From Hobbiton to Island Bay

On the road down to Wellington I stumbled into the Shire. Before this site was picked, the makers of Lord of the Rings had 11 different sites already locked in for filming. Upon securing the contract to use this farm land, they were able to cancel all of them. In the first movie, those little hobbit houses were made out of cardboard and plastic. One of the stipulations of this next contract was to make the constructs permanent.

Some these houses were built at 60% scale to match the hobbit effect. Houses that needed actors in front of them were built at 100% scale. To the dismay of many people, once you open those doors though, there is no inside, just a wall. The rest was done on set. And the big oak tree behind Bilbo’s house is refreshed each year with a shipment of plastic leaves that are delicately hand woven onto the tree.

The Director, Peter Jackson, left no detail untouched. For example, thousands of dollars were spent building a miniature tree that never even showed up in the movie. It was also fun to learn the number of occasions where they used staff, rather than extras, to dress up and film parties. And Samwise’s biological child was the one to run out an hug her dad when he returned to the shire at the end of LOTR RotK.

It was a perfect little break from my 8 hour drive back across North Island. The mountains that I had hiked around with Denis a few weeks earlier were now fully drenched in snow and it was icy at night.

Wellington was no better. My first week back in town was pure wind and rain. Luckily I had nothing to do so I stayed in bed and built a strong affection for my heating blanket. I have since learned that heating blankets are as common and necessary as flip-flops in California. Houses here are paper thin. Water damage and mold are a persistent problem. Entire neighborhoods and each individual house are recognized and valued according to how much sun they get and at which intervals throughout the day.

My first AirBnB host was quite an experience. She is both Vegan and 0-waste. Talk about commitment. I was stunned to find out that her transition was cold turkey — from eating meat to vegan. She detailed her experience and shared with me some resources and documentaries that facilitated her decision to cut out all animal products.

With all my recent learning on the farm, I’ve lost my permission to pretend that the diary industry is removed from of factory farming, animal slaughter or ecologically sustainable because we’re not eating dairy meat.

But I have absolutely positively zero interest in giving up cheese, butter, milk, chocolate, cream and and And I f*ing love my dairy! I’ still have to make a conscious effort to opt for vegetarian options at restaurants which normally eliminates 85% of the menu. So vegan practically equates to banishing yourself to the dog house of dining. Have a freeze dried fake patty with fake cheese that requires special requests and investigative work by the server. Not happening folks.

But I am curious and I have done pretty well with my longstanding effort to wean myself off of meat. Maybe I can not be as excited to drink a gallon of milk every week. I can definitely stop taking so much joy in just drenching my pasta with Parmesan. I can probably start recognizing things that I can opt out of. Crap. Fine! I’ll budge.

That being said, I am also 100% confident that I do not have the nutritional discipline or knowledge to even scratch the surface of veganism. I come out of those nutritional charts with a feeling of dyslexia. I know I was reading English but how the heck am I supposed to keep track of all those vitamins versus minerals and which ones I am getting from whatever portion of whichever obscure foods enough to be healthy and full each day? Nope. And then the prep work and cooking?! Thanks but no thanks. I am more comfortable with power tools than kitchen utensils.

Over the next few weeks though, I would meet practicing vegetarians and vegan folk all across my Wellington experience. It has definitely been encouraging to see. My next AirBnB host has this same nutrition guide in her kitchen and prepares tacos at the local vegan market each month!



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Open Letters

Open Letters


Slow Traveler, Tree Hugger, Flawed, Productivity Enthusiast, telling my story