Saturday, 27 February 2016

NZ: Woofing on a dairy farm part two

Sorry for the silence again!!! I have been living out of my car for the past week and a bit and have had no wifi or power....but a nice Egyptian man has lent me his dongle (that sounds rude)

I'm very glad I wrote the blog post when I did as it may have turned out very different if I'd waited a few more days.   We cut woofing a week short as it became unbearable.  Whilst the owners were away, we had a really lovely time with Wayne and Nick the farm hand.  We got on with stuff without interference and worry of repercussions of doing it wrong, and had a generally good chilled out time.  Wayne even gave us the morning off and we went to the A and P (we still don't know what that stands for) show in Reefton,  which was basically a small country fair with a variety of competitions like wood chopping, sheep shearing and my favourite - miniature horses!!!! They were amazing and like someone had shrunk a big horse, they were nothing like the miniature ponies I've seen in the UK.  I want one as a pet.

When the owners came back the mood turned sour.  We had placed bets on how many things the wife would moan about when she returned, with bets starting at 9 the 2nd day the tally was on 16 and we stopped counting!! After a few altercations and getting annoyed with being treated like we were idiots with no valid opinion, we left a week and a bit earlier than we were meant to and started on a mini road trip together.  I could go on in more detail about the bad things that happened but I don't want to turn it into a negative post and now I have had time to reflect, I did really enjoy myself and I met some amazing people. One of those people was Wayne, who's house we stayed at for a weekend, for free!!

He is literally the most hospitable person I've ever met.  When he was at the farm with us he'd offered us his place to stay at for a few days, so when we knew we were leaving the farm we gave him a call and he happily hosted us for the weekend.

We did a mini road trip on the way to his place in Hokitika, driving through Buller Gorge which was just beautiful, to the pancake rocks again as Josh hadn't seen them and the seal colony.  The weather was beautiful so I didn't mind repeating the trip.   We arrived at Wayne's super nice house at tea time where he fed us, we updated him on our farm stay and moaned together, then drank cider as we watched the sun set in his garden. 

On Saturday we had the laziest day with breakfast in town followed by sunbathing in the garden for the majority of the day.  We played with Blue, Wayne's gorgeous Australian cattle dog, and watched the sun set.

On the Sunday Toria and I headed out to Lake Kaniere for a wee walk round the lake, leaving Josh and Wayne to do manly bonding.  The lake was really pretty and throughout the walk we discussed going for a dip but we hadn’t brought our swimmers…we decided not to swim, but instead ended up going for a quick dip in a secluded waterfall we found on the drive home instead – it was SO cold, the sort of cold that makes your skin prickle and burn and your vagina ache, but very exhilarating and we dried off pretty quickly in the hot sun.

When we came home I decided to dye my hair purple, and Wayne also let us dye his beard purple.....I love him!!!

We didn’t want to put Wayne out too much so left on Monday morning and headed down to Wanaka, meeting John (of my previous mini road trip) on the way as I discovered I had accidentally stolen his head lamp.  We also picked up 3 hitchhikers along the way.  I drew the short straw with mine, he was nice enough but Josh and Toria had a lovely French girl called Alex who bought them a bottle of wine, and a nice German guy called Arnau who gave them chocolate…the drive was absolutely stunning though, especially from Haast across to Wanaka.  I was driving ahead and kept pulling over every 5 seconds to take photos as it was so stunning, the weather was perfect and it was all just glorious (well apart from the fact I finished the drive in a bloody awful mood, me and Josh had a bit of a disagreement in Franz Josef for our lunch pit stop, and I had 7 hours driving on my own with my hitchhiker, and by the time we arrived in Wanaka I had been stewing on our disagreement for a few hours (and also due for my period, and also my car kept running out of fuel and costing me a fortune to top up) so was in a pretty bad mood.  It wasn’t the nicest atmosphere and I apologised profusely the next day for my behaviour!)

We arrived pretty late so parked up in our campsite ($7, bargain!!) then headed into town for dinner, a wee explore and then bed. When I say bed, I mean my car – I was so excited to sleep in it for the first time!!! Though the novelty soon wears off but I can confirm it’s actually really rather comfortable (if you’re less than 5ft2) and I was snug as a bug in a rug in it.  The next day we walked round town again, played crazy golf, chilled by the lake and spent the evening with some 20 year old Ozzies on a lad’s holiday which made me feel equally old and super cool at the same time.  Toria and Josh jumped off the bridge into the river with them but I was too scared (standard) then we played Ring of Fire, got a bit tipsy, had some singalongs and lay on the ground looking at the stars. Was a pretty sweet night!

We would have stayed longer in Wanaka as it’s beautiful and just the right size, but there was a storm rolling in and Wanaka doesn’t have a plethora of indoor activities, so we drove down to Queenstown the following morning and checked into another campsite, though at least this one had showers and a kitchen. 

I wasn’t a huge fan of Qtown at first – it’s big and busy, but after spending a week there I have a soft spot for it.   We met up with some awesome people – on our first day Toria met up with friends leaving Josh and I to our own devices, so we decided to go for a brunch Fergburger, apparently the best burger in New Zealand (maybe even the world).  In the queue we met Nina and David who are a couple from London and I want them to be my friends when I get home, they were SO lovely and we spent some time with them the following day. They were travelling in the poshest campervan ever which we got a tour of, it’s nice to see how the other half live….

After much deliberation Josh persuaded me to go halves with “The Big Al” which was something like 2 patties, cheese, 2 eggs, bacon, beetroot, onion and some other stuff. It was HUGE and delicious and I really wanted to lie down afterwards…I wouldn’t say it’s the best burger in the world (this record is held by The Great Exhibition in ED) but it twas tasty and good value for money.  I wasn’t allowed a lie down, instead we did a pub quiz we found which was the poshest pub quiz ever, it was free to enter, all the questions were on a powerpoint presentation and the answers were written down in a little booklet. Considering we missed the first round, we were the youngest in the room and there were only 2 of us, we didn’t do too badly!

After, we headed to the casino where I watched in awe as Josh turned $150 into $500 on Blackjack, and I won $10 and stopped as was too scared to lose any money. 

The next five days are a bit of a blur really! We made friends with a couple in the tent next to us called Belle and Chris, we wandered round the botanic gardens, met up with Nina and David again, went to the casino again, went on some silly but fun nights out with the Ozzies, played lots of pool and met some nice Australian girls who invited us out the following day, and did lots of walking trails.  Ooh I have a crazy casino story – the second time we went, I won $10 on the roulette table,  then lost all but $5 on the blackjack table, so decided to put the last $5 on 19-36 on the roulette table.  The dealer asked me what my favourite number was, as if I put it on a number and it won I’d get $175.  I said tht 8 was probably my favourite, but I was going to stick with 19-36 as you have a better chance of winning…..the ball bloody land on 8 doesn’t it!!!!!!! There went my $5 (and $175!!). Crazy.

I booked a paraglide with Nina but it was cancelled as the wind wasn’t right, unfortunately Nina had to leave as she had to be in Franz Josef but I rescheduled mine, which got cancelled again, but third time lucky and I was up away in the sky!! It was really fun and I highly recommend (mum, it won’t get your adrenaline going I am afraid).  You get strapped into this huge nappy harness which has a cushion on the bottom for the landing, put on gloves and a hat, get strapped to the pilot and the paraglide, then run off the hill.  It’s amazing how quickly the paraglide takes your weight and soon enough you’re settled into the harness and floating above the ground.  We caught a thermal and went up into the clouds, then somehow I agreed to some acrobatics in the sky where the pilot turned the paraglide into a giant swing, then we gently landed in a playground skimming above some kids heads, who didn’t even bat an eyelid.  

I wished we had a paraglide the day before when we did the Ben Lomond peak!!! Me, Josh, Belle and Chris decided to do the 6-8 hour return to the peak which is 1748m high.  We also bumped into Arnau on the way up so he joined our little crew which was nice as Josh powered off ahead, Belle and Chris dropped behind, leaving me and Arnau making up the middle.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day – not too windy, the sun was shining and the views were absolutely incredible.  It was a hard walk – up hill constantly on little rocky paths, but the views along the route and at the top were most definitely worth it.  Mountains for days!!!

The way down was much quicker and we had some time to do some luging from the Gondola – my top tip is to buy the gondola and luge tickets from the bottom as it’s way cheaper than buying it from the top!!! I paid for 2 luges and the first one you have to do the easy track to learn how to use it, but the second track is way more fun and I wish I had bought more rides.  I was then very naughty and Arnau let me squidge through the barrier on his ticket to save me $20 which was quite thrilling.  I met Toria for one last dinner together, then we went to a bar to meet the Australian girls from the day before, and Josh joined us with 2 American girls he’d met, so we had quite the crowd. I think this is one of my favourite bits about travelling – people are so friendly and willing to make friends, and Queenstown is no exception. 

My last day was the paraglide day, which started quite stressful – I had offered Belle and Chris a lift to Te Anau so they cancelled their bus to travel with me.  I packed up my car ready for check out, but my car wouldn’t turn on…..and  I was running late for the paraglide,  and I had to have moved my car before I left for the glide.  Luckily it all worked out as Josh had jump leads so we managed to get the car working again after the jump, then I had to take a hurried trip to the garage where I needed a new battery and a new tyre which was bald… an expensive day, and I also said bye to Josh and had said bye to Toria the night before – it was all a bit emotional and I may have had a wee cry!

Anyway that’s me all caught up in one bumper post and hopefully I won’t be so slack at updating in the future, but when you’re sleeping in your car with no wifi or power then it’s kinda hard to

Saturday, 6 February 2016

NZ: Woofing on a dairy farm

Sorry for the extended period of silence!!! I haven't really had the opportunity to blog on the farm but today it's raining and I am not milking until the afternoon and Mum is nagging me so thought I'd do a wee update.

So I will pick up from where I left off....

John drove me back to Greymouth, we said our goodbyes and parted ways.  I drove along state highway 7 to my farm in Mawherati, where I arrived just in time to jump straight in with the afternoon milking session.

At first I was pretty flumoxxed by it - there's lots to remember, from the way you attach the cups to the udders, to the codes sprayed on each cow's udder to let you know whether to milk it or not, or which udder to avoid milking.  Me and Toria (the other girl who's woofing with me) eventually got the hang of it.  Essentially the process is:

1) you go out on quad bikes to the paddock the cows are in, round them up and herd them into the milking shed
2) you then have to get about 20 cows on each side of the milking station.  The cows are quite clever and will usually walk into the station themselves but sometimes they need a bit of coercing with shouts of 'come on girls, push up' and if that doesn't work then some clapping or tapping on the back side. 
3) when they're all in line you can cup them - but you need to look at the hoof and udder first, if the hoof has a band on it in red, then you only cup the front two udders and one of the back ones, avoiding the udder on the side of the red band.  If it's blue, you do the same but avoid one of the front udders. There are some other codes but I won't bore you with them.
4) Usually by the time you get the other cows into the other row, the cows on the row you're milking are done, so you bend the hose to cut the suction, pull off the cups and attach it to the cow on the other side
5) Then you spray iodine on the teats to prevent infection.
6) Open the gate and let the cows go - before you herded them into the shed you should have set up a paddock for them to go in and made gates open and shut along the way so they follow the open route along to their new paddock. 
7) When all the cows are milked you then have to spray down the yard and the station and clean it all up

This is at the beginning so no poop yet!

It's not quite the scenario I had imagined in my head, where I'd be wearing a little lacy bonnet and a pinafore, and would sit on a bucket beside the cow and hand milk it.  It's much more of an industrial process and you get absolutely covered in shit and piss - as the cows' bums are facing you (both rows!) if it opens its bowels then it shoots out straight over into the little walkway you're standing in and you have to get out of the way pretty quick.  The cows themselves are often covered in shit and piss and you have to brush your arms against their poopy legs so you get poop all over you.

Toria cupping a cow

Wearing suitable PPE!

I do seem to get the messiest though and have earned the nickname 'poopy' myself now.

One of my less shittier days!!

Anyway after our first milking session, we then headed on down to the local watering hole for a swim - which involves getting into a 4x4, going down a bumpy track, over two big streams/little rivers, and stopping at a deep part of a river.  We splashed around a bit, did a wee bit of kayaking then dried off ready for dinner.

The following day I did the afternoon shift again followed by a quad bike driving lesson when me and Nick (the 16 year old farm hand who's unintentionally hilarious) went out to the paddocks to count the average amount of grass in each paddock - don't worry it's not as dull as it sounds, you attach something to the back of the bike and drive around each paddock in zigzags and the machine you've attached counts it all for you.  I am not great at driving the bikes but it's quite fun and I eventually got up to 4th gear and worked out how to change gear without the entire bike hopping. Poor Nick sitting on the back!

The next day I did the morning shift which was hard getting up at 4.30am but it was also nice as meant the day was done after.  Herding the cows in the dark isn't much fun though, especially when the headlights aren't that bright on the quad and there is so much mist in the fields that it's pretty eerie and I can't tell the difference between a tree and a cow.   When we'd finished, Kelvin, who is the owner, took us on a quad bike tour and made me drive through 2 rivers which was a bit scary, he did have to have several panic cigarettes though with me driving...

The rest of the time on the farm has been spent doing random odd jobs like cleaning the inside of the tractor, feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs, cooking and cleaning, spraying the weeds in the fields.  

One day was Toria's birthday - we celebrated with cake and quiche and christmas crackers in the evening and worked out we could put pickup sticks in Josh's beard for a nice artistic effect.  We spent the day herding young bullocks into a pen for deworming - fun but quite hard work in the hot sun, and they're pretty strong beasts when they're charging at you!!


Another day I had a pretty bad run of it and lots of things seemed to go wrong.  When you're herding the cows you need to make sure that all of the gates are shut into the paddocks and the crop field - if the cows get into the crop (like they have done twice with previous woofers) then it's a disaster as they eat all the crop, which is costly and is their winter food, and if they eat too much then they can die from too much food intake.  We have had this drummed into us many many times by the owners and when herding them to the milking shed or back to the paddock I always have a mini heart attack until I see them heading in the right direction.  

I had successfully got them the milking shed, milked them and sent them back out to the paddock when Nick had told me to follow him on his dirt bike to the paddock to put some minerals into their trough.  I did a 3 point turn on the quad but thought I was still in reverse when I was actually in 1st, so shot forward, which made me panic so I gripped onto the handle bars where the throttle is, ended up pushing the throttle very hard and shot forward even more....into an electric fence.....I was fine as was the bike but the fence was fucked and though I just wanted to cry and shout for someone to come and help me, there was no one around so I had to delicately reverse the bike up the bank I had just shot down, untangle the fence wires from the wheels, and sheepishly drive to the paddock Nick was in and tell him I had crashed into the fence and would he mind fixing it for me......very embarrassing.

Later that day I had 2 sand fly bites on my upper inside thought it would be a good idea ot put tiger balm on them to stop the incessant itching (always looks a bit offputting when you're itching that area!!!).  I forgot how tingly the tiger balm was and I had to walk around with my legs spread for ages so that the tiger balm didn't work its way up to my lady bits.  I won't be making that mistake again!!!

Then the following day I was on morning shift, and I ha forgotten to shut the gate to the field I had crashed into the day when I was herding the cows half of them went into this field and had a field day with the grass in it.  We spent 10 minutes getting them back out which isn't what you want at 5 in the morning.  I am hoping that's the last of the silly mistakes I make, they say things come in threes and that was 3!!

I have my own room in a little out house with a very comfortable double bed, so it's really nice to have my own space.  Josh is staying in a converted bus which is SO COOL and Toria has her own room in the house.  We get fed well too.  Currently the owners are on holiday so their friend and Nick are looking after the farm, which is a lot nicer as the owners get stressed out easily and it makes it hard to get anything done as you feel like you're being watched like a hawk and can never do anything right, whereas now we just get on with stuff at our own pace and get things done.

Last night we went for a little walk around the farm with the dogs which was really nice as we haven't really had the opportunity to wander the farm without cows to herd.  Though the walk ended up with one of the dogs chasing and catching a hare and then eating it on the grass outside my room...poor hare.

Here are some miscellaneous pictures from the farm.

super mario brothers

strangling the dog

driving through the river

a nice clean yard


Toria demonstrating on Josh how she milks the cows