Lambs, and soggy weather. 
I'm guessing the chickens have been enjoying the concrete dust on our driveway. The eggs have been arriving unusually rough since! We've had an awful lot of rain lately, so the farm has bought a huge heap more of it to spread out around the farm. We've had to put that on hold for a bit; we can't get the tractors around to spread it out. Allan came round early this week to level off our driveway. In the dark, because we had more rain forecast. He levelled the driveway nicely. Unfortunately he also knocked out the support for one of the power cables, so we had some guys round to fix them back on. Fortunately, the cable survived.

Nine lambs and counting. They've all been born this week. We've been out three times a day to check on them, and Bronwyn has been delivering them and getting them to feed. We've got the shed and the back garden ready in case we need to bring one in. At this rate, that could be quite soon.

The National Brass Band contest in Wellington last week went well, apart from a couple of slipups in the first piece. We had warmed up for the rest, and we got first place for the march and third equal overall.

Had a very long journey down and back. It's about 9 hours driving. We went down in one day from 5am to about 3:30pm. Saw sunrise at about 7:30, by which time we were well south of Hamilton. Somehow we avoided the huge amount of rain that went past in the meantime, but we saw the floods on the way back. Fascinating to watch the landscape change along the route, past geothermal steam, the Rangipo desert and the rolling hills and plains. Stopped in Bulls for lunch. Lots of bull statues and bull jokes everywhere.

Bronwyn got to interview the Auckland mayor last week. He allowed her 20 minutes and required her list of questions in advance. I'm guessing he felt nervous. But it went really well, and it went on for 30 minutes. She's also had the chance to meet Chloe Swarbrick, the young maverick Green MP who turned out to be really interested and wanting to help in any way. She's also been round all the churches and cathedrals and various other places trying to get people talking to each other about the city centre issues. So far the socialists seem the keenest to talk.

I'm told it's warm in the UK. It's cold, wet and windy here. Need to get some more firewood in. And deal with the rat that wants to get in too. Woke us up at 4:30am yesterday!

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Mercury rising 
I saw Mercury! I've been trying to find it all year, and finally we had some clear (and rather cold) days, and it was clearly visible. I've never identified it before, and you have to be in the right conditions to see it. So I got up early and had a look. I believe I also spotted Matariki (the pleiades) as well. Then I went inside again before I froze.

For the first time this year, we had a public holiday to celebrate the appearing of Matariki, which is the Maori new year and associated with quite a range of customs. I'm not sure if they were reflected in the Karangahape Road Matariki party which Bronwyn took us too, but it was certainly worth the evening out. We spent a while in the cafe where Bronwyn hangs out at work, and met some of the clients. Then we wandered back up the road. The pedestrian crossings were being manned by drag queens. Well, some people in shiny clothes, anyway. Two looked distinctly female! They had big STOP signs, and were dancing about in the road when the lights went red.

Spent three days at the youth work conference in Christchurch (I'm the treasurer for the local trust) and had a great time meeting people and discussing about the issues they had in each school. Probably hugged too many people, because I then came down with a case of Not Covid (tested negative yesterday). Feeling a bit better today, which is just as well because the brass band is in full swing for the national contest in Wellington next week. It'll be fun, but I'm looking forward to the peace afterwards!

We've now got a light grey driveway. Bronwyn ordered some crushed concrete and a digger. Allan did the work. It's difficult keeping him away from a digger, so I'm unlikely to learn it while we're within range of each other! Need to persuade the chickens not to eat the concrete dust. In the process, Allan scraped off a lot of dirt from the driveway and piled it up outside the gate. He's also dug out the drain that runs under the driveway and out to the paddock. So now we have a lovely driveway and several large piles of mud.

Still no lambs, but two of the ewes look a bit on the large side...

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Birthdays, work and fermentation. 
The wine yeast hasn't arrived yet. Perhaps that's a good thing; it's a bit cold for fermentation at the moment. Although my half empty jar of feijoa chutney started bubbling, so I made another lot, mixed it with the contents of the remaining jars, and made sure I boiled it well. Tastes great, though I think I used woo much spice powder! Still have five kilos of feijoa pulp in the freezer waiting for the right moment.

Bronwyn has settled into her new job as Chaplain At Large with the Methodist Mission Northern. She took me round the office a couple of weeks ago. The office stretches across a large chunk of the central city. She's been clocking the kilometres she walks around each day. She introduced me to some of the regulars; the people she works with and the places she visits. They run a cafe where you can get a decent $5 breakfast and where they get to meet most of the clients, and there are housing blocks to provide sheltered accommodation. Bronwyn has been told to just get out and meet people for the first few months, but she's already quite involved and has been making suggestions as well as bringing in spare eggs and home baking. Seems like she's found her dream job; she has the skills in communication (as well as first aid) and she spends half her time helping people out anyway. The only issue is getting in and out of the city, but she's learning all the best car parks and bus routes. So far, they think she's wonderful!

She's still doing her Ministry Diploma. Rach is persevering with Earth Sciences, and Sarah is contending with Year 12 and NCEA level 2. It's been a joint effort working through all the assignments.

My life went through a bit of a quiet patch when Bronwyn started full time. That's fortunate; I've been able to get a number of other jobs done, and I've been available to do school runs as well as jobs on the farm. I've toyed with the idea of getting some sort of accounting qualification, but I've now got some more work for a company I used to work for, as well as some other jobs, so I'm now suddenly busy again. It'll be lambing season soon. Hopefully I'll have time for that!

Sarah is now 17 and Rachael is 22. We didn't get much of a chance to celebrate last year due to all the lockdowns, so last week we had a 21+1 celebration for Rachael. Still getting through the leftovers...

Lockdowns are over. Well, until the next major variant at least. Omicron took over and chased out everything else. As far as I know, we haven't had it yet, although it has many symptoms and we all came down with a cold a while back. It's still taking a long time to work through everyone, and some have had it more than once. But it gradually seems to be dying down. Full overseas travel is opening up shortly...

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More rain at last 
It had just rained when I wrote the last one. It's just rained again. Good thing too; we were down to about 30% on the water tank. Last week it was overflowing. Onto the grass. I'm guessing the cow I mentioned last time had pushed the pipe out. Managed to bend it enough so that I could get it back in. We should be getting to the wet and miserable stage shortly, but for now it's still warm and sunny. And getting green rapidly.

Bronwyn has just accepted a new job. It's been a long process, but she's gone from looking after children and their families at church to Chaplain At Large in the city centre, with the Methodist city mission. It's a full time job, spread out over all hours of the week and involving a lot of walking and chatting to people from the homeless to the business owners. As well as providing input on Council meetings. It should suit Bronwyn to a tee; she's highly independent and she'll have a lot of flexibility to approach and respond to whatever happens to come her way.

Ross is concerned that he won't have his personal assistant on the farm, but now that Sarah is bigger than me, we have three others he can call on. I managed to fix a trough last week. The cows had bent the ballcock. I bent it back. Need to grab a bucket of staples and fix the fences too!

The Omicron wave has reached us. It's already peaked in the city and gone right down again. But it's obviously taking a bit longer to roll out across the country, and many parts are still yet to reach the peak. But a lot of the mandates and restrictions have been relaxed, and it's beginning to feel more like normal again. Someone laughed at me for scanning in last week. It's no longer required (or useful) but it's a bit of a habit!

The parliament protest lasted for about 4 weeks, and finally they were moved on after things got a bit too violent. I understand that they were complaining about coughs, fevers, aches and sore throats. Someone managed to trace it to the concrete roadblocks that the police had put in, and they decided that they were being targeted with radiation. There were calls put out for donations of tin foil in order to make more hats for everyone. Don't think it helped the sore throats.

Rach is still working from home, and spends long hours in the spare room hunched over a laptop. Bronwyn has been sorting out all the church stuff from the spare room; I suspect we'll end up with a lot more space! Sarah is back at school, but bumped her head again recently and has been fighting some bad headaches. So long as things are quiet she's generally OK. I'm still working from home, but the brass band is back in action again and we might fit in a few playouts before winter. Slowly getting back to normal!

Feijoa season again. Tonnes of fruit suddenly coming online. I've been scooping out feijoas and freezing it for later. Made some Feijoa and Ginger jam, which went down well. Ordered some wine yeast for more fermentation experiments (last year's product smelt distinctly of glue) and it's probably time for some guava jelly. I still have plenty of chutney so I won't be bothering with that just yet!

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A long hot summer 
Cyclone Dovi just went past. Rather high winds and lots of heat and humidity, but not a lot of rain. We've lost an old peach tree and the old telephone cable fell off the pole at the road. But all is calm again. And it's a lot cooler!

We didn't have any rain from mid December to just last week. The tank was getting rather low. Fortunately, we've got a huge dam to water the garden (and the farm) with. And now that it's rained, the tank is looking a lot healthier again.

Omicron arrived a couple of weeks ago. It was inevitable that we'd get it eventually with all the cases coming into the border quarantine. It took a while to take off, but we've just had 810 cases. They've lifted quite a few restrictions; we've been able to meet and travel around. They've recognised that they can't stop it like they did with Alpha, and even with Delta. So it's a case of slowing it down, and getting people boosted.

There are a lot of people who have lost their jobs due to the vaccine mandates. Several smaller schools have had to close down due to lack of staff. Large events have been cancelled (the limit is now 100 if all are vaccinated).

There's been a protest running on the grounds of the Houses of Parliament, against vaccine and mask mandates. The Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard, is in charge of the site, and decided to try and make their lives uncomfortable. He turned on the garden sprinklers, despite the rain. The protesters dug trenches to drain the water, and put out plastic duck decoys to try and lure the Mallard out of hiding. The Mallard started playing the Macarena and Barry Manilow hits on repeat. The protesters have retaliated with their own music. Now that the grounds are full of mud, they've also laid down hay bales as well. Sounds fun, but I'll be staying at home!

We had a quiet few weeks, and then a holiday by the beach, followed by another one a week later where Rachael had wanted us to visit some limestone caves. This was an experience. We were told to wear clothes that we didn't mind getting wet and dirty. Of course, "wet and dirty" meant wading through an underground stream for a kilometre, snd squeezing and crawling along a rather narrow section. But we all managed it. And it was worth it. The cave was filled with glow worms, stalactites and stalagmites all the way along. Some were huge (ok, the glow worms weren't huge, but there were lots of them!). I've been in bigger caves, and caves with numerous branches, but this one was really rather special.

Rachael was gushing over the Jurassic sedimentation (I think we should name the place Jurassic Park). We found fossilised sticks and layers of pumice. And fossilised worm poo. At least, that's what Rach said it was. Apparently this Jurassic layer goes underground and emerges way down in the Catlins where we were last year. Covered with hundreds of volcanoes all over the place.

Sarah has been back at school, and it almost feels back to normal. At least until someone at the school gets Omicron of course. The weather should be more in season too, now the blast from Fiji has headed off again. We've had a good crop of potatoes and tomatoes. I've dried a lot of tomatoes on the car dashboard, and Bronwyn has been making pasta sauce. And still there's more out in the garden. Although the cows got into our paddock and briefly into the back garden, so it depends on whether we can stop them eating our dinner as well as theirs!

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