The smell of roasting peanuts greeted us as we walked into the busy Cracker Cottage. Peanuts for peanut butter (among other things) were being processed in the tiny kitchen of this cozy country home outside of Gisborne, NZ. This was where Peter and I were to spend a week gardening, picking and cooking as WWOOFers: Willing Workers On Organic Farms. On our first day, Amanda, Alexis and their son Monty welcomed us into their home with a delicious smoothie made with fresh milk from Gusty the cow and blended up with a variety of whatever fruit they had on hand. As we sat down to eat pancakes for lunch (with homemade ricotta, lemon and fresh whipped cream) there was a loud thud on the tin rooftop… just apples falling off the apple tree, “you’ll get used to it” they both told us.
After the delicious lunch, we took a tractor down to the apricot orchard. The scent of over-ripe fruit permeated the air and mixed with the smell of the decaying apricots that had already fallen from the trees and were strewn all over the ground. We climbed ladders, carefully since the squashed apricots underfoot left a slippery goo on our shoes and the ladder rungs, and picked heaps and heaps of apricots until late afternoon. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many apricots in my whole life as I did in that one week.
On market prep day we cracked macadamia nuts, baked biscuits (cookies), ground wheat berries, kneaded bread dough, and roasted cashews, almonds, and seeds for the mixed nut butter. Everything was to be brought to the farmer’s market the next day, and they sold out! We were happy helpers, rewarded every afternoon with a different variety of smoothie.
Some days we’d work in the garden, weeding and pruning. Other days we’d do random tasks like sweeping the apples that were rolling all over the driveway from the old apple tree. Each day was a new adventure, and with each day we felt more a part of this family. They were the second generation to live in the cottage, Amanda’s parents live on the property in the house up the hill and history is repeating itself, as Amanda was raised in the cottage while her grandparents used to lived up the hill. We were lucky to be able to share meals with the whole crew once in awhile. And the meals were healthy, hearty and delicious.
The rest of the week we continued to work hard, and play hard as well. We spent a day at the beach, and one evening they showed us a secret waterhole (so secret it was tricky to find, bushwhacking through prickly blackberry bushes). It was a whirlwind week of farm work, we kept busy as bees yet still found time to relax and enjoy the sunsets. Before supper, I played my mandolin as Amanda (a musician of many talents) played accordion out in the yard. Most nights before Peter and I went to bed, we would walk outside to listen to the Morepork owls, one night the full moon was so stunningly bright it outshone the stars.
The song is by Amanda’s cousin’s band (which was her favorite at the moment) I picked this song because it is happy, busy and feels a little hectic… kind of like working on an organic farm with too many projects and not enough time.