Timber Frame Business Now Part of Community

An Update from New Zealand

Twenty years ago, Brother Ralph and Sister Fleur Lattimore established Timberworks, the first (and for many years only) timber frame company in New Zealand. 

It was through Timberworks that Brother Ralph met Brother Caleb Tittley and the other brothers and sisters in Texas. (That is a rather long story that we will have to share in another article!) After we decided to move to Kimbolton in the North Island in 2015, Brother Ralph felt to sell Timberworks to his former foreman, an English timber framer and craftsman named Martin. When Brother Ralph sold the business, he added a request that if Martin should decide to sell Timberworks, Ralph would be given the first opportunity to buy the business. When Timberworks came up for sale in September this year, an opportunity to purchase it was put before the community. It seemed good to the brothers to proceed with the purchase, so a road trip was planned to Nelson in the South Island. 

We rolled down the hills into Wellington and threaded our ways through the busy streets to the Bluebridge ferry terminal where we pulled into the line of cars. There was no ferry in sight. We were five minutes late when we arrived at the terminal, but when Brother Ralph asked how long it would be before the ferry arrived, he was told that it would be half an hour late. 

Half an hour passed, but no ferry arrived. An hour passed, but still no ferry. It was fully two hours before we were finally on board the ferry and heading out of Port Nicholson, the sheltered harbor of Wellington. The Cook Strait is notorious for being one of the roughest ferry crossings in the world, but the waters were peaceful and placid, not quite as calm as a mill pond, but definitely not as bad as it could have been. 

Once at the workshop, we began packing tools into boxes and disconnecting the heavy machinery from the overhead dust extraction system, which we then pulled down. The massive cast-iron bandsaw posed a problem—it was too heavy to load with the truck’s tail lift. We eventually solved the problem by opening the side doors of the truck and lifting the bandsaw in with a forklift. We made faster progress than we were expecting, and by the end of the day we had most of the workshop packed up and in the truck and trailer. 

At the end of the day, Martin and his wife Leslie showed us through the beautiful little show home they had built at their property just down the road from Timberworks. It is a lovely example of timber framing, with high sweeping trusses and big glass windows on the front, as well as a lovely loft bedroom and cleverly designed kitchen counters made of concrete to reduce cost. The show home inspired us, and has given us many new design ideas for our own tiny houses at Mohaka River Farm. 

Through the whole trip, we felt God’s protecting hand on us. There were no incidents, and we had a number of good connections with people while there. We pray that through this business we will connect with many people as we run woodwork classes and construct timber frames for interesting houses. 

Spring Holiday Program 

It was Sunday evening on September 27 when our spring holiday program for schoolchildren began with a running start. We had advertised a program where families could come and stay, be taught some craft in the morning and have a farm experience in the afternoon. Over 25 young folks with their families arrived. 

At milking time, poor Silky the cow had nearly 20 different pairs of hands squeezing and pinching out tiny streams of milk. She stoically withstood it. Amidst a great deal of laughter, the children asked Zara and Annaliese questions about life at Mohaka River Farm. 

The next day brought a flurry of activity to set up the conference center in time before the kids showed up. By 10:30 AM, both craft rooms buzzed with excited chatter. At the leather work station, Ezra helped a boy situate the stamp correctly on the leather; then Boone held it while the little boy exuberantly swung down the mallet. Thud! Phew! The mallet missed Boone’s fingers that time! 

In the next room, Sister Rachel and Taliah taught others how to make a basket. Annaliese helped two of the girls, Sophie and Ellie, do theirs. 

Later on that week, we tacked up the trekking horses for the kids. Some of the children were so eager to go that they almost danced with excitement as Sister Fleur gave the safety briefing. 

After Annaliese led Jet through the mounting block, Sophie scrambled on, her eyes wide with anticipation. “Jet is a really calm horse,” we reassured her as Annaliese passed the reins to her. It was hard not to chuckle aloud at the varied assortment of riders. Some were clutching the reins almost to their chest, while others had their heels sticking out towards the sky. All of the riders stayed on, however; we lost not a single one! 

During one craft morning, the grandmother of one of the children approached Annaliese and started telling her about Taylah, her eldest granddaughter. “When we first came here,” the grandmother explained with a big smile, “Taylah said, ‘Grandma, I don’t understand how these people can live here together like this.’ But today she decidedly said, ‘Actually, Grandma, I think I understand now! They’re all so close and such good friends. I think I would even want to live here, too!’“ 

Saturday evening came quickly and with it many pizza orders. Brother Eddie had the wood-fired oven burning wonderfully, and the customers seemed well satisfied with the food. At the close of the evening, several girls dawdled by the oven, cooking the last pizza for the staff. Suddenly, Noni, an Israeli girl who was staying in the camp with her family, came bounding down the steps towards us. “I just wanted to say goodbye,“ she said breathlessly. 

Noni joined the other girls as they walked back to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. Taliah and Zara washed the dishes, Noni dried them, and Annaliese put them away. Annaliese felt to connect with Noni but had just met her the day before and knew nothing about her background, such as whether she had a faith or not.  

Later when the girls non-turned out the lights in the kitchen and walked out, Noni said, “I don’t understand how people can believe God is nonexistent, because it’s so obvious that He is real!” Annaliese smiled and nodded in agreement, saying, “Yes, it is obvious.” As part of saying goodbye to Noni, we told her, “Always remember that you have friends here at Mohaka River Farm!” 

As Annaliese and Taliah walked home, Taliah mentioned that Noni’s family were not religious. Annaliese expressed her surprise and how thankful she was for her talk with Noni. 

Later during the program, several of us also met and conversed with a teenage girl originally from Sri Lanka who was Muslim. It is amazing how even on a remote farm in New Zealand, God has given us the opportunity and privilege to meet and serve young people from many different backgrounds.

Anniversary and Labor Day Weekend 

On Thursday, October 22, we celebrated our first anniversary of the camp being open to the public. To celebrate, we hosted a dinner for our whole community consisting of “mighty Mohaka burgers” served with fries and mint lemonade, followed by carrot cake and coffee for dessert. After the meal, we enjoyed singing and conversing late into the night. What a year it has been! 

Our opening weekend last year was Labor Day weekend, a long weekend holiday where we hosted a small number of families and campers. 

This year, we have just said goodbye to our last guests for Labor Day weekend. We were blessed with a full camp; many “tenters” and caravans booked at the last minute. The horses have been used to capacity. Sister Fleur and Brother Rob took horse treks throughout the weekend, and we offered farm experiences and Saturday night wood-fired pizza. Many of the campers came based on someone’s recommendation. Some campers found us on the internet, and others were just passing by. 

Also rewarding was to have many locals who hope to return in the summer. We were surprised and thrilled with how busy the weekend was, and how satisfied our guests were. All indications are that summer is going to be busy! 

A Start on Glamping Tents

As we continue to develop the camp business, we anticipate setting up platforms with glamping-style tents similar to the ones in our South Africa community. Last week, a team of fathers and young folks gathered a huge trailer load of kanuka poles for our tents that our neighbor generously offered to us. 

We all pitched in together to cut the trees with chainsaws and pull them down the heavily wooded hill to where the trailer waited to be loaded. We hope that the glamping tents will add a different dimension to the campground and what we offer here.