Further notes

I thought Richard came across as entirely reasonable (Angela wasn’t there). We’re both (me and Richard — not sure if Stephen is convinced) of the opinion that it would be most desirable to get the fence completely up to snuff and “done” — even if that means essentially replacing it — rather than just “repairing” it and putting ourselves in the position of continually having to go back and make niggling little stop-gap repairs for the next 15 years. (Especially as we don’t tend to like their repairs…)

Richard also sounds like he’s in the “over-engineer it” camp, which is also fine by me, provided Stephen can keep an eye on him and correct any potentially dangerous notions.

Plus, he’s a contractor by trade, and may be able to score materials at wholesale/mate’s rates.

The only thing we don’t really seem to meet eye to eye on is whether a standard fence is “enough” — as Stephen mentioned before, they are quite convinced that horses leaning over a fence are the number one killer (nevermind cows shoving through it, or rust, or neglect, or…), and quite keen on electricity as the solution to all woes. I’m considering that a couple hundred bucks for a solar cell to power a top wire might just be a worthwhile investment towards peace and harmony.

Fencing Update

Just had our meeting with Richard from next door. It went well enough. We decided to err on the side of pleasant, and not bring up any potentially thorny issues (their less-than-stellar repairs, the deviation from the property line). The end consensus was that he will try and get some more quotes from fencers he knows, though in all probability the prices will be murderously high ($20/meter for a 450 meter fence adds up quick!). If that is the case, we will get the materials and repair the fence ourselves. I am still hopeful that this will help us get to know each other better, and work well in the long run. We shall see.

In the mean time it is status quo.

"Over the Fence…

…are your neighbors”. As some of you may know, we generally have great relations with most of our neighbors. Most, not all. The long border to the north is occasionally fraught, as Richard and Angela can be rather difficult to deal with. For better or worse I have since discovered we are not the only ones to have trouble with them, as they have had many grazers quit after only a few weeks due to their peculiarities.

We share 850 meters of boundry with them, and unfortunately much of the fence is in need of repair. The latest discovery was on Monday, I was clearing brush along our fenceline, and discovered that the fence was in terrible shape. So terrible that once the brush was gone, Jason stepped over the fence to graze on their side! For, for historical perspective they had four cows come across the fence to our side about a month ago, where they grazed for weeks, until we left a note in their mailbox to do something about it. Jason was over the fence for less than 3 hours before we got a call. Sigh. Also annoying in that they knew what the fence was like (they could see from their side), but did nothing about it, nor did they tell us.

This weekend we are supposed to meet with them to discuss options. We are not really looking forward to this, as they have the wonderfull combination of an abrasive manner (using f*&k as noun, verb and adjective- sometimes in the same sentence if they are agitated!), and a really strong belief in their own farming knowledge. In reality their farming knowledge is negligable to negative, in they have some stuff wrong/backwards. They are also people would would much rather curse the darkness than light a candle. They would prefer to complain at length how the horses have “destroyed” the fence, rather than do an hour of work to fix the problem (which is usually just basic maintenance, like repacing missing staples).

In this coming discussion we maintain (and are ready to use) the “nuclear option”. At the rear of the property is a ~80 meter segment of fence that needs work. This segment deviates into our property by about 20 meters. This was clearly done in the past to give the previous owners access around the top of a gully to their back paddock (which is about 10 acres). There is no legal easement, however. We could rebuild the fence along the property boundry and screw them. If we need to, we will.

Oh, I am also irked because the times they have “fixed” the fence they have created nasty horse-crippling hazards. When they tie their wires they leave loose ends sticking out an inch or more, effectively making barbed wire, but with extra-long barbs to catch any horse moving along the fence. I have to find and repair these “repairs” to de-hazard them. Quite annoying.

Plugging and Playing

Last Friday we used our Fly Buy points for the first time. For those of you not in NZ, Fly Buys is one of those deals where you sell your marketing information for points which can be redeemed for stuff from their catalog. Many merchants in NZ are on the Fly Buys program.

What did we get? A Brother multifunction Fax/Scanner/Copier/Printer. Pretty cool. Getting it set up has taken longer than anticipated though, and it looks like our phone was to blame. For some reason our main phone would not work when hooked up through it (insert hours of tinkering and checking “troubleshooting” lists). Eventually we tried our other phone, and that worked fine. The problem is that our other phone (the cordless one with the answer machine) cannot dial out for some reason. t has been like this since we moved in, but now we needed to make it work. We spent some time trying to fix that, too. In the end it still doesn’t dial out, but on some of the attempts it took us straight to Telecoms Fault Center. Some day when I have lots of extra time I will have to follow through the automatic phone-tree there and see if it can help.

Today I do test faxes to Tam at work. If that is all functional, then I start mad-faxing to the States. Woot!

Building Trust

The books on training Llamas and Alpacas talk about building trust- you take the animals through a series of challenges and with each success the animal learns that things will not go wrong (no Pumas eat them), and they gain confidence in you and themselves.

The last two weeks I have been working with Jim. The more I do, the more he trusts me, and the easier it gets to raise the bar. Ideally I would like to see if he can be trained to the point where he would work for nursing-home or pediatric cancer-ward visits, as from all I have heard the appearance of a cute fuzzy animal can provide a really magical solace to people suffering in such places. I don’t know if Jim has the personality for it (he is currently not so keen on cuddles), but it is good training work for me. If not him, perhaps one of the ‘paca might be appropriate.

It is fun work, and the training and confidence building will give us a llama very well suited for trekking either way. Here are some shots of Jim out and about the last few days.

And here is a shot of the cute (and rapidly growing) cria. You can never have too many cute animal photos, right?

And finally the shed, which is very nearly done. We just need to get the gutters hung, and then we can get it signed-off as DONE!

Darkest Day

[posted by Stephen] This Saturday we held our (second) annual Darkest Day party. Mother Nature obliged and provided the grey rainy weather one would expect at this time of year. At least this time we did not try to go and burn anything in the rain, and wisely stayed indoors. Thus we all stayed warm, dry and happy. All told about 15 people showed up, which made for a nice cozy house. The roaring fire was also a nice touch. (We have discovered that Elm burns quite nicely, and produces a lot of heat. It burns much more slowly than pine, and leaves a lot more ash. Last winter we went 4 months without having to shovel out the stove, now we will have to every few weeks.)

As near as we can tell nearly everyone brought at least 2 L of Coke (or variants) to the party, so we are left with a pantry full of the black-blood-of-life.. We also managed to end the party with more wine than we started with, score!

One of the most beneficial aspects of such parties is the cleaning that goes on before hand. We managed to finally hang some more art on the walls, furniture got shifted around, and generally the condition of the house was improved. We have to remember to plan more such parties, so as to keep up the momentum.

Meanwhile in the strange camelid behavior category- many people wanted to go see the new cria. It was getting dark when half dozen of us trooped up to say hi. Concetta, who is normally stand-offish like the other girls (looking is fine, but no touching!) came over and gave everyone a sniff, then happily stodd in the middle of the mob of humans while people poked and prodded her. Weird! Later we moved about 30 meters to go look at the boys- and she followed us, nuzzling Alastairs’ hand to demand a head-scrooch! Very, very weird! I have never seen her act this way before. Sunday morning when I went out to check her she was back to normal, meaning if I got closer than 1.5 meters, she moved away. The next time we have a big mob of guests over we will have to give her another visit and see what happens.

Of Oscar and Jim

The weekend flew by, filled with various original activities.

On Saturday we, along with most of the rest of the Shire of Darton, trooped up to Masterton for a Day-O-Fun at Oscar’s place. We forgot to bring directions, so we stopped at his bottle store on the way and had the duty managed (Ciny?) give him a call for directions. This stop also gave us a chance to load up on discounted Cantebury Cream for hot chocolates!

Most of the afternoon was spent fighting, which was fun. Oscar had brought out The Dragon, the arbalest he has spent the last year building. We were testing how hard it hit to make sure it was safe and legal for SCA combat. Much of this involved Oscar in minimum armor at 10 meters taking hits from it (as the rules wsely state that you must be willing to be hit by any weapon you want to bring). The rest of us also took shots throughout the day- and we kept requesting that they turn down the power, again and again. Wow, but it hit like a truck! I took one hit at 20 meters on my thigh that I can still feel. It hit cleanly, so that there was no deflection or give in my leg- probably the hardest hit I have taken in 12 years of fighting. My leg is still very sore. Strangly it left no mark- no bruising or swelling- yet it hurts like heck. It must have inflicted some weird deep-tissue damage. I am very glad it had only a tennis-ball tip and not a sharpened steel spike- nothing like a hit like that to give an appreciation for what period seige weapons much have really been like!

On Sunday we were mainly doing animal maintenance. This involved vaccinating the cria, drenching all the adult animals (injetable anti-worm medicine), and weighing the cria. Later in the day we decided to take Jim for a walk. I had taken him around twice the week previous, and he was getting used to the halter again. It was also clear that after 7 months he now trusts us lots more. We got him across the bridge using a sheet of ply across the cattle-grid, and took him all the way up to the end of Takapu road (about 1.5 km), and brought him back. He was a very good llama. It is a great deal of fun to be able to just go out trekking wiht your own llama. Eventually we must get a panel-van so we can take him to the beach or othewr such fun places. We also need to get (or build) a set of packs for Jim, so he can carry our lunch for us. The work would be good for him- he could do to lose a few kilos, his thighs are nearly rubbing together!

Weekend Pics

Firstly, the grey cria, not dead (huzzah!):

Shed pics: status as of Sunday AM, status as of Monday AM, and an in-progress shot (Look out ! Giant Puma !)

And finally, this may be a little hard to see in the thumbnail, but Illustration Number 4 Why Stephen Should Clean His Ute:

6 hours of worry

So, we have spent most of this long weekend working like mad on the shed- but more on that later.

Yesterday (Sunday) morning we fed out the supplemental food to the girls. Tam noticed that the little grey cria was colicy, getting up and down, rolling on his side, and humming in discomfort. We moved them all down to the dog run, and looked at our first-aid references. Unfortunatley most of them were along the lines of “could be anything, call your vet.” This is not that helpful, as there is a harsh economic calculus- a vet-call on a holiday Sunday could cost us more than the little boy is worth.

I went through the notes I had been given in the vet-conference we attended last weekend and found the helpful comment “most cases of colic are due to gastric spasms, treat with (drug we don’t have), or 1 ml/kgg parafin oil (which we do have)”. We squirted the oil down his gullet. There was not the instant improvement I really wanted. After another hour we moved them back to the paddock, hoping that moving around might help clear it all up. An hour after that Tam went up to check on him, and got him on his feet and moving (he was laying on his side in a most pathetic fashion). While he was moving around she saw a ripple of movement as his guts seemed to re-arrange themselves, but that seems to have fixed it. An hour after that he was grazing normally next to his mum. *whew*. I checked him this morning and he seemed fine.

It is nice to have a medical issue that does not end in the acute death of the animal. Losing Chris like that last year was rather a shock. We were comforting ourselves over lunch yesterday that at least this time there would not be the second-guessing if he died. We are running a much tighter ship management-wise now. The dubious plants are fenced off, and everyone is up to date with their vaccinations, drenching and vitamins. But even with all this things can go wrong- we just hope they don’t anytime soon.

Cute encounters

Don’t you hate it when something incredibly cute happens, and you don’t have a camera? And you know getting up to get the camera would spoil the scene.

Wednesday afternoon I was feeding out some extra supplements to the girls. I decided to be lazy and feed them next to the curtilage fence (the fence that surrounds the house and yard). At the call of “paca!” they all came running, and tucked into their bowls. I sat down to watch them eat, as it is a good time to observe and see if anyone is acting funny. Then I noticed that the cria were staring at something- Amaya had emerged from under a bush. There was a great deal of mutual curiosity and apprehension. Every time the cria came forward, she darted back under the bush. After a few minutes she got bolder, and started venturing closer (but staying behind a big fence post where possible). Finally she started venturing towards the girls, who were by now looking up from their feed bowls.

After much back-and-forth curiosity and caution, the moment came. Amaya was standing on a piece of wood, stretching up, Concetta was leaning down… and just before their noses touched in a mutual sniff *poink* Amaya reached out and tapped her on the nose! Concetta was most surprised! Amaya was getting more and more wound up. Soon she was lying on the ground half under the fence writhing in excess energy, every time a ‘paca bent over to get a sniff she would reach out with both front paws and try to grab their face. Oh, for a camera, or better yet a cam-corder! The ‘paca just didn’t know what to make of this little hyperactive mini-puma.