86. Back in Christchurch – Temporarily

It’s now a month since we arrived back in Christchurch and settled in at the chestnut orchard again. Some of the old crowd have moved on but some remain. Less dogs (one prefers our ‘doorstep’ to his own) but slightly more people. It’s quite a little community, the men even have a Men’s Shed get-together every Thursday when they tinker around with their vintage cars.

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Some of the long-stay women (one has quite a garden going) earn pin money (is that term understood by the younger generation I wonder) collecting chestnuts by ingenious means (think a badminton bat and a dustpan attached to a long handle, for example) while trying to avoid the prickly outer husks. The orchard owner sells them at a local Market. Everyone seems to have a slightly different method of cooking them. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” has taken on a new meaning to me.

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The chestnuts had almost finished falling and leaves everywhere were turning yellow as I wrote this at the end of April. We were there for a few more days, then we headed for Rarangi Beach near Blenheim and a 2 week homesit.

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The first week in Christchurch was very busy with appointments – Doctors, Dentist (2 new fillings each), Optometrist (new glasses for me), Eye Specialist, Cochlear Implant Clinic. After that we could relax more, visited or were visited by various friends, tried to arrange another homesit for the next few months and inspected our home in Templeton which has been kept spick and span by the tenants, although the garden did show signs of butchering rather than TLC by the hired gardener.

During the latter part of our stay we moved onto a powered site which meant I could use my little washing machine and also the microwave and food blender and we could make toast in a pop-up toaster for a change. For a week or so we had a black hen and some other chooks scrabbling around nearby, then discovered she had a nest with at least 12 eggs. Alas, none of them hatched.

We also saw Dave’s sister Alison’s new home for the first time and tried out her new washing machine with some heavy loads (much appreciated); and Dave sorted out her TV while I did my best to retrieve many of her missing photos from her computer. My own computer has now had a major update which included a complete revamp of the photo storage section and I too am now in need of some photo recovery! Also Alison, proof-reader par excellence, has been proofing the Book of the Blog, Volume 3 for me; it’s almost ready for publication.

We planned to go to the Open Night of our Scottish dancing group but one of my knees dictated otherwise and indeed four days later it had to be taken to hospital where 40 ml fluid was aspirated and I was instructed keep the knee up for a week. Ha. It has been slowly recovering.

The weekend before we were due to leave Christchurch we drove down to Dunedin for the wedding of my third cousin once removed Brenda and her long-term partner. It was a lovely wedding with an unusual theme – steampunk! The bride and quite a few of the female guests wore outrageous costumes but Dave and I opted for more sedate attire. Any excuse for Dave to wear his kilt, of course!

We left T5 in the orchard and stayed overnight at a Dunedin motel, which meant it was much easier for us to stop anywhere we liked on the way back to Christchurch. After an indifferent late breakfast at the train station cafe in Palmerston, just before Oamaru a sign for Totara Estate, a NZ Heritage site, caught our eye. Up the long driveway we went to discover several restored farm buildings in lovely mellow Oamaru stone. But it turned out to be so much more than just that. Admission is free to NZ Heritage members, for others it is $10.

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Described as a “….unique and significant heritage site … the birthplace of the NZ meat industry, the Estate once covered almost 15,000 acres. It was here in 1882 that the country’s first shipment of meat to the other side of the world was prepared for export. Against considerable odds that bold experiment has today resulted in one of NZ’s greatest industries.”

We were accompanied by a guide for a short time but then left to our own devices to explore the site and read the numerous informative signs. We started with the men’s quarters and Cookhouse, now set up mainly set up as a display room …..

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Outside the Cookhouse were several sheep pens with early sheep breeds including this Border Leicester with the patrician nose. I used to spend school holidays helping with this breed of sheep, among others, on my schoolfriend’s parents’ property.

IMG_1416The stables and harness room were interesting, including the flooring of old river stone. There were once 120 working horses on the Estate.

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To the l;eft below is a recreation of NZ’s first export slaughterhouse floor, where in 1882 6 butchers and their attendants dressed 50-60 sheep per day. Blood and offal were swept down the gutter and out to the yard area where 200 pigs provided ‘waste disposal’. Elsewhere was a pig breeding facility.

IMG_1437Next door is a recreation of  the carcass shed with some interesting signs. Carcasses were hung in this cooling room for 24 hrs, then at 4 am each day taken by spring cart to the nearby railway siding and then by steam train to Port Chalmers (Dunedin) and were frozen on board the “Dunedin”  in a steam-powered freezing chamber. It took almost 1 month of daily loading then 3 months ‘sailing before the ship reached London where the meat was in high demand.

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Outside there are beautiful views of corn and wheat fields stretching off in the distance. On top of nearby Sebastopol Hill is the Brydone monument erected in 1907 as a tribute to one of the NZ meat pioneers.

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Closer to Christchurch we called in at a dairy farm at Bankside where we hope to homesit in July. We must have made a good impression as it is now confirmed – we will care for their lovely warm home, dog and young cat for 4 weeks. To my regret the horses will be taken elsewhere. The horses’ owner was at Hastings’ Horse of the Year which we attended not long ago.

I’ve received word that four of my articles are in the newest issue of the RV Lifestyle magazine. The articles are about WOMAD, Hastings’ Horse of the Year, the Paeroa Highland Games and the Paeroa street racing. Most have already appeared in slightly different form in this Blog.

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