Well, I’m a bit of a weary WWOOFer (in a good way!). Since March 27th, Eamonn and I have been lucky enough to be WWOOFing with a wonderful WWOOF host, her son (although he’s gone now) and a French WWOOFing couple. The place is ten minutes outside of Queenstown and is a 24 acre garden with another few acres of pasture for some goats and deer. When I say 24 acre garden, that’s what I mean. That whole space is maintained, either by being mowed regularly, raked, weeded, mulched or planted. It is stunningly beautiful with rolling hills, bubbling fountains and ponds with ducks. The driveway winds one way up to the complex of buildings that can be rented out as a Bed and Breakfast. The whole complex is a mix of Spanish Missionary style and adobe style converted barns all surrounding a central courtyard with mini courtyards all around. Anything that looks old and converted from another use is not. Our host and her husband built the whole complex themselves in the 1980’s out of mostly recycled or reused materials. It’s incredible.
Needless to say, it’s a lot of work to keep the grounds looking their best. With the exception of a short trip to our host’s beach house, we have been working away at preparing the grounds for winter. The biggest task that all four of us WWOOFers had, was taking down big Eucalyptus trees. Jeremy, one of the French couple, is an arborist by profession. His girlfriend, Clemence, and him have been with our host for a few months now cutting down big trees. Jeremy actually climbs into the tree, cuts off branches and has all the angles of how the tree will fall down worked out. It has been really interesting to watch. So his job was to get the trees down, Clemence’s job was to watch him and help him and our job was to split and cart the wood away. Of course both Jeremy and Clemence were a huge part of the chopping and carting around as well. I think in total they have cut down five trees from her property. Eamonn and I were only here for two, although we helped with clean up from all of them (dealing with sawdust, branches and leftover huge stumps). Besides that big project, we have been weeding, raking, chasing goats into a lower paddock and all sorts of odd jobs that such a large property as well as what a B&B would need done.
Our host is an amazing woman. She is in her mid 60’s and is fit as a fiddle and always keeping herself busy. She just had knee surgery and only five days later was in the lower paddock calling the goats down while we created a human fence to keep them from running away. It’s incredible. She’s a physiotherapist and I think that has something to do with her general state of physical health and she seems to know how much she can push herself.
She also has a fascinating family history. Her English mother, who was born out of wedlock (and I mean to a maidservant in a upper echelon household kind of affair), was orphaned at 15 and came to New Zealand to find her father. Her father had ended up in New Zealand after WWI. Then he was committed to a mental institute and promptly killed himself, leaving a 16 year old girl totally alone in a foreign country. Sue’s mother than latched onto a random, large Irish family and changed her name from Liliane to Coleen. What is most interesting, is non of Sue’s siblings new any of this history at all. They only realized something was strange when they saw on a will the name Liliane rather than Coleen. That bit is rather complicated, but it has taken Sue years and years to track down this information about her mother and she may have just scratched the surface! Family histories are so interesting.
One of our host’s adult sons was around for our first few days as well. He is an actor who normally lives with his wife in London. Every summer he comes to New Zealand for three months to help maintain the grounds. This summer he has also been involved in an interactive multi media theatrical production. About Zombies. It sounds intense. The company that put is preparing the show for a Christchurch showing has already done one set of shows in Auckland. The Christchurch show has been upgraded and is meant to be even more intense and interactive.
Once a theater-goer purchases a ticket, they will start to receive emails and video links to news broadcasts about a “virus” spreading across the globe. The news broadcasts are even done by real New Zealand news anchors! So days before the actual show, the theater-goer is being introduced to the zombie world in which the show is set. I don’t know any details, because Eamonn and I are hoping to be able to see the show, but I do know that the show is in a HUGE warehouse that has been divided into three separate experiences in this post zombie-outbreak world. When your ticket is scanned, you are stamped as “clean” and shuffled into one of three entryways. Each pathway has a different type of experience, but is still connected with the other pathways via live video feeds. It must be a nightmare with timing! Another interesting interactive aspect of the show is having audience members use their personal devices (iPhones, smart phones etc) to scan and see secret messages in the graffiti around the stage (the stage being this warehouse that has been turned into a military/ underground resistance type camp). I really want to see it, once and if I do, I will explain it better.
Anyway, it has been so interesting to get to know our host and her son. Jeremy and Clemence are also really fun to chat with. We have been swapping movies and discussing movies and chit chatting about all sorts of things. Just a good time in general. It is also really fun to hear from our host how much their English has improved! At the beginning, apparently Jeremy didn’t speak to anyone except Clemence. Because he couldn’t! Now he can carry on a conversation with only a few “que”s.
With all the tree hefting and other random odd jobs around the place, we have all been kept busy! I will be sad to leave here in a few days time, but I think it will be nice to have a bit of a break.