Sunday, October 4, 2009

Time Flies

Ok, I've been terrible about keeping up with this blog. But I'm home now and have an awesome internet connection. If you haven't heard, I came home. Calving season is over, and it felt like it was time. Jobs were a little harder to come by at this point, and I wasn't sure how much down time I would have before I went to another farm. Plus, I had a great time with the Wigrams, so I wanted to leave on a good note. One thing I learned while traveling on my own is that things are much more fun when they're shared with other people, so the loneliness was getting to me.

You can check out all the photos on the link. Just a warning, it's mostly cows and green hills. :-)

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Lost Blog

Yikes, it's been a month since I posted! Holy cow... well I have a pretty good excuse. The farm I'm on is in the middle of nowhere. So secluded that their 4km driveway is even included on the road atlas. Cell reception is here and there, and internet is nonexistent. I've been driving to the nearest town, Tokoroa, and sitting in my car, using the internet. It's pretty sad when you think about it. I've also sat at restaurants with my laptop, but I only have enough patience for that to check my e-mail.

Anyway, a lot has happened since I last wrote! I only spent 4 days on the farm I went to after the first one. Then, I went on to another farm and had a really good time there, which is why you haven't heard from me. I actually worked a full 12 hour day (with 2 1-hour breakfast and lunch breaks) and I enjoyed it. Working a full days work is much more satisfying than the 5-6 I was getting at the first place. Because of me buying the internet by MB, I might just have to catch you all up to speed and post pictures when I get home. I took a ton of photos at the last farm, and it was a really neat place. I also got to do some sight-seeing.

Army update- Craig got his initial orders about a month ago. After he graduates from training, it looks like Ft. Carson, Colorado. That could change though.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

House with a view

Here's the view from my kitchen window. Are you jealous yet? Also pictured is the view from the living room. In this part of the country, there's limestone rocks that stick out of the ground, and something they call tomos, which are sudden holes in the ground where rain water flows to. Apparently the person I'm replacing accidentally drove into one of these tomos and hurt himself. I went from crazy steep hills to crazy big holes.

So I arrived at the farm owner's house, which is just down the road from the farm. The farm owner, Deryk, got me settle in and told me to wait for his wife, Marian. Their house was so cute! An old farm house that was redone, and had a country cottage feel to it with old family photographs on the wall and antiques places through the house. I quickly learned they were very proud of their Dutch heritage.

When Marian arrived, I was informed I would be living in her son's house, just down the road. I gave her a strange look, which she quickly understood, and assured me that he doesn't actually live there. He spends all day at the farm and eats meals with his parents, so we would never actually be living together. It does sound like a weird arrangement, but it is nice to have my own space to hang out in without feeling like a guest.

The house is pretty new. It doesn't have a lot of furniture, and it certainly doesn't look lived in. Too clean to be a bachelor pad! It didn't take long fro me to spread all my crap everywhere.

The farm has 500 cows and milk in a 40 stall rotary parlor. Unlike the house, the farm wasn't much to look at. I was told that their son, Harvey, recently took over sharemilking, and was his first year. Also, these cows were bought this year, so they were not used to the farm and some were not used to a rotary parlor. Also, all cows are fed minerals through drenching, which none of these cows had done before. So they were having quite a time adjusting. Along with the fact that their hired help got hurt, the family had quite a lot on their plate!


Two mornings ago, after we finished up the morning milking, David mentions in passing, "Job called last night, they want you on another farm."
"When?" I asked
"Straight away. Tomorrow I suppose."

Wow, thanks for the warning. I left Job at Marvin Farms a
message wondering the details, and he called back saying that he thought I knew what was going on, and was surprised that Dave never said anything to me. Apparently, Dave called Job a week ago, and wanted a replacement. He wanted someone with a little more strength for pulling calves, drenching cows, pushing up cows, etc, as well as someone to handle the tractor driving. I was a little surprised that he never said anything to me, or tried to find another way to use me on the farm. Another thing that bothered me was I was supposed to be replacing Nicky to take over for her while on maternity leave, yet I was never taught or told to do her tasks on the farm, like feeding calves.

I think Dave knew I knew the entire story because he wouldn't even look me in the eyes after I told him I was leaving the next day! It was a little uncomfortable. I was not upset that i
t didn't work out, but disappointed in him that he couldn't man up and let me know what was going on. It was alright since I wasn't happy being the only employee and not really talking to anyone for long periods of time.

I packed up my stuff and headed to Matamata to meet with Job. When I got there, he explained that this happened before. The last female on the farm was a tall blonde from Finland, and Dave called Job at that time too after a few weeks saying that it wasn't working out. Job said it had more to do with me being female more than anything. I had to shrug and laugh because it's not like anything was going on! But I think it was for the best.

The farm I was scheduled to be on is near Te Kuiti, which is directly south of Hamilto
n. Their seasonal help recently got into an accident and needed someone to fill his place for a few weeks. I asked Job if being a female was going to be a problem, but he said they preferred one because they're a little better with the cows. I know that's a fact with calves, studies show women are far better at taking care of calves than men.

Anyway, I got to take a scenic trip to the central part of the north island. So I was coming around a bend, and on the other side, I couldn't help but exclaim, "Holy shit,
a volcano!" Unfortunately, I was descending a rather steep hill on a rather curvy road behind a slow semi, so there wasn't much time to stare and get any pictures. But wow, that was quite a surprise to see. It had the crater in the middle, so I'm pretty darn sure that's what it was.

I did have a chance to snap a picture while driving. I basically held up the camera and didn't look through it (so don't worry, mom!). This is probably the flattest land I've seen so far. This photo isn't of the volcano I saw, and I'm not sure what huge mountain that is in the background. Also, check out the car behind me. I was going exactly 100 km/hr which was the speed limit because I don't want any trouble while I'm here!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Funny Food

Here's some "different" food I've eaten or seen.

Chicken flavored, you say?

It's EXTRA delicious. Also,it's 55% of your daily intake of sodium.

Lamb Rugan Josh. I wonder what a "Josh" is.

Prosciutto and Brie potato chips. They didn't taste as exotic as the name, but still quite tasty.

This is the only size pizza they had at Domino's. Just goes to show what pigs we are in the US. The sausage was actual Italian sausage links cut into disks. Tasted like Canadian bacon to me. I also noticed the pastas Domno's had available looked like they had more vegietables and less cheese than the ones they sells in the US. Interesting!

Beer pictured to show size of pizza. It was good, almost like Heiniken.

My new ride

After spending three weeks on the farm and not going anywhere, I was going nuts. Turns out, I have every other weekend off, so my first weekend off was spend lounging around my house, cleaning, and doing laundry. I went for a walk and took some pictures as well. I thought I could walk down to the local fish and chips shop for lunch, but it turns out it was 6 km away! Not a causal walk by any means.

To battle my loneliness and craziness, I bought a car. For NZ$1500, the '93 Ford Falcon is mine. It has a big engine, which my boss keeps poking fun at me about, but beggers can't be choosers.

"I see your car has a ball hitch. Might come in handy when you have to pull the fuel tanker behind it." Haha, thanks Dave.

In New Zealand, every car has to have a Warrant of Fitness in order to be registered. Every six months, your car has to go to a shop and inspected. If there's anything wrong, it needs to be fixed in order to be granted your WoF. So when buying a car, a newer WoF typically means it's in good working condition. I picked a car that has a brand new registration and wof. It turns out in order to transfer a vehicle, all the buyer has to do is go to a post office, fill out a form, and pay $9.20. If you have a car's VIN number, you can go and say you own any car really! Crazy! Also, the post offices are also book and stationary stores, so it felt a little weird to be transfering vehicle ownership in a bookstore. In fact, the post office counter was busy, so the bookstore clerk took care of me. It almost seemed a little too easy.

Now that I've spent all my money on a car, I can
't go anywhere until my next paycheck because I can't afford gas, haha.
Here's my car! Never mind that dent in the hood (they call it the bonnet). All I've done is drove from the previous owner's house to the farm, and it seems to run pretty well.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Two weeks later

I'm going to get this blog up to speed. After the first few days on the farm, I got into the routine pretty easily. I work pretty slowly, which is expected, since it's pretty much genetic, haha. I hope I'm worth it to have around though. Typically there's two people in the parlor, but with me, there's three and I don't think I really speed up the process any. Cows only move as fast as they want. Dave could leave and get other work done, but he's much better at being a cow pusher just because he's bigger and stronger than me and Nicky.

Other than being in another country, things are pretty routine and boring around here. Mornings we milk, then break for breakfast. Mid to late morning involves picking up newborn cavles on the pasture.

Typically, the night before, Dave checks the springers and makes note of who has calved, and will mark the calves with the mom's eartag number. In the morning, we'll go out with a 4-wheele
r (quad) and trailer and pick them up. If they've cavled earlier that morning, we'll leave them on the pasture for a day with their mom. To a farmer in the US, this just seems crazy! But it's nice to see mother nature doing her job. Calves are trailered back home, put into a pen, iodine on their navels, and a brass tag in their ear. No calf hutches here!

I remember when I was in Mexico, I saw group calf pens, and the calves looked pretty sickly. These calves are healthy and pretty hardy since they have to compete for their food. I guess if there was a contagious illness, it would spread pretty fast, but Nicky spends quite a bit of time out there, so if something did happen, I'm sure she'd be there to segregate the sick calf and treat it. I guess no matter how calves are raised, it's all based on management and getting things taken care of before they become an issue. In the US, the feeling is keep calves sanitary and sterile. It's like a pig farm in my opinion. In New Zealand, I get the feeling calves are raised to be exposed a little bit to the elements, challenge them a bit to make them more hardy. Since milk production is not a concern, that makes sense.

Anyway, in the early afternoon, I bring the milkers up to the feed pad to eat corn silage for about an hour, and then at 3:15pm, they go up to the shed (aka milking parlor) so we can start milking by 3:30pm. We finish up between 5:30pm and 6:00pm. Nicky and Dave do other chores, but my day is pretty much done at that point.

Kiwi Farmer

July 28
I met with Job at Marvin Farms to get all my paperwork set. He talked about the island, where the different ethnic groups are, and whatnot. He went on forever, and I didn't want to tell him that I still had to buy a bus ticket, open a bank account, buy work clothes, get a cell phone, internet, and buy a car all before getting on the bus at 1pm. Also turns out I forgot to pay the hotel, so I had to walk back to pay them! I'm so used to giving the hotel
a credit card beforehand, I completely just walked off without paying!

In two hours, I got the bus ticket, cell phone, paid the hotel,
bought NZ$300 worth of work clothes (yikes!), and opened a bank account. I was pretty impressed. I told Job I couldn't believe how fast it took, and he replied, "This is New Zealand."
"I guess I'm just used to all the red tape in the US," I said.
"Just like in Holland, that's why I left," he said. Humm interesting.

Off to the bus stop in Tauranga. I waited a while, and I actually ran into a Maori with the traditional face tattoos. The indigenous people, the Maori,
are pretty integrated into modern society, but still keep many of their traditions. In fact, New Zealand is a bilingual country, English, and Maori. Just so happens that it was Maori Language Week when I arrived, so some TV shows, including Spongebob, were in Maori. Anyway, he was a little intimidating with his tattoos and 2 inch spacers in his ears. But he was wearing a suit, so it was a little strange to see. This picture I stole off the internet, but should be a good idea of the guy.

A farm truck pulled up- that must be him! The guy introduced himself as Brett, I secretly call him Crocodile Dundee. I guess I just take him for a typical Kiwi, crazy accent, tall, stocky build, blonde, somewhat of a wildness about him. So I learned he's the farm owner, and Dave and Nicky are the sharemilkers. The owner owns the land and cattle while the sharemilk does he day to day managing and decisions. Typically, farm owners are an older couple that were once the sharemilkers on the farm, and pass the farm on. In this case, Brett is an ex police officer probably in his 40's. He he drove like a crazy man at that! He even made a note of it, saying he drives like a typical Kiwi. Ha!

After meeting Dave and Nicky, we briefly chatted, and got ready for the evening milking. The first thing that stuck me was how simple the milking shed was. A simple block building with a lean-to roof attached that contained the parlor, or shed, as they call it.

First huge difference was cow prep, or lack of. I asked what the protocol was. Nicky said to just put the milker on. She explained that apparently in New Zealand, they feel that stripping contaminates the milk. I didn't ask about milk let-down or dirty teats. But if they do have mud on them, they do spray them with teat dip beforehand. Dave also quipped, "If you ask a Kiwi to strip a cow, they wouldn't have a clue what the hell you're talking about."

I also noticed the smell. You could definitely smell these cows were on pasture. And the milk had a very strong smell as well. As I write this on Aug 9th, I can say that I can't even tell the difference anymore, but those first couple milkings, it was strong! I was a bad smell at first, but it's growing on me.

The cows are mostly Holstein Jersey crosses. There were a few bigger Holsteins, but most of them were quite small. All had decent feet and legs (which I'm sure if they didn't they'd cull themselves out pretty fast), and another thing with the Kiwi crosses is the wide front teat placement. Dave said that's the problem with the crosses- that you can't keep a milker on them. Because they aren't his cows, he can be critical of the breeding program.

So a very busy day!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ok, ready to get out of the city

July 28
I had to be on a bus at 9:30am that will take me to Matamata. After lugging my bulging suitcase and backpack through downtown Auckland, I made it to the bus stop at 9:15am. After some confusion and standing in line behind some sloooow people (literally, one lady ahead of me stood at the counter for one minute and then looked at them and said, "Oh I forgot what I was going to ask.") I found out that my bus had been cancelled. I called Job at Marvin Farm Services and he didn't know what to do because this has never happened in all the years he has done this. Great, count on me to be difficult. So the bus driver is waiting for me, the two ladies at the counter are trying to figure stuff out, ugh! Not a good experience.

So I decide to take the 1:00pm bus to Taupo. After paying NZ$10 to store my luggage, I had a few more hours in Auckland. I really wanted to get out of the city. Back to window shopping... so I headed to a bridal shop I saw yesterday. I tried on two dresses that I really liked, and they have shipped internationally before, so definitely a possibility. The lady who helped me was originally from Japan and we were discussing wedding traditions. Apparently it's customary in New Zealand and Japan to only have 2-3 couples in the wedding party. I told her some people have ten! It made me feel ok to only have my three sisters.

As I was leaving the bridal shop, there were all these Asian people standing in a really long line outside of the mini mall it was located in. I noticed a sign in crazy bright colors with Japanese cartoon characters that said, "Lunch Today $1." I didn't quite get what was going on, but it was bizarre.

Before getting on the bus, I also looked for a bar to get a quick drink and lunch. Bars don't open until 8pm here, so that was a no-go. I settled on McDonalds. When I was leaving the airport the day before, I saw a billboard for a kiwi burger with a fried egg on it (Corral Burger anyone? :-), so I decided to go with that. I saw it on the sign at McDonalds too, and there was a bright red thing on it.. humm.. So after ordering and inspecting, I realized that it was a pickled beet. Yeah.. it was.. um.. ok. I probably won't order that again.

I noticed as we were leaving Auckland it didn't take long to see farms and farmland. Lots of beef cattle though. Later, I learned the land south of Auckland isn't the best farmland, so there's a lot of beefers. It was pretty darn hilly. We drove past a cemetery that was on a very steep hill, and my morbid thoughts goes straight towords wondering which poor guy gets to dig those graves by hand. In fact, there was a funeral going on, and everyone parked on the road and walked up the terraced path to the graves. Well, I guess if someone dies from a heart attack climbing the steep hill, they don't have to go very far, haha.

We went passed some towns and I noticed right away that people aren't big into showing off- simple and small housing, tin roofs, small yards, clothes lines. Also, none of the farms I saw seemed to be suffering from "new paint disease" as an old coworker called it. Somewhat refreshing that no one seemed to be "keeping up with the Jones'" Or maybe everyone is that poor. Ha, either way, it was something I picked out right away. Also, I got the feeling that the only people who lived in the country was involved in farming to come capacity. I didn't see a signle home that wasn't surrounded by fenced off areas and livestock; either beef, dairy, horse, or sheep.

The bus stop building in Taupo was in the shape of a big sheepdog. Sorry no photo, Job's wife was waiting for me when I got there. We met briefly, and when we were getting into her car, I automatically went to the right side of the vehicle. I don't think she noticed me following her to her side to get in, but she seemed nice enough that if she did, it wasn't a big deal. She and her husband had been setting up these international workers for quite a few years, so they've meet people from all over the world. As long as you speak fluent English, they're willing to take you.

Anyway, it was only a 15 minute drive to Matamata, and the scenery was nice. The land was flat, with mountains (I'm sure they were only hills, but they looked like mountains to me!) in the background. There were a lot of Thoroughbred farms and parceled off land divided by wooden fences. We chatted a bit, and we discussed accents. She said from my accent, she would have thought I was Canadian. I thought that was hilarious, considering my farmer/ up nort accent I've acquired from my days visiting farmers north of Hwy 29. :-)

After meeting Job and getting a brief timeline of the next day, his wife dropped me off at the hotel. I walked around Matamata for a few hours before dusk. The stores closed at 5pm, so there wasn't a whole lot to do. The town is about the size of Shawano (7000 people) and it reminded me of it in many ways. I will admit that Matamata has a lot more charm than Shawano, but I kept comparing the different stores to ones in Shawano. I especially enjoyed the big window sign advertising colostrum replacer and milk replacer in the window of a farm equipment store (Ace Farm and Home? haha). Oh, and a lot of the stores were agricultural based. There were a lot of horse shops- saddle shops, general supplies, etc. I felt like I fit more in here for sure.

Since all the restaurants were close, dinner was a TV dinner bought at the "Countdown," a national chain grocery store. When I was in the meat section, right between the seafood and the beef were theses tubes of ground beef. But something struck me funny. The writting on them had phrases like "adult" and different weights on them. On closer inspection, it was dog food in tubes! Right next to the human food! Craziness. I laughed, imagining some person not paying attention and buying a tube of wet dog food for dinner.

I'm fast learning that building are heated by space heaters because when I returned to my room, it was freezing! Oh, and heated mattress pads. They're pretty much standard. I turned on the TV, and it was appreant that the two favorite sports in this country are rugby and cricket. I watched a cricet match brefily, which seemed like fast pased baseball, but had to turn it when I was laughing so hard at the phrase, "he's the country's best baller." Maybe I could learn to like this sport...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Exploring Auckland

So it was July 26th, because I skipped a day by jumping over the international dateline. Anyway, I woke up from my nap, and by that time the sun had came up. It's winter in NZ, so I'm still getting used to the much fewer hours of daylight. Anyway, here's the first view of New Zealand, from my hostel window. Isn't it beautiful? Ha!

I had an entire day to explore Auckland. First item of business was to book a bus ticket for Matamata for the following day. I learned that the bus terminal was located at the base of the sky tower, which is a lot like the space needle in Seattle. I walked down Queen Street and Victoria Street, which are known for their shopping. Something that I'm not used to is how open everything is to the elements. That day was about 40 degrees F, and it really doesn't get much colder than that, so there were many open air malls. Another thing I noticed was the influence of Japanese culture. I soon realized that there were a lot of Asians. I wasn't sure if they were tourists or residents, but I remember reading that many Japanese imigrate to New Zealand, so the culture was definately visable.

I realized during the day that because I didn't have my cell phone anymore, I had no clue what time it was! So, second on my list was to find a watch. Problem was, I was in an area known for it's upscale shopping. Eventually, I found a mall, and I was told there was a "Warehouse" on the top floor. I figured out it was Kiwi Wal-mart, so I bought a few other things along with the watch. And in true Wal-Mart fashion, they were out of what I wanted, so I ended up with a huge, ugly man watch. Oh well. The food court at the mall was awesome- lots of good food. I had a kebab, which I thought would be a kabob, but instead was a pita filled with meat, sauce, and a bunch a vegetables.

I went to a Barnes & Noble type bookstore, and literally spend a couple hours there. I've been known to do this, so when I realized I should get going, I had a mini freakout because for a second, I thought I was really at B&N in Appleton or Green Bay, and when I realized where I was, I thought to myself, "holy crap... I can't beleive I'm here!" So it's still setting in.

I noticed that a lot of the clothing was expensive, but then I realized that the clothes I was looking at were of good quality, and made with natural fibers. It was quite a change from the mostly synthetic or cotton that I'm used to. So once I got over that, and looked at quality, it didn't seem too bad. I also found a really cute store that sells paper and organized products. Kikki.K

I also made a huge mistake that even holds true in the US. I went to the grocery store on a Sunday evening. I found out later that most stores, except for grocery stores, close at 5pm, so of course, I went right after 5pm. I decided I needed to save some money, so I went to
FoodTown. I wandered around the store for quite awhile, getting used to the different brands and food, as well as looking for items that won't have any leftovers. So there I was in downtown Auckland, wondering around like a lost puppy in the grocery store, with a big stupid Holstein cow on the back of my jacket. Pretty much a big target on my back. But everyone was in a huge hurry to get home, so it wasn't a big deal.I even found a little bottle of wine to drink. And yes, those chips are poppy seed, garlic, and feta, and they were delicious! After I ate them, I hoped there wasn't a work required drug test because of the poppy seeds!

The Scuzzy American

So I finally got a somewhat reliable internet connection. I've been jotting down some random things in a notebook during my journey, so let's back up a few days...

24 July 09

I'm eating at a restaurant at the San Fransico airport. You can tell I'm at the international terminal because everyone is dressed so well. You can tell I'm an American by the way I'm dressed- track pants, a free t-shirt, and running shoes. I can see some Kiwis near me by their accents, and they're dressed well too- darn! So I'm looking out the window and I can't tell if it's hazy or if that's smog. From my view, I'm not impressed with SF. Oh wait- is that Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse up on that hill driving a red convertible? Hahaha...

So I'm waiting at the gate... I guess this mother I'm looking at never got the message that rat tails are out. Or maybe they're all the rage in New Zealand. Nevertheless, her kid is still cute, saying "papa" instead of "paper." Note to self to fit in: wear a scarf. I'm beginning to understand why my friend from high school, Paula always wore scarves. She spent some of her childhood in NZ, so some of the fashion must have rubbed off.

On the plane... Well, it's good to know that Kiwis love their dairy products. In flight meal included cheese and crackers, spicy chicken in a cream sauce topped with Parmesan cheese, bread and butter, and cheese cake. Nevermind the not so good potato salad (with lettuce?).

After five to six hours of sleep, watching three movies and two episodes of "Army Wives," I landed safely in Auckland at about 5:00am. First thing I did was find a computer kiosk and check my e-mail and facebook, of course! So the exchange rate is pretty much NZ is double the US. Currently, it's not, but it's a good rule of thumb when seeing how much things cost. I paid NZ$30 for a shuttle to take me from the airport to the Aspen House, which turned out to be a hostel/hotel/bed and breakfast.

Oh a quick note on the shuttle. Prior to leaving, I had this thought that I would be hearing this new, cool British music, ya know, way before the US hears it. When I got in the shuttle, the radio was going. I was excited to hear what was planning, but what song did I hear? "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. Welcome to New Zealand, haha. I laughed a little to myself at how funny that was.

At the Aspen House, my room was just a bed with linens and a desk. Bathroom facilities were shared on each floor, and there was a central kitchen that everyone could use, and they also had continental breakfast. I didn't mind the simple accommodations, I just wasn't prepared. So after a much needed shower, I took a two hour nap.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Life just got more interesting...

Let's throw an engagement in the mix for good measure. Yup, it's official, the boy and I are getting hitched. I know some of you are thinking that it's about time.

I had a hunch it was going to happen because I opening my big mouth a few days ago about a ring. Craig tried to play it off, but I suspected something, and he knew it too. So as soon as he got off the plane and walked to the parking lot, he did it right then and there. Nothing too fancy, but like he said, he didn't want the ring burning a hole in his pocket the whole weekend either. So we were able to enjoy the time talking about plans and get excited. Also I did now realize that July 3rd was exactly 4.5 years to the day that he had asked me out on our first date. I felt silly that I didn't realized that!

The date is going to be pretty hard to determine because we don't know where Craig's first duty station is going to be. If it's in the continental US, then it'll be easy to travel home. If it's overseas, or Alaska or Hawaii, then things could get interesting. We assume it won't be until Feburary at the earliest that he will know where he'll be stationed. We definetly want to get it done before he has to do any pre-deployment training and deployment, if that does happen. He'll at least have a little while to settle in at his first duty station before we have to worry about that.

Now I'm pretty sure my return date for New Zealand won't be too much later than my orginal plan of the end of January. I know I'll be fine as far as planning a wedding goes. I know what I want, I just have to work hard to get it and to get it done.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Flu Blues

Well, it was bound to happen. After running around doing everything, something finally gave. I got the flu. But who couldn't see it coming? Running non-stop for 12-14 hours a day for four days in a row, pulling an all nighter last weekend, working in 95 degree weather, followed by freezing my butt off in an a/c office building....

In the past six months, I've had two bouts of food poisoning, a UTI, and now the flu. Grrr.. I'm mad. Mad because I usually don't get sick. Mad because I know this is from stress. Mad because I don't want to get sick while I'm away on my trip. All this madness is stressing me out, haha!

But I digress...

On the bright side, I haven't been pressured into doing chores, and mom want me to feel better before Friday when Craig comes to visit. Only three days away! Perhaps some pictures are in order for this little ol' blog of mine! Another busy weekend awaits!

Update on my A.I. class. So I was getting pretty frustrated on the last day. The first two days went fine, but for some reason on the last day, I just wasn't "on my game." As the trainers said, it's more a mind game than an actual skill. And it is. If you think you're not going to do a good job, then you aren't. It's as simple as that. So a few nights ago, I got to breed four cows at home. They were much easier to breed than the ones at the meat packing plant, because they were actually in heat and wanted to be bred. I was pretty excited that this whole breeding business is easier than I thought! Now I've gotta wait at least a month to see if they're actually pregnant.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bovine Rendezvous

I have an all day rendezvous with the bovine species tomorrow. Let me give you a run-down of my schedule:
5:30am Milk cows
8:00am Meet at meat packing plant (sounds better than slaughter house, right?) to breed cows for the AI class I'm taking
4:30pm Find something to do in Shawano before meeting, probably milking cows at Matt's
8:00pm Dairy judging contest and young farmer's potluck at Matt's
12:00am Go to bed
5:30am Milk Cows
8:00am Meet at meat packing plant to breed cows
4:30pm Milk cows
8:00pm Rest, finally!

Ok, so two days, yikes! Gotta love staying busy, that's for sure. Also news to report, Craig bought plane tickets home for 4th of July weekend. Yay!

He's really getting fustrated. Typically, it takes two weeks to "phase up," meaning if you meet certain requirements, you get more privlages. It's now on week four. A higher-up was supposed to check all of his gear, lockers, and such last week, but she got busy. They told him tomorrow, but now it's looking like that might not happen either. He's doing what he's supposed to, it's just that things aren't going his way. Today he worked at the go-cart track on post. I told him that sounded like fun. He said basically it was him and two other guys sitting in the hot sun for eight hours. Only one family came the whole time and spent only 20 mintues there. I beleive the heat index is 105 degrees where he's at.

So back to talking about me, haha. I'm looking forward to taking this artifical insemination course because I hope to use the skill when I'm over in New Zealand. Also, I hope that it becomes a mobile job that I can take with me as I move from place to place. It's wishful thinking, but I'm preparing myself anyway. I'll keep you updated on how it goes these next couple days.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Playing Farmer

It's been almost two days since dad went into surgery. Nothing major, but he'll be laid up for awhile. He's supposed to be on bed rest, but I caught him in the barn, trying to put straw in the gutter behind a cow. Don't ask me why he thought this was necessary. We did allow him to tinker with the weed whacker though, because I'm pretty sure that man is going nuts just sitting around in the house. He joked, "So this is how the other half lives..."

So mom and us kids have been doing chores. So far so good, other than me not setting the wash cycle in between a milking. Oh, and me overfeeding hay... but that's an ok mistake; I think anyway. It's been weird with the barn being so quiet at night and during the day lately!

I've been able to talk to Craig every night. We tried using the webcam, but we keep getting disconnected. Plus, I think it's weird that we just sit and stare at each other. I just make funny faces and laugh. We really don't have much to talk about these days. Same old from both parties, so we discuss mundane details about our days. He says he enjoys it, then makes fun of it. He's not in classes yet, so they make him do things like trim weeds and pick up trash. Reminds me of those inmates that go around at the county fair and pick up trash. I wonder if they give him a sack and a stick with a nail at the end of it..haha.

All I got for now. Busy day tomorrow!

Monday, June 8, 2009


So I mentioned in one of my last posts that I would go into more detail in to the whole changing my return ticket. So I have some options.

- Since my Visa lasts one year, I can extend my stay for up to one year. From what I've been told, it'll be 6 months of hard work, and then after that things wind down on the farms, and there's vacation time because all the cows are dry, since they seasonally calve in New Zealand. My contact person, Job, said that 80% of people stay the entire year and use the second half of the trip to travel. NZ has some pretty good hostels, much like in Europe.

- However... I've also told Craig that I don't think I could do it. I told him I didn't want to go. I miss him. I hate flying. I'm scared and full of lots of anxiety about the whole traveling part. He told me not to waste the ticket, get there, see how it goes, and I can always come back whenever I want. Yeah ok, it's not that I'm scared to be there, I'm scared to actually get there.

- I also learned that after mid-August, Craig can live out of the barracks if I'm there to live with him. Hmmmm, that changes things a bit. He's going to be there until at least December. I guess I planned my NZ trip with the assumption that I wouldn't really see him until Dec/Jan anyway. Am I really one of those women that's going to throw it away for a man?! Ugh, what am I turning into?

So that's where I'm at with the whole thing. Let me go into the flying thing. I've proabaly taken six trips on a plane in my life. It was only the last one where I had huge issues. I think it might have been better if I was traveling with someone I knew. Also, I've been having alot of anxeity lately. Is it because of the whole trip looming in the future? Is it because of a major lifestyle changes in the past four month? Is it mourning the loss of my Grandpa? I hope that it's not a "gut feeling" that something bad is going to happen. People fly everyday. Get over it. I wish I could...

Any comments/reassurances would be appreciated.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Common bonds

For the past few months, I feel like I'm in the dark about a lot of things that are going on with Craig because communication has pretty much been non-existent due to being in basic training. Letters took 4 days, so by the time I sent mine asking a question, he responded, and then it got sent, so it was about 9-10 days before I knew an answer to a question. I found a message board a couple days ago, and I've been hooked ever since.

Army Wife Chat

I've found out so much about what's been going on by asking around, and have even met (online) a few people who have significant others starting training at Ft. Gordon. Plus, there's plenty of people going through the same things/feelings I have been. Ah, it feels so nice!

Now with Craig being at AIT (Advanced Individualized Training) I can talk to him every night, and hopefully once he gets settle in, he'll be able to use the internet. And then I'll never leave my laptop!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

NZ details

50 days until New Zealand! So let me give you a little rundown of my schedule. I depart Chicago O'Hare on July 24th and end up in Auckland on July 26th.

From there, I'll get used to the time difference and head to Matamata, NZ. More time for jet lag, some introductions to the country, culture, farming practices, banking, etc. So after a 3 day stay, I'll set off for my first farm. Not sure where it's going to be, but I know I'll be at three to four different farms during my stay throughout the country. I did put in a request to work at a goat dairy, but their kidding season doesn't line up with the calving season, shucks!

So I'll stay at the first farm the longest, working my butt off calving in hundreds of cows. Average farm is 500 cows, and it's not as diverse as in WI. (You know, you'll see a 1000 cow freestall barn down the road from a 30 cow stanchion barn...) At least this is the impression that I get from the research I've done, so I'll keep you posted if my assumptions are correct.

Housing is provided at the farms, and it said no one has complained about their accommodations, so I'm not worried. Oh, you should check out the website!

Marvin Farms

My return flight is booked for January 27th. I actually arrive an hour earlier than when I leave. :-) I've heard from travelers that the trip to NZ is ok, but the flight back to the US is brutal! Not looking forward to any of that because:

1)I hate sitting for long periods of time. I hate reading or watching movies for long periods of time. Or playing games for that matter.

2)It's a 20 hour trip, and there ain't no stopping for rest breaks.

3)I HATE flying. I feel like I'm on a death bus... at least in my car I have some control, so even if I get into a crash, it's somewhat my fault. Weird, I know. I get very panicy and anxious before I go on a plane. Before I flew out of Augusta last week, I sat in a bathroom stall freaking out and crying. I think small commuter planes bother me more than big ones. All I have to keep telling myself is that if the flight attendant is doing ok, I'm doing ok.

My visa lasts for up to a year, so I have until July 2010 before I have to return. To change the plane ticket is only $150, so if I need to return early or stay longer, I certainly can. More on that later...

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A little background for ya'll

Let's get everyone up to speed here... I guess the best place to start would be three years ago.

Ah, it was spring, 2006. The world was my oyster. (ugh, for being an ag journalism major, this intro sucks... Susan Lampert Smith would be ashamed). So I apologize for my rusty writing skills. Anyway, I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006. I majored in Dairy Science and Life Science Communications (insert weird face/awkwardness here.. every hair dresser I've ever known has given me this face when I describe my career). I got a pretty nice job with Land O' Lakes as a Dairy Production Specialist (more weird faces, I can tell). So pretty much, I was contracted through a local cooperative to sell feed and provide nutritional consulting to farmers. It was only coincidence it was only 45 minutes from my hometown.

Meanwhile.. (I feel like Carrie Bradshaw here.. honestly, count how many times she says "meanwhile" in an episode of Sex and the City), my boyfriend Craig was in Madison, unsure of his future. See, a few month prior to my graduation, I found out through snooping, that Craig was failing out of school. Let me lay this down for you- this was his fifth year of school. Imagine my frustration.. let it fester a bit..

I moved to Northeast WI, he stayed in Madison, taking a summer to figure out what to do. And then, I realized I missed him.. and loved him... So, he moved in with me. It was a hard decision. I really didn't want to unless I got a commitment. It was pretty much all or nothing. And he was very aware of that.

Our first "date" He looks like such a baby!

After taking a year off, he enrolled at another college close to where we lived. Meanwhile, my job was clicking along...fun and frustrating as it was. As time went by, it got more frustrating than fun. I was thinking back to my senior year of high school one day. I was being interviewed for a scholarship. I remember it clearly. I could sense it was the end of the interview. I was getting antsy. Then, the interviewer said, "Ok, one last question. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?" Uhhhhh... what? Look lady, my parents are dairy farmers. We only go far enough to be back for night chores... I don't know.. I don't think about that kind of stuff... but what I really said, "I would love to go to Australia." And then I proceeded to explain about learning about the dairy industry, blah blah blah. Really, I loved watching "The Rescuers Down Under" as a kid, but it worked. I won the money anyway... and since then, I've always kept Australia in the back of my mind.

In college, I had an opportunity to go to NZ for a summer internship. Having already signed on for a local internship, I passed, giving the opportunity to a former roommate, who I believe needed it more than I did at the time.

So anyway, one day, I was having a crap-tacular day at work, so I was thinking about going as far away as possible, and thought about my spur of the moment interview answer. I googled "dairy industry Australia" and after some research, I had myself convinced that I should quit my job and go to New Zealand.

What about the boy?

So I told him one night. Probably after some wine. His reaction: "What about me?" I said he could come with, or he could stay and figure something out. We left it at that. But it always lingered in my mind...

While my career felt like it wasn't going anywhere, our relationship wasn't going so well. He was obviously not happy with school or his career path. We were not happy with our individual lives, which affected our together life.

One night, a couple days before Thanksgiving, shit hit the fan. It was time for a change, or go our separate ways. Neither of us wanted to call it quits. Then he told me he was thinking about joining the military.

So, with one semester left of school, Craig enlisted. And for the first time in over a year, he was happy. And things were different. And our relationship was better.

By February, I had applied for my Visa and looked seriously into NZ. I knew I needed to quit my job. I had no motivation to sell stuff anymore because I knew I had no future there.

On March 17th, 2009, he left for Basic Combat Training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. No green beer for you, buddy...

By April, I had quit my job, and made the slow move back to my parent's house. It hit me more than I ever could imagined. The past three months have been rough, no doubt! I've been adjusting to the realization of military life for the next 4+ years and the fear of traveling so far away.

Before I leave on July 24th, most of this will focus on the Army portion and preparing for my trip, and afterward should be all about my NZ adventure. So bare with me!


I've decided to join the blog world for a couple reasons. First, I would like to have a place to document my trip to New Zealand. That way, it'll be easier for me to direct all my friends and family to one place to look at all the pictures and to see what I'm up to. So, hopefully I'll keep up with this!

Secondly, with my boyfriend joining the Army, it would be nice to have a place to document how that's going. Triumphs, worries, venting, the whole shabang. Not sure how cohesive this is going to be, but I certainly won't be making two blogs!

I'll follow up with this by giving you a little background.