Some pics

Some pics from the show. I’d inundate you, but… well, we’ll see how long it takes to upload these. That’s the new door for the ger, behind the Evil King (in his Evil Hat) and his Zombie Minions.

Farmer Stephen

So Stephen’s being all farmerly. Today he went and picked up the winter’s hay supply in his ute, and just yesterday he tackled a sheep ! Nice full-body rugby tackle, into a patch of thistle, no less. While wearing gum boots (Stephen, not the sheep).

Stuart had come up at last to collect Molly & Dolly, our two renegades. Between him on his farm bike, Yvonne & the girls playing farmhand on their horses, Stephen, Rasputin playing eye-cat, and me, we had minimal trouble corraling the pair of prodigal ewes into the dog run, from whence Stuart will come and get them today.

(Stephen may just have dented his shiny new farmer image a bit by remarking to Stuart about how “quiescent” Dolly went when Stuart sat her up to get a look at her teeth. Hee. Farmer *and* technical writer…)

Today, the Power Tools we ordered at the Field Days arrive. Woo ! Let the destruction commence !


We survived the show ! It went really well. Sold out (or nearly) for the first two, and about half-house for the third. Nobody screwed up ! And no psycho-drama ! Go us ! We even got in the local paper (the Wellington equivalent of the City Paper).

I can’t wait to see the video.

IRD encounters

So, as many of you know, I am currently “self employed”, working as science writer from home. To get paid, I needed to be registered for GST (Goods and Services Tax), since I need to charge GST for my services. About a week after I registered (which you can do entirely on the web, as the IRD has a nice web site that allows you to do lots of common clerical stuff easily) I got a call from a fellow at the IRD (inland revenue department), asking if I had any questions about GST. I did, we chatted for a few minutes, and he realized I had many questions- so I made and appointment to go in and talk. Now, all my IRS instincts cried “RUNNNNN!!!!”, but he sounded friendly enough.

Yesterday we had our meeting, and it was very useful. Our tax situation is going to be a bit complicated. Being self-employeed is not a huge issue. What makes it complicated is that not only am I running a business from my home, but I am also co-running a farm in partnership with Tamara. And this farm happens to surround our home. That’s when things get complicated and messy. For this first year we will certainly need an accountant’s help. After that, we should be able to take care of it ourselves, unless we embark into yet deeper financial weirdness. The good an comforting news is that IRD seems to be genuinely helpful. I have been told that apparently they made a department-wide decision a few years ago to be nice and helpful, as opposed to evil baby-eaters. So long as you try earnestly and honestly to do your taxes correctly, they won’t messily devour you. If you cheat… well, I think they still have some of the old baby-eating auditors locked away in the basement for just that situation. Now to collect old receipts for farm-related purchases and see how much we can get in a refund this year!

Theories on being nice

We had heard stories before coming down here about how nice the average Kiwi was, and we discovered that by and large the stories were true. We have, of course, run into some amAzingly rude people (mostly at the Warehouse- a mini Walmart wannabe- I wonder why that is so?), but on the whole people are, in fact, really nice. So that leads me to wonder why. There are very many cultural similarities to the US, so why the behavior difference (compared to the North East, at least)?

Theory 1- It’s a little place. Small populations can make people a bit friendlier, as you lack the cold anonymity of the vast faceless horde. Wellington, the second largest city, only has 200,000 people in the entire metro area. That means it is very possible to get to know _everyone_ who shares your hobbies (wargaming, SCA, bellydancing, whatever). And with such a small community it would be a very bad idea to piss people off too much! And this matches with complaints I hear about Auckland as being impersonal and unfriendly.

Theory 1a- Influence of rural culture. Lots of people still have roots and contatcs in even more rural and sparesly populated regions, where the low-population influence would be even more pronouced. Plus there is the whole “community spirit” that remote homesteads need with their neighbors to share resources when there is no central government there to help at a moments need. This is something we experienced after the big storm a month ago where we and the neighbors cleared the trees and slips from our own road without council assisstance.

Theory 2- Tea. Yes, tea. And what I mean is the tradition of offering people a cup of tea as a hospitality rite. This seems to be a very important means of breaking down social barriers. For example, when the plumbers came to put in the solar hot water system we offered them tea at one point, they happily accepted and we alll had a nice 15 minute break drinking tea, eating cookies, and chatting. This opens open the possibility of friendly social relations with just about anyone, and means that what would be purely business interactions can often gain a social dimension.

As a final culltural note- it is interesting to see the little differences due to the lack of a large Jewish community (as is present in the NE corner of the USA). I had not realized how many Yiddish words are in my vernacular until I started getting strange looks. And it’s really hard to find a good bagel around here! In its place we have lots of Maori words thrown into everyday English useage. I need to pull down Maori our dictionary and figure out what they all mean before I attempt to use them in context.

More randomness

Two things I learned (or re-learned) this weekend:

— When you put my makeup foundation on Stephen, he looks like an animated corpse. While Sybille’s quite sure that an undead King is not quite the effect we’re going for in this production, we’ll have to keep it in mind, should for some reason we ever *want* to make Stephen look three days dead.

— The Agincourt Carol can be sung to the tune of “Day-O”. Try it:

De-o ! De-e-e-o !
Deo gracias Anglia !

De-o ! De-e-e-o !
Redde pro victoria !

Owre kynge went forth to Normandy
(Deo gracias Anglia)
With grace and myght of chyvalry
(Deo gracias Anglia)
Ther God for hym wrought mervelusly
(Deo gracias Anglia)
Wherfore Englonde may calle and cry
(Deo gracias Anglia)



…is infectious. Especially when it comes in the form of four adorable young Korean samulnori drummers. (Samulnori being the Korean equivalent of taiko.) I spent my lunch hour in Civic Square, with the sun (!) on my back and the drumbeats reverberating in my sternum. Woo ! I love watching people have fun — what a blast ! And that goes for the crowd as much as the drummers: we all clapped along, shouting on cue and joining in singing Arirang* (lyrics kindly provided for those of us non-Koreans in the audience). Too bad my lunch hour was up and I had to go — after the post-drumming tightrope act, they started up a massive Civic Square Korean conga line, just as I was leaving.

*Notes for the folklore geeks among us: If you can dredge up any kind of musical mental association for “Korean folk song” — John Barnes Chance’s “Variations on a Korean Folk Song” counts — then you’ve probably heard Arirang. Or an Arirang, as there are apparently myriad regional and personal variations of it. No one knows where the melody originated, or what the word “arirang” actually means. (I suspect it’s a vocable, like the fiddle-diddle-di-dohs of English folk songs. But maybe it was once a personal name ?) The “traditional” ones have verses longing for one’s absent lover, but there are personal and political ones, too, especially about how much it sucked to be annexed by Japan. It’s a beautiful melody.


Random NZ cultural observation #57: Chocolate eggs seem to be the Easter Chocolate Thing of choice, rather than chocolate rabbits. I’ll need to survey the offerings of a few more grocery stores to be sure, but chocolate eggs come in a staggering variety of sizes (up to as-big-as-my-head) and formats, while there were only a couple of rather lacklustre chocolate rabbits on offer. Naturally, they don’t have Peeps.

Addendum to Oberservation #57: In the South Island every year, they have an Easter Bunny Shoot. For some reason, this cracks me up. Possibly that reason is the rabbits chewing great eroding bald patches in our back pasture.

NZ Quirks of Speech Observation #30: They say “In the South Island”. Not “on”, “in.” Dunno why.

Random Thought #7: Having a pod of orca wander into the harbor, hang out for the day hamming it up for the crowd, and then wander out again, is just tremendously Cool.

Water Discoveries

Yesterday morning I went out to check the stock, and noticed that the concrete water tank was only 1/2 full. It is easy to tell how full it is, as it is so shot-full of cracks you just see how high the leaking extends! So I went up into the paddocks and found that the water troughs were nearly empty! Seems the water had stopped flowing a few days previously (probably right around Friday when I finally got the new plastic water tank plumbed into the house system). Now, we had a good idea where our water came from, so I decided to investigate. Up the back hill, about 300 m back from the house, is the spring/seep that we get our water from. We had previously discovered the plastic sediment tank (used to catch the sand and silt that comes along with the water so it does not come down into the water tank). I tried following the path of the water pipe back up to the actual spring, but without gloves or tools the gorse and tree-nettle quickly blocked my path. So I went back and got tools (a long walk). It took over an hour to trace the pipe, as it was under a thich layer of old grass and mud, and it followed such a crazed serpentine path there was no way to “skip ahead”, I had to reveal it all meter by meter. But in the end I found the pile of rocks, sheet metal, and platic sheeting that was the catch basin for the spring source. I cleaned it out, cleaned the pipe between it and the sediment tank, and got the water flowing again! Woo! Made me feel very farmer-ly to go out and restore the water system.

In other news we left the back door wide open last night. The lack of cats on the bed when we got up this morning was a big clue. They came in during breakfast, all with the smug expressions of cats that had just had a fun night out, breaking the rules. Out past curfew! Those little hooligans!

2 weeks to go

In two weeks the bellydance-fairytale, The Two Sisters, goes down. Which means the final frenzy is now commencing. For the last 10 days Tam has been working like mad to get the promotional artwork done. This became a case of “what can go wrong, will”. Case in point was Saturday, all she had to do was burn the data onto a CD. She sticks in a blank CD, and the drive breaks. It had been working perfectly the day before, but now it is kaput. Many hours of repair efforts failed, and we discovered Sony does not do service advice if you are outside the US (gee- thanks!). In the end we shuffled drives around between machines and got stuff working. This is only one of many incidents that has plauged the process. We are both hoping the latest version is the final one, so we can simply focus on practicing our dances a few million times before the show.

We are also trying to get as many around the house and farm projects done as possible. My parents arrive in 3 weeks, and that is a great incentive to not have half-done stuff lying around. At the end of last week I finished digging-in pipes and making connections so that the house is now getting its water directy from the new water tank. Hopefully we can get the new drainage field for the septic system finished now that it has stopped raining continuously. (Note- no rain for 4 consecutive days! It’s a miracle!).

Yesterday afternoon, after rehersal, we drove around Wellington harbor all the way to Eastbourne. That is far as the road goes around the east side of the harbor, before becoming a private dirt road that only connects to remote farms and lighthouses. It was fun walking along the pebble beach and looking west across the harbor to the city. When we get our bikes repaired we will have to come back and cycle down the road to the lighthouse at the end. It is supposed to be a 7-hour hike, which would be a great bike ride. And since it is a coast road, it is nice and flat! I would not want to cycle in many parts of this fine country, as the frequent vertical changes require thighs of steel.