Death.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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– – –

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.

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– – –

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.

– – –

 

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Beef Cattle

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

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

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Piggies

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

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My car and my temporary home behind.

 

 

A Special Visitor

Dec 18th – Dec 26th
I picked my partner up from the airport early in the morning. She just had a log flight from the Philippines to Auckland with a layover in Guangzhou. I stayed in Auckland the night before in order to be there on time.
I was lucky to stay with an old co-worker from the restaurant. She was staying in a home she was house sitting. That is such a sweet way to get free accommodation! I need to get on this.
My girlfriend was supposed to visit me the week before I came to the farm. Which was perfect timing. We were going to see the lupine at Lake Tekapo, go camping, hike to hut in Fox Glacier and stay by some hot springs. But, she had some visa issues and wasn’t able to leave the Philippines.

It worked out better though. Because of the mix up she got two extra days off from work. Which means a full week here in New Zealand instead of just five days (travel time is 20+ hours one way). And, we got to spend Christmas day together!

After picking up Cindy first stop: Raglan! Raglan is New Zealand’s surf town. We spent most of the day sleeping. Cindy was a little sick and the long travel time, she was exhausted.

The next day we drove down to Taupo. We stayed around here for a couple nights. We really enjoyed Taupo. We went horseback riding. Checked out a waterfall. Did some short hikes.

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This isn’t the waterfall in Taupo. But it is a waterfall.

The best was going over to Kinloch, about twenty minutes from the Taupo town. We walked far away from the crowded beach and found our own. We stripped down and went for a skinny dip. We stayed on the beach relaxing naked for quiet awhile. One thing led to another and I was on top of her.
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The next day we hiked the Tongaririo Crossing. If you only get to pick one hike in New Zealand, don’t pick that one. It is the most popular and swarmed with people. I thought the view was okay. It was cloudy, so that probably messed it up. But really it was all the people that I didn’t like.

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This is the line for the bathroom one hour into the hike

We spent two night camping on the beach in Gisbourne, sleeping in the back of my car, and cooking dumplings for breakfast. It’s a bit tight to sleep in the back of the car but, there is still plenty of room love making. Christmas day we drove back to Auckland.

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Not bad view for a breakfast of pan-fried dumplings

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This is where the magic happens!

We stayed in the Jucy Lodge, I wouldn’t recommend it. These people have an empire of Jucy travel products in New Zealand. You could spend your entire vacation with them. I thought the hostel was extremely stale. No traveler vibe. Our bed was extremely creaky. The room had stale air so I opened the window. Our neighbors had the same idea. They got the pleasure to hear her moaning and the bed creaking all night.

The girls next door seemed to pretty jealous based on their comments. In the morning they kept walking by our opened door to take a peak at us. 😉
We walked around Auckland Christmas night. The Kebab shops were open, thankfully! We also went to another restaurant. It was a shitty steak and pub place, I don’t even know the name. No other sit-down restaurants where open around here. I noticed right away it was filled with only Asian people. I guess that’s Christmas for non-Christians!

On the drive up to Auckland earlier that day, I thought it would be a great idea to get the car stuck on the beach. Luckily some farmers where near by with there four-wheel drive. They pulled me out. Twice!

Come Boxing Day it was time for her to leave. We stopped by the grocery store near the airport so she could stock up on chocolate bars. It was sad to leave her at the airport. She headed back to the Philippines to her job. And me, I went back to the farm.

I wonder when I will see her next.

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.

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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.
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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.
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The Calves

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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.
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– – –
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.
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Going to get the heard on a quad bike

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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.
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A sick and dying sheep put down

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

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Farm Road

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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

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

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Heading Back to Auckland

July-August and into October

After my experience wwoofing I headed back to Auckland to work in event production again. They had another big event coming up. This one in Auckland. I would be living and working here.

I took up residency in a familiar hostel. It’s nice to go back to a place with a few familiar faces. There were also a lot of new people. Most of them long-term guests also working in Auckland on working holiday. We all sort of got situated in the city and hunkered down to work.

I spent most of my time at work during this time. I feel more close to my coworkers than the hostel guests. But, there was certainly a sense of togetherness in the hostel. It felt like a home. People had schedules and you could expect to see them return at certain times.

I stayed there for a few months while building. Everyday I would wake up early, make some eggs and walk to the train. I’d read for about twenty minutes on the train and then walk to work. It wasn’t bad. I quite enjoyed my morning commute.

I was always against the flow of traffic. In the morning, everyone is headed north bound to the CBD. I was heading South to an industrial area called Penrose. After work, people head south to go home, I would head north to Parnell.

A few times, and I could never figure out why, the train would skip Parnell station and head to the last stop: Britomart. I hated this. It added an addition thirty to forty-five minutes to my commute. The train was always crowed leaving the CBD too.

More often than not I would get off the train in Newmarket, one station before Parnell. I would walk to the grocery store. The library was on the walk back from this station as well. I would use the opportunity to check out or return books. The library card was my best New Zealand investment.

As the event got closer, the management got more and more disorganized. They weren’t thinking ahead enough to hire more people. We were falling behind, working longer hours under stressed conditions. Management-imposed stressed. I brought in a guy from the hostel who was working at a labor exchange. He had a car; free rides to work for me! That really cut into my reading time.

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We built all these panels…

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…and turned them into backdrops like this

During the two weeks that my friend from the hostel worked with me I lost all respect for the organization. I decided I would quit. Since I am a nice guy, I stayed until the event was over. I mostly did that because the long hours gave me lots of money.

The day of set up was a 19 hour day. It didn’t have to be. They just didn’t know what they were doing.

 

For better or worse, the event was a success. Part of me feels it would have been nice to see them fail. I would have still got my hourly wages and they would have learned a valuable lesson in their incompetence. Most of me is happy that it worked out. I love that type of work. I consider myself an integral part of the team whether they do or not.

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I just thought the texture of this ship was fascinating. This view was all you could see looking out the giant hanger doors of the event venue. I enjoyed it enough to snap this photo.

For better or worse, the event was a success. Part of me feels it would have been nice to see them fail. I would have still got my hourly wages and they would have learned a valuable lesson in their incompetence. Most of me is happy that it worked out. I love that type of work. I consider myself an integral part of the team whether they do or not.

The idea that I will remember the most from this experience is valuable. I learned that any moron can run a business. This inspires me to start my own. If these guys can pull that off, imagine what I could do if my heart was in it.

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On pack down day, which was the next day, the event was less than 8 hours, there was another ship docked

 –   –   –

I took about a week off after quitting before I started to look for work. During that time I caught up on some reading and traveled Auckland a bit. I made it out to Whatipu Beach and Rangitoto Island.

I wasn’t hitting the streets as hard I could have because I knew I’d be leaving in a month. I contacted a few temp agencies, had a few interviews. I got offered a fundraising job. But decided against it.

I ended up working in an Italian restaurant near my hostel. Walked to work everyday, 17 minutes. It actually was a pretty cool job. I got to meet other travelers. They were quite different from the hostel backpackers. I got to practice talking to customers. I got a new skill for my resume: waiter. Most importantly I ate a lot of free food!

I worked there for a month. Then I flew out of New Zealand to go back to Taipei. That was through September and a few days into October.

WWOOFing in Northland

I’ve spent the past few days WWOOFing in Peria, near Taipa and Kiataia. I do a few hour of labor for them and they provide me with room and board. As you can see from the last post, I haven’t always been at my best here.
But I believe I have figured out why sometimes I feel so shitty when I wake up. It’s one of my goals for traveling, for being on working holiday: to overcome negative thinking.
I enjoy the work. I work outside everyday. Most the tasks are the homestead busy work: stack firewood, cut kindling, pick up horse poop, dig. I’ve done some more random things too like: harvest gravel from a river, harvest bamboo, and clear a drainage ditch. On the day I wrote this I worked a few extra hours to sand some doors that will be painted.
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They’re build a new bathhouse structure from adobe. It’s absolutely beautiful. a friend of theirs was here to build in the door frames and hang the doors in. Today (July 5th) he cut the wood from larger timber to fit, crafted some tug-and-grove, and the lumber was oiled up for protection. A few more coats will be added in the coming days.
Being here excites me to do all this myself. Their home, while not perfect in their eyes, is handmade by them. The material is most recycled, salvaged goods. It’s beautifully put together. And, now that their kids have all moved out, it’s size works.
They’re off the grid. Their winter heating comes from a wood stove (which doubles as a hot water heater). The electric power comes from both a solar voltaic system and micro hydropower.
A good percentage of their food is home grown. All the veggies come from in a few meters of the kitchen. The property is littered with fruit trees. Apples, citrus, banana, avocado, various nuts. It’s quite impressive. All year they have different fresh fruit to pick.
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My hosts own a sculpture business

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Feeding horses. I picked up wheel barrels full of their shit. It’s excellent compost.

Seeing how they did all this without a huge budget makes me want to fly home, buy property, and start building myself. I could start collecting salvaged and dumpstered wood, find bits and pieces to use for home construction, furniture, all that good stuff. Start planting fruit trees so in a couple years I’m swimming in fresh fruit. There are a couple problems with this though.
There are still many places in the world I want to see. I’m definitely not ready to lock myself into a few dozen acres, even if it is a few hundred. I know in the future I will want that. For now, I need to travel around. Besides being here I’ve learned a lot. Not just how to do it, but how not to do it. I’ve thought of things I would have initially out. I know what features in a handmade house are more important to me now.
If anything being here has made me realize I want to visit a lot more homestead, permaculture farms, and intentional communities so I can absorb as much as possible before setting in  my roots.
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My host and I after a football game. They need an extra player a guy who hasn’t played since he was ten was good enough. I never ran so much in my life! But i was able to kick the ball a bit and even stole it a few times.