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Heatherlea was an amazing experience. That’s what I will remember about my time at Heatherlea. We herded sheep and cows. We tended bee hives. We made frames for bee hives. We learned how to drive quad bikes. Which by the way, are really fun as well as very useful on a farm with lots of acreage. We collected and cracked walnuts (yummy!) We pressed apples into juice ( we did another day of pressing apples that Malcolm had collected on the road and frozen. We didn’t need to mince them once defrosted and the juice was crisp, clear and very pale). We tended and planted native trees. Most of all, we learned.

Concerning bees:

  • If you want to have your own hives, have more than one. If one hive starts to die/ is dead, you can take a few healthy frames (and bees) from one hive and move it into the other. There the new healthy bees will build Queen Chambers and produce a new queen. Thus you have a new healthy hive.
  • Make sure your hives have plenty of options for pollen. Don’t depend on one type of flowering plant to provide for them all year!
  • Putting honey on a bee sting helps sooth the itching and stinging and swelling. I am not sure if that only works if it is honey (or part of the honey) from the same hive as the bee that stung you.
  • Beekeepers wives tend to become allergic to bees.

Concerning sheep:

  • They cough. A very human-like cough.
  • The different colored chalk often seen on the lower back of sheep in paddocks is put on by the ram (when he mounts her to, you know, create baby sheep). The colors are changed in the harness on the rams at different times. Closer to lambing time, it is then easier for the shepherd to know about how long each ewe has to go before popping. He can then separate each color and pay more attention to those closer to lambing.
  • Some breeds of sheep are friendlier than others. A Dorset mix will be more curious than another type.
  • Sheep placenta is used in lipstick. It can be collected and sold fresh or dried to companies for that purpose.

General New Information:

  • Nitrogen forces grass and other plants to grow. Some farmers or gardeners use this to force lawns. I knew that bit, but I didn’t know that nitrogen is found in animals urine. When you look at a field and see lots of tufts of longer grass, that is where an animal has peed.
  • Reversing a trailer is hard. The one helpful tip being: if you want to correct the direction of the trailer, turn in that direction. If you are reversing and the trailer is going left, turn left.
  • If you have water rich in iron, spray it through many little holes onto another surface and have that drip onto a sand and various sizes of gravel filter. That will take out the iron and wont turn everything a rusty red-orange!
  • Tui ( a native NZ bird as well as a brand of beer) males and females look the same. The only difference is the length of their leg bones, which normally cannot be eyeballed.

That is just some of what I learned. I am sure that there are more facts that will pop up randomly in my head. Again, it was an amazing time, I would have loved to have done a bit more- he grafts apple trees too, but time was against us. There also comes a point when WWOOFing that you realize it’s time to go. That time had arrived. We left to finish our adventure in the South Island and make our way North to hopefully one more WWOOF job (don’t know what yet, but we’ll figure that out when we get there).

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