29 January 2018

Teschemakers - North Otago

Historical buildings and huge park like grounds are an attractive feature of Teschemakers. Once a catholic boarding school for girls, this intriguing place comes with an interesting history.

Teschemakers is set on 70 hectares in North Otago, about ten minutes south of Oamaru. The property was originally bought by William Teschemaker in 1860. William's brother Frederick gave the property the name 'Teschemaker' which is Old Dutch for table-maker.

In 1862 a homestead was built from Oamaru stone on a plantation surrounded in English trees. William Teschemaker died at the age of 59 and the McCarthy brothers bought the property in 1905. Six years later in 1911 they gifted the property along with 25 acres of land to the Dominican Congregation of Sisters. Then in 1912 the grand opening of St Patrick's school took place. The school continued to grow until there were 140 girls on the roll.

The school closed in 1977 due to its isolation and the low number of girls that attended. In 1994 the centre was run by a co-op of nine people and used as a retreat for healing, prayer, study and reflection. 
It seems Teschemakers has had a few owners. In 2000 it sold again and was bought by a Japanese businessman, Dr Hirotomi Ochi with the intention of turning it into a university. However three years later, tragedy struck when a fire badly damaged the main building. Dr Ochi rebuilt the building with some of the builders working on it for four years! It must have cost a fortune! Sadly before it could be used as a university Dr Ochi passed away.

John and Judy Murdoch purchased the retreat (in 2011) and opened it as a wedding and conference venue. The property still has the former classrooms and three storey dormitory from when it was used as a boarding school. They've now been shut off and used as storage.
Nowadays Teschemakers is owned by a Chinese tourist company.

The NZMCA are very fortunate in that their members are able to use these gorgeous sweeping lawns as a place to stay.

The view of the gate when leaving Teschemakers.

My buddy waiting patiently for me to come back.

Grass Seed - Not As Innocent As It Looks!

Grass seed may look harmless but don't be fooled! These pesky, dart-like seeds can cause pain, infection and in the worse cases death for dogs.
When staying in Dunedin our smallest dog 'Boo' started to squeal when we touched her ear. It was Saturday afternoon so finding a vet that was open was a challenge. Fortunately we found one in Dunedin. After Boo was examined the vet decided she would need to be sedated to examine her inner ear. Being the weekend there weren't enough staff present so we were asked to make an appointment for first thing Monday morning. We took Boo home after she was given an antibiotic injection and an injection for pain.

Monday morning arrived and we were at the vet on opening time. Another vet was working and when he examined Boo again she wasn't displaying any sign of pain and her ears looked clear. There was no need for sedation and we returned home feeling relieved.

Later that evening as Bernie was trimming Boo's fur he noticed a scab on her tummy and a lump above it. We were worried it could be grass seed. First thing next morning we were back at the vet - this time the vet just around the corner from where we were staying. We'd been told about this particular vet - he had a fantastic reputation and people traveled to have their dogs seen by him.

The vet clinic had barely opened its doors and already it was busy. The waiting room was full of owners and their dogs. It seemed we'd be in good hands by the amount of pet owners waiting for this reputable vet to see their pooches.

We were lucky, or rather Boo was. She just lay in Bernie's arms like a wee statue and the vet found and removed two grass seeds without having to sedate her. After an antibiotic injection we were able to take her home.

The grass seed removed from Boo's belly.
To give an indication of the size of the seeds.
If walking your dog in areas of tall grass or grass that’s obviously seeding it’s important to check your pooch often for these seeds. Check between toes, in ears, armpits and groin areas. However it’s best for a vet to remove it and ensure the entire seed has gone, rather than attempt it yourself (unless they’re close to the surface and easily accessible)

These dart-like shaped seeds can easily embed into your dog’s skin. They then migrate through the body, tracking infection as they go.Grass seed won’t show up in an x-ray because they are made from vegetable matter. If the dog is hard to keep still or the seed has tracked further into the tissue then a general anaesthetic maybe needed to surgically explore the area and find the seed.

Back to her sassy-self again - yay!
I wonder how farmers manage with their working dogs who are amongst grass seed every day?

26 January 2018

Queen of Riverstone Castle

I probably wouldn't have known about Riverstone Castle if it wasn't for my Mum. For several years Mum has been fascinated by in an entrepreneur living in Otago, named Dot Smith - the Queen of the Riverstone Castle. And while we were staying in Oamaru we went for a visit. It was unbelievable!

Dot and her husband Neil (Smithy) have worked extremely hard ... seven days a week for over 40 years. And they're not ready to slow down yet!
When they first started out in the 1980s they had three mortgages. They started off buying a farm close to Oamaru that was once in the path of the Waitaki River. It was covered in stone similar to 'a gravel pit'. 
When their two children were young, along with milking cows and rearing calves, Dot began growing flowers and drying them. She turned one of the bays of their farm's six bay implement shed into a shop to sell dried flowers. Then each year afterwards a bay was transformed into a gift and homeware store - six years later there were six stores at Riverstone.
Fast forward a few decades and Dot and Neil now own six dairy farms running over 4000 cows. Their eldest son Mike managers one of the diary farms and Bevan their youngest son is a chef who runs their award winning restaurant 'Riverstone Kitchen'.

Gift and homeware shops with Wild West frontages.

Not only does Riverstone have giftware stores, it's also home to Riverstone Kitchen. The upmarket, Riverstone Kitchen won the Cuisine magazine New Zealand Restaurant of the year award in 2010 and were joint winners for the Best Casual Dining award in 2011.

Outstanding gardens, both fruit and vegetables supply the restaurant all-year round. While the restaurant was being built Dot and her son Bevan planted herbs and leafy greens in two raised beds. When Riverstone Kitchen opened in 2006 it was a roaring success (especially after winning the awards) and a further 24 raised garden beds were established to provide extra supplies needed for the restaurant.

Ever since reading Enid Blyton books as a child, Dot has been fascinated with castles. After several overseas trips including visits to European castles, Neil took Dot to a bare paddock on their farm and asked, 'What if I dug a hole, put a little island in the hole and built a castle on the island?' And the rest is history ...

Riverstone Castle was built from Oamaru stone, which was quarried locally. It sits on an island surrounded by water. This dream-like castle has it all ... turrets, marble floors, ceilings embellished with artwork, huge wooden doors, gold gilding, chandeliers, a dungeon, a secret tunnel ... you name it and Dot's Castle has it! 

I was intrigued as to why Dot chose to have pink hair, so I googled it. Turns out it happened purely by accident over 15 years ago when on holiday in Fiji. Dot dyed her haired and instead of turning brown it turned crimson. Her hubby didn't mind the colour and since then it's been a variety of shades of pink.

The Riverside Kitchen has long ceiling to floor windows, which look out across a long stretch of lush lawn towards the castle. Gardens border the lawn, with further gardens behind them that supply the restaurant with fresh vegetables and fruit all year round.

And children have been catered for too, with an interesting playground created with hours of fun in mind. It's robust and the weathered timber fit's perfectly with the farm environment. Dot designed the playground including a fort with a tower on each corner. And it's another feature that entices people to Riverstone.

Little nooks and crannies are nestled about the garden. The colour combinations are striking. It's an absolute credit to Dot & Neil.

There were some flowers and a few butterflies that I couldn't walk passed without stopping for a close up shot.

 Rustic farm implements are dotted about adding ambience to Riverstone.

A 1929 Ford truck.

Boxes of stock waiting to fill the already full shelves.

Peacocks are a symbol of beauty - and a reminder to take pleasure in life, which makes these magnificent birds the perfect fit to reside at Riverstone.

If you're interested in watching video clips about Dot and the making of Riverstone Castle, they can be seen on the 'Newsroom' website: click here.

The book 'Dot Queen of Riverstone Castle' is worth reading. In hindsight I wish I'd read it before I visited Riverstone because I missed a few things around the complex. Such as the mosaic plate seat made from Riverstone Kitchen's broken plates. And the henhouse 'Cluckingham Palace' which was designed from photos of Prince Charle's henhouses at Highgrove.

Riverstone is about 20 minutes north of Oamaru. If you're in the area make sure you don't miss it!