Larry's been working hard 
Five months ago, Larry the Ram got in with last year's lambs. We didn't think he'd been in there long. Obviously it was long enough We've got 15 extra lambs this year that we hadn't planned on, and they all appeared this week. There can be a risk with early pregnancies, but so far everything has gone smoothly. They're just a little tiny and hard to spot in the grass!

We used to have seven pukekos loitering around the back garden. Seems like they've been terrorising the chickens and stealing the feed. One got into the chicken coop recently. The chickens had it cornered. I'm not going to say what Bronwyn did next, but does anybody want some pukeko feathers? Most of the others have left since then, so the other birds have been able to eat in peace.

Sarah is into the exams. I've been helping out with statistics and chemistry. Rach and Bronwyn have been helping out with English. So far she seems to be coping alright. Rach is also going through exams and assignments of course. In the summer, she's got a placement with NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research) in Wellington where she'll be helping to make oceanographic instruments. Not sure what yet, but she's looking forward to it.

I still have five kilos of feijoa pulp in the freezer. I've now obtained four different wine yeasts, so I'll experiment and try a bit of each. Last year's yeast boasted a good production of esters. Definitely smelt of glue. Hopefully I can find one that works better. Still a bit cold though, so I might just use some for jam instead!

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Spring 
Harry the disabled sheep is now completely normal. We've kept him in the back garden because he keeps the onion weed down and provides some company for Tabby and Toby, who are growing fast and may soon break down the gate at feeding time. They also know how to climb through the fence and spend a lot of time out in the paddock already. Today, we left the back gate open, and Harry's friends have come in to help with the weeding.

They've dropped most of the mask mandates now, and stopped the daily reporting. I've been watching the infection figures, and they were rapidly heading towards zero. I assume they still are; it's hard to tell without the daily figures! So we're pretty much back to normal. We still have a collection of designer face masks and a box of free tests, which come in useful for the others as they head into the Populated Zones. I hardly need them here.

Had a great time at the regional brass band contest last week. I think we played better than in the nationals, and I enjoyed it better too. North Shore Academy Brass were a hoot; they began by playing the sound of rain and occasional animals as they set up the chairs, followed by the compere coming in with a pith helmet and pretending to be David Attenborough. "As you can see, the band is largely populated by younglings, but you may hear some older members parping away at the back" followed immediately by the sound of an elephant trumpeting. He then introduced "Africa" by Toto. After that, he came on with a blond wig and wrestling an inflatable crocodile to introduce an Australian number. This was followed by an Indian chief) by the name of Shenandoah), a fur trader (Oregon), and finally Michael Jackson. One of the boys in the audience jumped up and started doing the moon walk and the other moves in front of the band. Great entertainment.

Clocks just went forward today. It's getting warmer. I spent a couple of weeks digging the garden (found masses of potatoes) and I've got a few things growing already. I don't think we actually had a frost, because I found a chilli plant still alive, and potatoes have been growing all year round. Meanwhile, we've been getting a few meal kits each week. Many seem to use a little garlic, but supply a whole bulb of it. Bring on the vampires...

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Chaos all round 
Not sure how many lambs we have now. Over 50 were born in a week, in some rather cold, wet and very windy weather. We've been out three times a day checking around the paddock, and it's not easy with the rain stinging your face. But it's been a good season. Only lost three lambs, and two of them were in the worst of the weather. Plus an old ewe that was already thin and weak. We have two lambs in the back yard, called Tabby and Toby. And no others; they've all been well looked after in the paddock. I helped one to breath, and Bronwyn has done several.

Opening the back door has become hazardous. You have to catch them by surprise. If you stand talking behind the door, they're already there waiting to bolt in through the smallest gap!

Sarah has been off school as a contact of a covid case. Well, officially, that is. The case is Rachael. Rachael had pains in the abdomen, probably appendicitis, and phoned the health line. She told them it had happened many times before, so they advised her to get someone to take her into hospital to get it checked out. So Bronwyn drives out, picks up Rachael and they go to the hospital. Of course, every patient gets a covid test. And apparently Rachael's was positive, even though they couldn't then find the swab. Or indeed any symptoms. So she gets taken into the covid ward by a nurse in full PPE, and put into a room. Rach is really upset. Then someone coughs outside the door, opens it and looks in, says sorry and closes it again. Rach is now freaking out. So after being in for over three hours, she decides to sign herself out and go home. She's been testing negative since then. The appendicitis has also eased too. And Bronwyn is slowly catching up on sleep!

I'll add a bit more. We had a bit of a miracle this weekend. OK, a notable event. Three weeks ago, we found a sheep on the hillside, upside down. They sometimes get stuck like that, and they can't get up. This one had probably been there for several days. We brought him into the back garden. He couldn't stand, he couldn't even hold his head up. For two weeks we kept putting grass under his nose, which he ate. We tried to keep his head straight, and stop him from just falling over. He'd lie there, eating from the same spot until it was a muddy hole. Then we'd drag him to another spot, and he'd make another hole. Bronwyn tried propping him on a hay bale, and Sarah set up an umbrella to keep the rain off. But we had more or less given up on him.

On Friday, I repaired an old cradle that had been used for similar sheep in the past. It didn't help him stand. But it did force him to hold his head up. On Saturday, he was able to sit with head up, and eat the grass around him. He was also trying to stand up, but his front legs didn't work.

Today, I was going to check on him, and he was standing. By himself. And staggering around a bit. Now he's up at the back gate, eating freely and hanging out with the lambs and the sheep outside.

He reminded me of a sheep I rescued once. It was tangled and twisted in some bramble. I got the secateurs and cut it free, and pulled the bits out of the fleece. It just sat there. Then I rolled it over to get at the other side. It suddenly realised that it was free. It jumped up and bounded off.

Neither sheep had lost the ability. But both had lost the belief that they could.

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Lambs, and soggy weather. 
I'm guessing the chickens have been enjoying the concrete dust on our driveway. The eggs have been arriving unusually rough since! We've had an awful lot of rain lately, so the farm has bought a huge heap more of it to spread out around the farm. We've had to put that on hold for a bit; we can't get the tractors around to spread it out. Allan came round early this week to level off our driveway. In the dark, because we had more rain forecast. He levelled the driveway nicely. Unfortunately he also knocked out the support for one of the power cables, so we had some guys round to fix them back on. Fortunately, the cable survived.

Nine lambs and counting. They've all been born this week. We've been out three times a day to check on them, and Bronwyn has been delivering them and getting them to feed. We've got the shed and the back garden ready in case we need to bring one in. At this rate, that could be quite soon.

The National Brass Band contest in Wellington last week went well, apart from a couple of slipups in the first piece. We had warmed up for the rest, and we got first place for the march and third equal overall.

Had a very long journey down and back. It's about 9 hours driving. We went down in one day from 5am to about 3:30pm. Saw sunrise at about 7:30, by which time we were well south of Hamilton. Somehow we avoided the huge amount of rain that went past in the meantime, but we saw the floods on the way back. Fascinating to watch the landscape change along the route, past geothermal steam, the Rangipo desert and the rolling hills and plains. Stopped in Bulls for lunch. Lots of bull statues and bull jokes everywhere.

Bronwyn got to interview the Auckland mayor last week. He allowed her 20 minutes and required her list of questions in advance. I'm guessing he felt nervous. But it went really well, and it went on for 30 minutes. She's also had the chance to meet Chloe Swarbrick, the young maverick Green MP who turned out to be really interested and wanting to help in any way. She's also been round all the churches and cathedrals and various other places trying to get people talking to each other about the city centre issues. So far the socialists seem the keenest to talk.

I'm told it's warm in the UK. It's cold, wet and windy here. Need to get some more firewood in. And deal with the rat that wants to get in too. Woke us up at 4:30am yesterday!

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Mercury rising 
I saw Mercury! I've been trying to find it all year, and finally we had some clear (and rather cold) days, and it was clearly visible. I've never identified it before, and you have to be in the right conditions to see it. So I got up early and had a look. I believe I also spotted Matariki (the pleiades) as well. Then I went inside again before I froze.

For the first time this year, we had a public holiday to celebrate the appearing of Matariki, which is the Maori new year and associated with quite a range of customs. I'm not sure if they were reflected in the Karangahape Road Matariki party which Bronwyn took us too, but it was certainly worth the evening out. We spent a while in the cafe where Bronwyn hangs out at work, and met some of the clients. Then we wandered back up the road. The pedestrian crossings were being manned by drag queens. Well, some people in shiny clothes, anyway. Two looked distinctly female! They had big STOP signs, and were dancing about in the road when the lights went red.

Spent three days at the youth work conference in Christchurch (I'm the treasurer for the local trust) and had a great time meeting people and discussing about the issues they had in each school. Probably hugged too many people, because I then came down with a case of Not Covid (tested negative yesterday). Feeling a bit better today, which is just as well because the brass band is in full swing for the national contest in Wellington next week. It'll be fun, but I'm looking forward to the peace afterwards!

We've now got a light grey driveway. Bronwyn ordered some crushed concrete and a digger. Allan did the work. It's difficult keeping him away from a digger, so I'm unlikely to learn it while we're within range of each other! Need to persuade the chickens not to eat the concrete dust. In the process, Allan scraped off a lot of dirt from the driveway and piled it up outside the gate. He's also dug out the drain that runs under the driveway and out to the paddock. So now we have a lovely driveway and several large piles of mud.

Still no lambs, but two of the ewes look a bit on the large side...


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