Dust and coffee 
We have a different calf. Angel is back with a foster cow. Our current one is named Michael. If we have another bull calf we might call it Gabriel.

It's hot and dry. Further south the grass is completely yellow; it was like driving through Botswana. Fortunately we had a lot of rain when we were camping, but if we don't get more soon it could be just as dire here.

My car overheated on the way to Parachute, but after refilling the radiator it appears to be back to normal. I suspect it was simply overloaded in the heat. I drove all the way home with the windows open, the heating on and the fan at full blast. It did the trick, but now the fan doesn't work at the top setting!

Parachute was dusty. We spent a lot of time wiping the dust off the cafe, and I developed the habit of tapping the paper plates on the counter before putting cake on them. But otherwise everything went smoothly. I was staying with friends again, and due to the houseful they already had, we had to implement a bed swapping rota. I slept in the day, someone else at night.

As predicted, the last night was busy up until about 5am, and there were plenty of people around after that. The hot dog stall opened at 6am and started playing music, which resulted in an impromptu disco in the street. Don't think he sold any more hot dogs though.

I'm still recovering from the night shift, and it was hard work, but the sheer atmosphere makes it all worth while. The police said there were so few incidents that they spent most of the time wandering around recruiting for the police force. There was a strict no alcohol or drugs policy, and it makes all the difference. Plus a sizeable majority of Christians, of course.

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Angel the calf stayed with us for a week, and then we managed to attach her to a cow that had had a stillborn. However, there have been two more calves with useless mothers, so we might end up with two in the garden. It's all the fault of our bull, who got in with the young cows last year. Young cows tend to have more complications.

Had my 40th birthday last week. I actually feel younger than last year, but then I was pretty ill last November. No grey hairs yet, at least not in a publicly viewable spot. We had the party on Saturday, and had quite a few from the church and family, plus some neighbours and other friends. As seems usual, we ended up with more food than we started with, despite everyone eating their fill. I spent most of Saturday tidying the house, so I was pretty tired by Saturday night.

It's the Parachute music festival next weekend, and I'm doing the night shift again. Haven't sorted out where I'm sleeping the day yet, but I have a few options.

The poor tree by the road has lost another branch. There are now only three major branches left, although these all point upwards, so are probably safer. Years ago, the main shoot was taken for a Christmas tree, hence all the major branches have grown outwards from the base. I think it's lost 5 so far. But we have a huge supply of pine cones. These serve two purposes. They are good for starting fires, and roll down the hill at great speed with the dog chasing close behind.

Princess needs shearing. She's got enough hair to make a full jumper, and it's warm in January!

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Well, we had a quiet Christmas and New Year, and I was well enough to go on holiday. Apart from a couple of days of continual rain, we had quite reasonable weather. The ground got completely waterlogged though, and we eventually had to switch to the second tent entrance because the main door had a bit of a mudbath in front of it. I collected enough rainwater to keep us going for the rest of the week, not counting the six bucketfuls I threw away!

It was based around a marae, which turned out to be the old school house. There was also a second marae just next door, which belonged to a different sub tribe. I asked them about this, and they didn't seem to think that was anything unusual! The campsite was a fundraising plan to allow them to convert and move the building to make it a more traditional marae with a carved wooden entrance.

Behind and around the grounds were a number of chalets, which turned out to be flats designated for the tribal elders. That was the idea, but most of them were apparently occupied by younger families making the most of a free roof. They were also responsible for a number of loud explosions on the first night; apparently it was someone's birthday. Fortunately the rain put a stop to that after the second night, and I think they'd run out of fireworks!

The camp site was thoroughly cheap and cheerful! The facilities were pretty basic, but the hospitality was excellent, and they looked after Rachael for hours at a time. It was very much a family atmosphere, which is one of the core values of maori culture.

We had a rather damp trip around the bay by boat, during which Sarah threw up over all her clothes, most of Bronwyn's, two seats, the wall and the floor. They mopped it all up, and we bought a T-shirt for Sarah to wear. It was the smallest we could find, but it still looked like a Roman toga on her! We also went on three ferries (you can't really go far there without a ferry) and covered the long winding road to the campsite at least 8 times.

There is a large bay just over the hill, which is only accessible by a footpath (marked "Cape Brett 7.5 hours, fee payable") and a steep and dangerous cliff path. It was therefore quite deserted, and we went there a couple of times, and got back in one piece!

Sarah learnt how to use a potty last week! Three times!

Today, Bronwyn and Neil spent some time rounding up the cows (Neil on motorbike, Bronwyn in a car) because a calf had been abandoned, and they were trying to force the mother to suckle it. That appears to have failed, so we now have a calf in the garden, and a sack of milk powder, and Bronwyn has been attempting to feed it. No luck so far, but it can take a while to get them used to it.

I've been putting things away and tidying the house. It's my birthday party next weekend, and we wanted to get the place in order. Bronwyn's working five days this week, so I decided to do what I could to help out...

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Glad it's quiet 
I've gone down with a bacterial infection again, and Bronwyn's got laryngitis. Just as well it's quiet, and there's very little to do! Rachael is over her chicken pox, but is a bit quiet and tired. This is not entirely a bad thing...

Thanks to everyone for your presents; we've got wine and a wine cooler from Bronwyn's parents, to add to the boxful sent by one of Dataview's customers after I restored their database. I was thinking of getting a wine rack, but the cardboard box will suffice for now. The lounge is littered with toys; neither of us has had much energy or inclination to tidy up, and besides, the resulting clear space only lasts a few seconds. The weather is sunny and warm, and we went for a paddle at a sandy stream yesterday.

We're off on holiday in a week, and I hope we're all well by then! It's in a very remote village reached only by ferry or a lengthy journey on a very old road, so Bronwyn's making sure we have a working stove and plenty of supplies.

I've been teaching Rachael music. If she has the patience to learn on the keyboard, I'll see if she can start in the brass band. She's now old enough, although not necessarily mature, and loses concentration very quickly!

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A quiet Christmas 

Rachael went down with chicken pox this week, and was howling and screaming for a couple of days, especially when someone was nearby to listen. Fortunately she seems to have recovered quickly. and is now bouncing around as if nothing ever happened. But we've planned a quiet Christmas just with us, to spare anybody else getting infected!

Got the element fixed in the oven. It had burnt out, and the main oven was only working on one element instead of two, which meant we couldn't do anything more than an egg pudding. After several phone calls and trips to suppliers, we found someone who could fit the right element.

The lawnmower also went. The belt came loose, and got caught in the mechanism. Bronwyn's brother Allen changed it for us, as well as giving it a service. I'm grateful. I didn't know the difference between the oil and the air filter. Learnt quite a bit about lawnmowers this week.

Bronwyn's parents are off to the UK for three weeks, so it's going to be really quiet. I wanted to get the water slide going again, but it's a fair amount of work, so first I'll see if the youth group are interested in testing it out...

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