Pigs in Muck
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
29Trip End Jun 14, 2011
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Earlier, Aaron and I had said goodbye to an inconsolable, tearful Lisa. Catherine accompanied her on a drive to the bakery in town, to take her mind off the impending death of the pig she had fed each day for three years. We had stood and waited in the burning glare of the New Zealand morning, whilst my legs were set upon tiny black flies which left over fifty itchy red bites on my calves – it would be the last day I wore shorts on the farm
Barry was a retired butcher, and had been hired by Aaron to home kill Rose. He appeared with a shotgun and a trailer. 'You’re a bit late’, said Aaron. We’d been waiting a good half hour. ‘Sorry’, said Barry, ‘there was a plover on my driveway, so I shot the little bastard. I hate plovers’. ‘This is Laurence’, said Aaron. I shook Barry’s hand – ‘Are you English?’ he asked. ‘Yes’, I replied. ‘Good. Move to New Zealand, we need more whites. There’s too many Asians, and the Maoris are increasing’. Aaron tried to make light of ‘Barry the Racist’, but as Barry was holding a rifle at the time, it was hard to know what to say.
This was our second day at Shed on the Hill, Lisa and Aaron’s smallholding on highway one just outside Kaiwaka, about half way between Auckland and Whangarei. Aaron and Lisa called their stock ‘happy pigs’ – they had about 6 adults and 20 piglets, along with 20 ducks, 10 chickens, 4 cows and a few sheep. Not forgetting the farm collies, Whiskey and Coppa.
We’d spent the previous night having long conversations about food
Our job was simply to help out around the farm, and walk the dogs a couple of times a day. This involved chopping food for the pigs, feeding, topping up water bowls, removing weeds, and on one memorable occasion, tracking escaped chickens through the bush. Looking back on the week, I remember death everywhere. From the shock of the home kill, to the dead rabbit in the bush which mysteriously disappeared five minutes after we found it, to the two defenceless mallards caught by Whisky and Coppa, which left Catherine in tears.
It was an education in nature, and in food production. Lisa and Aaron had strong views on food, and weren’t afraid to express their opinions. We found this commendably refreshing. Whilst I had often thought about the provenance of my food, and of course knew that buying Tesco Value wasn’t necessarily great for the world, I came away from our week at the Shed on the Hill with a heightened understanding of food and the damage the UK’s food production does to the world, and to ourselves
Lisa and Aaron were wonderful hosts, and we were the most comfortable we had been at any of the Helpx’s to date, both due to their amiable nature and the lovely room we had. We didn’t get the chance to explore in the same way we had whilst in Auckland because we had duties in the morning and the afternoon, but we were glad of the rest – in between feeding, we read, listened to the radio and napped. Aaron and Lisa didn’t have a TV. We didn’t miss it.