All downhill from here 
We're on the slope to Christmas. It kind of starts with the Taupaki fireworks, which for many years have been held in Kumeu. It started as a fundraiser for Taupaki school, and grew into one of the biggest displays in Auckland. It's also right next to the brass band hall. Hence we've taken to rehearsing the Christmas music for an hour or so, and then going outside to watch it across the paddocks. We did try to continue rehearsing through it once, but it was tricky. The fireworks tend to mess up the rhythm a bit!

Sarah came home with a big trophy on Friday for top student in animal husbandry. This was for the diary and project she did. She also got a few certificates and ribbons, including one for a rather stellar cupcake display. We can't bear to eat it. The trophy has to go back tomorrow though, so it can be engraved and kept safe in the school cabinet.

Meanwhile, we've got two extra lambs in the paddock. Bambi and Baa were bottle fed at Ross and Janet's, and have just been weaned. Nobody's been able to explain that to them of course, so feeding time can be a bit of a mission!

Bronwyn is off in Singapore for a few days to meet up with Ross and Janet as they come back from England. Not sure if they'll get to see England again; it's getting more of an effort each time. So it could be an emotional time. But Singapore is a great place to unwind. Generally you've got no choice. It's 100% humidity most of the time!

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Keeping busy 
Imagine, if you will, an open plan office with a board table and seven large leather chairs. The CEO walks in wearing lime green shorts and a T shirt. Sitting next to him is a guy named Nuts. I think it's short for Nathaniel. He's got a shaven head around the sides with a pony tail sprouting from the top. We discuss the plans for the new website. Near the end the CEO turns to his left and says "We need to get off our bum too, Nuts".

That's the way it is, here. Haven't seen a suit and tie in years...

I've been busy last week. We've been rather short of work for a month or two, but it's beginning to come through again. Meanwhile, I've been working on an Android app that I've had in mind for several years. It's been quite fun, but certainly not easy. But it will work on just about any device with Android. Haven't looked at iPhones yet. All my iPads and iPhones are now out of date, and I can't even write my own programs for them without finding an old copy of the compiler. As for Android, no problem!

Bronwyn's been busy at church, and managed to squeeze in some relieving work as well. Currently she's trying to get Sarah's diary up to date for her agricultural project. This involves numerous photos of Anna the lamb along with a diary of activities. There'a also the research project. Don't think I've mentioned this one; she wanted to know what happens to our wool after it leaves the farm. So she wrote some questions and sent them to the wool scourers. They sent back a box full of wool samples, raw lanolin and a pack of photos. Plus a woollen T shirt. Apparently most of our wool will end up as luxury carpet, plus a range of cosmetics. We'll have to visit the place next time we're down there and say thank you!

Now that the weather has cleared, the painter has been busy again. Still a way to go though. I've been tidying up the house behind him too. Yesterday, I made a door for the access hole under the house. The chickens, and any mammal from lambs downwards have been hiding out under there. Once they're down there it's almost impossible to get them out (until dinner time of course). Hence I've been patching up all the holes as much as I can.

I fixed the lawnmower last week. The blades worked, but it wouldn't go forwards or backwards. There's a belt that drives the wheels. It had fallen off a pulley wheel. This was due to a spike of hardened plastic sticking out of the pulley. The pulley had probably jammed up for years, and the lining had been melted and shifted out into a spike. Then one day it decided to move again, and the spike knocked the belt off.

I tried every spanner I could locate in the farm shed. I may have missed a few; the shed is a mine of history, with all manner of assorted objects dating back to a Fordson tractor, probably around 90 years old. I tried a mole wrench. I was going to give up and work out a plan to ship the entire thing to the lawnmower shop, when I had an idea. Using the wrench, I ripped off the plastic on the pulley, smoothed it down, and put the belt back on. It worked. It's still missing half the lining, but the lawnmower moves.

Well, almost. We need more petrol. It takes 91. Our petrol can is in use by the painter with 95 to power the water blaster. Think I need to explore the farm shed again.

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Time for a cut 
Yesterday, I had my first haircut since the shave in January. Rachael finally told me I needed it. So now my hair is pretty much back to normal; just a little fluffy on top!

The lambs have left the back garden. At least we don't need to mow the grass for a while.

About 25 years ago I went to Kenya. I've always meant to go back sometime, and I've finally made plans for next April. Hopefully I'll have the money for it. I note that the malaria in Cambodia is now resistant to all known drugs, and it's only a matter of time before it hits Africa. I also note that Kenya is currently in constitutional chaos. Hopefully there won't be too much blood split. Now, where's the cheapest flight? Ah yes. Doha. Now where have I heard that name before?

The painter has done about half the house. It's now blue. It was blue before, but also covered in algae, cobwebs and large bare patches. He offered to cover up the hole at the back of the old toilet, where the drain pipe comes out. We found some spare roofing iron and loft insulation and did quite a decent job on it. I went round with a sponge and cleaned up several years worth of dust and local wildlife. So now we have a spare toilet. The girls haven't dared use it yet..

With Bronwyn's parents away, the rest of us have been sorting the farm out. A friend came over to do a bit of shearing, and Bronwyn and Allan have been out on the tractor keeping the place ticking over. We plan to sell some sheep, so we're currently sorting out the paperwork. At least it's drying out a bit. We've had quite a swampy spring!

Had the regional brass band contest today. We did a programme based on Napoleon. Loosely. Managed to fit in the 1812 overture, several other pieces plus (a small part of) the Eroica symphony, poetry, singing and as a finale, Waterloo. (The ABBA version, of course)

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Perfect lambing weather 
Losing count of the animals we've had in the back garden. We lost three (or was it five?), gave away four, and we've currently got two, plus a sheep. The sheep is determined to keep her one remaining triplet, but doesn't seem able to feed it (but does a very good job at cleaning its butt), so we've been bottle feeding it. Little Egg is now quite used to us, but has divided loyalties and still likes to stick by mum. Mum doesn't like it when we walk past, and gives an unhappy Blearggg. I'm learning the language. It's not as sophisticated as Chicken, but not far off.

The oldest lamb, Anna, has been a regular at church (on Sunday and during the week) and also at Bronwyn's old work. Sarah's planing to train her up for Ag day. So far she hates the lead, but there's still time.

Not sure where the redecorations are up to. The carpenters still have a pile of wood outside, and there's bits at the front to mend. The painters came, put up scaffolding, water blasted one wall and haven't been back. Probably because it's been rather wet, which it usually is this time of year!

Mud everywhere. Chicken coop is a quagmire; I turned the soil over to try and help the drainage. Bronwyn's thinking of shutting off part of it to let the grass grow. Haven't bothered checking the water tank for months.

Had a quiet few weeks at work, but I haven't been idle. My latest project is 3d graphics on an Android phone. Involves quite a bit of trigonometry and matrix algebra, which I'm still getting my head round. Might not get far on it; we've got another job about to start, also using 3d graphics. Something interesting for once!

Meanwhile, I've made quite a few visits to "The HQ" where our youth charity is doing job training for a variety of interesting characters. Sorting out the accounts and getting an understanding of what's going on. On Wednesday I'll be explaining Xero accounting to the church secretary. At least the church cabling is in a better state, although the internet filter keeps blocking perfectly godly sites. Not sure we need the filtering anyway; the youth group just use their mobiles instead!

Bronwyn's planning a few days holiday in September, in Singapore. We've got the Grand Tour of New Zealand planned in January, and I've promised to go Back To Africa in April, after about 25 years. Hopefully we'll have enough cash. I've planted potatoes just in case.

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Cold (and flu) 
My hair is back. Since it's new hair, it's quite fine at the ends. I'm liking the soft furry look, but I know if I try to keep it like this, the next cut will look like a hedgehog. At least it's grown in time for winter.

I've spent a while down at the church sorting out the network. OK, the jumble of cables slung over door frames and across carpets. It started off when we found we couldn't upload anything. Fixed that. Then they wanted wireless access through the whole building, so I spent a while working out how to free up the wifi box in order to move it. This afternoon I spent a couple of hours underneath the sound desk trying to sort out the jungle of cables and thinking "Hmm. We haven't used THAT for quite a while now". Looks like I might be there a while too.

Spent three days in Christchurch at the annual youth work conference. Everyone said it would be cold, so I brought the coat I'd bought last time we were in England. Plus a woolly hat and gloves. I was fine. Also brought a cowboy hat, neckerchief and braces for the hoe down on the last night. Didn't think I'd be able to keep up, but it seems I made quite a scene. Was pretty shattered once I got home though!

Got the flu shortly after that. Probably got it from everyone else in the family = we've all had it! It was bad. It was so terrible I actually had to break into Bronwyn's extensive cache of painkillers. I'm fine now.

Quite a storm last week, apparently. Snow down to 100m and cold winds. Hmm. I remember when the North Sea froze, and that hasn't happened here ever! It was rather wet and windy here for a day or two.

We've had some people round replacing rotten wood around the house. It's been quite a while since we did any sort of renovation, and it's going to get painted as well. So alas, we'll no longer be a target for film crews looking for dilapidated old farm houses any more...

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