Winter.. Sorry about the lack of posts! 
Winter. A touch of frost on the paddock and mist on the dam. Blankets all round. It's been cold and sunny all week, and finally the mud is beginning to dry out. So far we haven't had a proper frost, but I've started making the chicken mash with warm water for their breakfast.

I had a go at processing my sugar cane. It wasn't easy; it's almost as hard as wood, and that's after you've broken through the bamboo like bark! I managed to get some juice out with a pair of pliers. I also tried the blender (after hacking off the bark with an axe) but you tend to end up with a lot of fibres and pulp. When I tried boiling it down, it went black and started burning. Perhaps if I can find an old clothes mangle, it might just work...

We've all been pretty busy. Sarah is enjoying Chemistry, and already seems to know it better than I do. I'm having to do a fair amount of googling in order to understand the exam questions. Rachael appears to be doing fine in university, although the wifi has been causing issues. She's sometimes had to come back home in order to get an assignment finished. Last week, she went to Rotorua with a friend to study sedimentary volcanic layers. Sounds like they had a great time, and her friend (a German exchange student) wants to go back before she has to leave. Bronwyn has been out at work most days, which has made it hard to get assignments done for her bible college course. Meanwhile, I've got several major projects going on at the moment, although I find it good therapy to get out of the house and hack some blackberry. Nearly cleared the latest patch. Will need to check on all the old patches next, because they've probably grown again!

We're planning another trip to the South Island next month. Hopefully this time, we might actually get to see some snow. We'll be travelling across the Southern Alps, so hopefully there won't be TOO much snow...

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Happy Easter! 
It's autumn. Normally we'd be eagerly expecting the rain after a long baking hot summer. This year, we're clinging onto the last of the brief warmth we've had since the last major rains. The old girl (La Nina) has been in control for three years, but has finally begun to wane. (OK, tornados. Maybe not just yet.) We might actually get a decent frost this year. There's a tree in the driveway - it was planted many years ago, but it's frost tender and dies back every year. Except for the last few years, when we've barely had a ground frost, and the tree has had a chance to continue growing. Apparently it's never flowered. I just need to find a very large bale of bubble wrap to keep it warm...

The new water tank is filling up. I had to patch up the pipe in a couple of places but I appear to have stopped the leaks. I've also filled in the trenches so that we can have our lawn back (not that we've had a chance to mow it properly this year!) Unfortunately, I got a bit of grit in one eye, which got infected and I've had to endure several rounds of having bright lights, dilating drops and various medications put in it. As well as several very long waits in the queueing system. But it's settling down now, and hopefully I'll have seen the last of The Chaser and Tipping Point on TVNZ in the waiting room for now!

The Kumeu Show went smoothly, although on a somewhat reduced footprint. Good weather and no pandemic for once! We've also had my first playout in a movie theatre for the premier of Red, White And Brass. Good acoustics (we were in a little ampitheatre in the ticket hall. Terrible lighting. But apparently we sounded really good, and got quite a bit in the collection box for a short playout. We've also done my first performance in a library. Libraries are generally supposed to be quiet, but this was the formal opening, so they wanted some music and culture!

We've had a few issues with cars. Bronwyn's battery died. She called out the AA and they jump started it, so she could drive to get another. The next day, I was heading to the hospital for a checkup. At the parking ticket barrier, I leaned over to get the ticket, lost pressure on the clutch and stalled. I tried to start but I didn't get anything. So I got out and flagged the car behind to use the other gate. The ticket collector got out and offered to push. However, I suspect he came from a more laid back culture. At 0.5 mph I wasn't able to start it. Fortunately a woman came to help who was obviously better trained, and I had enough speed to start it before hitting the pedestrian crossing ramp. I parked in the only spot I could find that faced downhill.

Some hours later, while perched in the chair getting lights blasted at me, Bronwyn rang. Her car had refused to go above second gear, so she'd avoided the motorway and limped to the church nearby. This time, the AA had booked a tow truck, which didn't arrive. Eventually they booked her an Uber taxi home. The tow truck eventually appeared the next day.

Fortunately, it wasn't the gearbox, but the transmission housing which has now been replaced. And my battery is still holding out, although I've taken to parking on a downhill slope. Meanwhile, Bronwyn had borrowed Rachael's car, which ran out of water and overheated in the middle of a motorway junction. The AA refused to bring her water and booked another tow truck. Fortunately, the motorway patrol truck spotted her and filled up the radiator so she could get home. Was a bit low on oil as well, as we discovered!

Despite all the storms, the feijoas and guavas have finally come online. I spent most of yesterday making chutney (it takes a while to scoop a large bucket of feijoas and dice five large onions) and did some guava jelly today. Might try the feijoa and ginger jam recipe again soon too. Meanwhile, Bronwyn found the beams for the three crosses we put up a couple of years ago and we set them up for Easter on the grassy mound on the front paddock. And she organised an easter egg hunt in the tractor shed this afternoon. Fortunately she counted all the eggs beforehand so we knew how many were still hiding in the tractors!

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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 - https://www.1news.co.nz/2023/01/27/video-bridge-washed-away-by-raging-auckland-floodwaters/. 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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