Chicken Flu 
For those of you in the northern hemisphere, we'll be bringing you some things around Christmas time. Flu will be one of them. It's been quite bad this year; two people that I know have been in hospital. Bronwyn had bronchitis and all of us have had coughs and sore throats, including the Belgians and Singaporeans. But we've all pretty much recovered now.

Michael and Coralie left today. Coralie has a job in a Belgian cafe in the city. There can't be that many Belgian Cafes in New Zealand. On the other hand, there can't be many Belgians. Meanwhile, Kitten Girl will be here on Tuesday. Unfortunately for her, we've only got one lamb to bottle feed. It's been a good year; we've got another 90 in the paddock.

And two chicks. Sarah brought them home on Friday. One has a yellow head, and the other one has brown with a couple of stripes. They haven't got names yet, so I've just called them Brown and Yellow. They'll completely change their colour once the feathers come out. They're in the shed under a heat lamp at the moment. Should have eggs coming on line by Christmas.

I'll need to finish the second chicken shed. The plywood I bought was obviously designed for a dry indoors. It's already begun peeling at one corner. So we put it up in the loft for storage (and somewhere to put storage on!) and we'll get another sheet. Meanwhile I've done two shelves and a shoe cupboard. Michael has been very useful with carpentry, and Coralie has done the impossible. Sarah's room is tidy.

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Animal farm 
Most of the lambs were born within a week or two of the first one. This is unusual. We put in one ram early, as a 'teaser', to um, warm the ewes up a bit. We put in Pip this year, one of the the lambs from two years ago. Obviously he was working hard, because he must have done most of them before we put the rest of the rams in!

We've had two lambs in for feeding. One was found in the ditch, and recovered a bit, but then died a few days later. Another got separated from her mother in the confusion, but she's doing extremely well. We've already had to build a substantial barricade to keep her in the garden. Leia (as in Princess) can jump four feet with ease, and runs at nutcase speed. Sarah's pleased. She's planning on entering a lamb again for Ag day. Plus another two chickens.

One of last year's lambs has had a lamb. This is also unusual. Must be something in the water.

We've had a couple to stay from Singapore, and they're planning to meet up with us when we're there in December. We've now got a couple from Brussels, and after them, a girl from Taiwan. You've heard of the Cat Lady. Well, this is Kitten Girl. She's really looking forward to the visit with all the lambs around!

We've been making the most of the extra help. They've been mounting patrols around the sheep, cleaning the house and doing the washing up. I've been to get some wood and we've been making shelves and a shoe rack (plus the lamb barricade!), and finishing off the second chicken shed. I'm hoping to build a couple of nesting boxes, and then we'll be set up for Sarah's new chicks.

Rachael's tired. She went on a hike up The Pinnacles. I did tell her about my experiences earlier in the year. Sounds like it all went well, apart from a cloud right at the top. But she's been doing very little today!

Work has become a little tricky. My colleague Dave is currently on honeymoon in Cuba. The internet there is almost non-existent. So we've been communicating in short bursts whenever he can get some connection in a noisy cafe across town. We've also got Daniel in Romania. So it's been very tricky organising meetings. There have been some rather expensive phone calls. But we seem to be getting on top of it somehow!

Apparently the church is on two phases, and used to have a couple of ancient fuses on the power pole. These worked fine for years, and would cope with a short surge to 75 amps, even though they were rated at 60 amps. Now they've been replaced by modern fuses. This is the cause of the power cuts every time we switch on the heaters! So now we're doing our best to be careful. Roll on the new building. We've now got plans to build a joint facility with a Maori school on a block of land that we've owned for years. If all goes well, work should start next year.

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Old technology 
Rachael has been practising with her bow and arrows. It's a compound bow; quite a fearsome looking thing with a pulley system that lets you put a lot of force into the arrow with little effort. We've got a large round bale set up in the paddock with a target painted on it. It's a wrapped bale, so it's quite compressed and solid. I tried one shot and it went in six inches. The arrows go so fast it's hard to see them. Fortunately we're on good terms with Rachael.

Nearly lambing season. We've been patrolling the paddock daily checking up on the ewes. They can sometimes wind up upside down or suffering from exhaustion. One of them looks like she's having triplets. She's absolutely huge, so we've nicknamed her 'Wide load following'.

Dave, my colleague, has gone off on honeymoon. On his own. His wife went a month or two ago, and has been touring the US with her girlfriends. Now they've met up and gone to Nicaragua in order to start the honeymoon properly. It's getting tricky having our weekly Skype meetings with with people in three different time zones.

Chaos in the church this morning. The musicians were all set up and ready. A couple of minutes before the start, the power went. A large contingent of blokes huddled round the ancient power board (warped and mouldy hardboard with only three screws) trying to work out the problem. Meanwhile, they grabbed another acoustic guitar and continued regardless. Funny that one of the songs was 'When the music fades'. I then realised that the lights were still on, and went round looking for a working power socket and a long extension cable. All the sound equipment, the amplifiers, the speakers, the two computers (and I later discovered, the coffee grinder next door) come off one rather overloaded plug. I connected it to the cable and sat back, waiting for it to go pop when they played a loud note. Fortunately it didn't.

I reckon one of the phases has gone. The same cable is now in the kitchen, routing power to the fridge and freezer from another socket in the room next door.

Meanwhile, Bronwyn tried the heat lamp this afternoon. We've got it set up in the outhouse for any orphaned lambs. The trip switch went. And refused to go back in. Bronwyn's dad came round. He couldn't reset it either, and in the process took out the farm pump as well. By the look of them, they're probably all full of years of grime. Fortunately he found a couple of spares. The heat lamp still overloads the circuit though. Probably too much organic material in the socket making it's home for the winter...

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Music in the cold 
Can be tiring playing trombone. I have seen plenty of old boys marching with cornets and horns, but not trombones. It uses up quite a bit of oxygen.

Last week we had a pre-contest concert with three other bands. Sounded pretty good, apart from one spot where we appeared to be in sync with the horns. This was bad. We were supposed to be alternating. But it's such a weird piece of music that I doubt anybody noticed. After our spot, I watched Waitakere play a couple of pieces, then picked up the trombone to leave. "Ah, aren't you going to hear us play" said a red shirt from Howick. I mumbled something, escaped to the car, then felt guilty and came back to hear most of Howick. After that, I was so tired I was having concerns about driving home!

I guess I must have been fitter this weekend, because I drove all the way to Rotorua and back for the contest itself, and then did trombone in church the day after. But it paid off. We're down at the curry house on Friday to celebrate thrashing the D grade. By one point, I hear. I didn't think our performance was incredibly special, but I think we must have got enough bits right to make the difference.

Bronwyn's GPS appears to be set on "Scenic" mode. It took me along some very interesting routes. Plus there was one spot where it told me to turn right. I couldn't see anywhere at all to turn right. Then I spotted a massive trench in the paddock. OK, so maybe in a few months I'll be able to turn right...

The Antarctic has been gripping Auckland. Snowflakes were seen up north. Terrified locals had to put a coat on. But fortunately the icy blast has eased, and we're due for more rain.

School holidays. Rachael has hardly left the sofa. Sarah has been out at the YMCA programme a few times. I just hope they don't complain that the holidays are too short!

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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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