The House with No Nails

A barn born from a cyclone finding its place in a pandemic.

Written by Kate Hay , photography by jen@housewithnonails.com

Dewi and Jen, the maker and the storyteller

The Barn Born From A Cyclone

When the gales of Cyclone Bola finally quietened, Dewi, a local farmer originally from North Wales, looked around him.  He saw the broken things, the modern houses blown inside out, the fallen trees.  But he didn’t see hopelessness or loss.  In that moment, he saw a special kind of home for his family.  The kind of home that would sway with the wind, but never break.  A new home that was centuries in the making.

So, Dewi talked to the farmers about helping them with their downed tree “problem”.  He got himself an Alaskan Mill and set to work milling the beams right there, in the fields.  Dewi and Jen didn’t have a lot of capital, so they paid in sweat instead.  Dewi milked cows for a local farmer during the day.  At night, he worked his timber in the farmer’s workshop.  With mallet and chisel, he shaped every joint in the house.  Every piece was pre-cut and premarked with a Roman numeral in an ancient practice of prefabrication.

Every piece of the frame was fitted for its neighbour.  Every piece with a purpose.  The central structure of the barn are the four “Bents” that curve from the central spine enclosing the home like a ribcage.  Just like our ribs, strength is derived from the curve and the flex of the timber. Every join is secured with a hand-whittled oak peg. On barn raising day, the community gathered and the entire frame was assembled and raised from dawn to dusk.  That night there was a dance and a feast between the beams, under the stairs. 

Once the skeleton was up, next was what Jen calls the “loving exercise of filling in”.  Jen and Dewi took their time and used their hands.  The external and internal cladding is timber, of course, rendered with a red clay and lime putty and lime wash, both handmade on site and brewed in the ground by the couple for the purpose. Jen wrote to Jocasta Innes, the English  interior designer, for the lime plaster recipe, which was provided in return by way of blue  Aerodrome letter.

Every part of the House with No Nails has a past that is honoured – the stones around the Inglenook fireplace  from the Paeroa hills, the mantel is an old Totara fencepost, the stone in the bathroom floor from the Haast, the handforged  copper kitchen sink reclaimed from its agricultural roots (from a cowshed), the antique clawfooted bath picked up from a paddock, rusted from the years of cow licks. The iron work has all been forged by a local craftsman, Brian Searle. “This place is about making,” Jen says.  They are passionate about the objects made and remade.

The Rhythm of the Land

The House with No Nails has in a real sense grown from the land in which it stands.  On the plains at the base of the Kaimai’s, the House with No Nails is watched over by Mount Te Aroha to the North and Wairere Falls to the South.  Te Aroha has always been recognised as a special place.  For local iwi, Te Aroha means “love flows inland”.  The Waihou River, a water highway, has long been critical to travel and commerce and that continued after the arrival of Europeans.  Jen tells me that Te Aroha was New Zealand’s first formal tourist destination as the Victorians travelled here to “take the waters”.

The Barn may be rustic, but this boutique bed and breakfast oozes comfort.

A Place in a Pandemic

The House with No Nails evolved from a family home into a bed and breakfast, with Jen and Dewi hosting so many travellers around their table. Their position near Te Aroha, Hobbiton, the Waihou River and Wairere Falls and their uniqueness made this little boutique B&B pretty popular with international visitors. Then came 2020, COVID 19, the lockdown, closed borders. 

The House with No Nails has made its own place in our changed world.  Unsurprisingly, this place is within its own story and as a place for others to tell their stories.  Rather than a spot for cyclists and weary tourists to lay their heads (although cyclists and tourists are always welcomed), the Chief Carpenter’s Barn is becoming its own experience.  From boutique opera performances to Agentinian, Polish and French immersion weekends, weddings and reunions to full well-being experiences, the building that has always been more than a barn is becoming much more than a bed for the night.

In the central solarium, rests a long table open to the character kitchen and with an open ceiling that vaults all three stories of the barn – truly, the heart of the home.  Jen caters for guests with incredible food and warmth.

Visitors may be treated to a long table candlelit feast, followed by mulled wine and tall tales around the fire.  Maybe an Indian banquet?  Maybe an Argentinian fiesta around the asador grill? 

The choices of how to spend your day range from cycling the Hauraki Rail Trail to kayaking the Waihou to hiking around Te Aroha or Wairere Falls and Wairongamai to indulging in luxury at the mineral spas (as those Victorians used to do) to fossicking around the historical town of Te Aroha … and much more!

You can be assured that upon your return from your adventure the House with No Nails will welcome you back …

You can find out more about the House with No Nails and how to take your place in its story, here.

If you would like to find out more about a Yoga-2-Go mini-break at the House with No Nails, use our build a mini-break form and be sure to tell us you want to stay at the House with No Nails!  Or just get in touch, here.

Spring: A New Beginning

Written by Kate Hay , photography by jen@housewithnonails.com

A Well-being Experience in Te Aroha
25 – 27 September, 2020

Brought to you by House with No Nails and Yoga-2-Go.

From just $550 per person.
Add amazing Saturday activities for $195 per person or enjoy finding your own way exploring or relaxing.

Spring is about drawing oneself out of the hibernation of the colder months, stretching out, feeling the warm sun on our faces and the brisk breeze on our cheeks. In yoga, it is a time to develop flexibility, mobility and adaptability, getting ready to face the faster seasons with patience and purpose. Yoga-2-Go has joined up with one of our unique accommodation partners, the House with No Nails to bring you a very special well-being weekend to help you bloom in the new year.

You will be staying in the unique House with No Nails, which is 10 minutes’ drive from Matamata, 4o minutes from Tauranga, Rotorua and Hamilton and 2 hours’ drive from Auckland Airport. Everything about this rustic boutique barn has been handmade or assembled with love. The comfort and beauty of your surroundings will take your breath away. (Don’t worry Yoga-2-Go will put your breath back where it belongs!) Find out more about the House with No Nails, here.

Yoga for a New Beginning

The Yoga for this weekend is a combination of classes and short stretch sessions. It will be focused on the wood element relating to Spring, which includes the gall bladder and liver meridians. Physically, the gall bladder and liver meridians relate to your tendons and joints, eyesight and the metabolisation of fats in the body (so great for weight loss!). The wood element is also associated with foresight, decision-making and organisation. Spring is a time when the energy in your body expands and you need to harness and develop flexibility and mobility to meet the season with patience and purpose.

Kate teaches with Namaste Yoga NZ and her classes are a fusion of Hatha (traditional Indian style) and a Japanese style yoga, based on meridians. No prior yoga experience is needed and the classes are designed to accommodate different levels of ability and fitness by having a graduated structure. The class is divided into three 20 minute sessions with a short 10 minute meditation rest (savasana) between each, enabling people to choose join or leave the group as is appropriate for them. The first session is easy and gentle and appropriate for most people. The second session will be moderate and will challenge most people, but most people should find it achievable. The last part of the class will be more intense and suited to those who hanker after a challenge. All group participants would benefit from all parts of the class: those who are more competitive may learn a lot in the gentler techniques; those who struggle in the challenges will benefit hugely from the attempt, regardless of “where they get”.

All the yoga sessions, especially the informal stretch-outs and the restorative sessions, are accessible to people coming from all levels of yoga experience with modifications offered for beginners and the more advanced. The restorative and meditation portions of the weekend will be beneficial to all and will help carry you forward from winter into the busier parts of the year. A special treat is the yoga nidra session late Saturday afternoon to round out a big day with some deserved self-care.

The Wellbeing Weekend features

Friday, 24 September

  • Snacks and refreshments on arrival late afternoon/early evening and a short stress buster yoga session for the shoulders, neck and back
  • Long table feast in the barn followed by mulled wine by the firepit
  • Restorative yoga and guided meditation session

Saturday, 25 September

  • Yoga session to start the day focusing on the body’s needs when transitioning to Spring.
  • Breakfast
  • Free time to relax or explore the area. Optional activities include
    • E bike along the Hauraki Bike Trail to the Old Forge Cafe for Lunch (cafe lunch not included in package price). There will be short pre- and post- cycling stretch out yoga sessions.
    • Guided Kayak on the Waihou River. There will be short pre- and post- kayaking stretch out yoga sessions.
    • Into Te Aroha proper for an op candlelit mineral spa experience.
  • Return to House with No Nails for a guided Yoga Nidra session
  • Dinner is an Indian vegetarian feast prepared by an Indian chef who lives locally.
  • Restorative yoga and guided meditation session finishes the evening

Sunday Morning

  • Yoga session to start the day focusing on the body’s needs when transitioning to Spring.
  • Breakfast
  • Drive to Wairere Falls Track and enjoy the walk up to view the spectacular 153 metre high waterfall, the North Island’s highest waterfall. There will be short pre- and post- walking stretch out yoga sessions.
  • Pop up lunch in the landscape (weather permitting – otherwise return to House with No Nails for lunch)
  • Travel home

This special weekend is yours for $550 per person and includes:

  • Accommodation (shared rooms) for Friday and Saturday night at House with No Nails.
  • 2 x Continental Breakfasts, 2 x Dinners and Mulled Wine, Lunch on Sunday. Cafe lunch on Saturday is not included. Tea and coffee at any time is complementary.
  • Yoga & Meditation: 2 x Spring Yoga Classes 90 minutes, 2 x restorative yoga classes and guided meditation, several activity-related stretch outs, 1 x guided yoga nidra
  • Wairere Falls track walk
  • Optional Saturday Activity Package add $195: E Bike 1/2 day hire and self guided ride on Rail Trail, 90 minute guided kayak tour, Romance Package at Te Aroha Mineral Spas

Places are limited so register your interest to secure your spot. If you have any questions, contact Yoga-2-Go or House With No Nails. If you wish to build your own Yoga-2-Go mini-break at the House with No Nails or elsewhere, please let use know your thoughts using our mini-break builder form.

NB: The weekend will only go ahead if there are 8 people booked and paid. If the weekend does not go ahead due to lack of bookings, anyone who has booked and paid will be refunded in full.

Techniques for Balance & Chill

Unpack Some Self Care

Originally this piece was part of a larger post dealing with my dog being attacked by another dog, but I decided to split out the techniques into their own post, separate from the story. Yoga helped me through that terrible day, read about how, here. When I got home, I got on the mat and unpacked some simple, very gentle restorative techniques, which I now share with you.

Kidney Stretch

An essential technique in my classes. This stretch works the kidney meridian, associated with fear. It also works the kidney organs and, importantly, switches off the adrenal glands. Working the length of the legs and focusing energy into the pelvis, helps to drain the energy out of the upper body (where tension tends to get tied up when we are under stress). Deliberate relaxation of upper body and shoulders whilst tucking chin in helps with moving into parasympathetic nervous system. Pressing into the Kidney 1 point on the foot helps with stress and fear. This is not an easy or comfortable technique, to be honest, but it is very effective and the level of mindfulness required was very useful at the time to tune my mind out of the day and into my practice.

Kidney Stretch
Seated Twist

Twists are great to calm the body. We know that when we are stressed we have a knot in our guts. Ironically, wringing out those organs can help untie that knot. It lets everything settle. Squeezing into an area pushes out the old blood, fluids and toxins and this is replaced by the fresh. Again, this seated twist involves a bit of full body concentration to get right: inhale and pull up through the spine, exhale turn the belly button around, deliberately relax your shoulders until the shoulder blades slide down your back, relax your buttocks and thighs but keep both sit bones on the floor.

Dynamic Child’s Pose

Still using full body engagement – engagement in seeking relaxation! – by moving on the breath. Starting in tabletop and moving through cat/cow, I began a pendulum with my torso forward and backward on the breath to open and close myself to the world and to the breath more fully. Long fluid breaths. Long fluid movements. Mind in the belly. Finally, I was gliding from child’s pose up to almost a face-up dog.

Child’s Pose

When I was ready, I paused back on my heels. Child’s Pose can be practiced many ways. This time I brought my arms back alongside my body, backs of the hands to the floor. Forehead on the floor, shoulder blades stretched across the back as gravity draws heavy upon them. (My shoulders were shocked and sore from the beating I had delivered with my umbrella – filled with fight and flight hormones – to try and save my dog). Breathing into my belly, I noticed the gentle massage of the breath while cocooned by my body. I was ready for stillness now.

Childs Pose
Childs Pose
Forward bend on a chair

After a time, I settled into this kindest of forward bends. Still stretching the back body, but gravity does the work. The chin tucked in for the parasympathetic system and the head supported. Still safe but more open than in child’s pose.

Legs up “wall” on a chair

Even kinder than legs up wall, is legs up wall on a chair. This is the last of my restorative sequence. Legs above the hips, everything is easy. A gentle inversion, the weight of the femur rests into the hip joint. The body is supported by the floor. No effort is needed. Close the eyes. Just breathe.

Guided Meditation

Even if you are well practiced in self led meditation, sometimes I just let myself be taken on a journey. I don’t need to make choices. I just need to listen. I just need to breathe. I just need gentle kindness.

A Terrible Day For Yoga

Close up of Blue
This is Blue

What Happened …

So, yesterday our family had a very bad day. It started out pretty OK. Yes, it was cold and raining, but I still popped my two dogs in the car and grabbed my umbrella. Rain doesn’t change their needs for a walk, afterall.

First stop, tai chi. Our teacher was back after an absence of a week due to his partner being unwell. We all celebrated the fact she had come home from hospital. We worked the Qi Gong technique of the 8 Brocade in detail. I found lots of little bits and pieces fell into place for me and I acquired a better level of understanding. Class was followed by cups of tea around a table and a chat. I love our tai chi classes.

Next up, we visited a potential venue for yoga classes in town for runners. After that, grabbed supermarket supplies, just a top up shop. Last thing before home, walk at the dog park.

As we arrived the dogs started whining. They enjoy this park: there are open fields to run in, the river to paddle and patches of bush to snuffle. They often meet friends here to play with. It’s a good wet day option as the paths are paved and my shoes don’t get muddy. I stay reasonably dry under my umbrella.

This dog park is a favorite

We had been walking for about 20 minutes, when we turned up a set of stairs. We always go up here to make our circuit. Blue lingered at the bottom sniffing, checking the pee-mail, as all the dogs do at certain landmark locations. I was up the first maybe 20 stairs and on a landing, when behind me I heard a deep growl and a scream.

Before I had time to react to the sound, Blue was beside me on the bush bank and a large white and tan dog was on top of her back biting. It happened very fast, as I approached the handrail between the stairs and the bush and went to go under, Blue managed to partially free herself and the two of them fell down the bank onto the lower track we had just been walking on.

From there on the stairs, I saw my dog on her back and her much larger attacker – at least 3 times her weight holding her by the throat. Shaking. I saw the dog’s owner for the first time approaching from the other side of the stair entrance. My dog is screaming and screaming. I screamed “your dog’s killing my dog”. She began to run along the path.

We both arrived at the attack site at the same time. The white dog owner says to me “she’s never done that before” as she grabbed her dog by the collar and pulled. I was vaguely aware this was not a recommended thing to do – it causes more tearing from the bite and puts the human hand at risk of being bitten. Both, as it happens, occurred. I beat the attacking dog across the back with my umbrella. All the while, poor little Blue, lying on her back, screamed. Finally, the jaws loosened for a moment and my dog disappeared up into the bush.

I asked the woman for her details to help with the vets bill. She demanded to see my dog, who had scarpered. After a moment, in a moment of shrewd cunning she said, “I think it was your dog at fault.” I started taking photos of her and her dogs. She pulled the hood of her jacket over her face and took off as fast as she could.

I began the hunt for my dogs. Neither one was in sight nor coming to my calls. As the adrenaline seeped away, terror replaced it. I couldn’t breathe. I called and searched. I recruited a couple of other walkers to help me. They did. Bless them.

I tried to run back to my vehicle in case that’s where my dogs had gone. Fall shock had set in. I couldn’t draw breath. I couldn’t run. I’m a runner, but right then I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.

There, beside my van, a lovely young man had my other dog – who had fled in fear at the start- by the collar and was looking for an owner. Thank you whoever you were, you probably saved a member of my family from going under a car. He wasn’t wet and wasn’t wearing a jacket so likely came out of his vehicle or home to help. Bless him.

My other dog secured in the vehicle, I went back into the park to search. I texted my husband “braithwaite park now emergency”. It took a long time for my shaking fingers to input the message. The rain didn’t help.

I remembered Blue on her back, her neck in the big dog’s jaws. I imagined Blue bleeding out quietly, alone under a bush. I went back to the van and got my other dog on lead, in the hope she might help me locate Blue.

I rang Animal Control, in case someone else picked Blue up. While I was speaking with them, their call centre received a report of a found dog matching Blue’s description. Blue had run back to the hall where we do Tai Chi. The people there brought her inside, made her comfortable, rang Council. Bless them.

I used Facebook to put out the word to help find Blue when she was missing and to help locate the white dog – who needs to be in a muzzle in public. The response was huge. So many people responded and shared and sent best wishes. Bless them.

Now, Blue’s story is less dramatic (although more expensive) – vets, medication, snugs on her beanbag under her blankie. She has had surgery and with the expert and professional care from the vets she will be OK. Bless them.

Where was Yoga? Everywhere

Even in the moments of extreme trauma and stress, yoga increased my resilience to help my dog in the fight and to stay calm when interacting with the other owner, enabling me to get some photographs.

When shock hit, yoga helped me recognise what was happening in my body. I was breathing in the upper part of my chest only – causing hyperventilation. I was grasping forward to where I thought I needed to be – down the road at my car – instead of focusing on where I was and what I needed to do – on the path, putting one foot in front of the other.

Yoga helped me when my hands were shaking so much I struggled to operate my phone. As I hit the wrong letters and rain splotched the screen, self talk emerged “I can’t do this” “It’s too hard” “What if …” Yoga helped me recognise this self talk as unhelpful. Yoga helped me take a breath, wipe the screen, try again. Take a breath. Try again.

Yoga helped me remember the embodied experience of the attack clearly and concisely when recounting it to my husband, to the Council Inspectors, to the vet.

Yoga helped me recognise the good beautiful people all around me, who I didn’t even know, who’s first instinct was to help a stranger and an animal in distress. Yoga helped me have the presence of mind to articulate the problem and to thank them. To bless them.

Where Was Yoga? On the Mat

Through the two hours or so of action, it was the mental element of yoga – built through a combination of physical and mental techniques – that I drew upon. Once we got home and tucked poor wee Blue up cosy and warm, and after I had had a warm shower (I’d spent two shivery hours soaked to the bone), I got on the mat and unpacked some very gentle restorative techniques for self care. This short practice is set out, here.

So, Where Was Yoga?

Yoga helps you to approach difficulty from a place of compassion, understanding and pragmatism.

Yoga is difficult, so it helps you when you need to do difficult things.

Yoga is mindfulness, so it helps you when you need presence of mind.

Yoga is equanimity. Coming to this situation from a place of empathy, meant that my adrenalin filled body was not angry with the dog or the owner. Anger in those moments would have robbed me of the ability to focus on what was important. Nor am I angry today. The other dog owner will be afraid for her family member, I wish her no ill will. I would like preventive measures to be taken to protect everyone, including her, such as use of a muzzle.

Yoga is compassion. As we pour love and compassion into our little dog, it will not only heal her, but me and my family also.

Yoga is gratitude. I am grateful for all the people that helped. I am grateful Blue is OK. I am grateful for vets with knowledge, kindness and expertise to ease suffering. I am grateful for Council and the Inspector for helping us achieve a speedy, just and fair resolution. I am grateful for a community on social media, some of whom I know and some of whom I don’t and all of whom tried to help.

There have been many good days for yoga. The yoga from those good days wrapped me in its arms when I needed it. And it was there when I needed it on my terrible day for yoga.

Yoga-2-Go teaches classes, holds workshops and hosts mini-breaks.

Just a Mum and so much more!

It’s my absolute pleasure to introduce one of our food partners – Just A Mum.

The name Just a Mum is a bit tongue in cheek – none of us are ever “just” a mum. Specialising in that delicate balance of indulgence and health, Amy at Just a Mum produces amazing Keto treat boxes.

Some of Just a Mum’s treat boxes

At Yoga-2-Go we love local and we love “handmade with love”, so we’ve partnered with Just a Mum as one of our morning and afternoon tea treat providers!

Full flavour, no sugar, low calorie, high taste is what Amy is all about. We can’t wait for our mini-break yogi’s to reward themselves with such deliciousness as this …

If you are in the Hamilton area, do go ahead and follow Just a Mum for her amazing treat boxes. Go on, treat yourself! You deserve it!

If you think you could use a yoga mini-break with some of Just a Mum’s amazing deliciousness added in, then you’re right! Build your mini-break, here

Destination Redwoods, Rotorua

Whakarewarewa, otherwise known as the Redwoods, has to be one of my family’s favourite places to go. What we love is the mountain biking and trail running and walking. The facilities have changed a lot over the last few years, but the feel of the place remains – a true kiwi adventure hub!

Renowned for world-class mountain biking trails, there is something here for every ability of rider. Loops of Tahi and Dipper are within most people’s capabilities and enjoyable smooth trails – I’ve encountered little kids on those yellow plastic motorbikes navigating these! For the more adventurous, the choices are vast with trails winding and wending their ways through the forest and over the hills. There are even shuttles and buses to give you an assist on the climbs (just remember to turn off your Strava!).

If you’re keen for biking, we’ll tailor our yoga warm up and warm down for that. There are bikes for hire and if you wanted someone to show you the trails as part of your Yoga-2-Go Minibreak, we can sort that for you, too!

If you prefer your feet on the ground, the walking and running in the forest is amazing! We can set you off to explore on your own or take you for a run or a walk, whatever’s your thing.

Of course, there’s the famous Treetops walk to do day or night or day THEN night!

If you want, we’ll even organise a nice soak in a hot pool and great food and coffee at the end with Secret Spot.

Of course, this is just what’s available in the Redwoods – there’s heaps to do and see in Rotorua.

But that’s another story …

Build Your Mini-break with 2 nights in Rotorua with yoga sessions designed especially for you and including bike hire and trail guide plus hot pools from $575 per person

Whakarewarewa – The Redwoods Rotorua. Magic adventures await …