Learning About the Christchurch Earthquakes and Photos From a Recent Endeavor

A week ago, I finished a three-week stay on a small farm outside of Christchurch where I worked for accommodation. I fed the animals, administered medications, gathered food, delivered firewood and helped renovate the farm house, which was damaged in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. The 2010 earthquake had taken place at night and had not caused many injuries. However, the 2011 earthquake, which I had heard of, but didn’t pay much attention to, leveled central Christchurch. Insurance adjusters, even five years later, are still making the rounds to assess damage, the rural areas being the last to be examined. A New Zealand shortage of engineers and soil scientists had resulted in an influx of international experts entering the country shortly after the earthquake, but even now, there isn’t the manpower needed to make a quick recovery.

I didn’t understand how much damage the earthquake had done until I arrived. I kept hearing about how much had changed in Christchurch, but didn’t really understand it until I visited and lived in the area. I had imagined an international city to be bustling, but Christchurch has been quiet. I would try to find stores, but the directions were wrong because of the earthquake. The shops didn’t exist anymore or had moved, and the maps hadn’t been updated.

In a book shop, I’d once flipped through a book with pictures of the earthquake, setting it on the shelf a minute after opening it. But a couple of weeks ago, I slowed down and studied some before and after photos to better understand what had happened. Continue reading “Learning About the Christchurch Earthquakes and Photos From a Recent Endeavor”

My Parents Know More Than I Thought

One of my fondest memories of my father is from when I was 13 years old. We were standing outside the barn door after working together on a fencing project. I stood at his left-hand side, and he looked down and said, “That’ll do, pig.”

I grinned as I looked up through my massive owl-eyed glasses that took up half of my face.

Perhaps the addition of “pig” at the end of that sentiment sounds strange, but our family had recently adopted several phrases from the cult classic Babe: The Gallant Pig. We had seen the movie for the first time recently (I read the book later) and loved it, despite its agricultural inaccuracies (taking sows away in the manner the movie depicts in the beginning makes no animal care or economic sense to a farmer).

So the phrase “Well done, pig,” was some of the highest praise I could receive. Continue reading “My Parents Know More Than I Thought”

A Video from Kaikoura and Stories Behind It

A Video from Kaikoura and Stories Behind It

The title sounds like an elementary school “What I Did Over the Summer” essay, but Kaikoura has some pretty cool stuff. In this video, I put together several of my photos and videos from flying a plane, seeing seals and swimming with dolphins. Stories from Kaikoura follow below.

I once posted a picture from a day trip to Kaikoura toward the beginning of September where I was sitting in the front seat of a plane. Here’s how that happened: Continue reading “A Video from Kaikoura and Stories Behind It”

Chooks in Dear Jumpers and Gumboots…What?

A serious dilemma I faced when I moved down to Christchurch was deciding whether or not it was acceptable to wear gumboots to the store and leave them off at the door, walking around in my thick wool gumboot socks as I did my shopping.

That was the small town norm in the middle of dairy farming country. I would run to Four Square, the small and pricey grocery store (called supermarket here) where I could pick up items I needed in the middle of the week. The store also contained the local post office (known as a post shop in NZ), so I would send letters and packages home from there, as well. Boot jacks resided next to the building’s sliding doors so that farmers and farm staff members could go directly to town after work without changing shoes. I’d remove my coveralls and waterproof bibs and jacket before leaving the farm, setting them on the floor behind my driver’s seat. Before entering the store, I’d slip off my boots and leave them on the sidewalk. I’d straighten my socks and walk carefully once inside the store so I didn’t slip. It was rather comfortable. I followed the same procedure at the fueling station when I went inside to pay for my purchases. Continue reading “Chooks in Dear Jumpers and Gumboots…What?”

Driving the Milk Truck and Other Adventures as a Calf Rearer

Driving the Milk Truck and Other Adventures as a Calf Rearer

My journey as a calf rearer in New Zealand has come to a close. I’ve been wanting to write about my job for a while now, but the hectic pace of calving season lent to only a small window of time for writing and illustrating a descriptive post. So here is a bit of a taste of what I did for the last two-and-a-half months.

As part of my job, I drove a truck around the dairy farm.

Here it is:


Known as the milk truck, it’s a stick shift with the gear shaft on the driver’s left side. The first time I hopped in, I felt extremely lucky to have been taught at a young age how to drive a manual transmission. Soon, I learned that a manual transmission is standard in Europe because of their mountains and hills, so my fellow calf rearers were already pros at driving a manual transmission. In the U.S., automatic transmissions and cruise control reign, so I had some work to do to become proficient at driving the milk truck.

This was the vehicle for delivering nutrition to the calves under our care. They received milk that stayed on the farm rather than being transported for sale. Our happy customers gladly consumed it for us.

The view from the milk truck was pretty fantastic: Continue reading “Driving the Milk Truck and Other Adventures as a Calf Rearer”

Just a Hello from Me (Video)

It’s been a while since I’ve written, but the calving season is slowing down now. We’re having anywhere from three to ten new calves a day, down from 20-40 calves per day in August.

I wanted to give a little hello from New Zealand, but haven’t been able to make a photo slide show like I did of my first week here. Several writing projects have been on the back burner, but I’m bringing them to the forefront within the next week. I’ve been asked for some more photos, and I was able to take some good ones on a recent touristy trip to Kaikoura, a beautiful town on the Pacific Ocean. That trip was my first time to visit the Pacific.

So here is my hello:

And here is a photo Continue reading “Just a Hello from Me (Video)”

Driving on the Left Side of the Road

DSCF1801aI bought a new (to me) car not too long ago, and driving it has been an interesting experience. It’s a ’93 Toyota Corona with a solid engine and a CD player with dynamic sound for Coldplay’s “A Head Full of Dreams” album, which was the first music I played in my new car.

Then, I wanted to name my car. I have been going with a Lord of the Rings theme, and my traveling companion, a stuffed kiwi bird, is named Frodo. But since the car is black, the only things coming to mind were the Black Gate, Mordor and Mt. Doom.

That just wouldn’t do.

Instead, I named my car Pippin. Continue reading “Driving on the Left Side of the Road”