Wow, has it really been a month already since my last blog? I have no idea where the time has gone! Needless to say, it's a bit late but SPRING IS HERE! We made it through the whole Southland winter in our little van! I am so proud of us - but to be honest, it really wasn't that bad at all. I'll be honest, I was absolutely terrified at the initial thought of it. Once Minnie got sick and winter approached, I didn't really know what to do. The plan had always been to wend our way back up north before the harsh weather hit but now it was on its way I wasn't sure which was the best option; to risk battling Mother Nature back up across the whole country, or to simply hunker down and hibernate for a few months. The thing was, we were so happy here, we really didn't want to leave! So we hunkered and we're both so glad we did. Despite the initial damp and mould trials, our first van winter really was quite a breeze. We were cosy and warm throughout and while the rest of the country struggled with endless rain, flooding and storms, the weather here was ridiculously kind to us and to this day we continue to experience hardly any rain. Who could possibly ask for more? Sure, it will no doubt catch up with us in the end, but for now we continue to enjoy the sunshine. In fact the temperature has already hit 18 degrees in the past few days!
Our colourful spring campground
Our campground is looking a picture at the moment. I say 'campground' but it's really so much more than that. At around 40 acres in size it's more like a giant parkland, combined with a working farm. There are gardens all over the place and at the moment we're being treated to bright splashes of colour wherever we look, from camellias and rhododendrons to weigelas in every shade and variegation. Let's not forget all the traditional spring flowers too, the daffodils, jonquils and snowdrops which are dotted everywhere. Next to Brian and Evelyn's bus there is a huge daffodil bed just waiting to burst into flower, we can't wait for them all to come out!
'Norbert' the tiny orphan lamb having his first bottle!
And, being spring and being a farm, there are adorable little lambs scampering around everywhere, usually in twins or triplets, following their mums. We were even lucky enough to look after a couple of orphans for a few days and bottle feed them until they were found new sheep foster mums! Not a day goes by that we don't feel truly blessed to be here and to have found this place.
Another glorious day in Gore
Now the weather is warming up, we're starting to see the odd new visitor coming to stay for a day or two, including a couple of overseas ones, which we haven't seen any of for months. I had a lovely surprise the other day when walking out of the grounds and a couple in a motorhome said 'Are you Jackie?' They introduced themselves as Katherine and Lloyd, who have been following us through this blog and Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations! It was so wonderful to put some real faces to names. If you're reading this Katherine, we must catch up for a glass of Peter Yealands before you move on again! After two and a half years here, Brian and Evelyn are looking to go travelling again soon but at the moment it's just us and Debra, the lady I mentioned last time who is living in her car. She goes off travelling and sight seeing in a new area for a week or so, then pops back here and catches up with everyone for another week or two before going off somewhere else again. It's such a free way to be! It really is like having a little family here; everyone helps each other out in any way they can. Just this morning Evelyn popped in to us for a tutorial on how to use her new Smartphone before she and Brian we going to the library to meet Debra for some computer lessons! To think we would never have met any of these lovely people otherwise.
So where are we going from here? We're not sure, at the moment we're quite happy here! Despite being cooped up in the van throughout the winter, it's actually been a really busy time and we're using our time at the moment to just chill out, take stock and enjoy life. Much as working from home is a blessing, it's also still possible to burn yourself out if you don't balance your time wisely. I was writing for a lot of other people, as well as myself and was literally spending hour after hour, day after day writing my bum off. It started out fine; I mean it was freezing cold outside, what else were we supposed to do? I decided that if we were going to be stuck inside for the next few months, I might as well try and be as productive as possible. Gareth and I are both creative souls and we understand the need for each other to immerse ourselves in the things we love, so that's what we did, quite happily. However as winter was coming to an end, I found I was putting myself constantly under pressure to make the most of each day, to cram in as much as I possibly could, to achieve achieve achieve. Which is really stupid because at the end of the day, nobody else expected it of me, only me of myself!
In hindsight it was probably a good thing that I got the measles because it forced me to stop. And once I stopped, I found that I didn't want to get going again. All the passion and inspiration I had for writing had just gone, I couldn't even think of anything to write about any more, there was nothing there. As spring approached my measles was replaced by a severe case of cabin fever and I couldn't bear to be inside any more. So I just stopped writing. Instead I spent my time walking, cooking, listening to music, feeding lambs and just spending time with Gareth and I quickly felt so much better.
Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the polyanthus!
It was during this time that I also decided to become vegan and shortly after, Gareth did too. Now THAT was a surprise. While I'd been vegetarian on and off for years, I could never imagine him not tucking into big slabs of meat and having cheese on everything, not to mention chocolate! We both envisaged him being constantly starving and impossibly grumpy but it's been quite the opposite, we both love our new lifestyle and the food is brilliant! Besides, as Gareth has discovered, you can get dairy free chocolate in the supermarket and it's not bad at all! Funnily enough it was this change of lifestyle which brought back my enthusiasm for writing again. Now I know that veganism isn't for everyone and this blog is essentially a travel/van life blog so that won't change, I'm not going to start harping on about it now or in the future. However we do enjoy cooking a lot more these days and take a lot of joy and pride in it, so we started a Facebook page purely to indulge our love of vegan food and to share recipes. You're welcome to check it out any time here and see what wonderful culinary creations we are able to come up with in our tiny kitchen. People think that being vegan must be soooo difficult and soooo hard but if we can do it, anyone can!
Other than that, we're just cruising along at the moment. Poor Gareth got hit pretty hard with the measles and is still recovering but hopefully is coming out the other side of it now. I have also made the decision to leave Simple Savings, which is a wrench after 13 years and I will miss the unique community but I know it is the right one. I might live in a mobile home but that doesn't mean life is meant to be spent going in a million different directions! I am fortunate to still have a lot of writing opportunities which I am really excited about and you'll still be seeing us in Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations each month. Talking of which, if you live in NZ and have the opportunity to grab this month's issue, do have a peek at the three-page special on what life is like travelling with a dog, as well as Minnie's favourite dog-friendly destinations. It really is the cutest thing, hopefully other dog owners will find it helpful too!