Whatever their walk of life, almost everyone who visits our farm comments on the peace and calm they feel while on the property.
Kia ora, greetings from New Zealand! We have been very busy these last few months even though so much of the world has stalled because of COVID- 19. It is probably best to go back several months to get a grasp of what has happened here since the beginning of this year.
Enjoying Three Weeks of Company
Major renovation and construction occurred when Brother Webb French and a team from the Idaho community (and a lone Texan) came to help us.
We had planned a number of projects for several months, but lacked enough people and time to accomplish them. With the help of the Frenches, Bormans and Daniel Anzaldua, we renovated a number of buildings in the campground and built a tiny house for the Lattimore family. Three groups of young men from Texas had arrived last year to help with renovations, so we were familiar with the lingo, such as sheetrock instead of GIB, squash instead of zucchini and butternut pumpkin, and floating instead of plastering.
Working with the new team was fun, even if we labored later into the night than most of us were used to. While some people renovated and constructed, others harvested our potatoes and corn and gathered plums from our neighbor’s trees. We had plenty of tasks to go around.
In addition to work, we had time for horse rides and water fun at the nearby swimming hole. We took a few trips, such as visiting the local farmer’s market, going to see Huka Falls and playing on Mount Maunganui beach. We learned many new songs from them, and precious times were spent worshiping together, even if it was in our mechanic’s shed and woodwork shop. We lacked sufficient space anywhere else!
The three weeks we enjoyed together were productive and filled with fun. We felt a mixture of sadness and joy when we finally saw them off at Auckland Airport. There is no doubt about it, our two little communities are now tightly bound together, and we cannot wait until we can “fly away to Idaho” to visit them there.
Tending to the Farm during Lockdown
The day after the Idaho team left, the New Zealand government declared the country to be in COVID-19 level 4, which effectively meant that no one was allowed to enter the country, and everyone within New Zealand was required to isolate for four weeks. Just after lockdown began, our community gardens that we had planted the previous spring needed to be harvested. We split up into family groups and kept two meters apart from one another as we began pulling up the pumpkins and tomatoes that we had planted together the year before. What a contrast to the harvesting time with our Idaho friends!
Through the lockdown, we have come to see increasingly the need to be more self-sufficient with our food. Consequently, all our families have begun planting home gardens, and our plates have become laden with home-grown beets, corn, potatoes and tomatoes. We have also begun training some of last year’s shorthorn calves to pull carts and harrows so we can use them to cultivate our gardens when the animals are fully grown.
Practice Improves Equestrian Skills
Winter began a few weeks after harvest. The weather was mild compared to previous winters we have had, but a nationwide drought during summer had made feed for livestock difficult to obtain. Thanks to our location next to the Mohaka River, we had not suffered as badly as most of the rest of the country. Still, we were short on grass, and eventually we had to buy hay from the South Island to feed our horses and cattle.
One advantage to lockdown was that our herd of trekking horses were not in use for its duration. The horses needed less food than when trekking, so we were able to feed them much less. It also meant that many of the young people in our fellowship were able to enjoy horseback rides with siblings, parents, other kids and in groups. The practice on horseback has greatly improved our riding capabilities.
A-Frame Chalets Receive Spruce-Ups
With no guests in the campground during lockdown, we were finally able to begin some long-needed renovations to our accommodations. These included construction tasks that we had not managed to get to while the Idaho team was here. The four A-frame chalets were first on our list. We all banded together and began staining the outsides a dark color and water blasting the years of lichen growth off of the roofs. Then we grabbed ladders and began painting the depressing chipboard lining inside a fresher white, which almost instantly made the whole place feel a lot bigger and more inviting.
While some people worked inside sanding the floors, others hopped up on ladders and began replacing the light fixtures above the sinks and tables. It was incredibly satisfying to turn on the new lights that evening and stand back to admire our handiwork once we were finished.
Returning to Somewhat Normal
Lockdown ended in mid-May, and soon the campground was humming with life as customers once again filled our accommodations. Whatever their walk of life, almost everyone who visits our farm comments on the peace and calm they feel while on the property. We have had many friends and visitors come, ranging from a small family from Seattle, Washington, to a Swedish family from Auckland who recently moved to Napier to be near us. They stay with us every second week.
Heritage Timbercraft Prepares for Busy Season
Meanwhile, Heritage Timbercraft has been abuzz with business opportunities as more and more people inquire about the kitset barn options. Apparently, people are concerned that the freedom from quarantine is not going to last. They want to build their own houses before they are forced to self-isolate again, which explains the many inquiries we receive about the barns.
Just after lockdown, a small team from Heritage Timbercraft journeyed to Nelson for two weeks to raise a restored historic barn frame on the beautiful Kina Peninsula. Despite having to use some rather ancient fork and scissor lifts, everything went according to plan, and the barn frame looked incredible once it was finished. If all goes well, we should have several new barn jobs beginning in early November that will bring in plenty of work for the next several months. This will provide many exciting opportunities for our young people, and we eagerly anticipate the commencement of this work.
Welcoming a New Family
In March, a new family, Freek and Esther Hogendoorn and their two children, came to our community. They were previously living in a small fellowship in Drury, a town on the outskirts of Auckland, that we have known and had connections with for several years. They are an incredible blessing!
Originally from Holland, Brother Freek is a man of many talents, being handy in plumbing, building, fine woodworking, beekeeping, fencing and small-scale farming, to name only a few. He is always very enthusiastic about what he does and his broad smile is very infectious. Sister Esther’s musical skills are being revealed more each week, along with her many delicious dishes. Her Dutch apple pie is already famous here.
The Hogendoorns brought the milk and honey that our farm lacked—a trailer full of bee hives and two milk cows that were a gift from the church in Drury. We began milking the cows as soon as they arrived. Even so, we did not quite have enough milk for our whole fellowship, and we wondered how we were to get by.
The Cow That Could Not, Did
The next day, Brother Eddie and Brother Freek were working together on our upper paddocks. Our herd of shorthorn cattle were grazing in a nearby paddock, but in the midst of the herd, two cows stood out from the rest. They were our two jersey cows that we had owned for several years, Silky and Daisy. We had tried to get them in calf the previous year, but neither had shown any signs of being pregnant after the bull had been with them.
While the men were working, Brother Freek happened to glace up at the herd, and then said to Brother Eddie in his distinctive Dutch accent, “Silky has a calf!”
Brother Eddie half looked over and replied, “No, Silky won’t have a calf.” He turned back to what he was doing.
A minute later, Brother Freek said, “Silky definitely has a calf. There’s one standing beside her!”
This time Brother Eddie took a serious look across the field to where Silky was standing and—sure enough—a little brown calf stood right beside her!
Later that day, we moved Silky and her calf to the paddock with the other two milk cows and began milking her as well. Silky’s calf was an answer to prayer as far as the milk situation was concerned. Now that the calf has been weaned, we have more than enough milk to go around. Sister Rachel Delong has even made some hard cheeses with the extra milk. But we must wait to find out what those cheeses taste like once they have aged enough!
Bidding Farewell to Sister Rachel
In mid-August, we bade a tearful farewell to Sister Rachel Delong, who has been with us for just short of two years. She arrived here with Sister Destanie Kuehl in August of 2018 to help us at the cafe in Kimbolton. Sister Rachel thought that she would spend three months with us. God had different plans in store for her though, and those three months kept getting extended for nearly two years! During her time with us, Sister Rachel helped us in many ways, from serving delicious Jamaican chicken tacos at Hansen’s cafe, to milking Silky and Sunshine at Mohaka River Farm. Everyone in our fellowship misses her and we all hope the borders of our countries reopen soon so that she can return to be with us again.
Anticipating Spring’s Arrival
Spring is just around the corner. Already, a number of ornamental cherry trees and other similar trees are beginning to blossom, a sign of warm weather approaching. Just a few days ago, we had a balmy day where the temperature remained around 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit), and 15-degree days are not unusual. The warm weather can be deceptive though. Just a day or two ago, the mercury in the thermometers plunged sharply downward, and next day snow dusted the tops of the nearby Titiokura mountain range. Despite the sharp temperature drops, the days are getting longer (and warmer) and we are already starting to pull up the cover crops in our gardens to prepare for spring planting.
As we all work together on the blessed earth, a song keeps reverberating in our hearts:
Along with brothers and sisters, we travel up life’s road,
A happy band of pilgrims; heaven is our hope.
And we love this life we’re living, discovering each day
That the joys of the journey are many on the way.
And there’s joy in the journey, the good time’s in the going.
It’s not all in the reaping; yes, there’s plenty in the sowing.
Taking pleasure in the progress we make from day to day,
Oh there’s joy in the journey, and heaven’s on the way!
~from Encore Trax “Joy In The Journey”
Looking Up, Waaay Up
On clear nights, the Milky Way spans majestically overhead framed by the mountains and hills on the horizons. According to many astronomical guidebooks and resources, New Zealand has some of the best night sky views of any country. This results from its position in the Southern Hemisphere, the lack of light-pollution caused by major cities and its distance from any other major sources of artificial light.
Looking up at the pristine night sky from our farm, it is easy to believe the guidebooks. On moonless nights, the Milky Way glows intensely with the light of the countless stars that form it. One of the most simple but enjoyable nighttime activities is just to stand outside and trace the luminous chains, swirls and dust lanes that make up our home galaxy. Thanks to New Zealand’s location, the Milky Way is visible at all times of the year. This gives Brother Oscar ample opportunity to photograph the objects up there with his telescope and camera.
While the Idaho team was here, the Orion Nebula (M42 in the formal system) was nicely placed to photograph it with the long exposures needed to capture it on camera.
Another fun activity with a camera at night is to capture the movement of the stars, resulting in what is called “star trails.” (The camera is on a tripod taking a hundred 30-second exposures with a wide-angle lens.)
Brother Oscar hopes that he will be able to get some of his nighttime photos printed on cards to sell at the Mohaka River Farm reception.