It’s summer time. We love sharing family time with other people’s families at any time but now is a really great time to expose your children or yourselves to a farm experience. School’s out for the year and the days are long – too long for some kids. Martinborough is in full summer mode. The swimming pool is open in the afternoons for a free dip, and delicious gelati is available in The Square. Our farm tours are also proving to be very popular as a thing to do in Martinborough. We sometimes get the feeling the children have been good (or are about to be good) at a wine tasting session with mum and dad, and are now getting their turn to do something exciting. Many times though, guests come over from Wellington or down from Masterton, specifically to visit us.
We get to see the look of wonder on a child’s face when they open a nesting box, push a hen aside and there’s a brand new still warm eggs. It is even sweeter if there are chickens sitting under mum. We’ve got 5 late chickens at the moment – they peep away when we open the door to their house. The mums (I don’t know who the chickens belong to – all 5 in that house sat on the eggs) talk to their babies, calling them for food or fresh water. It’s wonderful to see them taking their babies for a walk. You can hear them saying “don’t touch that, come over here, look out for the dog” just like we do! Mums or dads or grandparents love this. It’s all part of a farm experience for children that they may have ahd when they were growing up.
“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the centre of an education.”
― Alice Waters
I’m a teacher (can’t help it, it’s in my genes!) but we do make our tours educational. We don’t just feed the animals as we wander the farm, so we’re not a petting zoo. We accompany all our guests on a tour and talk to them (catering to the appropriate level for adults through to tiny tots) about our animals, growing food, looking after the land. Everybody has to eat but many people these days have little appreciation of where their food comes from. We have 6 acres of food production going on, for ourselves and sometimes to sell. Visiting families get to share wonderful conversations about – which came first, the chicken or the eggs, broccoli in its natural state, water (or the lack of it right now), how grass makes milk – the list of conversations is endless.
Many of our animals are of breeds a little bit different from usual farm breeds. For example, some of our goats are Rawhiti, an old breed that the gum diggers brought when they came out to New Zealand. They are a dual breed, that is they are milking goats as well as meat goats. However, ours are breeding stock so we don’t cull the pure Rawhitis for meat. Cheese made from their milk is more like that of sheep cheese than that of goats. We’re not milking the goats this year as we only had three does give birth to kids, but guests are still able to watch the kids feed from their mums, and Little Goat is still up for cuddles. All the goats will clamour to be handfed -Lenny is a past master at standing with his front feet on the top wire of the fence saying “look at me, I’m beautiful, give me food.”
Our geese are Pilgrims – finally this year we had goslings that have lived to adulthood and so have two more breeding pairs to increase our numbers. We’ve only had one gander for five years, so this year has been a good one for breeding. Lucy the gander is very protective of babies – his or anyone else’s. When there are geese sitting on nests he’s very loud in his warning hisses. When there are goslings he’s very quick to tell us to stay back. What is very funny is his attitude over the ducklings – apparently they are his too, and we should stay away from them as well.
Even our sheep are different. Our (late) ram was an Arapawa so much of our flock is crossed with this breed, left on Arapawa Island some 150 plus years ago. Dev, the ram in the photo is the subject of a book written by a very talented local teacher, Carolyn Collis. You’ll never guess the title of the book? Yay, you did, “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. Some children arrive singing nursery rhymes – “Old MacDonald had a farm” – others burst in to song as they spot an animal. Our wonky donkeys are not wonky but they do love carrots.
We get a lot of pleasure from sharing our farm – I’m sure you will too.