Lockdown again 
Apparently Trump has picked us out as an example of a country that's had a major outbreak. Ms Ardern was not impressed. But it does mean that we're back on lockdown, or at least just the Auckland region, and at level 3 so we still get a bit of freedom. One new case today, plus another two from recent arrivals in isolation. Everyone's hoping that we'll be out of it soon. Well, most people. Sarah quite enjoys not having to get up early for the bus!

Sounded like it came in with food at a cold store in South Auckland. Or a contact with a sailor on the boat it arrived in. It's hard to tell; there hasn't been any evidence either way. Just wash your hands after opening that packet of frozen shrimps, OK?

Bronwyn and Sarah got to go on their whistle-stop trip to the South Island for our old pastor Sam's induction as army chaplain. Quite a few others turned up to support him too. Between the ceremonies, they had chance to wander round the airfield, but it sounds like it was quite a busy day.

Everything else has been cancelled of course. Or postponed. Church is back on Zoom, plus Youtube and Soundcloud. One of the brass band contests has been postponed to November. I don't think many people were planning a wedding this time of year though!

I'm trying to pick the most appropriate time of day to practice trombone, but it's tricky with everyone doing assignments and homework. Rach's maths has begun to go beyond the limits of my orbit, and she's found it hard, but it's quite something to get that far. In turn, she's been helping Sarah with algebra. Sarah's also finding the maths hard, but she's working through it without too much help. Bronwyn has a major assignment due at the end of next week. It's perhaps good that we're stuck at home because we've all got time to get through the homework!

Four lambs in the back paddock. We lost one pet lamb last week, and one of her twins, but the other one survived. A friend has taken a fifth lamb for them to raise, and we've got a few other people who wanted a pet lamb. We've been out regularly checking on the sheep. Sounds like the dog might have been out in the sheep last night, but picked the paddock with the big monsters in it. We've still got the council dog trap, so we'll get that set up again.

I have cleared one whole paddock of blackberry. I've also cleared the garden and thrown in a few potatoes and carrots, plus some lupins. Chopped several hundred thistles too. But it's raining all afternoon today, so I'll write this instead! It's a privilege to have such a huge back yard and good soil. Bronwyn's mum gave us rhubarb, broccoli and a bucket of limes. Bronwyn made rhubarb and apple crumble, and we've been looking up the recipe for lime curd. I'm still working through the guava jelly....

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Covid? What covid? 
Our internet was getting really bad, so I had the idea of borrowing the church's and seeing how well it worked from our house. It's all based on mobile phone signals so you can just pick up the modem and move it. There's apparently a cellphone tower on the top of the hill near us. The church internet was four times faster than Vodafone. But when I rang up. they said that it wasn't available in our area. "But it works! Please sell it to me!" Apparently they're restricting it to prevent congestion. But I can check on the website occasionally to see if it ever becomes available.

After checking a few addresses, Vodafone suddenly went faster. And it's still faster. I suspect I've triggered some sort of alert "Oops - customer is looking at the opposition's website! Switch him over to the better equipment!". I've kept the website open and I'm making a habit of refreshing it at least once a day.

Chaos resumes tomorrow. Rachael is starting up at University after spending most of the year studying from home. The transport costs will rise, but her private flock of sparrows will have food in time for Spring. Sarah has been back at school for a week. Within a few days her laptop died, and had to have a new hard drive. Hopefully the new one will be more reliable!

Early tomorrow, Bronwyn and Sarah are flying south for our old pastor Sam's induction as an army chaplain. She and our current pastor Gareth will be "leading him down the aisle" as part of the ceremony. Everyone has to wear uniform or the civilian equivalent. Bronwyn doesn't have a uniform, so she's gone shopping and invented one!

Five lambs so far. Bronwyn has cleaned the shed in anticipation, although we've got four people who want to bottle feed a lamb so we'll probably just have them for a few days until they're off the colostrum. We've lost a few sheep recently from a dog attack, and also from the cold weather. Allan has positioned a trail camera to try and spot the dog, the council has left us a trap and Bronwyn and Rachael have been doing the rounds checking on them. I'm still clearing blackberry so I'm keeping an eye on the sheep too while I'm out there!

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Are we allowed to shake hands now? 
There is one person left. A woman, in her 50's, in the Auckland city area. She's had it for several weeks now, and must be getting tired of it. Perhaps we can all send a Get Well Soon card to the Last Person Coughing.

But no other cases for 15 days. We'll probably be back to level 1 this week. Had 85 at the church this morning. We know their names, we ticked them off, plus a few extras who are marooned here. Had to disrupt our carefully spaced seating in order to fit them in. Pretty much back to normal this week. Brass band started up, plus a pile of other things. We had an extra Euphonium on Thursday with an American who's also marooned.

Hardly any flights in or out, although there'a negotiations going on with Australia, and the Avatar film crew got special exception. But the domestic flights are back on, and we've got some credits from a cancelled trip to the South Island, so we're thinking of going a bit further and seeing Dunedin and Invercargill. Never been that far south!

Bronwyn, is now officially the Children And Families Pastor. She was going to have the graduation for her Ministry Diploma in the conference in Christchurch, but that got cancelled. But after a bit of prodding from several sides, the elders have decided to formally recognise her. I've told Rach and Sarah that she must now be referred to as Pastor Mum.

Finally decided to shut the chickens out of the front garden. It was hard growing anything when it got rapidly undermined and covered in dust. I've cleared some weeds and sown some sweet peas. The chickens are wandering up and down outside the fence. They still have the rest of the farm to dig in! We've had a couple of warm and wet weeks, and it almost feels like Spring already.

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A new normal 
We're now down to Level Two. The road has been busier. Sarah will be on the bus first thing Monday morning. Bronwyn has been out and about. Rachael won't be going back to university just yet though. I'm told there was a sudden rush of people setting out just after midnight on Thursday, and long queues for haircuts, but largely it's still rather quiet!

At the beginning of lockdown, Bronwyn and Sarah painted some bits of wood and pinned them to the bank to make KIA KAHA (Be strong) and a smiley face. Palm Sunday, Ross put some palm branches on our gate, and Good Friday we had three crosses with Christmas lights on top of the bank. Several times, there have been calls for people to simultaneously stand at their gate and sing. I walked up the hill and played Pokarekare Ana on trombone one Saturday. It was very windy, and tricky to play with the music stand braced against the fence. I opted out of the 6am dawn playing of the Last Post. Dawn wasn't actually until 6:55am, and I'm British. I can wait for November!

Potatoes doing well. Lettuce and spinach might just make it. Plenty of guava jelly left, and apples and feijoas as well. Sarah has been baking as part of her Hospitality lessons. The cheesecake was excellent. As were the Afghans, brownies, chocolate cake, decorated fairy cakes and today, Madeleines. Haven't been hungry lately!

We've finally had some decent rain, and the tank is comfortably over half full. Auckland is running out, and water restrictions have just started. The ground is still sucking up all the rain that falls on it, so the dams are still empty, and will still be for a while yet.

So the water has run out, the economy has tanked, but everyone seems to think we've done remarkably well here. I'm afraid Jacinda Ardern can't run for president, and although we've got a spare room, we can't accept any Covid refugees because the only planes are emergency evacuations. No idea what's going to happen here without overseas tourism, but at least we've got plenty to eat, and the hairdressers are happy!

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Home, home on the range 
...where the chickens and lambs roam. Bones has recovered, and is back in the paddock with his friend Runty. We briefly had another lamb in that had been attacked by a dog, but it escaped through the fence and bounded off to join the others. Bronwyn checked on it; it seems to have escaped serious injury. Bronwyn's brother Allan camped out on the paddock that night, but didn't spot the dog, and it's been quiet since.

The chickens no longer roam on the compost heap. Or the potatoes. I used some spare wire mesh, and it seems to have foiled them for now. We've got the first row of potatoes growing well, and the next two rows are starting to come up too. No sign of any carrot seedlings, but the lettuce and other vegetables that Bronwyn planted are doing fine.

Bronwyn's mother handed me a kilo and a half of guavas. "You can make guava jelly!" she said. I've never made any sort of jam or jelly. But I looked up the recipe, and gave it a try. Neither of the recipes I looked at had a temperature, but just had vague references to different stages of gloopiness. So I took it up to about 113C when it started getting sticky. It set solid. Spoonable, but not spreadable. So I dissolved it (with two more kilos of guavas) and took it to 108C. This time it hardly set at all. OK. I tried 110C. That seems to have worked!

Church online has been an experience. The first Sunday attempted to mirror the normal service with four Youtube songs, three audio clips, the sermon on Youtube, various readings and the group Zoom chat as well. Last Sunday was a bit simpler, and we seem to be adjusting to a different routine. Friday nights, we have a general get-together, which seems to devolve into discussions about chocolate consumption and how desperate we are for a hair cut.

Sarah is back at school, on the dinner table. Rachael is doing assignments on the sofa. Bronwyn is getting up very early to watch lectures because they've made the internet free before 9am. I've been working five or six days a week trying to finish a project that seems to get longer as we go along. Nobody is bored, which is probably a good thing. And Sarah's laptop got repaired, and we got a new TV delivered. It's been busy!

And the rain has finally arrived properly. This is good, because we can't pop down the road to borrow someone else's shower!

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