Roving with Blue Penguins

Honestly, it felt good not having to get up quite so early. When I did wake up, however, I tried to call Ken on WhatsApp. We have been having great luck connecting, and we have been talking every day until today. Our phones rang, but they wouldn’t connect. Both of us tried multiple times, so I hope to have better success tomorrow morning from Oamuru. Over the phone on this app, Ken sounds like he’s right in the same room with me. I was surprised with the clarity, and, best of all, it’s free.

This morning, we headed out to a cropping farm not too far from our motel in Ashburton. A farmer hopped on the bus and took us around his farm. He was growing grain, fodder beets, and corn. We were all curious about the fodder beets for animals. He jumped out of the bus and invited us all to eat a little piece. I thought it was delicious. I’d put it out on a relish tray. Apparently it is very similar to a sugar beet.

The farmer had a quick wit. As we were just about to get out to inspect the corn crop, he said, “Corn is on the right. Maize is on the left.” Of course we asked what the difference was. He laughed and said he had no idea.

He showed us his irrigation operation with pivots (circles) and talked about water. We learned that it is very dry on the Canterbury Plain right now. Where there’s irrigation, crops are green, but there were many dry, brown areas. It is also windy here, but because of the need for irrigation, farmers are taking out trees because they use up the moisture. (Not sure about that as a conservation practice!) We also drove over bridges with dried up river beds underneath. This area like the one around Sping Field, Australia needs rain.

We went to Peter, the tour guide’s house, for lunch. We knew immediately when we met his wife Bev and saw their house and garden that we were in for a treat. I snapped a lot of photos of the house because Bev absolutely has an eye for color and design. The garden was immaculate but beautiful in every detail. Here Peter and Bev have hedge rows that give the flower beds a backdrop. They do the work themselves, so it must take a lot of time.

I had emailed Brent about finding some merino wool in New Zealand, roving to be exact, to spin with. At lunch, Brent asked Bev about where to get roving. She knew exactly where to go. The Ashford Company Headquarters is located right there in Ashburton! I couldn’t believe it. This is nearly ground zero for spinners. I have an Ashford spinning wheel as do many of my friends.

Bev took Judy, Carol, Joyce the 2nd and I to the Ashford store while the rest of the group went to a dairy farm. I was able to purchase beautiful roving at good prices, and Garrett and Carol and Judy and Gary all promised to help me get it home.

I also discovered that Bev Macauley was, at once time, a renowned weaver in New Zealand. She has won awards for her work. I took a photo of one of her weaving that she displayed in her house. She weaves no more because of shoulder problems, but once I realized her background, the superb interior design of the house and garden made sense.

After all the roving excitement, we met the others, and then Nigel drove us all south for about 2 hours to Oamuru on the coast of the South Pacific Ocean. Our goal was to get to our motels, put on our warmest clothes, eat, and then go see the wonderful little blue penguins. The blue penguins here are the smallest penguins in the world, and they swim in from the Pacific every evening and climb the beach rocks to find their nests. 149 came from the ocean to their wooden box nests on land. Brent said that this is the largest number of them that he has seen. We sat in some bleachers to observe them moving out of the water onto land and up over the rocks.

No one is allowed to take photos or video of any kind, but, of course, you can find most everything on the internet, so I found this home video of the penguins. The video was shot at Oamuru, so you can sort of see what we experienced tonight. Click this link. All I can say is that spending time with the blue penguins tonight is a highlight of the trip and the perfect ending to a wonderful day. I asked Garrett to snap a photo of a model of the little penguins on their box nest.

Tomorrow we are headed for Queenstown and the last leg of our journey. We will see some beautiful mountains. Sadly it is another somewhat early call: 6:00 wake up for 7:30 breakfast.

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