A busy week 
Casey the escapologist is in a paddock that she can't get out of. Unless of course she works right round the back, but she hasn't twigged on that one. So she's been spending the last week standing forlornly in the corner. The nearest corner. But the roses in our garden have recovered well since then.

It was Rachael's last week at school. Ever. Apart from the exams in a few weeks time, of course. There have been quite a few events this week including flash mobs and some masks decorated with the Principal's face. Rachael now has a T shirt with a pair of sea shells painted on the front as part of her Little Mermaid costume. And a hoodie with the letters AEL on the back. It's the custom for all the leavers to get a hoodie with their nickname on the back. Rachael chose AEL. This is to assist with all the people who keep calling her Rachel!

It was the graduation evening last night. I can't remember having a graduation evening. Or even a bit of high jinks at the end of term. Although the teachers did put on a number of optional extra lessons after the exams. The chemistry teacher did a couple of lessons on explosives. I now know what happens when you mix methane with oxygen in a gas jar and set light to the top. Went off like a cannon! Then there was Nitrogen TriIodide and Silver Acetylide. The latter had to be dried out on a filter paper before it would explode. We took ours outside and laid it on a window ledge. It was sunny, and the first years were out on the pitch playing football. Four of them came over and said "What's that?". So I told them. "Here - tap it with this spatula!". "It doesn't work!". "You have to let it dry out." Bang! Four slightly deaf first years.

Rachael's graduation involved drinks and nibbles, followed by separating out into form classes. The teacher then read out verses and prayers that she'd prepared for each one. Then we came back in, and the students came up to receive their leaving presents. These didn't contain a lot, but did have lots of encouraging words from each of their teachers. Afterwards, Rach was rather overwhelmed, and burst into tears. It's been an incredible year for her; she's lost almost all of her anxiety, caught up with her learning and developed a lot of resilience and maturity. In one year.

Wednesday afternoon was hectic. We had our Light Party (a Halloween alternative) with a rather full community hall, lots of children and piles of candy. Plus the fire brigade, lots of activities and a bit of a disco afterwards. I did Splat The Rat again, with a drainpipe Bronwyn found in the shed. My arms were aching afterwards from picking up the rat and putting it back in the pipe! Lots of fun. Six spare loaves of bread currently filling up our freezer!

Men's breakfast on the new church land this morning. Early morning. It went well, but I was tired after the graduation night and went back to bed afterwards! The plans for the new church are progressing; we've agreed a design, we're now working out how to pay for it. The old building is now a shell - only one room is left, and all the walls are gone from that. And someone left the windows open!

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Lengthy chases 
Never got caught in a police chase before...

Rachael's had exams this week. She wanted to be taken home at lunchtime, and it was my turn yesterday. On the way back, there's an old narrow bridge. There was a policeman. He looked agitated. Very agitated. He was flagging cars through as fast as possible. He was also holding what looked like a cable. It was attached to a box on the other side. I wondered why they'd make such a fuss about laying a traffic sensor.
It was about ten minutes later, after passing two police cars hurtling in the other direction, that I realised it was a spike strip.
It was all over the news. It started in south Auckland. There was one junction closed down there where shots had been fired. By about 15km north, there were 26 police cars in hot pursuit. Apparently they caught them in Wellsford, which is about an hour north of us! Fortunately no injuries.
Don't get that every day here!

Casey has been sneaking back into the garden. She's demolished the roses that I bought for Bronwyn's birthday, plus a few other plants. I tried leading her up the hill and leaving her at the top. But she was back down by the evening.
Yesterday, Bronwyn was helping her Dad to treat all the sheep after we found one really bad case of flystrike. Basically, the poor thing was being eaten alive by maggots. So they treated all the sheep, including Casey. Who didn't like it, and stood in a corner for a long while looking grumpy.
Bronwyn had a brainwave. Now we have a water pistol. Used it twice so far today. Seems to keep Casey out of the garden for a good hour!

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Who let that lamb in? 
Beginning to warm up a bit. The chicken run is a quagmire, so I've been forking it over to try and drain it. We're still feeding two lambs in the back garden, who have now reached the wooly monster stage. Did attempt to put them out in the paddock, but they can jump through the fence quite easily. The others (a sheep and two lambs) are out in the paddock, although I did spot one of those lambs in the garden looking, um, sheepish.

Bronwyn has been on a block course all week. They've had a lecturer over from Wales who has given them lots of reading material, and some exercises to do which aren't actually possible in the New Zealand environment. But it sounds like it's gone really well. Bronwyn, as is her customary practice, has been bringing in trays of goodies. She had such a good response that she got me to email the recipe through for her peanut flapjacks.

Rachael has been eagerly studying for her physics internal. She's been doing stuff I never saw in sixth form - the photoelectric effect and several equations with Planck's constant. She's hoping to do advanced physics at university. It's been a big turnaround from last year when she struggled to get to school at all!

Sarah has been off school all week after a bookcase fell on her head and gave her some mild concussion. She's been asleep most of the week. Still took a while to get up this morning, but that's pretty normal!

My car needs some rust sorted. There's a guy nearby who'll do it, but he's busy repairing a truck. So I've covered the patches with duct tape for now!

Lastly, we did the docking last week. This involves a number of small elastic rings, which get placed on parts of the lambs that we, um, don't need. Girls get one on the tail. Boys get two...

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Been a while 
I unblocked a drainage pipe on the farm. I was most proud.

We'd had a lot of rain and the hurricane had brought down a lot of leaves and debris. There's a drain running under the drive from one paddock to the other. It was blocked. And about four feet deep. And we didn't know where the pipe was. We were going to leave it until it all dried out, but the weather wasn't helping. I used an old hosepipe and a bit of irrigation pipe to syphon water across to another hole that did have a working drain. That worked, but it was a bit slow. The paddock had quite a lake in it.

So one day I got a longer section of pipe and decided to put it under the driveway so that gravity would make it pull faster. I pushed it through, and hit something soft. So I pushed a bit harder, and suddenly realised that there was more water coming through. So I gave it a jolly good shove, and then checked the other end. Yup, definitely some movement. A day or two later I climbed in with a spade and scooped out a pile of rotting leaves. No more temporary lakes in the paddock!

Lambing season is upon us. We've got five lambs and a sheep in the back garden, plus five chickens. The sheep had got stuck and is recovering from an infected rear end, along with her twins. There are three others that got abandoned so we're bottle feeding them. Going out the back door is now getting hazardous. They move so fast.

We've had the heat pump going for a couple of months, and the last electricity bill was rather high, so we've been returning to blankets until we're desperate! We've also had the heat lamp going for the newest lamb. There's plenty of wood out on the farm after the hurricane, but it's still a bit green.

Rach has just finished a very busy week. She volunteered to help out with the school production (Hairspray). I recall that our school had the music teacher, the drama teacher, another one doing make up, and another doing the lighting. The stage was rather minimal, and shared space with a trampoline and various other equipment. Rach's production had at least 8 prop hands, three stage managers and plenty of others. Eight productions (or was it nine, we lost count?) and they generally finished at 10pm, so Rach had some very late nights. We've all got colds as a result! I went to see one performance - obviously they've been rehearsing for months because it was really slick and high intensity. The dancing was incredible. Now Rach keeps singing the tunes and discussing the jokes, at least when she's got the energy.

I've been very busy, which is the main reason why I haven't posted for a couple of months! Everything has happened at once, so I'm trying to organise priorities. Several new jobs, to add to my existing collection. And I'm helping out a friend with maths. I've had to look up some bits. I never got the hang of standard deviation.

The church has finally left the building. The building hasn't moved, but will shortly be partly flattened to build a pre-school. We've been hiring the hall next door. It's been working reasonably well so far, but it's a huge hall so it takes a while to heat up in the morning! Later in the year, the Anglimethodists have offered their church, once they've finished renovations. We've converted the old hovel that sat on our new land into offices, and we've been debating what to build with the money we partly haven't got. Current design is a large central circular hall to which other bits are going to be added...

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I'm fine 
I'm fine. Sarah's fine. Rachael's got a cold and Bronwyn's got a migraine. Bronwyn's sister is recovering from an operation which left her in a fair bit of pain, and Bronwyn's dad is about to go radioactive.

They removed his thyroid, but also had to remove some of his vocal cords, so he's now speaking with a very deep husky whisper. He then had radiotherapy on the tumour in his back, which went well. To finish it off, they need to mop up any remaining thyroid cells, which they'll do with an injection of radioactive iodine. He'll have to stay more than two metres away from anyone for four days. I'll ask Rachael if her physics teacher has a geiger counter.

It's been cold, and wet, but fortunately it never does both at once here. The farm is covered in mud, and there's a small lake next to the driveway where the drainage pipe has blocked up. We've almost run out of firewood. The hurricane (OK, it was technically just a storm but some gusts were well over the hurricane limit) has provided a lot of future firewood, but it's all still green at the moment. We'll have to find some older dead wood.

But at least we're warm. Bronwyn's parents have bought us a heat pump (a heater/cooler/dryer) which warms up the room a lot faster than the wood fire. We have both going at once to save electricity; the heat pump circulates the air a bit to get it around the room. Meanwhile, Bronwyn's parents have almost finished their new house, and are hoping to move in soon. The inside is mostly finished, but the deck outside still needs building. Sarah wants them to put in a pool by the side door so she can step out and fall into it. I suggested a water slide down to the dam. Or a flying fox perhaps.

Rachael has her learner's license! You have to pass the theory test first before you get the learner's, then there's a road rest for the restricted license, then another test for the full license. I just had to pay for the license and then take one test! She's been driving down to the village a couple of times.

She's a lot more confident than last year. I think the new school has looked after her well. Still not sure what she wants to do when she finishes school next year.

Bronwyn is studying for her pastoral care diploma, and is thinking of starting a full pastoral degree after that. She's been asking me questions about her assignments. I'm not sure I'm qualified!

Last, but not least, I've started brewing ginger beer. It started when I brought home a bottle of Stoney from Kenya, and my mate tells me I can brew my own. So he buys me a starter pack. I get this fizzing package of sludge in a jam jar, wrapped in two layers of newspaper, three layers of plastic and a tin can. With a label saying "This way up". It was the wrong way up of course. But the packaging worked. The first batch is rather weak and flat. I think it was too cold. So I've put a few bottles on the window ledge to try and make them stew in the sun for a bit...

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