It's still raining 
We've had the wettest day ever, here in Auckland. There was about 11 inches, and several inches more in the days afterwards. The farm is OK - we're several metres above the normal flood plain, and we just had a bit of erosion in the ditches. I suspect that the river is a bit blocked downstream, because in the village the water was about six feet above the road. Cars were floating around, and the railway has a large section with fresh air under it where all the stones got washed out. There's a rather spectacular video of a bridge near us getting washed away here - https://www.1news.co.nz/2023/01/27/video-bridge-washed-away-by-raging-auckland-floodwaters/. 261 houses have been condemned (access prohibited) and plenty more are needing repairs before they can be inhabited. Several have gone down a cliff, and some have had the cliff go down onto them. There are plenty more across the North Island.

We were on a campsite, at Festival One. Fortunately, it was a long way south, so we only got a few inches. But it was enough to turn the tracks into swamps.

We turned up on the Tuesday when it was still quite dry, and spent Wednesday helping set up all the stalls, and most of the day making pompoms for a new venture in Cloud Manufacturing. The pompoms were attached to a frame to look like a cloud, which could then be hoisted high up in the art tent (the Ministry Of Art) as a centerpiece. On Thursday, we got to meet the rest of the crew who were coming in to run the festival. Bronwyn and Sarah were helping out at the Ministry Of Art, and me and Rach were running the bank, where we were loading money onto wristbands. We also decorated our own tents as well, complete with plastic ivy and flowers, LED lights and a pair of solar powered gnomes.

We spent four hours on Friday loading money onto the wristbands. It rained very heavily that night. At 8:30 the next morning, they made the decision to cancel - the ground was so soft that very few vehicles could get on site, and they couldn't empty the toilets, as well as all the other deliveries. The bank had been flooded, and we had to go next door into the merchandise tent, which actually worked out quite well because everyone came in with a rush to buy the T-shirts while they still could. The ground outside was just a sheet of mud. I got a cheer when I nearly did the splits but managed to stay upright. Fortunately, Saturday morning was dry enough that we could pack up the tents. The route home was above sea level, and the house was safe. Although some of the gates were mysteriously open, and the garden was in peril from the sheep!

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Happy New Year! 
Peace at last. We've had a week to catch up and recover. As well as a number of odd jobs that have been waiting for a quiet moment.

Christmas involved four carolling gigs and a concert, and about three Christmas dinners. One for Tim's work, one for Bronwyn and the street people, and a family dinner on Christmas eve. Christmas day included our performance of Mary's Boy Child at church complete with fanfares and bass solo. We played it at the end as well. That was useful, because it gave us another chance to get it right! Our pastor used to play in a brass band, and asked me if we could arrange it. So I found the full band score, he arranged it, and I fixed it. We had trombone and two trumpets, plus Bronwyn on flute, the guitars and the rest of the band.

Bronwyn has been considering selling her car and getting something smaller. After all, we don't actually need to fit a pram in the boot now. However, the car has been used for years and needed a very good clean. Rach and Sarah decided to buy Mum a proper car valet. They organised it so Bronwyn wouldn't know until she got home. We had to tidy it up first, so Rachael had the vacuum, Sarah was searching everywhere for all the accumulated rubbish, and I was doing my best to remove all the mud from the outside. Then once Bronwyn had gone, we took it for the proper clean. It took nearly three hours, so we wandered around in the meantime and did some shopping. Finally it was ready, and we took it home. Took a couple of days to dry it out and it still smells of shampoo, but it certainly looks a lot better!

We've had a sunny week for once. It's been wet since winter. Usually it's beginning to dry up by now. The paddocks are full of grass, and so is our garden. I think we need the baler in here as well. Finally, after years of climbing onto the roof and scooping out dead leaves with my bare hands, I've bought and installed some gutter guard mesh. Took a bit of practice to get it to sit right, but hopefully that section won't need cleaning out for a long time. Of course, once we get the second tank installed on the other side of the house, I'll need to do those gutters too...

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A busy November 
It all happened rather fast. One moment, I felt my foot slip. Then I remember rolling onto my back, with blood on both hands and one leg. I got up and hobbled out of the rain, then began to faint. Fortunately that didn't last long, and fortunately I was surrounded by two very capable first aiders who bandaged me up and took me in to the medical centre. Over the next few days I pieced things together; I must have slid off the deck while turning, and landed on my left side onto some sharp gravel. It's mostly healed up now, apart from some marks and a small bump. But I've been taking things a bit more easily in the rain since then!

Spent a while doing the extra lambs that got born recently. They all get a docking ring on the tail. Girls get a clip out of the left ear, and boys get a second ring. Sarah can tell you where it goes. We've now got a complicated herd. There's the rams and wethers (castrated males. Then there's the ewes, and we've just separated their lambs for weaning. Then there's last year's lambs, which now include extra newborns. It's getting tricky managing them with the available paddocks...

Christmas is almost upon us, and the brass band has quite a packed programme next month. So has everybody! We're entering the loony season. On Christmas day onwards it will be suddenly quiet. Sarah hasn't put up the Christmas decorations yet. She's focussed on us all going to Festival One next year. It's a major Christian music festival, and it got cancelled this year due to the covid restrictions. So we're really looking forward to it this time. We've already had the tents up, and Sarah has been decorating them with a big pile of lights and artificial flowers.

We had to take them down this week. We've had a lot of rain and wind. Doesn't quite feel like summer yet, certainly not a New Zealand one! But the paddocks are all very green. So is the lawn. Bronwyn has decided to buy a weed eater. Meanwhile, I'm told we're getting a second water tank to collect the water from the other side of the house. Not that we're short at the moment!

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Larry's been working hard 
Five months ago, Larry the Ram got in with last year's lambs. We didn't think he'd been in there long. Obviously it was long enough We've got 15 extra lambs this year that we hadn't planned on, and they all appeared this week. There can be a risk with early pregnancies, but so far everything has gone smoothly. They're just a little tiny and hard to spot in the grass!

We used to have seven pukekos loitering around the back garden. Seems like they've been terrorising the chickens and stealing the feed. One got into the chicken coop recently. The chickens had it cornered. I'm not going to say what Bronwyn did next, but does anybody want some pukeko feathers? Most of the others have left since then, so the other birds have been able to eat in peace.

Sarah is into the exams. I've been helping out with statistics and chemistry. Rach and Bronwyn have been helping out with English. So far she seems to be coping alright. Rach is also going through exams and assignments of course. In the summer, she's got a placement with NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research) in Wellington where she'll be helping to make oceanographic instruments. Not sure what yet, but she's looking forward to it.

I still have five kilos of feijoa pulp in the freezer. I've now obtained four different wine yeasts, so I'll experiment and try a bit of each. Last year's yeast boasted a good production of esters. Definitely smelt of glue. Hopefully I can find one that works better. Still a bit cold though, so I might just use some for jam instead!

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Spring 
Harry the disabled sheep is now completely normal. We've kept him in the back garden because he keeps the onion weed down and provides some company for Tabby and Toby, who are growing fast and may soon break down the gate at feeding time. They also know how to climb through the fence and spend a lot of time out in the paddock already. Today, we left the back gate open, and Harry's friends have come in to help with the weeding.

They've dropped most of the mask mandates now, and stopped the daily reporting. I've been watching the infection figures, and they were rapidly heading towards zero. I assume they still are; it's hard to tell without the daily figures! So we're pretty much back to normal. We still have a collection of designer face masks and a box of free tests, which come in useful for the others as they head into the Populated Zones. I hardly need them here.

Had a great time at the regional brass band contest last week. I think we played better than in the nationals, and I enjoyed it better too. North Shore Academy Brass were a hoot; they began by playing the sound of rain and occasional animals as they set up the chairs, followed by the compere coming in with a pith helmet and pretending to be David Attenborough. "As you can see, the band is largely populated by younglings, but you may hear some older members parping away at the back" followed immediately by the sound of an elephant trumpeting. He then introduced "Africa" by Toto. After that, he came on with a blond wig and wrestling an inflatable crocodile to introduce an Australian number. This was followed by an Indian chief) by the name of Shenandoah), a fur trader (Oregon), and finally Michael Jackson. One of the boys in the audience jumped up and started doing the moon walk and the other moves in front of the band. Great entertainment.

Clocks just went forward today. It's getting warmer. I spent a couple of weeks digging the garden (found masses of potatoes) and I've got a few things growing already. I don't think we actually had a frost, because I found a chilli plant still alive, and potatoes have been growing all year round. Meanwhile, we've been getting a few meal kits each week. Many seem to use a little garlic, but supply a whole bulb of it. Bring on the vampires...

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