It seems like just last week that I arrived on the Banks Peninsula, stunned by the natural beauty of this place and completely overwhelmed by all the things to do!
But alas, it has been more than six weeks now, and sadly, the time has come for my departure. I’ve gotten to know the fantastic neighbours. I’ve been surrounded by baaing ewes, crying lambs, and twittering birds. I’ve explored Akaroa, Duvauchelle, and their surroundings, as well as Christchurch. I’ve taken some amazing photos.
It seems like every day has brought new adventures and experiences, so here are 5 important things I’ve learned in the past six weeks while on the Banks Peninsula.
1. Chickens are funny!
Before I came I was slightly lamenting the fact that the only animals here were chickens. I love dogs, and a cat can be a cozy companion when it wants to. But you can’t cuddle chickens! Little did I know that the chickens would be an endless source of wonder and amusement for me! Not to mention a healthy dose of panic and heartache.
I’ve freaked out when I thought all the chickens had escaped. (Oh no there must be a hole in the coop and all the chickens must be running free all over the place and how on earth will I ever get them all back in there and what if I can’t and a stoat eats them and….) I’ve felt relief when I realized it was just one, and that it wasn’t my fault!
I’ve seen a GM hen get bullied by the rooster. I’ve attempted to comfort that same hen. I’ve nursed her open wounds. I’ve felt pity for her apparent loneliness, due to being different from all the others.
I’ve instinctively apologized to a hen when I opened the door of the hut and found her sitting on her nest, because it felt like I’d walked in on someone in the toilet!
I’ve had eggs hatch into little yellow balls of fluff. I’ve laughed at those chicks waddling after me as fast as they can at every feeding time, eager for their share. I’ve seen the babies grow up into creatures that almost look like actual chickens, only half the size. I’ve seen them learn to fly, and perch together on a low branch like a couple of lovebirds. I’ve seen them gain confidence, venturing further and further afield. I’ve seen the same babies still seek refuge and warmth under their mother’s wing. I’ve had that mother eye me suspiciously and warn me away with a cluck and a snarl.
I’ve squatted down to watch the chicks eat, them cautiously pecking at the grain while watching me carefully, scurrying away when I move the slightest bit. I’ve tried to determine their gender based on what I read on the internet but I still don’t know.
I’ve been amazed when I went outside at night to look at the full moon, to find mama and her babies (er…teenagers by now!) wandering about, long after I’d thought they’d retreated to their nest for the night.
I’ve panicked and then wondered at the birds’ ability to disappear within the coop at night. I’ve counted the chickens over and over again, wondering where the missing one is. I’ve found her nest, and realized that she’s always sitting on it, about to be a mama. I’m wondering how many of her eggs will hatch.
I’ve thought, based on all of this, that if I should ever have my own place, I might actually consider keeping chickens. Never thought I’d say that.
2. I do not want a large property.
I mean, yes, maybe, one day, if I want to settle, I want a large property, but I don’t want one that requires a lot of maintenance. This place is huge. The lawn is full of nooks and crannies and curves and awkward places to get into, which means it takes 5 hours to mow and I end up with blisters on my hands from steering the stupid mower around all the obstacles.
The nooks and crannies and curves are caused by gardens: flower gardens, gardens full of tropical plants, palm trees, apple trees, and lots of space for veggies.
And while I’ve always loved the idea of growing my own veggies and having lots of fruit trees, there’s no way I’d want to grow even a quarter as much as these people do. It’s just too much work. The weeding, composting, turning the soil, planting, weeding again, and then harvesting takes ages, is backbreaking work, and just not fun.
If I ever have a place of my own with lots of land, I’ll grow bits and pieces and just plant a forest on the rest.
3. Watching lambs frolicking is just about the best entertainment ever.
The Banks Peninsula is covered in sheep, and I was here at lambing time! There were so many around. I love the way they kick their back legs up and kind of jump around! And then run to mama for a feed with their little butts and tails wiggling like mad. Hilarious.
4. Lamb tailing is actually not the cruel practice that I thought it was.
Would you want to walk around all day with your icky old poo down your backside? No? What about for the rest of your life? No? Really? Well that’s why we cut off your tail. So poo doesn’t get stuck in your lamby tail fur and all around your bum.
I had the opportunity to watch a bunch of lambs having those cute little tails cut off. At first, I cringed, expecting horrible lamby pain screams, but only a few of them even made a cry. It’s very quick, and once they’re set free they run off to find their mommas and everything is ok again.
5. I am a clean freak.
Note that I didn’t say neat freak. I have never been known for my neatness and tend to have surfaces pile up with my stuff. Here I’m talking about dirt.
I can’t stand when other people spill things, let grime build up, or leave crumbs sitting on the counter. I’m ok with it, to a point, if it’s MY dirt, and to a lesser point if it belongs to someone who is familiar to me. But a stranger’s dirt? No.
This isn’t entirely news to me. I’ve realized in the past that I do like my kitchen in particular to be very clean. But it occurred to me after living with the French backpacker for a while that I’m very set in my ways.
I need to have things JUST so, and neglecting to leave the kitchen in its proper order due to laziness or even just oversight is not acceptable! It only takes a minute to close the cupboard behind you, or wipe the crumbs off the counter, and doing the dishes doesn’t mean filling them with boiling water from the kettle and leaving them on the counter.
I feel like it will be a challenge for me to ever live with anyone in the future!
So there you have it! My six weeks here flew by in no time, but it was obviously long enough to learn a few important things. I’ll miss this place, and this view.