Off the farm, wearable art—gobsmackingly creative

Who’d have thunk it?

Haute couture meets rural lifestyle. Anything is possible in this land peopled by DIY-ers. Even, a Paris-styled catwalk parade showcasing wearable garments made of stuff from the farm.

The annual Ag Art Wear Show in Hamilton fused creative genius and theatrical extravaganza. It made NZ’s National Agricultural Fieldays worth the effort of plowing through crowds and farming gear, lots of farming gear. Continue reading

Finding the sacred in boiling mud

It was eerily beautiful to be alone with boiling mud pools today. The underworld seemed close, veiled by billowing sulphurous mist. The mud blurped into weirdly wonderful circular forms, quickly disappeared, then reformed again and again. Continue reading

World class rugby on NZ’s home turf

(Editor’s Note: I invited a guest editorial from Kenton Bird, pictured here with Kiwi friend Claire Mikkelson. He attended the rugby match between Wales and NZ with Claire and her husband Pat at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton. Decked in All Blacks regalia, stocking cap and all, he was quite a sight. I worried that seated with Kiwi fans, his jacket (red—one of the Wales colors) would compromise his comfort. But—no worries, mate!) Continue reading

Taiko drumming—a big noisy wrinkle in time

I love drumming. It pulls me into a place where I seem to absorb its pulsing thumps through my skin. Luckily, I found a gathering of life-minded souls shortly after we arrived in January, where a drumming circle meets in Hamilton monthly on the full moon. Continue reading

Northland: Three-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

This rich yummy chocolate cake was made special for us by our Northland backpackers lodge hostess Sue. A former nurse, she moved to in Omapere, NZ from the United Kingdom 15 years ago and started the fabulous Northland backpackers lodge Globe Trekkers with her son Mike. After a full day of exploring the Hokianga Harbor region, this cake went down smooth as butter.

Three-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

1 coffee mug
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons super fine sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons mini-chocolate chips
splash of vanilla

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix well, scraping the sides of the mug. Pour in milk and oil; mix well. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla. Put the mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes on high (give or take a minute depending on the vintage/wattage of the microwave).

The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed. Allow the cake to cool a bit, then tip out onto a plate—or hell eat it out of mug if you’re desperate.

This can easily be shared by two people, unless either is a chocolate hound (like my father-in-law Bob Bird). Otherwise, double the recipe.

Northland: Old Bones of Trees and Rocks

After traveling to the end of the world, we were uncertain as to whether we could muster emotional energy for more splendor. But then, yes—we’ve become gluttons. We wanted to see it all.

From our base camp at Hokianga Harbor, we set forth on a tramp through the Waipoua Forest, the dwelling place of what’s left of NZ’s oldest kauri trees. The hushed cathedral-like sanctuary is a mere fragment of the hundreds of thousands of acres that once clothed the region. Continue reading

Northland: Cape Reinga and Ninety Miles of Beach

After a ferry ride crossing the Hokianga Harbor to Kohukohu, we drove to Cape Reigna at the top of the North Island. This was a pilgrimage of sorts. We were looking for closure, symmetry. Having traveled to the most southerly point of the South Island, we were determined to have matched NZ’s topographic tips. Continue reading

Northland: Wild Pigs and Kauri Gum

While waiting for a ferry to cross the Hokianga Harbor, we strolled the tiny harbor village of Rawene, fringed by mangrove trees that grow in sea mud. The locals use the mangrove leaves, which are loaded with salt, to smoke their fish.

A pickup attached to a trailer of five caged dogs caught my attention. I chatted up with the owner, a guy named Joe. He was heading into the Northland bush to hunt wild pigs with his nephews and brother, and was eager to share his story. Continue reading

Northland: Kupe’s Home at Hokianga

There is one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath. — Herman Melville

There is a certain sadness now to writing about New Zealand, this country we’ve come to know and love. But it’s surprisingly cathartic, too, a way of saying farewell, I suppose. Our trip to Northland was our final weekend getaway before we begin the process of packing for our return home-home. Continue reading

Northland: Baylys Beach—A Living Sandstone Sculpture

We’re already missing New Zealand, and we haven’t even left yet. Baylys Beach is the kind of place I will miss the most—the West Coast beaches piled with miles of sand dunes. The gullies and cliffs, beautifully etched by wind, water and time, feel like a gargantuan sandstone sculpture. Continue reading