Bronwyn and Rachael didn't get to see the snow. Well, not nearby, anyway. A warm southerly brought a welcome touch of spring to Auckland. Unfortunately it brought rain and gales to the mountains. They had to turn back; it was getting too dangerous. So they went to Rotorua instead, and eased their cares in the thermal pools. They also got to see the buried village at Wairoa, which was right in the firing line when Tarawera blew up. It's like pompeii, only since it happened just over a hundred years ago, the history is well documented and disturbingly vivid.

Had a lot of rain after that. Quite a few roads under water, and the boating lake by the shops put in a rare appearance.

The chicks are growing fast, but still not big enough to put in with the adults. Bronwyn has been working hard making fences and converting a picnic table into a temporary chicken coop. Quite a work of art. Meanwhile, Lucy is slowly recovering. She had a nasty infection shortly after birth, and most of her wool fell out. It's growing again, but she's not feeding particularly well, and still looks really small. The other two monsters are doing fine, and might be out in the paddock some time soon.

Erica's boyfriend Jerry arrived a week ago, and they've been off around the South Island for a quick tour (and a sky dive). They'll be back in town later in the week, and hopefully we'll have a chance to organise another farm tour. Jerry's only in the country for two and a half weeks.

Haven't been well this week. Doctor says "at this stage it's probably viral" which I've learnt to be special code language for "clear off and go to bed". Outwardly, I've had a cold, but it's really knocked me and I've taken a while to get any sort of strength back. Not too bad today.

School holidays this week and next. We've got Claire's son Cooper for several days each week, so Bronwyn's organised a schedule. Movies this morning. Not sure how long that lasts, but I'm making the most of the peace and quiet...

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We're all pretty tired, and we've got quite a lot on next week. Last night's concert went really well. We had the local choir, a barbershop quartet and the Rangitoto College stage band as well as Kumeu Brass. And we had to put out more chairs. Possibly the largest audience we've ever had, while I've been here at least. I ordered some union jack hats for the last few tunes (Rule Brittania, Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory). We'll keep them in case we do it again next year.

The girl guides still have ten boxes of biscuits to sell. That's 160 packets. Unfortunately they're out of date. Anybody hungry?

Erica was planing to bring all her friends from the language school yesterday, but we'd had quite a bit of rain and the farm was rather soggy. Next weekend her boyfriend arrives and they'll be off around the country for a quick tour. Hopefully she'll have the courage to pick him up from the airport in her car. She hasn't driven a lot in New Zealand, and the rules are rather different in China. But she's found a volunteer place at a local kindy, and she's been accepted in university. Well done Erica!

Three lambs (Lucy Lou, Trouble and Sasha). Two growing chicks (Maya and Molly). Plus the dog, cat and two grown chickens. We're not short of eggs, but we spend half our time feeding them all!

Next week, Bronwyn is taking Rachael down south to see the snow. Meanwhile, it's the regional contest for the brass band, the annual conference at my old work, and I've got charge of Sarah for the weekend. We'll need to plan the schedule carefully.

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I don't know how much or how little to say about last week. If you want to know, do a search for Johnny Mowatt. He'd been in our church for years, and still popped in every so often. He was also fairly regular at the men's prayer group that I go to. We'd spent many evenings chatting and praying. It was thus out of the blue what happened. The New Zealand Herald spoke of him as being in "a very dark place". I think that's simplistic. He had one foot in the light, and one foot in the dark. For years he struggled to get his life together, but in the end, the dark foot won. For me, it's a reminder of how fragile we all are, and how, given enough chipping away at the foundations, it could have happened to any one of us. And a reminder to look at our priorities. What are our lives built upon? What would hurt the most if we lost it?

Meanwhile, spring is in the air. Currently up to two pet lambs. Both don't have a clue how to feed, so Bronwyn's been very patiently bottle feeding them, and both are doing well. She's rebuilt a fence around the back yard to stop them running out to the paddock or the driveway. Meanwhile, the chicks (Maia and Molly) have got a few adult feathers and have grown tremendously. Bronwyn's constructed an outdoor pen for them (complete with cat protection) so they can get some fresh air and poke around in the grass.

Sent my old car to be scrapped last week. Rescued the battery (which was brand new) and installed it in the lawnmower. One terminal was rusted through, the other one was fine, but covered in some very sticky substance. Not sure what it was, but I washed my hands rather well afterwards.

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Sarah's chicks are doing fine, and Bronwyn has revived the nursery box and added an extra layer of chicken wire. One layer for the chicks, the other one for the cat. Unfortunately one of Cooper's chicks died on Sunday. She was rather small, and hadn't started eating, and accidentally fell a few inches. Sarah was really upset. But Claire has found a replacement, and Cooper is now back up to two again. Apparently one has been named "Rock Star".

And Zeus, our spina bifida lamb, died on Tuesday. He wasn't feeding too well on Sunday, and just went slowly downhill. We were all quite upset about that.

There was an accident on the main road on Tuesday morning. Motorcyclist died in a head-on with a truck. Rachael's school bus got stuck in the diverted traffic and was one and a half hours late. And apparently two people died early yesterday on the back road not far from us. They used to go to Kaipara College, and some of the youth group knew them.

So it hasn't been the best of weeks. But as Ross told Sarah, Zeus is up there in heaven, with all four legs working, gamboling away somewhere. And there's plenty more of his cousins still in the paddock. It hasn't been all bad.

Erica moved out this week. She's staying with a young Chinese couple in North Shore. We took her out for a meal last night. She's become like a daughter to us (she calls us Mummy and Daddy) and I keep expecting to hear her walking down the corridor in the morning. But we haven't seen the last of her. She's hoping to bring her entire English class to see the farm next weekend. She's also planning to bring her boyfriend next month when he's over here. And as I said, we took her out for a meal last night. It happened to coincide with the Bledisloe cup match, so they had to move us out the moment we'd finished, to make room for the hordes in front of the TV!

Did plenty yesterday. Two loads of washing, plus three jumpers and a sofa. This was the sofa bed we'd shipped out from England, but one of our cats found it years ago. Bronwyn wanted to throw it out, but the mechanism is still good, so I stripped it down and washed everything I could. I think it's almost passable for the youth group, but I'm not sure I'd sleep on it!

And I have a new car. A 1994 Corolla. The engine works perfectly, which is a bit of a shock after having learnt exactly how to move the old one, and then coming into a car that nearly does wheelspins. There's a spring loose in the driving seat, right where my spine sits. I couldn't get into the seat to fix it, so I arranged some cardboard and an old pullover (thanks, Mum) under the seat cover. Almost perfect. Now I just need to fix a flapping stone guard underneath, and give the carpet in the boot a wash, and it should be perfect.

Must dash. I have a sofa to reassemble.

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Sarah has brought home another pair of chicks from school. She hasn't named them yet, but they're doing well so far and learning to peck for food. Claire's son Cooper has also got some chicks, and they're off skiing this weekend, so we're looking after them too. Bronwyn's installed them in the old laundry under the heat lamp.

And we've got a paraplegic lamb. He's got spina bifida, and his back legs barely work. But his front legs are fine, and he's otherwise healthy and very lively. We'll probably make some wheels for his back half at some point. Meanwhile, he's learning to get around by scrambling frantically with his front legs. And he's in nappies. Yes. Bronwyn decided it wasn't good for him to sit in his own wee all the time. Rachael has decided he needs a strong masculine name, so she's called him Zeus. I'm thinking more along the lines of "Wheels".

Erica did her exam again today, and she thinks it went better than last time. She had a topic "Something that made you happy". That's a lot easier than "School Rules". Next week, she's going to move out to a house in North Shore, about half an hour from here. And buying a car. Hope it all goes to plan!

Rachael's off on camp with the Guides this weekend. Hope they've got good shelter. We've had quite a bit of rain this weekend.

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