I’ve been wwoofing for the past few weeks while Peter’s been working, and the first two experiences have been full of art and music among other things.
My first host Carla and her 14 year old son Matthew welcomed me with a cuppa tea. Carla was an artist, realtor and woman of many interests. I started out gardening but after a couple of days we worked out that I would mosaic her mailbox. I could do any design I wanted. Art, in exchange for food and a bed to sleep in. I worked away on the letter box, starting with putting a layer of plaster over the wood. It was an interesting couple of weeks. Coffee and cereal for breakfast, then I would break up tiles with a hammer. Cheese toasties for lunch (grilled cheese made in panini grill type thing), I tiled away. Then my work day was over and there would be curried pumpkin soup for dinner.
On the weekend, she invited Peter to come and stay. We met her boyfriend Mike who’s been making three-string slide guitars out of old olive oil containers. They took us to a friend’s “lifestyle block” to see Australian short films screened outside while sitting under blankets on hay bales. I brought my mando and Mike and I tried to play a few tunes awkwardly in the dark.
The wind made it tricky to work on the mosaic. All my materials were blowing around and my hair was getting in my face. So on a beautiful sunny day, I passed up an opportunity to go to market with Carla and Matthew so I could keep working in the nice weather. They were looking to buy a ram to impregnate the lady sheep. As I grouted, they rolled in with three new sheep in the trailer. I finished the mailbox mosaic, inspired by the giant wind farm not far from their home.
I drove across the north island to get to my next host family’s farm in the rugged Coromandel peninsula. As I approached their house, I drove through the fruit orchard, passed the veggie and flower garden and parked near the honey shed. The house was still nowhere in sight, but I followed a path through the bush, surrounded by Manuka and Rewarewa trees until I reached the house.
Jenny, Maarten and their daughter Vida were my gracious host family for the week, and they really made me feel welcomed and at home. Maarten’s occupation was beekeeper, Jenny tended the garden and Vida was a ballerina in training. I stayed in my own sleep-out with a gas stove and sink and fell asleep at night to the sound of the creek babbling, and once in awhile a Kiwi calling to his mate!
Jenny was originally from New York and her familiar accent was comforting to hear. Maarten had emigrated from Holland, got an apprenticeship as a beekeeper in New Zealand and stayed. I gardened with Jenny while enjoying her company and conversation. Maarten took me out to feed the bees with him. All suited up, we gave them sugar syrup to sustain them for the upcoming winter season. Other work included picking figs from the fig trees, grapes from the vines and juicing Nashi pears with their home juice press. But nothing really felt like work, they were such fun people, the hours went fast and it was just nice to be outdoors.
Maarten was especially excited about my mandolin. I brought it along to a music making session, where he plays with two women who mostly sing but are learning guitar and penny whistle. I did my best at improvising and we played for over two hours. Each day when work was done, we would gather around the piano, Maarten, Vida and I and play tune after tune out of the books I brought along. These were new tunes I’d been learning while on the road, one book by Larry Unger and another of waltzes. Hearing these songs accompanied by piano was magical. The same music I had only heard myself play for months suddenly came to life!
Music has been such a great way to get to know people better faster. Here’s a lovely waltz with a gentle mandolin tremelo.