Happy New Year! As usual, we missed the Christmas posting date, but it means we’ve got a chance to review all the photos and remember what happened last year.

The previous year involved a tour of New Zealand and Kenya. Last year saw us make it to Sydney and slightly beyond, but otherwise it’s been quieter! We went to visit Tim’s friends in Sydney, who had been begging him to visit for years. We managed to squeeze in several trips around the area (saw the harbour bridge and opera house from about 12 different angles), the zoo, the local koala sanctuary, some aboriginal paintings and carvings and a day out in the Blue Mountains. None of us have ever been to Australia (outside an airport), not even Bronwyn. At the end of the trip, we visited the Chinese gardens in the heart of Sydney, and a very nice place to unwind.

We also spent another weekend in another friend’s house up north, for Bronwyn’s birthday. A little cold to go swimming and kayaking, but we had a number of family meals down on the beach, followed by a rather interesting trip home when Tim’s GPS sent him on a particularly unusual road.

Bronwyn is still in her role as the Children’s Ministry leader and as part of that, she and the girls went to e-Camp (held over Easter weekend), with the some of the intermediate youth group as well as a few children from a local school. It’s always a crazy fun time there with plenty of activities (most involving getting wet) and plenty more in the evenings. Next year, Sarah will be in the Big Youth Group. Sarah is already taller than Tim, but still enjoys being with the younger kids. This means that next year, she’d be in the full Easter Camp, which tends to be more social than crazy. Rachael has the excuse of going to eCamp as a leader – this year she was nanny for 3 children of one of the committee. She never quite joined the older youth group! Bronwyn had a problem finding drivers this year, and after hiring a minibus, they just had enough room. So she has been studying to get a class 2P license so she can drive a larger bus. (Class 2 is a truck up to 18,000kg and the P is passenger endorsed so that means she is allowed to carry passengers.) She passed the check and test to get the learner license; now she needs to get some practise in before doing a course next year. Hopefully in time for next e-Camp! Meanwhile, Bronwyn has also spent the year finishing her studies for the Diploma in Christian Studies and came out with very good marks. Graduation ceremony in April! She is going to carry on studying for her Bachelor of Applied Theology.

Things have been happening at church, or at least the spot of land where we intend it to be. After meeting in the community hall for a year or two, we’ve started digging, and hoping to see something useable by the end of next year. The land was bought about 18 years ago, before we arrived. It took a long time, but things have slotted into place over the last couple of years, and it’ll be great one we can have a permanent place again, that isn’t falling apart. The old building got mostly demolished and is almost ready as a childcare centre.

Had a very successful Light Party (Halloween alternative) this year. Last year they counted 200 children. This year we had at least 260. It was heaving; next year we’ll have to officially register with the police. Although they were there of course. Complete with siren. And the fire brigade. Tim made a Splat The Rat game, with a specially made mouse hole complete with skirting board and “Home Sweet Home” sign.

There have been a few other events this year. Bronwyn took Sarah to see the Chelsea sugar factory, and saw the massive piles of raw sugar getting processed and refined. Apparently there was a shipload waiting in the harbour, but they didn’t have any room for it. Sarah has been trying to help them this year with plenty of baking.

After a bit of rain, we traced a leak to a hole in the roofing iron. Bronwyn’s dad brought round some tape, and Tim went up and patched it up. We then had someone round to fix it properly, as well as paint the iron with weatherproofing. So far it hasn’t leaked, but we now have another pile of scrap iron – New Zealand farms seem to attract the stuff!

But perhaps the most memorable event was probably the visit by Lori. Bronwyn comes home and says “There’s an ostrich in 15C. I’ve got photos!” I then check the photos and decide it’s an emu. It is indeed. Strolling casually across the meadow. Looking very much at home. We put up a post on Facebook and the owner comes round with a bucket of emu food and leads it back along the road. It must have crossed several fences to get to us.

Diamondz our cat has also been introducing us to the local wildlife. He recently came in with a small furry creature, which he then lost behind a cupboard. We managed to move the cupboard and realised that it wasn’t a mouse. Or a rabbit, sparrow or indeed a rat. Or half an eel (still wriggling). It was a stoat. Squealing and snarling, and capable of leaping out of all our cardboard boxes, we eventually trapped it in a plastic dustbin (with lid) and Bronwyn and her Dad took it well away from the house and dealt with it in the morning.

But we kept the hedgehog. It was found rambling across the lawn last week, and mother didn’t seem to want it. It’s spent the last week in a cardboard box in the lounge with some cat food. Rachael is trying to think of a name. Something other than Spike…

Casey, the nutcase lamb mentioned last year went to Hollywood. OK, actually it was an animal trainer round the corner who provides animals for adverts and TV. She could leap through any fence no matter how much baling twine you wove through it, and could work her way around the paddocks no matter which one you put her in. Highly skilled; I hope she does well. This year’s lambs are much more ordinary!

Rachael got accepted to study Physics at Auckland Uni. She had to do a foundation maths course because she had missed year 13 maths, and needed to pass that in order to do the second Physics course. This went quite smoothly up until the exams, which she struggled in and didn’t pass. She retook that course for the second half of the year, and got a B, so she’s now keen to get back into the Physics next year. And more maths. Meanwhile, the uni encourages them to broaden their education with other courses, so she took Philosophy, Anthropology, Linguistics and Japanese Culture! Now that she’s retired for the year, she’s planted a garden and has a list of other projects to do over summer.

Tim’s had a lot of work on this year after taking on several jobs at once. When one job stopped, there was another one ready to take its place, so this year has been pretty full. The main job involves taking surfboard design files, processing and converting them to 3D models with sophisticated control over the design and rendering them as photo realistic images. This has involved a lot of new stuff, and some in-depth understanding of surfboards. As yet, he hasn’t put his foot on one. In another job; his manager encouraged everyone to take up cycling. This involved a fair amount of work disconnecting the bicycle from the surrounding vegetation and getting it roadworthy. But he can now make it over the nearby hill, which has until now presented a major barrier to sustainable transport. Fortunately the job is only just round the corner beyond! He’s also still treasurer for the brass band, and for the youthwork charity that the church started.

He’s found time to try clarinet for a few months, and then bought a saxophone (with the money from the car). Can just about do the Pink Panther, the Benny Hill theme and the instrumental from Careless Whispers. And he’s been on a campaign against every thistle, gorse and blackberry on the farm. It started with clippers and a spade, and worked up to weed spray and the lawnmower. The battle is not quite won yet, but the thistles have started hiding out of sight…

Sarah has a new hobby. Two, actually, plus the first aid work at St Johns Youth. She tried an air rifle at a school camp, and was really pleased with her accuracy. So Poppa let her try his .22, and she managed to shoot consistently within three cm at 23 metres. Poppa was impressed, so he bought her a tea towel with some Pukekos on it. Pukekos are purple swamp hens, and very adept at pulling up plants and eating other birds. So now she has a tea towel with holes in it…

Rachael decided to pay for some ice skating lessons for Sarah. Sarah had never got the hang of ice skating, and was frustrated that everyone else could do it but not her. So she’s had ten lessons so far, and can skate forwards and backwards plus a few other tricks.

That’s about all for now. Happy New Year to you all, from Tim, Bronwyn, Rachael, Sarah, Diamondz, three chickens and an unnamed hedgehog.

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