If you’ve got livestock, then you’ve got dead stock

Being at the farm and being around the farm animals meant being around death. It was hard not to think about. Especially at meal time. Every meal consisted of meat born, raised, and butchered on the farm. [Well to be honest most butchering happened elsewhere.]

Meat is without a doubt death. But does that mean it is evil, wrong, or bad? I really don’t know.

I was eating vegetarian mostly. If I wasn’t so lazy I would probably be 100% vegetarian. Meat is just easier.

Part of me wants to leave a little meat in my diet. While traveling I maybe somewhere where meat dishes are the only option. If someone cooks me food I don’t want to have to say, “No, I don’t eat meat.”

If we are going to continue to eat meat, I would much prefer my meat come from farms like Managarara. No feedlots. And, at this farm, the meat is more sustainable. I imagine they have less carbon footprint because the grazing style does sequester carbon.

There is this disconnect between people, their meat, and the animal it comes from. If I was supreme ruler of the world my rule would be that if you want to eat meat from a certain type of animal you have to kill it, process it, and use the entire thing at least once a year. Then you get permission to eat meat. If I really wanted people to eat less meat I could do once ever six months.

People don’t want to know that the meat they are eating comes from an abused animal. They want to live in denial. They outsource the suffering to someone else. That is wrong in my mind. More wrong than eating meat.

Hunters, who hunt for food specifically, stand on a higher ethical ground. You can’t say killing an animal is bad if you eat meat.

On the other side, it feels weird knowing that every animal on the farm is only living so that one day a human can take their life. They have been brought into life specifically to have it cut short. Even the dairy cows.

They are milked to feed animals that become meat. If they get old they will be sold off. If people didn’t eat meat. They wouldn’t be required, since, again, they are mainly used to feed other meat animals.

There was a time when I was looking into raising meat rabbits. I had the whole thing planned out. I was getting ready to build and buy stock. But i read most people quit doing meat rabbits because they are so cute and hard to kill all the time. I used to think I could raise farm animals.

But I really don’t know if I want to kill animals all the time. I could live vegetarian. If I want meat, I’ll do it myself and use the entire animal. No waste. [Ideally, that should be the ethic of everyone.]

– – –

There was a sick dairy cow that really got to me.

She attracted some sort of disease. She lost all her weight to diarrhea. She was just skin and bones.

We separated her from the rest. She walked about a mile to get back. I took her back out and closed the gate. She went out the back and walked an even longer route to get back.

Every morning she would come in and try to be milked. She just wanted to live. But, we knew we had to put her down.

I wanted to do it. But, I was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to come off like some sort of sadist.

She was shot in the head.

She was the third sick animal killed while I was at the farm.

A mercy killing?

– – –

I do think people should eat less meat. Animals have more value to the world than just food. The factory farm system isn’t natural. It’s not good for people or the planet.

But, i wouldn’t tell people not to eat meat.

Diversify the cuts you eat. Eat more foreign bits. Don’t let the life go to waste.

– – –

There is a benefit to killing. On the farm there are traps and poison to kill predator species. Animals like rats, stoats, and ferral cats. These animals kill native birds.

The farm family has noticed a return of native birds. They weren’t there when they moved in. But, with the death of some species they’ve returned.

It reminded me of the first place I was WWOOFing in Northland. They had a trap for minor birds and would kill the ones they catch. The bodies would be added to the compost. Recycling.

– – –

We killed and processed a pig for a wedding party at the Eco Lodge.


More Time at Mangarara

Dec 26 – Jan 15

Back at the farm felt like going home. I love it at Managara Family Farm. The work feels like working towards a more sustainable future. The people on the farm are amazing. The landscape is beautiful.


I really enjoy waking up early-ish to milk the cows. The day hardly starts before eight here so that’s alright. However, I do wake up early because the sun rises early. I don’t mind spending a few hours in bed reading.

I got to meet some friends of the family. They live about a half hour away. They own 16 acres of what used to be finishing paddocks. They rent 6 of it to a neighbor for grazing. The majority of the rest they have planted beautiful permaculture gardens and a ton of trees. It’s hard to believe it was all just grass with shit soil once.

They operate an organic nursery. They sell potted veggies to a local natural food store. They also specialize in popular permaculture trees. They have a few trees that are really popular with the Asian markets as well. Not a bad niche!

I talked to them and they love their lives. They told me they don’t make a ton of money but they make enough to live “out here.” They are raising two daughters on the land. And, they built their own house . I found them to be really inspiring.

– – –

I spent New Years on the farm alone. I wasn’t too keen on staying out late. I went to Napier but got bored waiting for the festivities to start. I spent the evening organizing my thoughts about a huge overland journey. From New Zealand to Australia to Southeast Asia, through China, Mongolia, Russia, and into Europe all without flying. Across the the Atlantic by water and into North America.

It’s possible. It won’t be easy. But, it’s possible. I am determined to do it. I refuse to fly home. Or to fly at all.

This is why I need to work. I need to work in New Zealand. And, I need to work in Australia.

I started doing more work around the farm after my four hours for room and board. The work was a lot of weed whacking. I cut up some old trees and cleared brush. I feed cows when there paddock was a bit lacking on grass quality. I helped organize some sheep. I even got to sheer a couple. [They were infected with maggots over their bum and need some TLC.] I would just do whatever need to be done.


The thing I am most proud of is building a three-bay compost system for the composting toilet buckets. All the shit the WWOOFers deposit will be composted and used to feed the soil microorganisms.

Honestly, I prefer to poo in a bucket than a toilet. It seem foreign to me to make a deposit of precious organic matter into fresh water.


– – –

Another WWOOFer showed up. An American guy from Virginia. He is a grass-fed beef farmer out there. Inspired by his neighbor Joel Salatin. He has returned to New Zealand to learn from some farmers down here.

We got a long excellently.

Mangarara was hosting an event and they needed more help. That’s why we were both there. Darren Doherty of regenerative agriculture fame was coming to teach a small group about that type of agriculture. It was an inspiring lecture.

– – –

One thing that I was not expecting to enjoy so much was teaching kids staying with their families at the Eco Lodge how to milk cows.

I think it is a great service to get children out of cities and suburbs into a rural environment. More specifically onto farms to see where food comes. And, even more specifically, on to sustainable farms. Children need to be taught that the Earth has a living system on it. It is up to us to protect it.

I don’t think I need to explain the ways that older generations have neglected to do so.


– – –

Being on this farm has solidified a lot of goals for my future post travel.

  • I want to live on a large piece of property and take care of it. I want to regenerate the life in the soil and plant a forest.
  • I am not sure how this will be funded but farming seems like the most obvious choice. I also like the idea of a nursery.
  • Other things I want to do on the property is build a venue (a great revenue generate).
  • I want it to be a place people can come to learn about sustainability and ecosystem regeneration.
  • I feel extremely determined to build something.
  • For me personally,  I am intrigued by the idea of an intentional community. Many hands make light work. I’ve got a lot of ideas. I can’t do them all on my own.
  • I have a handful of ethical or sustainable business ideas now as well

Farmers can be entrepreneurs. There are lot of different ways someone can diversify their income if they have access to land. It felt like everyday was working for oneself and your family. Every idea one has to improve or save money helps ones family directly.

Greg is quite handy at finding funds for projects. He got a forest planted over 100,000 tress by Air New Zealand. He’s got a group of gap-year kids from states spend a few days their planting trees. I hotel in Wellington comes up to plant a couple hundred fruit trees. Plus the lodge brings people in.

Life is about connections. In the natural world everything is connected. Increasing connections increases the chance of survival. The same is true for a sustainable farms finances.

– – –

It was sad to leave the farm. I didn’t want to. I feel I could stay there forever. But like all things, it was only meant to be temporary.

I have much to see on New Zealand’s South Island. I also need a full time job to stock up some cash!

But, the time I spent at Mangarara has permanently changed me. I am absolutely determined to travel in a different way. I want to travel as sustainable as possible.

  • More time spent on sustainable farms
  • No flying
  • Build more compost piles

I’m sure this list will grow as I go.

– – –





Beef Cattle



My own private pond. Warm water perfect for a skinny dip.


We spent one weekend helping the local community set up this horse humping event






This is HI5. She’s the most friendly cow. She’ll jump around and play with you like a dog.


My car and my temporary home behind.



Unsupervised Milking

I milked the cows unsupervised today (Dec. 15th). I don’t think they, the cows, respect me yet.
The process starts with rounding up the heard from the field. Luckily for me, they were waiting for me at the gate. As always there are a few slow pokes and stragglers. I have to smack their butt to get them moving.
Once they are all in the milking area I separate out the bulls, two calves, and a sheep named Greg that identifies as a dairy cow. He’s trans-spieces and I assume transgender if (s)he thinks he is a milking cow. The bulls left on their own. Greg squeezes to the front and I let him and one calf out the there. The other calf had to wait.



Here is Greg the Sheep, walking in with the rest of the cows to get milked.

The milking process uses little suction tube devices that pulsate to get the milk out. We have ten stations down the middle of two lanes. Each lane holds nice cows. The middle area is sunken in so you stand just about at the height of their teats.
I know for a fact, they don’t respect me. There was four or five times as many shits as there were the other days! The other days maybe one. Today four or five. They peed a lot more too.
I had to keep stopping to clean it up. I have a few cuts on my hands so when a cow would piss over everything I would hose it off quickly. There is a disease, which they treat for on this farm, that can be got from their urine through cuts.  This is what I was told and I don’t feel like risking that.
The only other problem I had was one cow, cow 54, got through the line without getting milked. She was a little difficult to get back in the holding area. But I did it.
Like every other day, I took the milk out to the calves, to baby pigs, and to two separate groups of middle ground pigs: bacon. I feed the chickens and collect the eggs while I’m out.

The Calves


Pigs following the milk truck

I thought I had a rough time milking. I was told at lunch by Sam (a farm hand here), that I was the wwoofer who picked up the milking by myself the fastest. To me the process is easy. I just get stuck when dealing with bad cow behavior.
– – –
Later that day, I helped out with some lamb weighting. Sheep seem stupid. They’re soft. They look like a bunch of blankets running around. Greg is the only friendly sheep I’ve met here, and (s)he’s a dairy cow.
– – –
The dairy cows are much friendlier than the the beef cows. The diary cows have daily human interaction. The beef cows only get that when it’s time to move pasture.

Going to get the heard on a quad bike


Black Angus

The other day when we were  organizing some beef cattle into separate groups we pin them up in are circle pen and then pull out ones when we want.
To do that you need one person on the gate and one person “pushing” the cow. I held the gate at first. A few cows sneaked out past me. Later I switched and Sam was on the gate. I felt much better at being in the crowd of cows and isolating the one we wanted. I held the gate again later for Greg, the farm owner, and did alright.
– – –
Sam killed a sick sheep. Her uterus fell out and was going to die. I watched as he cut her throat. I was standing next to Sed, the sheep dog. And when the throat was slit and the air was leaving the sheep he turned away. Seven seconds and they loose consciousness. The sheep continued to make dying noises and Sed walked away. He sat behind a tree facing the other direction.
I wonder if he feels guilty for helping catch her. He certainly forgot by the time he got some cuts of meat off her.
She’ll go to feed the animals. The meat goes to the four dogs. The inners, all the organs, get boiled and feed to the pigs.
Pigs will eat anything. I guess they are good to have around for garbage disposal. For me, I’m not a fan of pork. I only eat pork in dumplings. Personally, I’d love a large variety of vegetarian xiao long bao. But, they don’t have that yet.

A sick and dying sheep put down

 Below are just a couple more photos I thought I would share:

My car parked next to the the WWOOFer house. That water tank holds the rainwater that powers the sink and shower. The toilet is a composting toilet. I have to say, without a doubt, I prefer compost toilets to flush toilets.


Farm Road


The machine behind the milker

Leaving & Returning to Blenheim

I quit the vineyard job to go WWOOFing. The vineyard sucked and the hours were too little. Besides, it is within my travel goals to WWOOF. So I left Blenheim and headed to Tasman, west of Nelson.

WWOOFing was a nice break from life. All i had to do was wake up and work a few hours. In return, they feed me excellent home-cooked meals. I love it because I never had to worry about breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

The worst part of backpacker life for me is coming home tired after working and trying to cook a nice dinner in hostel’s shared kitchen. Even if I enjoyed it more, it’s still hard to find storage space for any food I’d like to stock. Honestly, I’m just lazy. Those are my excuses to justify my inaction.


This little bird followed me around for days. At one point she had more than 12 worms in here mouth. I think she was nursing babies

The WWOOFing work I did was just clearing brush, pushing it into a wood chipper and weeding. I didn’t mind the wood chipper, but I hate weeding. It felt like I pulled weeds for a week straight. It was actually a week straight.

It was unfortunate to not learn to much new skills while there. I learned a lot about life and new ideas from my hosts though. I don’t think I will ever forget that. For this WWOOFing experience I learned mostly from the hosts not the work.

I took one day off to go explore.



– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Back to Blenheim

I got a job as a traffic controller. The pay is minimum, but the hours are maximum. My hostel mate got us all connected and jobs. He averages $900NZD a week standing with a stop-go sign.It was just him, now five more work there too. Two girls also working moved to the hostel. Now eight of us work and live together.

It’s a horribly boring job.

A couple of years ago there was a 7.8m earthquake near Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island. It caused a few landslides and took the road out. This road was the main drive for people to go from the Interisland Ferry to Christchurch. I head it was about a three hour drive. The detour is a seven or eight hour drive.

We work for a recruitment agency that works for a subcontractor that works for NCTIR, North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery. We had to go through an induction to get on the site. They showed us this promotion video.

The location is great. It’s a coastal highway, similar to the 1 and 101 on the coast of California. There is a hawk that lives near one of the sites I spent most of my time at. I watch the Hawk glide in the air and drop down every now and then. Everyday, the same hawk.

All day I stand by the ocean. I listen to RadioLab podcast. I listen to Intercepted Podcast. RadioLab has been doing a lot of episodes about race and with their spin off show, More Perfect, race politics. Intercepted is Jeremy Scahill’s podcast about war, surveillance, the failure of the media state, and more. It surrounds me with the problems of the world. I stand by the ocean.

I can hear these, they pull me from my spot into a society. A society with too many problems and too many people.

I stare into the horizon. I love the myriad of blues, greys, and whites, colliding to create the horizon. I stare into and focus everything on my breathe. All I see are dull shades crash into shiny shades. All I feel is the wind enter my body. All I hear is the waves, the wind in the trees, the birds, and, in the morning, an occasional sheep. In these moments, I feel like there is only me. I am one with the ocean. I am the ocean. The ocean is me. I can stay here until my walkie-talkie screams, “Can I send? Sending. Do you copy? Is it clear?” “Yeah, all clear,” I reply without looking. My sign stays on stop.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


This is just a cool photo I wanted to include from Wairua Lagoons Walkway near Blenheim.


Leaving Auckland Southbound

Mid-October into November

Twenty hours of traveling puts you in timeless haze. Three flights in the middle seats puts you in a grumpy timeless haze. Cheap-ass-budget-flying backpacker. Next time maybe I’ll get the upgrade.

I was sitting next to this kid. I am not sure if he was slow, sleeping, or what. He didn’t appear slow, so I was confused. Periodically throughout the flight he would grab my arm and try to cuddle me. I wasn’t having it. He wasn’t cute enough! I was happy to get the fuck off the plane.

I lost my AT Hop (Auckland Transit) Card on my way out of the country so I paid for my bus and train back to my Parnell hostel with all the random change I accumulated from the tip jar. I don’t know why I was traveling with this. It was weight I didn’t need in my already over-the-limit backpack.

The hostel was the same but different. Lots of new faces, most the old ones gone, a few stranglers left behind.

It’s a curious type of melancholy. All these people I have lived with for the past three, some people four months: gone. Everyone is off on their on adventure. It was never supposed to last. No one wanted to stay in that hostel. That’s not why we came to New Zealand. Auckland is just a purgatory; a waiting area. Waiting for better weather in the south, waiting for more money to build up in the bank account, waiting for companions to arrive.

For the longest time it was just us. Just the same long term residents. Hardly any newbies. But slowly one by one, two by two, they took off.  New people would come and go almost unnoticed unless they created a scene. Why was I still here? I don’t want to be the last man standing!

The hostel now was divided into The French and The Germans. No longer was the common, unfortunately my only, language, spoken. That’s alright with me. It’s hard to hear stupid people talk if I can’t understand them.

I was planning to fly to Christchurch and buy a van. I wanted to be out of Auckland, far far way from Auckland. I wanted to be in nature. In deed, it is the nature of this country that drew me here. As of yet I have spent so little time there.

 –   –   –

A friend of mine from the hostel, an Irishmen name Brian, was leaving in two days. He’s driving down to Blenheim for vineyard work. Blenheim is in the north of the South Island, the Marlborough Region. I decided to join him. It’d be easy for me to get to Christchurch from there.


Views from the drive down


Views from the drive down


The ferry to go from one island to the next

And, here I am now as I write this. That was two weeks ago. I’ve since stayed here. I bought a hatchback Ford Mondeo (Focus) and I got us a job working in the vineyards.


It didn’t take me long to get my shiny new car muddy

Before we started to work in the vineyard we had a long weekend to go out and explore the area. Whiter Farms Park, Nelson Lakes National Park, and some local beaches.


It’s sometimes back breaking work. It feels like honest work though. I use my hands. It’s outside and the scenery is lovely. Mostly I like it because I am alone. I can be alone with my thoughts or alone with an audiobook torrent on phone.

Brian and I lucked out. We got to spend four days walking slowly behind a tractor picking up rocks. The site was a new development. The vineyard was putting in the irrigation and the fans while we were there. The fans are to blow the frost away.

Wire lifting is by far the easiest job. Although I was told it gets harder when it comes time to lift the wire to the top. The wires hold the grapes up. They protect them from the wind. Apparently, there isn’t harvesting work here. My boss said they have machines do it. Come that time they run 24/7.

The boredom and the back breaking labor was okay. It’s just temporary work anyway. The real problem is that we only get 7.5 or 8 hours a day. We don’t get paid for the hour drive to and from the vineyard. In fact, we have to pay them five dollars to drive us there. In a week I will be driving to Tasman, west of Nelson, to do some more wwoofing. I am looking forward to it.



Not a bad office


Picking up rocks


The fans going up



Taipei in October

It feels weird to be taking a vacation from my vacation(?) [working-holiday] in New Zealand. It was a fact I had no plans to leave. I wanted to spend my entire year in New Zealand. But I had someone important to see in Taipei. So I was traveling 20 hours one way to do it.

I was nervous. I was curious about how it would feel to be back in Taipei with her after being away. It felt hot. Really hot. Really humid.

I left Auckland on a chilly rainy day wearing comfortable jeans for the long journey. I landed with them on. The airport wasn’t hot. I wasn’t focused on it. I was focused on finding her so I could wrap my arms around her.

We walked hand in hand to the Airport MRT and took it to Taipei Main Station. Never going outside. We ditched our bags in a locker so we could go explore. We took another short subway ride to get some dumplings.

xiao long bio!

Xiao Long Bao! the smiles in this photo are so staged. I think it’s lame. But she’s beautiful ♥

After walking around for a bit I was dying. The heat was sucking the life out me. The humid was wringing the sweat out of me. Hot an uncomfortable. I wanted to it down and never get up.

By sundown the weather cooled and I was comfortable again especially at the top of Taipei 101.

Taipei 101 view

a blurry view from the top


We spent the next few days hanging out with her grandparents flipping through movies and a show about rattle snake wranglers. We enjoyed a buffet with her parents. They were curious about my work in in New Zealand.

We spent two nights in the city alone. One of them we had a fancy birthday dinner on the 85 floor of Taipei 101. We went to a movie after.


I was getting sick of so many photos. I just wanted to eat my dessert!

Honestly most of our time was spent alone in the studio we rented listening to jazz music slow dancing together or in a used book store somewhere in the city. I couldn’t be happier about the time we spent together doing that. In my mind, I think we found “our thing.”

It was sad to leave her. It was sad to leave Taipei. The moment I stepped back into the crowded city streets I felt more at home then I anticipated. It was a lovely warm feeling. Maybe it was the feeling not the humidity that was making me sweat.

Taipei will always be a home away from home. And home will always be when I’m with her.

Bad Waiter, No Tips

I don’t think I was a very good waiter. Most days I didn’t have any problems and I did enjoy the job marginally more than one does with a minimum wage job. Nevertheless, there were I handful of times I made some big mistakes.

To my own benefit, they hired me with no experience. I told them I never worked in a restaurant. I asked for a bus boy or dishwasher position. Something I could just do to keep busy for the the month between now and going to Taipei.

English as a first language paid off here. It helped the guests understand me. Not that it helped me understand them. Lots of Chinese customers with little English. I mean no offense by this it’s just how it was. Sometimes it causes problems.

Take this for instance: I’m helping an older Chinese couple order. He speaks no English. Hers seems limited to food items. They decided on a seafood salad and a Prosciutto Pizza. After I put the order in she comes up to me and says she’d like to which the pizza to Fettuccine Bolognese. Because of mistakes in the past, I write down that she asked me to switch it.

I wasn’t the guy to take them food. When she saw the Fettuccine she told whoever she didn’t order it. I forget who, but they got me and told me to figure it out. I told her you order this. She said, “beef pizza.” This was the only time the boss was every on my side. “We don’t have a beef pizza,” she interrupted.

That’s not an exciting story but it’s a decent example.

I think my biggest blunder was forgetting to put in a tables order. It happened once. I forgot an item or two for a tables order maybe twice or thrice. One of those times the patron was asking me about prawn salad but because of my lack of interest I understood it as prawn linguini.

I was working three twelve hour days Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Forgive me if I lose concentration or forget to care. It’s not like we had assigned tables. The wait staff was always all over. We don’t get tips either. The only incentive to work hard is to work from your heart.

Honestly I tried to do good. I believed being a waiter for a short period of time would be beneficial to me. In some ways it definitely was. I saved money money on meals because they feed me five days a week.

More importantly, many people say that everyone should work in the service industry for a month. Now I have. And, they’re right. It sucks. People are awful! People are grumpy and in bad moods and take it out on the staff. They are needy and overly demanding. I’ve never been the person to get mad at a waiter(ess), looking forward I imagine I will be even nicer.

But don’t expect my cheap ass to put any money in your tip jar in New Zealand. Y’all never tipped either. You want tips go to America!


One of my regulars and by far one of the cutest customers we got in.