Trees !

We have elm trees ! Big, beautiful healthy elm trees ! I don’t think I’ve ever *seen* a mature elm tree before. But I did some googling (prompted by the now barely-legible “Elmwood” sign on our front gate) and determined that those huge old trees in the front are, in fact elms. Probably English elms. How cool is that ? We’re going to point them out to the guy from the Regional Council when we have him out, and see if we ought to have them checked — NZ had an outbreak of Dutch Elm Disease in the Auckland area 10 years ago, and another, smaller one in Napier more recently, but heavy-duty culling and beetle control tactics by MAF means they’re very close to being able to declare they’ve eradicated DED in NZ altogether.

Elms !

It begins…

Okay, once we get proper internet at the new hosue I will be able to put up a proper post, with pictures and everything. For now this will have to do.

The move on Saturday went well. The threatening rain never got beyond a thick mist, which was actually quite cool and refreshing. Considering we could have had horizontal rain and gale-force winds or blistering sun, it was a blessing. Everything fit in the moving truck. Just barely, mind you, but it all fit. We got it all unloaded into the living room, and then an hour later the appliances arrived and suddenly we had an operational house.

Sunday we had Stephanie and Patrick over for Thankgiving. Yes, hosting a meal 24 hours after moving is in fact an act of complete madness, but this should surprise none of you. The meal went well, but we ran out of gas towards the end. Thankfully everything was done cooking at that point. Being up a rural valley we have some fun features to the house. Water comes from a spring into a concrete water tank. Waste goes into a septic tank. Gas for the stove comes from a bottle (like you would use on a BBQ) around back. Went and got both bottles refilled today.

Tomorrow I go and pick up the used Ute I am buying.

Oh, the place will need some work. Looks like the former owner had not done much with the pasture for the last 10 years or so. Overgown gardens, fences in need of repair, etc. We see many years of projects stretching before us, but such potnetial! It will be cool, if we can do even half of what we are planning!

And did I mention 25 acres is a stpudily vast amount of land? But it is wonderful to look out the kitchen window and see horses grazing all of 20 yards away. Horses on our land! Woo! And in a few weeks, there should be a few alpacas among those horses.


We just took the first load of stuff to the house.

Our house.

AHHH !!! It’s freakin’ HUGE !! I mean, the house is nice and big and stuff, but the property is… Oh, man, there’s a whole other paddock we didn’t even realize was ours. And the back hill — hah ! The back hill has a survey marker on it. Which according to our topo map makes it “Marchant Hill” at a respectable 239 meters high. AIEEE whatarewegonnadowitha239meterhighhill??!!

We have horses in the back, which are doing us the kindness of eating our grass, so it doesn’t all go to weeds. We’re keeping up the current agreement with the woman who’s grazing them there (much to her and our relief). We also have a feral ewe and her lamb, which seem to have found their way in from the neighbor’s paddock some months ago. And a spring. We have a spring. And two streams, one in front and one in back (good protection from vampires !). And a rhododendron garden.

Stephen and I are sort of vibrating in excited shock.

Okay, must go put more stuff in the car…


Ok, African drumming ? It’s, like, hard ? I mean, it’s not HARD, hard — you’re just hitting a drum, and doing it in one of a skillion very specific rhythms. Sure, I do that with the dumbek. But ow those rhythms really just bend my head around. I grok syncopation; I grok off-beats. But most of these rhythms have six or eight separate parts — some for djembe and some for the big drum (which itself nearly always requires you to play a separate rhythm altogether on the cowbell with your off hand…) — and they fit together in the most unexpected, counter-intuitive ways(counter-intuitive for me, anyway).

Lucky me, I enjoy having my head bent. W00t !

Sunday Pirates

We slept in on Sunday, trying to recover from the late night of Rugby watching. One advantage of the current apartment is that our bedroom is buried in the middle of the building with no windows, making it very dark. This allowed me to sleep in until 8:30! Oooh, luxury!

That afternoon we went back to fight practice up in the Price of Wales park, which was fun. More preparations for the Folklore fest were ongoing, including work on some of the monster costumes. They should be a hoot. Tam also got a chance to talk a bit more with Roger, coordinating props and the like for pirate camp. From there we drove over to Shelly’s place in Kingston. Again, the snakes-and-ladders road system turned us around a few times, but we eventually found the place. I think she has one of the best views in Wellington. Instead of looking out over the harbor her place looks west into the uninhabited steep hill country. Way down the valley you can even see the Cook Straight. Perched on top of the hill there is plenty of wind, but its position also means that you cannot easily see other houses out the living room window, just the green hills to the west.

We spent a fun-filled afternoon planning our piratical ways. Costume elements were tried-on, names and backgrounds were worked out, and various scenes we could run were devised. Trying to be “on” for two consecutive 8-hour days will no doubt be exhausting, but it should also be a great deal of fun. The desire to find more of our props and other cool stuff is also going to be a powerful incentive for Tam and I to unpack as qucikly as possible. I fully expect our first week in the new house to be “frenzied”, to put it mildly!

Spending Money! Woo!

We took Friday off, a much deserved rest. And more than 10 hours of sleep was also a wonderful present. Saturday the goal was to go and look at some Utes, as I had picked up a copy of Trade and Exchange the day before (much like the Want Advertizer in Boston) and had found a couple of fine sounding vehicles. The goal was to get a flat-deck Ute from the 80’s (Japanese models only please as the Fords and Holdens had terrible maintenance records). We had two lined up, but playing phone tag around lunch we coulnd’t get in touch with either seller, so we decided to go appliance shopping. We drove up to Petone (the town on the harbor at the very bottom of the Hutt Valley) and went to Bonner Appliances, where we bought a ‘Fridge, Washer and Dryer, all for the cost of a new ‘Fridge! Woo! It cost money, but it was also a wonderfully cheap way to go. We will get them all delivered on Saturday.

By then we were finally starting to getting callbacks on our Ute inquireys, so we drove way up the Kapiti coast (about an hour) to Otaki beach, where I looked at and test drove a 1981 Toyota Hilux. Nice vehicle, and the owner was an obvious motor-head. But the brakes made me nervous, in that they did not seem so good at actually stopping the vehicle, which is a feature I like in my brakes. We then drove across the always-exciting Akaterawa road to the Hutt Valley, which was a fun 45 minutes or narrow and winding road clinging to mountainsides. Our second time across, this time west to east. In Upper Hutt I looked at a 1988 Nissan Navara King Cab, and it “won”. Now I am doing the registration-change dance, and hopefully by the beginning of next week I will have a Ute all of my very own! Woo!

For dinner we went to Great India on Manners street, which I had heard had fabulous food but had never tried. It was in fact some of the best (if not the best, period) Indian food I have ever had. I think it is going to be on the tour for when people come and visit.

Then later Saturday night we gathered in a crowded bar with our friends Stephanie and Patrick to watch the All Blacks take on Australia. NZ looked good for about the first 4 minutes, then they lost their steam, and never got it back. When plan A failed, they had no plan B and ended up getting stomped. This has of course dirven this rugby-obsessed country into a fit of reflection and self-flagelation. I also just read in the news today that there was a noticable spike in domestic violence calls Saturday night and Sunday, as disappointed (and often drunken) fans took out their frustration. One of the dark sides of sports-obsession.

Folk Parade

On Thursday night we all gathered to do a promotional parade for the coming Folklore Festival. This is going to be New Zealands first attempt at a Renn Faire, being run by a fellow from California who moved here 5 years ago, but used to be heavily involved in the Renn Faire circuit back in the states. As he has described it, the Kiwis do not “get” the concept as of yet. They have plenty of recreation organizations down here, but they tend to be closed groups that just play with each other. The idea of recreation as crazy street theater is new to them (apparently). Also, with such a small population base you need to bring in every possible group to hit critical mass for the faire. One ramification of this is that we have a serious hodge podge of periods and styles. Should be a hoot!

Originally Tam and Sybille (a friend from dance class) had wanted to do the “Bellydancer Busking” thing, but as another troupe of dancers were already lined up to do some more formal performances, they decided not to step on any toes (and steal any limelight), and decided to go down the pirate path instead. After a conversation with Roger, the organizer, this suddenly and horribly grew and mutated. Now we have a whole “pirate camp” area with a tent, a ship, props, and all sorts of other stuff. We have a half-dozen priates now (all dancers), and are recruiting more. As they come from the dance class, again I am the token male. Which of course makes me the ship’s cook! With Captain Belladonna Bess, and crew like Die Rote Johanna, Dizzy Nell the Navigator, Mistress Comeaboard our “cruise director”, and Blackpowder Peg, I have obviously learned to be very quiet and careful.

So Thursday evening at 7 we gathered to advertise the festival, which is now less than 2 weeks away. About 20 of us arrived in garb behind a local pub, where The Order of the Dragon put on a live steel fighting demo. I had the only drum, which I played and played until my hand was bright red and quite sore. From there we marched up Manners street to Courtney Place, dropping into the larger bars along the way to spread the message. Hopefully we will have good crowds come the weekend of the festival. I will be doing both SCA fighting demos and pirating, changing back and forth between costumes as the day goes by.


Once again time has slipped by, and we have fallen way behind on the blog posts. But at least I finally remembered my password, and can now log in as myself again! (Or have I? Who can tell?)

Last Wednesday we went to our first SCA A&S night. This involved about 9 locals getting together to chat and work on various craft projects from embroidery to making shoes to fiddling with armor (these nine represent about 75% of the total Wellington population). Perhaps it is no surprise, but you can fly to the other side of the world, and the SCAdians are cut from the same mold. This was nice, as it made it easy to slip right into the groove, as we all spoke the same language. They are all really nice, and did a great job making us feel at home. The local shire is made up almost entirely from relocatees, mostly from Christchurch (the largest center of SCA activity here) as well as other areas within the country. With such a small population, everyone seems to know each other (no surprise there).

When they found out we were Mongols they immediately asked if we knew the one Mongol they know, Ethan. Ha! Seems he still passes through Christchurch regularly on his way to and from Antartica, and hangs with the local SCAdians while he his there. We will have to visit him next opportunity. Again, amusing to go ’round the world and still have familiar names and faces.

One comment on driving around the city- Wellington has been beautifully described as a big “snakes and ladders” board, with the odd gust of wind thrown in to act as the random die roll. Many of the roads were drawn by helpful administrators in London 140 years ago with no knowledge of the rather steep Wellington topography. This results in streets that twist and turn madly to maintain an acceptable grade. In other places streets are discontinuous, segments being connected by steep staircases with the street name. Are you starting to see the snakes and ladders here? We do. While there are not many roads, the combination of name changing and no 90-degree angles means that finding an address can be a wonderful test of navigation skills. We try to leave early, and then enjoy the scenery as we inevitably have to circle back three or four times.

Quick note

Stephen *did* in fact come with us to Full Moon Drumming at Zebos Sunday night — and he shook his jinglies around the fire pit with the rest of us, to the vast delight of many (and the no-doubt horror of a few). We did indeed meet up with Roger and several other Festival organizers, and somewhere in the dancing and drinking got handed the “Pirate Camp” at the Festival. Yikes ! I mean, uh, “ARRRRR!!” We’ll see if we (“we” in this instance meaning most of the Thursday Night Aro Street dancers) can pull it off. We’ve only got three weeks…

In case y’all are thinking we’re just slackers, not updating the blog more often (we *are* slackers, but in addition to that…) here’s what our week looks like:

Monday: Beverley’s dance class. optional: gaming at the Ferryman

Tuesday: TBD, Optional: Huda’s dance class. This week we went and saw the Matrix, which um… well, if you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil you. Very pretty, though, at least on first viewing.

Wednesday: Stephen plays Warhammer; I’ve got an African drumming class. Optional: SCA A&S night — this’ll be our first time going, so it may become regular. Last week of course was Guy Fawkes.

Thursday: Aro street for dancing and working on the show (“The Two Sisters”, written by Sybille, was going to be for Fringe, but we weren’t early enough grabbing a venue) Optional: Huda’s dance class

Friday: TBD, often rugby, until the World Cup wraps (Go Black!).

Saturday: TBD, last week was the A&P show, etc., this week… Stephen, what are we doing this week ?

Sunday: TBD, Optional: Archery, Fight Practice. This week is an organizational meeting for Pirate camp.

Coming up in November: Shearing at Willowbank Alpacas, closing on the house, moving, Thanksgiving — which we, in a fit of insanity, are planning to have at our new place, the day after we move in. Actually, probably two Thanksgivings, as we’ve been invited to another one being thrown by a somewhat larger chunk of the American ex-pat community… — and the Folklore Festival. Whee !

Freaks like us

[In case you’re reading these from the top down, instead of chronologically, Stephen is posting using my login, because his has stopped working for some reason. I’m commenting in brackets like this. –T]

So, after such a long and event-filled Saturday, we looked forward to a slightly slower and more sedate Sunday. The morning started at a reasonable time (7:30 for me, 8:15 for Tam), and after breakfast we drove up to Upper Hutt to meet with a fellow (Shaun) and look at his Ute. [A “ute”, pronounced “yoot” or “yewt”, is a “utility vehicle”, i.e., a pickup truck. –T] This Ute had a little problem, in that he had rolled in into a ditch and buggered up the cab, denting in the top, shattering the windshield, and bending both doors. I will call around to some panel-beaters this week, and see if it can be repaired cheaply. [“Panelbeaters” is the wondrously evocative word for “body shop”. –T] The main reason I wanted to go up was that Shaun was a regular on the lifestyleblock list, a smallfarmer site I have been reading for the last few years. Getting connections into that community is really important, as they have so much skill and knowledge and will be vital in the coming months. Ian (also of the list) and a woman whose name we can’t remember were also there, and we talked for nearly an hour. Ian suggested we get about 30 lambs and run them on the land until we can get around to having some stock of our own. He even volunteered to drive over to the stock sales in Carterton with us, to help us with the whole process. Don’t know if I want to do that, as it may be easier to lease the land out to stock, run horses on it at $10/head/week or something like that. But it was nice to get the offer, and feel a bit of the often discussed “kiwi friendliness”. [Kiwi friendliness in this instance extended to the woman’s new horse as well, which she’d just finished brushing and which contentedly stood there in the little knot of us by the porch, cocking an ear to the conversation and occasionally using my shoulder to scratch its face. –T]

Afterwards we got a bit of food in Upper Hutt central, […stopped for a bit to skip stones in the Hutt… –T] then made our way back down into the city to drop by fight practice. This week all three of the heavy list fighters were there, and we chatted as they took rest-breaks from fighting. All three (Richard, Stephen and Dillan) seemed quite cool, and I very much look forward to getting my gear in a few weeks and joining them. Having such a small community of fighters will be like how I started back years ago in Philadelphia, back when it was only Brad, Len and I fighting in the back driveway week after week. They also do combat archery with 3/4″ blunts, which may get Tamara out there plinking away at us on occasion.

Rodger from the Folklore Fest also dropped by, and he and Tamara spoke of plans for the festival. Tamara wants to dance [Sybille and I want to dance… well, Sybille really wants to dance; I mostly just want to play dress up and mess with the tourists a bit. –T], but another troupe has arranged to do a stage performance, and they are a bit nervous about having other people in their territory, but it sounds like she may be able to swing a “pirate-gypsy” theme [Roger’s idea, not mine, I swear ! –T] that will not cause any conflict, and be lots of fun to boot. I will be participating in some heavy-list fighting being done as demos, which means a high priority upon unpacking will be finding all my fighting gear and making sure it is all ready to go, as I have not seen it in 9+ months.

To our great amusement we also saw the monsters training for some of their events. This folklore fest is structured a bit like a Ren Faire, and yet not. Rodger, who is running the thing, wants it to mutate into a more “Middle Earth Faire”, with a definite fantasy element thrown in. With such a small community of fighters, dancers, and recreationists to choose from, it is going to have to be a blender of different genres to make critical mass for performers. Should be a hoot, though. [The main difficulty is explaining to the locals just what a Renn Fair is. Most of the folks Roger has roped in are re-creationists, and the line between re-creation and street theater can be surprising wide and opaque. –T]

Overall a great Sunday. We met lots of people, and established more connections with freaks like us that will hopefully help us expand our social circle. And that is very useful. Later tonight we go off to do some drumming, as every full moon they have a big drum jam-session at a local club.

[…That’d be Zebos, yes. Sybille and I are heading over together & we’ll hopefully hook up with Roger and chat some more about the festival. Woo ! –T]