For the most part on here I have been recounting the tales from our adventures here in New Zealand. But most of the time while we are here we are working…well, sort of. We are WWOOFing(Willing Workers on Organic Farms), which means we work for 4-6 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, in exchange for food and accommodation on people’s farms.
**Before I get into it I just want to say I am beyond grateful for EVERYTHING that has been given to Bryan and I. There is no way we could be touring New Zealand the way we are without WWOOFing.**
While on the North Island we had four different hosts and all were so different from each other. So here is a recap and what we have learned so far.
Lifestyle Block outside of Auckland
The lifestyle block (a kiwi term for a piece of property owned by a family that is farming for a hobby and not for a career) was our first WWOOFing experience. We worked there for three weeks. Our hosts were a friendly married couple in their 60’s: the husband was spending his time developing the property into an edible permaculture forest, and his wife was a teacher at a university in Auckland. They were nice enough to pick us up from the airport, jet lagged and all. They were both very smart and we learned a lot about New Zealand talking with them over the weeks. The lifestyle block was 10 acres, mostly consisted of grassy paddocks, but it also had 3 gardens, 2 new orchards, and a grove of olive trees.
Historic Homestead in Southern Hawkes Bay
We WWOOFed on this historic “homestead” (more like mansion) for two weeks. The homestead was built in the 1870s and included ornate gardens and grounds, a vegetable garden, and a historic church that was brought to the property and was used as an events hall. Our hosts were a wealthy retired couple in their 60’s who had bought the property about ten years ago and had been restoring it since then. They have been hosting many wwoofers for a long time so they didn’t take a lot of interest in getting to know us that well, but they were welcoming, fun to be around and took good care of us while we were there.
Boysenberry Farm outside of Hastings
We WWOOFed on the berry farm for two weeks. The property had sheep, cows, and chickens, but we only dealt with the berries. The hosts were a nice middle-aged couple, but they were usually busy so we got to know their two kids a lot better than them. One was still in high school and the other had just returned from finishing college.
Rare Breed Cow Farm Dannevirke
We WWOOFed on the cow farm for two weeks. Our hosts were a couple in their sixties, the husband was a Canadian osteopath that immigrated about 40 years ago, and his wife was a kiwi elementary school teacher. They were both very friendly and trusting and took some interest in getting to know us, which was nice. The property included a dozen hinterwald cows, chickens, turkeys, a veggie garden, and also a fruit port business closer to town that our host’s daughter owned.
The work at all of our hosts has all been different and we have learned an incredible amount.
Work on the lifestyle block varied everyday, and often changed throughout the day also. Some of our major tasks were: planting native trees, gardening, weeding, lots of chainsawing for Bryan, plus a lot of random tasks. Going into each day not knowing what we were in for was wearing, and often times tasks were left half done which was frustrating.
Work on the homestead was generally the same each day. We planted ornamental hedge rows for them. It was a nice change to know what our job was each day, but being hunched over for hours definitely made my back sore. We also helped out with events at the church from washing dishes, setting up to serving food.
The berry farm was our least favorite place to work. We were the “supervisors” of the berry pickers, which meant we pushed large carts to collect the berries that had been picked, marked down how much each picker picked, and also told them things like “pick more,” or “your picking too red,” and mind you we knew nothing about how to pick berries. It was long hours (6-7) with no breaks, in the hot sun.
The cow farm was just like being on a real farm. We woke up early, milked 3 cows, fed the calf’s, chickens, and dogs. And then we would come inside for a big breakfast. While at the cow farm we house sat for about a week, and during this week the farming kept us pretty busy, but we also found tasks like weeding and such. While our hosts were there in the afternoon some of our tasks were splitting firewood, driving a tractor and using a weed eater for Bryan.
At the lifestyle block we were given an outside “cabin,” really just a temporary structure, I don’t know how to describe it, see picture below. It was nice to have our own space, but had to go in and use the bathroom inside. We were free to use hang out in our hosts house to watch TV, and use wi-fi.
The homestead had the nicest accommodation–it’s hard to beat a mansion. We had our own bedroom, and a large shared bathroom (only shared with one other WWOOFer for a week) all in our own wing of the house. In our wing of the house we had our own livingroom with TV, and wi-fi was accessible downstairs.
At the berry farm we had our own “caravan,” what kiwis call a travel trailer. It was great in that we had our own space, but there were a lot of draw backs such as, the thing would wobble every time anyone made a slight move, it had an ant problem, and it was not very private since it was stored in the driveway. And then there was the bathroom… The bathroom we had access to, we also shared with up to 6 people (4 WWOOFers and the hosts 2 kids). Which is not a big deal, but I don’t think the bathroom had been cleaned in a decade, the tub was orange with dirt and I can’t even begin to describe the toilet… just gross.
At the cow farm we had a large bedroom within the family house. The bedroom had a very comfortable queen size bed, and empty dressers! The bathroom situation was less than ideal, but not bad. The house only had one bathroom so we shared with our hosts. But on the plus side there was a sauna.
The one big thing I miss about the USA is being able to choose what I eat. I knew this was going to be the biggest thing for me to deal with since I normally eat clean, fresh and healthy back home. I thought I wouldn’t have much of an issue with it because after all we are living on farms, but you would be surprised. Traditional kiwi food is old-fashioned and very “stodgy and British” as they’ve described it to us, and a lot of what we’ve seen definitely has been–not to mention flavorless. When kiwis describe things as “hot” or “spicy” don’t expect to taste anything hot or spicy by American standards. But I’ll say again I am beyond grateful for every meal I received.
Our hosts on the lifestyle block were vegetarians (Bryan and I are not). We are fine with eating meatless meals, but by the end of 3 weeks we were ready for a cheeseburger. For breakfast we had a bran muffin, lunch was veggie sandwiches (things only got old when the only veggies they had were carrots and mushrooms), and for dinner a wide range of things. The food we were served was ok: Lots of low flavor meals, lots of oil, and a lot of inventive meals (heard of mint pesto? I don’t recommend it. But I did eat all of it!). I did get a feel for New Zealand wine. Our hosts were big winos so we were given at least one glass each night.
Since our hosts at the homestead had an event/catering business we had a lot of left over meals. Christmas season was just starting, so we had a lot of Christmas dinner which included ham, stuffed chicken, egg pie, and all sorts of salads. We were given a beer or wine about every night, and event days we were given more since those were long days/nights. For breakfasts we had cereal. Lunches we usually were served more leftovers or sandwiches. The best thing about the homestead food situation was the unending amount of tea and coffee. We did have a memorable meal of chow mein made from top raman noodles.
Our food at the berry farm was frustrating. Our hosts gave us food for breakfast and lunch to store in our caravan, to be eaten on our own. This is fine if the host tasks the initiative to check on our food supply. We had to ask for a new item every other day, which made it feel like beggars after two weeks. Breakfast we had yogurt and muesli, lunch was cheese crackers and salami, Dinner was shared in the family home, the dinners were ok, more flavorless food.
While at the cow farm when our hosts were home we had great meals. They produced their own beef, which was my first time eating home-grown beef. Breakfast was large american type with mostly eggs, but sometimes had pancakes and bacon. Lunch was usually something tasty like macaroni and cheese or seafood soup. Our host shared whatever they were drinking every night from beer, wine or port. But while they were gone, we were left with little food that was not frozen beef or unlabeled leftovers. So we did the american thing and made a LOT of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
We have learned and done so many things on these farms that we would not get the chance to back home. It has been amazing to learn and do so many things in a small amount of time. Here are some “rules” we have installed for wwoofing that we learned from our first experiences.
- Three weeks is too long anywhere
- Do not WWOOF on a commercial anything
- Always leave time to travel on your own between hosts
The best thing we have learned while wwoofing is that we now know what breed of pets we want.
Currently on the list of animals to get is an Australian Terrier. Isn’t Maggie the cutest?!
We also need a Burmese Cat. Finn is so regal here.