WWOOFing it Up in Kiwiland: organic farming in New Zealand 2012

3 years later and life brings me back to New Zealand. This time for a longer period, for a different purpose, with a different outlook on life than last time. I hope what transpires from a few years of travelling as far and as wide as possible across this beautiful country is a basic but decent knowledge and experience in organic farming, self sustainable living, and food production. Come and join me, there's loads of room in the car.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Feature = World Tourism Day = Tourism & Community Development = WWOOFing it Up in Kiwiland: 2 years volunteering on organic farms and travelling in New Zealand

Read this and other entries to the World Tourism Day Blog Competition here. 

Reflections = Tramping in Nelson, NZ

Knowledge is power; a cardinal truth in Community Development, both locally and globally. This truth has defined my last 2 years living and volunteering on organic farms around New Zealand, also known as, WWOOFing - WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. ‘Wwoofers’ can access a database where they can find organic growers to ‘host’ them from a day to months, and even years. Furthermore, it's sustainable...

Sunrise in the valley,  Phytofarm Herbal Learning Garden, Little River, NZ

Heritage carrots, Phytofarm
Socially, it’s more than a simple exchange of labour for food and board; it’s a different way of travelling, of getting to know the ‘real kiwi life’, being more than just a passing tourist with a camera in a camper van. WWOOFing is experiencing the country as locals live it. It’s an exchange of knowledge, skills, friendship, family, enthusiasm and a passion for living, learning and sharing an organic lifestyle, being closer to the earth and in tune with the environment. I have been WWOOFing alone, but host families and their networks, make me feel connected to a larger purpose and community . I’ve met and made lifelong friendships with people from allover the globe.

Passion flowers, Phytofarm

Economically, it’s a win-win arrangement for both parties. Busy hosts have enthusiastic, willing (and usually young and energetic) workers to get the work done, and strapped for cash WWOOFers can travel indefinitely, knowing that they have their labour as a guarantee of food and a bed for the night. Hosts have social and professional networks in tourism that WWOOFers can access, often leading to ‘mates rates’ discounts on costly tourist rates and knowing of the best places to go for almost anything. And if the host doesn’t know; they know someone who does! Sometimes, it’s simply joining in on the weekly family fishing trip on the lake or tramp at the National Park.

Avalanche = like organic community development; it's unstoppable
Rob Roy Glacier, Mt. Aspiring National Park, NZ

Environmentally, Mother Earth must be nodding her head with approval. Passionate hosts have a need to share their livelihoods and expertise, and committed WWOOFers can learn about organics from the University of Life, instead of from books! WWOOFing promotes environmental stewardship on local and global scales. On my journey, I have found an extended family, made fond memories, and gained a practical education in the growing of organic produce using permaculture and biodynamic principles.

Rosehips; used to make oil

It’s been an enriching experience and it’s exceeded all my expectations. I have a greater sense of well-being and better health from a mainly organic diet. I have reconnected with natural ancient ways of cooking, gardening, home and personal care, and home building. I have WWOOFed at an olive grove, beekeepers, food forest garden, herbal learning farm and adobe mud brick builders and learned to trust in the generosity of strangers; those friends I’ve still to meet. I’m really going to miss WWOOFing in New Zealand.

Fortunately, ‘WWOOFing’ is a worldwide movement and I’ve already heard on the organic grapevine the best places to WWOOF in the Pacific Islands. Next stop: organic coffee farm on Tonga, and maybe some swimming with the sperm whales ;)

Dawn mist rising; beginning our day's work, Renwick, NZ

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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Last eclipse of the year

I was totally oblivious to this morning's eclipse. Missing the bigger picture events is a sign of being caught up in your own wee world. Stellar events are usually dates that I don't miss and I actually did research before I left Scotland about this one, however this month my world has been pretty sick.

This morning I was at the docs getting test results which, thank god, were normal. Today was also supposed to be the day I begin my second wwoof, the one I was so excited about, at the family cafe and farm. I had to call them last week and the mother was very understanding. She said that my health is the most important thing. I appreciated her care but it's still difficult to accept that I can't continue what I come here to do. I think this is a throwback to my career days of results and outcomes. There is no pressure from any one but myself to excel but that doesn't stop me from getting sick. Life teaching me the same lesson. The one I chronically seem to forget.

So while my body slowly recovers from this stomach infection, I've been reading books about New Zealand from the library. Organic New Zealand and, New Zealand; eye on the landscape, have been really enjoyable.

The first book is has a really good introduction to New Zealand for tourists, specifically in an organic contect with explanations of organic labelling, and brief history of the country's Moari heritage. It then provides listings for organic businesses, including accommodation, food, and shops. It's chatty, interesting and very easy to use. It's not up to date, but what directory can be? So the website can make up for this.


The second book is simply stunning landscape photos by non professionals of the natural and cultivated scenes that you can see in New Zealand. Beaches, forest, farms, mountains... it's given me an idea of where I definitely cannot miss on my travels.


My sister and brother in law moved house and had a house warming party too. It's been a busy month for everything expect organic farming!

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Shepherds should get free healthcare

I left the farm on Friday 19th October because I really wasn't doing much farming. I cleared a pile of bark in one of the fields that must have been left there for a year or so. There were hundreds of worms and slugs and spiders. One of the spiders carried a giant white sac under it's body. Still don't know what it was. I thanked my host family for their warmth and I left for my sister's via Reikorangi pottery, cafe and animal park.

A step back in time, there were collections of pottery from ancient China and who knows where else, stacked in glass cases like an old persons living room. Beside art and pottery, and woodenware from current artists, including the couple who own the place, Wilf and Jan. Both very chatty, friendly, and switched on for their age. Each of them telling me that they'd been living on the land and been together for over 50 years. A wee place with a lot of character. I could see peacocks strutting in the animal park next door and chickens and roosters running around underfeet, obviously with more freedom than allowed to the peacocks. I decided to save a visit to the animal farm until better weather and with company, and had a chilled tea and cheese scone instead. Delicious.

A strange thing happened the evening I came back to Paraparaumu. My lovely brother in law had roasted lamb for dinner, which was beautifully done. Normally, I'd be appreciating it, but for the first time, eating lamb was unpleasant, and you who know me well, know that I love eating lamb. Or rather, I used to. I couldn't help thinking about Baa baa.

The previous Thursday morning we were rotating the animals between paddocks, to let the grass recouperate. It was a miserable day, cold, wet and windy. Thankfully, it only took an hour to shift the horses, then the sheep; a good time, apparently. The rest of the day was spent cleaning.

Since then I've been resting and trying to clear a serious case of diarrhea which has got progressively worse. Now I'm in bed on antibiotics for the second time this year. I am shocked that healthcare is not free, then astounded at the price of of it. Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. The NHS in the UK, is the best in the world. It might not be perfect, but it says that healthcare is priority, for everyone, no matter who you are.

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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

I know how I'd feel if i was going to end up as someone else's dinner!

Day 10

Yesterday was pretty boring. I was home alone and did the housework but I've managed to get better at switching onto autopilot. Caesar's become quite today, or maybe he just likes me more. Hanging about like a bad smell, figuratively and literally! He likes his stomach being rubbed and he sat in every room while I was cleaning. Anyways, it was an eventful day: compared to today!

Today I went to the stock market in Levin because the daughter wants a few calves to rear, to earn money on the meat. The sun was shining all day. I was very happy to be outside and looking forward to learning about how people trade livestock. It's probably similar in the UK, as a lot is here. There was a big pig. Half a dozen pens of sheep and lambs, and 20 odd smaller pens with calves, between 1 and 5 fitting neatly in. The pens were clean but soon we were walking on pools of manure and urine. Some of them looked bony, some had big bulging eyes. The skinny ones either hadn't been fed because they were left overnight or because of sickness.

It was busy, about 50 adults, a few dogs turned out and I couldn't help but notice a sizeable percentage of the people had big guts, from, I guess, eating a lot of meat? Someone asked me if I was buying or watching. They were friendly enough the people, but I definitely did not look like the type of farmers attending. You could tell the regulars, and the characters, as people had first name terms with the staff. One distinctive character had crazy Einstein hair and a sheepskin coat, who I thought was South African, but as I later found out was Dutch, shouted and prodded at a calf to get it to stand up and made a general racket. He then bought a handful of calves, and later joked to me that his border collie was for sale: 'very loyal!', laughed at himself and walked away without a response. There's always the characters...

We had bought 2 pens, 3 Angus heifers, and another simmental heifer. So 4 altogether but 2 have gone to another family who we shared the bid with. This prompted me again to think about how we treat animals as our property. Commodities to be traded between us humans for food. It's how they've been reared for centuries and it's not as though we can change history. You don't get wild cows anymore. Yet, something still doesn't feel right about it. These calves had no clue what's going on. Where they end up, and ultimately, what they'll end up becoming: dinner. Is it fair on them? I knows how I'd feel if I was going to end up as someone else's dinner; I'd feel like the victim of a gross injustice and be able to understand how Jack felt when he found himself at the top of the beanstalk in the land of the giant... but then animals don't think like us either. I'm sure they have no reference to fairytales.

I've been to the cinema to see a frivolous and entertaining film, Pitch Perfect. Nothing like a bit of escapism after a harsh day of reality. Then I watched a documentary about India and it's culture. It's fascinating how animals like rats, monkeys, lions and cranes are revered before humans. Makes me wonder how much the animals appreciate it, that's if they can even comprehend how lucky they are in India.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Leaky gumboots are like leaky condoms. Useless.

Day 6

I'm having difficulty with the mortality rate in a country home. And with this dreadful Wellington weather. While I was stuck indoors cleaning, Ricky the Abyssinian cat brings in a still living mouse and drops it. As the mouse attempts to hide in a handbag, Caesar the Hungarian Vizsla then hunts him out and chews his head and I hear the crunches. Meanwhile, I watch fixated and repulsed as nature takes its course. I rationalise it; Ricky thinks he's showing his love for the humans, and Caesar's just doing what he's genetically predisposed to do, yet those feelings resurface from when he brought in the one dead and one practically dead rabbit 2 days before; feelings of repulsion, panic, empathised terror and a physical turning in the stomach. Being unaccustomed to country living, and deathing!, I could not go near the mouse and had to wait for the youngest son and his friend to return and 'fling' it outside.

Baa baa was biting my knees before he got his morning feed. Glad I had jeans on! He was super hungry but I don't think he knows that I wouldn't be very tasty. The animals here remind me of babies and toddlers. Both want food and cuddles, warmth, sleep. They familiarise with the world through touch, sight and taste. The animals retain that curiosity and innocence but children grow up and rationality begins to kicks in. Spending time with the animals has been an opportunity to understand them, and us, more. It certainly makes me think deeply about how we treat animals and use them for our personal interests.

Day 7

Today I'm back at Big Sis and Big Bro's recharging, doing my laundry, filling up the car with petrol, and returning my gumboots to the shop because they're leaking. Leaky gumboots are like leaky condoms. Useless. Thankfully leaky gumboots are returnable. Think it's worth forking out for a quality make. Afterall, I'll be here for a year or two.

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Thursday, 11 October 2012

'Today is a beautiful day and You are a beautiful person so SMILE! Arohanui ♡'

Day 5

I'm finally getting used to waking up early again. It's like missing Capoeira for a week; you get out the habit and you pay for it when you eventually get back to training with pain for days after! I'm also getting used to doing 4 odd hours of manual labour a day, instead of using my brain. It's a nice change and you feel a different kind of tired. A change is as good as a holiday so they say, and this change has meant less migraines. A success story in itself.

Another welcome change is the weather. Today was one layer warm sunshine and so I was outside all day. I helped build a gigantic bonfire in the paddock with the orchard prunings, it went about 10 feet high and apparently that nothing because the ones in the barn get 3 times that. I got covered in mud, also from Dice and Baa baa jumping up on me. Then I did some weeding in the garden, not my favourite task; I like gardening better when I can eat the fruits of labour!

After that, I treated myself with a trip to the beach to make the most of the sunshine while I can. You who know me well, know that I love beaches. Sand in my toes, water and sunshine, because who goes to the beach unless it's sunny. I also discovered the nicest restaurant, The Drift Cafe. Although I only had a fejoia juice, the specials I overheard the waitress say sounded delicious. In the dining area, they had glass vases hanging from the ceiling with fresh flowers in them. If I was having a birthday party in NZ, I would have it there. The sink in the toilet was a bucket and the mirror had written at the top: 'Today is a beautiful day and You are a beautiful person so SMILE! Arohanui ♡'. The last word translates roughly from Maori to English as Big Love.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Finally the sun is shining again

Day 4

It's been an exciting afternoon! I just got back from a future host, who run a restaurant and farm. Things are looking up after 3 days of mainly rain and housework. I have learnt somethings here but it has been, so far, rather slow; I came here to farm!