He positions his camera in a paddock of bleating sheep and a couple of wandering kunekune pigs – a short-snout, medium-sized domesticated breed native to New Zealand.
There is Anna, Elsa and Olaf – three lambs named after the main characters of the 2013 movie Frozen – and two kunekune pigs named Porkahontas and Iron Man.
Dr Arthur Chin with some of his animals, including a kunekune pig, on his farm in Palmerston North, New Zealand. PHOTOS: MONSTER DAY TOURS
During lambing season, one of Dr Chin’s many responsibilities is to make vats of milk for the lambs’ three-hourly feeds – a chore he admits is tiresome.
Some curious sheep come so close to the camera that it feels like I can reach out and pet them. Dr Chin does us a favour and lifts a lamb to the screen, describing it as “cuddly and soft” – the rest is up to our imagination.
His red shaver chickens are up next, strutting around an open field. By this time, the chat box is brimming with participants volunteering to be farm hands.
This is a sustainable farm where rainwater is collected and treated to be repurposed as drinking water. Solar panels and a wind turbine generate electricity.
And to run his one-man show more efficiently, technology is tapped to manage the farm. For instance, he uses drones and radio-frequency identification tags to keep track of the sheep.
As he closes the tour, someone types a question asking what motivated him to pivot from banking to farming.
Dr Arthur Chin explaining how wool is harvested and sold. PHOTO: MONSTER DAY TOURS
He has always loved animals and the environment, he replies. And while the drastic change in job scope was difficult to adjust to, there was an undeniable sense of fulfilment. “Life is about having fun and having good experiences,” he adds.
Following Dr Chin’s exit, there is a round of applause via emoji, in true virtual-tour fashion.
When our Zoom call ends, I am reeled back into my dining room where I surmise that virtual travel has a strange way of rousing and dousing my wanderlust.
On the one hand, the scenic views and the animals nonchalantly crossing my screen create a unique New Zealand escape amid the pandemic.
On the other hand, farm tours – or any nature-filled tour for that matter – tend to be especially sensory experiences. So the bits I cannot experience first-hand, such as inhaling crisp air and hugging woolly sheep, leave me wanting.
Nonetheless, I am filled with nostalgia and can imagine that the children on this tour must appreciate a morning excursion to the farm, as I did years ago.
The rest of my Sunday afternoon is spent revisiting old photographs from Cairns and persuading my family to do a farmstay again when leisure travel returns.
Monster Day Tours Animal Farm and Nature Highlights tour
What: A virtual tour of a farm in Palmerston North, New Zealand, conducted by Monster Day Tours, with a focus on the lifestyle, animals and practices on a farm.
Admission: $20 a person
Info: Tour runs for 1.5 hours, with the next public run on June 27 from 10.30am to noon. Private tours are also available. Contact the company for alternative arrangements at email@example.com. Book your tour at this website.