T minus 14 
Just back from the dentist. Sarah's had one filling, and there's another minor one which will have to wait until we're back. She would have had the work done at school, but forgot to hand the form back in time and Bronwyn had to beg for an appointment at the clinic, and told them that we were going to England shortly. They were confused, and thought we were emigrating! Sarah coped remarkably well, despite having to miss swimming.

Lost two chickens recently. One was old, and got a serious infection. I took her to the vets but it was too late. The other one was one of the new chickens, which got eaten by Jojo, the new farm puppy. Not pleasant. But Bronwyn found a woman on Facebook that had three young birds spare, and not too far away. So we went over on Sunday evening. Unfortunately, her friend had let them out of the box, and they were running free. So we brought some nets, and Ross made a chicken crook out of a pole and some wire.

Unfortunately these birds were practically wild. And they could fly. We couldn't get within three metres of them. We were also ably hindered by a loping great hound called Machete, who had apparently eaten one of her original chickens, but "hadn't shown interest in them since". So after a brief chase, we gave up and the woman said she'd try again at night when they would be more sleepy.

Someone's coming round this evening to help with cleaning. And probably tidying. This morning I put out a massive pile of recycling. A lot came from the shed which had been turfed out for the filming. The filming happened to be on the last recycling day, so we missed it, and had twice as much today!

Still have some objects from the filming. A quaint little photo frame, a small stepladder, some plastic sheeting and some other ornaments. Bronwyn's been phoning them up to try and hand them back...

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T minus 17 
Our night in the Penthouse Suite was very comfortable. And we did get reimbursed for the breakfast and dinner. Although as far as I can tell, the Penthouse Suite looks just like all the other rooms except... bigger. It had numerous empty cupboards. I went through checking them all. I found three saucepans and a frying pan, plus less kitchen equipment than the average motel. OK, so it did have a second TV in the master bedroom. And five coathangers. But we did get a good night's sleep.

The house is slowly returning to normal. The front lawn has been mowed and one wall painted. We're slowly bringing stuff back from the pile in the spare room, but we had far too much stuff in the lounge before so most of it is likely to end up in the bin instead!

17 days until we fly off. Passports and tickets are ready, schedule has been organised. Still plenty more to sort out, but Bronwyn's brother Allan and family will be looking after the house over summer. Just need to clear the spare room...

First Christmas parade of the year. Quite a few more to go, but I'll be missing out on some of them. My first Christmas in the cold for quite a few years!

Warm and humid here. We're about to be plunged into a British December. After a Singapore one first.

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Far too much happening 
Incredibly, Angus got first prize for walking up the plank at Group Day. This in spite of the fact that Cooper has hardly given him any training. An almost perfect performance, apparently. Claire was beaming. Sarah was somewhat upset. But Claire has given Bronwyn a voucher to thank us for all the training (and bottle feeding) we've done in Cooper's absence. And Sarah managed to get Reserve Champion in another class, plus a few other ribbons. There were a lot of entrants this time, so there was a lot more competition.

Our lounge is looking the tidiest it's been ... ever. The spare room is piled up with junk. The small shed is almost empty and the wood shed is full of everything, plus a little wood. The small shed has now got a front wall and a door (it's never had a front wall because it used to house the tractor). Apparently the storyline involves a girl who sleeps in the shed. The film crew arrived on Thursday to prepare everything, and they'll be coming all day Tuesday to do the filming. They've booked us in at a hotel in town for Tuesday night. The Penthouse Suite. Meanwhile, the lounge has had some 1950s furniture and a rug. They were going to do filming today, but the weather was looking dodgy, so they shifted to Tuesday. Tuesday is also looking dodgy. Hopefully all the rain will be on Monday, but that will cause issues for all the heavy vehicles!

Janet and Ross are in the South Island, coming back later today. Shortly before they left, they bought a puppy. She's a border collie - huntaway cross, so I assume she'll be a sheep dog. I took her to meet the cows, who nearly flattened her. Angus and Leia also advanced on her menacingly, and sent her under the house. We've had to lock her up when we leave, because twice she's followed us down to the road and nearly got run over.

Rachael is going through exams. She's rather stressed. We've all been through a lot recently for a number of reasons which I won't detail here. But I'm glad to have a family that pulls together, even if we do get irritable at times. I've had opportunity to work through priorities and focus on the Things That Are Important. I'm looking forward to seeing people over Christmas and January; we'll be in Coventry in the first two weekends of January where we'll try and meet as many as possible.

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Ag day 
Sarah came home with two trophies (plus a third which she's sharing with another girl). She won the lamb competition! This is despite Leia refusing to put more than three feet on the plank and refusing to walk up it. Another boy took his lamb up without a lead. Then he did a funny whistle, and the lamb counted to seven, recited the first chapter of Genesis in Spanish, and ran to dog contest area and rounded up all the dogs. No it didn't. I just made that bit up. But Sarah won on points. Angus was also there. His leg is still in a splint, but he can run on it quite easily. He was hopeless in the obedience test, but then Cooper hasn't been around to do much training.

Sarah wants to go to the district group competition as well. Cooper managed to qualify, so he wants to go too!

The chicks. Forgot about them! I recall they got first prize for best plumage.

Bronwyn has finally submitted her teacher registration! This has been going on a while. She's spent ages putting together all her paperwork, and she's had a lot of support from her boss. Hopefully, it'll all pay off and she'll be fully registered. Been about two decades since she started her training!

Bronwyn has also been busy planning logistics for our trip to England. We had planned to take the Eurostar to Paris, but it had been cancelled due to engineering works. So she's managed to move that bit back a day. Meanwhile, she's been organising passports and reviewing suitcases. I just hope it all goes to plan!

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The funny farm 
Angus had indeed broken his leg. Ross felt it (with me holding still his other three limbs) and it was definitely moving where it shouldn't. It wasn't like that at first, so it's likely Angus broke it properly later. So Ross made a splint with some bark (makes a nice curved surface) and bandaged it up. He's now putting weight on it again, so it looks like it's healing up. We'll keep it on for a fortnight.

Of course, now that it doesn't hurt so much, he's up to his old tricks. It's quite impressive watching him leap around the garden with three legs. At sunset, lambs and calves go through the nutcase zone. They gang up together, then rush madly to a random spot on the paddock. Then they pick a different random spot and rush there instead. It can be unnerving when you're trying to chop firewood and there's a couple of lambs running round the garden at around 50km per hour. Fortunately it only lasts around ten or fifteen minutes, then they settle down again. I guess it serves to intimidate the lions before the evening hunt. Not that we have any here.

Talking of lions, last night the youth group put on an African family fun night. Rachael was a zebra and Sarah was a leopard. Bronwyn decided to dress up as a safari tourist complete with binoculars, camera and a safari jeep made out of cardboard. I decided I'd dress up as a masai. I had a bedsheet wrapped round my legs, a table cloth for a cloak, a couple of extra bits of cloth for a loincloth and apron, and an old spear that had been passed down through the family, originally from the Solomon Islands. I then made a couple of bead necklaces and a couple of big gold earrings. I gathered a bag of bones from around the farm and selected a few to make a bone necklace. OK, so that's not strictly masai, but then neither was the spear. It all went down a hoot. Very few others had dressed up, so we ended up getting the prize for best dressed adults.

Bronwyn picked up some chips on the way in. She parked in a dark spot because I was nervous about being seen with a loin cloth and huge gold earrings...

We seem to have lost the pins from the hay rake. Ross thought that some children had been playing with them in the hay barn. They're big iron bolt things, so Bronwyn hired a metal detector and went round looking for them. We learnt a few things about metal detectors. Firstly, the hay barn is made of corrugated iron. This meant that you couldn't find a thing within two feet of the wall. The metal detectors also detect electric fences, so we had a constant blip every second if we were within ten metres of a fence. Bronwyn didn't find anything. However Ross did - back in the tractor shed. So maybe the pins weren't in the rake in the first place!

I also had a go with the detector. A friend had lost a metal pendant down by the stream. I didn't find it, but I located four metal fence standards, another two that I didn't bother digging up, a length of rebar, a bolt thingummy that might have fallen off the tractor, and a nail buried in the soil. When I got back to the shop they asked me if I'd found any gold. No, but plenty of scrap iron!

The regional contest with the brass band went well today. Don't know the score, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. There weren't too many in the audience. There weren't too many in the band either until just before we were due to walk on stage. Motorway was quiet. Everybody was watching the rugby!

Ag day on Friday. Bronwyn has been working hard trying to get Sarah to work hard and finish her lamb and chicken diaries in order to hand them in for marking. She's also been trying to train Leia, but Leia isn't quite as docile as Tom was last year, and not so motivated by sheep food, so it's not been easy. The lambs have to walk up a plank, and last year it was about 80 cm off the ground. Mind you, we've found sheep poo on the trampoline, so they're not afraid of heights!

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