To be fair, one cannot exactly be ON Rangiora. It is not a singular thing, but a small city just north of Christchurch. Additionally, we were more specifically in West Eyreton - which is less of a town and more of a series of intersections, thus the terrible pun of a reference to the nearest populated area with a substantial Centre and collection of local and chain businesses. Regardless, this is the area that we spent three weeks of work exchange with a generous local family. The couple had grown up within thirty miles of the property in either direction, had lived in Christchurch and traveled overseas and, after reconnecting, resettled right smack in between their original hometowns. They have beautiful land, an ever-developing garden, a posse of chickens and big ideas for the future. Their two children, a young girl of six and a wee man of three, were finishing up summer and starting a new term of homeschooling while we were there, so there was never a dearth of curiosity, assistance, giggles, picky eating phases, surprise, scraped knees, wonder, sleepy snuggles or morning brightness.
After beds made of wood and straw in Nepal, various hard-as-stone foam mattresses, and loud-in-the-earliest-of-morning guesthouses throughout Southeast Asia (aside from our respite in Bangkok), Eli and I slept like babies in the soft bed and cozy caravan that we had all to ourselves. Each wall only connected to the air outside! This was serious luxury for us. Plus, it was cute in a kitsch and wonky kind of way, and - perhaps most importantly - surrounded by pines.
Speaking of those pines - they are not native to New Zealand, and are planted across the country in impossibly straight rows as windbreaks for the expansive paddocks. The visual effect is a crisp edge on the landscape combined with the dense lush of evergreen. Sometimes, they (or others planted for the same effect) have grown within the intense winds so that they each mirror the next in shrugging, appeasingly, in one direction; a curve so clean, it's path almost opaque. Native trees that fill areas of the property, smelling delicious and shedding their bark but never their leaves, are the eucalyptus. Perhaps Ranger Rick told me once, but I had long forgotten or never known that they are an evergreen as well. Walking towards the chickens in the morning brought me past a line of these, their scent strong but evasive.
The chickens were a mixed gaggle of bulky reds (I am forgetting the name) and Bantams. The latter were lusting after freedom and tree branches for roosting, so they would escape somehow or another and we would take aim with water guns in attempt to drive them back home. Eventually it was decided that wing clipping might help deter this rogue behavior, so we all gathered the offenders in one of the hen houses. One at a time, we (Eli, myself, a German couple and Belgian gal who were also working) stepped inside, selected our bird and (without much grace) proceed to apprehend the culprit. Ever our trusty guide, Paul guided us through how to gently handle them and harmlessly clip the wing just enough to throw them off balance for a bit, discouraging the fence hopping they were partaking in.
Much of our other working hours were spent sharpening and balancing tractor blades (Eli), freeing the garden of a ferocious bout of weed invasion, taming the growth around an endless row of lavender lining the drive and refinishing some outdoor furniture. I decided it was a good sign when we found a baby hedgehog in the lavender bushes on the same day that we purchased the Triumph. Though curled just about as securely as could be, it seemed to ease up and peek out after some time. These guys are really common to locals, and to be honest not so attractive as adults, but this one really upped the cute factor for the day.
When we didn't have our hands in the dirt, Eli picked up some of his first basic bits of car mechanics (for those of you that know us, yes...really), and Casey passed on some basket weaving basics to the resident young lady and her mom. We also got to cook some fabulous meals, straight out of the garden (with a grocery store assist), bake tasty gluten-free breads, pay visit to Christchurch and a local sheep shearer (see our last post on Characters), learn how to play some new games, listen intently to little voices with big ambitions (HERE), and generally enjoy the sound of the Canterbury breeze. All in all, we were lucky to have a productive and low-key, easing-in introduction to New Zealand. Onward, to our road trip around the islands!