Unusually busy for March 
Bronwyn held the inaugural meeting of the Norwest Auckland Aspergers support group last Sunday. Apparently it went really well, they're holding another get together next month, AND they left me some biscuits! There was quite a bit of interest; sounds like there's nothing much at all out this way; everything tends to focus on the population centres in Auckland and North Shore.

I was out at a concert with the brass band. That went really well, although it hadn't been well publicised. Yesterday was the Kumeu Show, and three more hours of tromboning. I was pretty shattered afterwards. Bronwyn was out there with the girls too; it's Girl Guide Biscuit Selling Season again.

I managed to mangle my ankle while jumping over a fence into the veggie garden. While lying on the grass in agony, it occurred to me that there wasn't any gate, and that I'd have to climb the same fence to get out. Ouch. Fortunately it's a lot better now. And after three fillings and an extraction, my jaw doesn't hurt. Much. My eye is still rather blurred and sore. I think I got a speck of dust in it on camp, and it got infected and inflamed. Think I need a fourth trip to the doctor!

It's been very dry lately. Ross said his mate was out raking hay, and Ross lost sight of him in the dust. But there's allegedly some rain later in the week...

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Rotorua 
Our final fling. Four days in Rotorua. Did the gondola and luge as usual, but this time a tourist gave us a couple of leftover rides, so Brenda went instead. She'd been really nervous, and worried that she wouldn't be able to steer the thing. So I went down with her. I think it's the fastest I've ever done it. My arms were still vibrating afterwards. Rachael, meanwhile, did the advanced track twice, and managed to fly off onto the grass round a tight couple of corners. Had great fun spotting dropped helmets, jandals and numerous luge tickets on the chairlift.

Did Kuirau park, Wai o Tapu and Waikite. I'd never been up the path to see the spring at Waikite before. Rather impressive. Sixty litres a second frothing up in the centre at 99C. Steam everywhere. Apparently it's the biggest boiling water spring in New Zealand. And probably quite a few other places too. Decided not to go for a swim.

Had some fun on the paddle boat. I wandered up to the front, and discovered that Rachael was steering the ship! Should have realised by the wobbles in the wake...

So now Brenda is in Singapore, and was planning a few more activities in her three days there before coming back home. It's sad to see her go, but it's been really good to show her a large chunk of New Zealand and life on the farm. We now also have a nice tidy garden, and my wardrobe is significantly neater now that we've got rid of all the old clothes.

Brass band concert tomorrow. Haven't had any time to think about it, let alone rehearse! I've also been out to a meeting at the Head Office of Western Gas Ltd, which turned out to be a little converted house down a back street and up a driveway. They will be sponsoring the youth work this month along with three other charities at the local petrol station, and we have to get everyone to vote for us. Meanwhile, Rachael has been up late finishing homework after being away. And Bronwyn has a meeting planned tomorrow...

The first meeting of the North West Auckland Aspergers support group. She's had her face in the paper and put adverts in local school newsletters. We've had quite a few replies. I hope it all goes smoothly; I'll be out at the the concert!

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Queenstown 
Spent an action packed four days in Queenstown. We did the luge and gondola, Glenorchy, Wanaka and the Puzzling World, the gold fields (found two tiny specks), three restaurant meals and the steamship Earnslaw.

Rachael did a bungy! She'd been harping on about it all weekend, and on the last day we took her out to the Kawarau bridge. After one false start and a lot of emotion she finally did it in tandem with one of the staff. Now she's got the video, the photos, the T shirt and the USB stick that's shaped like a karabiner.

The Earnslaw was an eye opener. Now, it's certainly not for those of you who are in opposition to the burning of fossil fuels. It gets through a ton and a half each round trip. But it's certainly warm on a cold day. You can stand right above the engine room and watch the massive pistons working on three sides, and the enormous fires in front. Or you can hang out round the grand piano and enjoy a quiet chat.

Off to Rotorua shortly...

Brenda has got just a week left with us, and has been working hard on the garden and keeping our kitchen tidy. We've taken her to quite a few places around Auckland. Kelly Tarltons today. Apart from the gales in Ruakaka we've had really good weather for her.

Though not necessarily for the old apple tree. That fell over a few weeks ago, and we chopped it all up and stacked it for firewood, on top of the other couple of trees that we cut down late last year. Ross brought a load of earth to fill in the hole made by the tree, but it was too much, so I've been going round the garden looking for holes to fill...

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Ruakaka. "Place of the windy campsite". 
Had a good holiday at Ruakaka, even if it was rather windy. We had a cyclone come down from Vanuatu, so we had winds from just about every direction. one of the poles on Brenda's tent began to split, so I bound it up with duck tape and a branch of willow. It survived, but then another pole broke in several places a few days later, so we took that tent down and squeezed into the old frame tent. That one survived unscathed thanks to several extra guy ropes, tent pegs and quite a bit of baling twine.

Went to the Waipu Caves and found several more chambers we'd never seen before. There aren't any maps of the place on the internet, so it's always a bit of an exploration! The girls spent plenty of time in the estuary, bringing back cockles and mussels which were alive until I demonstrated how to cook them. Sarah tried one, but Rachael couldn't be tempted! I spent a lot of time flying a kite (well, I thought I'd make the most of the wind!) and trying to learn Chinese.

Got some dirt in my eye on camp, which then got inflamed, and it's still not quite right. Got a splinter from the broken pole, and my jaw has been hurting all week. I think it's time for the dentist tomorrow!

Brenda wasn't well for the first few days, probably due to the long journey and the hot weather. And her knee has been hurting. But she's been out around the district with Bronwyn and the girls, and yesterday she made it all the way round the bush (on the farm) to the big trees and back. Took lots of photos, until her battery ran out! She's bought us a new TV, which we had fun wiring up yesterday. Now it seems that all the other bits need upgrading to work with it properly! But at least we can see 95% of the width, instead of 80%!

Erica's back in town, and working hard on her course and practical work. The girls start school tomorrow, and Cooper is back at school too. It's going to be quiet in the house. Well, until 3:20pm at least. Next weekend we'll be in Queenstown...

Warm and dry here, but we've had quite a bit of rain from the cyclone and there's another lot on the way. Probably when we're in Queenstown! So everything is still looking nice and green for now.



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A busy holiday 
Bronwyn worked really hard cleaning and tidying the house. We've thrown out about 5 sackfuls of assorted junk. We're slowly working through the house clearing things out. It'll take a while.

Everyone goes on holiday after Christmas. We delay it a bit. I've been working hard trying to get everything finished. Off camping tomorrow. Usually it'a a gamble whether we'll fit all the stuff in one car. Now we're not sure if we'll squeeze into two!

Brenda arrived a week ago, and has been enjoying life on the farm and settling in. She's been introduced to most of the family, and did a couple of trips into the city. Our kitchen has never been cleaner.

Haymaking is in full swing. Four chickens laying eggs. Several sheep off to the sales, including Erica. She'll be reserved for breeding purposes. The other Erica is back from China next week, and it sounds like she had a good break. I'm still trying to learn Chinese...

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