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 15, 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.

Loving New Zealand

Looking down over Queenstown, New Zealand

Every cliché you’ve heard about New Zealand is true.  There really are more sheep than people, the hills really are that green, and the water really is that clear.  New Zealanders are warm and friendly, epitomized by our hosts Pauline, Danella and Jo.

All the stresses of delayed flights and airport checks fell away with Pauline’s first embrace. I’ve been ensconced in a warm cocoon ever since.

Here’s what we’ve been up to since my last post Three Days in Dunedin.

Pauline organized a thrilling ride on a four-seater motor bike known as the trike. There are only seven of them in the world. Our charming guide Andrew met us at the city center known as the Octagon and graciously put up with all our picture-taking.  We maneuvered through town, then along the harbour and into the hills for a breathtaking view.  I should mention that we were also part of the view, as tourists waved and stared at this fascinating trike. I now have an inkling of what it must be like to be famous. Complete strangers smiled and waved and took pictures of us along the way.  What fun!

We were on the road for nearly an hour, wind in our hair, smiles on our faces, laughing much of the way. Experience Dunedin just celebrated their first anniversary. You can see some closeup shots of the trike on their Facebook page.

Back on terra firma, we stopped for lunch. While the others stayed on for drinks, Pauline organized a visit to her chiropractor to help with my gathering pain, the result of too many hours sitting on the long-haul flight. Did I mention the warm cocoon?

We rounded out the day with a walking tour of the University of Otago (Māori: Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo). Danella has worked at this beautiful university for a decade.

Danella at University of Otago

Danella the trooper, still recovering from a broken leg

I inadvertently set my camera to manual, so many of my photos turned out dark and grainy. Here are a few to give you a flavor of the place.

University of Otago

Clock Tower University of Otago

If you want to see how a real photographer does it, please check out Laurie’s post University of Otago.

The following morning we were off to Wanaka (rhymes with Monica). We caravanned in two cars for the five-hour journey with several stops for lunch and photographs along the way. Steven is a CB radio enthusiast so he rigged the two cars with radios. We were in regular communication between cars, alerting each other for stops and other practical matters. There may also have been some singing in the round, just to keep things interesting.

As if!  It’s all interesting and wonderful. I’m like a mum with a new baby, constantly gushing at the wonder of it all.

I’ll share details of Wanaka and Queenstown in a future post.

Above Queenstown

You can catch up on the start of our journey by reading Three Days in Dunedin, followed by The Drive to Wanaka.

Blogging Babes in New Zealand

Pauline: The Contented Crafter

Laurie: Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things

KPB: Boomdeeadda

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

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Unless The Camera is in Another Room

hummingbird on top of fountain

From the archives: Anna’s Hummingbird perched on the fountain, September, 2016

You’ve probably heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I looked up the origin of the cliché this morning as I watched a hummingbird splashing about in the bubbler atop our fountain. The concept isn’t new, but the expression is only about one hundred years old.

BB (Before Blogging) I would have enjoyed the hummingbird experience for what it was: a gem of a moment that I might have missed if I hadn’t looked out the window at just the right time. Ten minutes earlier, as I watered the indoor plants, I mused that I really should get out there with the hose and top up the fountain.

Instead, the receding water slowed the fountain pump allowing the tiny bird a chance to sit in the bubbler and spin in a circle while splashing its wings. Pure joy!

AB (After Blogging) I’ve realized that I want to share these special moments with you. Our global blogging community fits neatly into another cliché; “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

On the subject of gifts, I’m traveling to Oregon next week to spend time with blogger Marlene from In Search Of It All. We’ve connected for years through our blogs, then graduated to emailing, Facebook, phone calls, texts and finally our first face-to-face.  I can hardly wait to give and receive the in-person hug we’ve been trading virtually for years.

In March I’ll be traveling again, a trip two years in the making: I’m off to New Zealand, where my friend Pauline of The Contented Crafter and her two daughters will host three blogger-turned-friends from Canada and the US. It’s a trip of a lifetime.  I still can’t quite believe we’ve pulled it off.

While I hope to capture photos worth a thousand words, I know I’ll be gathering incredible memories with special women. I’m looking forward to sharing more of them with you.

 

Season’s Greetings

fluffy under the tree

Fluffy under the tree, 2011

My friends in New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere are already celebrating Christmas so I’m putting my well wishes here mid-day so I can split the difference.

If you’re celebrating now then you’re not reading this anyway, but you’ll know that I’m thinking of you.  If you celebrate tonight or tomorrow, wishing you lots of good cheer.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, wishing you a wonderful Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thanks for following along.  Your presence here is  a gift of joy.

Merry Christmas!

The Art of Felting: Warm and Beautiful

felting processFelting, simply put, is matting wool. The art of felting has been around for centuries with many conflicting stories as to its origin. This Wiki article sites:

Sumerian legend claims that the secret of felt-making was discovered by Urnamman of Lagash. The story of Saint Clement and Saint Christopher relates that while fleeing from persecution, the men packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters. At the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks.
Felt making is still practiced by nomadic people (Altaic people) in Central Asia and northern parts of East Asia (Mongols), where rugs, tents and clothing are regularly made. Some of these are traditional items, such as the classic yurt (Gers), while others are designed for the tourist market, such as decorated slippers. In the Western world, felt is widely used as a medium for expression in textile art as well as design, where it has significance as an ecological textile.

What I do know is that it’s a lot of fun. Merging the wool fibers creates, a warm, durable and water-proof felt, used for centuries. The artistic possibilities, beyond the basics are endless.

My talented friend Liz held a felt-making workshop for a few friends on a visit home from New Zealand.  She’s become quite the expert.  We started with a small pile of wool fibers and a few basic tools, and left with a finished piece.  Liz is also a gourmet cook, a talented seamstress and a gifted fibre artist. You can see more of her work in the Facebook Album Fibre Art.

I wet-felted pieces in orange and black, then combined them to make a small Halloween hanging. I dry-felted the pumpkins on top,adding the orange felted cord at the end.  It’s my new holiday favorite.

felted wool pumpkins

Laura joined me that day, and crafted a beautiful multi-layered piece in white and blue.  She dry felted and embroidered flowers to the piece, then made it into a purse. A certain gardener turned 50 that year, and unwrapped this stunning purse for the occasion!  Getting older has its pluses.

felted wool flowers

Felted Wool Flowers

felted purse

Felted Purse

The Process

It can take a bit of finesse to create beautiful pieces of felt, but the basics are simple. GFWSheep offers a tutorial to get you started.

Halloween Countdown

Felted pumpkins

Felted Pumpkins