100th Blog Post and CNN Photo Essay

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I’m happy to report on two fronts that I’ve reached my 100th blog post and what better way to celebrate than by having my photo essay approved by CNN.com!

Sheep Herding: A dying lifestyle in New Zealand

Shortly after I arrived here, I knew I wanted to submit some kind of story about this farm to CNN and I couldn’t be happier that it was actually published.

With that, I will be moving on this weekend after an amazing two months. I’ll head up north to check out the rebuilding of Christchurch and then go to the famous Marlborough wine region to hang out on a vineyard for about a week. Tough life…I hear ya. After that, on up to the top of the north island to check out some beaches and sail on a tall ship.

Life is good.

 

 

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A Tour Around Middlemarch

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An ominous cloud hangs with snow topped mountains in the background.

Well, things are quiet on the farm since the family left last week to go up north for Jim’s hockey tournament. A week before that, a new girl arrived from Norway to spend six months here learning about farming. It’s been good for us to be together so I can show her some things around here as well as indulging both of us with my culinary skills.

Bruchetta on homemade rosemary bread, three types of cheese, fruit, raw honey and wine for dinner!
Bruchetta on homemade rosemary bread, three types of cheese, fruit, raw honey and wine for dinner!

By the way, has anyone ever seen broccoli in bloom!?! I hadn’t until the other day and it was quite pretty!

Broccoli flowering
Broccoli flowering

The first day we were on our own, the weather was really bad. She milked the cows and I went IMG_4282with her on the ATV to check on the calves. Opening gates is time consuming for one person so I figured we’d both suffer instead of just her. It was freezing cold and then it started hailing on us. That’s never fun on an ATV. I failed to bring gloves with me too, so my fingers were tingling in a really bad way. However, we survived and the days after that were better.

We ventured out of the house today into Middlemarch. I would have been upset with myself if I hadn’t gone there after all this time. I realize there’s really nothing there, but there was a pub and we felt that it needed to be checked out.

The only pub in Middlemarch
The only pub in Middlemarch

For at least the third time since I’ve been in NZ, I’ve seen my old car around and today was no

My old car! Sniff sniff.
My old car! Sniff sniff.

exception. I sort of hate being reminded about it because I loved my car, but it’s also nice to see it and brings back good memories.

We first stopped in at a little cafe since I saw bakery goods through the doorway. She hadn’t eaten yet so she got a burger and I settled for a chocolate raspberry muffin. It was kind of like being in someone’s home which was a nice change.

IMG_4317We wandered out to the train station, which isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. It’s really just a tour train that comes through once a week from Dunedin and the station was closed so we couldn’t even go inside. Another old truck was sitting outside along with one of those funky sign posts that appears to make Middlemarch seem like it has a TON of stuff to do.

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The town is seriously desolate. I had been told that there wasn’t any type of grocery store but

You know you're down under when there are signs for the South Pole
You know you’re down under when there are signs for the South Pole

apparently there is. It had the basics and then some…even ice cream! Thea can get her potato chip and Coca Cola fix now, which made her really happy. There was also a bike shop which was surprising. Although I think it’s meant for tourists when they come in on the train. We also stopped by the local graveyard and I noticed some names on there who were the parents and grandparents of folks that live around here. It started raining so we left and that was our big day out! We came home and made a huge pot of potato soup for dinner and polished off the completely home made chocolate cake from earlier this week.

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Next to the pub where you can sit outside on a nice day
Next to the pub where you can sit outside on a nice day
Cutest little bank I've ever seen! Don't know that it's still in business though.
Cutest little bank I’ve ever seen! Don’t know that it’s still in business though.
Not even a clue as to what this meant. “Strath Taieri Rabbit Board.” I picture a bunch of rabbits in suits sitting around a table having a meeting.
Lazy lambs!
Lazy lambs!
At the cattle yard on the farm.
At the cattle yard on the farm.

Life and Death on the Farm

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Another frosty morning on the farm

It’s lambing and calving time here. The dairy cows have been birthing for the past week or so, with a new calf almost daily, it seems. They are mighty cute…one has a little heart shaped white spot on its forehead. They’re soft and perfect, with the shiniest little hooves I’ve ever seen. They like to sleep in the sun and their dark hair absorbs the heat as they snooze silently, without a care in the world.

IMG_3098The calves can, however, pick up something called the scours from the ground by sleeping on it too much. It can end up killing them if you’re not careful. I really don’t want that to happen while I’m here, but Rosa tells me that she sees the signs of it on a couple so far. I’ve gotten some insight into the mass cow production that takes place in the ‘real world’. She told me that calves are taken away from their mothers a day or two after birth just so people can have milk to drink. The little ones then go to ‘the works’ so they can be processed for veal. Sigh….

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The sheep are heavy in lamb, as they say around here. Some have had their babies already and others have simply not made it through to birthing. I mentioned before about sheep being cast (fallen or laid down and can’t get up again) and I came across my first few the other day. When I went to look for a new calf in the paddock, I cut through where some sheep were grazing. I saw the calf, then turned to walk back home. I passed a large rock outcropping and there she was…a pregnant sheep on her side, legs sticking out and missing her eyes. The gulls got to her and it was exactly as I had thought it would be from Rosa’s description. Sad, horrifying and depressing. I went around every rock to make sure no others were awaiting the same fate. I didn’t see any that were cast and alive, but I did see the remains of a couple that had been dead for a while.

Today, we went to muster up some other sheep to give them vaccinations. We had to separate the babies from the mob and somehow also find their mothers to keep them nearby. As we were moving them up the track, we saw a baby with a female, but I was told it probably wasn’t its mother. The sheep had fallen over and was too heavy and weak to make the walk, so she was put on the back of the ATV and I got to hold the lamb in the truck. Lambs are hard to catch and when we can’t, a dog goes after them instead, tackling it to the ground and being a little too rough for my taste. That’s what happened with this one. The dog chased it, grabbed it by its neck and pinned it down. The lamb screamed out and I felt the need to be ‘mom’ for a while and comfort it. Bill went over to retrieve it and I asked if I could hold onto it. It was the most darling thing. Soft little chin, fluffy coat and eyes that were barely open. I noticed a little blood in its mouth, surely from the rough up it got minutes before. My hand cupped around the tiny rib cage and her heart was beating so fast, I couldn’t even keep count.

Once we got the sheep to the paddock and a few females in with their babies, I was told to let the little one go to see if it could find mom. The poor little thing walked up and down the fence line, yelling out just waiting to be found. No mom came. Rosa thought that maybe it didn’t have a mom or else they were separated when we were drafting them out. The decision was made to put the lamb back around where we found it and wish for the best. Hopefully it did have a mom and it will live a long, healthy life.

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Goats making a run for it!

As we brought the other mob back home and crested a hill, we saw about 50 goats in the turnip patch. Rosa was not happy. Goats are a pest here and I often hear of Bill and the boys going out goat hunting. The goats sort of herded themselves in with the sheep and ended up in the yard, behind closed fences. We had to vaccinate all of those sheep and trying to keep the goats out of the way was a challenge. Rosa managed to put a bunch into the sheep shed but some stayed in the mob. One in particular got spooked and ran fast toward a gate at the end of the paddock. It looked as if it thought it could ram right through it, but instead it broke its neck and couldn’t move after hitting the ground.  “He just buggered himself,” Rosa said. I walked up to it, already knowing its fate. It was still alive, looking at me from an unnatural angle.  I saw Rosa walking to the truck and I knew what was coming. For some reason, I expected to see her walking back with a gun, but as I passed her, it was a knife she had. I didn’t want to be around but was still within ear shot as I heard the goat cry out with its last breath and then it went silent.

The future of the other goats in the shed isn’t likely positive either. There are too many goats, hogs, rabbits and hares around here for the farmers’ taste. They take food from their stock and are seen as pests. They’ve told me that the hogs will eat baby lambs during the night. One year, they took so many that they had to do a massive hunt to try and curb their population. They had to just shoot them on sight and leave them there. It’s not as bad now, but it’s a loss they have to factor in unfortunately. I can’t imagine how horrified a little lamb would be, but again, it’s life on the farm. One would like to think that nothing bad ever happens, but nature isn’t that kind.

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Prices, Plants and Police

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In keeping with tradition, I’d like to rehash prices of stuff in the store here. I may never again complain about prices in Central America. I took some pictures of the local flyer for the grocery stores here since a picture is way more interesting. Some things that weren’t in there though (and for really good reason) I’ll just have to write about. Keep in mind a kilo = 2.2 pounds and that the NZ dollar hovers around .85 to $1 USD. I’ll quote in NZD below. It’s still hard to swallow, regardless:

1 kilo of tomatoes $24.00

1 red or green bell pepper $3.99 (ad below is a sale price)

1 cucumber $3.99

1 kilo of chili peppers $49.99

Cheapest bottle of wine $8.99

4 bagels $5.00

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Small bag of pathetic shrimp for $18 and SAVE $9!?!?!?

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My newest favorite food in the world: Creamed Clover Honey.

Cost: Priceless

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Oh, and I almost forgot to mention about the price of internet. Being out here, I have a USB stick with a sim card in it to connect. Are you sitting down? My surfing has been severely limited as never before. At least I can say it’s not dial up speed like it was in Puerto Viejo. I am paying $30 per GIGABYTE. Hardly doing anything per day is adding up to at least 40-50MB. I blew through my first gig in about 10 days. So I’m only doing what I have to…I have no idea what’s going on in the world which is fine by me. I check email, process orders, pay my credit card bill and sometimes check my investments. I upload photos to the blog on a free connection in Dunedin. I’ve completely taken internet for granted until now. I did find a new plan that will give me 500MB for free each time I top up but the cheapest I can buy is $20 (for 500MB) so we’ll see how that works for me.

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I was put in charge of planting the first batch of veggies: lettuce, broccoli, squash, onions, cauliflower, pumpkin and cabbage. The little kids started popping up a few days later after sitting in a sunny window!

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I sat outside and the black cat, who can find joy in playing with a clump of dirt, was out there with me. I decided to entertain him so I plucked out what appeared to be a weed and swatted it around for him to catch. Upon closer inspection, the leaves were tiny hearts! I felt kind of bad after that, but figured I should take a picture since they were so darn cute!

I was thumbing through the mail and there was a newsletter of sorts for Middlemarch.  I saw this blurb in there which was too funny to not include here. What are the odds that this would happen in a major city in the U.S.? I’m sure the police would not find it amusing.

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There’s an old house on the property here which was built by a man for his wife in the late 1800’s. Allegedly he came from England and to farm here. He lived in a cave nearby for over a year while this house was being built. I’ve tried to go in the house but it looks a bit rickety and I can’t actually get the door open all the way. I caught the sunset in the window one night and thought it looked cool.

It was Father’s Day here this past weekend and we all had a nice lunch. Kate made a Pavolva which I had never had before. It is a meringue type cake with a nice crunchy outside and soft lower layer. It looked really huge but it was so light, it practically flew off the table.

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Bill got a lot of nice presents and I framed the photo I took of him and his dog one day out in the paddocks.

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