The last few weeks have been spent in the town of Tuatapere, Southland NZ on a small nursery that goes by the name of Greenmachine. Justin & his wife Diana took over the towns old school house & property several years ago to turn it into a plant nursery where they raise and sell a large variety of plants native to New Zealand. Most business is done via an online shop so the farm simply acts as a home base for the business. We decided it would be a good place to start in an effort to learn some New Zealand foliage right of the bat and become familiar with many plants we would undoubtedly see many times during our stay in the country. Work varied day to day based on different needs and we reported to the nursery manager Luke. Having really just started the season, we spent a lot of time preparing pots, transplanting, weeding and organizing stocked plants from the previous season. Weekday tasks were regimented to nursery duties while weekends were spent taking care of Justin & Dianas personal farm needs. We helped clean up the grounds, turned & amended soil, harvested potatoes dug trenches, relocated the chicken coop and bolstered fences between properties. Learning wise, the time spent at Greenmachine was perhaps not as profitable as we had originally imagined but it offered a good way to start out wwoofing and get our feet wet so to speak.
Along with being in our own living quarters, we also had our own kitchen and food was simply provided to us to cook every few days. It was a fun and interesting challenge to work out each day what we were going to make from whatever we had. We were usually given some sort of vegetables, a portion of meat (beef from Justin & Dianas previous years’ cows or venison from a neighbors recent hunt) and some essentials like milk, eggs and cheese. We made all sorts of things and I was quite thankful for Max’s extensive cooking knowledge as it kept our menu more diverse than it otherwise may have been. We used the slow cooker to make stew, made dough to be filled and made into venison & pumpkin meat pies and I even tried to recall/replicate my grandmas recipe for fried rice.
While we considered these challenges and fun most of the time, it also brought up the conversation of food access both at home and across the world. We began to consider people we’ve met in the various towns we have lived in – even many of our own friends amongst those places and the fact that many of them, if put in a similar position, would not know what to do. So, while often the argument is placed for food access, that is only half of the problem. Even in places where people may have access to quality, nutritious ingredients they are often unaware or unable to cook with them. This ability is indeed a sort of lifestyle and one that, in the US specifically, is now three generations out of practice. We spoke some with Diana about this very topic and talked about the fact that every country and region has a different number of generations that this applies to, some higher than others, but the age of culinary knowledge and abilities is quickly dwindling. The common thread in each case though, is the rise of the supermarket and convenience/consumer based shopping. People in the US ditched their victory gardens & local markets following the war and flocked to the newly established supermarkets. As food became less dependent on the season and local availably, it seems we became more focused on convenience and a quicker product. The longer and longer this went on, the more separated we became with the foods origins. Now instead of the majority coming from Farmer John down the street or individuals’ own backyards, it came from countless farmers from around the world and the idea of growing your own food became and often foreign concept. This shift brought us from kids canning the seasons crops for winter to kids thinking vegetables originated from a can.
Thankfully I grew up in a sort of middle ground on this generational shift. While I wasn’t raised growing and harvesting my own vegetables, I was blessed with two parents that had a thrill for cooking who passed these traits on to me. I, like most kids (of my generation anyway), fought my parents on eating my vegetables and whined, even cried when made to eat various new foods. I was the opposite of adventurous and much preferred pizza or a PB&J to a vegetable sauté or much of the asian food that was a large part of my childhood. Regardless of that though, I spent weekends in the kitchen for hours with my mom – preparing for dinner parties and gatherings of friends, following the most recent recipes my mom had discovered and clipped from a magazine. While this was not always successful in convincing me to try it all, it created a base and understanding of how to cook – taking a un-relatable slew of ingredients and making meals our family friends returned home raving about. That experience of hospitality created a love not just for cooking and that pursuit but for sharing those creations with others. As for my adventurousness, my increased knowledge of food cultivation and time spent on farms has brought more appreciation for various foods I may not have been keen to previously and fostered a curiosity I’ve never had before.
But, enough about that for now...In the two plus weeks we spent here we experienced a fairly usual springtime shift in weather. The first week was rather cold and rainy and in the last few days it has warmed up a bit and stayed relatively dry. Max and I were joined after the first week by another WWOOFer from France who also has come to the nursery to stay for a while. He was kind enough to drive us up to Te Anau, a larger town about 100 km from Tuatapere to buy the car we had won in an online auction, a 91’ Subaru Legacy we’ve aptly named “Freedom." Having the car has allowed us to take advantage of some of the nicer weather after we got off work and go to visit some of the sights in the area. We first went about 10 minutes down to Blue Cliffs Beach where the rocky shoreline provided a view over an intense tide south towards Antarctica. This view was something we were originally excited about considering it is one of the southern most points in the world and about as close to the polar continent as we could get without actually going there. There are several photos below that show some of our explorations there & things we found along the way. The views were incredible as we watched the sun set over the mountains in the distance.
The following night Max and I went on a drive to find an ATM and stopped by an area called Cozy Nook. A good distance off the highway, this costal view was even more intense and violent than the last. The nook was home to piles of large rocks that created and protected countless tide pools from which varying flocks of birds fed and made nest. Max and I made our way across the rocks out to a tall point where we watched the sunset and investigated the tide pools for hidden signs of life. Waves crashed from all directions onto the point we were on while in the distance they grew and grew, some we estimated as tall as thirty feet beating their way up and over a flat plateau. Clearly the the name Cozy Nook was a bit of a misnomer though there were two small houses along the shoreline overlooking the sight. The first was a hobbit-esque abode with large planted archways leading to the garden and the house itself. The second, intriguingly, was vacant and listed for sale, $100,000 – a price we both remarked as quite impressive for waterfront property even in somewhere as remote as the Southland coast.
In the following nights we made our way to several other spots including some incredible and rather unexpected limestone caves in the neighboring town of Clifden, an ancient spiritual lake named Lake Hauroko, and a couple other incredible beaches all of which have been documented in the photos below. We have begun to plan our next location but Tuatapere and the area surrounding it have certainly made an impression on us we will not soon forget. It has became clear to us that practically every sign indicating some sort of natural attraction is just as, if not more beautiful than the last.
Incase it was not clear before...all the photos below can be viewed at full size it you click on them. A light box will allow you to scroll through them individually.