Hobbiton Movie Set: A Gardener’s Delight and a Movie-goer’s Dream

Yellow Hobbit-hole, Hobbiton New Zealand

Cheerful yellow Hobbit-hole, Hobbiton, New Zealand

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”-J.R.R. Tolkien

Adding to my list of reasons to love New Zealand is the joyous Hobbiton™ The Movie Set.

Mike and I spent our last three days in New Zealand on the North Island. We used Auckland as our home base, then ventured out on a couple of tours. Hobbiton was at the top of our list.

Director Peter Jackson filmed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Hobbit movies throughout New Zealand, but he also created a gorgeous movie set on a 1,250 acre private farm in Matamata.

Hobbiton movie set and Alexander farm

Hobbiton in the foreground, Alexander farm in the back

wooly sheep New Zealand

A wee wooly sheep

In 2010, the temporary movie set gave way to permanent structures and Hobbiton now draws tourists from around the world.

The 12-acre set captures the magic of the movies and books. The walking tour fully immerses you in the experience.

curving path in Hobbiton, New Zealand

Meandering paths are a hallmark of Hobbiton

Hobbiton yellow house and wheelbarrow

Charming village with cleverly aged fence

For this lover of books, movies, theater and gardening, Hobbiton has it all. If I could wave my fairy wand, I would take the tour a second time, but in slow motion. There is so much to take in and so many exquisite details.

Here is a taste of some of the movie magic:

  • The Hobbit-hole facades are in different scales. Scale varies from 30 to 80 percent. A full-sized actor in front of a 30 percent scale set looks huge. This allows for the use of forced-perspective.
  • In order to age the materials, set designers soak the wood fence posts in vinegar, then splatter the planks with blue paint, yogurt and wood chips. Soaking the wood in vinegar causes it to expand, then contract with a slight warp. Flecks of blue paint add to the aging process and the yogurt, a natural bacteria, allows lichen and moss to grow along the boards. Magical!
  • Each Hobbit-hole has its own garden along with props to indicate what the Hobbit does for a living. We meandered past the Hobbit holes of farmers, bakers, and homemakers. I delighted in the wee washing hung on the line, and the charming mailboxes, wheelbarrows and wind-chimes that make a house a home.

What I didn’t expect and absolutely loved were the individual gardens. Hobbit-holes face out of the hillside with sloping, earthen green roofs. Flowers grow along the fence, up the side of the house and in planting boxes.

Some of the holes have real vegetable gardens and in the middle of the Shire, pumpkin vines give way to magnificent fruit. You all know how I feel about pumpkins.

 

Hobbiton employs dozens of landscapers and gardeners to keep things looking authentic. Maybe we can get jobs here, too?

Since the gardens are real, so are the visitors. I spotted bees, butterflies and birds throughout the tour.  Aren’t they magnificent?

As the tour drew to a close, we learned that one of the trees pictured below is a fake. Can you spot it?

three trees in Hobbiton

Three trees in Hobbiton

Updated April 23, 2018. You can learn the answer by following this link.

Our tour ended as we crossed the bridge leading to the inn. The barkeeper offered us a choice of local ale or ginger beer, then we had lunch in a big tent.

The Mill House, Hobbiton

The Mill House, Hobbiton

The Green Dragon Inn

The Green Dragon Inn

Could it get any better than this?

Oh yes.

I almost forgot to mention Pickles the resident cat. We found him like this, eyes closed, paws outstretched, resting by a warm fire.

Pickles the cat at the Green Dragon, Hobbiton

Pickles the cat at the Green Dragon, Hobbiton

Pickles the cat, Hobbiton

Kitty nirvana

Truly nirvana.

Three Days in Dunedin

I’m having the time of my life!

In some ways this journey began two years ago.  During a Skype session, the Blogging Babes, as we’ve come to call ourselves, dreamed out loud of a trip to see Pauline in New Zealand. In 2015 Pauline joined us on our side of the world for an incredible trip to Virginia and Washington, D.C. Our time together deepened the friendships and expanded our hearts.

Now here we are three years later, meeting up with Pauline and her two lovely daughters in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Mike drove me to the San Francisco airport where I connected with Laurie. Though I dreaded the 13 hour flight across the Pacific, I was in for some lovely surprises.

SFO at Joe & the Juice

Putting our heads together at Joe & the Juice, SFO (This one’s for you, Joe)

We got our sillies on five minutes into our journey, before boarding the most amazing airplane I have ever seen.

lavender lights aboard air new zealand

Air New Zealand flight

Air New Zealand lives up to its reputation in every way.  The crew kept us  well fed, smiling, drinks flowing and relaxed.  We flew economy, or as Mike would say, steerage,  but I can’t complain.  It was amazing.

Air New Zealand flight with Laurie

With Laurie and a charming photo bomber

Pacific Ocean satellite map

This on-board satellite map kept us abreast of our travel

Pauline welcomed us at the airport, then we were off to meet her daughter, Danella and to reconnect with Kelly.

Siddy in Dunedin, New Zealand

Pauline’s Siddy served as co-pilot

Danella opened her home to us, three women she’s never met and while still recovering from a broken leg.  It’s an act of kindness and grace.

Danella and Siddy

Danella and Siddy

She lives in a charming flat, decorated in soft pinks and greens, with a lovely garden out back. She loves garden kitsch, and has since her childhood. I had fun discovering tiny gnomes and frogs among the greenery. They made my fairy-garden-loving heart sing.

After a leisurely morning in our PJ’s and a breakfast of tomatoes on toast (thank you, Kelly) we were off to Pauline’s. Pauline’s fans know she’s an artist and a crafter, and her space reflects her kind and creative soul. Laurie’s written a beautiful post with photos sharing that day. Please visit her post here.

Pauline's courtyard garden

Photo Credit: Laurie Buchwald In Pauline’s courtyard garden

Pauline’s daughter Jo and her partner Steve joined us for lunch gathered around Pauline’s home-cooked meal. The pampering continued with charming welcome bags filled with local gifts of chocolates and soaps, along with handmade cards, and art, deserving of another full post.  (I have so much to say!)

This photo is back at Danella’s. I didn’t take any during our meal.

and evening at Danella's

Steven, Joe, Kelly and Laurie in Danella’s gorgeous flat. Garden by Danella, artwork by Pauline

After dinner we took a walk on St Claire Beach, just moments away from Pauline’s home. We stopped for hot beverages before calling it a day.

St. Claire's Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand

Blogging Babes selfie, St. Claire Beach, Dunedin

St. Claire Beach at sunset, Dunedin, New Zealand

St. Claire Beach at sunset, Dunedin, New Zealand

St. Claire Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand

Laurie getting her feet wet while the rest of us looked on

Day three in Dunedin will be another post, but I’ll leave you with a bit of a photo teaser.

on the trike near Otago Harbour

The Trike: Experience New Zealand

We’re having so much fun.

Blogging Babes in New Zealand

Pauline: The Contented Crafter

Laurie: Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things

KPB: Boomdeeadda

Negative Ions and The Wondrous Benefits of Rain

blueberry leaves in the rai

Blueberry Bush After the Rain

My love affair with rain dates back to my youth. I feel a sense of euphoria as clouds gather and a lightening in my heart. Once the rain falls, I have an intense desire to be outdoors. Last week I pulled a few weeds in the rain and it was bliss. Unfortunately my foot started to throb, not happy about the flex involved in the weed-pulling crouch. If not, I would have been out there for hours. It’s all about the negative ions.

According to WebMD

Negative ions are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments. Think mountains, waterfalls, and beaches. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.

While this doesn’t explain why some people hate the rain, it speaks volumes for my personal sense of glee. As clouds gather, I have more energy, an enhanced awareness of things around me and a feeling of joy. It’s extraordinary.

Daisy like yellow flower

Daisy-like yellow flower

As I drove home from physical therapy today, I heard an interview with author Cynthia Barnett. Her book Rain: A Natural and Cultural History has just been nominated for a National Book Award. I couldn’t wait to come home and look it up.  The synopsis reads:

Rain is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive.

It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world’s water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain.
Cynthia Barnett’s Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science—the true shape of a raindrop, the mysteries of frog and fish rains—with the human story of our ambition to control rain, from ancient rain dances to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straitjacket the Mississippi River. It offers a glimpse of our “founding forecaster,” Thomas Jefferson, who measured every drizzle long before modern meteorology. Two centuries later, rainy skies would help inspire Morrissey’s mopes and Kurt Cobain’s grunge. Rain is also a travelogue, taking readers to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume.

Perfume!!! How has this escaped my grasp for so many years?

Fragrant Pink Hyacinth

Fragrant Pink Hyacinth

As I write this, clouds gather.

tree reflecting in rain on deck

Magnolia Tree Reflections on a Rainy Day

Rain is on the way.

Be still my heart.

IMG_1520

It Rained!

Yes, folks, right here in San Jose, California, in the midst of a protracted drought, it rained. In September.

Real rain too, not that “did I just feel a drop?” kind of rain, but puddle-forming, windshield-wiping, garden-refreshing rain.  I lingered in bed this morning with the doors flung open and took in the mesmerizing sounds and smells. Then I got dressed and went outside.

gardener in the rain

Rain, glorious rain!

Good thing, too, since the sun was out by 10 but I enjoyed the refreshing drops while they lasted.

acer leaves

Acer leaves

deck in the rain

Cloudy skies and Salvia reflected on the deck

This is a tremendous gift to the firefighters battling the King Fire in Northern California. We are not in harm’s way, but others are. Many of  the state’s late-summer fires are the result of lightning. Sadly this one was arson. Fortunately they’ve made an arrest, but the fire has raged out of control for two weeks.

The good news today is that the fire is 43% contained, but the damage is unbelievable. 95,000 acres burned and a dozen homes lost.  Their are over 8,000 fire personnel from across the country battling the flames.

Today I celebrate rain in my little corner of the world, as well as the potential relief for crews on the fire lines and displaced residents in our parched state.

Let it rain, let it rain!

 

Here’s the latest from the Weather Channel:

Western Drought Monitor

Western drought status as of Sept. 16, 2014. Darker shading indicates progressively worse drought status. (NOAA/USDA/NDMC)

Yes, runoff triggered by soaking rain from this September storm in far northwest California will raise a tad.

However, the key to drought relief in California is not rain, but snow.

Critical to water supply in this part of the country is the buildup of winter snow pack in the mountains, whose melt water in the spring replenishes reservoirs.

Snow melt provides up to 75 percent of the West’s freshwater supply. The Sierra and, to a lesser degree, Colorado River snow melt, is crucial for California.

In short, California and the West needs a persistently wet winter, with a combination of significant rain and mountain snow to replenish groundwater and reservoir levels.

My Red Hot Garden

“Jo had learned that hearts, like flowers, cannot be rudely handled, but must open naturally…”

― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you the world is transformed.”

-J. Krishnamurti

“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.” – Michael Nolan

“Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts; don’t put up with those that are reckless with yours.” – Mary Schmich

“Have a strong mind and a soft heart.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

Lindy-Lu

Warm cat, happy heart. – Alys Milner

Retrospective: My Year of Squirrels

As the year winds down, I’ve decided to create a few retrospectives.

Without further ado I present: My Year of Squirrels

Sure, they can drive you nuts while they dig up your bulbs, but their cuteness more than makes up for it.

The Colors of Fall: Our Own Special Tree

colorful leaves

Colorful leaves

New England states are known for stunning displays of fall color.  My husband and I crossed the country by train one year so we could enjoy the spectacular (and fleeting) beauty.

We also had the good sense to plant our own fall color in the strip of land between the street and the sidewalk.  Though there were four beautiful trees growing in the back yard when we bought our house in 1996, we didn’t have a single tree out front.

August, 1996

Planting the tree
August, 1996

We planted two that first year, and have since planted a couple more.   The Magnolia shows off in early spring with huge, snowy-white flowers but the fall belongs to the splendid Chinese Pistache.

The City of San Jose requires a permit before planting a tree in the sidewalk strip, the space between the sidewalk and the street.  They provide a list of “approved” street trees.  Approved trees must have non-invasive roots, non-staining fruit and other good-neighbor qualities.  In the past, neighboring streets sported Liquidambar trees.  They’re pretty but a nuisance when planted curbside.  Invasive roots lift the sidewalks, causing myriad tripping hazards, and the seed pods are hard enough to twist an ankle when stepped on.  I remember getting them caught in the wheels of the boys’ s stroller and later in the undercarriage of scooters.  One by one, homeowners removed the Liquidambar, leaving neighborhoods bereft of trees.

A few years back the trend reversed, and once again families are planting trees.

Planting a tree is an act of hope and optimism.  It also says “I’m here to stay!”  My family moved a lot when I was a child, and I moved even more during college and my early working career.  The same was true for my husband. Planting a tree outside our front window said  “we plan to stay awhile.”

chinese pistache newly planted

August, 1996

chinese pistache spring

Spring, 2011

Now and again my husband grumbles that our tree is not as tall or as full as the one across the street.  I immediately come to our trees’ defense and assure him that it’s just fine.  BK (before kids) we used to measure the tree’s height each year.  We settled into life raising two boys, and measured their growth each year instead.

Winter Views of the Pistache

Growing boys, sleeping tree

Now we have three strapping teenagers (two boys and one tree) and all three are taller than me.  The colors of fall, and our beautiful tree, are an introspective time to reflect.

chinese pistache

November 12, 2013

hummer in pistache

This little hummingbird sang while I raked