Playing House in New Zealand

Have you even wanted to temporarily slip into someone else’s life? Unless you’re new here, you know that my partner, Karen, and I regularly get the chance to do exactly that. Thanks to several online house sitting communities, we are able to connect with people around the world, move into their homes, look after their animals, and free them up for their own travels. It’s pretty amazing.

We recently had the opportunity to ‘play house’ on a kiwi farm in New Zealand for almost three weeks. Each one offers a different location, style of house, animals, and responsibilities, but this was one of the most unique, yet.

First off, we were on a kiwifruit orchard, living in a converted pig barn. Not your every day sort of accommodations. The home was beautiful with many touches showcasing the homeowners’ eclectic style. We had the run of a fantastic kitchen and even a wood burning pizza oven.

No matter how lovely a home, it’s always  the animals that provide the extra touch. While we travel for five months at a time, having animal companions really does add that homie feel.

tauranga-possum-2

The beautiful Possum is independent, as any proper cat should be, but she did allow a few cuddles here and there.

As lovely as she was, kitty did lose a point in my books when she brought home a dead bunny. Karen spotted her prize just in time to stop her from bringing it in the house. I know that bunnies are destructive and unwanted here, but we don’t want to see the evidence of her pest control work!

 

 

tauranga-dogs

Peppe le Poo runs wild and free, coming home worn out, happy, and beyond filthy. Our wild child is not a fan of the garden hose, but it became a feature of almost every day.

Behind her is the lovely Bear Dog. He didn’t wander very far and kept us company whatever we were doing.

 

 

 

Having chickens come in for drinks from the dog bucket added a further touch of ‘farm style’ to the converted ‘piggery.’ Here’s Penny, making herself at home.

tauranga-chicken-in-kitchen

We weren’t sure if Penny wanted to give Karen some cooking advice, or if she was just waiting for something to drop. Either way, Possum wasn’t phased.

A few times, Big Red, the resident rooster, came in to check things out, as well. There were about 25 chickens running around, and thankfully, we never did have them all in the house at the same time.

Monarch butterfly caterpillars and milkweed cuttings had been brought into the house in an effort to save them from the birds. A caterpillar forming it’s chrysalis, and then emerging as a butterfly, is truly one of Mother Nature’s most amazing tricks.

In addition to looking after the animals, we had these wonderful gardens to tend. Karen teases me for my case of ‘chicken love’, but she was in her glory weeding, watering, pruning and tying up tomato plants, and harvesting veggies.

tauranga-garden

We’ve never seen such huge herb plants as in New Zealand! We had access to rosemary, sage, basil, different mints, thyme, chives, and some that I’m sure I’m forgetting. In February!

Of course, what’s a backyard garden without passion fruit!? After a little online searching, Karen discovered that you wait for the fruit to fall off the vine, then let is go all wrinkly before eating it. I can’t stand the squidgie things (what’s the polite word for snot? never mind, it’s my blog, and I don’t have to be polite). At least Karen thought they were a treat.

Fortunately, we had a potted blueberry bush on the patio right outside the kitchen doors! Now, we’re talking!

tauranga-blueberries

We enjoyed having more chores than usual at this house sit. There are honestly times when a three week sit can seem a bit long, no matter how wonderful the location.

At this one, we had some newly planted trees to tend, so I learned to drive the ride-on lawn mower for hauling water (you’ll need to buy me a glass of wine to hear more about that adventure!).

We also had a small B&B to look after and guests to check in. We’ve often wondered if we’d want to look after a B&B on our travels. Now, we’ve had a little taste of that, as well.

We count ourselves very fortunate to have all of these experiences. This style of travel is so much more than seeing the sights, and the benefits go far beyond saving on hotel costs. House sitting lets us learn a little bit about different lifestyles. It gives us the chance to meet people and share their homes. Unlike most traditional forms of travel, house sitting also allows us to make friendships.

Each and every time someone trusts us to look after home and their pets, it is a huge honour. We are constantly amazed by their willingness to welcome strangers into their homes and their lives.


We’ve moved on to another gig. There is a new house to get used to (How do we turn the tv on? Where do they hide the plastic wrap?), new dogs to walk, and a new neighbourhood to explore. The adventure continues.

 

 

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Playing House in New Zealand

  1. Loved the blog except for the chickens. Have a phobia about birds or maybe feathers and/or beaks. I agree with Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, chickens are mean. A couple of years ago, when I stopped to buy some black bird seed (yes for the birds) I had these chickens chasing me around the car until the owner came out of the house to save me. As mean as they can be, I wouldn’t want to see Penny as a roasted chicken dinner and Big Red as chicken soup. Great photos Leah.

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  2. I have friends who are hobby egg farmers. Yes, their chickens are almost like pets, but not so much that they come into the kitchen. 🙂

    Love your blog and photos!

    Leslie (Leona’s sister-in-law)

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  3. As always, I love reading about your adventures. The pictures are wonderful. I specially like the one of the blueberries. Write on!

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  4. Leslie (Leona’s SIL – haha), this was a first for us, too. So cute, and I only had to clean up after one mess! The more time I spend around chickens, the more I learn that they have some different personalities; they are a lot of fun to observe. I’m glad you’re enjoying our trip. Leah

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  5. Oh, no, Penny and Big Red are very much loved, and would never be destined for the stock pot. Of course, I do question the sanity of those who regularly went into the fireplace!

    Chickens can be mean, but for the most part, they keep that action amongst themselves. There was one chicken, in this bunch, who was clearly an outcast. She didn’t join the others in the coop overnight (she roosted in a tree), and she was regularly picked on. At first, I tried to look out for her and stop the bullying, but you just can’t fight nature. Poor thing. So far, none of them have tried attacking me. I’d be terrified if Big Red came after me!

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  6. I shall write on, Leona. I’m not doing well at keeping to a schedule this year, but I’m doing my best.

    Don’t you just want to reach out and grab the blueberries? They were every bit as delicious as they look in the picture.

    Stay warm, my friend. Spring is coming (so I hear).

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  7. Oh my, chicken poop in the house. Don’t think I could manage that one. But what a delightful experience you share. And that monarch! Stained glass wings. What a shot. I’ve never been much of a traveler, so I appreciate the vicarious peeks I get of yours. : )

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  8. Chicken poop, baby poop, it’s all how you think of it! Ha ha

    I’m happy to bring you on my tour.

    I have been thinking of you as I decide what to do with the red kumara (sweet potato). I’ll let you in on one secret: they’re white inside!

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  9. Often, the sweet potatoes labeled as such in the supermarket here (as opposed to those labeled “yams”) are white inside as well. We find them a little grainier and often more fibrous than the orange or purple yams.

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  10. Just checking in to say I miss you and your posts. Hope everything is all right, and if not, that you are getting all the support you need. All the best to the two of you!

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  11. Thanks, KG. All is well. We are at home, and I keep meaning to post. Jet lag knocked the poop out of me! Thanks for checking in. I’ll bounce back soon!

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