The Weekend Report

[Posted by Tam, who as usual is too much of a dork to notice who she’s logged in as…]

Friday – Watched .HACK//sign with Geoff and Beth. A creepy and rude white-haired kid appears to be a ghost in the machine that is Everquest. Or, rather, another MMORPG very like Everquest. Possibly this kid is in turn haunted by the ghost of his/her dead mother in the shape of a hacked character profile with the face of a cat — we don’t know yet. Either way, the other plaYers are deeply confused, and the sysadmins are having conniptions.

Saturday – The BURNINATOR STRIKES !! Yes, with all permits in place, we put a match to the big pile of gorse out back. It burned real good. Stephen is already dragging more cut gorse to make a new pile in the ashes of the old one. I got some shopping done — flannel sheets for the guest room, groceries, looked at some furniture.

Here’s the dilemma: We need sofas. As with many things, one has the option of spending more moolah for something that will last longer, or getting something cheap and expecting to replace it in a couple years when it wears out. I tend to lean toward quality, when I can, but the equation is complicated by one simple fact: Cats scratch sofas. We want a sofa that the cats won’t immediately destroy — the floral print loveseat that we inherited from my mom was a good cheap test run. The leather chair we got from Costco suggests that cats don’t scratch leather, because their claws don’t stick in in such a satisfying way. However, they *do* mark it up a bit — Rasputin likes to dig his claws in and stretch, or someone will jump up and slip. And leather doesn’t heal these little nicks the way some fabrics might. So, should we get a cheap sofa, and assume we’ll have to replace it in a few years whether the cats get it or regular wear and tear does ? Should we still go for leather ? Or even faux leather ? Is there some kind of cat-resistant fabric ?

Sunday – Stephen went to fight practice while I puttered around cleaning splattered food out of the microwave and the sasser worm off my computer. Oh, for the days before I gave up on Macs. After that, Stephen and I went up to Battle Hill Farm Park to hike around a bit.

Here’s something I’ve never seen before: There was a police roadblock stopping traffic on Paekakariki Hill Road. They’d pull you over, hand you a little flyer with road crash statistics on one side and information about the park on the other — it was a public awareness campaign to make people aware that those twisty little hill roads can be kinda dangerous, so please slow down. And while we’ve got you stopped here, we’ve got a barbeque set up over there serving up free sausages and soft drinks — help yourself. How wacky. So we chatted a bit with the guy running the grill about police community relations, the U of Chigaco, and race relations. Then we went and had a lovely hike.

6 Month Mark

So, today marked 6 months that we have been here at Elmwood Farm. Hopefully we will soon get up a nice photo perspective so you can see the place, and what we have done.

What have we done these last 6 months? Well, lots. But most everythign is an ongoing project. Hopefully by the 1-year mark we can look back at the sweat and blisters and count-off all the improvements we have made to the place. I hope! 🙂


It’s very, very cool, when, instead of trying to explain to baffled co-workers why anyone would care if there was some nipple exposure during the superbowl half-time, or instead of trying to reassure coworkers and friends that, while I find it quite touching that they would try to limit their ranting about whatever wretched imperialist violation of international law and basic human rights the US has perpetrated in the last week, I often feel the need to rant myself, so you don’t need to whisper over there, really, I can say to them, “Hey, did you see my home town on the news last night ? That’s where I’m from ! My friends were there !”

Yes, the Massachusetts Gay Marriage Block Party was on the 6:00 news last night (complete with YAY! sign — if I could have gotten screen caps, I may have seen some of y’all on TV !), and in the paper this morning.

The coverage last night showed pans of the MASSIVE crowd, a couple shots of happy couples kissing, a pic of a cop in riot gear, and the business end of the ceremony they had in the old church downtown where we saw that Scottish punk band at First Night a few years back. They had a brief clip of an interview with some Escaped-From-the-Fifties shellac-coifed housewife proclaiming that this would bring about Total Anarchy and the End of the World As We Know It, and many more extensive clips of various officials, supporters, newlyweds, and Citizens At Large basically expounding the opposite view. Good stuff ! Yay, Massachusetts !

New Morning Ritual

Time to… bury the body. Last night we set up the two Timms Traps, and this morning we have a dead possum. It feels pretty weird to be killing these cat-sized critters, and both Tam and I had a twinge of guilt. But it is what must be done if we are going to be good to environment. I am not going to bother trying to skin this one, as I dont have a proper knife or any experience. I am just going to bury it by the want tank (mmmm, fertilizer!). Once the traps are clear and disarmed I will let the cats out, we don’t want to take the chance a curious cat will stick his head in the plastic yellow box. They are baited with apple, but knowing Slow’s propensity for liking weird food, you never know.

The Timms Trap works like a giant mouse trap, so at least it is humane. But watch those fingers,a trap that big can seriously hurt your hand!

Thinking about the traps as I slept resulted in a weird dream about “The Possum Queen”. She was a giant possum, nearly 6 feet long with a long thin body. And six legs. And three tails. It was the extra tails that had me worried. She was going from trap to trap pulling the apples out with her big paw. Weird dream.

Democracy in action!

A few weeks ago we got a notice in the mail that there was a local planning meeting happening to discuss changes to the Wellington City Council (WCC) zoning and land-use plans, particularly regarding hills and ridgelines. Everyone in the valley was invited (they were having meetings for the various valleys and rural areas in Wellington- Karori, Ohariu, Makara, etc).

So we went last night up to the Grenada North community hall. In attendance there were 4 city councilers, the planning chief for the north-city development, and three other consultants and zoning planners. And us. Yes, we were the only residents that showed up. Outnumbered four to one, the meeting went ahead. We leanred about the law changes, and took the oppotunity to ask some questiongs about general development in the rural region (the shed and barn we want to put up, putting a small bridge across the back stream, the nuclear reactor, the black-helicopter landing-pad).

And we had tea and cookies. And they gave us a copy of the big planning map for the region! (Though we should not metion the freebie map to the neighbors). We also got to meet a bunch of really nice city council employees (chatting afterwards). We traded numbers and cards. Always good to make new friends!

weekend report plus

Sylvia’s Jazz Age themed birthday party. Woo fun. I wore the brown & copper dress that Judith and I made for our duet (and that I wore to Bill’s Oscars party), with the headpiece and other accessories. Stephen, for lack of anything approaching a suit, wore his martial arts jacket and the ginormous chinese basketry hat that Bill got me a billion years ago when we actually lived somewhere there was a Chinatown, and carried (and held over me for the first, oh, 20 minutes or so the painted parasol I got at the Manukau fair) and came as my own personal coolie. We had to explain to everyone what a “coolie” was. The hat was a big hit (someone, I think it was Phil, said, “Wow, you never know what Stephen’s gonna turn up in next !”).

There was a mix of home-cobbled outfits like ours, rented flapper dresses, etc. Most of the men were in fedoras & one was clever enough to bring along a violin case. Hee. Hillary wore this gorgeous bias-cut blue satin gown she’d whipped up two days before — I’ll have to see if I can get pics off someone. It had a plunge back and two big train-gores (she called them “Spinakers. They make me go faster !”), and was all kinds of funky.

As Stephen mentioned, we swung up through Paraparaumu & picked up Beverley’s niece(?) Helene, the chick with the home-tanning hobby. The show was good fun — the wide variety of plants at the various nursery booths sent me into enough ferret shock that we didn’t go home with any. Got a bag full of fejoas, though, and more organic apples than 5 people could reasonably be expected to eat in a week. I wonder if we could try oven-drying some ? Yummy apple rings…

Met some really neat people from the Tree-Croppers association, the Grasslands Association, and the Regional Council. As Stephen mentioned, we scrooched the *sweetest* 11 month old Murray Grey bull (he licked me ! Hee !). The Highland Cattle guy that we chatted with at the last Field Days we went to was there. Helene grilled him about the fabulous pelt they had on display & we learned that feeding a white bull carrots will turn him *peach*. Also learned that there are a couple of women up north of Auckland who are setting up a farm park & may have some extra yaks to sell. (Oooooh!)

Side note: This guy went to GREAT PAINS to explain how the two women — one of whom, we are told, is widowed & the other of whose husband “ran off” — got into business together, because he didn’t want us to think there was anything “funny” there. Because, you know, we wouldn’t want to buy yaks from LESBIANS. LESBIANISM is contagious, you know, and we wouldn’t want to buy what might be LESBIAN YAKS, would we ? They wouldn’t breed well. Or something. Who knows. I asked him (with what I have had described as my “Are you on crack ? Are you speaking English ?” look) why the heck we should care. Anyway, gotta look these gals up & ask them about their lesbian yaks.

Sunday was my birthday. After the bleak horror of last year’s birthday, and given that May seems to be a common month for birthdays on this side of the planet (see Friday), I didn’t want to try and do anything too socially strenuous, so I picked something I wanted to do and just invited some people along. We went horseback riding. Stephen asked Yvonne for advice & Stephen and I and a handful of others ended up in Ohariu valley on a 4 hour coastal trek. Gorgeous, gorgeous scenery. Lovely ride, too, and we only got drizzled on a little bit.

Stephen got put on a big-boned Clyde cross named “Hercules” — nicknamed “Mouse”, because “he’s afraid of everything”. Just what you want in a trail horse ! He was fine, though, and, usefuly, he was best friends with Melanie’s horse & since Melanie was a bit nervous, it meant Stephen could use him to keep her horse calm & happy. Melanie & Sybille were also on big Clyde crosses, as was Patrick (more about him later). I got a standardbred (to judge by the freeze brand) pacer(!). I’ve never ridden a pacing horse before & it was *wacky*, let me tell you. Pretty smooth, actually, except when it tried to trot instead & that was like riding one of those bouncy rubber ball toys with the horse head, only made of concrete. Hillary got this pretty little appy mare (I say “got” — what happened was they looked at the two of us & said “this one can get stroppy”, I pointed mutely at Hillary, and she took pity on me) who looked like she had powdered sugar dusted on her butt. Because she was a appaloosa, she had whites around her eyes, which meant you could tell where she was looking, which was kind of strange. Stephanie got a lazy chestnut with an apparent deep affection for the back end of one of the grays (kept scratching his head on its tail).

Why is it that the one person who sticks up his hand, says he’s a beginner, and asks for an easy horse ends up with the problem beast ? Poor Patrick’s horse sat down and tried to roll with him still on board, then tried to scrape him off in half the bushes on the trail back.

So, a four hour ride. Stephen and I limped around the house for the rest of the evening moaning, “My ass ! My Ass !” But hey, how often can you leave several of your friends in agony and have them thank you for it ?

Today, I got into work and found my desk and chair covered in toilet paper, glitter, silly string, and sticky notes. All of my moveable equipment (phone, mouse, headphones) was duct taped to the ceiling. This was, of course, in part because I had to work late Friday on the refresh, and they had to wait — drinking — for me to leave before they could get started. Aiie.

They also took me out for coffee (tea, in my case). Oi.

Missed movies

So, last night we finally got around to watching “Bowling for Columbine.” Really quite interesting, especially the discussions of cultural differences (or lack there of) and homicide deaths. Specificaly talking about Canada where there are lots of guns in private hands but the per-capita gun-death rate is about 1/10th that of the USA. Interesting (and no easy answers).

I did find the “living in fear” bit fascinating, especially when Michael Moore walked around Toronto testing a theory- yes, most of the doors were unlocked. In the city no less. Tam and I had to smile, as we have gotten in the habit of leaving the doors unlocked. Sometimes for days on end. During the sumer we would forget to close them at night some days!

I think I am now understanding a bit more of the American psyche (and it helps getting some outside perspective). When you are afraid (the Black Man down the street, the Rag-Heads in some foreign land, the Godless Commies- whatever) then your actions, no matter how crazy, become “self-defense.” And anything is justified if you are defending yourself, your loved ones, your home, right? It is interesting to note that by the NZ gun code there is NEVER a good reason for shooting another human being, even if you claim self-defense. A firearm is always considered excessive and dangerous force.

So, are your doors locked? And is that making you safer or not? Interesting question. But enough gloom and doom. Now for some Fun Stuff.

Went to a farm show (Small Farmer Field Days) in Otaki on Saturday. On the way there we bought Chainsaw Chaps and an EZ-Pull (fencing appliance) at the Farmlands. At the show I got a good demonstration on how to properly tie high-tensile steel wire. We looked at some small-to-medium size cow breeds (Murray Grey, Dexter, Highland), and Tamara is trying to convince me that Cows are not in fact furry minions of Satan. I am not yet convinced. We went up to the show with Helen, who afterwards loaned us two Timms Traps. Tonight I go out and set the traps, and I will see if we have anything by morning. Should be interesting! Helen is keen on making more tanned Possum skins, so if we catch ’em, she wants em. Time to ge tthe chest freezer in the garage going!

Did you feel the earth move ?

I feel like I should scrawl it out in fat Crayola crayon: “My First Earthquake.” I finally felt one ! It was a 4.6, 25 km deep, 110km away up near Eketahuna . Eketahuna is up over the pass to the northeast, way past Masterton. We haven’t been there yet, but there’s a small, but dedicated group of reenactors there, including the super-cool barbarian chicks who ride the heavy horses. Pirate Camp was next door to them at the Medieval Faire, and we ran into them again at the jousting event in Upper Hutt. (Hope they’re okay !) At our place, it just felt like the house shuddered — took less than a second, and Geoff (we had people over for the weekly SCA meeting) missed it altogether.

I hope we have lots of small, damage-free ones like this, so we don’t get any big gigantic ones.

Time to make the…

Donuts. I don’t know about Auckland, but there are no donut places in Wellington. It’s possible to find donuts in grocery store bakeries, but there’s only one kind — a soft cakey kind with sugar & cinnamon on the outside. The “fried dough” position at carnivals and fairs is usually either filled by these — little cinammon mini-donuts that they fry up right there — or else Belgian waffles with ice cream on (yum).

Yesterday, though, the New World Metro (grocery store) on Willis street, to which I’d made a brief foraging expedition in search of herbal tea, had “American style” cake donuts with powdered sugar. A little like Entenmann’s, only a bit softer (possibly because they were fresher). Yum ! My co-workers were bemused (and a bit shocked when the powdered sugar inevitably exploded all over them).

You can get 20 different kinds of muffin (including “savory” muffins) in any given bakery/cafe, mind you.

[Oops — this was Tam, not Stephen !]