Duchess 
Duchess the golden labrador has already worked out how to escape from the pen in Sarah's room, and has chewed through a couple of cables. Beyond that, she's reasonably well behaved. We've introduced her to the lambs and the chickens. And the cat. The cat has made it plain who's boss. It's useful; Diamondz likes to hang out in the most awkward spot at the junction of the corridor. If Duchess bounds in, she immediately meets the cat. The cat lifts one paw and hisses. Duchess is cornered.

She's still a bit anxious when left alone, but so long as she's had enough exercise (and somewhere to poop) she settles down quickly. I've been taking her out a couple of times each day when the others are out. Duchess likes sniffing. Especially poo, which she starts eating if we don't pull her away. Sheep poo is her favourite. Also chicken poo and horse poo, but not cow. She'll just walk straight through it without noticing. She likes it fresh. When meeting lambs, she goes straight for the butt.

We've got a cage for her in the lounge, a pen in the bedroom, a fixed lead in the garden, and a retractable lead for walks. She lives a life of home detention! But we're beginning to teach her commands, so she might get a bit more freedom once she gets the hang of it. She's still a nightmare when distractions are nearby. I took her out on the lead while I was chopping thistles this week. The lambs decided it was feeding time, and raced towards us. Duchess immediately wanted to leap over and lick them to death. Unfortunately she was on the other side of the thistle and did a forward roll right over it. Don't think she was injured, but she certainly quietened down after that.

Finally, it's getting a bit warmer, though not necessarily drier. The frost tender tree in the driveway has survived so far. I've cleared the garden, and we've started planting. Soon we'll be complaining that it's too hot and dry. But not yet.

This weekend was very windy. Yesterday, a sudden blast blew the plastic sheet off the back porch, pulling out a couple of planks which then hit the kitchen window. Bronwyn and her dad fixed the plastic onto the window instead, and I spent an hour finding all the bits of glass. That part of the kitchen is a lot tidier now. The window frame is rather rotten though, and we really need a complete new window. Hopefully we'll be able to find one to fit.

So currently we have a crazy puppy out front, two crazy lambs out back, a cat who wants to kill the dog, and five chickens who have been keeping well out of reach. Plus an indoor-outdoor flow in the kitchen...

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Covid, the lambs, and a puppy. 
It started with a sore throat. That was followed by sneezing and a runny nose, and I won't discuss the toilet. It also coincided with them rewiring the road and cutting off the electricity all day. And with my colleague wanting to work the day with me. So we went down to the cafe and plugged in there for 5 hours.

That night, I didn't sleep too well, and I had a headache in the morning, so I did a test. Yup, my first official positive. Slept all day and night.

But next morning, I felt pretty much back to normal. I even dug the garden. Briefly. Of course, we still have to isolate for 7 days, so Bronwyn went to Rachael's room and spent most of the time either out or with the doors and windows open. I put down Bronwyn as a close household contact. The notification form didn't ask about colleagues I spent five hours down at the cafe with, so I didn't mention him. Nobody else got it though!

It's lambing season. I'm losing count, but currently we've got five in the back yard bottle feeding, and another with the mother in the back garden. Bug was first. You can tell by his hairless bulging eyes. Then Barbie. Then we had a lamb with two scrotums which peed like a girl. Unfortunately it probably had other issues, and didn't last long. I'm not mentioning its name, but it began with B. Then we had Benedict, Blossom and Bernard. Plus a couple more that didn't make it. Someone wanted to pick up a lamb for their child to train for Agricultural Day, and I believe we have homes for another two to go to, once they're out of the vulnerable stage. Bronwyn and Rachael have been out regularly checking the paddock for any more.

Rachael delivered a lamb this week. The mother was wandering around with the lamb poking out. We managed to corner it, and after about 5 minutes, Rach managed to pull it out. We weren't sure if it was going to make it, but when we left, they were all standing and Mum was cleaning it up.

It's a bit chaotic at the moment. Sarah is due to get a puppy delivered. It's a golden labrador. She's been setting up a pen in her room, and a puppy house on the deck, and we've been putting in some posts in the garden for a dog run. Sarah wants to train it properly. I'm not sure if its name will begin with B.

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The South Island 
or at least one corner of it. We had a week touring from Christchurch to Kaikoura to Blenheim and Picton, and then back down via Hanmer Springs. In Christchurch we stayed the night with a really nice lady who has a collection of objects from her travels. Several collections. Jade by the front door, silver spoons round the corner, Chinese bowls on one cupboard, glass ornaments on another. And more around the house. She also had a bowl full of carved eggs made from different types of rock. Rachael promised to try and identify them.

Kaikoura has some interesting geology. It's got a layer of white limestone on top of old sandstone, with several other layers as well. Rachael was in her element, telling us about the layering and erosion, and she was following her geological maps as we drove along. We set off for a walk around the peninsula, narrowly avoiding an aggressive calf and getting back just before dark. But we spotted our first few seals.

Not far north, we spotted more seals. Thousands of them. There's a major breeding colony there, and you can see all the brown stains where they've been lying.

At Blenheim, the weather was closing in a bit, but we went to the air museum there, and also a restaurant which had a vintage plane in the garden. A big plane. Had a day trip to Picton to see one of the migrant ships, and one of the oldest on display in the world. The rain was clear enough to get out to an old Maori site.

It rained on the way back. Lots. But it made the journey more interesting, avoiding the mud and rocks in the road and admiring the waterfalls. Lots. And the seals obviously enjoyed it immensely, having been left alone for the day.

Hanmer Springs is a bit expensive, and it was now about 4C. If you're after some decent hot pools, try Waikite south of Rotorua, where the entire family can bathe and eat for the price of one in Hanmer!

But perhaps our best day was back in Christchurch. We spent a while at the Antarctica Centre. It's a real live research establishment with plenty for visitors. They have some of the tracked vehicles that they use, which could cross a metre gap without feeling a bump, and climb 45 degree slopes. Plus the inevitable penguin sanctuary and lots of other exhibits. Including the room which is kept at minus 8C, and has big fans to simulate a "summer" storm. I had my British coat on and enjoyed it immensely. Not sure how people cope in summer - they only supply coats and snow shoes!

After that, we'd run out of time to see the earthquake exhibit. But we drove into town, and right into the sound and light show that the city had put on for the Maori new year. It was rather awesome, with multicoloured light shows all over the park. We got to see the cathedral, which now looks in much better shape although still covered in boards and scaffolding.

After a decent meal, we came back home. Rachael spent an hour or so carefully examining the rock eggs and identifying as many as she could. Our host was most pleased.

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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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