Tag Archives: Wwoofing

New Zealand Photo Journal

We separated our New Zealand experience into three different categories to make navigation a little easier. We look forward to any comments you have about our photos or travels!

Click on any of the thumbnails below to go to a full gallery.

WWOOFing and Working in New Zealand

Walking down to catch the water taxi back to Punga. Possibly my favorite picture of Lindsay and I
Walking down to catch the water taxi back to Punga. Possibly my favorite picture of Lindsay and I


North Island Adventuring

We met some cops at the put-in point. I promise they were cool with the whole thing and we weren't getting arrested.
We met some cops at the put-in point. I promise they were cool with the whole thing and we weren’t getting arrested.

South Island Adventuring

Sunset at the Morekai Rocks
Sunset at the Morekai Rocks

Mike’s Organic Brewery – is this real life?

After our two-day holiday in Raglan it was time to go back to work. So where did we go? … A brewery of course! (Rough life, we know.)

We traveled to Mike’s Organic Brewery, a small craft brewery located on the south-central west coast of the North Island near the picturesque Mt Taranaki. There we spent 10 days working, drinking, and playing cards. Most wwoofing schemes are simple; you work 4hrs/day in exchange for food and a place to stay while potentially learning from the people who are hosting you.

Good beer, good people, good times. Mike's Brewery!
Good beer, good people, good times. Mike’s Brewery!

The Brewery, however, expected a back-breaking 6hrs/day. And why the extra hours, you ask? Well that place IS a brewery after all, and two extra hours in exchange for some pretty good beer at the end of the day isn’t too bad of a deal! Life at the brewery became a version of Groundhog Day – sometimes a good version sometimes a hungover one. It seemed like every day for 9 consecutive days I woke up with a hangover, and if I didn’t have one when I got up for breakfast (7:45am at the latest) then it hit me hard by lunch. The skill of productively working through a hangover is one that I practiced in university, and it’s a good thing because my 9am to 3pm work was completed with a queazy tummy while trying to hide from loud noises and sunlight. Lindsay, who has always been the lucky one when it comes to hangovers, rarely had the effects of the night before and never developed much sympathy for my self-inflicted morning condition. We spent the days doing simple tasks like labeling the bottles, boxing bottles, washing the spent kegs (inside and out), milling barley, preparing and serving food in the cafe, gardening, disassembling picnic tables and a multitude of other sometimes monotonous but still simple jobs.

The harder you worked the more beer you would generally get from the staff at the end of the day and despite our required work ending at 3pm we would often help out wherever we could until the end of the day – which normally resulted in a few pints of beer shared with the staff between 4pm and 5pm. The number of wwoofers working (we had up to 9 on some days and a few as 3 on others) directly correlated to the amount of beer we had in the fridge at the end fo the day. Normally we would get a 2L bottle of whatever they were bottling that day, plus 1-3 other bottles filled straight from the 1000L tanks with whatever we asked for. And then came SAIPA. One of the consequences for an organic brewery by not using preservatives is that the beer has a short shelf life, and when it comes close to the expiry date it can no longer be sent out to the distributors. One of the consequences for wwoofers at an organic brewery is that when the cases are about the expire, we get them – one case of 12x 500ml bottles per day. We were graced (or cursed…) with a case of Single American India Pale Ale (SAIPA) each day being only a month from the expiry date. To be honest, it was expiring because it really wasn’t that good and I don’t blame people for not buying it, but then again there is no such thing as BAD beer when it’s free!

The cafe that we worked in on the weekends
The cafe that we worked in on the weekends

So by the time the day ended, the employees responsible for the wwoofers filled the fridge with food, the brewery staff made sure we were well stocked up and once they closed for the day it was every university student’s dream come true: food you didn’t have to buy, (expensive, craft) beer that you didn’t pay for, music, cards and your bed within walking distance. Well by now it shouldn’t be hard to figure out how I ended up being hungover each morning… a normal night involved drinking about 2L(+) of 6% beer and playing cards until midnight, going to sleep and doing it all over again the next day!

Beautiful Mt Taranaki (sadly not our picture)
Beautiful Mt Taranaki (sadly not our picture)

And as if that wasn’t enough, I got to learn about the brewing process from actual professionals, including from an Austrian brewer with a German degree in brewing who is in New Zealand on an exchange program to further his knowledge of brewing. He would make experimental homebrew-sized (50L) batches a couple of times each week in an attempt to make better beer with the ingredients they had at the brewery. Not only did I get to watch and learn, but I asked nearly 1000 questions about the science and art of brewing which he (surprisingly) happily answered.

Once we get settled in a place and have the proper location to make homebrew, experimenting will be one of my top priorities. The fact that I had the fortune to learn from a team of knowledgable and friendly professional brewers will remain one of my highlights of the New Zealand experiment (even higher than SAIPA).

Got The Plot Farm, Part 2

Part 2 of 2 recounting the highlights of our farming experience:

The Compost Pile – We worked like mules and at the end of the day had a rotting pile of poop with a tarp on top! One of the rules of organic farming is that all compost has to come up over 56 degrees Celsius (120ish F) for 3 consecutive days in order to kill any parasites from non-organic materials. We used four ingredients: mulch from non-sprayed trees (almost organic), horse poop (non-organic), leaves/sticks washed up on the local beach (non-organic), and green grass fresh cut from the farm (organic). We built layers of the first three ingredients, with a thick layer of green grass in between each layer, until we had a pile about a three feet wide, 4.5 feet tall and about 30 feet long. We then threw tarps over it to contain the heat and hoped for the best. Four days later the thermometer read 66C (140ish F) and held for almost a week. Success!!

Our compost pile!

Pinnacles Tramp – One of our first days that we took as a break from the farm was filled with a day hike up to an area called The Pinnacles. The Pinnacles is a very steep mountainous area from old volcanic events that ends up being the high point in the middle of a 30mi wide peninsula. From the top we were able to see the ocean and farms on both sides of the spine that runs up the middle of the peninsula. It was very interesting to note the incredible amount of effort and development that made this hike manageable as it was recovered land from the old logging days of taking down the native forest; much of the walking path was built from a painstakingly difficult horse trail that brought supplies into the mountainside in the early 1920s.

Overnight Getaway – We were given the keys to the car and off we went! Nancy came home from the market with a bit of a cold and offered the keys to her car for Labour Weekend so we could explore a bit of the Coromandel Peninsula. Labour Weekend, which signifies the start of summer, is one of the busiest tourist weekends of the year and we almost had to spend it at home reading… Boo! Well we jumped into her car – driving on the wrong side of the road (the drive on the left side here) – and took off toward the beach! We spent an overnight in the back of the car because the campground didn’t have enough trees to string our hammock and and went the next day to the hidden New Chums Beach. New Chums ranks in the world’s top 20 undeveloped beaches and it turned out to be just as advertised. A 30 minute walk through the woods that can only be done at low tide to a hidden mile-long beach, with all of 50 people on it for the busiest weekend of the year. Rough life we’re living here I might say…

A view off the Coromandel Peninsula while we were took Labour Weekend off from work.

Beef, it’s what’s for dinner – Our first two weeks at the farm we were scraping the bottom of the meat barrel as the previous “beast” had been killed several months ago and the meat selection was low. The chickens were also eaten a couple weeks ago and the cows which are farmed for beef were not big enough to be killed… until today! Nick the “Homekill Guy” showed up with his outfitted 4-wheel drive truck, 6’x10′ trailer, and .223 rifle. About ten minutes later the chosen mature steer laid on the ground and Nick was sharpening his knives. About only thirty minutes from when the beast hit the ground, it had been quartered and put into the back of his trailer with the other 3 that he had processed since lunch. The hide was in one barrel to send to Italy for leather, organs in another to be turned into dog food, and 4 quarters of the cow on his way to the butcher’s in the back of the truck.

Beef, it’s what’s for dinner! (Lindsay watching Nick, the “Home Kill” slaughter man get the next months cow to the butcher)

Halloween in New Zealand – Honestly, a bit of a let down. Halloween hasn’t really caught on over here so what did we do? We went out and had a beach party with a bonfire! Of course it rained and the kiwis had to prove how tough they were and no one wanted to be the first one to quit. Hey, at least Linds got to sample all of the candy and I cleaned up the box of cookies no one wanted.


Lindsay cooking in her “gum boots” in the eco house’s kitchen

Hot Water Beach – Our final tourist experience on the peninsula was also the most popular tourist stop for the region. Hot Water Beach is one of those experiences that you just couldn’t miss while in New Zealand! We had spent the morning at a different beach, lying in the sun and playing in the water at the picturesque Cathedral Cove, and then took a short drive to world famous Hot Water Beach. We had borrowed 2 shovels from the farm that we used to dig a bathtub-sized hole in the sand, which during low tide would fill with steaming hot water from a thermal spring behind the beachhead. As the spring made it to the ocean it fanned out and we were surrounded by 250 of our closest friends digging their own jacuzzi in the sand. Talk about a sandy experience – our bottoms were absolutely filled with fine sand!

Got The Plot Farm, Part 1

Days 1 through 13

Hello everyone! By the exorbitant number of exclamation points, different vocabulary, and extra ‘u’s in my spelling, you will likely notice that I (Lindsay) have started writing on the blog. Yep, I fully give Clayt credit for all of the funny and potentially much more entertaining posts. For those who are interested I will be offering a more detailed view of what our working days here in New Zealand are filled with as wwoofers, as we go from veggie farming to wine making to who knows what!

Highlights from the first half of what we expect to be our longest continuous Wwoofing stop:

Day 1 – We made it to the bus stop in Thames with no certainty that our hosts knew we’d be arriving today. An email was sent late last night with our arrival time, but we haven’t idea when they check their inbox! Just as we were picking up our backpacks to start the 8km trek to their farm a young woman poked her head into the bus stop asking for us. Woohoo! We got to the farm, met the families, and without any wasted time got right tour first day of work: weeding buttercup and doc from the summer beds. ‘Buttercup’ and ‘doc’ would soon become our arch nemesis.

Our outdoors toilet, not bad for an outhouse!

The Cabin Cleanup – Later in the afternoon of day two, which turned out to be one of our only rainy days we borrowed some rags and non-detergent soap and set to cleaning up our humble abode that we would call home for the next month (Clayt and I were both secretly wishing we had bleach!) The spiders run rampant in an empty house so we had our work set out for us trying to get the cobwebs and droppings cleaned out! We finished our cleaning project on our first Sunday which is generally a day off from farm tasks and a day we would continue to have to ourselves.

Planting and Castings – Eric taught us all about worm castings on day 3 as we prepared to do some planting. It is a fairly common practice here in New Zealand to use a certain type of worm to speed up the transformation of waste food to useable fertilizer all in an old tub (which for some reason are everywhere here…) Apparently this process is even better than natural decomposition and in Eric’s heavily Dutch accented words “the Volls Voyce of fertilizer”. We then used the castings to plant a few rows of capsicums…aka peppers. Capsicums are not the only different name for a common food we’ve encountered here; beets are called beetroot, chard is called silverbeet, zucchini is known as courjette and corned beef is referred to as silverside! Planting is obviously a common activity here on an organic produce farm and we spend about 3/4 of our efforts on either preparing beds for planting, putting the actual plants in the ground or weeding doc and buttercup from the beds. Because of an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the farm much of the work that we do is by hand and without tractors. Hooray!

Ex-US Army fuel bladder turned water storage container… legally purchased, of course!

Stella the Cow – We milked the cow all on our own! We had both been taught separately by Rowan (one of the tenant farmers here) and deemed capable to take care of this task without supervision for the morning milking. Stella is a bit temperamental and doesn’t look too kindly on women so Clay has to get her back to the milking shed. After a bit of a udder wash we are under way and as long as you are speedy with your milking she is normally a pretty good sport. Her calf Rosie likes to come and investigate and also likes men more than women… lets just say that Clay now knows what it is like to have his lower back licked by a calf while milking her mom.

Lindsay on her milking duties with Stella!

The Kapa Haka – What an awesome event to go see. Not just a 5 minute routine but this was a 20 to 25 minute native Mauri speaking, dancing and performing routine put together by grade school (3rd to 8th grades) students and the competed in town. This was our first weekend and got a chance to go in with one of the families and ended up staying here all day watching the incredible performances. Groups of grown adults would not have done as well as these guys. The thing that set it apart was that the whole performance was based on the Mauri culture and keeping alive the traditions and it was accepted and encouraged by all members of mainstream New Zealand. It would give you goose bumps when the members of the crowd that supported a given school would stand up and issue a ‘response haka’ in congratulations to the members performing on stage. (See Videos)

The Fire Dragon – Our first, and only (that sounds worse than it really is) building project of our time here also involved our first time putting a roof on something by ourselves. The “fire dragon” which is actually a earthen cob pizza oven sat in a beautiful patio area without a proper roof. Well we fixes that right up! With a dozen sheets of reused metal roofing, a box of screws and a little bit of trial and error we put a roof over the dragon’s head right proper. After we were done we just hoped that it didn’t rain until we left so they wouldn’t see the inevitable leakiness of our roof…

The Cob Fire Dragon