The other thing I did this weekend was an adventure! That I've been looking forward to since ages ago. Y'see, I somehow know one of the sons of the people who own Stansborough Farm. Stansborough is home of the Stansborough Grey - a gotland derivative sheep that's been selectively bred until it has enough unique properties to register as a distinct breed, and which is unique to Stansborough, bred by Elf's folks. That's the cool part for me, but for most people, the cool part is the wool. It's fine, soft and lustrous (not an easy combination to achieve in one fleece just saying), and perfect for making worsted textiles. They use all the fleeces themselves (about 1000 of them a year), having the wool processed and spun in the South Island and milled/woven/textilated in Petone.
You've probably seen some Stansborough textiles in action - in such movies as Lord of the Rings. All those beautiful cloaks? Stansborough. So, not your average sheep farm then. But for me, the combination of Wairarapa (which I love) and New Breed Of Sheep meant I wasn't going to miss this trip for quids.
Ostensibly we were going to check out a potential new site for Kiwiburn that's on the farm. Y'see, the Stansborough people are progressive and very friendly, and willing to open their farm to not only public bus tours of people coming to look at the home of the LoTR textiles, but also to the idea of holding a festival on the property. That's pretty impressive IMO. Anyway, I say ostensibly because my head was on a bloody swivel the whole time and I was a bit "Yeah yeah Kiwiburn site OH LOOK SHEEP!"
If you cunningly observed that those are not sheep, you'd be right. They are alpacas. Or llamas. Or alpacas crossed with llamas (I think I heard Elf say that happens sometimes). Anyway, they are cute and fluffy and help provide the source of some of the textiles. Here they are gathering around because they think we're going to let them through the gate into a new paddock. Hah. Fooled you, alpacas! Also take note of the lovely spring green as the trees come into leaf.
So this is a Stansborough Grey. Most of the greys have been shorn already (they're shorn in early spring to keep the winter break from marring the fleeces), but this one clearly dodged the muster so she's still got her full fleece. Also, wee black lamb! *SQUEE* All the purebred lambs are born black apparently, then change colour as they mature.
This is one of the swimming holes that would be available to Kiwiburners should the site turn out to be suitable. Picturesque.
Here we have a cunning feat of engineering, with Happy the engineer completely ignoring it. Where is the feat, you might ask. Well, if you look carefully on the right hand side, you can see a cable has been strung high above the river, with wires hanging down from which are suspended a line of reinforcing mesh. It's quite hard to see because it's all quite lightweight. In conditions like the ones shown here, the mesh sits on the ground and acts as a fence. In flood conditions, it floats above the water on the suspended wire, letting debris underneath, and when the floods recede it comes back down and is a fence again. I think this is pretty awesome, and it's one of the better designs I've seen for this purpose.
Here's a picture of maybe one tenth of the farm. It's about 2700 acres in total and wherever you look there are vistas like this. I was in heaven.
This is the lake that's next to the potential KB site, with added artistic bone. I suspect this may be the result of the myriad grandchildren that were hanging out at the farm when we were there - I mean, where's the rest of the cow?
Turns out it's in this pipe. At least its head, two of its ribs and its pelvis are. Yep, kids. I've no idea where the rest of it went and I'm not sure I want to know.
After looking at the KB site we took the quad up to the top of the farm - not quite out to the back boundary (that was about another half a km away) but to one of the high vantage points where the bones of the earth start to break through the tops of the hills. This effect is fairly common in the Wairarapa and is known as taipos. Taipo is a Maori word with a similar meaning to 'goblin' and you could translate taipos as 'place where goblins live'. Instead, we got sheep, but close enough right?
And then there was this:
Those are not statues artfully placed there to impress tourists, they are actual sheep. Frankly I think the Stansborough Greys know they're film stars because they sure are posey. But check out that view. Do you want to live there yet? I do.
After this we descended back down to sea level and were plied with quiche and wine at the homestead. It turned out that by coincidence, Elf's whole immediate family was present, which included about 10 adults, 7 grandchildren, a couple of rabbits and a dog. It was raucous and chaotic and friendly awesome fun. I managed to do some brain-picking about the sheep and their wool as we sat in the sunshine, and on the way out we checked out some of the blankets which are in use in the cottage, which is available for weekending. They are beautiful.
I left Stansborough feeling kind of high. It might have been all that fresh air and sunshine, but it was also being made to feel so welcome, saturating myself in sheep geekery, being in the Wairarapa and on a proper farm for the first time in over a year, and hanging out with cool people doing fun stuff. I had a fantastic time, and I'm very thankful that Elf and his family allowed us such an intimate look at their lifestyle.
Happy had his first ever ride on a quad, which means that he's now a proper kiwi. One with very gritted teeth and a white knuckle grip and possibly a bruised arse (I didn't ask).