The world on your doorstep 
Bronwyn decided that our profile on the HelpX website was a bit out of date, so she updated it. Unfortunately that puts you to the top of the list, so in one week we've had emails from Singapore, France, Belgium, Japan and a phone call from a Czech couple. The Czechs are staying with us now, then the girl from Singapore arrives at the start of November. Oddly, the Czech girl speaks Mandarin...

Sarah now has new glasses. They're tinted yellow. Apparently, she has a form of dyslexia where the different colours are out of sync, and it makes words jump around on the page. The glasses make it a lot easier to focus, and she's actually started reading fluently for once. When she wants to, of course. Meanwhile, Rachael has exams next week. Unfortunately we've just taken delivery of an Android tablet, which has absorbed her waking hours all weekend. But it might come in useful; I need to learn how to program Android for work. I've also been dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century - I now own A Smartphone. It's a little old, cheap and second hand, but it's Android. So now I have two devices to play with!

Nice and sunny here for once. Still quite haven't weaned myself off the pullover, but getting there.

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Busy holidays 
Erica and Jerry returned from touring the south island. They came out to the farm for an afternoon, and got a quick tour and a hands on demonstration of sheep shearing. Plus lamb ringing. This involves putting a heavy rubber band round the tail, which is the most painless way of docking the tails. The boy lambs get two rings. One for the tail, one for the testicles. Jerry said he found that one rather disturbing!

Then they came back on Saturday for wedding photos. This was quite a surprise for us, since as far as we know, they're not actually engaged yet. But it's the Chinese custom to do the photos well in advance so that they can be shown off at the wedding reception. Got a photo of Erica pretending to assault Jerry with a docking ring...

They both went back to China to meet the parents, and Erica will be returning in a few days. The plan is that she'll do a one year early childhood course here, and then return later next year to get married. Jerry's planning on visiting over Chinese New Year. There's been a lot of negotiation. Hope it all works out.

Jerry's given me a book - "You can speak Chinese". So now I'm on chapter one, trying to work out the difference between xi and shi and learning all the pronounciation. It'll take a while!

School holidays have gone smoothly so far. Bronwyn's been very busy organising trips and activities. And Cooper hasn't broken anything. Not yet anyway. One week to go...

Maya and Molly are still under the picnic table. Sasha and Trouble are out in the paddock, and have made friends with one of the bottle fed lambs from last year. Lucy died a week ago. She went downhill fast, and looked like she wouldn't last 15 minutes, so Ross quietly put her down. Meanwhile, Little One, the calf who nearly died after a hip injury earlier in the year has now given birth to a monster boy. She had a prolapsed uterus - the whole womb came out. It's potentially fatal, but the vet managed to get it all back in. She's off at the yards recovering.

Still not well. Think I've had just about every species going. Went to the doctors today and got antibiotics. I have one set of tablets to take every 12 hours with food, plus another one 3 times daily on an empty stomach. Not easy scheduling. And I got a shot of antibiotics as well. The visiting student did it. Nice girl. Rather painful.

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Spring 
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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Tired 
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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Tragedy 
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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