Thursday, July 17, 2008

Farmstay Holiday

(if you're wanting to take the time to read the captions and get a better look at the pics you can click on the slideshow)

If you read Steve's last post, you'll know that over the weekend we visited the home farm of Andrew and Sheryl Hulena from Sharika Farm. They own a sheep and cattle farm near Porangahau, situated on beautiful Hawke's Bay. We stayed Saturday and Sunday nights and had what felt like a very authentic farm experience.

We were the first guests to visit under their new endeavor appealing to holiday-goers and tourists. Until this point it was a working holiday scheme, where people, usually young backpackers, exchanged farmwork for room and board. Andrew said he considered taking out a mortgage on the farm and fixing up the accomodations to be more "flash" but ultimately decided to leave it as is for now. I was glad for that decision, as it made us feel more like we were actually living there and not just tourists. We had a simple but comfortable room in what was once probably a shed or a garage, adjacent to the house.

The girls were in heaven from the start. When we arrived, the sun was setting and Sheryl was holding and preparing to bottle feed an abandoned baby goat she found in the pasture while riding her horse. The girls were in awe. They got to watch its first clumsy bottle feeding as Sheryl squeezed the milk from the bottle and coaxed it to swallow. By the time we left, it had gotten the hang of it and was greedily sucking and gulping and practically pulling the bottle from their hands.

Each morning began with the feeding of the animals. There was grain for the chooks, kitchen scraps for Sally Bacon, the newly aquired young pig, hay for the cows in the field, a concoction Sheryl worked up for her horses, and, breakfast cereals, tea and toast for the four extra animals visiting that weekend.

Andrew, an experienced sheep shearer, had recently returned from three months in Italy making the rounds as a sheep-shearing gun-for-hire. We were lucky enough to get to see the expert in action, as he had rounded up 30 male lambs that needed shearing. We even got to help a little, with Zoe working the paddle that swept away the wool from the tummy and the rump into one pile, a lower grade of wool, and the bulk of the wool, a higher grade, into another pile. It was fluffy and soft and to our delight, still warm from the sheep. Then Haley gathered it up in her arms and lifted it into a large wooden crate lined with a bag that would be compressed and eventually stitched up to form a huge rectangular bale of wool. Both girls had fits of giggles standing in the bag pressing down the wool with their feet.

Around 10:30am things stopped for morning tea. Sheryl made delicious scones served with thick slabs of butter and Arataki honey that they receive each year as a thank you for allowing the bee hives to be placed in their pastures. The weather was perfect and we sat in the sun in back of the house listening to the sounds of birds and sheep.

Some of the activities that you will see if you look at the photo album include: at trip to one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen, just half a mile and within view of the farm; the girls collecting beautiful brown eggs which we would ultimately enjoy for our breakfast; long walks out into the pasture to check on the progress of a large group of very pregnant ewes and one tiny lamb born that morning; watching Tasha the sheepdog expertly round-up and move herds of sheep from one pasture to another; walking in the thick mud along the river and skipping rocks; riding the back of the four-wheeler out to the pasture to bring hay to the cows; grooming and riding horses for the girls; hearty farm suppers of venison pie, roasted lamb, silverbeets, parsleyed carrots, and homemade mash with gravy; and lots of conversation on everything from farming practices to world politics and the differences and commonalities between U.S. and Kiwi culture.

Nothing had been sanitized or dressed-up for our benefit. We experienced mud and poop and animals behaving like animals. The girls experienced the whole circle of life from the newly born lamb in the field to the meat on our plates. The weather was perfect, our hosts were friendly and accommodating, and we left feeling like we'd had a truly unique experience in a very beautiful place.


Brandie said...

Wow! It looks and sounds like you all had a great time. I loved seeing the girls riding bareback and that beach was beautiful. Sheep shearing! Just too many things to be excited about!

Dr. Cathy Ezrailson said...

I felt like I was really there -- reading your captions and looking at the pix. My, what an experience for you all. I was tickled, by the longest placename and hadn't realized it was in New Zealand. The scenery looks lovely and the girls were radiant. I copied so many of their pix! Wish I had had more of mom and dad, too. Glad you survived the detours and had a great time.
Love you,