So after an awesome weekend in Singapore (thanks guys!) and a few days sorting myself out in Auckland I headed down to my first Wwoofing experience with ‘a family of circus performers who live in the bush’ as it stated on their wwoofing profile. From Hamilton I got a local bus towards Raglan where I was being picked up from a random bus stop in the middle of nowhere.
From that point I have fed chickens, pigs, moved chickens and pigs to a new home, collected eggs, planted every vegetable imaginable, built raised vegetable plot, filled them with compost, walked through the bush and slept in a circus caravan!
This is the caravan where I slept (the clown cave) and the beds me and Damien built in the garden.
The house has the longest drive I have ever been down, and so although it’s only 30 minutes or so to Raglan, you could be miles from anywhere. Initially you get to the ‘gypsy camp’ where there are lorries, vans and caravans for when they are on the road with the circus. This is where I am living. Then you head up to the house past the orchard with the pigs. Whilst I have been here, the family have been Damien and his brother Paddy, and Damien’s son Mattias and his girlfriend Po. They seem a very independent family with the wife and daughter currently in Europe for an extended length of time.
Their lifestyle is impressive. They are not on mains electricity or gas or water. They have solar panels and a generator, gas bottles and various water collecting devices. They grow vegetables and herbs, eat their own eggs from the chickens, get their milk fresh from a farm down the road and fresh bread each morning made by Paddy. This sounds relatively simple but recreating the set up they have would take a huge amount of time and effort. Their house is decorated in a way I appreciate (lots of bright colours), but it’s little things like the tiles in the kitchen area are various smashed pottery bits that they kept, including old mug handles for hooks, just shows how much they recycle. Both Paddy and Damien have a huge range of skills, whilst I was there Paddy was finishing a beautiful kitchen worktop made of wood and marble. It had cost him about $70 so far. Damien talked about he much money you can save if you don’t need to pay people like builders, mechanics, plumbers etc. This means the garage, woodshed and various tables and random places in the garden are filled with all sorts of tools, bits of wood, and bits and pieces of complete randomness. Paddy showed me a book by a guy called John Seymour who is an English man who wrote a self-sufficiency how to book which they use as their ‘bible’.
Given you are suddenly in a strangers home for 24 hours a day, there is always going to be a little bit of awkwardness. However, by then end of the week I think I have fitted in well. I hope I have been useful. To me it seems to have been a pretty productive week, and I like to think that I show a bit of initiative when there is something I can do to help out. I have learnt about their lifestyle both here at their home and when they are on the road as Circus Aoteroa, which Damien and Paddy own. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to practice any circus tricks They do have a practice area in their house, in the section they built. A two storey open section where they have a static trapeze and silks hung, and then hoops, hats, rings and all sorts of circus apparel lying around. Very cool, and I want one in my future house! But not really used whilst I was there, and I can’t remember any tricks on the silks so I would have not been able to do much without help.
I have no wwoofing experience to compare it to, but I have been very well looked after in most respects. Food has been excellent with Paddy cooking a delicious dinner every night. He does the catering on the road, so cooking for one extra, even a veggie person was no trouble. I was worried I would be cold in my caravan, the weather hasn’t been great, but with all the blankets I was given I have been very cosy - although getting up in the morning has been difficult! It’s only really my hair that has not been having a good week, as they do not shower very frequently to preserve water. But generally it has been lovely to have the time to lose yourself in 2 hours of planting seedlings and to spend time thinking about how good it would be to be able to have this sort of set up yourself. Hence going old school for the title of the piece. I have definitely taken some inspiration from their way of life.