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NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 14 November 2006 | Views [1281]

October 24-31

Where has the time gone?  The days have been just flying by.  The weather has been mostly windy with gusts of rain here and there, chilly at night but when the sun comes out it really beats down on you.  I went for a jog one day and after twentyfive minutes in the sun I was sporting tan lines.
Building your own house is hard work.  Being in another country helping to build someone else's house is also hard work.  We've got muscles now and are eating big meals to keep us moving.  Thank goodness we continued to work out while we were in Thailand and Korea - it's made a difference.  We've learned a ton from Ian and Louise and have asked about a million questions and have been provided with so much good information and sage advice from people who have "been there" its been an on going workshop for the last, nearly, two weeks.  The main structure of their strawbale house is built and we're helping with the bits and pieces needed to be done before rendering the outside.  I think we came at a good time since it's the bits and pieces that can be trickiest.
Experiences we've had so far:
Assisted in a workshop on how to build a strawbale wall on our second day with Ian and Louise.  We got to see what the meaning of creating something as a reflection of who you are.  The home owner, Eric, is a great hulking Dutch man and his house is massive with lots of character on a great view.  After the workshop we went to Collin and Gwyneth's an incredibly active couple whose action do not belie their age.  They have a quaint home just big enough for the two of them, no more, no less, it's warm, inviting which says a lot since we were there on a windy, rainy day. 
Ian and Jon went and picked mussels one day when there was a low tide.  You should have seen the size of these things!  The shells were huge and the mussels themselves were at least as big as my thumb!  Ian made this incredible mussel chowder.  It was really good.  I mean, really really good. 
We've had some really rainy days here, along with strong winds, our little caravan would be rockin' and you could here the rain pounding on the roof!  Perched atop a hill with a view of the Firth of Thames, the sunsets have been incredible and when the sky is clear and the moon is out the valley is lit up with it's glow and the tree on the hill looks spooky.  There's about a million stars out, bright and clear - Jon saw a shooting star the other night.
There's no ozone covering New Zealand so sunblock is a must. 
We worked extra hours last week in order to get an entire day off which we spent in Thames collecting our bicycle trailer - thank you Marsha and Jim!  We left at mid morning and it took about an hour to get there - 25 kilometers.  Boy, we were missing our recumbents.  My ass was so sore by the time we got to town - it should get better once I build up a "callus" back there!  The bikes did perform well so we were pleased.
We put our bike trailor together on the sidewalk outside the post office and I ended up taking a piece to a bike store a couple blocks away since I forgot to bring a needed tool with us.  It made sense to bring just the piece of the trailer that needed to be worked on rather then schlep the whole thing to the store.  I got a couple of odd looks but the staff was very helpful.
The town of Thames is very quaint.  They have a sidewalk market on the weekends but by the time we got the trailer together and had some lunch, they were closing up for the day and since it was the weekend in a small town, the stores were nearly all closed.  There was a bike shop that was near the Pak and Save grocery store we needed to stop at before heading home so we spent a nice chunk of change there picking up rearview mirrors, water bottle and Jon had one of the mechanics fix something on his bike.  While that was going on I went and bought a latte.  It had been a while since I had had one and it was lovely.  We did  accomplish what we needed to - the trailer - so we were happy with that.  We had a list of groceries that Ian and Louise asked us to pick up from town which would be a good test for our us and the trailer:
Bannanas and another fruit
Tin of tomatoes
Weet bix
 It's funny because you don't realize how many different ways tomatoes can be tinned until you're buying them for someone else!  Same goes for milk - they didn't appear to carry the same brand that fits perfectly in Ian and Louise's fridge door and did they get whole or trim?  I think I recall seeing both, but was that on purpose?  Do they care that much?  Is one type of milk for tea and another for cereal?  I started to feel the pressure and got a variety of both the tinned tomatoes and the milk, hoping that something would be better then nothing!
Jon and I made dinner one night as the obligatory wwoofing duty.  We made quaesadillas with onion, leek, meat and cheese on homemade flour tortillas which were super easy to make.  Because Ian and family are living in their garage until the house is build, kitchen facilities are limited, which wer're not used to, nor are we used to cooking for six, in addition to the fact that we haven't really cooked for months - dinner took forever but everyone seemed to enjoy them.  Cheese makes everything taste good!
New Zealand is beautiful.  The Coromandel Penninsula really reminds me of home.  Riding along the beach there's a stretch of road that could have been taken from my home town and placed right here.  The area is everything that people from the Pacific Northwest love about where they live with but with more exotic vegetation.  I had to admit to Ian and Louise that their home is the longest we've stayed anywhere since leaving on our trip, that fact combined with the similiarities have made me homesick.
Jon had found a kindred spirit in Ian as a fellow golfer.  They have discussed the pros and cons of putting in a Tee Box over looking their hidden valley, Ian has taken Jon to the course where he is a member and played a round, this week they just went to hit some balls after Ian returned home from substituting at Coromandel.  When they left yesterday I was in the Caravan when Ian passed by and said goodbye to me.  I thought he had to go somewhere before he and Jon left to go hit some balls but as he drove away I looked after him and there was Jon, all buckled into his seat looking straight ahead, too excited to even say goodbye to his wife before going to go hit some golfballs.  Of course he left me no choice but to give him a hard time about it when they got home.
While they were gone I cozied up to the River Cottage Cookbook inside the warm and toasty caravan.  It's a great cookbook with a lot of information I found helpful especially the part about veggies, herbs and fruit growing.  I've also been reading Build Your Own Earth Oven.  I am so going to build my own earth oven.
There are a great variety of birds here.  I never really got into birds but you can't help but notice them.  The first day that Jon and I were here we were walking to the paddock to do our first day of work when out of the bushes flew these two gorgeous parrots - at least that's what they looked like with the green, yellow and splash of bright red coloring.  Sure enough that's what they are "blown in from Australia" according to Lou.  I'd never seen anything like it that wasn't inside a cage in someone's home or at the pet store and there they were, flying around without a care in the world.  The chirping, twittering, and calls of the birds are also interesting.  I swear there is a bird out here that sounds just like an alarm clock I used to have - so annoying at daybreak when the birds start talking.  Apparently there's a bird out there that sounds just like Lou and Ian's telephone.  We haven't spotted any Kiwi's yet but Ian and Louise are part of the Kiwi Conservation group and there area  a couple of traps set out to round up the little critters that they check regularly (nothing yet) but they've said that they can hear their calls at night so they're around.
We're surrounded by sheep, rams, and lambs and at various times of the day you'll hear the little lambs calling out for their mothers plaintively, it's pitiful but cute.  I was watching some sheep in the hillside this afternoon - I really must not have had anything better to do - and I have to wonder about the mind of a sheep, why it goes from one patch of grass to another when they both look identical to me.  Not being a coniseur of grass I may not be able to appreciate the subtleties that go into choosing which patch of grass to nibble on - I'm sure there's a method to their madness.
The sun is setting and I can hear a bull from a neighboring property verbally marking his territory - he's been going on and on for the last couple of days.  Ian and Jon and Using the circular saw to build something in the courtyard, it sounds like Lou is in the kitchen making dinner.  The air is clean and fresh.  Maybe I notice the birds here because I have the time to, because there's nothing else to do except take in what is here and compared to where we came from - that isn't much and yet there is so much to see and do right on this 32 acre plot of land and then there are the things you can come back to every day - like this sunset- and the moon tonight which will be even more full and since it's clear outside it'll be even brighter, lighting up the valley below  us into this incredible other environment.  Without all the trappings of city and surburban life I've been able to find pleasure in much simpler things, the birds, the plants, the weather, a shady spot overlooking the valley, watching sheep graze, reading a book, a nice meal, a good cup of tea or coffee, nice conversation, walking hand in hand with my husband after skinny dipping in the river.  People will say 'this is the life' and it's 'living the dream' but what it really is is just stripping your life down to only what you need, first finding out just what it is that qualifies as 'only what you need' and I'm learning that it can be different for everyone but I think it's about stripping away rather than adding to what you have.  The simpler life has become while on this trip - the more enjoyable it's been.

Tags: Adventures

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