I’m writing this while still sick. I can’t say much about Kumeu beyond the garden and my host’s home because I haven’t been well enough to explore yet. What I can say is that Lyn is a kind older lady who maintains about one ha. of garden including a greenhouse, exposed raised beds, and a kiwi orchard. This location is a return to my original plan. Both Waipu and Rotorua were spur of the moment work agreements to fill time when a host I had made a work agreement with was suddenly on vacation.

Here are a few pictures of the garden. I got to move to the private sunny room in preparation for two German wwoofers who will arrive tomorrow. There was an English wwoofer in her late sixties previously in my current room. She was cool, a little judgemental of Lyn, which made me grouchy. But it was easy to get her to laugh.

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More news on Kumeu to come in the next few days…

Ok, I’m bored and sick. So here are some cool resources:

Maori Dictionary- this functions as an English to Maori Dictionary, an encyclopedia, and a cultural reference


A cool history of dining out in New Zealand


Economic noise


Food policy


Return to blogging after recovering and more travel:

Hi all, I’ve recently traveled on from Kumeu to New Plymouth. But I want to add some reflections on my previous WWOOFing city, work, and host.

Lyn runs about four acres of organic garden. There are ten raised beds for strawberries and lettuce, some of them covered with plastic to protect from weeds and somewhat from frost. There is one greenhouse made of plastic sheeting, metal frame, and wood support beams. She starts her new seedlings in the greenhouse, and grows kale, more lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, and a good number of crops that I don’t get to see because of the season. There is another greenhouse, they are both about 100 feet long and twenty feet wide, that is in great need of repair. She also has a kiwi orchard, half of which is empty.

Organic growing on a low income means very low productivity in winter. If Lyn had the money, she would install heating units in her greenhouse, and repair her other greenhouse to do the same. Because of low winter production, Lyn “goes backward” every year between growing seasons.

Lyn has told me so many times that compost is the heart of organic gardening. Though she has a bit of a different process than I would expect. Most people burn their weeds to help eliminate the seeds from the garden, though she chooses to compost even the buttercups. These flowers are pretty, but dominate quickly and are time consuming to pull the entire root system.

One of the major problems she has had with her land is arsenic poison in a half acre of land that she now has to keep fallow. When she needed to rebuild her kiwi support frames, the company she hired made a requirement to use a particular kind of wood that is chemically treated. A year later, soil tests showed an illegal level of arsenic in her soil and she had to stop production on that area. This is extremely unfortunate, partly for her income, and partly for the rare quality and depth of top soil on her land.

In my time watching the news with Lyn at dinner time, I learned a little about life in Auckland (Kumeu is a suburb of Auckland). Their homelessness is becoming a larger problem every year, because of the government’s slowing work on state housing. State houses are built and renovated for low income families to live in until they can afford their own mortgage. Unfortunately, the government has turned this construction over to for profit companies who are prioritizing their high income projects, and in some cases, turning state homes over for profit.

The problem of homelessness is also exacerbated with a rising number of immigrants to the city. This population is primarily wealthy Chinese and Japanese. In response, the majority of racial slurs are directed toward these immigrants. But everyone is different in their response. Some Kiwis respect anyone who is willing to work, while others don’t like their New Zealand culture being disrupted. Regardless of social responses, the housing market has become much more competitive with the influx of people. Homes that were $200,000 five years ago are now $700,000 and rising. The impaction of people has lead the government to pay families and individuals $5,000 to move out of Auckland.

On my way to New Plymouth, I stayed a night in Auckland city centre. The city is so packed with tall buildings, shopping malls, small independent shops, car traffic, foot traffic, and COFFEE shops. So many coffee shops! When you order coffee here, some places have Americanized names for espresso and coffee drinks, but mostly people use New Zealand terms. A house or drip coffee is a long black, and a latte is a flat white. I was so embarrassed trying to explain what I wanted the first time ordering a flat white when I first arrived.

For the evening, I rented a bed in a six bed hostel dorm. I sincerely suggest forking out the $100 for a private room if possible. People walk in and out turning lights on and off, all while talking until around 11 at night. I really wanted some privacy, but could find none and was super perturbed. Thankfully, I have a private room with a view all to myself at my new WWOOFing location!

Ok, that’s all for now.


The big things on the news now are Brexit, the Promenade killing in France, police murders and murdered in the U.S., and the U.S. presidential election. So the saying goes, no news is good news. I am not sure what to say about the U.S. murders, as it is not my place to comment, regardless of my own sadness about the deaths. Instead, I’ll contribute as Dan Savage did, that we should turn our attention to black voices and centralize our focus on black experiences.






Looking back at my two weeks in Rotorua, I’m happy I saw so much and am happy I got to meet the Dixon family. At the same time, I am still exhausted a few days after leaving. The hosts I stayed with were a small family of five living on a lifestyle block. This means they have ten ha. of land or less and keep small numbers of live stock. The Dixon’s have 12 sheep, 2 pigs, three cows, and five chickens. To make a profit on their land, they would have to own a much larger property with much larger numbers of live stock. The family I visited in Waipu had 40 chickens and made just the smallest amount of income over paying for their feed.

The three kids in this family, Lily 14, Room 11, and Aste 6, each have two or more extracurricular activities per week. John was just accepted to a youth rugby league and was also playing for the local league for a week or two before deciding to play only for the new one. Many pro rugby players got their start in the team he plays for now. During those two weeks, though, he was playing six days a week and doing guitar lessons. Lily has a horse who she trains for competitions. She recently decided not to continue ballet. Aste plays rugby and takes karate lessons.

Corinne and Sheridan both work. He works full time at a brewery and coffee roasting company that supports his bosses restaurant. Corinne works part time as a secretary for a travel consultation business. She also belongs to two book clubs and manages the wwoofers who come to work.

Rotorua is the city most like the U.S. that I have seen so far. The city center is so much like many of the touristy cities in California, though all the buildings are one story tall.

This city is very near Hobbiton, which is $75.00 to visit. Good thing I’m not terribly interested. What is abundant to see is the beautiful scenery. Most of the geology of New Zealand is volcanic. That is more visible here than at most other locations. Though there are up-cropings of volcanic rock from the landscape anywhere you go, the thermal activity here is even present in the park near the city center where sulfur-smelling steam is pushed into the air at fenced off areas. There is a museum dedicated to a city buried in the ashes of a volcanic eruption, not surprisingly called The Buried City.

The sand of the lake beaches is composed of pumice and obsidian. The water is so clear and clean!

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Maori culture:

In each place I have visited, I am reminded of the respect that is given to Maori people. Each Maori person belongs to an Iwi, which is somewhat like a Native American tribe. I don’t want to make too many comparisons, because Native American people and Maori people are part of two distinctly different cultures. One of the legal differences is the respect that is given to their culture in schools and city ordinances. This careful treatment evolved from the treaty of Waitangi.


As opposed to many colonized areas of the world, the Maori were given back much of their land. Though there are still some processes to legally return pieces of land that have not been appropriated in sales and private property. Some Iwis have adapted better than others to colonized legal processes. Those who have adapted better to legal negotiations have been returned much more of their land. Some Iwis have retained their waring cultures, which causes such chaos in negotiations that one solid decision or plan for negotiation cannot be reached.

Be careful where you choose to go sight seeing. My host in Rotorua is a travel consultant, and advised that I go see the Maori Living Village. I did not suspect that anyone actually lived there, but that it would be a sort of museum village. I was so wrong and it was so uncomfortable to be toured around a place where people live and sustain their livelihood by turning their home into a Disneyland – like tourist attraction. The message seemed to be – we are letting you in because we have to make money, and the government keeps trying to encroach on our land. Look at our traditional homes and dances and leave. – Eek, I wouldn’t want to put my life on display by necessity either.

The tour guide explained that they have been giving tours since a thermal eruption about 100 years ago destroyed their natural tourist attraction. There used to be what they called Pink and White Terraces. This was a geothermal rock created by silica deposits. I’ll list both wikipedia and Living Village links below.



While I was there, though, I learned a little about how the Maori people live and share space. The guide explained that the village is like one large house and each house is like a room. People share space as if they all owned everything equally. Family members walk in to one another’s dwellings without much warning. This is a lot like how space was shared at the hot pools near Kaikohe. People migrated among the pools as they liked and were fairly social and welcoming.

Before leaving Rotorua, I was offered some paid work for one day cleaning horse stalls for a friend of the Dickson family. I needed the $120.00 I earned, though it was a back breaking eight hours of shoveling horse shit, and substrate soaked with urine. It was cool to have a work mate during that time. Afterword, my lungs were sore and I started having trouble with sinus congestion. The rest of my body hurt for a day, but I ended up with a cold. I’m in Kumeu spending a few days recovering now.

I have found that most wwoofers take a few days to themselves every month. I didn’t plan that into my travel time, and probably made myself sick with the constant work, exploration, and travel. My new plan, keep going at the same pace kuz I only have three weeks left in NZ!

I had an opportunity to travel with a fellow wwoofer to Waimangu Volcanic Valley! They have great descriptions of their geological history and current formations! Rather than explain it, I’ll leave you with a link to their web site:


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Don’t trust Google when looking at Waipu. This is a beautiful, small town with a fully functional town centre. You can do most any daily errand at the centre, and see some of the most beautiful trails and coastal beaches ever!

This small town is aScottish settlement. There is a museum dedicated to the first settlers who came here. Many of the residents in this area are directly descended from these travelers, and are very proud of that. It is a history very similar to the United State’s pioneer history.


My stay with my current hosts has been great! We have a daily routine that begins at 7am, breaks for tea at 10am, and ends at 1pm with lunch. The rest of the day is mine to explore and do as I please.

First thing in the morning is breakfast at 7. Then we start work at 8. First thing, the cows need feeding. They are given milk from a powder mix, pellets (Moosley and Grow Up feed), and hay. Then it is off to do any tasks on the current list until tea time at ten. We have tea for half an hour. After that, we do more random things until twelve when it’s time to feed and water the chickens, and collect eggs to sort into size categories for sale. Finally, we eat lunch together.

Both Coralie and Bruce come from farming families. Their youngest child is going to university and comes back for school breaks. Rachel is very musical; she is often in the family music room playing the piano. Fiddler on the Roof is one of her favorites

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Today, I went for a bicycle ride to Waipu cove. It is an incredibly beautiful coastal walkway with exposed bedrock (pancake rocks) along the sea.


Just a few days ago, I went with Coralie and another wwoofer to Lang’s Beach and collected sea shells.


Also, gorse is evil. We collected two tall piles of this thorny monster and burned it to death. Joke’s on us tho, since fire often helps gorse seeds pop out of their pods.

One last note: never buy a marshmallow from a kiwi. They will sell you puffy goop that is more similar to meringue. I am proud of my country for it’s non-biodegradable-rubberball-of-sugar sweet treat.

PPS: there is no end to talk about Trump out here. I’m  going to begin claiming Canadian nationality.

PPPS: I sent all my letters to friends and family. Be on the look out for kiwi post!

A Last Word on Kaikohe

A Last Word on Kaikohe


In my last few days in Kaikohe, I read a piece in their local news paper. There is an initiative to create an irrigation system that the city council is heading.

The proposed plan is supposed to create a number of jobs and help to develop the land. You can probably guess that this is very similar to many infrastructural plans in the u.s. which create temporary employment while creating unnecessary structures that will not require nearly the number of employees to maintain as it took to build.

Many residents are against it. My hosts were among those not in favor. One of the main purposes of creating such a project is the striking decline Kaikohe has seen in the past ten years. It used to have a decently sized town center and population. however, beginning with the loss of their home improvement store, something similar to a Home Depot, their small town began to unravel.

Though it is such a beautiful place worth preserving, Kaikohe is likely to become a ghost town. I’m happy I saw this place, and am a bit sad to hear of its decline.

Photography and Missing Coffee

Photography and Missing Coffee

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Today, I got to go to the Kauri forest. It was great to see so many protections created for these endangered trees. There are only about 5% remaining. The entrance to every forest walk begins with a shoe cleaning gate. The Kauri trees are susceptible to Dieback disease. This comes from exposure to human carried spores. So for each entrance, we scrubbed the soles of our shoes and sprayed them with a soapy liquid.

All paths over the Kauri roots were elevated with wooden walkways. I was happy to see this done with such care.

The Kauri that have died often have naturally empty cores. The Maori people were known for sleeping inside of large, fallen trees for shelter on long journeys.

Later, my host, Doug, and I went to a nature trail on our way back. It was gorgeous! We saw a lot of indigenous plants adapted to high winds. Further along our way, we also saw some yarn bombing. Be sure to follow the link!


My link tech isn’t working in the mobile version. What evs.

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Yesterday, another wwoofer and I went to a local thermal hot spring. It was a new experience. Much more social than I’m used to. There were a lot of pools constructed around areas where thermal activity is most prominent. It looked very makeshift!

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I’m so grateful for all these experiences! However, Kiwis need to learn how to make coffee! I’m going crazy trying to get a cuppa that tastes decent. This is part of missing amenities of home. I also miss American humor, and hugs.

Ok, next destination is Waipu! Looking forward to meeting the next host. This is a change from my original plan. The second host from that plan fell through.


Kauri Museum

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Recently, I got to travel with a fellow wwoofer to the Kauri Museum. As I don’t own a car, this was an especially cool adventure.

Kauri is a type of tree native to New Zealand. Much like the Redwoods, it was exploited nearly to the point of extinction. There is only about four percent remaining.

The pioneers who traveled to New Zealand in the 1800s primarily harvested the sap from the trees and cut the mid section for wood, leaving the top and trunk for burning. Sap harvested from wounds created in the bark was considered far less valuable than amber dug up from the ground.

The solidified sap/amber, or what is referred to as gum, was used as varnish, jewelry, knick knacks, etc. As you can guess, this exploitation of tree has an oppressed cultural history behind it, too. Maori people, though not indigenous, experienced the loss of much of their land and culture through colonization.

The history of Maori people is not addressed in the Kauri museum, as the historical narrative focuses on how the tree was harvested, which is an Anglo history. I asked the tour guide for some of his knowledge of how Maori people were affected and why it was not included in the collection, and he explained this to me. There is a Maori museum in Rotorua where their history is recorded.

From what I know as my hosts explain it, is that the Maori were so effective in fighting the pioneers, that people colonizing the land finally realized they would need to create a treaty. This treaty was translated poorly from English to Maori, and excluded a lot of disrespectful language about land rights and the superiority of “civilized” people in the translation. This lead to a civil war in New Zealand.

Because of my masters study in library science, and its close relation to museum curation, I asked a bit about the catalog, acquisitions, outreach, and digitization. The catalog is primarily paper, and somewhat digitized. The museum is small and not experiencing the tourist flow it once had before the recession and before the air traffic restrictions of 9/11.

Each item is numbered and that number is linked to a paper of provenance. The most popular items are digitized on the website, but much of their collection is recorded only on paper due to their tight budget. They are sometimes lucky enough to benefit from free labor of students needing experience who help to digitize the papers, but this is incredibly infrequent.

Items are acquisitioned into the collection when donated or offered as a permanent loan. Anything acquisitioned has to do strictly with the process and/history of Kauri exploitation. There is also a careful attempt not to offend. Any item that causes offense is taken back in to storage. This is a strange policy that is no different than censorship to me.

Though many museums have a mission that is more directed equally to preservation and display, the Kauri museum is small and stores only twenty percent of its collection. The rest is on display.

Outreach is done primarily for K-12 schools. Someone from the museum gives a talk at various schools, or a few classes are invited to visit.

I am so happy I got to see this museum. It was such a great opportunity!

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This past week has been such a new experience. I’m not really sure how to record it, but I’ll try to do the experience some justice.

I’ve been WWOOFing at a place near Kaikohe on the northern part of the north island. Doug and Marie are fairly traditional in their lifestyle as they care for their farm and restore the old farmhouse that they purchased about ten years ago.

Marie is Scottish, Doug is a New Zealander. They both emigrated from Australia to buy their current farm land and home. They have done their best to maintain the 1940-1950’s era style of farm home, while adding more recent conveniences. They live fifteen minutes from Kaikohe and the closest market, so they buy as many things as they need during the week when Marie travels through town for work. She loves cooking and has an extensive library of cookbooks and cooking magazines. In the evening, the top picks for television are Rugby and cooking shows.

What they cook largely comes from their farm. Just over a week ago, a wild boar was spotted near the boundary of their land, so Doug shot it, and they prepared the meet for cooking. Wild boars tend to be very destructive to farm land, so dispatching it was not an emotional decision. We ate a wild boar stew a few nights ago, prepared from the same animal.

They also have cows, chickens, geese, hogs, and sheep. The cows, chickens, and geese are grown for meet, and the sheep for meet and wool. It’s not shearing season, so I don’t get to help with that while I’m here.

Chickens are dispatched at four month, considering the cost of feeding eight to ten of them. Doug and Marie eat the eggs and share the rest with neighbors. They keep their farm for self-sustaining purposes, so they can grow as much of their own food source as possible. It would not be worth the cost of selling products from their land, since they keep only small numbers of livestock.

Each animal has a purpose. Though the hogs, Jim and Ruby, are kept as pets, they eat the compost from meals, keep the back paddock grass trimmed, and fertilize the small orchard. The two dogs are very much like pets, too and are used to round up the sheep. Any livestock kept for food is not named.

Some incidents happen on the farm. Recently, two lambs died of worms. They were born prematurely and out of season, so they were susceptible to illness. Doug and Marie tried to get rid of the worms, but the antibiotic did not work. Even if these lambs had lived, they would have been slaughtered because their health is compromised from being premature, and that is an undesirable trait for the gene pool on the farm.

Then there was a cow whose back was broken a few weeks ago. A bull tried to mount her when she was in season, and she slipped, fell and broke her back. She was shot and her meat butchered where she fell. All that was left was blood that seeped into the dirt. They use all of every animal they kill.

Doug and Marie also have a policy for their animals. “A good life and a good death.” The animals are let to be free range until they are separated and shot. They cannot smell blood of the other animals and do not go through a process of stress and fear before death. This is done both for the well-being of the animals and the quality of meet. Meet with adrenaline pumped through it tends to taste sour.

Yesterday, we went on a walk through the property. This helps to check on the health of the animals and maintain things like the batteries for the electric line that keeps the cows from crossing over to a paddock where they are not supposed to graze. They keep a sacrificial paddock and a fallow paddock for the cows that are interchanged so the grass is never over grazed. When over grazing happens, thistles begin to grow where the grass used to dominate, and it can destroy the growth of grass. Thistle is an invasive species brought over from England as a pretty flower, but like opossums, foxes, ferrets, and stoats, they have devastated indigenous species. The small mammals hunt the Kiwi birds who have evolved with no natural predators; they don’t even have ribs to protect their organs.

My hosts have had such trouble with ferrets and opossums that they hired a professional trapper to cull the population. In four days, he killed over three hundred of them for $20.00NZ each.

I have so much more to say, but it’s getting late.

Sweet dreams, good morning, or whatever you prefer depending on your time zone.

Finally Here!

It’s been an interesting couple of days. I arrived in NZ on Friday after passing the international date line. No Thursday for me.

Immediately, I had to struggle to figure out how to use public transit to find my Air BnB. Asking one bus driver after another how to get to a particular address. NZ addresses are formalized by suburb rather than just by city. And I suck at pronunciation here, so they all said they didn’t  know. I played with the idea of walking the six miles, but decided against walking that far with forty pounds of backpack. I ended up walking about three miles any way after getting off at Mangere Town Center. I am staying in Mangere on Tussoc Ave. I have so many French and Maori street names memorized right now!

If you are ever looking for public transit in a new place and Google isn’t helping, Google is still the answer, what? Yeah, tap the form of transport you want to use in Google maps, and it will list the companies that provide the service you need. My Air BnB  host showed me!

My hosts for the first few days here are super cool! I am going to rate them really well on the web site. Kristika, like most folks here, is so helpful and thoughtful. Her daughter is so incredibly cute and playful! I have found my favorite two year old monkey! 😍


My next stop is four and a half hours north of here. I’m below the equator, so north is warmer than south. I head off on the inter city bus tomorrow at 7:45am in Auckland proper.

A few final notes:

The shopping malls look more like a clump of small kiosks in a giant multi level structure. They are named things like Dress Smart Outlet, which totally threw me off. People here are super friendly, helpful, and talkative. Some toilets have a dial switch to flush. People drive really well and very fast here. There are very few crosswalks. Drivers have the right of way. Power outlets have on/off switches. And old ladies sound hilarious when they curse (most people don’t curse. It’s not generally accepted). Fack!

On the Flight

I want to recognize that the content I had previously written here was constructed through a lens of privilege. I am learning along with the rest of the world. White people have a place in making the world better for everyone. One way to do that is to use our privilege for good, and uplift voices of color.

I have heard one white woman at a recent protest say that in the United States, all white people benefit from the oppression of people of color, and our active work to dismantle the systems that uphold racism bring us to a new paradigm. If we choose to be, we are racists in recovery. I choose to do the work of a racist in recovery. Please join me.