Can we call it summer now? 
I normally leave my weather comments to the end, but this year it's been headline news for quite a while. After the record rains at the end of January, we had a cyclone come to say Hi. The rain wasn't half as much, and we only lost one old tree that didn't appear to have any roots. But it was unusually cold. Reminded me of a wet and windy day on Dartmoor. The river rose again and washed out the railway that they'd been trying to rebuild, and we had a power cut across a large chunk of the North Island. We were out for two days, and some isolated communities have only just got power.

One of our friends has had to move out; her house is fine, but the hillside opposite is still unstable and might go at any moment. There's a police cordon around their village (Muriwai); some parts are off limits and the beach (one of the most popular in Auckland) is only accessible for locals. The cyclone hit the east coast very badly, and the river rose so high in one valley that it's now several feet deep in silt. Nine people died there, plus two firefighters in Muriwai who were checking a house when it was crushed by a mudslide. Several others are still unaccounted for; it's difficult to know who was living where in some places.

We lost over thirty lambs and a few sheep. Most of the lambs were the small ones that were born to last year's lambs and didn't have the reserves to survive. We checked over all the sheep in the days after the cyclone and gave them all several medications. We didn't have power, so we weren't able to shear them where the flies had been attacking them. So Bronwyn made up a solution of the insecticide and gave them a bottom shampoo instead. We had one sheep in the back garden for three weeks, unable to walk. The back legs had become paralysed for some reason. We tried propping it up on a cradle and a hay bale as we had done for the hogget last year, but it didn't work this time, and with the sheep not being able to eat properly, it wasn't able to survive. We're hoping that's the last of them.

But it's been mostly dry and sunny since then. This is because Bronwyn's dad has now got a second water tank installed to collect water from the other side of the house. Now that we have the new tank installed, the rain has stopped. We've been doing our best to get the lawn mowed. It hasn't stopped growing since Winter and it's been too wet to mow until now. The cows are enjoying the grass clippings.

Kumeu show today. They were due for the 100 year anniversary last year, but it got cancelled again due to covid. This time they've been lucky. Lots of other events were cancelled this year because of the rain. Bronwyn and Rach are at the St Johns stall. and I'll be going off shortly to play in the brass band. Now that it's summer for once, I must remember to bring plenty of sunblock.

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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 - 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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