I do enjoy the quiet season, when everyone is off work and probably fighting the traffic to get out of Auckland. It's so peaceful, and you can get lots done, just so long as you don't need hospital treatment for it. They're on holiday too.

It's been rather wet, and still very green. Several festivals have been swamped in floods and mud. We're still hoping that it will have dried out a bit by the time we get to go on holiday later in the month. Or at least something less than the record rainfall last year. Haven't had to water the garden for years.

Sarah has finished school, and Rachael has finished Uni. The end of an era. No more trips to the school bus. And Rach is hoping to get her full driving license soon, which means that she'll be able to carry passengers. Legally.

Bronwyn now has a new car. Our old one did well at transporting huge amounts of creative junk when Bronwyn was working for the church. But it's a bit of a liability now if she needs a parking spot in the city, so the new car is a bit shorter. Just need to sell the old one so we've got some space in the garage.

Sorry, hang on. Duchess wants a chat.

Hi guys! Duchess is my name. I like to hang out with the humans, and wag my tail. Violently. And climb up on them too. And run. I LIKE TO RUN! Very fast. Round and round! The humans have been teaching me how to chase the white fluffy dogs out on the farm. I love chasing them. Round and Round! I think the humans want them to go in a straight line, but that's BORING. I like digging too. Haven't found anything yet, but I keep trying.

There's a one legged furry snake in our house. A big fat one. He hardly moves, except when I come up to say hello, when he raises the leg and HISSES. I'm not sure he wants to be friends. There's also the Mouthclaws. They live in a cage in the garden, and peck at the ground with their mouth claw. One day, I found one sitting on the ground, so I brought it round to show the humans. The humans didn't seem too happy about it. But the mouthclaw is doing fine. I tried not to dribble on it.

So that's about my life so far. I spend a lot of time sleeping, waiting for the humans to get up. We've been out to the water a few times. Big water. I used to be scared of it, but I'm happy to splash and even swim a bit now. As well as running alongside it, of course!

Thanks Duchess. Must give you a run sometime.

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The window is fixed. Still needs painting, but we no longer need the sheet of plastic. I shall miss the sound of blackbirds first thing in the morning, but otherwise it's nice to have a window.

We looked in the local recycle centre for old windows. Several shower doors and aluminium panels, nothing like what we needed. And we'd need to get the entire window frame since we'd never find an opener to match. I decided to make a new opener. We found some balustrades of the right width and some beading for the glass to sit on. Took ages measuring it all, and carefully cutting everything to match. The hardest part was getting the hinge holes in the right place, because it's not possible to mark them with the window shut. But it almost right, so I resorted to the old trick of shaving the edge down slightly. Got someone else to do the glass and putty. (My last effort looked like some kid with Plasticene.) I'll be better prepared for when I need to replace the other opener, which by the looks of it may not last much longer!

Fixed the mailbox last week. Came home after Sunday lunch to find the post leaning over towards the road. This seemed odd, because the average vandal would likely knock it the other way. So I went down with a spade, spanner and hammer and got it pretty much back to the approximate position. While I was doing this, someone from over the road told me it had been a bus. Apparently it had tried to turn round using our driveway, and hit the post on the way out. It's an 8 inch post, so it must have left quite a dent. It also rescued them from reversing intro the ditch. It was an Auckland Transport city bus. No idea what it was doing out here!

When I get time, I want to make a dodecahedron shaped mailbox. With a sign saying "No Circulars".

Had a fun time with the youth trust recently. We had a staff day out, and had a "masterclass" in making ice cream. Plus cookies and hokey pokey (honeycomb). I learnt how to extract vanilla, and we also made some Brookie Pies. Cookies shaped into a cup, with fudge brownie on top. Brownie-Cookies. Or Brookies. Fascinating place - they had a couple of 3D printers for making chocolate moulds, and all sorts of different contraptions and ingredients.

The two lambs have been weaned. Well OK, we ran out of milk powder and there's no point buying another sack. But they're getting big, so it was about time. They don't agree though! Meanwhile, Duchess is settling down. A bit. Bronwyn has been trying to teach her how to round up the sheep by pointing and calling Left and Right. Not the traditional method, but easier to remember. She's still crazy, but getting stronger. Would make a good sledge dog. Pity we don't have any snow.

Diamondz has been wearing a cone for the last couple of weeks. He got a bad scratch on his leg, but it's now healing well, provided that he doesn't lick it. Eating can be an issue, but if you pile it up high he can generally get hold of it. The cat flap can be more of a problem!

Sarah is in her final term, and preparing for the exams. She wants to study counselling, but they don't take on people for that course until they've had a bit more life experience, so she's looking at doing a foundation course in the meantime. Rach is working on her final project to finish her degree. Next year, she's been considering a one year internship at NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospherics). It'll mean staying in Wellington, which will be a big step. She's also been offered a place on a Masters course, one of only three students to be chosen. She's really excited about that too, and they've told her they'll hold it for her if she does the one year internship first.

Warm and sunny. Green. Well, for now anyway!

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Duchess the golden labrador has already worked out how to escape from the pen in Sarah's room, and has chewed through a couple of cables. Beyond that, she's reasonably well behaved. We've introduced her to the lambs and the chickens. And the cat. The cat has made it plain who's boss. It's useful; Diamondz likes to hang out in the most awkward spot at the junction of the corridor. If Duchess bounds in, she immediately meets the cat. The cat lifts one paw and hisses. Duchess is cornered.

She's still a bit anxious when left alone, but so long as she's had enough exercise (and somewhere to poop) she settles down quickly. I've been taking her out a couple of times each day when the others are out. Duchess likes sniffing. Especially poo, which she starts eating if we don't pull her away. Sheep poo is her favourite. Also chicken poo and horse poo, but not cow. She'll just walk straight through it without noticing. She likes it fresh. When meeting lambs, she goes straight for the butt.

We've got a cage for her in the lounge, a pen in the bedroom, a fixed lead in the garden, and a retractable lead for walks. She lives a life of home detention! But we're beginning to teach her commands, so she might get a bit more freedom once she gets the hang of it. She's still a nightmare when distractions are nearby. I took her out on the lead while I was chopping thistles this week. The lambs decided it was feeding time, and raced towards us. Duchess immediately wanted to leap over and lick them to death. Unfortunately she was on the other side of the thistle and did a forward roll right over it. Don't think she was injured, but she certainly quietened down after that.

Finally, it's getting a bit warmer, though not necessarily drier. The frost tender tree in the driveway has survived so far. I've cleared the garden, and we've started planting. Soon we'll be complaining that it's too hot and dry. But not yet.

This weekend was very windy. Yesterday, a sudden blast blew the plastic sheet off the back porch, pulling out a couple of planks which then hit the kitchen window. Bronwyn and her dad fixed the plastic onto the window instead, and I spent an hour finding all the bits of glass. That part of the kitchen is a lot tidier now. The window frame is rather rotten though, and we really need a complete new window. Hopefully we'll be able to find one to fit.

So currently we have a crazy puppy out front, two crazy lambs out back, a cat who wants to kill the dog, and five chickens who have been keeping well out of reach. Plus an indoor-outdoor flow in the kitchen...

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Covid, the lambs, and a puppy. 
It started with a sore throat. That was followed by sneezing and a runny nose, and I won't discuss the toilet. It also coincided with them rewiring the road and cutting off the electricity all day. And with my colleague wanting to work the day with me. So we went down to the cafe and plugged in there for 5 hours.

That night, I didn't sleep too well, and I had a headache in the morning, so I did a test. Yup, my first official positive. Slept all day and night.

But next morning, I felt pretty much back to normal. I even dug the garden. Briefly. Of course, we still have to isolate for 7 days, so Bronwyn went to Rachael's room and spent most of the time either out or with the doors and windows open. I put down Bronwyn as a close household contact. The notification form didn't ask about colleagues I spent five hours down at the cafe with, so I didn't mention him. Nobody else got it though!

It's lambing season. I'm losing count, but currently we've got five in the back yard bottle feeding, and another with the mother in the back garden. Bug was first. You can tell by his hairless bulging eyes. Then Barbie. Then we had a lamb with two scrotums which peed like a girl. Unfortunately it probably had other issues, and didn't last long. I'm not mentioning its name, but it began with B. Then we had Benedict, Blossom and Bernard. Plus a couple more that didn't make it. Someone wanted to pick up a lamb for their child to train for Agricultural Day, and I believe we have homes for another two to go to, once they're out of the vulnerable stage. Bronwyn and Rachael have been out regularly checking the paddock for any more.

Rachael delivered a lamb this week. The mother was wandering around with the lamb poking out. We managed to corner it, and after about 5 minutes, Rach managed to pull it out. We weren't sure if it was going to make it, but when we left, they were all standing and Mum was cleaning it up.

It's a bit chaotic at the moment. Sarah is due to get a puppy delivered. It's a golden labrador. She's been setting up a pen in her room, and a puppy house on the deck, and we've been putting in some posts in the garden for a dog run. Sarah wants to train it properly. I'm not sure if its name will begin with B.

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The South Island 
or at least one corner of it. We had a week touring from Christchurch to Kaikoura to Blenheim and Picton, and then back down via Hanmer Springs. In Christchurch we stayed the night with a really nice lady who has a collection of objects from her travels. Several collections. Jade by the front door, silver spoons round the corner, Chinese bowls on one cupboard, glass ornaments on another. And more around the house. She also had a bowl full of carved eggs made from different types of rock. Rachael promised to try and identify them.

Kaikoura has some interesting geology. It's got a layer of white limestone on top of old sandstone, with several other layers as well. Rachael was in her element, telling us about the layering and erosion, and she was following her geological maps as we drove along. We set off for a walk around the peninsula, narrowly avoiding an aggressive calf and getting back just before dark. But we spotted our first few seals.

Not far north, we spotted more seals. Thousands of them. There's a major breeding colony there, and you can see all the brown stains where they've been lying.

At Blenheim, the weather was closing in a bit, but we went to the air museum there, and also a restaurant which had a vintage plane in the garden. A big plane. Had a day trip to Picton to see one of the migrant ships, and one of the oldest on display in the world. The rain was clear enough to get out to an old Maori site.

It rained on the way back. Lots. But it made the journey more interesting, avoiding the mud and rocks in the road and admiring the waterfalls. Lots. And the seals obviously enjoyed it immensely, having been left alone for the day.

Hanmer Springs is a bit expensive, and it was now about 4C. If you're after some decent hot pools, try Waikite south of Rotorua, where the entire family can bathe and eat for the price of one in Hanmer!

But perhaps our best day was back in Christchurch. We spent a while at the Antarctica Centre. It's a real live research establishment with plenty for visitors. They have some of the tracked vehicles that they use, which could cross a metre gap without feeling a bump, and climb 45 degree slopes. Plus the inevitable penguin sanctuary and lots of other exhibits. Including the room which is kept at minus 8C, and has big fans to simulate a "summer" storm. I had my British coat on and enjoyed it immensely. Not sure how people cope in summer - they only supply coats and snow shoes!

After that, we'd run out of time to see the earthquake exhibit. But we drove into town, and right into the sound and light show that the city had put on for the Maori new year. It was rather awesome, with multicoloured light shows all over the park. We got to see the cathedral, which now looks in much better shape although still covered in boards and scaffolding.

After a decent meal, we came back home. Rachael spent an hour or so carefully examining the rock eggs and identifying as many as she could. Our host was most pleased.

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