Pony Haircuts, Poo Soup, & Playing Chicken

Project “Sleep-in-the-Van” had a fairly smooth start. As Christchurch faded in the distance, we eagle-eyed the roadside looking for prime spots that we could 1) not bother anyone or trespass, 2) get away from the traffic. After a stint next to a farmer’s field getting everything sorted out for the night (the van came with tons of stuff — some useful, some taking up precious space), we found a picnic area just down the road. Although it wasn’t as far from the highway as we’d like, we still bedded down to a gorgeous sunset on the mountains and the sprinklers ch-ch-ching away.

We set an alarm for five (yes, a.m.), lest we overstay our welcome, and awoke to mooing cattle, and waddling ducklings. When we stopped for gas in Ashburton, Pat supported my pact with myself to invest some of my travel time into my health. He filled up and babysat the van while I explored the 7 a.m. small-town-life in my sneakers. Then it was off across the Nebraska-like flat farm lands, toward our next wwoofing spot in Makarora. We passed sheared sheep, amazing red stag herds,

, half-grown lambs, and even saw elk! Scotchbroom has taken over here just as much as it has in the States (Oregon!), unfortunately, so lots of that, too. Some kind of hawk was plentiful alongside the road as the flat farm land finally gave way to rolling hills. Give me elevation, or give me death!

Through the window of a not-yet-open shop in Geraldine, we saw the world’s largest sweater – the “Giant Jersey”!

As we climbed out of Geraldine, lupine

all shades of the rainbow began to dot the roadside. For the next five hours, the countryside was covered in a candy-like tapestry of lupine. Our pit stops for the day were beside huge, emerald blue lakes with Mt. Cook and its neighboring peaks towering in the background. The water is an indescribable color — like a murky blue raspberry jolly rancher. Gorgeous!

In the late afternoon, we finally arrived at Chris & Emily’s. They are an awesome family, and we’ve been having tons of fun with them and their children. Hunter is a little six-year-old warrior, and Evie is a charming four-year old with a head full of red ringlets. Cute! We kicked off our first day of work with a pony haircut. Dudley has a horse disease that makes his hair grow profusely. The closer it gets to summer, the more miserable his yak-like coat is for him. We took the scissors to him — not a pretty job, but he’s comfortable. Form over function, right? Then we rid one of the gardens of thistles and fed all the young plants “poo soup” (which is exactly what it sounds like).

The view from Chris and Emily’s is absolutely stunning. Mt. Turner (sounds like “Tuna” in kiwi-speak) reaches just a bit higher than the surrounding snow-capped peaks. We can see Lake Wanaka glittering all day long a few miles down the valley. The country side is spring-green, and it’s early mountain summer everywhere we turn. Between working in the garden and in the yard, we’ve managed to see nature’s “Blue Pools” up the road, meet tons of locals at a community BBQ, and end up as honorary staff members at an employee cheese and wine evening at the local resort. I’ve also been adoring the use of Emily’s road bike — endless paradise is excellent motivation!

Our big excitement tonight, housesitting for the family while they’re on their weekend getaway, took place in the chicken coop. Somehow, a mother hen and her three chicks ended up on the floor of the coop. The chicks can’t get back up to the nesting box themselves, so we had to move them. The recipe for hilarity is this:

  1. Find a pecking, frantic mother hen in attack mode
  2. Add freaked out baby chicks trying to stay with mom
  3. Squeeze a Gentle Giant (Pat) and a Fiesty Female (Me) into a space the size of a tipped-over refrigerator box (the coop).
  4. Arm Giant with a cricket bat, toy shield, and leather gloves
  5. Arm Fiesty with plastic lid (shield), long sleeves, and leather gloves
  6. Attempt to gently separate chicks from mom using shields and bat while crouching in coop.
  7. Let explitives fly.
  8. Repeat 6 and 7 for ten minutes

No chicks or mother hens were harmed in the writing of this blog, and everyone is safe and sound back where they belong!

More photos at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=247622&id=500324216&l=e757f4bf09

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