Spring Has Sprung!

After a long, cold, boring winter, we are back! Between work, studying and the winter blues M and I haven’t done much of interest since May. A quick summary, in pictures:

We went to a dam with a hole in it!
We went to a dam with a hole in it!
We saw a kotuku (rare while heron)!
We saw a kotuku (rare white heron)!

And, most excitingly, we went back to Tawharanui and heard a kiwi! It sounded like this, except louder.

(Another, less impressive thing that happened is our camera broke: the bit holding the batteries in no longer catches. All these pictures are from my phone, hence the worse quality).

Slowly, the weather has been getting nicer and we have been emerging from our apartment more and more. Last weekend we actually didn’t plan to do anything too interesting: we’d heard reports of a reef heron near Ambury Farm Park and decided to check it out. We cruised down the shore looking for the heron, with no luck. To cheer ourselves up we decided to go to the farm to look at adorable springtime babies, but we got a bit more than we bargained for!

These could be seen for miles around.
These could be seen for miles around.

Our first clue that something more was going on at the park was a multitude of kites flying above it. Our second clue came when we were directed to park in sheep poop-filled field instead of the normal (small) lot. It turns out we’d arrived on Ambury Farm Day, a yearly festival with a variety of farm activities, carnival rides, food stalls and more going on around the farm.

We don't think
We don’t think “possum shooting” was executing live possums, but Kiwis do hate those pests…

M and I wandered around, taking in all the sights and sounds. It’s rare that we go to places that are popular, much less a large, crowded festival! We did enjoy seeing the New Zealand-y activities, including a sheepdog herding demonstration:

Sorry these are indistinct, the dog was far away.
Sorry these are indistinct, they are far away.
They got away at the last second though.
The sheep almost got away at the last second.

Off to the side of this pasture was some crowded pens of sheep (as I guess you can’t reuse sheep) and a lineup of attentive sheepdogs, clearly waiting their turn. The dog we were watching eventually got the sheep into the target pen, but when the man opened the pen again, they were very reluctant to come out. With some prompting, they bolted across the field and eagerly dove into the holding pen with the other sheep.

Another New Zealand, sheep-based activity going on was sheep-shearing. We first saw the evidence of this event:

Naked sheep.
Naked sheep.

I persuaded M to watch at least one sheep being sheared in the sheep-shearing barn (where else?) The man doing it kept the sheep expertly immobilized, then threw wool to the crowd when he was done for everyone to feel. There were giant bins of wool from many sheep, so they had enough to go around. It turned out that one of the shearers was bicycle-powered, so as we were leaving he was calling up a volunteer to take a turn pedaling.

It was busy in the barn.
It was busy in the barn.

Next, we went to check out the “butter, bees and cheese” tent advertised on the signs. We didn’t see any cheese, but M did spend a good 5 minutes shaking a container with cream in it to form some butter. The person supervising the butter-making took the butter from us, but spread some on a slice of bread for us to share. It was delicious! Nearly as good was the fresh honey in the station behind us, where a man squeezed honeycomb onto toast. The fresh honey was very runny and not as strong-tasting as the store variety (probably less sugar).

Bees and the fruits of their labor, on toast.
Bees and the fruits of their labor, on toast.

Of course, we still had our eyes on the prize, the prize being baby farm animals. I knelt down to take some pictures of this cute calf:

Very cute.
Very cute.

When I looked up, it seemed the whole herd was heading in my direction (protective, or jealous of the attention?) I liked the ones with spots on their faces:

What you looking at?
What you looking at?

We also stopped by the pen of little lambs, whose parents were presumably next door getting sheared.

Extremely cute!
Extremely cute!

There were other, non-animal-based displays, such as a wood chopping competition, chainsaw carving, tractor and horse carriage rides and more. One of the more baffling was a demonstration of antique water pump machines:

All painted and everything.
All painted and everything.
This one had a twisted belt, for some reason.
This one had a twisted belt, for some reason.

Really not sure why someone would want to lovingly preserve pumps, but there we are.

To round off our trip, M and I got a mussel fritter to share before heading back to the car. On the way home, we decided to stop by the shore one last time. It was high tide so all the birds were relaxing on the beach, but M spotted the elusive reef heron fishing in the surf! A satisfying end to a surprising day.

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