I’m writing this at 8pm on a Tuesday evening. The air is warm with a cool breeze, and I’m sitting on an astonishingly comfortable sofa on the patio outside our WWOOFer kitchen. In front of me is the field where I spent the morning digging up beetles, and beyond that the field from which the cows escaped yesterday. I can see some of the cows now, pacing slowly under the cloudless evening sky. The horizon is sinking layers of purple and red and, when the sun goes down, the stars are as clear as I’ve ever seen them. When it’s too cold to sit out, I’ll make a cup of tea in the kitchen and chat to some other WWOOFers. In the morning, outside my personal cabin, the sun will rise across the rolling fields and it’ll be time to farm.
This is a simple life, bounded on one side by the Pacific Ocean – just a few dozen metres from our cabins – and on the other side by my willingness to hitch-hike. There’s really no other sensible way of reaching the nearest large towns of Napier and Hastings, but hitch-hiking is safe and easy enough (there’s only one road the whole way). You can walk to the local village of Clive, but there’s nothing there, so there’s not much point.
As well as its residents and staff, Hohepa Clive is home to a number of long-term volunteers (all German) and a couple of other short-term WWOOFers (both German). There’s a great sense of (German) community, and I’m pretty sure that it’s only my presence that stops everyone speaking German all the time. There’s something vaguely surreal and wonderful about cosying up in a New Zealand farmhouse with seven Germans and watching Breaking Bad in German. What the hell have they done to Walter White’s voice?! GERMANS.
There are so many memories to be made here:
A welcome present from the farm cat. Look at the cute little rabbit! IT’S DEAD.
It’s the cat’s fault that my bed’s so messy, let’s say. Let her sleep in your room and you have an organic alarm clock that wakes you up by licking your face.
Cows prepare for milking. They’re well-trained: they queue up to be milked, move into empty milking stations and return to the fields when they’re done. And once they’ve lulled you into a false sense of security, they escape and run through the gardens, and you have to chase them shouting things that you hope sound authoritative in cow, like “Hey” and “Hwaa” and “Whoa”.
Milking is all done automatically of course. You attach suction pumps to the cow’s udders and the machine does the rest. Most cows stand there placidly, although some of them do take this opportunity to project cascades of shit over anything and everything behind them. See that raincoat I’m wearing? It’s not raining.
Out in the fields with my fellow WWOOFers, Pia and Maria.
Ah, the day we had to dig up beetles (because beetles suck) and poorly planted corn (because work experience students suck).
I decided I could probably juggle a watering can. Later I broke the watering can.
Pumping sewage water with one of the farm’s more independent residents. Hohepa gives its residents as much responsibility as it can, and it was just the two of us on this job all afternoon. Diluted shit everywhere.
The moment one of the residents drove the tractor into a massive hole. Entertaining.
Setting up water ‘tapes’ was one of the most satisfying jobs. GAZE UPON OUR MAJESTIC WATERING OF EVERYTHING. WE ARE GODS.
Helping pack cheese with Jala, one of the long-term volunteers. We ate so much cheese on this farm. At one point, I had to use the sentence “Please stop putting cheese in the cheese sauce.” Then we put more cheese in the cheese sauce. Then we ate extra cheese on the side.
This is me turning over 500 blocks of cheese. Mmmm, cheeeeese. Also, I’m basically a fashion icon at this point.
A waterfall to which we tramped (hiked) on our day off.
Maria and Pia enjoying a whole day of not having to complain about work.
It’s still late Spring, so the water’s not quite warmed up yet.
Sitting on the edge of the farm with a cluster of lowing cows and watching the evening sky.
Just the greatest sky…
…I’ve ever seen.