Hi, this is Schuyler! I have been given the responsibility of writing the blog about our “farm stay” in Rangiora, which is 25 minutes from Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island. What is a farm stay, you ask? Well, a farm stay is where you and your family go and live on a farm. The name is pretty literal. Every farm is different but in most cases you get to learn all about life on a farm and help out with the daily chores.
The farm we are staying at is called Pete’s Farm. A couple named Pete and Gaye run and own it, and it is a sheep and alpaca farm. Pete was a professional shearer and shears all 150 sheep that he owns once or twice a year. Gay hand-spins the wool, knits it, and sells her crafts to the people that stay on their farm. They also auction off their wool and fiber (alpaca hair) once or twice a year, and they sell their lambs for meat. Did you know that New Zealand has 34 million sheep and only 9 million people living in it? As you might imagine, wool and lamb are probably this country’s biggest export items.
As 150 sheep is a very small farm, they get a lot of their income now by running their family farm stay business. The other animals on their farm are 10 alpacas, 5 cows and 2 dogs. One of their dogs is named Jessie. She is a working dog only. Now, do not get a working dog and a pet dog confused with one another. Jessie lives outside in a kennel and spends her days working. In order to keep her from becoming too spoiled and too lazy to work, she does not get the kind of affection that we would give pet dogs . She was trained to herd the sheep. Pete and Gaye’s other dog is named Meg. They bought her after Jessie and she was supposed to be another working dog, but she was so cute and friendly she turned into more of a pet. The cows are a pretty random addition to their farm. They are there just in case they need to be sold for their beef. The alpacas are pets but are sheered once a year for their hair/fiber (much more expensive than wool).
FARM STAY DAY 1
This morning we drove from Christchurch to Rangiora. It was an easy 25-minute drive to Pete’s farm. Everyone was so excited to get their hands dirty and to have an authentic New Zealand farm experience! We arrived at the farm and were immediately greeted by Gaye. She showed us to our cute and cozy cottage where we stay for the next two nights.
We have a great front yard looking out onto a paddock, which their pet sheep (the sheep that they give attention to) roam. There is also a small hand-built play set and an awesome trampoline to play on! Here are some pictures of Thayer and me on the trampoline:
We spent our afternoon exploring and playing with the animals. First we went and saw the sheep. They were all so friendly (after we brought out the food). Here are some pictures of us feeding the sheep.
Oddly enough, Thayer has a very special connection with all sheep, especially one of them. When we went out to feed them, Thayer found a little friend, an older lamb named Mary. Thayer literally had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow! Only in this case the lamb was named Mary. Everywhere that Thayer went the sheep was sure to go! All Thayer had to do was call her name once when she entered the paddock and Mary trampled towards her. It was very unique and made Thayer really happy to know that she had a special friend to herself. Now, Thayer will tell us more about Mary :
THAYER: Mary and I have such a special relationship. We love each other very much, and we have so much in common. We both love hugs and kisses, we both love to play, and we are both very cute.
Here are some pictures or Thayer and Mary playing together:
After we socialized with the sheep, we went to see the alpacas. Apparently, a family recently staying at Pete’s Farm chased the alpacas, so now they are very timid and are quite afraid of people. Gay and Pete originally bought two male alpacas for pets. Then they bought two more males because they loved alpacas so much. Gay finally convinced Pete to buy two females, each of whom had a baby and was already pregnant with a second! So currently, Pete and Gaye have 10 alpacas (some of them are still very young). Most of the alpacas are very shy and will stay as far away from you as possible even if you have food, but the two white ones are more friendly. One of these is especially comfortable around people, mostly Zoe. Just like Thayer, Zoe formed a special connection with this white alpaca, whom Gaye named “Sugar Boy.” Now here is Zoe’s input about her furry friend.
ZOE: I love the alpacas a lot, especially a small white alpaca named Sugar Boy. He was just my height. The first time I went into the pen and he came right up to me. He instantly came and started sniffing and nuzzling me. He seemed to be comfortable around people especially me. I really loved patting him and feeling his soft fiber on his long neck, so I decided to get a scarf made of his fiber to remind me of him whenever I wear it. I loved Sugar Boy and I will never forget my experience on Pete’s farm!
Pictures of Zoe and Sugar Boy
Pictures of all of us and the alpacas:
The rest of the day we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. We played with the animals and had a family dinner. We were excited for a full day on the farm tomorrow!
FARM STAY DAY 2
In the morning we all woke up with fresh smiles on our faces ready to have a great day on the farm. Gaye serves an amazing breakfast every morning and she makes the most amazing muffins! We headed over to breakfast and enjoyed a delicious meal. When we were finished with breakfast, we met Pete and he helped us get ready for our farm tour. Part of gearing up consists of putting on these big rubber boots. Trust me when I say this, they are NOT attractive! But Thayer’s looked pretty good, as usual. Here are some photos of our stylin’ boots!
Our farm tour started at the paddock. Mary is still being hand-fed once a day by a bottle, because she is not yet fully weaned. Here are some pictures of feeding Mary her bottle.
Then we headed out to a different paddock farther out where a small portion of their non-pet sheep stay. Now it was Jessie’s turn to work her magic! She circled the sheep and got them to group up. Pete yelled a lot of instructions at her to get her to do her job well. Then Jessie pushed the sheep forward and herded them into the barn where they all cuddled in a small pen.
Next, Pete opened up a gate on the other side of the pen and all of the sheep scurried up a ramp and into another room. Pete said, “Shall we head up to the barber shop?” We all agreed and went outside the barn and up a set of stairs leading to another room. We entered a fairly large room with wool all over the floor and all of the leftover sheep huddled together in a small pen. We were ready to shear a sheep but the problem was we did not have a sheep ready to shear! After a couple of minutes of waiting Thayer brought up the issue. “How are we going to get a sheep out of the pen?” she asked. Pete told us that we had to catch the sheep ourselves if we wanted to shear one. The next couple of minutes consisted of sheep stampeding, Thayer hiding behind me, Zoe and Thayer grabbing a poor lamb’s wooly behind and screaming, “We got one! We got one!” and me putting it in a headlock. Finally we caught a (somewhat traumatized) lamb with lots of wool! Phew, that was hard work! Here are some pictures of us wrestling the lambs.
Finally Pete got the sheep on its bum. Once a sheep is on its bum it actually cannot move! IT IS TOTALLY PARALZED!
Here are some photos of us hanging with a paralyzed sheep:
Then we got down to business and Pete started shearing!
Then we had a go at shearing!
To complete our tour we got to have a look in their mini shop where they sell all of their wool and fiber products. Thayer got a new wool “jumper” (Kiwi term for sweater) and some gloves made out of alpaca fiber. Zoe got a new wool hat (that she has not taken off since, not even to sleep) and an alpaca scarf made out of both Sugar Boy’s and the black alpaca’s fiber. I got some awesome gloves made out of alpaca fiber! Here are some pictures of our new products:After our farm tour we had a really fun afternoon. The only unfortunate part of it was that Thayer got a severe cut on her leg! She fell into a rusty hole in the play-set and got an ugly scrape. We had to wrap it up and it is still recovering. Zoe and I set up a tea party for her and her “friends” (baby dolls and stuffed animals) to cheer her up.
Here are some of the sheep we encountered and their names! (Thayer and Dad named them)
Other species of sheep on the South Island:
Our fantastic day came to an end as all days do and the next day we left Pete’s farm. So, to conclude this now rather long blog, I will tell you that we have had so much fun on this farm stay and if you ever get a chance to stay on a farm, definitely do it! Thank you for reading my post. Pretty soon we will be writing about our journey to the North Island and on to another farm stay! Until next time!