After our North Island road trip and before we returned our rental car we visited cruising friends who’ve swallowed the anchor and bought a farm about 30 minutes from Whangarei. We first met Bryce and Martha of Silver Fern in the Tuamotus and we crossed paths on and off for the rest of the way across the Pacific. Their landfall in New Zealand completed a circumnavigation and now they’ve moved ashore to tame the land and plant kiwi fruit.
We were welcomed with a fantastic lunch after which Martha took us for a tramp through the woods and pointed out the native plants. They’ve done a lot of improvements already, clearing and draining and weed control, in preparation for planting the kiwi fruit crop.
Martha paced off the size of the field where the crop will be as she and Bryce discussed whether the future house will have a clear mountain view (unfortunately obscured by haze on this day) once the vines and support structure are in.
As if the visit to their farm weren’t enough of a treat they drove us to meet their neighbors who grow passionfruit. They are a small commercial operation and ship their fruit via a broker to the States where it’s sold under the Melissa brand name. We learned how the crop is washed, sorted and packed, and I was able to indulge right then and there in my favorite fruit.
Passionfruit grow on sturdy vines similar to grapevines, supported by an elaborate covered structure. The season runs from February through September and the fruit is gathered every morning when it drops to the ground. These small homesteads are human-sized, largely operated by couples with only the occasional outside labor for sorting and packing. It looks like a nice life, but as in all farming operations, large or small, without much time off for vacations or travel.
We left the passionfruit orchard loaded down with a generous bag of fresh fruit and drove to a kiwi fruit operation so Bryce and Martha could show us what their own land will look like in a few years. Kiwi fruit are also vines and require a similar support structure to make tending and harvesting easier. Both fruits require protection from wind and disease. You can see the incredibly tall hedge-like windbreak in these photos. Every time you see those tall hedges along the road, Martha said, there’s an orchard behind it. And just like the kauri forests we’ve visited, kiwi fruit farms have shoe washing stations to prevent the spread of disease to the vines.
We were caught up in Bryce and Martha’s enthusiasm and energy to undertake such a longterm project. Modern homesteading is a frequent answer to the question of what comes next after a couple has spent five or ten years sailing across oceans and traveling to some of the more remote corners of the earth. It’s a topic that comes up a lot when we long-distance cruisers get down to brass tacks. What will we do when we get too old to sail? How will we know when we’re done? Where will we go? What will we do? Jack and I don’t know what the answers will be for us, and besides, there’s a whole wide world ahead of us yet. We’ve barely scratched the surface and with the end of the Pacific cyclone season already here, it’s time for us to move on.