Out and about 
Rachael survived Tongariro, and looks like she enjoyed it, despite getting rather wet out camping. Took us a while to dry out all her clothing.

Next week, Bronwyn's working three days (she's now working permanent Mondays) then off to a teaching conference in Rotorua for the weekend. Meanwhile, we've got a German boy coming to stay (and look after Rach and Sarah). He's our first HelpX for quite a while. Bronwyn decided to update our listing, which puts up top of the list again, so we've suddenly had lots of enquiries!

We had a really good concert with the brass band (and the choir and the barber shop boys). We also had a video playing behind us for most of the pieces. Pity there weren't many in the audience. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. And the contest the week after. We came a close second to Howick, who are currently top of the C grade. Being close behind is thus pretty good for a D grade band.

Nacia the calf hasn't been well. The vets been out several times with antibiotics. We keep thinking she's not going to make it, and then she revives again. If she pulls through she'll be the star of the farm. Meanwhile, Tom and Jerry are out in the paddock, and showing signs of not wanting milk so much. But they still make a racket calling for us regardless!

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Scotland: Playing Mum against Dad. 
Had a phone call late last week from another power company. She went through all the questions and announced that I could get $12 off my monthly power bill. Plus some fuel discounts. So I accepted.

Had another call yesterday from a nervous bloke in the original company. He told me they could do a special deal, and I'd get over twice that discount for a year. So I went back. Not sure what they'll offer after the year's up, but it'll pay for the time they spent on the phone.

I've occasionally heard it; the teenage child feels hurt about their parents' breakup, but loves to play one off against the other. Now Mummy's in Edinburgh, and Daddy's in Westminster, and Daddy's offered a big bag of lollies to stay down south. Personally I think Scotland should say thank you very much and sit back smugly exactly where they were!

There's potential in the oil and gas, but that's temporary. Scotland had a similar population to New Zealand. Our main earners are tourism and farming. We've suffered a few times, like when the wool trade collapsed. But we've got a strong tourism sector, and it's drawing plenty of people here. Go sand tobogganing, drive 40 miles on the beach, visit the hot springs, geysers, BUNGY! Scotland - drive all day, spend 70 minutes admiring yet another collection of tartan in the gift shop. Scotland's big draw card for southerners is that there's not an awful lot there. I'm thinking it's likely to become like southern Ireland - beautiful countryside, quaint local customs, quaint locals. Enjoy a wee dram in the local pub. Then back down the motorway on Sunday night!

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Full of beans 
Rachael's off at an Outdoor Pursuits Centre. Not sure what she'll be doing, but it involves a large rucksack and plenty of warm clothing. The rucksack was incredible. I've never seen so many straps.

Our concert with the brass band went well last night, although there weren't many in the audience. We had the Kumeu choir again, and the Rangitoto College barber shop singers. Plus an MC and a video presentation behind to match the music. And far too much food and drink. We'll be eating the chocolates and crisps for a while.

Our three legged calf is doing well, and almost using the fourth leg properly. We've currently got another calf here, but this one looks in a very bad state. Meanwhile, the lambs are growing fast. Bronwyn's been taking them into work each week to show to the children and measure them. They're now officially Too Big, so they'll be staying at home.

Planted broad beans, runner beans, last year's French beans, peas, lettuce, carrots and broccoli. That'll do for now. Just hope we can eat all those beans...

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Beans, peas and a three legged calf. 
We're now hand raising a calf. Literally. Poor thing was born premature, and one of her front legs hasn't come right yet, so we've put a splint on it to keep the ankle straight, and for the first week we had to lift her up to get her standing. Consequently, Bronwyn did her back in, so she's been off work and on painkillers for the past week.

Tom and Jerry are both growing fast. Jerry is a deranged nutcase. When you offer him the bottle, he attacks it so violently that he misses, hits the teat sideways and squirts milk everywhere. It pays to stand back a little.

Now that I've got an old iPad (in order to learn to program it) I've been trying to map out the bush again. I've learnt that even with the aid of satellite technology, I can still get hopelessly lost. The terrain in places is very steep, convoluted and thickly covered in vegetation. It's very hard to keep a straight line, and the valley is deep enough to cut out GPS occasionally. But I've managed to find a few places that I'd been trying to explore for a while now.

Bronwyn suggested we planted sugar snap peas again, because it's one of the few green things that Rachael eats. So I've bought some canes, and I'll throw in some runner and broad beans. Plus quite a few beans saved from previous years. And some potatoes and carrots. Hopefully we'll get to eat them all...

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Chickens, dolphins and politicians 
It's not easy running a farm in your back yard. I have to do it in strict sequence. There was an incident a couple of weeks ago. I let out the chickens. Four eggs, good going. I came out with the milk for the lambs. I fed Jerry first because he's a total nutcase and needs both hands to control him. Meanwhile, the wind blows the door open. The chickens run inside. I finish feeding Tom and then chase three chickens away from the cat food, and out of the house. As well as Jerry, who wants more.

Several hours later, I hear a strange noise. I then spend the next five minutes chasing the fourth chicken round the lounge and cleaning up the accumulated poop. It pays to count your chickens.

Bronwyn's been taking the lambs to work once or twice a week, and letting the children feed and measure them. They're growing fast, and fortunately Jerry isn't quite as violent as he used to be, otherwise he'd be causing us injury now when we try to feed him!

The brass band AGM went more smoothly. We adopted a new set of rules, plus a president and secretary, and since then I've already updated the Incorporated Societies register, the Charities register and the bank. I'm getting into the swing of this...

This Monday was supposed to be a quiet "Meet the candidates" evening in our church. But it turned out to be the only public event that the Prime Minister John Key was going to attend (he just happens to be our local MP), so a number of other heavyweights lined up to attend, and it got widely publicised. We put TV linkups in the hall and the lobby, and borrowed some chairs from the community centre next door. We were catering for up to 230.

I wasn't sure if I could turn up to help out, but things changed so I arrived at 5:25pm and got given a fluoro jacket. There were already cars parked right along the road. We had permission to use the community centre car park, so I waved people in there to start with. But there was also several netball games and an indoor bowling club running, plus badminton over the road, and dog training nearby (wh never worked out where). So after a while the netballers began to protest. We left them a few spaces, and started waving people into the showgrounds. Oodles of space in there. But not in the church. I got the message that the police had started refusing entry. This was at 6:30pm, and the actual debate didn't start until 7.

But still they came. Car after car, and I just had to tell them that they wouldn't get in. Eventually at 7:30 it quietened down a bit, and I joined the crowd outside the church. A line of Maori party supporters. They could sing well, but weren't doing a lot else. A woman waving a cardboard dolphin. A guy in a black shirt with John 3:16 all over it, who appeared to be with Internet/Mana. (A strange alliance; a breakaway from the Maori party, and a bunch of anarchistic nerds. Might get a few votes.) And a small gaggle of John Key supporters in blue, who were keeping rather quiet.

We were kept going by coffees smuggled out of the kitchen window and the dolphin woman, whose friends had made it inside but had a big flask of hot chocolate. Plus a couple of big plates of cheap pizza, chips and various edibles.

It all went remarkably smoothly. The only incident was an old guy in the bowling club who was most incensed that we'd borrowed their car park and deliberately blocked a few people in. However, I suspect it was actually the netballers that he blocked! He must have relented a bit later, because the van was moved when people started to come out.

It was interesting to see the press at work. Two vans were outside with satellite dishes on top. One guy stood outside bravely holding a microphone to a closed window. He would have done better poking it through the kitchen window. Afterwards, when they let us back in to clear up, there was a group of people sitting in the corner furiously typing on laptops. When I got home, Bronwyn said she'd been following it all on the NZ Herald website. Curious to think I'd probably been standing next to the person who typed it!

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