106. The Farming Life (Just Temporarily)

We were not intending to do another homesit for a while, but spend a quiet Christmas in Christchurch with Dave’s family. But a personal message to us from the kiwihomesitters website was so enticing that when I showed it to Dave he just said a slightly reluctant “Yes”. The message began with … “A sanctuary in the country but not too far from the city of Christchurch. Our home in a park like setting needs an amazing couple to enjoy its spaciousness while we are away for two weeks ….. the stars at night are glorious out here…. come and relax or enjoy a project to two around the place.”

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So that is how we ended up looking after a lovely lifestyle-block type home and animals at Swannanoa just to the north of Christchurch for two and a half weeks over Christmas. One old border collie named Scott, 6 young cattle, 10 goldfish and 4 chooks plus a large garden all seemed happy under our attention.

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Dave was kept busy shifting the huge irrigation sprinklers and occasionally the cattle, and feeding them barley mash every evening. He got the ride-on mower working again, and twice took a small trailer to collect more barley mash from a neighbouring distributor. Mash is the dregs from beer brewing – which still smelled and probably tasted of beer – was it just that which attracted the cattle so much rather than us?

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One heifer took a liking to Penny and followed her when she chased her ball. Hilarious.

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I was happy feeding the chooks, so nice not to have to throw out all our stale bread, vegetable scraps etc – no compost bin with a caravan – and pruning the roses, working the veggie garden and occasionally pulling a weed or two until my back started to complain. It was glorious to have such a huge kitchen to play around in, with a full sized wall oven and a dishwasher. Also being able to use a huge en suite with big walk-in shower every day!! Plus there was unlimited broadband.

We held a lunch party fort Dave’s sister’s birthday, it was a dull rainy day so our plans for a garden party setting were thwarted but the big farm table easily seated the nine people who attended. The chooks were supplying lots of huge eggs so I made a quiche as well as a big chocolate cake with sinful ganache icing (half dark chocolate, half cream) topped with a big fistful of raspberries from a nearby farm. The raspberries, strawberries and cherries at OUR farm had by then been seriously depleted, mainly by the owners and their four boys I hasten to add.

We became so familiar with the surrounding countryside through drives to Rangiora (mostly) for shopping that we began to feel like locals. We investigated a swimming hole on the Waimak but did not venture in.

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A few times we drove into Christchurch to check out developments in the city and visit Alison. There’s still a long way for the city to go to become beautiful again. I just wish “they” would make up their minds about the Cathedral. At least some old facades are being retained although what will be built behind will doubtless be a trifle more modern. Graffiti flourishes, some not all so bad.

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Meanwhile sale of our Christchurch home has stalled; despite four Open Days there were only two low offers and we have decided to hang on a little longer in the hope that post-Christmas things will improve.

Currently we are actually parked in the driveway of our old home, now untenanted, while Dave mows the lawn and we do some tidying up of the garden and a few other odd chores like repairing a toilet roll holder which had mysteriously become detached after the tenants had departed, and bits of extra cleaning here and there. The garden is responding strongly to some occasional watering by us over the last month, it’s amazing what a little TLC (and some rain as well) can do.

Our plan for the next week or so is to head south via Oamaru (and the Steam Punk Museum) for the Catlins before the big tourism rush in February starts. Until our home is sold or we decide to withdraw it from sale and put tenants back in, we cannot plan very far ahead. We still hope to tour Australia for at least six months next winter.

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