We followed our new friends in the big red bus to a nearby dairy farm for a rural camping spot outside the farm manager’s house. All the workers are in a relaxed mood at this time of the year — the dairy cows are having a break, the owner is holidaying in Europe, and the manager is travelling to Hamilton for the NZ National Agricultural Fieldays. So it was a great time to visit and receive friendly tours of many different aspects of farm life!

First, we had to leave our campsite at the Kai Iwi Lakes. We travelled in convoy with the big red bus, and it was nice to follow someone who was slower than us on the road! (Usually, we’re the slowest vehicle in our lane.) For something different, our daughters rode in the red rig.

Travelling in the big red bus, June 2011
The girls found it exciting to travel in another rig!

Riding in the big red bus, June 2011
For the drive to the farm, the girls sat behind Nigel, strapped onto the side bench seat with seat-belts.

At the farm, we got to know a number of different farm workers. Knowing that it would interest us, Shinade came and got us in the morning when it was time to milk the cows. A number of backpackers who were couchsurfing their way around New Zealand and staying at the farm manager’s house also came along for the free show.

Shinade with the cows, June 2011
Shinade brought the cows in from the paddock.

Cow, June 2011
The cows are packed in tightly, but they're calm and know the routine.

Tasting milk, June 2011
Rylee tastes some of the fresh milk straight from the cow.

Milking the cow, June 2011
One of the backpackers was game enough to try milking a cow by hand, but she was extremely nervous about the cow's tail — when it lifts, it's a sure sign that the cow is about to do a wee or a poo.

The milking shed, June 2011
The dairy shed usually milks between 30 and 40 cows at a time. The farm's total herd is about 500. At the moment, the cows are off their milk-production, so only half a dozen are brought to the shed daily to provide milk for the calves and the pigs.

Milking the cow, June 2011
There needs to be at least 200 litres of milk to go through the big, refrigerated vat system, so when only a handful of cows are being milked, it all goes into one urn which is emptied when it gets full.

Milking the cow, June 2011
This is the first time we've seen a cow being milked by machine. It's clinical, well-automated and sterile, but the whole process makes us ponder our dairy-consuming habits.

Because there’s not enough milk being produced for sale, the milk taken from the cows is used to feed some calves that are kept in a nearby paddock.

Calves, June 2011
The calves hear the motorbike and know that it's feeding time at the fence.

Feeding the calves, June 2011
The fresh milk is poured into a trough and the calves each suckle on a teat.

Feeding the calves, June 2011
While the calves are distracted, it's easy to pat the tops of their heads.

Feeding the calves, June 2011
These calves have been taken away from their mothers and now have to be fed by the farm workers. (Surely there is a simpler way to manage things — the natural way!)

Shinade with the cows, June 2011
Shinade really likes the animals she works with. She showed us that you can put your fingers into a calf's mouth and it'll suckle without hurting you because calves don't have top teeth and their bottom teeth are covered by their tongue.

Dairy farm vat, June 2011
When the whole herd of 500 cows is being milked, the farm produces 10,000 litres of milk every two days.

After the milking is done and the calves are fed, it’s time to feed the pigs.

Nigel driving us around the farm, June 2011
To get around the farm, we loaded the girls into the calf trailer, and Nigel towed us around with the four-wheel-motorbike. Nigel grew up on a dairy farm and is very comfortable with the machinery and farm routines.

Riding in the calf trailer, June 2011
The girls love their rides around the farm.

Feeding the pigs, June 2011
Nigel feeds the pigs a mixture of old milk from the vat topped up with some fresh stuff from today's milking.

Feeding the pigs, June 2011
The pigs don't mind the odoriferous liquid and suck happily at the milk.

Pig tail, June 2011
I love the little curly pig tails.

Brioni watching the pigs, June 2011
Brioni found a good place from where she could safely watch the pigs feeding. (If you stand too close to the pen, you end up getting splattered with the curdled milk when the pigs shake their heads.)

Aisha, Rylee and Calista, June 2011
The girls climb into the trailer and let us know when it's time to move on to another part of the farm.

While we were feeding the pigs, we met another farm worker. Singh lives on the property with his family.

Looking at chilli plants, June 2011
Singh invited us up to his house for a cuppa and showed us the varieties of chilli plants he and his wife are growing in their vegetable garden.

Girls eating roti, June 2011
As soon as we arrived at the house, we were offered some fresh roti. Singh's wife Cindy was preparing the family's dinner in advance — she works an afternoon shift at a nursing home.

Calista, 3yo, June 2011
Inside, Cindy also offered us freshly cooked vegetarian samosas. The girls love them!

Cindy cooking in her kitchen, June 2011
On the days that she works, Cindy prepares the rotis in advance for her family's dinner.

Cindy cooking in her kitchen, June 2011
Cindy cooks the roti to perfection on a flat pan on her gas stove.

Some of the enjoyment that I receive from talking with Cindy comes from the way she reminds me of my dear friend Kavita who is also originally from Fiji.

Singh, June 2011
We have enjoyed getting to know Singh. He told us great stories of life in Fiji. He and Cindy have been in New Zealand for three years.

Colouring at the Singhs, June 2011
Cindy brought out her daughters' colouring toys and our girls got to work, creating beautiful pictures.

Riding the motorbike, June 2011
David took our girls for a ride on the two-wheel-motorbike. Aisha is our surprising speed fanatic. She loves the fast rides with Daddy!

Shinade exchanging vehicles with David, June 2011
After she was finished using it, Shinade brought the four-wheeled-motorbike back for us to use again.

David on the motorbike, June 2011
Soon David was driving us all around the farm.

Delaney and calf, June 2011
Later, Shinade brought a newborn calf to show the girls. Delaney was delighted to make a new friend!

Newborn calf, June 2011
This little calf is a female and a potential milk-producer, but she was abandoned by her mother immediately after birth. The farm owners determined that the calf was too small to be financially viable — it would cost too much in money, effort and time to raise this cow to adulthood. So she was put to death in the afternoon.

We have loved our stay on the farm. Aisha has expressed a desire to become a farmer, and so she embraced the whole experience, including riding the motorbike every time she could. We’re glad to expose our daughters to a variety of experiences — the seeds we sow today could lead to a career or an exciting lifestyle in the future!