I met my buddy Laura and her two kids, Audrey and Noah, at Playcenter in Christchurch last spring (October). We missed them a lot when they moved back to the northern hemisphere summer in Alaska (living everyone’s dream–moving from summer to summer each year). This spring they moved back to New Zealand, but had the nerve to relocate up to the hills near Nelson–6 hours drive from Christchurch! Jeremiah was driving up to the Marlborough sounds to mountain bike the Queen Charlotte track this weekend, so the kids and I hitched a ride up to see Laura’s family. We stayed with them on the NOLS base (National Outdoor Leadership School) that you see in the photo.
The forestry in Nelson seems really strange to us upstate New Yorkers. All that dark pine you see in the background is pinus radiata planted on impossibly steep slopes and clear cut every ~25 years. A clear cut hillside looks like a third world country….rapidly eroding soil and almost nothing green. I guess if they don’t want to farm hills, they’ll become flat sooner than later with that kind of treatment, but I hate to think abou the topsoil washing down uselessly into the salty ocean. Ah well, I’m sure I don’t know the whole story about why it’s done that way.
Here’s the clan! By some miracle we got a photo where everyone was looking at the camera. We’re at the Agriculture show (like a county fair) in Nelson where we watched sheep shearing competitions, saw sheep herding competitions, and fingered prize-winning fleeces. Lots of sheep around here.
“My money’s on the black horse!” Milo seems to say. We were watching the horse judging from the stands, and I wondered if the organizers had intentionally put the miniature ponies pulling carts next to the massive Clydesdales for comic value.
Laura bought Audrey this little pull-along puppy at the ag fair and she took to it, carting it around wherever we went, including into the chicken coop! She’s amazing….she can spend hours happily having imaginary conversations with her toys. Made Milo seem like a complete live wire in comparison!
The sad thing about the hills near Nelson is that they’re infested with sand flies (akin to black flies, but they stick around all summer). As long as you’re moving they’re not so bad, but as soon as you stop, they descend. The NOLS property is bordered by a lovely picturesque stream enticing us to swim, but getting out with exposed skin is perilous. This day we let the kids paddle around fully clothed. I was also impressed with the logistics involved in moving 4 small children and two adults half a mile down a dirt road. To go smoothly it took two strollers, two backpacks, sun hats, water bottles, salty and sugary snacks, and two big doses of Mother’s Patience.
Water–there’s nothing like it for amusing children. We froze a couple bowls of dyed water with various kids’ toys embedded inside and they spent a happy afternoon releasing them from their frozen prisons. It was lovely to spend a few days with Laura, chatting about our families while moving at our kids’ pace–and being alright with that speed.