My sister Joy, her husband David, and their two children Sienna (7) and Haylie (4) recently finished a two-week visit with us here at the ol’ Birdsong Retreat & Sanctuary. And while I think they were able to have a retreat and rest, their arrival during harvest season meant there were many ‘woofing’ projects to tackle.
The last time they visited was in 2010 with my parents, just months after the September earthquake. Haylie was still an idea, my dad was alive, and Sienna and Nina were just toddlers. It was the beginning of Spring and the focus of the trip catered to elders and littlies.
Seven years later and this trip focused on my two nieces who love to play and keep busy. Let me say that young children make good woofers. Seemingly always in need of activity and action, Auntie Kathy was up for the task of keeping everyone in motion and getting tasks crossed off the ‘to do’ list. Despite having many rainy days, the kids and adults participated in the following homesteading tasks:
- Collection of pine cones in the neighboring pine forest. The pine cones will be dried and used for kindling.
- Collection of cabbage tree leaves from the front lawn (bundles and bundles of them) – also used for kindling
- The separation of my previously dried fava/broad beans into ‘edibles for cooking’ and ‘planting’
- The organising of four boxes of quince into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ boxes
- Harvesting several boxes of apples
- Harvesting of veggies from the garden – digging up purple potatoes, harvesting zucchini; sampling nasturtium flowers, fresh asparagus spears, beans, and yummy sorrel.
- Picking up buckets of walnuts
- Shelling of last years’ walnuts which became a good dad job for David and the kids
- Daily sweeping of floors
- Daily art class with Auntie Kathy (preparing for our art show)
And then there was the day that the giant willow tree fell over from the storm, blocking the driveway. It took over two hours of Bruce on the chainsaw and the rest of us lugging branches out of the way to clear the driveway so we could get off the property. Never a dull moment!
Homesteading is not for the faint-hearted as there is a never-ending chore list to attend to. Besides all the outdoor tasks, we had plenty to occupy us inside, especially in the heart-center of our home – the kitchen! Abuzz with action at all times, everyone got to help with:
- Breadmaking: (this gluten-free bread recipe will change your life!)
- Watching Bruce make turmeric liquor
- Juicing fruit & veggies for a healthy juice elixir
- Pizza making night with Bruce’s homemade pizza
And there was plenty of time for all the fun stuff:
- A day to Okains Bay visiting the beach and Maori museum
- Afternoon walk through Otepatotu Walking track — a true fairyland
- Outings to Akaroa – Harbour Cruise, Giants House (a mosaic wonderland), and meals
- A day to Birdlings Flat delivering firewood to a friend, having lunch, and then collecting rocks and agates on the beach and visiting the amazing Gem Shop
- Easter egg hunt at the house
- A weekend to Christchurch – Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Museum, The Antarctic Center (highly recommend the Hagglund tour), the Steiner School Harvest Festival (complete with pony rides), and a few hours at the Margaret Mahy Playground – one of the most amazing playgrounds I’ve ever seen and now I secretly need to organise an after-dark full moon stealth mission to go play when children are tucked into bed) and a visit to Pomeroy’s pub!
And we had family game nights by the fire, a talent show, art show, and a whole host of never-ending giggles. What a treat to be able to spend such a chunk of time with my family!!! Thanks for making the effort to visit!
Oh, and we did the requisite Woofer Hall of Fame series of jumping photos. David’s an excellent jumper (as is Bruce)!