Hooning and Pronking

Hooning, as we may have noted in an earlier blog post, is a local slang term for “driving really recklessly fast”. “Pronking” is apparently the technical term for “poinging”, when alpacas (or, say, gazelles, or I guess goats or something) do it: leap about with all four feet leaving the ground at once.

Alpacas do both when you let them into a new paddock. It’s incredibly cute.

And, frankly, is yet another argument for choosing rotational grazing over set stocking.


Got a letter a few days ago from the fund that manages my IRA. They informed me that under article 326 of the USA Patriot Act people with an overseas address cannot make deposits into their own IRA accounts. Huh? I guess the Republicans figure that the anti-American Jihadist organizations are so successful due to the generous retirement programs! And article 326? Just how much stuff was crammed into that terrible law? And an even more vexing question, why does making it harder to save for retirement appear on the conservative wish-list? I could cynically suggest that they think the elderly might be needed as an extra cheap-working-poor labor force or something.

But to the credit of the IRA fund-manager, by reading between the lines you could see THEY thought this was a stupid law, and they provided many means for changing your address back to the USA.

Completion, commitment, and camels

So, on Friday I completed the Glen/Home fence, which subdivided the home paddock, creating the smaller glen paddock off to one side. Mind, this is not the first fence I have built, but it is the first I have actually finished. This one has a gate and everything! Hanging a gate ended up being easier than expected, so in a fit of productivity I hung a new gate for the Triangle paddock (have only had the new gate sitting around for about 4 months), then using some scrap lumber I built a pair of compost bins, finally providing a nice place for the organic waste. (We try to compost everything possible, so nothing organic goes in the trash. We don’t have any garbage pickup, so the trash often waits months before we haul it to the tip. If it is all just plastic wrappers then there is no stink problem).

Saturday we went and made a commitment. After many months of deep soul-searching, we have finally purchased a couch- two, actually, a 3-seater and a 2-seater. Both of leather in a style that should match our “relaxed to semi-barbaric” decor. We also decided to move Tam’s desk to the living room, which is large and L-shaped, and can easily swallow the giant desk into one corner. Once I finish deconvoluting the rats-nest of wires under the house I will get the phone jack in there hooked up again, providing DSL. Then we can move the computers in and take down the “temporary” computer table that has been in the dining room since the day we moved in!

And finally, on Sunday there were camels. We went to the film-festival showing of “The storey of the weeping camel”. It was a film set in Mongolia done by a German film student. Really interesting. I think we were equally fascinated by the camels and the Mongolian material culture. The camels because since we have been working with the alpaca for 6 months now we have started to learn some of the “camelid language”, and camels seem to speak a recognizable dialect. But boy are they big. It was startling to see a newborn the size of our full-grown alpaca! Just as fun was all the footage of life in the Gobi. Lots of great interior shots off Yurts/Gers, showing the furniture, wall-hangings, painted Tono (roof-rings), etc. We really must take a holiday to Mongolia some time. And we will have to bring empty suitcases that we can fill with cool stuff to bring back!

And to cap off a fun and productive weekend we went to see Tangerine play at Molly Malones down on Courtenay Place. Great music by Tim, Liz, Alan and Bruce, with some lovely bellydance during the second half provided by Beverly, Hillary and Sibylle. The room was totally packed (glad the fire marshal did not drop by!), and everyone had a grand time.

Weekend of movies

The weather report on Friday made it clear that this was going to be a wet and miserable weekend, so we dropped by Amalgmated Video and picked up a stack of movies.

Friday evening we went to our first film of the Wellington International Film Festival. “Best of British” was 80 minutes of animation from the UK. A real mixed bag. Somebody really needs to inform animators (or maybe the judges who select for such “best of” compilations) that “wacky” does not necessarily mean “good”. Ah, well.

For the more conventional movies we got The Frighteners and Heavely Creatures to finish off our Peter Jackson filmography. Heavenly Creatures was quite fun, and I see why he passed it around when trying to rope in cast for LoTR. Not a cheerful movie, but a great rendition of that particular madness which only teenagers possess.

We also got The Scorpion King, which is a good way to scrub your frontal lobes clean. It is one of those good-bad Conan-like films. We also watched the first Spider Man movie, as we both missed it in the theater and wanted to see it now in case we get the chance to see the second one in the theater. And finally we watched the first two episodes of Band of Brothers. BoB was really good, and we look forward to watching the remaining episodes.

Today Tam was home, as she has to go in to work tonight (working past midnight kinda sucks). But at least we got a day to run errands and do some work around the place. The high winds prevented us from working with the alpaca- as it is hard to work on halter training when the gusts keep causing them to get distracted and freaked out. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will be more still, and we can wok with them then.

While we did get lots of rain this weekend, up about 450 km north of here in the Bay of Plenty they got hammered. Not only did they get nearly a foot of rain, which would have been bad enough with massive flooding and slips and all. But then yesterday they got hit by a series of earthquakes (4.6 was the greatest). These caused some giagantic slips (landslides) in the water-saturated hillsides, and knocked a bunch of houses off their foundations. Quite a mess. (And with global warming extreme weather events are going to become more common. Makes me glad we are on a hill!)

The Weekend Report

Friday – dinner with Sibylle and Stuart, which included lovely conversation (Stuart is a lawyer for the Ministry of Justice and doesn’t have quite the… appreciation we do for the off-the-cuff candor of Kiwi politicians :^D.) and some truly amazingly yummy goulash. Germans do goulash, too, apparently, they just don’t get the credit they deserve. Sibylle, who has possibly the most complicated list of can’t-eats of any of our friends (must dig up Kathy’s Food Allergy Matrix), is also in the habit of making these incredibly sinful, bad-for-you desserts which she can’t eat herself. Hmmm. Maybe she’s secretly trying to kill us all, very very slowly. With heavy cream.

Saturday: We lit out north. Stopped in at the Lindale Farming Center (I mean, “Centre”) for french toast in the their cafe, and to see if they had the lambskin aviator cap I’m lusting after in my size. (they didn’t. Ah well.) Hit the Farmlands in Otaki for clippers, fencing supplies & assorted things-the-local-Wrightson’s-failed-to-provide.

Then up to Alpacas Unlimited (otherwise known as “Thief of Hearts”) to see if Eric had any alpacas for us to buy. As it happens he didn’t, as he pretty much keeps his females and sells the males (unless they’re potential stud material) as pets. We got to look at his setup, though, and a *lot* of alpacas, including a good two dozen cria — Cutest. Babies. Evah. Just looking at tons of different animals is tremendously educational, because you really start to learn what you’re looking at, and what you’re looking for. We also got to just talk with Eric for a while, and that was good in itself, as he’s been in the industry for quite a while, and has some pretty strong opinions about various things (and various people). As we’ve mentioned before, getting three alpaca people in a room nets you five different opinions on any given subject & Stephen and I are just sponging up everything & gradually sorting it all out for ourselves.

After spending a good few hours with Eric, we swung by the house/workshop of the guy we sold some of our old fenceposts to. He’s got this secret little hideaway almost, down a driveway that runs between a saw factory and a licorice factory, that you’d never have known was there if you hadn’t been told. We picked out a big chunky garden bench that he’s going to drop off for us next week & we’d better have decided by then where we want it to go, because it looks like it’ll take three people to move it.

After *that*, we phoned Elise at the Straw Llama — we had been planning to phone her up a good bit later, as she’d been recommended to us by Linda at Willowbank as a place to maybe find a llama, but she was right there by Levin, and Eric recommended her as well, so we rang her up and she told us to come on out. It’s “Straw” Llama, by the way, because she lives in a big straw bale house. Very, very cool.

The first thing we saw at Elise’s place, though, was our very first “berserk” alpaca, a rescue from a farm park where he’d been over-handled. Male camelids (and to some extent females, too) can develop severe social problems if you coddle them too much while they’re young — *especially* if they’re alone & don’t get proper socialization from the herd. Basically, they don’t distinguish between people and camelids, which makes you fair game for challenges to the pecking order. What this means is the alpaca or llama that seemed “friendly”, because he was running up to you and rubbing his head against you and being all cute, eventaully takes it to the next step: chest-butting you to the ground and stomping on you. Not so cute. Especially not so cute in something llama-sized, with fighting teeth. Anyway, as we drove onto the property, this black alpaca *charges* the car. As the car turns to drive along the fence, the alpaca follows at a run, tossing his head. As we park the car and get out, the alpaca, eyes rolling, repeatedly throws himself against the fence. When that doesn’t work, he snakes his head between the wires and tries to bite our shoes. “Don’t get to close too that little black alpaca,” says Barney, “He’ll bite you.” Yeeg. Sydney the Berserk Alpaca. Scary, and yet also really sad and pathetic. *People* did that to him.

Elise is a neat lady, though, and we got tons more information and opinions from her. She’s been doing llamas and alpacas almost since the beginning, and I didn’t realize until afterwards that several of the articles I’d read online were hers. She had a pair of male llamas that she’d really like us to give a home to, as they were not exactly thriving in the current pecking order — even some of the alpacas were higher than them — and she hoped getting them out from under the dominant male would perk them up. We took pics with the digital. Elise gave us a ton of contacts to follow up & then we scurried into Levin for dinner before making our way home.

Sunday: Stephen went to fight practice, while I went to a yum cha (dim sum) organized by Alan. Ooof. Stuffed. The Radfords Furniture across the street is having a 20% off sale on its leather sofas !!! Stephen was too hunger-blinded to shop, though, so we went home. The sale runs to the end of the month, though….

After lunch, we played with the ‘paca — Oak is getting really really good at leading (much better than he is at standing still), and with Stephen steadying his head, Chris let me pick up and hold his feet ! I want to try clipping his other front one today, and check the one we nicked to make sure it’s healing up clean. Pointer is Passive Resistance Lad. I need to figure out what I’m doing that’s confusing him.

After ‘paca, we killed a couple hours on the Playstation (finished FFX-2 and am now finally starting on Wild Arms 3). Then Sunday night was the first “Turkish Delight” night at the Blue Note, organized by Stephanie’s troupe, Sisters of Sindbad. Sort of a belly dance Open Mic. Very cool. Stephen and I were DJs. Tangerine was there playing live, so there was plenty of boogie for all.

Crazy ol' USA

I was really struck by some American insanity last night. But not in the way any of you are thinking. I am talking alpaca prices.

The alpaca industry in the New Alpaca Countries (meaning anywhere outside of South America) is currently a “breeders markter”, which means the prices are artificially high. At the end of the day these are fiber animals, and their prices will have to reflect the value of that fiber. Right now in NZ the prices for a female range from NZ$4000 to NZ$12500 (~ US$2500-7750). Ouch. The fiber-values of the animals is probably about 5-10x lower. People make money right now selling animals to other starting breeders like us, a classic pyramid scheme.

But the US market makes these prices seem completely sane by comparison. Most females there _start_ at US$10,000, and it is not that hard to find $20,000, even $30,000 animals. Then last night Tam hit the “mother load” of insanity. For “Rose Grey” animals she found prices of $200,000 for a single female! Dear Lord! In another case they were asking $40,000 to pruchase an unborn Cria from a Grey- sight unseen! And with the way their color genetics works, you cannot be assured of a grey offspring. Heck, you can’t know if you will end up with a dud through the magic of genetic recombination. $200,000! Aaack! That female had better give birth to solid gold offspring!

We had known that the US market was rather more “fad driven”, with a huge emphasis on grey animals right now, but this is still a shock. Mike Safely, one of the original North American breeders and who was a speaker at the Alpaca conference 2 weeks ago, was highly critical of the US Alpaca market. Now I understand why. Apparently there are also strong trends in the US to breed for congenital traits which are not (or at best marginally) heritable! Now I really understand why he said NZ could end up with the best herd genetics in the world if we get our act together an institute systematic genetic improvement practices.

I guess we can look at the bright side, in that the US market will no doubt be the bellwether of any price crash. Paying 10x fiber value in NZ seems positively sane compared to the 100x prices up north.


What we’ve been up to…

Tuesday was the end-of-term hafla for Beverley’s class. Evidence that Stephen and I have switched brains: I sat off to one side chatting quietly with Briar and other various folks, while Stephen kicked off his shoes, borrowed a jingle belt off B and boogied. My excuse: I was fighting off a cold.

Wednesday & today I spent recuperating from said cold. Bleah. Caught up with Linda at Willowbank & talked about the conference (which she missed – she went to the Field Days* instead.) Stephen rented “Bad Taste” & we watched that. Despite the title, and a lot of gore, “Meet the Feebles” was in far poorer taste. “Bad Taste” did, however, feature a startlingly young and spry Peter Jackson. I don’t think I’ll ever look at powder blue oxford button downs quite the same way again.

*Note, there are multiple Field Days throughout the country and throughout the year, at which vendors of various Stuff Farmers Use have stalls displaying their wares & occasionally selling them at a discount. Field Days are distinct from A&P (Agricultural and Pastoral) shows, at which the farmers – livestock and otherwise – show off *their* produce. There’s crossover between the two, though. However, when people put “the” in front of “Field Days”, they are referring to the ones at Mystery Creek**, the largest in the country, largest in the Southern Hemishere, and 3rd largest in the world. 180 acres of Shopping. For Farmers.

**Further note: Mystery Creek, incidentally, got its name from an unsolved armed robbery and assumed-to-be-related murder.

Local video madness

Having finally purchased a local VCR that can watch PAL-format tapes, last night we took advantage and rented a local movie: “Meet the Feebles”, a 1989 film by Peter Jackson. Even after a nights sleep my head is still reeling. It was all evil Muppets… on crack. A bit of a slow start, but eventually the weirdness pounds into your skull and leaves you reeling/drooling. Muppet Tet Offensive flashback! Muppet snuff films! And of course the musical number “Sodomy”! I believe saying “my eyes! my eyes!” summarizes the horror. Wow, it was an experience. And then we watched the credits, and cackled even more as we recognized name after name of Oscar winners. Oh, what humble beginnings!

The video-store guy did say that this movie is in fact available on DVD in the states (zone 1), but not in NZ (zone 4). How weird is that? If you can find it, and need to smooth those frontal lobes, it is a fun choice.

This is the second weird-Kiwi movie we have rented now, the first was “The Price of Milk”, which we rented about 2 weeks ago. That one stared Karl Urban as a dairy farmer caught up in a wacky Maori-flavored fairy-tale. If you can find it outside NZ (doubtful, but you never know) it is worth a look. One of the local SCAdians described it as “one of the most Kiwi films I know”. You will have to see it to understand what that means.

What to do, what to do….

So I’m having something of an organizational crisis involving three rooms – four, if you count the bedroom.

Warning, long boring thinking-out-loud session.

Bedroom: My clothes are there, in and around a dresser I have all to myself, and a closet I pretty much also have all to myself. Apart from figuring out a better way of dealing with the perpetually growing and shriking pile of Clothes That Are Too Dirty To Fold and Put Back, But Too Clean To Wash Without Wearing Again Once or Twice, this is working out fine. Also in there are my two largest jewelry boxes, which being on top of the dresser are a little too high. The jewelry from stashes in other parts of the house (more on that later) that I actually wear fairly frequently tends to migrate in here and get dumped in a snarl on top of the dresser when I take it off at night.

My Office: Has my big honking desk in it, a bookcase, and several bins of dance gear. The desk has my Mac on it, which is largely unused. The room has become, primarily, a dumping ground for dance gear, and secondarily, a dumping ground for whatever junk we’ve cleaned out of the rest of the house prior to having guests over. Also in here is some jewelry, mostly dance-related. The dance gear is in and out of several bins, a closet, and strewn on the floor, desk and chair.

The Living Room: Has no furniture, apart from some bookcases and the big cabinet I got from the basement of the Fogg, which is now very elegantly storing our CDs and videos. It has a few unpacked boxes still, the majority of which are my papers and notebooks and stuff, although there are a couple boxes of unpacked clothes, and — on top of some of the other boxes — the jumble of all my smaller boxes of jewelry. The living room is also where the comic boxes are stacked, like a wall of blocky white albatross.

The Dining Room: which we use as a living room. It has the TV (and therefore the Playstation), the only computer with a net connection (currently), the table, and it opens very conveniently onto the kitchen, so that if someone is puttering in the kitchen, they’re still in contact with the person/people in the dining room. (It also opens onto the conservatory, which is not so big a deal at the moment, but which is very nice in the summer). We both like being able to hang out in the same room in the evenings – one of us can be on the computer while the other is in the kitchen or watching TV or whatever.

So what I know I want:

— Better storage/organization/display for my skillions of jewelry boxes. Current plans are to keep an eye out for a piece of furniture to fit between the door to my office and the door to its closet, that I could stack jewelry boxes on top of, with drawers/shelves underneath for dance gear.

— Better storage/organization of dance gear/garb. See above. Note that in both cases, I don’t think a single piece of furniture of a size to fit on that stretch of wall would be big enough to handle everything I’d want to put on/in it.

— Storage, preferable accessible, i.e., not in the attic, for all of my notebooks and papers and stuff. My two desk file drawers are not big enough, and we’re just about out of book shelves. A combination of buying another bookcase and weeding our existing collection (which we’ve been meaning to do for some time) would free up enough space on the shelves in my office, I reckon.

— Furniture for the living room (see previous dilemma re: what kind of sofa to get). Note that it’s been really nice to have the living room be relatively open, for dancing or playing music, or cutting patterns.

— Someplace to sew.

— Some conveniently accessible place for the farm papers, so that they’re not entirely stashed away in Stephen’s office. The whiteboard calendar is currently on the dining room wall above the computer, which is good, because it’s right there all the time, however since the dining room is also a living/entertaining room, it might be asking too much to also make it an office. Or maybe not, I don’t know.

What I’m not sure I want:
— An office. I like hanging out with Stephen in the living room. I mean the dining room. Maybe we ought to call the living room the “den” or something, instead ? Or call the dining room the “common room” ? Anyway, when I *am* working on some project or other, it tends to involve stuff being strewn everywhere, and that can be a problem in the common room, because it gets in the way of everything else we do in there. On the other hand, that can be an advantage, because it means I *have* to clean it up, and not leave it strewn until the next time we have a party or something.

Okay. Running out of mental steam here. Stephen’s back from fighting & we’ve just had lunch, so it’s time to go out and play with the ‘paca some more.