Sunday, 12 June 2011


Blenheim was the scary airport I flew into from the North island, when I thought I was going to die because we were getting tossed around so much. If I hadn't been so scared I would have been admiring all the vines with their red and gold leaves. Now all the leaves have fallen off leaving rows and rows of empty, skeletal vines. I got picked up in Blenheim by Pam, my new wwoofing host and taken to her house not far from town. They have a few cows, sheep, 2 pigs, chickens, and cat and a dog. They are also looking after a friends 7 miniature horses. My first task on Saturday was to got collecting to poo in the horses field for manure. I had to do this every Saturday at the stables, they told us it stopped the horses from getting worms. I think they lied because if we hadn't needed manure we wouldn't have bothered, it was just to give us something to do. We then wen and dug up some red volcanic rocks and gravel which are very good for making roads and fixed the driveway. That afternoon Pam and David has some friends come round, they seem to have more of a social life, being closer to town. Also Pam works full time a s a social worker. That morning she actually had to go to court as a 14 year old had skipped bail (very sad) and then the hospital that night as a 14 year old boy was threatening suicide (also sad). Their son also came round after a days diving with some Paua, a shellfish which has a white centre like a scollop bit is sitting on a black disk which fills the shell. I have wanted to try them for a while, and they were nice, but I prefer scollops.

Sunday we went to their friends farm, which had olive groves on it when they bought it. There is not much profit in olives so we volunteered to harvest and sort them with plastic rakes and then it gets bottled for charity. It was an interesting day, and I realise now why olive oil is so expensive, it is such labour intensive work. Its not that its hard, its just slow and laborious and needs lots and lots of people. The problem is with New Zealand that they don't really appreciate good olive oil either. There are the odd food snobs but in general it is under-rated here and people don't really grasp the health benefits or the superior taste that it has to other oils so most people aren't really prepared to pay for it. So you can only really get very expensive stuff for the food snobs, and not common, second press oil for cooking.

I had a very interesting day today. Pam had gone to work and me and David got to work pruning the 4.5 hectare (acre?) vineyard. That is another task which isn't particularly hard, as you are standing most of the time, but its just time consuming. He was telling me how in the old days you could get $25,000 off one acre (hectare?) of vines before the market crashed. His whole farm, animals and everything used to be valued at $200,000 a year, and that's a lot. Not anymore though, and only the larger vineyards are surviving. I also asked if his cows and sheep would be sold as free range meat, as they are really. He said there is no free range in New Zealand as they have no indoor farming. Outdoor farming is far cheaper, environmentally friendly and humane .With indoor farming you have to buy the grain, maintain water and electric lines, and it is cruel. So we have a situation in the UK where people are paying less money for a product which is more expensive to produce, but more money for the cheaper, more ethical free range product because free range is fashionable. There was also this talk of food miles and they worked out that shipping lamb from NZ to the UK has less food miles then buying British factory farmed meat as you feed it on grass and spring water, not grain and water from the mains. So the moral of the story is that free range meat in the UK is a big con as they are charging a higher price for the cheaper product and the best thing to do is buy New Zealand lamb. He was also moaning about how in Europe and America farmers are subsidised, and they are not in NZ, which means NZ farmers are the most efficient in the world, they have to be to keep up.

The house I am in is much more modern then the previous one, and more comfortable. They have a wood burning stove for heating and hot water. So we'll see what else I get up to, probably more vine pruing, there loads to do!

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