I'm fine 
I'm fine. Sarah's fine. Rachael's got a cold and Bronwyn's got a migraine. Bronwyn's sister is recovering from an operation which left her in a fair bit of pain, and Bronwyn's dad is about to go radioactive.

They removed his thyroid, but also had to remove some of his vocal cords, so he's now speaking with a very deep husky whisper. He then had radiotherapy on the tumour in his back, which went well. To finish it off, they need to mop up any remaining thyroid cells, which they'll do with an injection of radioactive iodine. He'll have to stay more than two metres away from anyone for four days. I'll ask Rachael if her physics teacher has a geiger counter.

It's been cold, and wet, but fortunately it never does both at once here. The farm is covered in mud, and there's a small lake next to the driveway where the drainage pipe has blocked up. We've almost run out of firewood. The hurricane (OK, it was technically just a storm but some gusts were well over the hurricane limit) has provided a lot of future firewood, but it's all still green at the moment. We'll have to find some older dead wood.

But at least we're warm. Bronwyn's parents have bought us a heat pump (a heater/cooler/dryer) which warms up the room a lot faster than the wood fire. We have both going at once to save electricity; the heat pump circulates the air a bit to get it around the room. Meanwhile, Bronwyn's parents have almost finished their new house, and are hoping to move in soon. The inside is mostly finished, but the deck outside still needs building. Sarah wants them to put in a pool by the side door so she can step out and fall into it. I suggested a water slide down to the dam. Or a flying fox perhaps.

Rachael has her learner's license! You have to pass the theory test first before you get the learner's, then there's a road rest for the restricted license, then another test for the full license. I just had to pay for the license and then take one test! She's been driving down to the village a couple of times.

She's a lot more confident than last year. I think the new school has looked after her well. Still not sure what she wants to do when she finishes school next year.

Bronwyn is studying for her pastoral care diploma, and is thinking of starting a full pastoral degree after that. She's been asking me questions about her assignments. I'm not sure I'm qualified!

Last, but not least, I've started brewing ginger beer. It started when I brought home a bottle of Stoney from Kenya, and my mate tells me I can brew my own. So he buys me a starter pack. I get this fizzing package of sludge in a jam jar, wrapped in two layers of newspaper, three layers of plastic and a tin can. With a label saying "This way up". It was the wrong way up of course. But the packaging worked. The first batch is rather weak and flat. I think it was too cold. So I've put a few bottles on the window ledge to try and make them stew in the sun for a bit...

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Is that the sun? 
Looks like we're getting Summer back again at last. We've had four cyclones, and lots of miscellaneous rain. Normally we get a high pressure stuck over the country for weeks, with the occasional front sneaking through. Since the start of the year, it's been the other way round! But it's shifted back for a bit, so we've had some warm weather to help all the weeds grow. (Must get some petrol for the lawnmower.) They had some trouble getting all the hay into the barn; it kept raining. But we've now got two barns full of hay, and possibly some mushrooms.

The winery next door had wanted to put on some events. They did one in February. In past years, it's been chardonnay and nibbles out on the grass. This year it seems to have involved beer and a full on music festival. Ross was called out to pull cars out of the paddock, and got a fair amount of abuse from drunken wine tasters. I notice they haven't had a similar event since then!

Had a photographer and a wedding couple come to visit a few weeks ago. They wanted to get photos with the lambs in the background. It was sunset, which is when the lambs charge madly across the paddock. I call it the nutcase hour. So they got photos with the lambs charging across the background. Muddy bums and all. One of the pet lambs came up and started nibbling at the wedding dress. The photographer thought this was wonderful, so she got plenty of photos!

Rachael seems to be coping better with school this year, although Sarah is struggling because suddenly she has harder work and more assignments. I've been teaching her prime numbers and long multiplication. One answer came to seven figures! And she had to do it by hand.

Rachael likes her physics teacher. He's got Star Wars toys all around the room, and often makes references to The Force when doing lessons. He also had this big silver book titled Quantum Physics. Rachael asked if she could take it home. It's a second year university book, but he lent it to her, along with an Open University introduction booklet, which was a lot easier to understand! I've been trying to understand the Schrodinger equation and atomic orbitals, but haven't quite cracked it yet...

Easter is fast approaching. Bronwyn has been working hard to organise the intermediate's camp, as well as trying to get through her assignments at the bible college. Last year she just took three girls, and a few boys went with another church. This year the number has grown to about 20, and she's been begging for anyone who can lend or drive a large car. Plus all the luggage and the tents!

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Summer has gone damp. My father in law remembers a time when it barely rained for four months, and all the grass died. We had a summer like that about 10 years ago. I remember looking out the window, and something triggered in my brain. Botswana (and the Kalahari). Same colour.

At new years, there was a queue for water. We booked in a tanker for 31st Jan. Didn't need it. Half way through the month it started raining, and it hasn't stopped. Everything's green. We've got rain due tonight, and there's a big cyclone up north that's looking likely to come nearby.

Our internet has been playing up. Today, I think I fixed it. The oak tree by the house has grown around the Vodafone antenna, and having been soaked for four weeks, it's acting as a very good ground shield. I trimmed it a bit this morning. Much better internet now!

The vineyard next door had a concert yesterday. In past years it's been a bit of a wine and cheese afternoon with some live music. Yesterday it was a rock concert with rather a lot of beer. And plenty of rain!

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Quiet once more 
Noticed a bit of a wobble in the car after Christmas. Seemed to be like an egg in the tyre. Went away at certain speeds. So I took it in and had it checked. Just as well I did. One side of the tyre was over a centimetre higher than the other. Would have made quite a noise if it finally blew!

I think we scared Rebekah a little. Having shown her the volcano room in Auckland Museum, and the ruins and empty spaces from the earthquake in Christchurch, we then took her on the train towards a storm on the west coast. Two weeks later another storm came in and destroyed several sections of the west coast road we'd driven down. At least we didn't get any tornados. Don't tend to get them here. Well, not often. One hit north Auckland a few years ago, and our previous hay barn went up one about 30 years ago. Didn't tell Rebekah that.

Had a good trip down to Taupo last week, including a walk up Tongariro. OK, just the easy bit along the bottom. The clouds lifted at the end and gave us a fantastic view. The campsite was also a lot better now they've unblocked their geothermal borehole and built a new swimming pool, with bar and diving cave. Also went for a short kayaking trip and a cruise on the lake. Stopped at the Waiotapu mud pools on the way back, and got the cultural experience in at Roturua. Everyone was then happy to spend the last two days doing as little as possible!

That cyclone that hit the west coast is now right on top of us. Haven't had to water the garden much lately. At the beginning of the year, there was a four week queue for water deliveries. I think it's shrunk somewhat. Our water tank is on a contract from God. The more you use, the more it rains. We've never had to fill it up, except when that possum fell in a few years ago. Having had Nick and family here has ensured that our tank is full. Probably had enough rain for two tanks, to be honest!

Rachael had a fantastic, but very full on time at her pre-school camp. Hopefully that means she'll settle in well, which is going to make a big difference to her final year. Sarah has been on a couple of induction days, and I'm not sure if she's looking forward to the 7:30am bus. But so long as she wakes up in time and stays focussed, she's usually fine.

Having spent rather a lot touring New Zealand, we're going to need a quiet couple of months to recover before I head off to Kenya. I note there's still issues with the politics in Nairobi, but at least Qatar has gone quiet. Must bring mosquito repellant. Possibly also taxi driver and random street seller repellant as well.

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A quick tour 
Just back from a whistlestop tour of the South Island (including the train). Or at least part of it. It's a big place, and we didn't get to see Nelson, Picton, Dunedin, Fiordland, Invercargill and everywhere in between. Took raincoats, waterproof trousers, shorts, umbrella, cardigan, walking shoes, sunblock and mosquito repellant. Used them all.

Christmas was quiet; a large chunk of the family had already gone on holiday! But we got plenty done; the back yard and the spare room are now cleaned and cleared and the lounge and kitchen actually look tidy. Had a go at digging the front garden too; after the builders and the painter had stood on it, it was rather solid. At least most of the house is painted now. Just need to sort out the sticking windows, the missing posts on the deck, the kitchen window held together by putty and the front entrance. The concrete area at the front is so full of weeds that we have to mow it!

Had a great party with Nick and his family for our joint 50th birthday. Had a lot of old friends come back, plus neighbours and family. I think we had just enough to make it a good gathering, but not too many that I didn't get a chance to speak to them all! We then set off the day after for the trip round the south island. We had excellent weather for the train ride from Christchurch to Greymouth. We had reasonable weather on the next day too, however there was so much rain that the Fox Glacier path was flooded and closed. It was quite impressive watching the amount of water (and ice and rock dust) coming down from it though! Back on the coast road it wasn't too wet though, and by the time we got to the Wanaka valley, it was bone dry!

Spent a couple of nights in Arrowtown. Did attempt to visit Queenstown, but didn't find one single parking spot. Managed a brief visit in the evening though. But we managed to find quite a few spots out of the way of the tourists. Sarah tried gold panning. She was given a small handful of dirt and found seven good flakes. I must try and find out where that dirt came from...

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