Mostly from Taranaki, because that was the only time that we sat and just… relaxed. And mostly from my parents’ country estate, otherwise known as a block of dissected hill country, unfarmable, but covered in native bush, which is protected by a Queen Elizabeth II covenant. There is some grazing land, a bach (shack, holiday house, crib, whatever) with running water but no electricity, and masses and masses of peace and quiet and native bush growing and native birds singing.
The bach. Not so posh. But just right.
There is a long line of poplars planted across the valley from the bach, with a gap that was occupied by a horrible old macrocarpa of no redeeming value. So Granddad Strange Land chopped it down, then chopped it up for firewood, burned the remnants in a huge bonfire watched by fascinated granddaughters, and replaced it with a 5m tall poplar stick, which has since taken root, sprouted leaves and started to grow.
Granddad Strange Land calls the little poplar “Woebegone” and he gives it a wee hug each time he goes to the farm. I sang to it. “Ombrai mai fu” of course.
When faced with this sort of stove for cooking…
… I decided that I must surely be required to prove that I could cook bread, anywhere, anytime, in any sort of stove. So I did.
Recipe here, but you will have to provide your own woodsmoked flavour, and accompanying overtones of virtue and self-satisfaction.
Because he is a primary sector accountant, Granddad Strange Land has for many years had a farm bike, no doubt to build rapport with his clients. The bike has been put to good use in the last couple of years, ferrying assorted grandchildren around the farm. Granny Strange Land usually goes along for the ride, or drives the bike herself. You will note her excellent side saddle technique, usually reserved for driving the bike through gates which Granddad Strange Land is opening.
There is a track along the ridges of the valley, up in the bush. On our last day there, Mr Strange Land and I walked along it. At the very end of the track, just before we climbed down along a fence line back to the valley floor, we could look in one direction and see Mt Taranaki …
… and turn about 180 degrees in the other direction and see Mt Ruapehu, far off in the distance (about 130km away, I think).
We saw friends and family in Auckland, saw family and friends in Taranaki, and more family and friends in Wellington (including the Chef de Plunge, who is a beautiful wee lad). And of course, there was one person I didn’t really want to see in Wellington, but to my embarrassment we bumped into her at Te Papa. Damn.
We gorged ourselves on kumara, which has a different texture from sweet potato, and so is not replaceable by ordinary old sweet potatoes, and is not available in Australia because the quarantine regulations are outrageously strict (a non-tariff trade barrier, I think – apples, anyone?). And we gorged some more on manuka honey – just the ordinary old eating kind, but it is so delicious, and also, not available in Australia.
By the time we had driven back up to Taranaki, to return my dad’s car to him, and then driven on to Auckland to catch a flight to Adelaide, we were ready to come home to our own space. But New Zealand is still calling to us. On that last long drive, we stopped at the top of Mt Messenger for a break, and saw this beautiful tui, who drank from the flax flowers, and chortled.
More holiday reports to come, especially about a fabulous exhibition in Puke Ariki.