We all have dreams, but not everyone manages to follow them quite as thoroughly as Tabatha Davison. Just three years ago she was working in Queenstown, travelling the weekend market circuit, and dreaming of life in the country. Today Tabatha’s the proud owner of Craft Keepers here in Garston, where she not only makes and sells her own jewellery but also houses a wonderful collection of arts and crafts.
Walking into Craft Keepers is a visual delight; your eyes are drawn to so many artfully-displayed creations it’s hard to know where to look first. What’s most appealing is the authentic nature of the crafts.
“Every piece is created in Otago or Southland,” Tabatha explains. “When customers ask about the maker, I love to tell those little details that make each piece of work so special.”
It’s hard to resist such enthusiasm so I dive in and ask. I collect gorgeous coffee mugs so naturally that’s where I begin.
“Isn’t it lovely,” Tabatha smiles, picking up a mug. “Even the clay comes from Southland. They are beautifully balanced and the colours are just gorgeous.”
There is so much to choose from in this crafty converted container that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Created While You Watch
Not only is Craft Keepers a haven of lovely arts and crafts, it’s also Tabatha’s workshop and most days you’ll discover her creating beautiful jewellery there. I’m drawn to the delicate silver chains, but Tabatha’s favourites are the costume pieces.
“I’ve always loved the flair and variety of costume,” she says. “It’s so easy to be experimental and out there.”
Tabatha’s customers certainly love the Craft Keepers experience. Locals pop in to buy gifts and tourists visit for the perfect NZ-made souvenir. There’s increasing repeat trade from those who regularly travel the busy Te Anau-Queenstown state highway too.
See For Yourself
Tabatha’s got a great thing going at Craft Keepers, right next to The Coffee Bomb and The Hunny Shop. She’s brought the creative, collaborative vibe of the markets into the middle of Garston. The next time you need a gift or souvenir with style, don’t rush to a giant impersonal store. Think small, think local and pop into Craft Keepers. You won’t be disappointed.
Kylie Sutton loves delicious food, cheerful chat, and great coffee, so when the chance came up to combine all three passions by buying the Coffee Bomb food trailer, she didn’t hesitate. Literally a small business — the whole trailer is only 4.5m long — the Coffee Bomb sits right in the heart of Garston. Travelling along the main tourist route of S.H.6 you just can’t miss it. In fact, its the perfect place to buy food-and-drinks-to-go.
Food Faves and Raves
The food in the Coffee Bomb cabinet has that homemade touch that’s hard to beat. Kylie cooks it daily right there in the Coffee Bomb’s tiny oven. Even the burgers have her famous home-style touch, with the gluten-free patties made onsite to delicious old-fashioned recipes. Add in slow-cooked lamb roasts and melt-in-your-mouth-tender pork belly — all cooked in the van — and you’re in burger heaven. You won’t find burgers like these anywhere else.
“I’d have to say ‘The Bomb’ is our most popular burger” says Kylie. “Tabitha (from next-door Craft Keepers) and I invented it when we were cold and hungry one slow, winter’s day.”
Featuring fresh burger buns, pork belly & bacon, coleslaw, and dripping with tasty sauce, The Bomb has been a menu staple ever since. “There’d probably be a customer riot if we took it off the menu now,”
My personal favourites are the muffins. Kylie’s muffins actually taste as good as they look which, in my experience, is a very rare thing. Other locals rave over the homemade carrot cake, lolly cake, and of course, the locally-roasted ROAR coffee.
Village With a Vibe
But why would a former butcher, busy farmer, and volunteer fire fighter/medic set up a food stop in this tiny tourist town?
“I love the vibe in Garston,” Kylie explains. “The locals are fabulous. So many people give us their whole-hearted support. The businesses complement each other too, and everyone is always willing to lend a hand. It’s great to have travellers who stop in on a regular basis, and of course the tourist trade is fantastic. We’re just in the right spot for a stop.”
But the Coffee Bomb vision doesn’t stop there. A boutique accommodation business “The Bomb Com” is planned for 2019. Watch this space, folks; with Kylie’s gift for customer service, it sounds like a winner to me.
I have interests a-plenty, but only one grand passion. I adore writing, but even that pales, compared to my full-blown obsession with reading. Hand me a new book and don’t bother talking until it’s finished. I won’t hear you — a fact that has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. Let me tell you of the time I started a new book at the airport…
With a couple of hours to spare before my flight, I saunter into the bookshop. I love to look, but I know better than to buy a book at the airport. Twice the price — and sooo dangerous (for me!) Sure enough, staring me in the face is a book that screams BUY ME NOW.
So, I do.
With 90 minutes till the flight, I dash through security and sit just metres away from the gate entrance. It’s so early — I’m the ONLY person in the small lounge. I open the book.
Got the picture? The next thing I knew, someone was calling my name… over the airport sound system. Lyn McNamee get to your gate now! (or words to that effect.)
Yes, it’s true.
Every single other passenger on that full flight to Queenstown had arrived in the lounge, heard the multiple announcements to board, lined up beside my seat, and boarded the plane.
And I noticed nothing.
If you’ve ever been that passenger who delays departure with their tardiness, you’ll know the glares that greeted me as I slunk onto the plane.
And you also know why I have never dared to open a book at an airport again.
3 Novels To Love
I couldn’t tell you my favourite novel, but I could certainly name my top hundred. Every single one sits on my bookcase waiting to be lovingly plucked up and re-read. Don’t worry — I’m not going to list them all now. But if you’re in the mood for a good book, here are three of the best.
BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty
One thing’s clear in Big Little Lies: someone dies. That’s established on Page 7.
But here’s the mystery: Not just whodunnit but WHO DIED?
I love the unusual format of this book; how personalities and situations slowly reveal themselves in every chapter; the hidden twists and turns. Parts of it made me cry. And best of all, it finished fittingly. All in all, a deeply satisfying read.
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY & POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I can echo that sentiment with “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” Where to begin with such a beloved book? The title alone is surely enough to intrigue…
Written as a series of letters, this novel takes us back first to post-war Britain and then paints a vivid picture of life in the Channel Islands during the German Occupation. I’m a history buff, love getting mail, and a sucker for a little romance so of course I fell in love with each character as soon as I met them. Brilliant.
THE LITTLE WOMEN LETTERS by Gabrielle Donnelly
I picked this gem up unexpectedly in Emma’s At Oxford a few years ago now, and for that I’m truly grateful. It’s one of my favourites. Despite the name, though, this one’s not a series of letters.
If, like me, you grew up loving “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, then I guarantee you’ll like this book. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy come to life in unexpected ways as each letter is discovered, and so too, do their modern-day counterparts, Emma, Lulu and Sophie.
It’s a book of love and discovery. Finding who you want to be and where you fit in. Of growing up, and being okay with that.
How’s your bookshelf looking? Or are you more of a Kindle reader these days?
Whichever it is, I bet you have your own favourites . Tell me your top 3 and what you love about them.
Autumn:It conjures colours in my mind. Deep reds, brilliant oranges and bright yellow; vivid hillsides or fiery avenues; these are the scenes that await in the South Island during March, April and May. Time to bring out the camera or the paint brushes. How to capture so much splendour?
Fall — the American name — brings a later time to mind. Leaves gently floating, one following the other. Or a windy night, followed by a red-gold and brown crunchy carpet — all the leaves downed at once. This is playtime: children shouting, laughing, scuffing through the leaves and building great heaps to leap into and to toss in the air.
Autumn Down Under
In the Southern Hemisphere everything seems topsy-turvey to those from northern parts. When we have winter — you have summer; we’re in daylight — you’re in night. Ideally, Our houses face north, if they can, because southerly weather in New Zealand comes from Antarctica and it’s COLD.
You might think that being such a small country our climate would be the same throughout, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Living here in Garston we are closer to the South Pole than to the equator, and the weather is quite different to that of New Zealand’s northerly provinces. So are the seasons.
New Zealand native trees are mostly evergreen so their colour comes from beautiful flowers and berries. But our English pioneers missed the trees of home and planted many, many deciduous trees, especially in the South Island where they’ve flourished.
A Stunning Season
So autumn is a beautiful season down here. The awareness that cold weather is on its way causes the deciduous trees to withdraw the green chlorophyll from the leaves back into the branches and trunk where it will wait out the winter, ready to be used come spring. Now it’s time for other pigments in the leaves to shine, and what a glorious show they make.
My Class Loves Painting in Autumn
I’m not a great artist myself, but I love teaching art to my class of 5 – 7 year olds at Garston School. We love the autumn colours around our school. Last week we learned one way of showing reflections with autumn colours.
The grain is ripe, gleaming gold in the sunlight. Paddocks ripple when a breeze rustles through the tall stems. We’ve been so thankful for our wet fortnight but now we pray the rain will stop. We need dry, windy weather to harvest the grain. Anticipation has been building for days. The combine harvester has been checked and cleaned and the transport truck is on standby. Once the moisture content of the barley kernels drops we’ll be good to go.
A Vital Crop.
Undoubtedly the most important crop to harvest on the farm is the grain. The barley and oats are vital winter feed for our animals.
In the winter it’s too cold for the grass to grow so we feed the sheep grain, hay and baleage (individually wrapped bales of fermented grass). Every spring we sow many acres of seed, and each autumn we harvest the grain to fill our silos and sell to local farmers.
Garston doesn’t have endless crop-filled plains like the US or Australia. In those countries, huge combines chug along day and night in a straight line, their drivers almost on autopilot. But our paddocks are small, bounded by wire fences and filled with bumps and hollows. The driver must be alert at all times. He has to watch out for dips or rises in the ground, not to mention the occasional rock. He must always keep the combine even and has to constantly make small adjustments. One of my many brothers-in-law is the driver. He likes to begin harvesting on the outside of the paddock and moves in ever-decreasing circuits until the last one is done in the middle.
Will the Combine Last the Distance?
Finally a nor’wester springs to life. In Garston, this is a hot, dry wind. During the summer drought, it sucked every bit of moisture out of the ground and we shook our fists at it; but now we’re smiling, because it will dry out the grain. (We can’t harvest wet grain because it will spoil in the silos.) So now we have but one, fervent wish: that the old combine will not break down.
Twenty years ago, she was a sparkling, brand new Massey Ferguson Harvester. Not the biggest, but perfect for our needs. I still remember the day she drove up, gleaming red and ready for action. Lenny, the proud salesman, followed hard on her heels; delighted to show her off and bask in our excitement. His Scottish accent broadened till we could hardly understand him, as he explained all her wonderful features. We christened her with cups of coffee and cake. Then she rumbled into the paddock and our first-ever trouble-free harvest began.
The MF replaced an ancient harvester which constantly broke down every season. No wonder we were so delighted with our new machine. In her first few years, harvesting happened without a hitch. But those days are long gone. Now the old girl is showing her age — as are the farmers. But we can’t afford to replace her, so we start the season, once again, with our fingers crossed.
What Exactly is a Combine Harvester?
A combine harvester combines the actions of cutting, threshing and winnowing the grain— which used to be done with separate implements — into one machine. It’s a complicated beast: full of cutters, wheels, cogs, chains and belts. There’s lots of potential for things to go wrong.
The front has a long blade which cuts the stalks close to the ground. A reel goes round and brings the grain-filled stalks to an augur which then drags it up into the machine. An auger is a metal tube with a giant screw inside. The screw turns and the spirals take the grain up the auger.
Inside it goes into a drum which knocks the grain kernels out. They fall through sieves, and onto an elevator which drops them into a big tank.
The straw, dust, and chaff (husks and smaller grains) then pass over a series of riddles which catch any further grain and send it to the elevator. The rest is blown out the back, to lie in neat rows. It’s a noisy, complicated, fascinating process.
So off we go on the harvest treadmill. Round goes the combine with the transporter truck waiting patiently in a corner of the paddock. When the combine’s tank is full of grain, an orange signal light begins to blink and the truck driver knows to drive alongside. A small auger winds out from the side and all the grain is pumped out into the truck’s enormous bin. This will happen over and over again until the bin is full. Then the truck will head to the silo where it will tip the grain into another auger, which will take it to a hole in the top of the silo. Down it pours, into the dark depths, and the truck trundles back to the paddock ready to receive the next load.
A few rows behind the combine, my nephew is driving his tractor and baler. He’s gathering the straw into big, round bales, which he will sell to a local dairy farmer who winters his cows inside big barns. The straw will make excellent bedding for the cows.
Round And Round We Go.
This cycle goes on and on, broken every now and then by my arrival with a meal. Morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner… even supper if the wind is still blowing and they are harvesting after dark. It’s a much-needed break for the drivers and they stretch their legs gratefully as they chat over coffee and food. But all too soon it’s back to the machines and the harvest grinds on.
And the combine breaks down. Again! This time it’s a tiny, innocuous button on the joystick that raises and lowers the front. Oh, so small — it’s been under the driver’s thumb every harvest toggling east, west, north, south, making small adjustments. I didn’t even know it existed until it broke, but apparently, it’s essential. And it’s difficult to replace — not to mention expensive!
Farmers are resourceful people — the men repair the button with Blu Tack and Superglue, and carry on. The repair lasts for a few hours, but that blasted button continues to break down. They call in the local engineer… the mechanic… the whizz-kid from down the road… each one makes a temporary repair — and the grain harvest continues until…
The last grain topples into the silo. The engines switch off and peace descends over the farm. Harvest is done for another year. We’d celebrate — if we weren’t all so exhausted. The combine drives back into her shed. Now we’ve got a year to source and repair that pesky button before we start the process all over again next autumn.
Did you enjoy reading about the grain harvest? If so, you’ll probably like the other posts in this series:
You wake up feeling sluggish. You didn’t sleep well — again! In the shower you make a promise: “Today I’ll start my diet. Today I’m going to be healthy. No sugar — no snacks. I can do this!” You step out of the shower completely resolved. Today’s the first day of the rest of your life.
You eat breakfast — feeling good so far. You skip the biscuits at morning tea — now feeling virtuous. Lunch is a big, healthy salad — great.
By 3pm your energy is beginning to flag. 4 o’clock drags around and those biscuits are calling. You turn your back, grit your teeth and carry on.
By tea time you’re ravenous. You load up your plate: healthy but huge. Somehow it’s not enough. All that food and your mind says more, more. I want pudding. You give in. Out comes the ice cream or the cake. You’ve blown it again. “Tomorrow,” you vow. “I’ll try again tomorrow… or maybe next week.”
Sound familiar? This was my life for YEARS. Every day I blew it. Frustration, failure, misery — I knew them all intimately.
Then one day everything changed!
Help Is At Hand.
18 months ago I found a programme that seriously kicked butt. It’s called the Blitz. Run by “superwoman” Tania Campbell of Fitness For Life in Queenstown, the Blitz has changed my life. Not a diet, but a healthy eating programme, the Blitz is guaranteed to help me lose weight AND, more importantly, change my eating habits.
The Blitz gives you six weeks of meal menus, shopping lists and recipes, plus coaching, encouragement and accountability. You have to report your progress to Tania each week, and that’s a huge motivation right there. It costs: that’s part of the motivation too. After all, you’ve forked out good money for this programme. If you cheat it’s all been wasted.
Exercise is part of the deal, of course. It’s a simple formula really: eat healthy food and exercise regularly. I go to fitness classes and yoga, and of course I love to walk.
I seriously loved doing that first Blitz, and carried it on for 9 weeks. By the end I’d lost 12kg and felt wonderful. So much energy… so much more joy in life. Some of the recipes I loved and still use regularly, others I dropped thankfully. In the next few months I looked online for healthy recipes and wasn’t afraid to experiment and try new tastes. I knew I had to keep on with healthy eating if I wanted to keep the weight off and the energy up.
This week I started another Blitz. Old habits have crept back into my life: bread, ice cream, chips… ahh. It’s time for a reset.
I’m extra excited because this time my sisters are joining me in the challenge. They don’t live in Queenstown; they’re doing the online version. It’s great to have that extra support and to be a support for them in return.