have been very welcoming and really made us feel like their house was our's too. Barb said "We may be hillbillies but we're happy hillbillies."

They'd made a batch of ginger beer with a previous WWOOFer and it was "aging" in the pantry. We came home and one of the glass bottles had exploded! We quickly opened the others to release the pressure.

Megan and I helped pick up some calves from a neighbor yesterday that Barb and Stuart were letting graze in their paddocks. It was interesting learning how to "work" the animals by trying to steer them. It took a few tries but the six of us finally got them into the pen and then into the trailer. We went to bowls (lawn bowling) afterward and then pub night which was fun as well.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I was asked to be "Bob the Builder" and help Stuart repair a sheep yard. I think Megan may be helping thin apples. There's been a lot of spinning going on between the three ladies (Mariko, Barb, and Megan) and the yarn is piling up. Sorry there aren't any pictures but uploading is slow with the dial up connection here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tally Ho Farm - Dec 17

Well you know the old saying "Be careful what you wish for"? It's true. We were driving to Roxburgh on Monday and got sleet/snow that was enough to cover the streets. It melted quick enough but it was white for a bit. Megan liked it because it made for cool sleeping that night in the tent.

We've arrived in Roxburgh at Tally Ho farms. The hosts, Barb and Stuart, are extremely laid back and apparently they enjoy having WWOOFers for the company more than the work. I was feeling guilty about not earning my keep so I put in a day's work even though I'd been told I could do as I pleased. Payed for it with blisters on both hands too. Friday is "Pub Night" since Barb doesn't cook tea (aka dinner) that night so we'll all go down and have fish and chips or whatever we like. I think there is also bowls (lawn bowling) on Friday since Don (Stuart's father) sets up the local club and likes to have people to play with.

They have a bigger carding machine here than the one at Rotocard and Megan got to help with that today. Apparently she's good luck and gets rid of the static. With some fibers, alpaca especially, there can be a lot of static and it gets difficult to keep it going the way it is supposed to. Megan's been spinning here as well and has picked up a new technique called the "long draw". I'd try to describe what it is but I think I'd even confuse myself.

There are ducks, chickens, miniature horses, pigs, and sheep. Morning and afternoon chores involve feeding them and moving them around (in and out of pens). There is another WWOOFer staying here as well, Mariko, from Japan. She's a nurse and is here to improve her English.

We went on a hike yesterday and walked across an old suspension bridge that used to be the only way across the large Clutha river (~ 70 m wide). Originally all crossings were done by boat but the childrens attendance at the school was spotty so they put in a chair on a cable. You had to haul yourself across hand over hand and it was 60m above the river and had a slant to it (one way was uphill). After more complaining, they finally put in a bridge but only one person could walk across it at a time. More complaining and the one we walked on was built so that you could walk sheep across and even lead a horse. Interesting to learn the history behind the little mining town and the troubles they had.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Abel Tasman Coastal Trail

We just finished 6 days hiking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track on the north end of the south island. We took a water taxi to one end of the track and then carried our 40+ lb packs for 50km back south. Most of the campsites were in bays with golden sand beaches but to get from one to the next you had to hike over spurs. Here's a rough picture that shows the elevation profile of the trail.
One of the amazing things was the variety of terrain. Here's Megan pointing out where we have to climb to on one of the spurs. This was Gibbs Hill and we made the mistake of making our first day our toughest (6 hours with packs that had 1 weeks worth of food in them!).
In several spots the trail went through estuaries. For two of them there was no alternate route on higher ground so the crossings had to be done near low tide. Here is Jason during one of them carrying his fishing rod. There were millions of little crabs scuttling into little holes in front of us.

There were lots of gorges and ravines to cross, some by foot and others by bridge. This was the one and only swing bridge on the trail and had a sign limiting the load to 5 people at a time.

The beaches were amazing. Golden sand, gentle surf, and rocks. We had gorgeous weather the first 3 days and really enjoyed lounging around. Here is one of our campsites that was just off the beach.
Since we were only hiking 2-4 hours per day there was plenty of time to relax. Jason decided to make a sand angel on the beach. Without snow around it was the next best thing.

He also did some snorkeling (water was COLD!) and even caught a crab. It looks like he is excited but he's really grimacing (the crab was finding a way to scratch him with its legs).

We're headed south to Roxburgh now to WWOOF on the Tally Ho farm (alpacas and wool processing). It doesn't seem like Christmas with the weather the way it is and the lack of white stuff but there are some decorations and carols to help get us in the mood.

Friday, December 4, 2009

West Coast Continued - Nov 27-29

Again catching up on some old photos:

We stopped in a little craft town of Hokitika and puttered around for half a day. Just as we were about to leave I spotted Sock World and asked Megan if she wanted to stop. Did she ever! She asked why it hadn't been in the tourist guidebook in big bold letters. Turns out the owner is semi famous - at least with sock knitters. She collects vintage sock knitting machines (largest collection in the world) and also sells a replica version. Megan knew all about her so it was fun to chat with her a bit and see how intricate the machines were. Megan also picked up a few skeins of felted marino yarn for some future project.

The west coast is known for its kayaking but much of it is steep creeking and requires helicopter shuttles. The Styx river is one that you can hike into (45 minute hike carrying your boat so still not easy). I didn't have a boat but we decided to scope it out just in case I made it back some time. A little more my size than the last one I scouted.

Lots of short little hikes to waterfalls throughout the area. Dorthy Falls was this one.

In Greymouth, the main attraction is called Pancake Rocks. They've been weathered by wind and water and look a bit like a stack of hotcakes.

Megan snapped this photo showing the sun just peaking through the clouds off in the distance.

And this photo of some goofy tourist.

We took a hike in Tauranga to see another seal colony. The terrain undulated a bit but was easy walking and offered up fantastic views. Along the way there was a light house, shipwreck replica, and an astrolabe (deivce for determining latitude while at sea).

And this time there were actually seals at the seal colony! Most of them were just laying around sleeping but we did get to see a few get in and out of the water. Quite a contrast watching them buck around on land and then seeing them slicing through the water.

Up at the end of the road on the west coast in Karamea, there were some more caves we explored. These had some special formations on the floor that looked like dried up mud but were actually sediments. They also had weta (large crickets) and spiders (6" in diameter). We saw both.

It had been pretty wet lately so we used the wind to help dry out our tent at one of the stops. Reminded me of playing with the parachute like we used to in elementary school gym class. Traveling around as we have been, you start to get an appreciation for the finer things in life ... dry socks, comfortable bed, and clean underwear.

In one of the small towns I popped into a tiny hole in the wall bar. I was greated by a little 8 yr old girl who proudly told me she was running the bar today. I ordered a whitebait patty (local delicacy) and she promptly took me back in the kitchen and started handing me bag after bag of frozen whitebait. Now I've never had whitebait so I didn't know but it seemed like more than we needed to make a patty. Luckily her mom ventured in and got it all straightened out. Whitebait are tiny (5mm long) transparent fish cought with a net or screen. They're the young form of fish that migrate back from the sea up rivers to spawn. There's about a month long season for catching them and they can sell for more than $75/kg. Luckily my patty wasn't that heavy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Motueka - Nov 30 to Dec 7

After traveling up the west coast, we've been staying in Motueka which is a little town north of Nelson. We're WWOOFing with Maria and Gordon, a wonderful couple who have sheep, chooks (chickens), alpacas, cattle, and a nut orchard. The farm is only a 5 minute drive out of town, sort of a hobby farm that they're working to turn into a business. New Zealanders call these farms "life style farms" but Gordon says thiers is a work style farm since it is so much work. He actually runs an irrigation/equipment hire business and Maria does a lot of the farming.

When we arrived, Maria put us to work right away cracking nuts - macadama and hazel. I got a kick out of putting the nuts into the cracker which made a big "KE-CHUNK", shook the table it was bolted to, and spit out the cracked shell and meat. Sorting the shells from the nuts wasn't as much fun - much more manual. The next day was roasting the nuts at a kitchen in town and bagging them for the farmers market on Friday which we went to too. Different perspective than going as a shopper though.

Besides the nuts, we've also had the chance to do some wool processing. Megan is running the carder here while Maria looks on. It was interesting to start to learn about the different fibers and how to identify the guard hairs which are staighter and need to be removed.
Megan also did quite a bit of spinning and plying and received high compliments on her skills. She's been sort of the star WWOOFer, getting a lot of the processing done that Maria wanted to do but hasn't had time to do. I've been scooping up alpaca poo, spreading it in the garden, and driving the 4 wheeler around the farm. The work has been a little lighter than the last place we WWOOFed so we've almost been asking for things to do to feel like we're doing enough.

Maria has been great, taking us around and showing us things. On our trip out to pick up a new chook house, we stopped at Hallblacks. They sell wool yarn, knitting things, and spinning wheels which is what Megan was the most excited about. She tried a few out but the one she was the most interested in wasn't working quite right. So we left a request for them to keep an eye out for a used castle style spinning wheel which Megan things would be a great souvenir to bring back!

Another stop we made was at Rotocard which is a small scale carding business that is run out of a garage. They take fleeces, wash them, and card them for small orders which the big places wouldn't bother with. The photo below shows the carder running which was quite impressive. Just don't let your tie get sucked in!

The local A&P show (equivalent to a county fair back home) is this Sunday and Maria is actually the president. That is part of the reason she's been a bit distracted and really liked our ability to work on our own. They'll be bringing alpacas to the show along with some vintage engines which Gordon restores (he's got a whole double garage full of them!). Megan agreed to demonstrate spinning and weaving and just got the primer on weaving tonight. I'm looking forward to getting to watch the alpaca shearing - apparently they get put in a sandwich table, tipped on their side, have one half sheared, and then are flipped over for the other. A lot more complicated than the sheep shearing I've seen.

Gordon's garage of vintage engines (more behind me too!)

Monday we're off to hike the Able Tasman Coastal Track (north of Motueka) for a week so hopefully the weather will be beautiful and sunny for us. Our next destination will be Roxburgh which is at the southern end of the south island on Dec 15. We'll be WWOOFing there at Tally Ho Farm ( for at least a week.

West Coast - Part 1

To begin our West Coast trip the week of Nov 23rd we camped by Lake Hawea north of Wanaka. It was gorgeous but windy.
We crossed over Lindis Pass where there was a roaring river, the Haast maybe, that Jason proceeded to scout as if he were going to someday paddle it. It looked a little big for paddling, but he still went through the motions.

The West Coast is notorious for wet weather, and we were welcomed with it. It was rainy and foggy nearly the whole week. Visibility was low, which didn't mix well with steep, winding, cliff-on-one-side roads that never seem to have a shoulder. At least they weren't gravel roads, although we've had our fair share of those. (Meg's favorite being the ones that are already barely wide enough for 1 car and then there's a sign indicating that the road narrows. Fun.) We're learning how to use 2nd and 1st gears in the automatic transmission as well as when it's appropriate to engine brake. New Zealand driving has been a steep (no pun intended) learning curve for two flatlanders like us.
Thanksgiving was a busy day. We camped at Gillespie Beach the night before and then got up for a 3 hour hike to the Gillespie Beach gold dredge remains and Galway beach seal colony. There weren't any seals, just a great view. Of the nature...
and the naturist!
Then after lunch we headed to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.
After the glaciers we pulled in to a campground at Lake Mahinapu and made Thanksgiving dinner. With only one burner we had to plan carefully what order to make everything so it would all be hot at the end. Our great plan included making the gravy and then pouring it into an empty peanut butter tub while we used the pan to make the next thing. We didn't think that boiling gravy would melt plastic! Oops, but we saved enough to cover our potatoes.
Here's our Thanksgiving meal...typical midwestern fair...high in starch. Unfortunately no turkey present, except Jason. hehe.

Kayaking and Rock Art ~ Nov 21-22

Trying to catch back up on photos and notes:

Jason did another paddle with the Christchurch club on the Hurunui River (Jollie Brook & Maori Gully). We camped the night before at the put in and got devoured by sand flies but it was free!

There was quite a group on this paddle again (few beginners who'd just completed the intro class). More water too so the features in the gully were bigger/pushier and there was a wave or two with fantastic surfing. I'd borrowed a new boat for this trip from George but I've still got the green dry top and orange helmet (center of picture). Everyone seems to give me a hard time because the bill is in the back.

After the paddle we camped in Waikari at the town campground. It was empty though so we had it to ourselves. There was a short hike to some Maori rock art which was fun to do. The hike was through several paddocks (pastures) and quite windy at the top of the hill. Megan almost lost her hat.
After the hike we checked out a 2nd hand store in the same town and bartered some books we were done reading for some more cassette tapes. Jimi Hendrix, U2, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince have now been added to our collection!
We've had several people ask if we were Canadian. At first we thought it was our MN accents (Jason's is pretty thick) but then we were told Canadians have soft skin about being called Americans. So some Kiwis play it safe and guess Canadian first.