Pirates Ho!

This weekend was the Lower Hutt Christmas Parade- and nothing says Christmas more than a ship load of blood-thirsty pirates! So once again the Amanita Virosa raised its black sail, and set forth to terrorise the peoples of the Hutt Valley.

And what’s better, we got paid to be in the parade! I guess that makes us professional pirates, or something. We were lucky that we didn’t get rained on during the parade, and the cold southerly wind didn’t seem to deter the crowds- we were pleasantly surprised by the masses of people that thronged the parade route though the Lower Hutt CBD. And I made someone shriek like a cheerleader in a slasher film! That’s the christmas spirit! Robert, the guy who runs the prop warehouse and organizes many of these parades, really likes us pirates. We are “good value for money”, as we are one of the most interactive crews he gets out there. Few other floats have ground personnel to work the crowds. Looks like we might get more invitations to be pirates in the future!

The fun farm related thing we did this weekend was release the boys onto the back hill. We have never had ‘paca grazing back there, and only had horses there for the first time this last winter (there is finally enough cleared pasture). The ‘paca were in ferret-shock mode, exitedly exploring their new environment, all the while in belly-deep food. They had a good time. I like this shot of Jim, as llamas and tree-ferns are quite a juxtaposition!

T-Day

So at 11am yesterday, Stephen rings me up with: “Wanna have a Thanksgiving Dinner ?” I fling out some emails, and here we are, post stuffing-ourselves, but just slightly pre-food-coma:

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all !

HELP ?

Last week, I spent a couple hours dealing with the piles of spam in our blog comments. I installed some countermeasures, and have a couple more to put in. I thought I was getting on top of it.

So now what’s happened ?

Someone has hacked into the Auroragames site and has been using it to send out typo-ridden, grammatically questionable spam advertising…

…wait for it….

Auroragames.

WTF?! Our web host is now convinced that we are Evil Spammers, and have shut down the site. They want an Explanation, and Assurances that It Won’t Happen Again.

I don’t even know where to start. I don’t know how to hack a site. I don’t know how to prove a site’s been hacked. Beyond changing all the passwords, I wouldn’t have the first idea how to prevent a site from being hacked again. Why would someone hack a site and make it send out advertisements for itself ? For the same reason people write email viruses, I guess. But what am I supposed to tell our web host ?

Do any of y’all have any experience with this ? Any advice ?

Help ?

Two Years!

It seems hard to believe, but today marks two years on the farm. Those of you who have followed the blog over those years know that much has happened. Much more than ever happened in the four years we lived in the Boston house. I think this is due to (a) the basic necessity of many of the things we have had to do here, and (b) the fact that working by part-to-full time as a farmer, I have the time to get the tasks done.

When we bought the place it was pretty badly run down. The house was in good shape, thanks mainly to a new carpet and a new kitchen. We leanred later that the place was a bit of a “bomb site”, and that Dave had tried to sell it a year earlier and the Real Estate agents had laughed, and given him a copious to-do list. We have since discovered that many of the “improvements” were done on the cheap. The classic being the fence that was only painted on one side.

The property was also pretty badly overrun by gorse. You have heard me complain about this stuff before, but if you have not experienced in up close and personal, you really don’t understand the horror. If we had known how much work it would be to clear the gorse we might have backed away from the place. But in retrospect, we are very glad we didn’t, as I could not image finding a place so nice that was both affordable and only 15 minutes from the center of town. While it is a 25 acre property, when we first arrived only about 10 acres were effective, as the rest was either under gorse, or cut off by a 200-meter deep wall of gorse that split off the entire back half. At first I went to work with loppers and a hand saw. Madness, that, I tell’s ya. Then we got a big beefy brushcutter, and the real destruction began.

Here is most of the back half of the property, including the hill-o-gorse, at start, year 1, and year 2.

These are the corresponding pictures taken from the top of the hill on the same days, looking back down. The pictures looking up were taken standing right in front of the 110 kV power pylon in the middle of the frame.

That first year we also got our first alpaca. We deliberately “struck while the iron was hot”, and had the first alpaca within weeks. We knew otherwise it would be too easy for time to slip by. We bought 3 wethers (castrated males) from Willowbank Farm. These were Oak, Chris and Pointer (pictured here on Pointers arrival with Linda, who used to be Willowbanks herd manager and is a very nice and helpful person). Later that year Chris died of liver failure, which was very sad. Linda came ot help the day he went down, which was very kind of her. By the end of the first year we were feeling confident enough to start expanding the herd. We bought Jim the llama. He is the “herd uncle” of our ‘paca. He is in chrage, teaches everyone the rules of proper camelid behavior, and keeps a keen llama eye out for any trouble. Jim is quite a character. We also bought Victoria (aka Agresearch M250) and her daughter Princess Cariboo (aka Caithness Farm-unnamed)as our first females. They were supposed to be pregnant, but were not sold as such, so we could not complain when they turned out to be empty. A bit irksome that we lost a years-worth of breeding from the two of them, waiting for babies.

Of course the other big project/accomplishment the first year was getting the new water tank installed. We have spring water which flows by gravity down about 400m of pipe into a tank on the hill above the house. The original concrete tank only held about 3 or 4 tons of water, and leaked like a sieve. We got a 22.5 ton capacity tank, and planned to site it further up the hill (more head = more water pressure). Of course, I needed to dig a slot into the hill for this tank. I started my valley reputation as a madman that day, as I dug it all by hand. Sure, hiring a digger would have been much more sane, but when has sanity ever stopped me? Then we duped… I mean invitied the whole shire of Darton, the local SCA group, over to help us roll the tank into position. Of course, we didn’t tell them that is why we were inviting them. I like to think of it as the Sisyphus game. Lose your grip, and you start over.

Year two started with a discovery on Takapu road while I ws out running errands. As a rural dead-end raod, people sometimes dump unwanted pets, and right after Christmas is apparently a common time for unwanted “gifts” to get the boot. I found this hideous little malnourished sack of skin in bones in the road, and she became Tam’s 12th-night present. Amaya has turned into quite the little cat, not at all shy in her demands for play and attention. Like a small, plush Slow Top on speed. We also have it on good opinion that four cats is perfectly sane. Really. Five is the cut-off for crazy-cat people.

Year two also saw us add three mroe females, two of which produced lovely little cria. The first was Hankyo, who came from Galadrial, our black bug-eyed girl. Then came Hyouki, from prim little Concetta. Just recently we added Joy, who looks like she may be the smartest of the bunch. All five of our girls are off at the stud right now, so that next year we can look forward to some more cute little cria! (and hopefully plenty of girls this time!!!)

Year two also saw the first major construction project. We had the nasty old dog kennels demolished, and a lovely 3-bay shed built in its place. John Dewar drove the digger to smash the kennels to pieces, which was a fun 90 minutes entertainment. We then built the shed. Well, we had help from John and his little digger to auger the holes and lift the poles into place. And Steve and Jennifer were invaluable during the framing and cladding. We all felt very butch and competent, having built our first building. Go us!

What will year two bring? That is a good question. I had hoped to be done the gorse by now, and I am very close. Hopefully no more than a few months to go. We would like to have a nice track put in up the back hill this summer, to make it much easier to get up and down- and incidentally make it accessible to horse riders and small vehicles. There will be lots of fencing to get the back hill subdivided into smaller and thus more useful paddocks. What else? Who knows! We will see what inspiration strikes us! Watch this space.

Kittens !

No anime last night: Beth and Geoff have new kittens ! Named Kaylee and Jayne, of course, although they are both girls. They’re both the standard tabby moggies like Amaya — luckily Jayne is a little paler, so you can tell them apart. They pile so cutely (imagine me with a goofy cute-sated “awwwww” expression here).

Wabbit Season!

Last evening Tam’s boss, and her bosses-boss, came by the visit. They brought guns.

Seems Tony is a avid shooter, and when he heard we had a rabiit problem, he was keen to “help”. At dusk they went up to the Gallop paddock, and got to work. Meanwhile Tam and I waited inside, merrily killing pixels on the play station. As night fell, Tam went out to see how they had got on, and returned with a fist full of bodies. A quick layer of newspaper was spread on the table, and two fine hares and a rabbit were laid out. We all then had a nice cup of tea on the half of the table not covered in bleeding bodies. They were all good clean shots, and no doubt quick and humane deaths for the bunnies.

Once they left we gave Maggie a call and asked if she wanted a few dead bunnies (esecially the hares, which are apparently very tasty). She was quite enthusiastic about this, so we carefully wrapped them up, and put them in the freezer. We have such great friends.

Of course, as we were doing this kitten (Amaya) finally noticed the pile of bunny-bodies. Her immediate reaction was to grab on of the hares and try to make off with it- of course said hare was considerably bigger than her! But with big-eyes and flat ears she kept trying to get up on the table and make off with the “best toy ever”. We thwarted her little kitty desires.

Hopefully we can have Tony and Niel back again later to deal with more of our vermin. Who knows, maybe next time we can go up and do some shooting with them.

The cat formerly known as Ghost

So there’s been this cat hanging around our place for a few months now:

We see him every now and then, usually either sleeping in the hay trailer, or sitting in the Glen paddock with his head stuck down a rabbit hole. Stephen’s taken to calling him “Ghost”, and although none of our near neighbors laid claim to him, it was pretty clear that he wasn’t some random stray.

We pointed him out to Yvonne recently, and later on, she mentioned that she saw a flyer up in the window of the Tawa pet store with a picture of a sort of Burmese-looking cat that might be this one. Unfortunately, the pet store closed down, and the flyer was taken down.

Fast forward to last week, and the meeting in the Webbs’ barn to talk to the ranger about the possibility of getting horse riding (and llama trekking) access to the park at the top of the valley (which recently changed hands). One of the other horsey people in the valley (who’d heard about our mystery cat from Yvonne) indicated that the cat in the flyer — named “Jake” — belonged to a friend of hers & was in the habit of roaming since he and his owner had moved. We asked her to pass on our details, so we could find out if Jake and Ghost were one and the same.

As it happens, they are. He’d gone missing from his Porirua home about four months ago (about the time we started seeing him at our place), and had wandered up over the ridge to our place, about 5km away. Although we couldn’t turn him up when she dropped by to identify him from the photos we took (including the one above) his owner was *very* happy to know where he’d got to.

Fast forward again to today. Yvonne has just now (as I was in the middle of writing this post) caught Jake in the tack shed. We’ve stuffed him into Azami’s travelling crate and left a message for Carol when she gets home from work. Looks like Jake’s going home ! The rabbits won’t miss him, but we will (unless he turns up again, of course !).

The Ponies

Almost forgot to mention — it was the Melbourne Cup last week. I think it’s the biggest horse race in the Southern Hemisphere & folks on both sides of the Tasman get quite into it. In Victoria, the Australian state Melbourne is in, Cup Day is an official holiday. Anyway, there was the usual office pool, in which you toss in a two-dollar coin and they draw a horse for you out of a hat, and hey, I got the winner ! The winner turned out to be the favorite for the race, Makybe Diva, a seven year old mare who has now made history by winning the Melbourne Cup three times in a row. Her jockey was in tears after the race, in praise of the fabulousness of this horse, and the next three days’ talk radio was all about her. You know those conversations geeks supposedly have about “Who’s faster, Superman or the Flash ?” It was like that, only it was comparing Makybe Diva and Phar Lap.

I wonder if Breyer will make a Makybe Diva model ? The thing is, Phar Lap got the press in the Northern Hemisphere in part because his last race (before he was dramatically poisoned) was in the US. They’re retiring Makybe Diva now, so I don’t think her fame will spread as far (unless she turns out some winners as a brood mare).

Snippets

Stephen’s parents brought me two boxes of the “Hot Tamales” cinnamon candy, so I took one of them into work. Cinnamon isn’t a flavor they generally use in candies over here — especially not the “hot/spicy” cinnamon like we get in Red Hots or the Cinnamon Altoids (or Hot Tamales) in the States. One of my co-workers, who’d had Big Red chewing gum previously, liked the Hot Tamales. Everyone else thought they were the weirdest thing. Several people who tried them made faces; one actually spat them out. One person said they “taste like soap”, and another compared them — favorably, for what that’s worth — to “those nasty salty licorice Finnish lollies.” So there you have it. At home, several of the people we hang out with liked them just fine, having been exposed to the flavor previously, but the average Kiwi Joe doesn’t grok cinnamon candy.

Wellington Moment of the Week: I was walking to the train station on Friday and passed a group of about a half-dozen business-people playing hopscotch on the waterfront in their Friday half-casuals (although one guy was in a shirt and tie). They were using one of the women’s earrings as the stone and one of the men was keeping time on his watch. Hee.

Saturday we went up to the Manawatu A&P show. It was a noticably smaller show this year, although the alpaca section was bigger. It’ll be nice to not make that drive again for a while (two hours each way). Didn’t go into town for Guy Fawkes afterwards, because Stephen wasn’t feeling that great, but you could hear the booms all the way out at our place, and see the red light reflecting off the clouds. It was a little ominous — like Wellington was being carpet-bombed.

Sunday we did some halter and pen work with the boys — got all of them but Oak to let us pick up their feet and trim their nails, them took them in pairs down to the stream and got them all to go over it. Stephen got Oak to walk around *in* it, which was a first, and Hyouki jumped back and forth over it several times. Good boys ! Had Stuart over for tea — he showed off his shiny new tractor, and I showed off my knife collection. Then we (Stephen and I — Stuart went home) played some “Gauntlet” on the PS2. “Archer needs food !” “Valkyrie has gained a level !” Whee !