The longest lockdown 
Level 3 step 2. Now we can have 25 in a gathering outside. Next week we might move to level 3 step 3. Then either Red or Orange. It's all a bit confusing!

The cases have grown in Auckland, and are spilling over into other parts of the North Island. But still very low by world standards. We move to the traffic light system once 90% of people 12 and over are fully vaccinated. At Orange, a business or organisation can require all attendees to be vaccinated, and if so, they can have unlimited events. It's caused quite a bit of upset. Schools and hospitals are required now to have all staff vaccinated (at least one dose), and quite a few staff have been stood down as a result. Maori are well behind in the vaccination figures. Some people are complaining that Maori have not been given enough opportunity. Others are complaining that Maori are being given too much. To be honest, it's impossible to please everybody. I'm also reminded of Captain Mainwaring "Don't you know there's a [deadly disease floating around]?"

But here, it's all been quiet. I'm still on the same tank of petrol from August. Nobody has had a haircut and we're all beginning to look like we're back in the seventies. Most things have been on Zoom until the last couple of weeks, and the brass band still hasn't resumed despite having lots of playouts next month. Crumbs. Next month is December. We've been living a kind of Bohemian semi-retired idyll for two months and haven't quite got the hang of what time of year it is.

Although Sarah did remind us by insisting on putting up the Christmas tree in October. We put her off until November 1st.

All the lambs are out of the garden. The neighbour came round with his ride-on and mowed most of our garden which had turned into a small paddock. We supplied them with eggs and potatoes, they gave us some freshly caught fish. It won't be long before guava and feijoa season comes round again.

As a project, Bronwyn had built up the path at the back with some concrete. She got fed up having to weed all the grass from it every six months. It's been signed by all of us, including the chickens. Meanwhile, the steps at the front have collapsed into a hole. This would have been where the dog had carved out a hiding place years ago where she could sleep out of the sun and keep watch for when the car came home. Ross came round and we pulled out the loose concrete and filled it in with stones. Now we just need a lot more bags of concrete to do that bit as well!

It's getting warm and sunny. Hay fever season is in full swing. We've had plenty of rain, so everything is still growing. Including the blackberry, but now that I've been digging it up for several years there's a lot less. I'm over half way around the farm, but I keep finding new patches to clear. It's therapeutic. Slowly, it feels like I'm achieving something!

Two geese started nesting on the dam. Plus a couple of mallards and two paradise ducks, and there's been a pukeko loitering as well. I think the geese got fed up with me being around and cleared off. I think I also scared off the pukeko. But the mallards and paradise ducks have stayed. Bronwyn'a parents have a tiny dam, and they have several large families of ducklings up to the house. I'm trying to encourage them on our dam by quietly going out at dusk and sprinkling some chicken pellets on the jetty. Something appears to be eating it; I'm not certain what!

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A few more weeks in. 
Still in lockdown, but now in Level 3 Step 1. There's a three step loosening of the restrictions, so now we can meet outside in groups of 10. (Outside. No popping in for the loo.) The cases are not particularly under control, and are spreading outside Auckland. But the focus now is on getting as many as possible vaccinated. There have been some protests, but with a second death this week and no more talk of elimination, the vaccine count has begun to go up again.

Bronwyn had a quiet 50th birthday, apart from when her friends came up the drive tooting Happy Birthday (on one note) and presented her with a basket of treats. Rach and Sarah made a big chocolate cake, but we were a bit short of chocolate letters, so it read "HAPP BIRTDA". But that was plenty. Meanwhile, I found a sheet of corrugated iron and painted Happy Birthday on one side and "Caution Creative Genius Inside" on the other. I put this in front of the bedroom door while she was still asleep. It's very hard placing a 2.6 metre sheet of roofing iron on a bedroom door without waking anyone up but I somehow managed it!

Lilly (sorry, I called her Lulu last month) and Larry have been growing fast. Still on milk, but mostly on grass now. We've also got one of last year's ewes in the back garden after it had a difficult birth. The lamb was stillborn, and the mother had lost use of her back legs through nerve damage. But she's now back on her feet and hobbling reasonably well. The mandarin tree has been nibbled to pieces, but we haven't had any mandarins from it for years anyway!

Someone gave Bronwyn's brother a big sack of potatoes that had started sprouting. He couldn't use them all so we got a large bucketful. We couldn't use them all, so I planted half. Running low on space in the garden with all the potatoes!

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Lambs, lockdown and floods. 
Lulu wasn't looking well. Head down, rocking and shaking. And a swollen belly. Bronwyn had given her some baking soda, but it hadn't made much difference. It was clearly a case of bloat. She'd drunk too much milk, and it had gone straight to the second stomach and had been fermenting. We've lost a few in the past; they look fine in the evening but dead in the morning.

Bronwyn had been googling it. The procedure called for a hollow needle to release the gas. She had a few syringes that we used for penicillin, so she took off the needle, said a quick prayer, and popped it in. It worked. Lulu is still with us along with Larry, and apart from one more occurrence, she's been fine and moving onto solids. Or grass, at least.

One case of delta and we went into national lockdown within hours! But a week later we were getting 80 cases a day, and it could have been a lot worse. The internet hasn't been good though - everyone is trying to work from home and I think they're getting increasingly bored and watching too many movies! And Zoom calls. We seem to have at least four a day in our family.

It's been quiet. Mavis the duck hasn't been seen since lockdown; I'm guessing she's now got plenty of attention (and food) at home now that everyone is forced to stay in! The traffic has been a lot less, although there's one white van that appears to be stuck in first and I can tell it going past without even looking...

Although we did have a bit of chaos this week. On Monday night and Tuesday we had 200mm of rain. A small but slow moving depression managed to keep overhead for about 16 hours. There were reports of a house that had ponies upstairs because the paddock and downstairs were under water. Kumeu was cut off, lots of houses and businesses flooded and there was a car that landed in the ditch near us and was almost out of sight. It's probably the biggest flood since the bridge got washed away in 1971, or possibly the big one in 1928.

We were OK. Most of the farm is on a hill, although we did have an olympic sized swimming pool by the driveway. It's all gone down again, and I hear there's been a lot of cleaning up. Here, it's just soggy and the grass is enjoying it!

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Postscript 
Apparently the container ship we saw in Bluff was stuck there in quarantine, with a number of the crew having Covid. Fortunately it was several kilometres away, on the other side of the harbour, on the end of a very long pier!

My laptop died after Wellington. Had to share Bronwyn's laptop in the South Island. And my mouse died simultaneously. But all working now, and considerably faster. Fortunately the hard disk was still readable. I'm taking several backups as I type...

One lamb is due to be collected by a foster family. We named her Lulu. There's also Larry and Lilly. So far we've had a good season. Usually we lose quite a few, but only two lambs and two sheep so far.

And apparently we are now the proud owners of a duck. Mavis has been hanging out here for months. Her previous owner says she was a rescue duck, and since she's adopted us, we might as well have her. Not that we really own her. She obviously eats very well in our dam, and just hangs out when there's a chance of chicken food!

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Dun Roaming 
We're back home after a week touring the far south, and that should be the last of our trips for a while. Nothing else planned, anyway.

Had an action packed three days in Wellington with the youth work conference, which very nearly didn't happen. The week before, someone came to visit from Australia, spent the weekend visiting museums and restaurants in Wellington, and then went home. And tested positive for the Delta variant. So Wellington went into level 2, and we were on edge - any actual cases and it would have gone to level 3. We dodged a bullet, and somehow no cases were found. So the first two days were at level 2. They had prepared for this, and we had to meet in two different churches to keep the numbers below 100 each. On Monday night, we had dinner in shifts, and they disinfected everything in between. On Tuesday night we had a dinner in the cathedral. With a huge curtain down the middle. North Island people one side, South Island on the other.

Day three we were back in level 1, which meant we could have the dawn visit up to the hill and a gathering outside Parliament all together. The National Archives building is next door, and is a stunning Victorian building of polished granite. The next building is almost as stunning. I understand that they spent a lot of money on those two buildings. The actual Parliament building (nicknamed the Beehive due to its circular domed shape, and the amount of noise and hot air it generates) looks like something they threw up in the sixties with lots of grey concrete and glass. We got a photo shoot outside the middle building. My MP was officially greeting us and recognised me. It's not hard to get to know your MP in this country.

Took a few days to recover from Wellington, and then we were off to Dunedin. Day one; a trip up north to the Moeraki boulders, where we stopped at the Moeraki Tavern and I had a Moeraki burger. Very nice too. The boulders are almost spherical, made of limestone and about 2 metres across. Spent a while hopping boulders and then back home, with a stop to spot seals on the rocks.

Next day, Dunedin peninsula, Larnach Castle and the Albatross sanctuary. Larnach Castle was built by a wealthy banker and MP. He started well, but it was a tragic tale. After three wives, business disasters, and a family scandal, he shot himself and the castle was largely abandoned. A family bought it in the 70s, and have been restoring it ever since. We climbed up to get the view from the top. At the Albatross sanctuary you have to keep out of sight, so we were in an observatory room looking out of the windows. These are Royal Albatrosses, which aren't the biggest, but still have issues landing!

Day three. Paid homage to the World's Steepest Street. It was only half a kilometre from where we were staying, which was also very steep. Dunedin is in a big old volcano, and the hills are all quite steep compared to the rolling hills elsewhere. They have an annual race every year where they roll chocolate balls down the street, and the first one past the line gets a prize. On our visit, there was black ice at the bottom. We didn't try driving up it! Had a very long and scenic drive down to Fortrose. Nice place there. Very quiet and well away from any towns!

Day four. Went as far south as we could get at Slope Point, where after navigating a very muddy paddock ("Enjoy your visit - Antarctica View Farms") we reached The Signpost (and the trig point and lighthouse). On to a beach that was known for seals. We walked all along the beach and didn't see any. So we walked back and got cornered by two that had just arrived. You're supposed to stay 20 metres back. Nobody told the seals that. On to another beach where we spotted one yellow-eyed penguin (my only wild penguin). And then off to Invercargill.

Day 5, had a quiet day around Invercargill. It's the southernmost city in the world, although it's not all that big. We were next to the park, which had a little zoo and botanical gardens. Rach has become obsessed with plants, and spent a while looking for anything she recognised. Our house is getting full of weird cacti and other oddities.

Day 6. Bluff. Southernmost town. A surprising of industry down there, and a port, with a large container ship. It's also famous for oysters, although we didn't try any! More climbing over beaches, and back for dinner in Invercargill.

Day 7. Very long day. Out west first to Gemstone Beach, where we didn't spot any gemstones but a huge variety of coloured pebbles. Came home with quite a collection. Then a bit further west to Tuatapere, which is about as far as you can go before reaching Fiordland, where there are no roads. And a long drive back to Dunedin. Decided to have lunch at Gore. The GPS took us down a rather odd route. I believe it was trying to avoid traffic. We reached the main street and immediately got stuck. Seemed odd to have so much traffic in a rather small town. Then we saw some horse drawn carriages, and a guy riding a horse up the street. And tractors. Lots of them. And utility trucks with dogs on the back. And lots of people and sign boards. "Ah", said Bronwyn. "It's the farmers' protest!"

After crawling along the main street and finally finding a parking spot, we had lunch in a cafe and watched the tractors go by. Apparently there were 800 of them. Plus two combine harvesters and some tankers. They were protesting about the pile of regulations over land use, diesel vehicles and other things that The City People had put on them. Bronwyn was on the phone to her Dad giving a running commentary while we sat there tractor-spotting.

We'd had good weather all the way. On the last day, we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Dunedin botanical gardens (more plant spotting) before the weather closed in as we headed home. Pity there wasn't any snow, but virtually all the rain was in the night.

One day after we returned, our first lamb was born. Then four the next day, and then lots. We've got three in the back yard, and I try to leave by the front door to avoid getting trampled on by the delightful but rather muddy and leaky little bundles. We've been out round the paddock checking on the sheep, and delivered several in the paddock. Lost a couple of sheep and at least one lamb, but otherwise going OK so far. We've had a lot of rain, which might explain the sudden arrival of lambs. But it hasn't been too cold, and the grass is making the most of it!

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