Owens family Christmas newsletter 2013 
We've already sent this to a few people, but here it is in case you missed it...

Dear all. Welcome to the news of 2013! As the end of year is fast approaching, it’s time for me to sit back and look over the past twelve months and everything that has been going on. Again it has been a busy but wonderful year, full of God’s blessings.

We had the annual extended family Christmas gathering at our house this year and we set up the front porch as a ‘grotto’. We had a large real tree with ‘snow’ all around, Christmas lights and even a snowman made from chicken wire and an old duvet inner. It was too hot to be inside so we moved out to the porch steps and front lawn and opened our prezzies there.

January turned out to be a very hot month – in fact we didn’t have rain for three months from mid Dec though to mid/late March. This was great for camping, going to the beach, getting hay done etc. But it was very hard for the stock and the farm. Grass didn’t grow and we had to start feeding out winter feed in summer. Drought was declared across the North Island and into some of the South Island. We are on tank water here, so we were trying hard to conserve water until the rain came to fill up the tank. Many people had to buy in water and the water tankers couldn’t keep up with the demand. Some people had to wait up to a week for water. (The photo is of Sarah standing in the rain – our first rain in 3 months! You can see the brown grass behind her.)
Near the end of January we headed down to a small east coast township called Omokoroa for our annual camping holiday. Wonderful smallish camp ground with great facilities including a pool. Had a brilliant time! Tim came with us and then carried on to Hamilton to go to the Parachute Music Festival before heading back to be with us for the last night. It was a lot of driving for him!!! We have already booked ’14 camping holiday. We’re heading back up north to Ruakaka. We are all looking forward to going camping, especially Rachael. She has been wanting to go back to Ruakaka for the past several years. This camp will also be very special as we will have Tim’s mum with us. She is coming over in January for the first time and will stay with us for about 6 weeks. We are really looking forward to her first visit out here and have already bought a camp bed for her (just for the camping trip – she can have a real bed in the house).

After a busy year last year with HelpX, this year we have purposely been quiet. Nana returned for a week before heading back to China. It was really good to see her again. We also had Caitlin (USA). Erica (who had come to stay with us last year) returned to NZ in August to do her Pre-school teacher training. She stayed with us for several months while she attended language school and got a great IELTS mark in the exam. We now say we have three daughters! She is now living about 30 mins drive away and is already neck deep in study and enjoying it! Recently we had a couple from Czech Republic stay. It is always great to be able to show people around the farm and let them see & feel the animals.

In early May (in the school holidays), we headed up to the far north on a road trip. It was a wonderful week away where we spent quality time as a family and saw/learnt a great deal about our wonderful land. We headed up north and across to the west coast and spent our first night in Dargaville. Being at the top of the Kaipara Harbour it has amazing history. Day 2 we headed up the west coast and saw Tane Mahuta – the largest Kauri in NZ. We also stopped to help a family whose car had got a puncture and found that they were closely related to a friend here in Waimauku – small world. We carried on up to Kaitaia and the next day we did a bus tour up to Cape Reinga (the tip of NZ) via Ninety Mile beach. It was really freaky driving along the beach with big waves rolling in. We left the beach and headed up a creek bed stopping to go sand surfing down the big dunes. The tour bus had toboggans ready for everyone to use but it was a hard climb to the top of the dune. Well worth it though!!! (The photo is Rach coming down.) Our last 2 days were spent over on the East Coast at the Bay Of Islands. We went out on a boat tour and saw several pods of dolphins – totally awesome!

We have had a few orphan lambs come through this winter but one stands out. We called him Zeus and he broke every rule about survival. He was born with Spina Bifida and was still alive and when dad found him in the morning. He had almost no use of his back legs but would flop around to move and was full of life. We bought nappies to put on him so that he wasn’t lying in his urine all the time. Unfortunately he developed a growth in his tummy and died several weeks later, but he was amazing!

Earlier this year, NZ held a census. I got a job as a Collector, delivering and collecting census papers. I was then asked to carry on for another few weeks as a Special Collector chasing up late papers. It was a lot of driving in very hot, dry weather but I met so many interesting people. In April my nephew started school. As they live next door and both Claire & Nigel work fulltime; I offered to look after him after school. So 3-4 days a week Cooper gets off the bus with Sarah and we do all sorts of things. The other day he made a lovely mosaic racing car.

Rach became a teenager back in May. Now she keeps telling me that in three years she’ll be legally allowed to drive. I like the ‘legally’ bit… Rach has just sat her end of year exams at school but doesn’t finish for the year for another four weeks. In two weeks time she moves up from Guides to become a Ranger. It will be the first time in 25 years that the district has had a Ranger Unit. She loves Guides and especially the camps. In June they had their winter camp and it rained almost the whole time – and they were in tents! In late August I took Rach down to Mt Ruapehu for a ‘Snow weekend’. Unfortunately the ski fields were closed due to really bad weather so we drove across to Rotorua for the last day before heading home. It’s one of her dreams to go to the snow, so this was her (belated) birthday present. Still, we had lots of fun in Rotorua. Definitely one of the places to take Tim’s mum when she’s here.

Sarah has had a bit of a tough year. In July last year she had a change of teacher and we became aware of how far behind she was in school due to her poor eyesight. This year her teacher has been great but tough on her. If she can’t see something properly and hasn’t done the work but hasn’t said anything – tough luck. But on the other hand, her teacher has been enlarging worksheets and has had an iPad in the room just for her. They use the camera and enlarge pages etc. She has made great progress and now has yellow tinted glasses to help her – the tint stops the words “jumping around”. Just over 2 weeks ago at Agricultural Day, Sarah won the overall prize (and trophy) for her Chicken Rearing Diary and research project!!!

Tim has had quite a few changes at work. Watchdog (who had bought out the original company two years before) decided to sell the business to the Aussies. Meanwhile, Tim’s old boss Dave approached him with plans to start another business together. This was a big step for Tim, who has only ever had two jobs in his career. After a few months changing over, Tim is now working from home four days a week (and the other day at Dave’s). They are still contracting to the Aussies to support them, but they’ve got a growing list of new work, so Tim has been busy! He’s also now treasurer for two charities, and has been learning all about wages and tax. So far so good, and we’ve been able to replace both cars at last! With Christmas fast approaching, Tim is going to be getting very busy with the brass band – playing in four Christmas parades, three Carol concerts and caroling outside a supermarket up till Christmas Eve!

Lots of love and Christmas wishes -

Bronwyn, Tim, Rachael & Sarah

Comments

Nick 
and a Happy New Year for the next one!

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