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Journey to Wiapara

Still on the Farm

Grapes & Wine


Stewart Island


Picton & Wellington

Home Again

~ Still on the Farm ~

Salutations and good cheer from New Zealand. Work at the McCaskey ranch has been progressing smoothly. After finishing work in the garden, which is now entirely weed free, John sent me out to the vinyard for the first time. One of the fields which had layed fallow for a year was now in need of maintenence. My first job, after establishing where each vine would go, was to assemble all of the tubes and couplings so that a nozzle was placed over every plant. This task took two full days to complete but the field is beginning to look up to snuf.

If only you could see
my attention to detail!

Anne, the woman who runs the wine garden, has two sons, Michael and David. They're 13 and 9, respectively, and they hang about the place on the weekends. I've taught them how to play card games besides war and they enjoy tossing a tennis ball. Anne's husband, Trevor, lives down the road and works as a mechanic. Although he drives an old Nissan pickup, he has a Falcon sitting in his garage for special occasions. Last Saturday was GuyFox Day, an English holiday celebrating some fellow who tried to "blow up parliament". There were fireworks that evening and I watched the display with Anne, Michael, and David.

Food is great! One thing that makes a hard day's work worthwhile is good cooking. I've told John that I'll have to get some recepes from home so that I can contribute to nightly fair, but unless I want to start working as a cook in the restaurant, it doesn't seem to be a requirement. There are usually a multitude of wine tasters and restaurant-goers about on the estate. I'm usually hard at work by the time anyone arrives, but when the restaurant is open, there are almost always Range Rovers and Land Cruisers parked in front of the wine garden. Although I don't usually take part in customer dealings, I spend some of my free time in the restaurant kitchen where I've begun to acquire skills as a chef under the tutilage of Mary, the cook.

Jesibell, one of John's older dogs, has finally passed away. For the past week or so, she's been roaming around the estate like a tormented soul during the day, and howling at night. After taking her to the vet on two occasions, both of which seemed to improve her spirits, if only temporarily, she vanished for an entire day. We saw her the next afternoon and she seemed to have calmed down greatly. She even lay down in the sun and fell asleep where we were working. The following day however, John found her corpse near the kennel. We gave her a proper burial. I dug the grave and John drew a picture of her to remember her by. We placed her headstone under the first row in one of the vinyards. I recommended that the pending vintage of wine should be named something special in Jesibell's memory.

On a brighter note (sorry about that morbid interlude), I went into Christchurch again today. There was a farming convention just outside of the city where John needed to purchase some components for his fertilizing sprayer (he doesn't really adhere to organic practice). What a busy place...the field(s) where people parked must have taken up the space of about five city blocks. The primary features were the barns where the animals were kept, the carnival, and the stadium for aquarian tournaments, but intermixed between the larger events were an innumerable array of mearchants and food stands. I spent most of the day in the stadium. The highlights were a display of offroad, motorized, strap on skateboards (the company's homepage is www.dirtythings.com), and a match between horseback riders carrying mallets and hitting a croquet-like ball into hockey goals (As an afterthought, I'm slightly embarrassed not to have realized that this sport is polo). I didn't buy anything, except food, but I did enjoyed myself and it was nice to have a reprieve from the daily toils of farm work.

I'd like to take a moment now to add once again to my world view. I know you're not supposed to believe everything that you learn from the media, but I heard a fragment of some radio broadcast the other day stating that New Zealand is at "the bottom of the world". It's anybody's guess to determine what such a broad statement could mean, but I think I'm beginning to get a clearer picture. I would assume that due to New Zealand's remote location, it has been up until recently, devoid of most foreign influences. Upon realizing the raw potential of this fertile land of sheep ranchers, the corporate world has launched an invasion, consequently swamping the cities with new age culture. Let me attempt to illustrate. The rugby team (The All Blacks) is a perfect example. The players, each described to be individually brilliant in mind and body, are placed upon a pedistal where their status as "the best" captivates the soul of their nation (the fact that most of their players are immigrants seems to be irrelivant). Due greatly to the Japanese influence, New Zealand's computing status is efficient and uncluttered. In fact, I'm tempted to believe that their technological revolution occurred overnight, and very recently, leaving the local populous in the dust, or at least struggling for an edge. Taxicabs have computer screens instead of radios, telephones take plastic instead of coins, and "internet cafes" are abundant (a far cry from the layers upon layers of technology, slowly built one on top of the other to meet 21st century expectations here in the States). If the gaps between the world's nations are indeed closing, New Zealand is suffering from culture shock as the people realize that there is nothing between them and the politics, economy, and ethnic tradition of world powers like England and America. Even the New Zealand government seems to be suffering from some kind of delay. Although there are five major parties for the coming election, each with their own campaign ploy, more than half the nation is generally oblivious and even the older generations, composed of many who do care, seem to think that the possible candidates merely represent an already ineffectual system of government (one in which all parties are pro-industry). Farmers, like John McCaskey, complain that their net worth declines yearly in the wake of the newly founded corporations which only feed the "burgeoning new economy". These statements are partially my opinions and partially hypothesis. I'll be able to speak with more conviction when I've been here longer.

Phew, I knew there was something that I had to get off my chest. The previous paragraph may have scratched the surface or it could have closed that book entirely (Summary: There is a great cultural divide which seems to be closing...rapidly!). I may have to refine my work before it could pass as a presentable thesis.