Just browsing Alan at Halfpie, and he's reminded me that we're now past the longest day of the year. Winter is coming!!
I am so depressed. I need a drink.
Have a good one all you reader (sic).
Friday, December 24, 2004
Great rumblings from Sunny O. The sound of earthmovers & trucks. It was grand. Here's what it looked like before from various angles: 1, 2, 3
Sadly, this occurred on Froday & Saturday, rather than the Monday we were hoping for. Upshot is that while the old sheds have been taken away, the new shed is sill neatly wrapped in it's flat & alarmingly small kitset form (it will erect, apparently, to 3x4 metres!).
But took the whole week off to prepare for the demolition derby. Moved all the valuables, and not so valuables that we want to keep anyway, out of the old shed, and deposited them in the sleepout, and various not very neat piles around the boundaries of the property...
Then on Tuesday, after hearing from the crinkly demo guy that he might not make it this week, I went off in a huff & cut down a big pine tree for firewood (very therapeutic), and took a big branch off the willow that towers over the driveway...
And generally pottered around the property wondering what to do with the sheep - where to put them so they were both out of the way of impending diggers, and had grass to eat.
Came up with a clever plan & put a big temporary fence across the paddock, which not only keeps them up the forest end, but also means we can sow grass seed & leave it to establish itself without ovine molestation.
Then out of the blue, on Friday afternoon, an 8 tonne digger arrived "To take a poke at that shed there...."
And poke he did, flattened the lot within an hour. The next day the digger was joined by 2 big trucks, and "That shed" made it's graceful exit. By now, neighbours thronged the boundaries for the show.
We had people coming for lunch that day, so I socialised, imbibed, and generally got pissed while we all watched the boys working. Fantastic.
They were coming back on Monday to remove the concrete strips in the big paddock - for which I'd totally dismantled the fence along one side so they could get in and out easily. Big job this coming weekend, is to fix that fence back up again...
And then start to build the kitset shed, which looks a lot harder to do than I imagined & will involve me having to master the art of pop rivetting.... (I thought it'd come with a lot of nuts & bolts, but no...).
But here's what it looked like by close of play Saturday... and here.
And just for fun here's some other photos I took that week... 1, 2, 3
Weekends are a bit of a busy blur these days. With netball star in the school A team, and T the dedicated coach, we're up with the larks on Saturday mornings, walking the dog & swinging by the German bakery to pick up brekkie on the way home, enduring the fat girl who works there tell us how her 1. cat follows her to work or 2. new bed was delivered to some place in Hamilton by mistake - take your pick, scoffing down the chocolate croissants followed by toast & plum jam & several coffees, grabbing the dog (team mascot), in the car & off to netball.
Where we were roundly beaten by what is probably the best team in the league - a well known girls' school with about a zillion teams in the A grade. This was their number one team. 2 year 7 reps & 5 year 8 reps in it.... We weren't actually down to play them yet, but M's team has exceeded all expectations & completely whipped all their other opponents & were top of the table. SO the table got rejigged to knock them down a peg (there are dubious politics involved here apparently - and this is only year 7 & 8!! - but the top two teams go through to some tournament during the season. Seems our team wasn't supposed to be one of those two. Things are worked out in advance, and only inspired play by the underdogs can threaten well made plans. Apparently..
Anyway... we're so far ahead we may well be one of those teams, along I'd say with the team who beat us on Saturday. And since they aren't the faction doing the rejigging (that's another school, who administrate the draw), all is good. We weren't completely whipped anyway, and the 2nd half was much better once the girls settled down. We'll give them a run for their money next time.
It's only a game after all. Like that other game, with the egg shaped ball. More on that later...
And then home again, pack up the bags & head for Sunny O. Because it is closer to the netball tournament on Sunday at Paraparaumu, and netball star is in the year 7 rep team.
By the time we got to Sunny O, it was mid afternoon. Time to light the fire & prepare for the evening, and head for the beach to give the dog a run & swim. And I could kick myself because I didn't take the camera. It was the bestest, clearest day I have ever seen there. From the beach, the south island looked like it was just past Kapiti. Close enough to swim to. And in the distance, we could clearly see Mt Taranaki & Mt Ruapehu. Fantastic! And the sky was a clear blue above, and a bright orange at the horizon. It was like a Graham Sydney painting. And no camera....
Later, once the house warmed up, & we had feasted on spaghetti & meatballs, we settled in expecting to see the English rugby team dish it to the ABs. Funny how things turn out... we speculated that the English guy at work who spent the previous week sending messages to the entire floor telling us what the ABs would be in for (animated gifs of some creature being spanked - must be an English thing I think) might not turn up on Monday (he did though, in gracious humour, since his workplace was redecorated for him with silver ferns etc).
And then... half time during the TV3 screening of the test, we wrapped up warm, turned the lights out & stepped outside to see the state of the heavens. And the night sky was magnificent. We usually spot at least a satellite traversing the sky withing a few minutes, but this time, just as we were reminiscing about shooting stars & space stations past, M shouted "Shooting star!!". And I swear, we had time to turn around & see this thing in a flattish trajectory, heading due north, almost the entire expanse of the sky. It was just like that "Vad did you vish for?" advertisement. I have seen meteorite showers in the past, and single shooting stars, but I think this was the most spectacular I have ever seen. it had a tail as it streaked through the atmosphere.
The bikini team didn't turn up though.
And bonus! The next morning on the radio we heard that a meteorite hit a house in Auckland!! Wasn't till we got home & checked the web that we discovered that it was at 9.30am & couldn't have been "our" meteorite.
And then we happily trooped back inside & jubilantly watched the end of the rugby game. And a spanking was administered indeed.
Sunday saw us up at 6.30am, the poor dog got a brisk trot out to the forest & back & that was it for her till we got home at night. We scoffed breakfast, packed the car & we were on the road at 8.10am heading for Paraparumu.
Never having been much of a sportsman, I wasn't really prepared for a rep tournament. There were dozens of teams from as far afield as Hastings, Nelson, Dannevirke, Wairarapa... you name it. And thousands of people. Apparently they kept announcing over the loudhailer to us to get our dog off the court, but I didn't realise this till after lunch & someone mentioned it to me :-) After that Wilma & I watched the games from behind the wire netting.
And M's team won two games & lost two. The coach (not T in this instance) seemed pleased. I have to note that the umpiring is a whole other league from what we're used to in the school tornaments.
We have a rep tournament every sunday now for about the next 8 weeks. We will be touring as far afield as Hastings & Wanganui. Oh joy... say... how long does it take to get between Levin & Palmerston North? Or Levin & Wanganui?
But on the Sunny O front, wasn't much time to do anything constructive (or destructive) this time... when we visited at Queen's Birthday we finished digging out the bamboo from around the deck. Once the grass grows again, it'll be a very large expanse of lawn & will look nice. Any bamboo that sprouts from now on will be nuked with something noxious.
Also, bert & ernie have visited & started replacing several rotted windows, and have fixed up the corners & weatherboards on the sleepout. And they got their plumber mate in who hacksawed off the rusted old tap feeding the toilet cistern, which leaked. And he's replaced it with a brand new, flashy tap, which also leaks...
The sheep have almost ringbarked one of the trees I lugged out into the paddock a few weeks ago. SO next visit, I daresay I'll have to put a little fence around it so they can't chew at the bark or whatever it is they do. Thought I might have got away with that one.
I need to get new batteries for the electric fence too. I use it to graze part of the section that isn't entirely fenced off - not from the house area anyway. On a couple of occasions now, I've rounded the corner & noticed Wilma (when she thinks she can get away with it, she'll breeze between two wires) in with the sheep. She doesn't chase them anymore, but she's very interested in getting to know them. And they're not. Fresh juice should cure her of that.
And I really do need to get the old sheds demolished, the nor-westers are starting to rip the old roofing off & there is quite a clatter & bang that the neighbours must be getting sick of. But first I need to find out whether the cladding really is asbestos or not (hopefully not).
The to do list never seems to get any smaller....
I like this picture. Might make it my wallpaper.
It was taken at the home of some friends who border a dairy farm. I was just standing there & all these cows gathered around.
That tree behind them has a big patch of nettles underneath. It's where Wilma flushed out a rabbit on her last visit. She was snuffling through & suddenly the rabbit bolted & the two of them raced off for miles.
Wilma came back 10 minutes later with a big smile on her face (but no rabbit) & then no nettle patch was left unsnuffled on the off chance she found another one.
These people have a big fish pond too. Wilma unfortunately rampages through it if she's left unattended. The green slime is thick & smelly. The pond's owner is never impressed....
Gonna post a few up since blog access will be sporadic at best over the next few weeks...
Anyway... before Xmas 2003 we had a couple of local lads - Bert & Ernie build us a new deck between the house & the sleepout. They didn't quite finish it in time for Xmas, but it WAS finished enough for us to use with great success... but now it is really finished. And here it is. before & after shots...
Note the bamboo around the corner of the fence in the "before"... more on that later...
The fence around the house in the before shot above, was previously relocated to another part of the boundary to stop Wilma wandering through the neighbours'... And painted green by the ever enterprising T.
To go with the new deck, I had to buy a new barbecue... just had to...
It's to augment the big red kettle job I already have up there.
I likes my barbecues. I have lots of them. In fact, just a little while ago I had to (had to) buy a new one for home too. Actually, I was only at the barbecue factory looking for a lid for the gas barbie at home. The old lid blew away in a storm... but they had these little cast iron jobs there half price... what's a man to do? T's got her cupboards full of shoes, I have my sheds full of barbecues.
The gas one is a aberration. I think it is cheating. But it was T's. And our last house was a fairly sectionless affair, so the gas seemed a better bet than setting fire to the (little) deck there.
I like to build a big fire, and stand around it for hours until it's just starting to get dark, then I put the charcoal on. When it is pitch black, except for the red glow of the coals, I go get one of my many flashlights (I like my flashlights too, in fact I recently got two new ones from the Kathmandu sale), so I can see what the hell I'm doing. Pays to ignore all the complaints you get from family members about how late it's getting. Guests are always more polite.
SO anyway... Easter 2003 we invited a truckload of people to come to dinner at Sunny O on Sunday. Truckloads arrived & we had all forgotten that booze outlets were closed that day. So we went to Byron's Bar & Grill, ordered a bowl of fries for M & 6 bottles of wine.
this year, we were better organised. We invited truckloads of people for SATURDAY night, when bottle stores were open. Nobody came. Still... we did our best all by ourselves. And still had wine left over for Sunday.
The main purpose of the trip was to relocate two youngish (about 10-15 feet tall) pohutukawas that were planted about a metre from the house. Before they got too big & heavy to move. SO all in all I dug 4 colossal holes in the garden & filled them back in. Two to dig up the trees, and then two more out in the paddocks to replant them (where they will provide much needed shade for grazing beasts. And also look quite nice). Back breaking work, but satisfying.
I also replanted a load of little peach trees that self seeded from the next door neighbour's yummy peach tree. I have many more to replant too. Assuming they survive. may well have a free peach orchard at the end of it! They're screened from the sheep by a paddock wide string of sheep mesh. I even ran irrigation out to them so I only have to stand about half a mile away & turn on the tap... we have the technology...
Had the sheep sheared again, in a fairly uneventful visit from the shearer.
But the real gut buster was the digging out of bamboo that was started... man, never mind planting trees right next to the house that will one day be 100 ft tall... who the f*** would plant bamboo anywhere? We did this for 3 days straight, and left that particular patch of turf in a hell of a state. We've piled the grass clods up & once we've finished digging as much of the bamboo out as we can, we'll use some of the excess topsoil we have stored in a drum in the shed to refill the hole where the bamboo was & plug the turf back in on top. I expect this to be completed around 2007.
Any bamboo that makes an appearance after the returfing will be dealt to with a very environmentally suspect chemical.
BTW: dunno if you can remember me mentioning the pergola that was cemented into the garden like the sword in the stone, digging around the concrete reveled it to be at least a metre thick, so in the end I hacksawed it off as close to the ground as possible. Bert & Ernie asked if they could have it "for a friend" Yeah right.. SO it's gracing some other place now. Nice. Hope they're not too tall though if they're planning to walk through it.
Wasn't all hard yakka though, we did watch a mediocre version of Dr Zhivago over two nights. Thought we were getting Julie Christie & Omar Shariff... to find it was Sam Neill & an absurdly young Keira Knightley. Still...
On the home front, we spent last weekend in town. We were going to paint the kitchen, but a bad case of something to do with sinuses persuaded T that we should do something other than sand a load of dust into the air. So while she gardened, I removed all the nails & crap from the back porch & outside dunny, filled all the holes, bashed out some shoddy shelves that I kept whacking my knee on, and washed the whole lot down (accumulated dirt & grime from the last 90 years or so).
Best bit of the weekend was taking Wilma for a walk through the Bot Gardens. A week or so ago, a park bench appeared there - In Loving Memory of Timothy Cranfield, 1975-1993, and his dog Jazz. Sam & Valerie Cranfield (of the Cranfield's store fame) have a little staffordshire bull terrier called Havoc (who is well named), who is one of Wilma's best pals on Magpie Lawn. So anyway, there were about 30 people crowded around the bench at 4.30pm yesterday afternoon, drinking wine & beer & officially "opening" the park bench commemorating the death of their son 11 years ago (leukaemia).
So Wilma & I crashed the party, she rolled around on the lawn with Havoc munching on a pile of bones that Sam brought along, and I wobbled away about an hour later after having several beers plied upon me.
Dog walking should always be like this.
Catching up... BTW: seem to have lost one I thought I did around November 2003... when I had the sheep sheared again, a by now routine operation hampered this time by the presence of another family & their dog.
The sheep were utterly spooked by the audience & kept escaping from the pen as we tried to close them in (not helped by the fact it's a bit ramshackle). At one stage I was face to face with a big wether thinking to myself "You're not coming through here". But he came over the gate instead, then under me, and tossed me up in the air like I was running the sheep in Pamplona. Everyone thought I was going to be hospitalised I fell so heavily.
But man I was pissed off! Leapt up, ordered everybody AND their dogs out of the paddock! Alan the shearer was threatening to go get his daughter again (something I still don't quite understand & must ask him about sometime...).
Other news is that the neighbour at the back got bulldozers in, took out all the box thorn between me & him & then built a really nice iron boundary fence. He didn't even as us to contribute. Brought us a big bag of tomatoes even. So now I have the forest sheep-shape. Four paddocks to rotate them around.
but anyway... here's the actual update from the New Year
Hope you all had a good one - I spent nearly 3 weeks in Sunny O, felling trees, stacking an awesome woodpile (I likes my woodpiles), building the first bay of a 3 bayed compost area ("bin" doesn't come close) and having the neighbour deliver trailer loads of horse-poo & sawdust. And entertaining family, friends & inlaws yadda yadda. BTW: I recommend the instant Bloody Mary mix you can get from Living & Giving in town - just add vodka - apparently a concoction of tomato juice, spices & seasonings &
Had the deck extended by the same two locals who sanded down our walls. They hadn't quite finished it by Xmas, but it was complete enough for us to use (note from the future: It looks damned fine now). Will post a picture as soon as I download it from the camera.
By now you'll all have seen the movie? And you'll be quite aware that
Smeagol does indeed die?
Didn't it rock! Can't wait for part 4! Wasn't it cool when the Otto-chick hacked the head of the beast off - wouldn't you just love to help her remove her armour at the after-battle function?
BTW: For those who have wondered about the eagles, and why they just didn't give one of them the ring & have him fly to Mt Doom & drop it in... well the answer is here, in the talkback to the aintitcoolnews.com review.
I will summarise the argument thus: "Just because. OK?"
Over the period we also took in the Two Towers extended dance mix - the extra scenes do make a difference. We discover for instance, that Aragorn in 87 years old (well why not - Frodo is supposed to be 55 but they don't mention that), and we see a lot of the Denethor/Faramir/Boromir backstory, so a bit more makes sense.
And we watched Charlie's Angels Full Throttle.... no more explanation is necessary, Matrix Revolutions - ho hum... and X 2, the X-Men part deux - this is really good & surprisingly brutal in parts. Recommended.
Now we're back in town & preparing to shift homes. To South of France (as someone else put it). Very South of France actually, like half a kilometre down the road from where we are now. It's a long story & has to do with being nosy & checking out an open home down the road (yes, the same road we're in now), and life turning upside down shortly afterwards when we decided it'd be a nicer place to live. Anyhow... these things happen (hopefully never again), and so we're likely to be spending less weekends in Sunny O for a couple of months while we unpack & sort out what is essentially a 1915 residence in pretty much completely original (but good, fortunately) condition - it even has a "safe" in the kitchen still, so if anyone's interested in renting the Otaki Love Shack (for very reasonable mates rates etc) and checking on the sheep & piles of horse-poo for me... and of course enjoying the nearby beach, and onsite forest & field.... instructions for cleaning out the sheep troughs will be supplied, if you do it right the first time, I'll supply rubber gloves.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
My wife recounts a story from several years ago, when she was about 8 months pregnant and driving through Wellington.
She suffered badly from morning sickness & that day felt awful. Knowing the best remedy was to grab a ham sandwich & inhale it, she drove into the Lombard parking building.
A car was dithering about which car park to take, so my wife (who has no patience at the best of times with dithering motorists) cut right in & took their park.
She then ignored them & raced out of the building & into the nearest cafe.
Replete, she returned to her car & discovered a note under the windscreen wiper. It said something like
"My family are visiting Wellington today from the Wairarapa & we are just appalled by the discourteous behaviour you displayed when you took our carpark. You may have ruined the excursion for my aging grandmother" etc.
My wife spotted their car a few parks away, and replied on the back of the note "Get a big black dog up you", and put it under their windscreen wiper.
Just before she drove off, she hopped back out, returned to their car and added "Ya cunts."
She's very proud of that moment.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Been a while since the last update... Figured it'd be boring just to mention one week "Felled & cut up 5 pine trees this weekend..." and "Felled and cut up 4 trees this weekend..." etc.
Anyway, I've felled & cut up many young pine trees over the last few months. Have quite a pile drying in the woodshed, and lots more weathering out there under their luckier mates. Who get to live & er... just stand there I guess, till I get round to them too.
Planning to thin the small ones out & have tracks that M & her friends can use for mountain biking etc.
Aside from that, we've cleared all the overgrown jasmine type stuff & bamboo out from around the fence by the house - and uncovered a horrid old pergola that's been cemented into a huge paving stone. We're wondering how to get it out now, and then what to do with it (T wants to put it over the small gate to the street - I want it over the gate to the sheep paddocks. Negotiations continue. We may need explosives to get it out from beside the house though. The concrete it is set into goes at least a metre down! Bet you're looking forward now to THAT update)
Oh, I'm obligated to mention that T has curtains up now, on every window save the spare bedroom, and the sleepout.
Yesterday, to vary things a bit, I noticed one of the sheep rubbing herself furiously against a fence post, and in the interests of seeing if it's got easier to pen them, I decided to check her out for fly strike.
Ten minutes later, with no help from anyone else (Wilma is more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to this, she sticks her head through the netting, lolling it around like one of those things in the back of a car, all doggy grin & fangs & drool - this does tend to keep them nicely down the other end of the pen though, once they're there - if she's on the sheep side of the fence, she can't seem to help herself chasing them all over the show & is very difficult to calm down - usually I pen them out of her way when we're there (she's restrained enough not to try getting over or under the fence) & tie her up at night), I had them, along with me, and Wilma's head, in a pen about 4 x 2 metres in size. Then another 10 minutes were spent bellowing for assistance "Come look at this! And can you bring the hand shears, hoof clippers, fly strike & footrot sprays - oh... and my gloves too?"
By god those suckers are heavy. By the time I'd flipped 3 of them on their backs, inspected for flystrike, footrot, overgrown hooves (I cut poor old George's toe - I was surprised at how much blood this produced. The poor fellow didn't even flinch - although I expect it wasn't as painful as when the shearer cut Otto’s willy by mistake "Jeez - this one's a boy!" - we let him know George was a boy in advance when it came his turn. they get a hammering), I wasn't sure I could manage the others... but I did, y'know, a man's gotta do what etc. Crutched them all (not too messy a job as it turned out). No flystrike. Very minor footrot in a couple of them, nothing to write to your friends about though (ooh.. sorry).
Anyway, that's not the reason for this update, I'm here to tell you MEN how you can save thousands of dollars. Thousands. If not tens of thousands. AND win kudos from the wife/girlfriend/etc.
The answer is dancing lessons.
Let's say you have a significant other who has say, for the sake of argument... everything. And her birthday is coming up. And you know that the only thing she hasn't got, but covets, is that $30,000 emerald ring in a swanky jewellers on Lambton Quay. But, you remember (or fabricate) that she once mentioned she'd really like to be able to do more than just shuffle round the dance floor at the one wedding or so a decade you get invited to.
Personal dancing lessons are the answer... you can hunt down all the dance schools (and this can be quite a diverting way to spend a few lunchtimes, there are usually leotard-clad young women limbering in the background while you quiz the teacher about how long it takes to become fred & Ginger, and how much personal dance lessons cost, and hey, can you repeat that? I wasn't listening sorry.). And bingo, approximately $29, 800 saved instantly.
We've had two lessons so far - I had imagined a snake hipped Catherine Zeta Jones number taking us through the moves (actually, I imagine that in many situations). But that was, as usual, a bit wishful. Anyhow, the first lesson was spent doing basic foxtrot & rumba - and how to turn when you run out of dance floor (or have to avoid some other couple). There were some instances when we got the steps right, and there were instances when we were in time with the music, And I think one short moment, when we had the steps right AND were in time with the music.
For the second lesson, we had to share the floor with another couple & their personal trainer. They were a lot more Fred & Ginger (a lot more), polishing their waltz & tango - their third lesson I presume. Mostly we kept out of their way :-). We learned lots more tricks for foxtrot & rumba. One of which I can even remember if I concentrate real hard. Sadly, we had to rumba & foxtrot to waltz & tango music, and so it became a case of not trying to get in sync with the music, but trying to ignore it.
Lesson 3 is this week. And although once again we promised to practise, we haven't... relying again on our natural talent & rhythm to see us through...
Next weekend I'll be felling & cutting up pine trees. Although sometime soon (maybe) we'll be getting heavy machinery in to remove a shed & barn & concrete foundations. That should be an interesting weekend.
We got a dog.
We got her from foafs (friends of friends) who had two (Wilma & Betty), and found they couldn't cope with them. They were looking for a nice family to rehome one of them. We went & met them all & Wilma seemed more receptive to us.
We took her up to Sunny O at Easter & she had a grand time. Being new to each other, we had her on a leash whenever she was out in the paddock with the sheep, or in the forest - she found them fascinating, and we'd often find her at the fence looking through at them. The sheep themselves were a bit pissed off at first - Snowflake TOFKAP (The Ovine Formerly Known As Plain), even stamped her hoof, first at Wilma, then at me (presumably for inflicting a dog on them). But by the end of the weekend, whenever Wilma was gazing through the fence, the sheep would come & gather near by. Weird.
This weekend, since learning that she actually does come every time you call her, we'll leave her off the leash & let her romp around the property. Except on the night of the full moon of course....
Anyway, all advice I have received tells me that dogs like to know who is boss - the alpha male. Er... that's me :-) Although T tried to present a case to the effect that it is her. Pffttt.
Wilma went back to her old home after Easter for a few days, then we picked her up on Anzac day morning for good. And she was really pleased to see us!
So she's settled in at home - she's allowed inside when we're there, but sleeps in a bed outside our back door. She goes bananas in the morning when someone (T mostly so far) gets up to take her for her morning walk. I take her in the evenings. It's a bit exposed to the elements on the deck, but we have a grand looking doghouse on order. Hopefully that'll be ready today!
The cats weren't impressed at first, although Tigger decided early on that no dog was gonna curb his movements. Oscar took a bit longer, but unfortunately, now he's over his initial fear, he seems to be in bully mode - lying in the middle of doorways so Wilma & Tigger have to try & slink round him, at which point he swats them. Nice. I think Wilma's resigned to being the bottom dog in this pack. Although...
Good retriever that she is though, she located a scrunched up piece of paper the other day & tried to present it to Tigger. She does this all the time actually, she presented me with a number of pimentoes she carefully picked off my mum's pimento plant last weekend :-)
And this week on our walks, I've discovered parts of the Botanical Gardens I didn't know existed. Magpie Lawn, for instance - I did know that existed, but it is actually somewhere other than I thought. BTW - the duckpond is a favourite of Wilma's (she can't resist water, nor probably, ducks), and it wasn't till I saw it this week that I realised it must be duck season - you wouldn't believe how many ducks have packed themselves into that little pond! how do they know? There are thousands of them.
This just in...
Christmas Card from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Howdy friends! What a year! We spent most of 2004 wondering if we might have to move out of our lovely second home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. The landlords could not seem to make up their minds whether we should stay. For a while they were thinking about kicking us out and letting in some dreadful man with a booming voice and suspiciously big hair, along with his unhinged foreign wife. He kept banging on about what a hero he had been in Vietnam and saying mean things about George's brave and dangerous years in the Texas Air National Guard.
Naturally we were appalled at the idea of having to move. We have done a lot since we have been there - redecorated the Red Room; built a new kennel complex for Barney and Spot (God rest his soul); engineered democratic transformation throughout the Middle East, the usual stuff.
And what with George Sr and Barbara having spent four very happy years here and Jeb hinting that he is quite keen to move away from Florida some time, we have come to regard it as family property In the end, fortunately, the landlords seemed to find the other couple completely insufferable and virtually begged us to stay on.
The good news is we got to travel a lot this year, The bad news - it was nearly always to Ohio. If we never see Canton again it will be too soon. What the hell is a buckeye anyway?
We managed to get overseas once or twice. We had a couple of days in France in June when we visited with our European friends. Usual story. They all treated George like the retarded cousin at the dinner table, patiently explaining the difference between Iraq and Iran and using their hands a lot while talking about oil prices.
The year started off really badly. Some of the boys in Iraq took some embarrassing pictures of their friends having a bit of harmless fun with the locals and the whole thing snowballed Then there seemed to be lots of nasty books and films - all about the Bush family.
We had plenty of visitors to cheer us up, though. Our dear friend Tony from England was here lots. I sometimes think he prefers being in Washington to spending his time with his own folks in London. He certainly complains a lot to George about the neighbours.
On the downside, Monsieur Frou-Frou Frenchie, the big patronising snob from Paris was over to lecture us for a couple days. We enclose a nice picture of George and Dick playfully pinning him to the floor of the Oval Office in a headlock.
The girls have finally left college and started to look for real jobs. For some reason they don't show much interest at all in the family business, despite George and Grandpa's best efforts to persuade them otherwise. They just sit around all day drinking large mugs of iced tea and giggling helplessly about the latest episode of Desperate Housewives. Speaking of Desperate Housewives we haven't seen much of Hillary, the woman who used to live at 1600. Wonder what she has been up to?
In November we had a chance to clean house a bit. We finally got rid of our very nice but completely ineffectual manservant, Colin. The "General", as George called him, was always cheerful, but he got on our nerves with his constant worrying about what the neighbours think. Condi, George's very capable assistant for the past four years, is going to be a vast improvement. The local minister, John "the Baptist" Ashcroft has gone too, with a bit of help from us! We just started to find him a bit creepy with all his warnings about the Apocalypse.
Ever since we saw what happened to that poor man in Ukraine, George has been completely off his food. At last we have found a food taster. He is a whale of a man who just loves to eat, and frankly he could probably do with a little bit of dioxin in the soup. Michael Moore starts next week.
For those of you who wondered, Uncle Dick and Uncle Rummy are in fine form. Dick still tucks us into bed most nights with stories of impending nuclear annihilation and the urgent need for pre-emptive military strikes. Rummy is still working hard on "transformation" over at the Pentagon, which seems to involve bolting missing pieces on to Humvees before they go off to battle.
Next year promises to bring new faces and new places. We have got some big plans that we can't talk too much about right now, but we can say that they involve travel to interesting spots. Think Iran and North Korea! Well, must run. Karl's got another load of wealthy friends for us to meet before the big party next month.
Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas, and a democratic new year.
Laura, George and the Twins
...and a cool quotation from a long dead American...
Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)
It rained on Saturday! Quite heavily. But that meant the boys & girls couldn't be sheared. Although it means the paddocks will start to rejuvenate. Yahoo! Who'd have thought a year ago such trivia would be important?
But the shearer did pop round to check out the facilities & say he'd be there Sunday morning instead. "No worries, just put them in that big pen overnight & we'll funnel them into the little pen in the morning".
Yeah right... I pointed out that this was the sticking point in the first place. But he said if it was difficult, he'd get his dog & his daughter (?) round in the morning & maybe a trailbike, and we'd get them in there pretty quickly.
And as it happened...
Miraculously, they were still there in the morning.
And Alan the shearer turned up, backed his ute (with a portable shearing device) right up to the small pen. And between the four of us (me, him, T & Maddie), we funnelled them into the small pen & closed that up too. Man they were nervy. All wanting to be the sheep with his/her nose right in the corner away from us. So there was a lot of jostling going on. But they were pretty well behaved through their ordeal.
And like, it was all over in 30 minutes. Although poor old Otto got a very tender part of his anatomy nicked by the shears... he was a big coffee brown wether. But underneath it all, he's a small grey wether. I didn't know sheep went grey, but they do. By golly they all look small now. I had thought they were getting fat, but they actually all look pretty lean & fit. With heads way too big for their bodies. SO I opened up the third, as yet untouched, paddock as a treat (and closed off the other so it will regenerate a bit after the rain). Nearly at the stage we can rotate them between all three - I need a water trough for the third paddock - the bath is too heavy to move from it's current position, and so it can stay where it is until I get the fencing fixed around the forest, and then I have 4 paddocks!.
Some of them did have some very minor flystrike. But no longer - got this sorted just in time it seems. And I have heard through the small farming grapevine, that it's possible to buy fly traps - specifically for the two types of fly that cause flystrike (they're the big blue-bottley ones apparently). You bait them with a small piece of liver or something similar, and all the flies in the neighbourhood head on over & drown. So I will look into this. Maybe Farmlands have them.
Forgot all about clipping their toenails, but we'll practise penning them again in a couple of weeks & maybe address that then.
And on the homefront... somehow T managed to find time to paint the WC. Hooray, it is no longer an insipid green formica. it is now a colour called "tea".
Monday, December 20, 2004
Last several of weekends have been spent gardening essentially. T cleared a load of crap from around the house & she'd managed to score a whole lot of free agapanthus (agapanthi?). SO I dug the ground & she weeded it & planted the agatha's pants. All good fun. We also built a raised vegetable garden right near the house, using railway sleepers & a couple of metres of compost & topsoil sourced locally, and put in a cheap irrigation system so we only have to turn a tap & water everything round the house. (There are no water restrictions at Otaki Beach. Although it has not rained since Boxing day & the paddocks are pretty much dust bowls at this stage. The sheep look fat though, so I'm not panicking yet.)
And from the "you're getting bloody old" files, I'll just take off on a tangent to report that in attempting to move sleepers by myself, I have munted my left foot. After several weeks hobbling around I finally had enough ailments (dermatitis, raging cold, munted foot) to make a trip to the doctor worthwhile. She told me I'd popped a tendon in my foot & will have to wear orthotic inserts in my shoes forever now. Yay! She also berated me for not turning up for a blood pressure test 3 years ago. SO after 30 or so minutes of her wrestling my very tender foot into submission, prodding me painfully in several places, commenting on a 43 year old mole on my foot ("Is that new? Better keep an eye on that!"), filling me in in graphic detail of the current threats to my health from my foot (lameness), blood pressure (blindness, heart disease, stroke, death), moles (cancer, painful death). Well... my blood pressure recorded through the roof. The good news is, I turned up for a blood test (did I mention the evils of cholesterol?) this morning, and as it happened, my BP was normal (Nyaah!). ALthough to appease the doctor I have a very bulky home BP monitor to record my pressure at random intervals during the weekend. I also have to record what I was doing at the time. I'm looking forward to this... herding sheep... taking drugs... having sex. y'know, the usual weekend stuff. Anyway, just about over the extreme heebie jeebies from wearing the chemist bought orthotic inserts. Man, they're intrusive. May have to get custom ones made.... I just don't like the idea of some specialist playing with my feet! I'm funny like that. I might (might) make an exception if my podiatrist was Naomi Campbell. But anyway, even with the shop bought devices, the pain has gone away & I can walk without a limp. She might be a fat, irritating, old nag, but she is a pretty good doctor.
The paddock with the sheep is now completely dry! But rejoice, I have found a solution for keeping the sheep from eating the trees. I found a cool website. It's been extremely informative. They also have a forum for discussing stuff & asking questions. SO I asked if anyone had any good ideas. And this one guy who lives in Upper Hutt has offered to make me any number of wooden tree protectors for $20 each. I've already been around pricing up materials for making these things myself, and this guy is charging about a quarter of what I figured it would cost me to do it.
So far so good. Unfortunately he's going to take a few months at least to build me 10 of them (he has a day job). And while the beasts certainly aren't looking starved or anything - one of them already figured a way to get into another paddock (a bit cheeky we thought), indicating that the grass is noticably greener on the other side to sheep if not to us - we needed to let them rip on fresh pasture ASAP. Plus, everything is drying up so fast, it seemed a pity to let all that clover go to waste.
So I got rough & ready & made makeshift fences for the feijoas by bending corrugated iron into triangles... in my opinion they look decidedly ramshackle. Funny thing is, T thinks they look rustic & quaint. But really, they're too short to work well for long. And to make them suitable I'll need to get some 4 by 2, and cut the iron & myself to ribbons & generally shag around & it'll cost me around $20 a tree... but I opened the gate & let them find their way in (they don't think they should be there & race out the moment they see anyone). And by the time we left that Sunday, they hadn't looked up from the clover to notice the trees.
Also, I spent a morning with the weedeater taking the long grass out so they can get at the lusher stuff underneath. By golly, it made an improvement in the appearance of the place already!
While still on the subject of sheep... their wool is getting pretty long now, and the infamous dags are appearing - making flystrike a much greater possibility. Last weekend we had another highly unsuccessful go at herding them into the pen. SO deciding I need professional help, I managed to contact a shearer who specialises in small flocks, and who lives about 4 houses away from us in Otaki. And he's coming on Saturday to herd 'em, crutch 'em, shear 'em and clip toes & treat fly strike if necessary. All for an embarrassingly small sum of money, so I presume he is so confident he can herd & pen them he doesn't expect to be there long.
It should be interesting.... and I figure even though it's a bit earlier than planned, Summer's going so long they can do with some relief & they'll have a lusher coat when (if) winter eventuates.
T & I also spent a very satisfying couple of days trimming more low branches from the trees in the forest. And I have felled 5 pine trees now & cut them up for winter firewood. Some of them were a bit small so didn't produce much wood, but the idea is to thin them out of the more populated patches of that paddock, and have it so there are nice clear paths through for our evening wanderings.
And that's the latest update covering oh... maybe the last month or so... will report on the shearer next week....
And lastly... for all you Nae nae college-ites. Peggy Sue Got Married....
I don't plan to attend, but I have been told (warned?) that Rankin Jays & Ann McLoughlin will be sending life size cardboard cutouts of themselves wearing speedos if they can't make it personally. Those of you who know or knew these two will of course be appalled by one prospect & delighted by the other. I leave it to your personal preference to decide which is which :-)
Posted by llew at Monday, December 20, 2004
Stevie Wonder has attacked Eminem for ridiculing Michael Jackson in his video for Just Lose It.
Wonder said the white rapper was a hypocrite because he owed his success to poor and black people.
I don't get it. When did Stevie see this video? And what have either poor or black people to do with Michael Jackson?
Posted by llew at Monday, December 20, 2004
Friday, December 17, 2004
The long weekend (Wgtn Anniversary) - a chance to chill out & check on the sheep for the first time in two weeks. And what glorious weather!
The paddocks are surprisingly dried out, and lo, the sheep have made considerable progress with theirs. And we rejoiced. So much progress actually, I'm thinking I may well have to learn some herding skills & move them into another paddock to work their magic there. More on herding sheep later....
Spent the Saturday rehanging the gate to the street. So it is straight now & doesn't drag along the ground when closing & opening. It's not the greatest, or most attractive gate, but at least it doesn't look ramshackle now. I'll have to get onto the letterbox one day. It is so munted, it is comprised of 3 rotting pieces of plywood. A base, front & a roof. Junk mail just cascades into the garden behind it.
On Sunday, we did the Levin AP&I show. Which was disappointingly smaller & less interesting than the one we attended a couple of years ago. There as a dearth of entertainment - we heard Seamus, the illusionist & juggler being announced a couple of times, but the stage was empty whenever we passed by... two years ago, there was pretty much constant live music from Dalvanius Prime & a couple of chicks.... OK, sadly, Dalvanius was unable to make it this year on account of he's dead, but what happened to the girls?
We watched the miniature horse judging - some were little bigger than labradors. I was interested to note that if you own or show thse horses, it is de rigeur to wear black, sequin & rhinestone emblazoned cowboy outfits. Hilarious.
The cow judging was a much different experience. No dinky cowboy outfits here. I was impressed that one woman, holding onto the biggest cow I have ever seen in my life, and pressing against her to make her stand in the best position, was dressed completely in pristine white. Such confidence!
We sat in & watched the sheep shearing too. Decided we don't ever need to try that ourselves....
Oh... and we had a really tasty corn on the cob with salt, pepper, butter & chili seasoning. Yum. And one of the nicest pork sausages wrapped in bread (from some local organic pork sausage maker) I have had the pleasure of tasting ever.
Monday was spent visiting the Te Horo plant shop (closed), and a new Otaki Cafe (last left turn before Otaki Bridge if you're heading North) called the Apple Core (also closed). But we visited a little place selling plants just across the road from it, bought a bunch of stuff & got a fright from the woman there who shared with us all the things we need to do with sheep (like catch them every two weeks & check them for foot rot & flystrike & crutching & toenails & stuff), which we've never done.
Then we pretty much waited until 10pm for one of our cats to come home (bastard) & headed back into town.
This weekend, my task was to fix up the animal pen (which I'd partly dismantled to replace the fence) & we thought we'd have a try at herding the beasts in there for closer inspection. Saturday saw a flying visit to the other (aside from Farmlands) local farming supply store called AllFarms. And a ton of stuff was purchased - hand shears for crutching, hoof clippers, flystrike & footrot spray - just in case. And most fun of all, a big sack of sheep "nuts" which is what they give you at Staglands to feed their animals.
The rest of Saturday saw me hammering the pen back together & lining it with sheep netting. I also dragged a spare gate out of the shed & came up with a cunning plan to hang it so the pen can be two sizes. All this wasn't ready until about 3pm the following day, because I needed to find someplace open on Sunday that sold new gate hinges.
And then it was time to get the sheep in.
So with T luring them over with sheep nuts, and M & I carefully circling around the back, the idea being I'd swing the gate triumphantly shut when they were all in there.
Sadly, they weren't having any of this. They were nervous at the arrival of a new gate. And they clearly didn't like getting in the pen with people standing round behind them. Every time I sidled in, there'd be a thunder of little hooves as they headed for the plains.
We had several goes at this, and then gave up, they were too spooked. Of course, once we'd all retreated out of site, they crowded into the pen to eat the nuts.
I went & sprayed large tracts of the other paddocks with noxious chemicals to kill off convulvulus instead. We'll regroup next week, and maybe try closing the gate from in front of them with a rope. We'll see. If that doesn't work, there'll have to be a redesign, it might be the gap in there is too big. Maybe it should be a long, thin race so they can't turn around once they're in there.
All very challenging, and we haven't even got close enough to tip them on their backs & inspect them yet!
Following a Christmas day of extended family fun in the rain at Wainuiomata.... we forsook all the high tech gadgetry left by Santa that morning, including several worthy DVDs, and drove up to Otaki on Christmas night, in a successful effort to avoid holiday traffic.
And the weather from then until January 3, when we returned, was glorious.
The sheep are predictably still there. I was a little disappointed that they hadn't made much progress on the grass. And after a few days, mindful of all the advice I've received that they don't particularly like really long, tough pasture, I cracked, got the huge weed-eater out & gave them a helping hand by cutting all the grass growing around & between the concrete strips. About half of the paddock they're in, essentially. The idea is that when this has been nibbled down sufficiently, I'll fence it off from the sheep, spray the remaining grass with some noxious & environmentally unsound substance, and we'll plant rows of lavender & see how it grows. (Note from the future - I never did this)
Now these sheep are unashamedly pets. We don't intend eating them & if they turn out not to serve their grass controlling purpose very well, we'll sell them on. And so they have now all been named. Pearl & Plain are the two white ewes - I believe these are knitting styles or something. The black ewe is Jazz. The two coloured wethers are George & Otto, for no particular reason.
Every time anyone ventured into the paddock for any reason, the idea was to have a couple of slices of bread handy to coax them close. I figure this is the only way I'll ever get them close enough to check they're healthy. They do like their bread it turns out. With Pearl (she's the one in the profile photo... I think... taking an early lead in the brazen "Feed me" game. Oddly enough, Otto, the chocolate coloured one, became the brave one later in our stay.
And T & M experimented with a few different things & I can report that sheep rather like strawberries, but not tomatoes
They will come if called - if they can see the bread. If you happen to be out there without treats, they'll pay no attention for a while, but finally gather close-ish & bleat like they're irritated with you & expectant. Any fast moves or noises though & they'll bolt for remote & long grass.
Most mornings, they're in the corner closest to the house - it's got shade from a big willow & a bath full of water handy. The rest of the time they're at the back in the shade of the forest - although they did start grazing the concrete strips just like they're supposed to.
One evening, I was watering the vegies & noticed they were all out in the open, butting each other, running round in circles, bleating & jumping in the air. It was utterly remarkable, so I went & got the team to come & look. They were positively gambolling. Tim later told me this means they're happy & well fed. Either that or they were experiencing a sugar rush from the large, stale panatone friends fed them earlier in the day. Although I think Brian might have eaten most of that & he fell asleep.
The setting looks rural, but there are some reminders now & then that we're in a residential zone. Byron's Motor Camp is just a couple of houses away, and I was out in the paddock, tinkering with a couple of gates (had to put new hinges on one, and my drill turned out to be inadequate & it took me 3 days of drilling, then recharging, to drill a hole through the post.), and I could hear Shania Twain blaring through a public address system. And I kept wondering why "I'm gonna gitcha good" was constantly in my head. A few days later, hearing it again & wondering why Byron's had Shania Twain on constant repeat, it dawned on me that it wasn't Shania doing the singing. And I began to suspect that someone nearby got the Shania Twain Karaoke Songbook & a very large amplifier from Santa. Yay!
As it turns out, discovered at drinkies at Tim & Mary's for the neighbours, it was the local musician practising for her gig at Byron's the following Friday night. I'm so glad I resisted the temptation to ask "OK, who's the loser with the Karaoke round here?"
Doesn't seem to worry the sheep though.
Actually, drinks at the Coopers' may have turned out to be quite profitable for us. Dave, an orchardist, was there and he reckons he can get us olive trees at a very good rate. He also said he'd tip us the nod if any local orchards are ripping out mature trees of any kind - for the cost of transportation & a bit of digging, we can score fully grown trees which can be transplanted.
SO aside from general maintenance & some looming shed demolition & asbestos disposal, the thing on our minds most is to get a picture of what we want the property to look like in a few years, and plan where the access road will go. We've got a few ideas about where we might build a couple of extra houses - a big nice one at the back of the sheep paddock in front of the forest, for us on the off-chance we ever move up there to live. And where the big shed is currently standing, we think we'll probably put a smaller house - possibly one of those barn-style jobs, up for a homestay.
Whether we keep the existing house & rent it out, or sell it & its quarter acre or so to fund some of this has yet to be decided. But the road, or driveway is the plan - once that's been decided we can start to plant things without fear we'll have to move them later. Personally, I think we could make things real easy & just follow the natural line of existing driveway & gates & we'll end up with a nice meandering road which starts at the street & ends at the forest - brilliant access through all the property & if other houses are built (we don't intend to subdivide - but we'll keep that option open in the event we sell it later), driveways can be built off the main road to them.
We came back to our sadly neglected house in town on friday the 3rd - leaving Sarah & Annette, our first paying guests (!) with the run of the place & a lot of thinly veiled warnings about keeping gates closed at all times :-) Looking forward to their feedback - I promise I'll have all the toddler-traps loaded into a skip & gone to the landfill by the next time... We'll be doing some much needed gardening & preparation for painting our place here (never any rest...) and will be back in Sunny O for Wellington Anniversary Weekend - which (not so) coincidentally, is when the Levin A&P show is on... hee hee.... looking forward to that. I'll be wearing my hat....
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Wilma the Wonder Lab gets to go walkies twice a day. Although you can't call it "walkies", because she gets so excited, jumping around & making weird doggie noises you can't actually get her lead on her & it defeats the purpose. Sure, you can open the front door but then she goes ballistic bouncing around the front garden & she won't come back to you because she knows she's going to get clipped up. Catch 22...
Usually T does the morning shift, weekdays anyhow. Up at 6.30 (I get to sleep in till 7), I hear Wilma going ballistic downstairs because in the mornings, you don't even have to mention the word. She just knows that's the first thing that's going to happen. Then the front door slams (I'll fix that one day) and they're off. I say usually T does the morning shift, but the last couple of weeks, for various reasons, I've had to do the honours a couple of days. The Botanic Gardens are always beautiful, whatever the weather. And there is usually something interesting, whether it's half a tree that's fallen onto the track during the night, or like the other morning, when the ambience was assaulted by a raucous squawking that could be heard for miles, and way in the distance (now my eyes are set to distance following cataract removal), I could see a huge cockatoo perched at the top of one of the massive pines overlooking Thorndon. It was just like the Sydney Bot Gardens, minus the bats, opera house & indeed, the Australians. One night a few years ago I came across a particularly comical host of elves, dwarves, hobbits & wizards, who were I think, attending some sort of theme party at the Skyline. they spooked Wilma a bit.
I have to say, I prefer the evening shift, not only is there less of a hurry to get back & ready for work, but usually there are more doggy pals for Wilma to play with when we get to Magpie Lawn. She leads a motley pack in a wild chase around the lawn. I think Hairy MacLary comes there a lot of evenings.
But back to the mornings... I pretty much keep Wilma on a lead, as stated by the Botanic Garden Rules (Rule 1: Keep dogs on a lead & remove all faeces. Rule 2: Do NOT talk about Fight Club. Etc). But not all dog owners do. To be fair, their dogs are probably a lot less likely to go haring off into the distance chasing ducks, than Wilma is. But the danger is that you'll get caught by one of the gardeners & given a good ticking off, or even worse... a ticket for flouting the local dog control laws. Fines are HUGE!. One gardener is particularly zealous. The rest of them are pretty much "Just doing my job sorry." Some mornings you can see errant dog owners peering over bushes while trying desperately to rein in little Rex or Rover, before the gardener down the hill notices. It's kind of funny, these are adults.
I don't actually know anyone who's been fined, but there are plenty of 2nd hand rumours.
Anyway, local dog owners are pretty responsible. We ramble all over the gardens & then usually up to Magpie Lawn, where, if there are no picnickers (there usually aren't by the time I get there, even at the height of summer. Except maybe in the weekends), the dogs get a bit of a run & a chance to socialise. Wilma loves it. She often plays with a mad little Staffy, a couple of golden retrievers, who are the Laurel & Hardy of the dog world, and whoever else turns up on a given evening, recently a very young labradoodle has started coming down, he is very cute, like an ewok. But I ask you, who would own, or own up to owning, a labradoodle? Sometimes no-one turns up & Wilma is very dissappointed. Or a boxer called Honey turns up & Wilma hates her for some inexplicable reason. That's no fun.
Magpie Lawn, if you don't know it, is one of the larger flat spots in the garden. It's also in one of the remoter areas & aside from the odd jogger or walker, pretty much only visited by dog owners. In summer, there might be picnickers, and on one notable occasion I came across the commemorative unveiling of a park bench, attended by 20-30 friends & family of Timothy Cranfield, who died at a far too early age from leukaemia several years ago. That night I wobbled home drunk in charge of a dog.
But mostly the lawn is used by garden staff as a dumping area for compost, mulch, branches, felled trees, old park benches & rubbish. In winter the lawn is criss-crossed with tractor tracks & like a bog.
Oddly, there are no magpies, but there are an increasing number of tui, and recently a pair of kereru seem to have taken up residence.
Last year, when the City Council was reviewing the dog control by-laws, every registered dog owner received an invitation to make a submission on a number of issues, including the possible designation of the lawn as a bona fide (bone fido?) dog exercise area. There was much discussion about this on the dog walking circuit. I think everyone made a written submission at least, welcoming the proposal, and suggesting that if there were any concerns, we'd be perfectly happy if time restrictions were set (say between 6-8am & 6-8pm, weekdays).
A lot of submissions were received. Hundreds. Only 8 were against the lawn being redesignated. The owner of Laurel & Hardy made a 26 page submission, with photos attached. He also made an oral submission & fielded questions from the council committee, they seemed pretty positive about the prospect round the table.
Although not so positive when they weren't in session... I went down to support the submissions & got talking to one of the councillors there. She told me she thought if the lawn was turned over to dog owners, there'd be nowhere else for picnickers to go. I asked her if she'd ever actually been to the gardens if that's what she thought, and suggested that picnickers might actually prefer to go to the Dell, the Soundshell, the Rose Garden, the PICNIC tables at the playground, or indeed, pretty much anywhere else in the gardens rather that spread their picnic out over the tractor ruts & compost piles.
Councillors don't appreciate this sort of comment it turns out (this councillor was not re-elected as it happens, and I thought that was a minor victory for local democracy. We deserve better than ill-informed representatives who have made up their minds before the democratic process takes place.)
Anyhow, the proposal was declined. The council doesn't publish its reasons for making decisions, minutes of the meeting are available on the web, but they're quite uninformative. A little investigation & a few inquiries indicate that the reasons had something to do with the lack of alternative picnic facilities... although somewhere along the way, it was noted that there has never been a canine incident in the gardens, and that the gardeners have noticed that the place has been pretty much dog-poo free for the last several years.
So we lost out there. Pity. But there's always the next review to look forward to. Meanwhile, us responsible dog owners keep our pooches on leads, pick up the poo & we never, EVER, talk about Fight Club.
Posted by llew at Thursday, December 16, 2004
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Just brilliant install procedure. Brilliant. This means you (presupposing there is anyone there) don't need to register with my gracious hosts in order to make a comment.
So er... feel free to comment.
Thanks to Bizgirl's pal Noizy for enlightening me. Now... if I knew enough about this Trackback thing I could let him know I mentioned it...
Also... when I figure out how to put useful people's logos on here....
A pre-Christmas update. Hope you all have a nice break & that Santa is kind to you all! I have a suspicion the little package under the tree with my name on it is the same size and shape as extended cut Fellowship of the Ring DVD. But I've been fooled before by decoy gift wrapping (which in my opinion is a very low & unfair tactic - you know, that thing that is the same size & shape as a gift-wrapped mountain bike, turns out to be a scungy Tom Clancy paperback & a dozen or so inventively twisted coat hangers.)
Well the trivial stuff first - the dining/kitchen areas & bathroom were all tiled last week. The place is transformed!
But now the interesting stuff...
A while back I rang the District Council & asked them what hoops I needed to jump through if I wanted to keep a few sheep to mow the lawns - we're in a residential zone you see. A very nice fellow told me there'd be no problems so long as we aren't engaging in intensive farming, and so long as our boundary fences are stock proof. He suggested I ring the local animal control guy & have the fences inspected. hence all the frantic activity recently fixing & replacing fences.
So last week, just as I was wondering how do I buy sheep... I rang Grant, the animal control guy's number & left a message telling him I wanted the fences inspected & why. He rang back about an hour later.
"So, you want to buy some sheep."
I said "Yes, but first I want the fences checked."
"Yeah, yeah" he said "But have you bought your sheep yet?"
Turns out his father had a bunch of sheep to sell. He could even get us coloured sheep! Bonus.
He asked me to call him on Sunday & he'd be round to deliver 5 South Suffolk cross (supposedly) sheep.
I spent Saturday morning replacing yet more fence. And cleaning out a bathtub which will serve as a water trough.
So about 2pm Sunday, we had my family up for a christmas get together - since they're all heading north for the actual day. We were just finishing a sumptuous lunch of leftovers from the drunken barbecue the night before (coincidentally, this was leg of lamb). And a rickety Council truck with cages on the back barrelled down the drive. Out hopped this very burly guy called Grant who very conspicuously checked out T before introducing himself to me.
And Grant told us not to bother closing the gate out onto the street as he'd drive right into the paddock & let 'em loose there. Which he did. And there was a really loud clunk as he drove into some large solid object overgrown with grass. But it didn't faze him. In fact, he didn't mention it at all.
And then he said not to bother closing the paddock gate, and told us all to stand in the opening as the sheep would take off in the opposite direction.
Then he dragged two enormous ("Prime eating!" he tells me, which would sort of defeat the whole purpose, but there you go...) black & white wethers off the back & away they went into the paddock. Then a brownish ewe hopped off all by herself & took after them. And another ewe sort of did a forward roll off (so I was wondering how many break their necks getting off trucks) and away into the now shoulder high (on humans) grass.
And then the last one - a medium size black ewe - very cool looking, got tossed off, turned around & bolted right past the truck, through all of us (I was surprised at how fast she could move) round the corner & out toward the street!).
And there was consternation! "Don't chase her!" yelled Grant, "She'll want to get back in the paddock with the others."
So I started to slowly head back around the shed, wondering if I could circle around, and also fearful she'd be halfway back towards State Highway 1 already. When she came barrelling back around the shed but veered off again upon seeing me. So I retreated & joined the rest of the family hiding out of sight - all of us peering round to see this little black face down the end peering nervously back.
And Grant came barrelling back out in his truck, and he swung wide around the shed & like black lightening, this furry streak hurtled around & into the paddock. Way cool.
And I closed the gate.
They ran around a bit, pretty aimlessly, but all together. We restrained my nephew Rorie from chasing them (but he's a little tyke & wouldn't have lasted long anyway).
And finally, they all found the pine tree that I'd pruned the lower branches off for shade (it was bloody hot yesterday), and settled down to watch us, watching them.
Every now & then I'd head back, and take a look, and stand on a fence post, and there'd be 5 heads poking above the grass looking back at me - but they started to graze all over - mostly in the end away from the house. And they viewed some neighbours whose kids were playing cricket in their garden next door with interest, but didn't seem bothered.
And Master Tim came over to check them out. He seemed pleased too!
T thinks they're cute, they're like a gang of five - usually led around by that black ewe that bolted. I do have a sneaking suspicion they're going to be more interested in the expansive patches of clover, at the expense of the 6 foot high grass that I want cleared. But maybe they'll trample it down a bit, even if they don't eat it. And between Christmas & New year, the electric strip grazer may make an appearance to force the issue.
And today's mission? Find half a dozen or so very visible "Please Close The Gate" signs. The Animal Control guy knows who we are :-)
On a chicken farm, far, far away....
We are in a state of "sheep readiness" (Go to Yellow Alert, bwarp, bwarp bwarp...). While T toiled all weekend inside, filling borer holes, undercoating doors & then top coating them (only the backdoor & maybe one other I'm not sure about left to do), getting grumpy because it was beautiful out there, I made my weekly visit to the very cool Farmlands to demonstrate my complete lack of knowledge & experience & purchase 100 metres of 8 line high tensile steel mesh. Bejesus it was heavy....
Then I got it home, hefted it up on a wheelbarrow & barged the whole lot, strainers, tools, mesh, water bottle... through waist high grass out to the patch of derelict fence in the olive tree paddock. This took a while because it's not easy pushing a barrow through long grass, the grass winds around the wheel & elicits a lot of frustration & profanity.
But by 5pm I had that section of fencing replaced completely. And that included 2 hours of removing the poxy, rusted chicken wire someone had wound around the existing wires & posts & which was a real bitch to get out.
Standing back for a breather & wondering what I could do now, to fence in the little olive trees, and a bit disappointed at how so little fencing had taken all day, I heard Him approaching...
"Yes Master Tim?"
"You have done well... you are the Master now, I give you my tools, handed down from my Fencing Master & handed to him from His"
"Yes Master Tim, thank you"
and then he left, and I thought I heard some words blown back by the breeze from the direction he took...
Well actually, what he said was "Not bad for a non-fencer", and when he leaned on it he said "Jeez, you got it tight! how'd you do that?". Which when you think about it is pretty much the same thing. Anyway, I showed him I couldn't figure out how pro-fencers get the really neat corkscrew tie-offs, whereas mine look like galvanised birds-nests. And he told me I needed a "key" and loaned me his. And it's just a little strip of metal with a hole at one end. And it really makes a difference.
And by then it was time to leave the fields, head down to Price-Chopper, which is the closest Otaki gets to Moore-Wilsons, get booze & something to char on the barbecue & heap fulsome praise on the state of the painted doors, and not mention how wonderful the weather was outside. We have a nice little shade tree at the sheltered end of the house which is perfect for barbecuing & outdoors dining. And the world of Drunken Fencing Master & his family was good. And then we watched Goldeneye on TV2 & ogled Halle Berry in the Making of Die Another Day documentary.
But Master Tim also told me my plans for sheep-proofing the trees probably wouldn't work that well, sheep can be determined & surprisingly resourceful, and if they want something (like young trees especially) they will move heaven & tree protectors to get them.. SO that's still a bit of a problem & at the very least, I'll need to get a load of sturdy posts in, not the namby pamby stakes I had planned to use. Unless I can think of something easier soon. I have the added constraint on my creativity & resourcefulness in that T insists whatever the solution is, it can't be ugly. Hamstring a guy why dontcha!? I've been eyeing those big steel things around the trees at our end of Lambton Quay actually. Anyone got a gas axe & a truck?
And so on Sunday, I took a look at the big paddock, which I always figured would take the longest to fix up - one entire side needed refencing completely, or the neighbours would be getting unwelcome visitors on a regular basis.
It took a couple of hours again to remove the worst of the broken down existing fence, and to cut back a macrocarpa tree at one end so I could attach the mesh to the end post. And the other end was easier, but there was a nasty thorn tree of some sort (like 3 inch thorns!) and I have a lot of scratches & scrapes today, and puncture wounds... But by 5 pm Sunday, I had the whole length strung up with taut mesh. And attached to the (fortunately already existing) posts. It looks real professional - except for the ends where they're tied on, the key got me nice tie-ons, but access to both end-posts was difficult, a massive macrocarpa nestled up to one, and a hedge is growing around the other. But who cares. And who would notice?
And so the big paddock is now stock proof. Funny how I thought this one would be the last. A good plan has to be flexible. And there are no young trees in this one to worry about. Aside from those trees to protect, I have two short sections of fence to put in elsewhere, a couple of gates to fix up a little & then the entire property is secure.
And bonus! Tim's been moaning that the people who used to graze horses there borrowed & never returned his electric fence. And a few weeks ago I came across an electric fence in the run down shed. And when I told him I'd found it he said they'd already given his back! So I have an electric fence unit (not sure if it works, there may be a reason it was abandoned in the shed).
Then, while I was cutting hedge back from the end-post, I found a huge roll of electric fence tape! It's like one of those computer-adventure games - Zork - everything you need is there but you have to find it. After that I fully expected to come across the actual sheep in the long grass. But anyhow, the fence unit has written on it, in very large words "Do not use before reading ALL the instructions". Haven't found those yet. I guess they're not the ideal gadgets for learning about through trial & error. Anyway, I need a supply of the little insulated poles to hold the tape up. Farmlands have those! They're only a couple of dollars each. Master Tim can probably show me how it works. And tell me what "Slow" and "Fast" and "Pulse" mean. And where the big crocodile clip goes. And how on earth the tape connects to it! It actually runs on 4 D size batteries. How cute.
And so I have to contact a stock agent today, on the off chance they can help me locate 4-6 black (we fancy something different - boutique even) ewes or wethers, and deliver them this Saturday, and which have recently been sheared & drenched (got some sheep advice from Master Tim - he even offered to kill any if we get sick of them or have a barbecue planned - he must really miss this sort of thing).
And that's it for this week - the kitchen/dining area & bathroom get tiled today, so that's something to look forward to seeing next week.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Been watching Ripley's Game on DVD the last few nights (T can't actually watch an entire movie in one sitting, so everything is a serial for us).
Anyway, it's a sequel to The Talented Mr Ripley, with a new cast, new director, producers... everyone actually.
If memory serves it's the 3rd of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels. I'll have to get around to reading them one day.
In some ways, it's better that The Talented Mr Ripley - when I saw that for the first time, I found it kind of empty. And I wondered what it would have been like if Jude Law had played Ripley, and Matt Damon had been Dickie...
Watching John Malkovich assay an older, wiser & more confident version of the man, I was quite able to believe that maybe Damon's Ripley had turned into this guy over the years.
Anyways, it's pretty much present day Italy & our conscienceless (it used to bother him, but now he doesn't care) anti-hero is plotting an elaborate revenge on a terminally ill neighbour (Dougray Scott) who insulted him at a party, he's going to bring out the pathological killer in him, just to teach him a lesson.
Ray Winstone shines as an ex cohort/lover of Ripley's. And there's a bevy of euro-hotties on hand also.
For some reason this film went straight to DVD/Video, but it's a pretty classy film from the Italian director of the Night Porter, whose name I can't be bothered to look up at the moment.
On a tangent here, apparently there was a much better version of the Talented Mr Ripley, made in France in the 60s. That might be worth checking out too. Purple Noon
Posted by llew at Tuesday, December 14, 2004
First off, I have to say that Mrs Sandy's little boy Handy did a marvelous job on the floors. T did have to spend much of the weekend vacuuming sawdust off everything other than the floor including the walls... but it was a small price to pay (aside from the actual price) for aesthetic beauty such as has been revealed....
It was about 150% humidity last weekend, so while walls were being vacuumed, and then I think, a couple of doors were painted. I headed for the great outdoors with my new Indiana Jones/CLint Eastwood in the spaghetti western days hat (to keep the drizzle off my head), and new fencing tool (think pliers cum wire cutters cum hammer, all in one nifty little drop forged accessory), and 20 patent wire tightening devices (think double headed spurs with a ratchet sort of thing) packed in boxes of 10 which, as the girl at Farmlands enthusiastically demonstrated, could be opened & folded in such a way as to form two very useful carry packs with handles (but which in fact, turned to cardboard pulp & disintegrated totally after about 30 seconds of extremely light drizzle), to tighten up the fence in the first chosen paddock for the arrival of sheep (that's the one that needs the least doing to it).
But first, I made a detour for the only wire fence in view of the house, which is seriously slack, and which any self-respecting sheep could walk through without a backward glance, with the intention of tightening the sucker up & beautifying the panorama visible from the back door.
SO I chose my spot ready to install a neat column of seven wire tightening devices. And I cut the top wire with my new pliers device. And I attached the tightener to one side of the newly cut wire, in a fashion vaguely reminiscent of the diagram in the small farming manual. And then I spent about 45 minutes trying to get the other segment of the cut wire connected to the tightener.
And then it promptly snapped due to its age & state of rustification.
So I abandoned that section of the fence & headed off to the real bit that needed tightening. I'll come back to the dry-run site sometime soon with a roll of mesh & replace it all.
And here folks, I experienced my first success in the now slightly less mysterious world of fencing. This particular section of fence was clearly strung up by someone even less proficient than myself. Even I guffawed (ruefully, since I had to deal with it). Y'see when you hammer the staples in which hold the wire to the posts & spacers... you're not supposed to bash them in real tight, so that staple & wire cut about an inch into the timber, like this clown had done. the idea is that the wire is supposed to be able to move through the staples in the event the next person ever has to tighten the damned things up.
But through brute force & much bashing about with a hammer, I got my seven tightening devices installed & all seven wires tight as ... fairly tight wires actually. The tighteners are not all perfectly aligned like the ones the next door neighbour put in another paddock, and some of them are upside down (I experimented to see what was easiest to actualy ratchet up). But hey, who but he will notice?
And finally (telling T I'd only be about 15 minutes more), I spent an hour & a half trying to tighten up the last shortish section of slack wire in that paddock. There were already some tightening devices on some of these wires. Unfortunately two of them broke when I applied the wrench. Replaced these easily enough luckily. The slackest wire of all finally proved the last straw for the day (before a big thunder & lightening storm drove me & my hat & my tools back indoors). I spent ages fiddling around in a cramped spot under a tree getting the tightener on the wire, and started to wind it up tight, and it wound & wound.... and wound... and I finally realised the other end wasn't actually attached to anything (which of course is when the next door neighbour dropped by to see how I was going).
SO fled that scene without a backward glance, promising to return next week with the next weapon in my ever growing arsenal... The Mesh. Unless Tim the neighbour gets all his old fencing equipment out that he mentioned he had & fixes it for me (you never know your luck).
SO there we are... this coming weekend, it's a return visit to the very thrilling Farmlands to pick up a 50 metre or maybe even a 100 metre roll of fairly serious mesh (I dunno, maybe 6 inch squares or so? Or whatever the gaps in mesh are called), to finish off the boundary fences & possibly to put some sort of protection around the trees.
then it's just a case of getting the local council inspector guy around to confirm the boundaries are all stock-proof & it'll be sheep ordering time! I fancy 3 black ewes or wethers (castrated rams), of a fairly docile breed not known for battering through fences.
Does anyone actually know how you go about buying sheep? Or is it a case of getting the hat on & heading for the stock sales to stand among the agents (after saying "Gidday!" a lot) buying hundreds of thousands of head of god knows what, looking to bid for 3 black sheep?
Coming soon: The Return of Drunken Fencing Master.
Posted by llew at Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Monday, December 13, 2004
Progress is slowing - or getting less interesting anyway. The house is, save for one top coat in the spare room (still), painted on the inside. It hasn't been finished yet because we've taken advantage of the good weather to do outside stuff, and also to lift the lino. WHich has taken a lot longer then the afternoon I expected (partly because it stirs up dust & T's been painting windows & doors - hey, it's a great excuse.). But first wet weekend & the spare room will be done & we'll be able to have people round to stay!
So... the lino... this is a real mission. We've nearly got it all down to the original tiles. And we figure they're original, because underneath them, the floorboards are distincltly crappier than what was underneath the carpet. SO the latest plan is to sand & varnish the cool wide floorboards in the lounge, hall & bedrooms. And re-lay new black & white squared lino in the dining, kitchen & bathroom areas. Or so my in-house interior decorating consultant tells me.
Handy Sandy's (yes, that's his name) already been round to scope the sanding, which we hope to have done by Christmas. Hopefully he's better at the actual sanding & varnishing than he is at getting a quotation to us. He failed miserably to fax a copy to me, managing only to direct his fax at my work phone for a day & a half. then rang me on that number to say I'd given him the wrong number. Then failed with the fax number again, gave up & purportedly mailed it to us. I didn't like to ask to which address.... hopefully the one that has a letterbox.
So that's that. It's a dead sprint now to lift the remaining lino, remove, or bash in the millions of nails. Then we'll have to move all the furniture out to the sleepout while Handy does his stuff. And move it all back in again. What fun.
Outside it's been all go. Lopping branches in the forest... Was reading an article in the Growing Today magazine (as you do) asking why everyone (who is anyone in the small farming world) is growing more or less worthless pinus radiata in their woodlots (small farming jargon for personal forest). And it suggested we (who are anyone in the small farming world) should be growing trees that are actually worth something to sell. Like some sort of cherry whose name I can't remember, which commands something like $9000 (US) per cubic foot. Sounds worth investigating replacing any pine trees I cut down with cherry to me! We shall see.
I wandered my rustic world one weekend & unearthed (OK, T did while weeding behind a shed, while I wandered aimlessly around), six very fine fenceposts, I did get to do my Pinetree Meads (my personal hero) impression by hoisting them over my shoulder & relocating them to the shed. I already found two very large coils of wire. And so I decided last weekend to spend an hour planting a big magnolia tree we have (it will be big one day) in a suitable spot, and fence it against the return of the neighbour's horses, who would either eat, or trample it. This took a day & a half it turns out. And the retired farmer & his wife from next door popped down to admire my fencing skills (they politely sniggered, and offered advice that I have neither the equipment, nor the ability to follow). I bashed in 3 posts around the valued sapling, then strung the top wire around them & secured them to an existing fencepost nearby. SO it juts out like a diamond from an existing fenceline. Got it real tight. Very pleased.
Strung the next wire round & did the same & at this point, the top wire went slacker than Richard Worth's attendance rate at El Alamein memorial services. And so on until I had a real tight wire at the bottom, and the rest looked really sad (this is when Mr Ex-Farmer turned up of course). But not to be beaten, I went & got a couple of big quarter rounds from the supply in the shed, dug really big holes (back breaking), and bashed them in at a slight angle (which is actually the recommended way to keep horses at bay in this sort of arrangement, according to my book) so everything is reasonably tight again. Then I fled the scene before something else went wrong. And went back the next day to pick up all the tools I'd forgotten to bring in with me. I daresay it won't keep a determined horse out, but it should be good enough for a sheep, if it comes to that.
And Mr Ex-Farmer (Tim, to his neighbours) actually asked if I'd considered getting sheep to keep the grass down. And kindly offered to keep an eye on them if we did. He must miss them I guess. We are considering this... various people have suggested they're too much trouble, or that we get donkeys or goats (goats mean too much fencing - they're clever & can climb & jump). But I'm not sure we have enough land for a horse or donkey. Although M has rather optimistically read & memorised the chapter on care & maintenance of horses... I can tell you though that it isn't her she pictures out there maintaining & shoeing the beasts.
But if these neighbour's horses don't return, we're going to need something. I don't fancy being out there all weekend even on a ride-on mower. I do fancy a quad bike (me & Tim actually) though... with a trailer for transporting firewood back from the woodlot etc.... and riverstones from the local river for building outdoor fireplaces & stuff...
I managed to get some irrigation into our nursery-garden area, so that's coming along nicely. Just have to turn the tap on from 30 metres away... I've been cleaning that patch up & have uncovered two large concrete pads which once were buildings (honestly, it looks like there was once a small town out there), and many more items of discarded rubbish - fishing nets, metal buckets full of castors... windshield wipers (which were tangled in the fencing wire & for some weeks I fancied they were clever wire tightening devices..... until I needed a wire tightening device & examined them closer...), spanish galleon bells, Greek amphoras & viking helmets (well... maybe...). I plan to plant more trees once this area is relatively clear, basically to hide the shed from view. Starting with what looks like a small plum tree which probably grew from a pit tossed off the balcony about a metre from the house. You never know yer luck....
This coming weekend, I'll be removing unsightly chicken wire attached to the top of the small fence that is around the house. This fence is pretty much superfluous to needs anyway, and it is possible that it may be relocated in sections & used to fix up the one area of the property that isn't adequately fenced (many thanks to neighbours on most of one side who probably got sick of horses, chickens & cows that have previously grazed the land wandering onto their properties & who erected a series of diverse & very fine fences & walls that could probably keep rampant elephants out.) There's just one lazy bastard whose property doesn't have a sturdy fence between his & mine. I should hit him up for half the cost :-)
I tell ya - I love this, it may sound like (and it IS) hard work, but it's great fun, and so far hasn't involved too much expense (I dare say that may change when we decide what we're actually going to do with the paddocks & have to have it ploughed & buy trees & the like), just a few tradesmen here & there fixing things up. The rest has just been our labour & (heh) expertise. And there're enough little (and larger) projects to keep us busy for years. And bonus, it's getting me fitter....
And in about 60 years time or so, when that magnolia is about 15 feet high... it'll all have seemed worth it....
Oh.. and taking suggestions on what we can do with a disused septic tank :-)
OK... I have a workaround, since I've figured out how to create links...
Here's what Sunny o looked like when we bought it.
Here's the lounge, prior to a visit from Bert & Ernie.
Old man willow...
Where the pond is now...
The greatest invention in the history of mankind...
Wilma the Wonder Lab patrols the boundaries.
And finally, Team Lawnmower.
Ok. Lessee if this works...
I have a pond in one of my paddocks. It's come about because about a metre & a half down, there's pipe that goes nowhere (except to a metre & a half underground in the middle of the paddock). Until quite recently it was underneath a big concrete pad - I reckon it might have been there, uncapped, pumping out water unnoticed for the last few decades.
So I dug a big hole & found the pipe, then I got a plumber in & set him loose. He braised a cap on the end of the pipe & all was well. For a month or so. And then a new pond formed a couple of metres in from the cap. Clearly the pipe is old & munted.
So I have a choice now... I can get the plumber back in & try & figure out where this old pipe is coming from (probably 100 mtres or so back underneath the gate or thereabouts) & disconnect it from the mains, or whatever the plumbing terms are.
Or I could dig a nice big hole over the pipe, line it with weedmatting & river stones & tell everybody we have a spring.
I bought the weedmatting already.
Point to note, our part of the coast has no water restrictions ever, and so far, no water metering. And one day in the future we will be digging trenches & stuff & laying new water pipes, so I daresay we'll find where it joins one day.
So whaddya all think. Would this work anyway? And should I do it?