I haven’t been on a farm holiday since I was a kid and Kathleen and I walked a long way across the hills and the farmer’s son gave us a lift home in the helicopter. These things stay with you.
So last week instead of our pre-Christmas family long weekend blobbed by a lake, this year I thought we’d go for some kiwi action and booked three days on a farm in Mahia and it was everything a farm holiday should be.
There was a good looking and friendly young farmer in stubbies and a rugby shirt – a bit of confusion when my son said he was saving to go the world cup next year – World cup’s not next year? Oh, soccer? The football/rugby divide. It’s real.
His most hospitable wife wandered past, with baby farmers in tow (the blondie dressed like her dad and keeping those dogs in line) to check we had everything we needed in the glampy shearers’ quarters which were spanking clean, very basic, and just perfect for a family of 6 unloading a stack of books, a football, a few board games and a well stocked chilli bin.
We “helped” sort and drench the lambs, watched sheep shearing and the rounding up of the cows. There were smart dogs doing their thing at the shrill whistle of the shepherd and pet pigs, a pony. We rode trail bikes up hill tracks for breathtaking views.
The same things I did on a farm holiday as a kid and I thought nothing had changed, until our 2017 farmer explained the native bush replanting in the gullys, the erosion protection, the focus on environmental care. I think slash and burn was still in fashion when I was young.
We had Uncle Ted along from Canada for a bit of a kiwi experience, so on the rainy day while the grass got drunk we walked the Nikau rainforest and soaked in Morere Hot Springs and the following day, with all the leaves sparkling, we walked the circuit at Kinikini, in lush native bush.
I reckon a farm holiday should be on every family’s list. I’m a Wellington city girl and have spent limited time on farms – childhood visits, a few friends on farms growing up, an occasional horse trek, thistle pulling jobs – but there have always been hills with dots in the background calling me closer. It comes with being a New Zealander.
Standing in the sheep sheds with the dogs and the farmers felt like finding my roots.