Vacation continued (Saturday the 18th)

After breakfast it was but a quick jaunt over to Hastings and Rapaki Alpacas, run by Peter and Sarah. I know Sarah as she is on the Health and Education subcommittee with me. She is also a former scientist, with a PhD in Neuroanatomy. We spent the morning looking at their ‘paca and chatting. It was all very pleasant. They showed us how to put in the brass ear tags, which we wanted to see done before we tried it ourselves on Hankyo and Hyouki. It seems a quick and relatively painless process if done right. At least I hope its painless, as that is one heck of a ear-ring you stick into their ear! We also discussed our plans to buy/rent/lease a male of our own next year, and looked at one of their boys who might fit the bill.

Afterwards we drove over to Napier for lunch. Napier is the Art Deco city of New Zealand. The whole town fell over in a huge earthquake 75 years ago, and so it was all rebuilt in the early 30s, and it was all done by an architect with a great sense of style. Unlike our visit in 1999, it was not raining, so we could actually walk around town and admire it all. On the way out of town we dropped by a big tannery and scored some wonderfully cheap off-cuts and seconds of sheepskins, both adding to the barbaric splendor of our home decor, and providing more comfy places for cats to sleep as winter approaches.

From there it was the long windy drive along the cost towards the Mahia penninsula, where we had booked a room. Magnificent hill country. Fun drive. When a road feature is called “the Devil’s elbow” you know it is a twisty road.

The place in Mahia was adequate. Floppy bed. And the shared kitchen in the middle of the building meant we had food smells and cooking noises fairly late into the night. But the lovely sunset across Hawke’s Bay while sitting on the beach and listening to the gentle swish of the surf was well worth it.

We had planned to load up on food at the supermarket in Wairoa on the way to Mahia, but it had closed at 4 PM! A subtle hint that we were moving away from the 24/7 lifestyle of the bigger cities, and out into the Wops.

Extreme NZ

Many of you have probably noticed how “extreme” the world is becoming. The X-games, extreme sports, you name it. Coffee houses with names like “X-treme Cafe.” This is all become normal, accepted. While we were in Waipukerau, I spotted a store name that broke my brain, and made me laugh, and laugh and laugh.

Scrapbookin’ 2D Max

I kid you not.

Vacation! (Friday the 17th)

Last week, as many of you know, we were away on vacation. This was the first time since 2002 that we have had a vacation with just the two of us. We had a week and a day off, and were headed for east cape. A day-by-day will follow.

We started on Friday the 17th. We got up at the normal farm-early, packed the car, and were on the road by 7:30. First goal: Central Districts Field Days in Feilding. This is the second largest Field Days in NZ (only after the national one at Mystery Creek in June), with over 400 vendors of various farm related goods and services. The past two years this has been a wonderful shopping venue, and we have gotten many wonderful farm tools- usually on special sale. Going through 400+ stalls is a day-long process, which is why we like to be there early.

This year, we made our way through much more quickly. Having looked at all the vendors we were interested in last year, there really wasn’t nearly as much to draw our attention, that and we were not shopping for any big-ticket items. We chatted with the various alpaca people there, and got a variety of little useful widgets (chainsaw sharpener, first aid kit, barn/home fire extinguishers, etc).

Once we left the Field Days the vacation really started. We drove through the Manawatu Gorge heading east. It was an interesting drive, as there are huge wind farms all around the gorge. Within the gorge it was easy to see the huge slips that destroyed the road back in the 2004 floods. I see why it tooks months to get the road reopened, and repairs are stll ongoing. From there it was a quick drive across northern Wairarapa to our destination for the evening. We got to pass through Dannevirke, everyone’s favorite viking-themed town! (Though Norsewood a few km up the road is even more over-the-top.) We spent the night in a little “self contained” unit in Waipukerau. Nice town. It has TWO supermarkets, and even a movie theater! That may not seem like anything much to our North Amerian friends, but there are giant sections of NZ where there are no such amenities, as there is insufficient population to support them.

And such a zone was our destination!

Banner Hell

So, these last few weeks have been consumed by wrangling large pieces of silk. Come April is Rowany Festival, the big SCA event in Australia (and probably the biggest in the southern hemisphere). Southron Gaard, the SCA group down in Christchurch, decided that cool silk banners would look good. They arranged to buy silk and silk dye. Each major group in NZ had to do two banners, one with their own heraldry on it, and one with another groups (as part of a gift/surprise). Tam, as the resident artist, got tagged with doing the banners. This involved many hours of drawing, transferring to the silk, pinning the silk into frames, painting resist onto each piece of silk (the banners are in two pieces and will be about 2 meters square when done) and then applying the dye. The first time we tried to put dye on the bottom half ot the Rowany banner, we screwed up. We didn’t realize you had to dilute the dye 1:1, and it went on too think, and dried all funny. That was depressing, as it added many hours to re-do that would piece (thankfully we were given extra silk in case of screw ups!). We also learned that there is a lot of skill involved, we were much faster at painting silk dye by the end! I should also say we got lots of help from fellow Dartonians, and we have had lots of people over these last two weekends to help with the project.

As of last night, the last of the painting/dying work was done. Now the banners get passed out of our hands to others who will do the sewing! Huzzah!

In other news, this past weekend we took the ‘paca walkies. Kerry had some over to help with the banners. While the resist was drying we had an hour or two to kill, so we haltered up Jim and the cria (though they are nearly a year old now!) and took them over to Stuarts property. Stuart has a bunch of concrete culverts that he got years ago. He is slowly using them up around the farm, but about 20 are still left standing in a paddock. These making interesting tunnels. Perfect size for llamas and alpacas.

In animal training, if you can convince the animals to do something strange/frightening/unnatural, and then it all goes well, you build confidence. These tunnels fit the bill perfectly. We started on some of the larger tunnels, and then moved down to ones where they had to duck to get through. While nervous in the beginning, they seemed to enjoy it (being curious creatures).

As we were finishing up Stuart dropped by on his spiffy new quad bike.

Weekend Death March

This past weekend was another over-booking special, starting with Friday night’s first session of the new Ars Magica game.

Saturday morning, Emily arrived at 6:15 and we lit out over the Hill to Martinborough for the big annual Martinborough Fair. There are several hundred stalls (with a 3 year waiting list to get a stall, apparently), and you need to show up bright and early if you want a parking space closer than a half kilometer away. We got there about 8:30, and by the time we left (around 10:45) it was indeed getting hard to elbow your way through the crowds. Thanks to advice from Sharon, we got a close parking space around the back. The trip over the Rimutakas was more interesting than usual, as Emily is not too keen on heights. We picked up a new kauri cutting board, an oil hurricane lamp, a merino micro-knit for me, and a bag of walnuts. I also got the card of the guy in Featherston who makes the neato leather aviator helmets.

Stephen will have to remind me what we did with the rest of Saturday afternoon, as I was so brain-dead I don’t remember. Saturday evening we hooked up with Emily again, her friend and fellow tech-writer Dawn, Susan and Beverley, and went to see “Heavenly Burlesque” at the Fringe Festival. Kewl. Especially the “cleaning lady” with the hula hoops, and the chick doing sleep-gymnastics hanging from the ceiling by her sheets.

Sunday was an SCA “war practice” which was largely organized so that a bunch of people could come over and work on the banner project that is currently living in the dance studio. That started around 8am, with Stephen making a killer breakfast for StephenR and Jennifer, who’d come over for riding lessons with Yvonne, and also Dillon and Cordelia, who’d gotten a ride with S&J. Stephen made up a printed “Chez Stephen” menu and everything. We got a ton of work done on the banners, which is good, because they are doing that Sword of Damocles thing.

In other news, the horses got into the garden and ate all our carrots, but the tomatos are going like gangbusters. Stephen and I can both eat cherry tomatoes like popcorn & Stephen’s even started making noise about getting a little glasshouse so we can have them year round. Woo ! I wonder if the conservatory would work ? It would presumably be easier to keep gorse out of a glasshouse.

Also, I’ve had two mornings in a row now that I haven’t had to unglue my eyes when I woke up, so it looks like the dryness may be easing up a bit (knock wood). My first checkup is next week.

Still haven’t got the girls back. We’ve dropped an email to the breeder to find out if they’ve scanned yet. *Definitely* going to try to get a stud in next year.