The next adventure

4 10 2011

We returned to New York at the beginning of September, where I wore high heels for two weeks and felt utterly estranged and happy. Dinner parties three nights in a row because I was finally rid of that strange New York hang-up that real friendship is exhausting. Dinner parties three nights in a row because I came back and found I had real friendships. The city finally felt like my home.

After trips to DC and Rochester to reunite and relax with family (and Pushkin), we’re now in Connecticut, laying the groundwork for our little farm. My to-do lists have expanded into AutoCAD models, and my brain is a mush of budgets and anxiety. I called it an “adventure” in the title of this post, and as soon as I wrote that I realized I might have meant it sarcastically. But the “next” part is completely genuine. I’ll let it lie.

The plan, as it stands, and it is still fairly subject to change, is to grow intensively and organically on two acres a variety of vegetables that can be incorporated into simple ethnic (or unusual) market food. Grain salads, sandwiches, pastries, etc. We have a greenhouse and a large blueberry patch on the property, and a bunch of raised beds for an herb garden, besides the two acres of fields. We’ll plant a couple extra rows of beets, cucumbers and beans so that we can start pickling for the fall. It all has the ring of a proper bucolic fantasy, doesn’t it? Well, the road to heaven is paved with the bones of the wicked, or whatever. I’m learning more about droughts and floods and voles and bugs and pH balances and frosts and lousy markets and razor-thin profit margins than I ever thought I would. Goodbye, all my money. Hello, good story for the grandchildren. But–really–I actually think that, despite everything, we will find some measure of success in this. I just don’t know what that measure will be. I DO know that it is not money.

I still haven’t put up more pictures because I’m not allowed to use them until Matt has edited them. Something about artistic propreity. But I think he’ll be releasing some from his megalomaniacal clutches sometime soon, if I have anything to do with it.

The name of our new project is Frim Fram Farm. See the explanatory video here. If anybody’s got marketing and logo ideas, HOLLA.


The past month, in one breath

23 07 2011

I swore that I wouldn’t fall behind like this, but I wasn’t taking into account the singular nature of internet access in New Zealand’s South Island. It’s rare, expensive and slow. The great trifecta of 1995 rearing its head again. The upside is that when we get home I’ll have at least a handful of stories to tell you all that you don’t know already! We’ve done and seen quite a lot in the past month, and it just keeps getting better and better. We’ve spent the past week in the company of A and P, a older couple who homestead and raise sheep on a 80-acre plot just outside of Wanaka. They’re very close to the lake and surrounded on all sides by mountains (it’s a big ski town). Every day I tend the hens after breakfast, work for a few hours pruning apple trees or help Matt stock up firewood, help A and P feed the sheep (they have about 150), eating and drinking tea every couple of hours, then we all watch the six o’clock news and drink homemade rum and argue about whatever until at least two of us are asleep in our easy chairs. But the best part of all is that their land can only be accessed by plane or boat, so I’ve gotten to go up in a tiny propeller plane six times already, skirting around untouched mountains and lakes, snow-peaked and crystal blue and all of that. So awesome. Read the rest of this entry »

Taupo: Hiking the Tongariro Northern Circuit

21 06 2011

[Right past the Devil’s Staircase is what I can only call God’s Rock Slide.]

Two days in Taupo and we were getting antsy for a couchsurfing host or a hike, whichever came first. We were desperately trying to wrangle one or the other from the only active CS host in town, who had a full house that week but was also gearing up to do the Tongariro Northern Circuit, an amazing two-day hike that all our hostel compatriots were paying out the nose to do just a half-day version of. After a torrential email exchange the night before his planned hike, T showed up at the hostel door at eleven pm. I think he wanted to see us in the flesh to make sure we wouldn’t slow him down. We passed the test and made a plan to meet him at five the next morning.
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North-South Blitz: Whale Bay to Taupo

19 06 2011

[D’s land (and bach) near Whale Bay on the Tutukaka Coast.]

After we finished the new garden wall, our host hooked us up with his brother for a quick trip up near the Bay of Islands, where the brother, D, owns a bit of land. Lots of kiwis own a small second home called a bach (‘batch,’ like bachelor), which is usually just a one or two room sleepout. D has a building background, so every couple months him and his building buddies go out there and set up another little room. There’s five or six of them scattered around, and they probably won’t stop until every family member and friend has their own little hideaway. Or until they’re just allowed to go up there without an excuse.
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Whangarei: Still life of beach & garden (with teens)

15 06 2011

Matty pulls down coastline.

L’s girlfriend dropped us off in Whangerei, the ‘big’ city of the north, to meet up with our next hosts, the Gibbs family. It was a strange trade-off – we crawled out of a rusty hatchback full of random secondhand-store scores, said goodbye to our new aged-hippy friend, and got into the immaculate backseat of an SUV with a silky-coated lapdog named Charlie. To the beach house!

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Maungakaramea: Kumaras & conspiracies

9 06 2011

A wild storm started crossing Northland on the day we left the vineyard, so it took awhile to hitch up to our next host’s place. When we were about halfway there, in a little beach retirement community called Orewa, the skies opened up for realsies and we got stuck at the tourist information office on the edge of town. The brassy ladies there told us that a tornado just touched down in the last town we drove through and that there was zero chance of the rain letting up before dark, so they called the owner of the local backpackers and got him to come pick us up. So we celebrated our first night of solitude in New Zealand with takeaway fish-and-chips, beer and television. 

[Clear skies after dinner in Orewa.]

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Auckland: Trolls, trannies & tiaras

26 05 2011

I don’t think you can really say that you’ve embraced the New Zealand experience until you’ve auditioned for Lord of the Rings. We certainly would have felt something missing from our lives if we didn’t at least look into it. One simple search on (the ebay/craigslist of NZ) turned up a casting call from the agency for background extras and body doubles, looking for “extremely tall or extremely short” people of “European” descent. Matt emailed his measurements and they asked him to come to Auckland to take some pictures. They requested he bring a couple changes of outfits (ha) and that he not wear any loud patterns (double ha). A few days later, we set out early in the morning to hitch the 200km up to the city. Matt wore a black-and-white-striped sailor shirt under a borrowed plaid jacket. Perfect.

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