Joy in the North

On Tuesday I flew to Kerikeri. This is a town in the far north. The plane was small. The airport was small. But hey, there was a fence between the grazing cows and the runway, so everything is fine! I was picked up there by Jeanette, and taken on a driving tour of alpaca farms in Northland. I was there to look at Totara Heights Joy, a female whose background and fiber traits seemed to match what we are looking for. Plus she was cheap, and cheap as any breeding female ever is. This was way up in Kaitaia, even further north. But it was nie and warm up there, and Spring was well along.

Joy was born and bred on the farm, and her owners were not into the “latest care practices”, so she never saw Vitamine D when growing up, yet her legs were straight and her conformation was great. Good signs of her strong genetic background. I was there to essentially give her a vet-check, as we had already decided her fiber stats looked pretty good. The vet-check involves going head to tail, looking for faults or problems. I tried listening to her heart, but it was so windy I could only hear the occasional beat. At least I could confirm she was alive!

As you can see, Joy is a lovely red-brown, with white markings down her neck and on one leg. The little boy in front of her is her cria from last year. (She was not bred this year because they didn’t have the money for stud fees. The current owners are selling her so they can afford a good stud for their remaining girls).

If we wanted to get Joy shiped to our place sooner rather than later, she needed to come back with us to Jeanettes place. Easier said than done, as she had never been haltered before. The three of us got her in the van. Poor girl, going away from the only home she had ever known! Back at Aurora Alpacas, we had to get her out into a paddock for the night. Of course, all the alpaca have to cross a stream, and she had never seen a stream before. With some effort on our part, and a number of slip-and-falls on her part, we got her across the stream as the last light faded. A long, tiring day.

On Wednesday we drove to another farm and saw another Chilean girl which Jeneatte had thought we might be interested in- Honey. (The three girls were named Chocolate Sunday, Honey and Cinnamon. I think you can guess their colors. I have since discovered that her “official” name is Tuhara R77, but apparently they thought calling her “R77” was a bit impersonal!) This farm was a small place, only 5 acres on a rather steep hillside, and they needed to de-stock before the next round of cria were born. I don’t think we will go for Honey, as her fiber stats are not very good. We will let Jeanette know that if they get desperate and drop the prices a lot, we might come back to them. But for now, no Honey for us.

A night to remember

This weekend was DA- Darton Anniversary. This is a yearly event held by our local shire. Fighting, feasting, Arts&sciences classes, archery- all the good stuff. Also a chance to meet people from Christchurch and Auckland who have come in for the event.

The “big event” which had us all nervours was the feast Saturday night, as for entertainment we were doing a play between courses (La Mandragola, by Machieveli). This play is a comedy about a man who lusts after another mans wife, and the hijinks that ensue as he gets caught in a strange plan to satisfy his desires. It was an ambitious play to try adn perform, a bit more than an hour long. Lots of lines for the main characters to learn (Tam, Sharon and I, and to a lesser extend Beth). We made it through the first act pretty well, then started forgetting our lines. Things got rather hilarious after that.

We learned some important lessons. One was that the cast should see me in my disguise before the play. Otherwise they might be trying to do a serious scene, but every time the looked into the wings and saw me, the lost it and laughed uncontrolably.

There was also some inspired casting. Madonna Leucretzia, the “beautiful and well-mannered” woman which was the cause of all the madness, was played by Geoff- a large, shaven-headed bearded fellow. Even better, Geoff played here using his “Paremarema maximum secuity prison accent”. The lovely lady woud respond to many a situation with a belligerent “Wot?” Hi-larious.

Many members of the audience laughed to the point of pain. A night none of us will forget. At least not without extensive therapy and perhaps some serious medication.

To my utter surprise I won the archery tourney on Sunday, which was nice after a rather disappointing performance in the fighting tourney on Saturday. But at least I got a good funeral! This year as a fund raiser Darton brought in the (newly formed) Mourners Guild. Fighters could pay a fee, and get a funeral. The quality of the funeral depending on how much you paid. Stretcher, pall, hearse, priest, women wailing and earing their clothes. All were available for a price. Only one person did not pay- which would have earned him a loot&boot, then dragging him away to a mass grave. And wouldn’t you know it- he won the tourney! It’s amusing as most of the audience was hoping he would lose, just to see what a loot&boot looked like.

After the event about 15 people came over to our place for a “post event revel”. Many of these people were hand spinners, and we ended up sending home some bags of alpaca fleece with them, which they will sping into yarn for us. Pretty cool. We also sold a few hundred grams of fleece to Jennifer. Woo! A sale! I will actually have a positive cash-flow thing to report on our next tax statement! 🙂

And today… today I was supposed to be taking it easy (trying to recover from a cold that caught up with me this weekend during the frenzy of activity and lack of sleep). I was going to take Jim for a walk after lunch, but Stuart came by to catch his errant ewe. He had his bike, and the two of us got her herded down into the yards. Only one thing went wrong in this whole operation. She ran into the mob of horses at one point (we had to move her through a paddock where the horses were), and as we were trying to get her through one horse paniced (Casey, of course), bucked and gave me a really solid kick to my left leg. Boy, it certainly hurts when a 450 kg animal kicks you! Thankfully nothing was broken- which was good because a few seconds later I had to tackle the sheep as she tried to break past me back into the paddock! Gee, and this was supposed to be a “take it easy” day! Never a dull time here on the farm.

When the law is stupid….

….people will break the law.

Had yet another “final” inspection on the shed on Monday, this time by the council’s plumbing/drainage expert. It seems simply having a downspout from the gutter that runs over the hillside into a paddock is completely inadequate. What we need is a larger-diameter underground drain piper (buried at least 350 mm underground), running down the bank to a concrete culvert in the middle of the paddock.

What the $^%&?!?

When the required work is pointless, expensie, and oh-so-clearly “square peg-round hole”, it pisses me off. This is an inspector who does not want to think for himself, so he will just apply the city/suburb rules to a rural building. Argggh.

So, we have to put in the new system, and then call him out for another inspection before we bury it. And did I mention all this work has to be done by a qualified drainlayer? My plan is to talk to our drainlayer (neighbor down the street), then do 99% of the work myself. I will have the fellow come for the inspection. And once he leaves I am pulling all those (expensive!) components out of the ground, and returning them to the store. We will have a signed-off building, with a pipe going over the hillside. And I think we will have all learned an important lesson here. Well, all of us but the inspector. Did I mention “Argggh”?

So weak….

I had to confess my weakness to Tam this morning. It’s raining, and I am glad. Because it’s raining, I don’t have to strap on a 10kg brushcutter, climb a tall, steep hill, and cut brush for 5 hours. And I am glad, oh so glad. The hill will be there, waiting, on Monday, but I can now spend a nice queit Friday doing paper work.

So weak. Absolutely Pathetic.

By request

Okay, here are some pictures of the cria. They’re getting to the point now that they are starting to look less like babies and more like little alpacas. Still pretty cute, though, especially when Amaya is trying to play with them.

We’re considering calling the grey one Hankyo and the fawn one Hyouki (after some characters in an anime we watched recently). What do y’all think ? Jennifer has already coined “Hyouki-pokey”, which for those of you in the other hemisphere is a reference to a candy and/or ice cream flavor, both a sort of caramel color.

In the gutter

The last week we have absolutely stunning weather. Clear blue skies, little wind, and temperatures of 15 or 16C (60F) during the day. This is winter? The met service reports show that this July was one of the warmest on record, a few degrees warmer than average– and August is well on the way to continuing that trend. It has also been quite dry, as winter is normally all about rain, rain, rain.

Of course having said that I have probably just summoned up some 5-day long super storm that will strike later this week. While we are now much better equipped to deal with this (the shed), it would be bad for our neighbors. The lambs have just started coming, and such storms can kill hundreds of lambs- and destroy a years earnings- quite quickly.

On Saturday Tam and I hung the rear gutters on the shed. Like so many other things about the shed, we figured out how to do a particular task just as we are completing that task. The instructions for hanging the gutters were backwards, which caused much of the problems. People who sell kitset buildings should endeavor to have slightly more accurate instructions. Now all that is needed is to attach the downspouts and we can be get final-final inspection. This is a bit frustrating, as we need a “drainage plan” for any building larger than 10 square meters. Before the building was there the water went over the bank. Now that we have a building the water will (surprise!)… go over the bank. Hopefully the inspector doesn’t decde we need some expensive and pointless “remediation” work. The probalem of being in a “City”- the building codes, rules, and inspectors are used to dealing with urban and suburban dwellings, and a rural farm building is really a round-peg/square-hole sort of situation.

After putting up the gutters Melanie came over, and we all took a hike up the back hill with Jim the Llama. I think Melanie really enjoyed taking the llama for a walk. Melanie, being a botanist, also helped to identify a number of plants we were curious about. A number of those identifications were of the “noxious, invasive… destroy!” variety. I will have to get to the destruction quickly, as flowering/seeding is beginning with spring. Always more to do!

Sunday Movies

I am glad we got to see some movies during the Film Festival. We always get the booklet and marvel at all the great films, then due to procrastination or bad schedule, see very few. It does not help that many of the films are during the day on weekdays, or late at night, and the really popular ones (Like the new Miyazaki film Howl’s Moving Castle) sell out instantly.

So Sunday we saw “Mana: Beyond Belief” and a best-of animation compiilation. The Mana movie was quite interesting, composed of short pieces from places all around the world with objects or ceremonies that in some way demonstrated Mana. The end piece was fabulous, and showed a bit of technology I totally want in my back yard- the forvertron. ( has pictures) Bill, you must make a pilgrimage to this Mecca of electricity and dubious science!

The animation selection was better this year. Last year I was quite disappointed. This time there were three peices that I really liked. One of them, Guard Dog, made me think of a little pup called Toby I know. The dog in the animation was happy and loved his master, but when he went out for a walk everything he saw spawned an insane paranoid fantasy of threat. All the people and creatures just wanted to attack the precious master! The paranoid fantasies were HI-larious. That butteryfly- it will tear poor master to peices! Must bark! Bark mightily!

In other news I finally got my brushcutter back fro the reapir shop on Friday. July was supposed to be the “month of brushcutting doom”. Now I guess August will have to be. Considering how the rain is threatening this morning, I think I will work close to home. The thought of a half-hour climb up the back hill just to get rained on does not appeal so much.

Half and half

Wednesday at A&S, a bunch of people chime up with “Hey, it’s been a while since we had a party at your place !”, plus a bunch of new people have recently moved into the area and everyone’s feeling festive, so lo, we schedule a Day O’ Fun for Saturday. StephenR generously volunteers to help us get the back gutter on the shed (so we can get the inspector to finally sign off the thing…), and we need to do some serious work on the play we’re supposed to be doing at an upcoming event. So plans are: gutters, then play practice, intermingled with hanging out, and — weather permitting — archery, maybe some fighting, etc.

We figured out after putting the front gutter up that we really need two ladders. Luckily, one of the guys I commute with (John, who brought his kids up to see the alpacas a couple months back) says we can borrow his super-long painting ladder. Friday we’ve been showing Twelve Kingdoms (SO good, so VERY VERY good), and Saturday his kid has a soccer game, so Thursday we take a break from tidying the house and jump in the ute to go pick up this ladder. It’s been raining off and on for a couple days, and on the way out of the valley we swing around a corner and —


We fail to miss a biggish rock that’s fallen out of the bank and onto the road. Yep. Flat tire. We limp into Lloyd’s place at the bottom of the valley and luckily they’re home, because we ran out without the cell phone. We bang on the door and ask if we can borrow their phone to ring John and the Automobile Association (we have a spare, but, it turns out, no tools). Instead, he has Stephen pull the ute around into their shed and the two of them change the flat while I go inside to admire their 150-year-old farmhouse, and provide a bit of novelty for Shaunie’s two wild boys. Then off we go to borrow the ladder, only an hour late. Aren’t neighbors great ?

Friday, I take a long lunch and Stephen and I go see Steamboy at the film festival — very pretty. Especially if you like steam-gear. The evening’s anime night goes off hitch-free, but Saturday is a mixed bag. A beautiful morning gives way to steady rain, so no archery or outdoor fun, and the gutters will have to wait. We do bring the girls into the shed for Maggie and Martin’s daughters to meet, and Concetta is limping. We grope her leg, but can’t find anything amiss — maybe it’s a sprain ? We’ll have to keep an eye on her.

While we’re out there, and it’s raining, we make another unpleasant discovery: the gutters we’ve already hung are canted the wrong way. Argh ! No water is coming out of the downspout — it’s all pouring over the endcap at the wrong end of the shed. We carefully measured the drop when we installed the gutter clips, so this means the whole front canopy is off-level. Did I mention Argh ? Right now, we think we’ll cut another downspout in the other end of the gutter, and just let the water go where it’s going — the alternative being to take down the whole front gutter (which is rivetted to the clips) and re-hang it from the purlins out. Bleah. The next question is: which way is the *back* gutter slanted ? The clips are already up… Fun fun fun.

Speaking of fun, though, the Day O’ Fun seemed to be a success, although I can’t vouch for how SCAdian it was or wasn’t. Mostly it was a low-key hangout, and that seemed to be was folks were after — that and a bottomless kettle of tea.

Sunday, Stephen and I head into town for a couple more films, checking out the F69 and getting some more Mexican in between. And now, a relaxing evening at home !