Winter colours 
We saw the aurora! Bronwyn said that some guy on Facebook had seen a pink glow, so we went outside to have a look. It was indeed pink. As we fiddled for our cameras, it changed to green. Then vertical lines appeared, and it grew to cover a large chunk of the sky. We watched for about 20 minutes until it got just a bit too cold. Apparently that was the only time it was visible in Auckland that night. I've never seen it before, and I've been a lot closer to the pole in England.

Duchess has settled down a bit. She's developed a liking for sofas, despite having her own soft cushions. We've had sheep in the paddock so I haven't done the drive up and down the hill so much, although I did manage to clock her downhill at 50kph once. She does enjoy running through the bush though. I'll be digging at some blackberry and wondering where she is. Then suddenly there'll be a thud and a crash, and Duchy appears, runs past at top speed, and disappears into the forest on the other side.

Sarah had her 19th birthday last week. We got her tickets to the King And Country concert last week. She had really wanted to go, but it was all sold out. Unknown to her, Bronwyn had got a couple of tickets on pre-release. She thoroughly enjoyed it, and described it as the Best Birthday Ever. This week it'll be Rachael's turn.

I've been feeding the ducks. We get a number of them using our dam as a stopover when the acorns are on the ground It's also hunting season, so there's number of others arriving as well. I've been sneaking out after dark and putting out some chicken food. I think it's worked; we now have about 50 there on a regular basis. At least we have plenty of chicken food...

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Plenty of exercise 
Duchess must have some greyhound in her. She's got too much energy. We've taken to driving up the hill and back in order to give her enough exercise. She can do 40kph uphill. Downhill is tricky, because she runs on the passenger side and we have to let her run ahead so we can see. She's fully grown, but still behaves like a toddler on a trampoline. Fortunately, she's not aggressive, and will politely wait while the sheep go past. And the cat is still firmly in command.

Two months of sunshine. The grass was about to turn brown, but we had some rain just in time. But we did manage to get some of the hay in. Bronwyn rustled up a hay gang through a contact at work, and we moved over 500 bales. That took 5 hours, and we were all exhausted, young and old. We're due to bale the big paddock next week. That'll be 800 bales, but at least the hay barn is in the corner of the same paddock!

Rach has got her Batchelors, and is continuing to an Honours and then a Masters degree. She'll be studying deep ocean mud sediment as part of he project. She hasn't brought any boys home yet, but has filled the house with plants. Sarah is also at uni studying Chemistry and Statistics. She's currently working through some foundation courses and I've been helping her with the basics. Bronwyn has two more papers to go until she completes her Batchelor of Ministry. Meanwhile I've had a full few months, teaching brass instruments to a family from church, getting the youth trust through an audit, and helping on the farm. As well as driving up and down the hill once or twice a day...

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Christmas! 
I do enjoy the quiet season, when everyone is off work and probably fighting the traffic to get out of Auckland. It's so peaceful, and you can get lots done, just so long as you don't need hospital treatment for it. They're on holiday too.

It's been rather wet, and still very green. Several festivals have been swamped in floods and mud. We're still hoping that it will have dried out a bit by the time we get to go on holiday later in the month. Or at least something less than the record rainfall last year. Haven't had to water the garden for years.

Sarah has finished school, and Rachael has finished Uni. The end of an era. No more trips to the school bus. And Rach is hoping to get her full driving license soon, which means that she'll be able to carry passengers. Legally.

Bronwyn now has a new car. Our old one did well at transporting huge amounts of creative junk when Bronwyn was working for the church. But it's a bit of a liability now if she needs a parking spot in the city, so the new car is a bit shorter. Just need to sell the old one so we've got some space in the garage.

Sorry, hang on. Duchess wants a chat.

Hi guys! Duchess is my name. I like to hang out with the humans, and wag my tail. Violently. And climb up on them too. And run. I LIKE TO RUN! Very fast. Round and round! The humans have been teaching me how to chase the white fluffy dogs out on the farm. I love chasing them. Round and Round! I think the humans want them to go in a straight line, but that's BORING. I like digging too. Haven't found anything yet, but I keep trying.

There's a one legged furry snake in our house. A big fat one. He hardly moves, except when I come up to say hello, when he raises the leg and HISSES. I'm not sure he wants to be friends. There's also the Mouthclaws. They live in a cage in the garden, and peck at the ground with their mouth claw. One day, I found one sitting on the ground, so I brought it round to show the humans. The humans didn't seem too happy about it. But the mouthclaw is doing fine. I tried not to dribble on it.

So that's about my life so far. I spend a lot of time sleeping, waiting for the humans to get up. We've been out to the water a few times. Big water. I used to be scared of it, but I'm happy to splash and even swim a bit now. As well as running alongside it, of course!

Thanks Duchess. Must give you a run sometime.

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DIY 
The window is fixed. Still needs painting, but we no longer need the sheet of plastic. I shall miss the sound of blackbirds first thing in the morning, but otherwise it's nice to have a window.

We looked in the local recycle centre for old windows. Several shower doors and aluminium panels, nothing like what we needed. And we'd need to get the entire window frame since we'd never find an opener to match. I decided to make a new opener. We found some balustrades of the right width and some beading for the glass to sit on. Took ages measuring it all, and carefully cutting everything to match. The hardest part was getting the hinge holes in the right place, because it's not possible to mark them with the window shut. But it almost right, so I resorted to the old trick of shaving the edge down slightly. Got someone else to do the glass and putty. (My last effort looked like some kid with Plasticene.) I'll be better prepared for when I need to replace the other opener, which by the looks of it may not last much longer!

Fixed the mailbox last week. Came home after Sunday lunch to find the post leaning over towards the road. This seemed odd, because the average vandal would likely knock it the other way. So I went down with a spade, spanner and hammer and got it pretty much back to the approximate position. While I was doing this, someone from over the road told me it had been a bus. Apparently it had tried to turn round using our driveway, and hit the post on the way out. It's an 8 inch post, so it must have left quite a dent. It also rescued them from reversing intro the ditch. It was an Auckland Transport city bus. No idea what it was doing out here!

When I get time, I want to make a dodecahedron shaped mailbox. With a sign saying "No Circulars".

Had a fun time with the youth trust recently. We had a staff day out, and had a "masterclass" in making ice cream. Plus cookies and hokey pokey (honeycomb). I learnt how to extract vanilla, and we also made some Brookie Pies. Cookies shaped into a cup, with fudge brownie on top. Brownie-Cookies. Or Brookies. Fascinating place - they had a couple of 3D printers for making chocolate moulds, and all sorts of different contraptions and ingredients.

The two lambs have been weaned. Well OK, we ran out of milk powder and there's no point buying another sack. But they're getting big, so it was about time. They don't agree though! Meanwhile, Duchess is settling down. A bit. Bronwyn has been trying to teach her how to round up the sheep by pointing and calling Left and Right. Not the traditional method, but easier to remember. She's still crazy, but getting stronger. Would make a good sledge dog. Pity we don't have any snow.

Diamondz has been wearing a cone for the last couple of weeks. He got a bad scratch on his leg, but it's now healing well, provided that he doesn't lick it. Eating can be an issue, but if you pile it up high he can generally get hold of it. The cat flap can be more of a problem!

Sarah is in her final term, and preparing for the exams. She wants to study counselling, but they don't take on people for that course until they've had a bit more life experience, so she's looking at doing a foundation course in the meantime. Rach is working on her final project to finish her degree. Next year, she's been considering a one year internship at NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospherics). It'll mean staying in Wellington, which will be a big step. She's also been offered a place on a Masters course, one of only three students to be chosen. She's really excited about that too, and they've told her they'll hold it for her if she does the one year internship first.

Warm and sunny. Green. Well, for now anyway!

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Duchess 
Duchess the golden labrador has already worked out how to escape from the pen in Sarah's room, and has chewed through a couple of cables. Beyond that, she's reasonably well behaved. We've introduced her to the lambs and the chickens. And the cat. The cat has made it plain who's boss. It's useful; Diamondz likes to hang out in the most awkward spot at the junction of the corridor. If Duchess bounds in, she immediately meets the cat. The cat lifts one paw and hisses. Duchess is cornered.

She's still a bit anxious when left alone, but so long as she's had enough exercise (and somewhere to poop) she settles down quickly. I've been taking her out a couple of times each day when the others are out. Duchess likes sniffing. Especially poo, which she starts eating if we don't pull her away. Sheep poo is her favourite. Also chicken poo and horse poo, but not cow. She'll just walk straight through it without noticing. She likes it fresh. When meeting lambs, she goes straight for the butt.

We've got a cage for her in the lounge, a pen in the bedroom, a fixed lead in the garden, and a retractable lead for walks. She lives a life of home detention! But we're beginning to teach her commands, so she might get a bit more freedom once she gets the hang of it. She's still a nightmare when distractions are nearby. I took her out on the lead while I was chopping thistles this week. The lambs decided it was feeding time, and raced towards us. Duchess immediately wanted to leap over and lick them to death. Unfortunately she was on the other side of the thistle and did a forward roll right over it. Don't think she was injured, but she certainly quietened down after that.

Finally, it's getting a bit warmer, though not necessarily drier. The frost tender tree in the driveway has survived so far. I've cleared the garden, and we've started planting. Soon we'll be complaining that it's too hot and dry. But not yet.

This weekend was very windy. Yesterday, a sudden blast blew the plastic sheet off the back porch, pulling out a couple of planks which then hit the kitchen window. Bronwyn and her dad fixed the plastic onto the window instead, and I spent an hour finding all the bits of glass. That part of the kitchen is a lot tidier now. The window frame is rather rotten though, and we really need a complete new window. Hopefully we'll be able to find one to fit.

So currently we have a crazy puppy out front, two crazy lambs out back, a cat who wants to kill the dog, and five chickens who have been keeping well out of reach. Plus an indoor-outdoor flow in the kitchen...

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