Cold, wet, chickens and a tavern 
It's our 18th anniversary. so we had a really nice meal off at the Riverhead Tavern, where we've never been to before. It's right next to the river. Apparently you can arrive by boat, so one day we might try a trip along the river. OK, tidal creek. It used to be a major transport hub in the days when roads were in short supply and most transport went along the coast. I'm guessing the tavern played a major role!

Rachael has been off again on an overnight camp with the guides. Now she's tired. New Zealand seems to have two camping seasons. The canvas house with built in refrigerator in summer, and the cold and damp survival camp in winter!

Chickaboo has started laying eggs again! Must be the cat food. I've been throwing them the odd handful as a protein supplement. Now they're all looking distinctly plump. The other two treat her with a lot more respect as a result. That's a huge change from just a few months ago.

Minus two last week. There was ice 5 millimetres thick. That's nothing by England standards, but it's about the coldest we get here. Much milder now. I've been digging the vege garden. Beans grew well, but nobody eats them. Potatoes seem to be the only thing that both grows well, and get eaten. And sugar snap peas. So I'll focus on them next time!

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Rachael is doing a Duke of Edinburgh Hillary award. Bronze level. It involved a hike through the forest last week, involving crossing the same river three times and climbing the same hill twice. She then went off sick for four days with a sore throat and no voice. It was quiet. She'll be walking the Pinnacles next month. That's the mountains I nearly did my legs in going up earlier in the year. Of course, she'll be doing it in winter, with a full pack! And this is just bronze level. Silver and Gold involve some real mountains in the south island.

Sarah's moved up a group in swimming. She's getting really good; she's much faster than me now. She just had to learn butterfly in order to move up. Partly, it's because she's scared of whacking someone in front or hitting the end; she tends to keep stopping to look! Rachael's always struggled with swimming, and her teacher has gone overseas for a few months, so she's given up for now. But at least she knows what to do if she falls in. That's the main thing. It's a big issue here because much of the activities revolve around water. That and sunscreen!

Bronwyn's been organising music groups to visit the local old peoples' homes. We used to have a group going from our church, but several people left, so it was down to one person. She's been organising the other churches and forming up teams, and trying to get everyone working together. Meanwhile, she's also started playing flute occasionally on Sunday mornings. This means that things have got a little chaotic. We have to sort out who's going where and whether it's feasible to simultaneously get Sarah to swimming / Guides / Drama. So far it's been OK, but we've had to occasionally cancel something!

And it's the national brass band contest in four weeks. They've organised a lot of rehearsals on Sunday morning. Fortunately the church is about 300m from the band hall. Next week I'm supposed to be on the church music, so I could do half of each! We're sounding reasonably good, largely because the conductor has rounded up most of the top musicians from the school where he teaches. I think we may be in for a Rangitoto College takeover.

Lambing season soon. Just need one freezing cold storm to kick it off. We need to clear out the old laundry to turn it into a hospital wing. Meanwhile, Chickaboo, who was down to her last few feathers after being plucked almost bare by the others has grown them all back, and now looks in much better shape than the younger two. I've been cautiously letting them mix during the day, but keeping them apart at night. Sarah's planning on getting a couple more chicks. Must finish that second chicken coop...

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Sarah is now 10. Rachael is 15 TODAY! Meanwhile Rachel is... not telling. Rachel is Bronwyn's brother Neil's wife.

Sarah's party went well last week. Our neighbour came over with some candle making kit so the girls had fun with glitter and fancy glass candle pots, as well as the usual balloons, part poppers and excessive chocolate. We had two staying overnight.

We did the usual trick of putting a mesh of streamers across Sarah's door overnight. For Rachael, Bronwyn made a spider's web out of string and hung a toy spider in the middle. I decided it needed a little more, so I used an old door that we'd never bothered using and lay it across the doorway, plus two trombone cases, a chair, a huge suitcase, and a footstool to wedge it all against the opposite door. Took Rachael a while to escape. If she hadn't had to get up so early, I would have used a few brackets on the door as well.

Rachael is doing a Duke of Edinburgh's course, and this weekend was the training course. So she had to be out early both days. She wasn't too happy about being out on her birthday. Or missing the chocolate fish at church. But they let her off for the afternoon to come to her combined afternoon tea (and the rest) with the other Rachel.

Good to see our Chinese daughter Erica for dinner last night. Hope the weather isn't too bad for your trip to Hamilton today! We've had about 7 cm of rain this weekend. It just rained all night on Friday, and carried on for much of Saturday and today. I haven't bothered digging the garden. Tonight, we're going to a restaurant in the city and meeting up with Yuwen, who's come back to study early childhood teaching in almost exactly the same way that Erica did. It feels like it's happening all over again...

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Feeding out, and a poorly chicken 
Bronwyn's parents have been off on holiday for the week, so Bronwyn has been feeding out to the cows each day. Some days, she's been working as well. The tractor is ancient, and the handbrake is useless, so to stop it you have to face it uphill and lower the tray at the back onto the ground. It also has two foot brakes, one for each wheel, and a foot clutch. It makes gear changing interesting. So Bronwyn was the only one who knew how to handle it properly, and was feeding out after work. The sun had already set, and time was ticking. Of course, the headlights are useless. So I had to open the gate and then chase away the calves in order to let the tractor through. It feels good, watching a herd of large animals run off round the corner after letting off a blood curdling yell. But my throat hurt for a bit.

Chickaboo hasn't fared well since the demise of Goldie. The younger two have pecked off most of her feathers. We've had to separate her, with her out in the morning and the others in the afternoon. Trouble is, she wants to stay with the others, despite the way they treat her, and hangs around the outside of the coop all morning. She's also been staggering around somewhat, so she might have got injured in the leg as well. Bronwyn tried to make a little coat for her, but she really didn't want to wear it. I'm not sure if there's much else we can do.

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100 years since Gallipoli. Maybe it's time I bought a new poppy. Fortunately, Bronwyn came across some Australian ones, and bought a couple, so I had one Australian, and one rather ancient NZ one. I was expecting something different this year, but it was all pretty much the same as last year. Plenty of people though. Quite possibly more people in the Helensville parade than we get at Christmas.

Maybe they'll mention a different battle next year for once! I was rather tired on Sunday night after two parades and a concert, and a couple of rather long days at work. But we've had a quiet bank holiday, and we've all had a chance to recover.

The girls are back at school. Rachael is planning to go into game programming with some friends from school. They're thinking of raising money for a computer to do it on, so I steered them away from a brand new Dell and showed them some vastly cheaper second hand ones.

Still warmish, but plenty of rain. Sarah went out today, let the chickens out and carefully shut the rabbit in. I think the logic was that the chickens could find their own shelter!

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