Wwoofing With Heather & Dood @ KB Trout
May 17, 2005
|Before our weekend in Abel Tasman we had put out emails to some wwoof hosts in the area hoping that we could find an opportunity to spend some time on one of the many local organic farms and/or lifestyle blocks scattered throughout the Nelson and Golden Bay region. A little background info for anyone unfamiliar with a few terms. wwoof is an acronym standing for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. (Its possible that there are alternative interpretations of this acronym, but this is the one we like to use.) The gerund form of the acronym is thus, 'Wwoofing', and someone who partakes in this scheme is a 'wwoofer'. A lifestyle block is really a simple desciption of a small, self sustaining farm. Typically it would be only a few acres, not commercial, with a few animals, fruit trees, and veggie garden. Of course, this description would have many variations. In exchange for room, board and hands-on experience, a wwoofer volunteers to work on the farm, and the wwoof host (let's call them the wwoofee) gets an opportunity to host people from around the world, share knowledge, and perhaps get a bit more done around the house in a day than usual. We think it a win-win program and we're happy to sign up and even happier to find such lovely hosts as Heather and Dood, in the river valleys outside of Motueka.
We found out later that they didn't expect us to call back after our weekend tramping about the Abel Tasman. Apparently a number of wwoofers call in and then, travel being what it is, change their plans and, courtesy being not what it should, just skip out. Not us, however, and even though we showed up over an hour late on Monday morning we would be damned if we were going to miss morning tea. So we arrived at the KB Trout B&B at about 10:30 on Monday. One week later we couldn't bring ourselves to leave.
Heather and her husband, Dood, have lived on their property for over 22 years. They built the house from the ground up along with the garage, sheds, and workshop. They raised their three children there, grow most of the food they eat there, and have built themselves a lifestyle in the truest sense of the term. The property is organic as much in the figurative as it is in the literal. Everything you see grew from the skills and desires of the family who lived there and it creates an authenticity and richness that simply cannot be duplicated by any other means. About five and six years ago they opened a two room seasonal bed & breakfast from their home. And now, with three grown children, B&Bers, and the revolving stream of wwoofers they have the opportunity to share and inspire their many guests with their warm hospitality and knowledge.
When we arrived, however, it was only Heather in the yard, rake in hand trying to look like she didn't know we were an hour and half late. (We didn't tell her we stopped in town for a big breakfast.) After showing us around the property and pointing out a few of the things we would be working on she invited us inside for tea. The kitchen, I'm sure Mandy would say, deserves a sentence of description. Two stoves (one cast iron and wood burning & one modern and beautifully efficient), a big round table for six, exposed beam construction, big windows looking onto the fish pond and backyard, wide wooden floorboards, collection of salt & pepper shakers behind the stove, and hanging from the beams are woven heads of garlic taller than a man. So Mandy was happy as we sipped our first cup of tea and Heather told us a little about the place.
Heather grew up in Adilaide, Australia and Dood was born in Colorado. Both emigrated to New Zealand in the early seventies, met, had kids, got married, and built a house on the Motueka river. Dood, if you haven't guessed, is a nickname, and apparently derives from David's country of origin and is short for 'Yankee Doodle'. God, I hope I'm not embarrassing either of them with all these details.
Okay, the work. I'll put the tasks I can remember in list form. That way it will be easier to read:
weeded & turned some of the vegetable gardens
shoveled compost onto these same beds (gets them ready for winter covering)
picked kiwis from the kiwi tree
picked apples from the apple tree
foraged for chestnuts under the chestnut trees (ouch!)
pruned the kiwi tree
pruned the grape vines
mowed the orchard with a big old orchard mower
chopped up a whole bucket of hot peppers for jarring
made hot quince relish one afternoon - yummy-yum-yum is this stuff (indian spices)
went to the river and collected stones for the patio
made new compost (for next year)*
cut marble pieces for patio
cut tile for pizza oven
demolished old patio
built new pation with marble, tile, & river stones
*So the compost gets an extra little tale. For making compost we used all the weeds from the garden, a trailer full of bark chips, the grass clippings, and sheep dags. Sheep dags are the wool clippings from around a sheep butt. In the states we would call them dingle-berries, but in NZ they're called dags. Shit-smeared wool; the stuff you can't make sweaters out of apparently - and lots of it. Basically the process was a layering process in whic we put down some weeds, then a layer of dags (which, by the way we had to soak in water), a layer of bark, and then a layer of grass clippings. We did this for about 8 hours. Quite a process, but it makes for good compost, and even better than that you get to smell like a sheep's behind when it's done. Anyway, we really enjoyed doing it in fact and when it was done we were proud of our pile. We covered it in plastic, weighed it down with some logs, and next summer when the gardens are ready for good food, they'll be this waiting for them.
This entries getting long, but that's okay, I guess. The patio was the other big project we took on and although we didn't get to see it through to the end we hope that some day we'll get to return to see the final product. When their son was home last he had the idea of making an outdoor clay pizza oven. So they built one. We had the task of completing the area with a patio that would replace the old one and join the new oven to the back deck. Heather designed a pattern and Mandy and I cut the marble, mixed the cement, and began the building. It was very fun and once we got the hang of what we were doing it began to look very nice. Unfortunately our time their was running out and the weather on our final days refused to cooperate with the completion of this special project.
It would be hard to encapsulate the eight days we spent at Heather and Dood's. The food was delicious - every bit, but certainly more than that we fell in love with our hosts' sense of humor, their knowledge, their sense of community, and their generosity. We were invited to go to Heather's singing night (although we didn't go), we got to have a big steak barbecue with the neighbors and their kids, we went to the democratic elementary school that Heather and Dood helped open in the 70's, visited with their friends, did a little volunteer clearing of some intrusive Old-Man's Beard on some trust property, and generally were made to feel welcome within this home and within this family.
I wouldn't be embarrassed to get very sentimental on behalf of Mandy and myself concerning our time at KB Trout. We made two very nice friends in Heather & Dood and we cannot thank them enough for their kindness of spirit and generosity of home. They would be happy to know, I think, that over a week has gone by since we left and we are down to rationing the last several spoonfuls of Quince relish they gifted us with on our departure. Be sure, though, that even when the relish is gone and even when the compost we left behind has been turned into broccoli, and even when you decide to knock out the patio we helped build for a new more stylish design, even then we won't forget what a magnificent time we had in your home and in your gardens.