Small Family in Six Suitcases

Hi. How are you? We're a family of three who moved to New Zealand from Seattle in July '05. We sold or gave away pretty much everything except what we could carry onto the 'plane. We thought we'd write a bit about it. We'll love it if you can join us for a few moments.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Farming people

When we go up our street a few yards and turn right, there is a bare section between the houses where four pigs chew grass, bathe in mud puddles and, if you stop to say hello, trot over to the fence to do the civil thing. Round the corner from them is a big corner lot with piled-high firewood and a... what? Cow? Bull? It has horns but that's no decider of its sex, apparently. Anyway, round the next corner are some cows, for sure -- so we're on safe ground there -- and from our own living room we can see sheep in the paddock just beyond the house opposite.

But to say that we are in farming country is quainter than, though not as accurate as, saying that we are in a farming country. I could be describing hundreds of towns and villages in NZ. In Te Kuiti one evening we were strolling home along a very residential street... parked cars, playpark, neat lawns, Sky dishes... when we saw what looked like two big dogs milling around in a front yard a few feet from us. As we drew level we saw that they were not dogs but calves, who were presumably saving the householders money on a mower.

Our local paper carries ads for tractors and 196-hectare rolling contour properties. In the jobs pages, farm-assistant-wanted classifieds talk in terms of "420 cows through a 38 bale rotary... Option to live in/out" (not for the cattle, probably, unless Housing New Zealand now accepts hoofprints in lieu of signatures on their tenancy agreements. Come to think of it, though, and on the assumption that if Housing NZ did accept cows as clients they would have to provide cows among their staff, I'd love to see one of them at their desk on their lunchbreak: just that steady sideways cud-chewing as she stares into the middle distance trying to remember if she set her cow video-recorder to tape South Park in case karate class runs late...)

Are we going to get the hint and put livestock -- a goat, anyway, say, or chickens or runner beans (are they livestock? Ed.) -- on our 1/4 acre? I dunno. Sounds like a challenge for a fellow who is just beginning to master the reality that a boyhood spent cutting his mum and dad's lawns does not actually work like an interest-based savings account, sparing him from having to do his own lawns now on the 'previous-prudence-pays-today' principle.

Vera did organize our little composting bucket this week for our kitchen scraps, though, and yesterday I saw outside the local hospice's charity shop a rack where folks have donated the spare lemons from their own trees and the shop sells them for 20 cents a bag. And as we have a very productive lemon tree -- will we ever shut up about it, for crying out loud? -- I think that doing the right thing would pretty much entitle us to hitch up our jeans with our thumbs and look any 38 bale rotary roundly in the eye.

If it has an eye.

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