Back in the US…

After a very, very long Sunday we made it back to the US (crossing the international date line gave us a 40-hour “day”). Sunday morning we flew up to Auckland and Emily acted as our “native guide”, getting us from the airport to Karma Llama and Rapson Estates. She also acted as drill instructor, keeping us on-time and moving so we made it back in time. One of the Llamas, Jim, may meet our needs for a guard/packing/leader animal. Now it is a matter of finding out if he would be sold alone, and if the price is right.

The trans-pacific flight went quite smoothly, and we both got more sleep than I expected. Having a group of 3-seats for the two of us helped. We also got to see Shrek-2, which was fun. I tried watching The Day After Tomorrow, but it was just too bad to endure.

The trans-American flights were not so smooth, with America West giving us multiple delays. We made it into Georgia by midnight, and commenced with some much needed sleep. It is now morning, and we have to plan our activities for the coming week.


So, today marks one year in-country for me. Amazing how fast the year has shot past. But it has been quite activity filled. And I hope that next year I can be even more productive, as there is still so much left to do here! My goals for the next yeaar: complete primary de-gorsing of the property (removal and burning of all large gorse bushes), completion of fences on front-half of property, begin fences in back-half, update/replace water reticulation system to all paddocks, build a kitset building on the foundation, convert the kennels into a set of covered yards, build stock shelters in at least 2 paddocks, move up to full-time/salaried work for Biacore, and in my spare time start writing science fiction novels. Not too ambitious I hope! 🙂

This afternoonn Yvonne is very kindly giving our alpaca a ride up to Otihanga, which is about 30-minutes drive north in the Kapiti Coast. Linda, the alpaca-wrangler for Willowbank where we bought our ‘paca, has agreed to look after the boys for us. Linda is using us as a trial for agistment, where you care for another persons animals (like a boarding kennel, but for stock). If this works out she willl try starting that as a side business. We are just happy to know that an alpaca expert (much more so than either of us) will be watching the boys during the time we are gone.


Got a phone call from Emily in Auckland — she’s coming to visit us in Wellington the week after we get back, with an eye to seeing if she wants to move here (and with an eye to meeting Sean Astin at the local genre con). Bonus: she’s volunteered to pick us up at the airport Sunday and drive us to see llamas and alpacas ! So we don’t have to rent a car, and we get to spend a day in the northern countryside with a local guide ! PLUS, we can bring our gumboots for the farm tours and leave them at her place, and she’ll bring them back to us when she comes down to visit ! How cool is all that ?

one of those moments

The busker outside the train station this morning was playing “She Moved Through the Fair” on the flute, and the interior of the station was picking it up and echoing it back *perfectly*. It was *precisely* the effect that expensive pieces of equipment have been developed to simulate, but this was completely natural. Amazing.

PS: Damn, but the wind is cold this morning. From Anarctica With, er, Tough Love. Or something.

Where's Wally ?

At the moment, still here, hoping the weather stays nice long enough this afternoon to let us do some alpaca maintenance (blood draws, vaccines, and drench/worm). And then I *really* need to get the artwork for the Crown Tourney T-shirt inked. Thank your gods of choice that Maggie has volunteered to color it.

Had a yummy birthday dinner for Sharon last night at Zebibbo’s — the portabella mushrooms with whatever that stuff they were with was really really good. The “mixed leaf salad with Cabernet Sauvignon vinagrette” was disappointing, mostly because the “vinagrette” didn’t seem to have any vinegar in it. The fries were the perfect crispy-outside, fluffy-inside, and the mousse was good. The company, of course, was superb.

We’ve got some lovely house/cat/paca-sitters lined up, and they will be relieved to know that Stephen’s got the hot water working again (but not half so relieved as me). Friday, Steph is dancing & I’d like to try and make it to that; we’ve got a party at a neighbor’s house Saturday (the ones with the really expensive fencing, who may be getting alpacas), then Sunday we’re away.

For Those Upon Whom We Will Be Decending, here’s the rough itinerary:
Atlanta (and bits of Florida) from Sun 29. Philly and points nearby from Fri 03. Popping into Long Island on the 8th, to make dance class in Boston on the 9th. Moseying back Philly-wards the 13th or 14th, then out for the 16th in Tuscon, and away on the 17th, losing a couple days in transit to arrive back in sunny, it’s-Spring-now-no-really Wellington on Sunday the 19th. Then back to work Monday the 20th ! Ack !

Calm, at last

So, the storm that hit this week was the equal of the massive “50-year storm” we had last February 16th. The water in the stream down front did not peak quite as high, mainly because the rain was spread over 24 hours, not 12. All the animals came through okay, and our neighbor to the south (Steve) has some new lambs that may have been born during the storm. And they survived! But he is lucky to have much better shelter from the southerly than us. Makes one wonder when the “50-year” events become so common. Note to self: never buy a house on a flood plain!

The power came back on last night after about 48 hours. There were a few low-voltage false starts during the afternoon, but it finally came right, which was good as the fridge and chest-freezer were approaching temperature-critical levels.

Today the large to-do list includes many items delayed by the storm, plus all the stuff that needs to get done before we head off to the States for 3-weeks of fun. Hopefully we won’t forget anything vital.

Still here

So the alpacas spent the night kushed up in front of the car. In the morning, the power was out & Takapu Stream was threatening to wash up over the bridge. We woke up about 7/7:30 and set about making fire and breakfast. Actually, Stephen set about making fire and breakfast. I’m not sure what I set about doing, although I’m sure it was very useful. Hmm. Probably it involved turning off all the outlets (did we ever mention that all of the power outlets here have their own little on/off switches ? Handy things.), which I should have done last night, but forgot, and trying to get ahold of people at work. The morning Stock Check revealed the alpaca still in situ, and the horses tucked up butts-to-the-wind under some gorse.

Turned out several of our neighbor’s gum trees had come down — on his driveway, through his fence, over the road, and onto the power lines. (Sadly, this means they’ll probably make him cut some or most of them down, which is a great pity, as they are beautiful.) There was flooding in some places, and probably some more trees and small slips. At one point during the evening (the point at which Stephen and I looked at each other and said, “What the heck was that?“), the sliding doors got sucked off the tack shed. Those got rehung, with tires braced against them. Another one of the elms came down in the front — a big one, roots and all, and it clipped some branches off one of the remaining ones. The farm is called “Elmwood” — if many more come down, we may have to get a new name for the place !

So that was yesterday. I’m at work today, which is the only reason I’m updating this. I got a call from Stephen around 2PM that the power was “starting” to come back. As in, we’re getting enough power to light the lightbulbs, but not very bright. Yikes. I think it’ll be a little while before I feel safe to turn the computer on, but at least the fidge and freezer are sort of limping along again, and the element can top up the temperature in the hot water cylinder. That’s the bugger of solar systems — if the weather is crap enough to knock out the power, chances are you don’t have sun, either. This is where having a “wetback” would be handy, so the woodstove would heat the water as well as the house.


Well, we’re having a proper winter now. Pouring icy rain mixed occasionally with sleet, and absolutely *howling* winds. Like, “Gee, I hope the roof is nailed on tight” winds. When I got home, Stephen and I brought the ‘paca from the sheltered Glen paddock, to the even more sheltered sideyard. The good thing is that it’s in the lee of the house when the southerly is blowing (which it is, boy howdy). The slightly less-than-good thing is that it fankly hadn’t occured to us to get the ‘paca used to the more closed-in space. The house is weird; the woodshed is weird; the narrow deck under the bedrooms is weird; the low overhanging tree is weird. So instead of tucking themselves into the sheltered little nook back there (because, you know, there might be puma in there, for heaven’s sake), they are, poor dears, kushed up in the most exposed out-in-the-open part of the little yard that they can find. Fortunately, that bit is still quite sheltered, as it is in the lee of my car. Another blessing to be counted: unlike a lot of people who are getting this weather, or the more snowy edition, we are not halfway through lambing.

This is largely feeling like a reprise of the February storms, except a heck of a lot colder. I wonder if I’ll be able to make it out of the valley tomorrow ?

more stuff

Camping (if you can call it that) this weekend was, in fact, a lot of fun. And if Tawhiri hadn’t officially joined the ranks of our Household Gods after my Mom’s visit (for not pouring on us during our Sounds cruise), he would have after this weekend. It was supposed to be gales and pouring rain — instead, the cloud cover kept the frost away, and what breeze there was was almost warm. It *did* bucket down for a couple hours Sunday morning, but not when anyone was actually trying to do anything outside. How amenable !

I missed the archery for an educational textiles class, and Maggie gave another one on the Greenland textiles, from a fabulous book they haven’t published in English yet. Spent a good bit of time going over assorted Heraldic Things, tried dancing in the Mongol Gumboots (oy !). The food was, in fact, pretty good, and I’ve discovered over the years that I don’t really much care for feast food on the whole. Everyone seemed to agree that the almond tarts with strawberry goop were Very Very Good, and Maggie’s fresh-baked rolls at most meals were a treat.

The horrible weather we were supposed to get over the weekend is here now — roads are closed by snow and ice all over the place, but not here close to the coast. We just get cold rain and gale force winds. Don’t reckon we’ll be burning gorse any time soon. We *are* discovering new and interesting things about our water system, though, and that — along with trip planning — is keeping Stephen busy.

Azami’s been keeping busy terrorizing the local starling population — she caught three in as many days a week or two ago. Although to be fair, it’s possible the second two were actually the same bird, which apparently spent a Very Bad Night under Stephen’s desk, guarded by a one-eye-open Azami snoozing on the rocking chair. Stephen chucked it out & we think she caught it and brought it in again the next day (Stephen released it a bit further away & it seems to have gotten away clean this time).

Weekend Report

Shortly before leaving for our weekend outing, we got a call from the vet. The results came back on Chris, and the liver damage was “consistent with toxicity”. We may never figure out what caused the damage, but as a precautionary check we will do blood tests on the other two to check their liver function. This means I get to do IV blood draws from their jugular veins! I watched the vet do it last weekend on Chris, and as they say in the medical profession “watch one, do one, teach one”. I guess after this teaching Tam will be the next step. It will be a good skill to have, should we ever need to administer IV drugs.

With this perplexing news stuck in our heads (what could be toxic? It’s the wrong season for FE.) we packed up for Darton Anniversary. This yearly event was being held over the hill in Wainuiomata, about a 30 minute drive. A nice Boys Brigade camp, with excellent cabins– more like small houses than cabins considering they had pumbing and hot showers! All the local SCAdians were there, plus people from Auckland and Christchurch. There were also people from the other local recreation groups present, including the Midaeval Guild, The Company of the Dragon, the The Order of the Boar (the jousting folks). It was a fine little event with fighting, archery, singing, dancing, A&S classes (I gave one on Mongol Strategy and Tactics) and an yummy feast to cap it all off. There was also a large contingent of children present, all under the age of 4. This could get rather noisy at times.

I won the archery competition, which I attribute to the high winds and my more powerful bow. My heavy arrows, flung at speed, could ignore the gusting wind much more effectively! We joked that when submitting the results to the Kingdom we should include a “WWF” or Wellington Wind Factor, adding to our scores to account the the more challenging shooting conditions! I also won the “most improved Darton Fighter” for the year, but as I was the new one in the group, that was no surprise. For the year I get to have this nifty dirk/dagger thing as my prize. Helen from the Order of Boar came over to check, and it is one of the early ones her husband made. You may have seen his other work– like Aragorn’s sword! 🙂 He could not make it to this event because he is working flat out making the blades for Narnia, which begins shooting soon. The whole small country/small town aspect of this place means that everyone knows someone who does something interesting!

This week we are looking at lots of really crappy weather. A big low has stalled east of the country, and it is bringing cold southerly winds across. Dunedin was shut down by snow yesterday. Today we have gale-force winds. Wednesday and Thursday we are looking at cold pouring rain. I moved the alpaca to the new Glen paddock, so they can have a bit more shelter, and some better grass. Grass supplies are starting to run low, but that is not that bad. The horses are all fat, and could do to lose a few kilos before the spring riding season gets going. And there is enough grass left in the paddocks I have been reserving to get the alpaca though untill the flush of spring growth kicks in, probably in September.