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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pure Jersey Cream, Part 4 of 4

My cow adventures are finally (and sadly) coming to a close...  Enjoy, my friends.

Day 13 (Saturday)
After the morning milking and getting the cows out to feed on fresh grass and hay, all the other animals were ready gnaw on something too.  If I walk anywhere near the hen house, I’ve got 3 dozen chickens following me in a matter of seconds.  Either they are on a feeding schedule, and thus follow around anyone that nears them every morning around , or they’ve imprinted on me already.  After I feed these cackling chooks, Stu picks me up on the tractor to spread hay.  Peter (milking hand) had to take off early after milking, so it is just me on the trailor balancing between 6 bales of hay stacked higher than I am tall.  How am I going to cut the cord on these things without throwing myself off the tractor while trying to balance as we hit all the potholes and have cows mooing after me with hunger?

After a ton of farm chores compressed into 5 hours, at we take off and drive south to Paringa for a Hereford & Angus bull auction.  I’ve been thinking about this bull auction for the past week, hoping we’d go, having no idea what to expect.  The event was even more than I imagined!  I watched HUGE Hereford and Angus bulls get auctioned off for $3,000 - $6,500 dollars each, which is apparently lower than last year’s take.  The grandstands were filled with out 200 farmers, half of them in overalls and gumboots (muckboots), and the other half in jeans and boots.  I took oodles of pictures of all 36 different bulls, and eavesdropped on everyone’s conversations.  Apparently good traits for Hereford’s are panda eyes, clarity, white shoulders and throat, body length, good feet…

Learning about the merits of each bull is a science unto itself, and this beginner’s eavesdropping course I just took was decent.  These bulls were truly incredible beasts, almost like teenage boys, full of energy, budding strength, and constantly butting heads.  I got in the pens with them… when in the safe company of those more experienced than I.  The bulls are fearless, feared, and utterly fearful. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pure Jersey Cream, Part 3 of 4

10-mos old calf
Part 3 of 4 - The Dairy Farmers Life
Travel dates: May 17 – June 2, 2010

Day 6 (Saturday)
Morning and evening milking.  I’m tired.  Very tired.  Am I getting used to the smell of cow poo and urine?  I dream about cows nearly every night.  Last night I got up and looked around my room because in my dream, I thought there were cows in the house.  Cows, cows, everywhere! (but not in the house)

Day 7 (Sunday)
The morning started early despite more than an extra 30 min of sleep ().  It rained the entire night, and I dreaded climbing out of bed to head to the milk shed.  After milking Stu, two of his brothers & Peter headed to the deer paddock to round up the deer for culling.  The enormous 20-point stag was separated from the hinds (aka doe, NZ speak), and the others were corralled into a small shed.  Four men, me and 30 deer were enclosed into an area no larger than a standard size bedroom; I was shocked so many hearts could fit in one room.  Eighteen big does were separated and released (the ‘moms’) and as each left the shed, they galloped and gave a great leap of over 8’ high.  I was reminded of the grace and agility of these animals but looked around and was also reminded of their vulnerability as I was surrounded by 12 young females.  The plan: each deer would be shot and drug outside (while I stood carefully outside) and then eviscerated.  At this point I did not feel confident going in the shed to participate in dragging, nor was I exactly keen on looking into the soon-to-be empty eyes.  I stood outside as did Brother John.  Pop.  One by one a deer was lifelessly pulled out of the shed.  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pure Jersey Cream, Part 2 of 4

Part 2 of 4 - Farm work begins!

Travel dates: May 17 – June 2, 2010
Day 1 (Monday)
After venison pies for lunch, we rode bicycles down the way to move electric fences to shift the 10 month old calves onto a new grassy paddock.  These girls (around 40 of them), as well as all of the other cows, get moved onto new grassy paddocks every day or two, depending on how many are in the herd.  As we walked up, there was so much commotion that I thought the calves were in trouble.  MOO! MOO!!!  40 of them were synchronously mooing at Stu and I; it was perplexing!  What is happening?  WELL, It seems that cows are just regular chatterboxes, and the mooing was to ‘talk’ to Stu & I, and to let us know they were hungry and wanted to be on greener pasture!

Stu has about 165 cows in his herd that are currently being milked twice a day, and at 5pm we headed to the Milk Shed for the evening milking.  My nerves were on edge, but  I was so excited for this new milking adventure!  There was a lot of following-Stu-around involved, explanations, and nods.  There were neither pretenses nor excuses, and after my lessons, it was my turn to have a go at it.  Grabbed a hold of the first teat, cow didn’t jump around nor sense that I was a first-timer, or try to kick me.  All good signs.  After a few cows, I was starting to feel relatively comfortable, and liked the process.  Good thing, because there was a lot of cow milking to come.
Cook big delicious dinner, drink wine.  Go to bed before 11pm.

In the milking shed, wearing full bib & overalls

Pure Jersey Cream, Part 1 of 4

Hi friends & family!
My next WWOOFing adventure took place on a dairy farm on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.  This was my first true experience living and working on a farm; it was so exciting, mucky and rewarding!  In lieu of my normal large summary of events, I wrote about my experiences every day while I was there.  What follows is essentially my journal of Farm Living!  I was on the farm for 3 weeks, wrote a lot, and will send the adventures in 4 parts.
Enjoy! Jessie

Travel dates: May 17 – June 2, 2010

Waitaha Valley
“Hello, this is the Mayor of the Waitaha Valley .  I’m not in, but I am home.  I’m out on the farm either milking the cows, driving the tractor, or shooting a opossum for the night’s supper.  Please leave a message with your number, and I will call you back.”


After my first call to Stu Davidson (and receiving his above answering machine message), I knew I HAD to wwoof with this man.  Anyone with that message on their “answer phone” had to have a lot of character, and was someone I wanted to meet.  Turns out, that was one of the best thoughts, and subsequent decisions, that could have happened in New Zealand.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Glacially Frozen Bum

Travel dates: May 14-16, 2010

Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, Lake Matheson

After 6 nights with the Organic Family in Wanaka, NZ, fellow german wwoofer Manny & I set off for the West Coast on Friday for a long scenic drive through mountains, beach and rainforest. Can you imagine all three sceneries in a matter of 4 hours drive? The latter was seen through thick rain, however, as the West Coast (of the South Island) gets more rain than any other part of the country. Manny & I played English-German games while driving, which generally included lots of “Was? Was? Scheize!,” bad pronunciation, and hilarity.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Keeping it Organic

May 8-14, 2010
Wanaka, NZ
I like to eat healthy. I like to buy organic foods. I didn’t realize that my habits were so primitive compared to my next family of five! There is something to be said for incorporating organics, sustainable methods, and eco-conscious products into your life ranging from vegetables, fruit, toothpaste, meat, hand & face lotion, towels and clothes... Admittedly, those latter few are not regularly part of my greenie tree-hugging lifestyle, but I’m not opposed. Naturally this family had a compost pile, actually multiple composts all in different stages, a worm farm for the garden and compost piles, 50 or so odd sheep, 2 cows, a dog, couple rogue cats, vegetable gardens galore, fruit trees recently planted, and an overall goal of self-sufficiency. In addition, in an effort to encourage organic product availability the family started a small “store” out of their garage, open one day per week, delivering and selling organic products to their community. Good people with good goals in life.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What Lies Beneath

May 2-7, 2010
Kokonga, Central Otago
Two nights in a Dunedin hostel filled in the time between Crazy Americans in Waikouaiti and the next wwoofing host, Potato David, in Kokonga.
That Sunday night was supposed to be an early bedtime in the backpackers, but 6 new chatty roommates had other ideas. The night prior was a big party night for Aerin & I, as the ‘big’ night in Dunedin is best had on Saturdays. Sometime Saturday night/Sunday morning I strolled into my hostel after lots of dancing, drinking, and a late night snack, and checked the clock: 2:25am, not too bad. A nice sleep until 9:45am gave me nearly a full night’s rest, or so I thought. The next afternoon I met a friend for picnicking in the Dunedin Botanical Gardens, and an excerpt of our conversation follows:

Jessie:       I got home just before 2:30am, not too bad. How about you?
Mikenna:     What?? Umm, Jessie, that’s not possible… I left you at 3:30am to walk home.
Jessie:       Are you sure? Is your cell phone set to the right time zone?
Mikenna:     Yes, I’m sure. I walked into my place at exactly 3:59am; I remember looking at the clock on the wall.
Jessie:       Uh oh, um…. (pause, pause, more pause…) Oh no! I read the clock wrong!! I switched the big and little hands!… It was actually 5:10am!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fairy dust and Pixie sticks

April 27-30, 2010
Waikouaiti
One day while wwoofing with The Pringle’s (native vegetation folks) we had a big day out attending a Native Tree replanting at a nearby beach, where Aerin & I would meet our next wwoofing hosts, AKA the “Crazy Americans”. My skepticism was high, particularly considering wwoofing is an ‘exchange,’ primarily between two cultures, so what kind of exchange would be had with an American couple? “Surely not much…” Boy was I ever wrong!!

In wee Waikouaiti, New Zealand (1-hour north of Dunedin) I sat in the living room of an outrageously strange American couple's home pondering how and why I was looking into a crystal ball.  I equally wondered why there were mini table and chairs sitting on top of cupboards and bookcases? When I say strange, I mean it to the N-th degree. Fairies, tarot cards, pagan ceremonies, crystal balls... the works! Perhaps some of this is standard fare for you, but truly I was baffled. Let’s just say, there was indeed a ‘cultural exchange’ that occurred! Through many odd conversations with the wife, whose locks were dyed bright orange, I learned that there was “a place for the fairies” in every room of the house, which explained the mini furnishings and d├ęcor scattered on top of cabinets and cupboards.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Long Beach... a long way from California!

April 19-26, 2010
Invercargill

After five great days of hiking, marvel, beauty, partying, and fun times in Queenstown, I should have known disappointment could only follow. There was some difficulty finding the next wwoofing host, and we quickly realized that many farms and homestays were leaning up their operations for the approaching winter months. Success prevailed though, and with bus ticket bought and luggage loaded, there was a quick email check before shooting off for Invercargill:  New Zealand’s southern most city. Bad news was revealed 3 minutes prior to leaving: our new hosts backed out.
The trip started off with a powder keg bang, and continued down a dreary path. All in all this city, one which I could do without visiting again, greeted us with 80 kph wind, gray skies, rain showers, and just overall depressed gloom. By making the best of the situation, we found a gardening-for-accommodation exchange at a hostel in an insalubrious neighborhood, which turned out to be much more rewarding that originally anticipated. Taming a neglected and wild garden into something respectable can be highly satisfying, so we gave it all we had for 2.5 days!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Adrenaline's Playground

April 14-18, 2010

Queenstown
After a week of wwoofing work, Aerin & I were ready for a vacation! ;) We were off for some traveling, pure tourist style. We left the north of the North Island for the south of the South Island (each island is about the length of Florida) en route to Queenstown, New Zealand’s Adventure Capital of the Country. This tiny town of less than 15,000 permanent residents is guidebook listed as: “Surrounded by the soaring indigo heights of the Remarkables (mountain ranges), crowned by Coronet Peak, and framed by the meandering coves of Lake Wakatipu, it’s little wonder than Queenstown is a show-off. The town wears its ‘Global Adventure Capital’ badge proudly, and most visitors take the time to do crazy things they’ve never done before.”

The plane ride in was the first stop on the adventure circuit. The plane flies extremely low between two mountain ranges, leaving only a minor gap, and our flight was blessed with an abundance of crosswinds! First attempt? Whole failure as we jetted quickly past the tiny town searching out another landing route. Circled, descended, and I started getting worried about when I felt the plane rocking from side to side, up and down, I’m catching air. I tighten my seatbelt, grab onto the armrests.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Returning "home"

Hello all!

In lieu of sending you old travel updates (and the fact that I am surprisingly up-to-date with my current travel updates!), I have included some details of my most recent adventures!

April 8 - 13, 2010
Waitakere
On the day of my birthday I boarded a plane in Brisbane, Australia with the entire crew of the Georgia Tech 2010 Pacific Program, which included 36 students, Program Director (Awesome Dave), and Program Assistant/Lab Instructor (Awesome Me). A few hours and a few time zones later we landed in Auckland, New Zealand. Thirty-six people flooded the International Transfers line, while two people got teary-eyed and hugged all of the people in line, slowly walking past the Transfers line en route to Baggage Claim. One of the students, Aerin, and I were adventurously embarking on a new journey in New Zealand. We both changed our return plane tickets home to extend and discover more about the country we have come to love. We planned to chase Kiwis for 4 weeks together, then Aerin flies home, and I run around the country for 5 more weeks on my own. To that, add on 1 week for me in Tonga, and we’ve got 6 months of living out of suitcase! Essentially I will not have any permanent mooring place for longer than 7 days!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Survivor: Fiji

The journey has begun again! On Jan 2, 2010, I departed Orlando en route to FIJI! My job responsibilities were to begin in New Zealand, which gave me 5 days in Fiji to take in the sun, sand, beauty, island culture, and get adjusted to 14 hours of time change!


The flights were long, the layovers were awful, and the lack of sleep was painful. There is just nothing to compare being in an airplane seat for over 18 hours; I liken the back of the plane (non-business class) to being in a cattle car. Pack ‘em in tight! The reward of arriving in Nadi, Fiji quickly sent packing all the tight-quarters woes though, thankfully. I waited for the resort bus from the airport for what seemed like forever, and they arrived later than scheduled. I was definitely starting to feel abandoned. The friendliness of the locals however, was unmatched. After many airport workers and shopkeepers saw me sitting for over 30, then 45, then 60 minutes, they each started coming out one-by-one to tell me “Bula” (hello, how are you!), and see how they could help. Finally my bus arrived, and 5 of us were whisked away to a small marina of about 10 boats.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yes, its true... Round two!

After the end of last year’s journey, I returned to the United States with the optimistic hopes that I could repeat my good fortunes in the South Pacific with a second round of joy. Two semesters of classes waited my US return, and I am happy to report that as of Dec 09, I have finished my THIRD Bachelors degree – Bachelors of Science in Biology from Georgia Institute of Technology! Yes, you read that correctly…three. I am thinking of wallpapering a small bathroom with these pieces of paper; seems the most useful thin to do. Additionally, I was able to finish my last semester of eligibility as a GT Rower in the Fall, and my very last race served as a grand finale send-off with a 1st place win by a mere 3.6 seconds!! What a great way to finish things off!

Alas my dreams were able to come true: my opportunities to return to New Zealand and Australia were realized. The plan? Before and after work officially would begin, I would ‘sandwich’ the NZ/AUS trip with Pacific islands! Spoiled? Yes, maybe.


SO, before New Zealand = Fiji, and after Australia = Tonga. Not so shabby, eh? Before this adventure, however, there was one small detail I needed to iron out --> get Open Water SCUBA certified. Check! Now I was fit to take on my job again! (Pacific Program)

Pictures  SCUBA cert & Rowing

"It’s just a job. Birds fly, grass grows, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.” Muhammad Ali

Really loved the above quote… it makes me think of my opportunities in the South Pacific. “It’s just a job.” I get to teach a subject I love, lead hikes through rainforests and over volcanoes, inspire others through education, and basically have the time of my life. For pay! I really am so lucky and fortunate.

Hugs, Jessie

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Cook Islands Time


 
"Would you like to dance?" A young sweaty (sexy) man, clothed in little more than a grass skirt, asks while gazing at me from dark brown eyes. Not one to be shy, I eagerly jump up from my seat and follow him to the stage, where a growing throng of people are gyrating to the beat of island drums. My sweaty dance tutor places his hands on my hips and pushes them in this up-down-side-to-side manner that felt unnatural and silly. After showing me the female dance moves, he switches to his dance where he where he knocks his knees together, pumps his fist up and down, and whirling around the dance floor. Quickly I'm swallowed in grass skirts and coconut shelled bikini tops twirling around me, the beat pulsing in my head, and my hips trying to keep up. My dance partner smiles and giggles at me. My hip-wriggling attempt is only a trifle of movement compared to Cook Islander women, many of which start to dance before they walk.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

See you later Oz, I’ll be back!

Alas my fairytale New Zealand and Australia trip was finally forced to an end, as the 12-week Georgia Tech Pacific study abroad program wrapped up its final days in Brisbane, Australia. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to Australia, but not yet to the South Pacific! After departing Brisbane, I took off for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands for an entire week!!

“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Dr. Seuss

*Pix: A wrap up of Australia (primarily Sydney)
*Love all these emails so much, and want to reread them? Chasing Jessie
*All Pix: Picture compilation


Friday, March 5, 2010

Saving the Best (Weekend) for Last


Leaving audacious, foolish, dazzling Sydney for gentle Brisbane (‘brizz-ben’) after 3 weeks was my closest version of inter-country culture shock. Instead of basking in that awkwardness, I quickly caught a flight up to Cairns (‘cans,’ no ‘r’) for a launching point to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Landed Thursday afternoon, and stupidly booked Thursday night at Gilligan’s, seemingly the biggest backpacker’s hostel in the world. Well, maybe not the biggest, but potentially the loudest sleeping over 500 bodies per night, and dishing up raucous fun on a nightly basis in the throbbing bar, which conveniently amplifies music to nearly every room in the house. Thursday night was “Ladies Champagne” night, but even after 3 glasses served by half-dressed buff men, the noise in my top bunk could not be blocked out even after earplugs supplementation. Oh the life of cheap accommodations! Honestly though, who cares?! I was leaving bright and early Friday morning on a catamaran for the GBR!!!

Two days and one night of miraculousness followed on a live-aboard 120’ catamaran with 8 dives / day on the GBR. Words cannot accurately describe the colors and sights that I saw…

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jessie’s Animal Adventures

Considering Australia has 7 of the 10 deadliest animals in the world, it was only fitting that I visited loads of animal parks, sanctuaries, zoos and reserves! Next stop, RIP Steve Irwin’s home zoo and grounds, the Australia Zoo just outside of Brisbane, and Sydney Wildlife World in the middle of bustling Sydney!

Let’s talk about animals… a quick and fun science lesson! (After all, I am in the Pacific for the purpose of teaching Biology lab and class!!)

Snakes – everywhere!
Australia is home to the most highly venomous snakes in the world. It is also the only continent on which the venomous varieties outnumber the harmless ones. Although less than one third of the world’s snake species are venomous, they make up 65% of Australia’s snakes! Many are beneficial in that they eat small rodents which destroy crops and property. ALL snakes, venomous and nontoxic, are protected by law in Australia.
Indian Taipan - world's most venomous snake

What is a “Monotreme”?
The platypus and echidnas (2 species of echidnas)… Platypus are covered in fur, have the ability to suckle their young, as well as the ability to regulate their body temperature --- ALL characteristics of Mammasls! Platypus also lay eggs and have a single opening for the purposes of reproduction and excretion, which are typical characteristics of bats and reptiles. Platypus and echidnas are the only monotremes in the world, and are unique to Australia and Papua New Guinea (small island just north of AUS).
Platypus

Croc versus Gator?
The most reliable way of identifying a crocodile versus an alligator is to look at their teeth: In crocodiles, the teeth of the lower jaw fit into grooves on the outside of the upper jaw, so when the mouth is closed BOTH upper and lower teeth are visible. In alligators, the teeth of the lower jaw fit into sockets in the upper jaw, so when the mouth is closed ONLY the upper teeth are visible. (PS- There are no alligators native to Australia.) Snout shape is not a reliable way of telling the difference, as snout shape can vary within each species.
Saltwater crocodile

That’s all I’ve got! Enjoy the animal adventures!

Pix Australia Zoo
Pix Sydney Wildlife World & Aquarium

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Furry, cuddly, scaly, scary!

New Zealand has its nearly endangered living fossil, the tuatara; its namesake, the nocturnally elusive kiwi, and 35 million sheep. All impressive, no question, but let’s just face it… How many people oooh and ahhhh over scaly dinosaur ancestors, spotted little birds that are never seen, or mutton on the dinner plate? Move over New Zealand, Australia is putting up some power in the “cute” department! Cuddly koalas, boxing kangaroos and rainbowed lorikeets, oh my!

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary plays wonderful home to over 130 koalas, as the name suggests, but also a host of other creatures from kangaroos galore, wallabies, tasmanian devils, and even a few saltwater crocodiles! I stayed away from the dingos, devils and crocs, but I did get up close (and cuddly) with the other furries. I just cannot express how enchanted I was / have become with these creatures of Down Under, particularly the kangaroo. I took pictures of them at every angle, lied down with them, hopped along… I have had the opportunity to get to know some remarkable animals, and hope you can appreciate them too!

Pix Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Rock wallaby




Cassowary - world's most dangerous bird

Grey kangaroo

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gimme the blue stuff

Well folks, I have found the true meaning of procrastination, and I have 200% embraced it. According to this email "blog," I am still in Australia. Based on those details, it is only March 2009 too... whoa. In truth, at least geographically, this email is not too much of a stretch! I departed the South Pacific on April 15th, went back to Georgia Tech for Summer and Fall semesters (to graduate!!), and on January 2, 2010, I departed again for the South Pacific! As mentioned, geographically Australia is not that far away, considering this email is being typed in New Zealand.
--> I have made a pact with myself: Finish this "2009" email trip to each of you (i.e. share pictures and stories), and if I can keep up with my 2010 tirp in a --timely-- manner, restart it all! I've been here a week; you'll know the outcome soon enough ! :)
Hugs, Jessie

In the mean time, let's talk Australia!
Add one part mie scattering by UV radiation, add millions of parts curious travelers, explorers, and aborigines, and finally add sheer beauty. Voila, I present to you The beautiful Blue Mountains, which border metropolitan Sydney, Australia!

Friday, January 1, 2010

It started with sand

One tiny sand particle started it all, and Fraser Island, a World Heritage is considered the largest sand island in the world.

My camping abilities have been in a dormant state for several years now. By ‘several years,’ I mean at least 7 or 8 years of suppressed hardcore overnight roughing it. However, somehow, some way, I was persuaded to resurrect my bathe-in-a-lake skills.
A 5:30am departure on Friday morning had 15 of us piled into three 4-wheel drive LandCruisers on our way to Fraser Island off the coast of Australia.

Fraser Island is one of 2 islands off the Northeastern coast of Australia, and is only accessible by 4wd vehicles ferried across the sea for a small price. The island is World Heritage listed, and is the largest sand island in the world. The place has a huge population – 360, 11 of which are Aboriginal. We’re talking major social events!
http://www.fraserisland.net/

We traversed the ferry and landed on “The 75 mile beach,” which doubles as the main highway on the island, as well an airport landing strip. “All vehicles must yield to any landing aircraft.” Whoa! After a beach picnic everyone was in the Cruisers ready to roll, while I was standing at one driver door with map to help determine our route. I hear, “Dingo! Wow, there’s a dingo!” Huh? What? There’s a dingo??!! Mind you, I am the ONLY person NOT securely in a vehicle. I nearly jumped onto the hood in fright, and scampered into the truck, of course searching for my camera (first) and my safety (second). Let’s put it this way, dingoes are the equivalent of wolves… nice to look at from afar, but you don’t want to encounter a wild one face-to-face. They are ancestral of domestic dogs, but have reverted back to the wild.
The weekend passed through large freshwater perched lakes (i.e. lake sitting on top of compact sand and vegetable matter, above sea level), lots of bush-driving and a beached shipwreck exploration. Oh, and being waken up every morning by a kookaburra laughing loudly. Thanks to the lack of inhabitants and no light pollution, the night sky afforded visibility of every star, dot, poke, sattellite, constellation, and the entire Milky Way! Could have been the wine though too. I couldn’t have imagined a better back-to-camping expedition.

Pictures Fraser Island