Fun with Holly, pt 1

So, we picked up a somewhat jet-lagged Holly Thursday morning. As she was not totally wrecked from the journey, we immediately started with the fun. It started with a drive around Moa point and the eastern (Seatoun) edge of Wellington, with a stop at Chocolate Fish for second breakfast. The weather was winter-Wellington at its best– clear, sunny and still. We sat out by the harbor channel and watched the sea birds as we ate. After that it was back to the farm, a tour and meet-and-greet with the cute and fluffy animals. After lunch we got back into the car, and drove through Wainuiomata and down the coast road. With it so sunny and still, it was a great day to walk on the beach. The snow-capped Kaikoura ranges on the south island were clearly visible, and we even saw a fur seal, perched high atop a rock spur with the waves crashing all about (I don’t know how it got up there with flippers, but it surely was Orca-proof up there!). After that we drove back around to Eastbourne, and got a great view of the city from across the harbor. Dinner was at Day’s Bay pizza, one of the two good Italian-style pizeria places in Wellington.

Friday Tam went into work. Once Holly got up (after a rejuvenating 11 hours of sleep), we went into town. Up first was Mt Victoira, both for the panoramic city views, and for the “Get off the road!” spot from Fellowship of the Rings. After that we went down to Te Papa, and in two hours managed to get through about 5% of the place. We then met up with Tam, Steve and Kerry for lunch. Tam pointed out we should not be spending a nice day in a museum, so after lunch Holly and I drove up to Otari-Wison bush, which is an old-forest remnant at the western edge of Wellington city. It is filled with lovely old native trees, and Holly got to hear her first R2D2-like Tui call. Friday evening our normal role-playing group came over, and we all had a fun social time (I believe Holly described our friends to be “as she expected”).

Saturday was the previously scheduled spin-in, where a half-dozen or so of our hand-spinning and weaving friends come over for a social day of work and crafty-education. (These days are great, as we always sell some alpaca fiber. Joy’s lovely chocolate red-brown fleece was in demand this day.) After lunch Emily came by to take Holly away for her LoTR tour of doom. Today (Sunday) Holly and Emily are hiking in Kaitoke regional park, I think. We will find out when we meet them for dinner tonight.

Canine Update

So, events of the last week.

Last Friday the dog control officer dropped by. He put an official “uncontrolled dog” complaint form in our box, for us to fill out. He also dropped by the neighbor’s place. Neighbor was not there, but his dogs were, his un-licensed and un-registered dogs- off to the pound they went! He has since gotten them back, but it would have cost a rather big pile of money ($300 per dog fine, plus the cost to license/register, plus impound fees). We are probably not his favorite people in the world.

We are currently trying to contact the people who live and graze horses north of him, as apparently they have not been pleased by his dog-handling in the past, to see if they want to add to the complaint.

In talking with other neighbors, I discovered in the last few months there have been a two dog attacks in the valley, both within a kilometer of our place. Across the vallley from us they had about 20 sheep torn apart by dogs. They caught those dogs in the act, and shot them. A bit up the valley from us they lost 13 sheep that were “herded to death”. The mob of 30 sheep was herded down into a steep gully against a defunct earthen dam, and they piled up until the bottom ones smothered. In that case it had to be loose working dogs, as the sheep were not bitten, just methodically herded into a corner. The fact that this place is basically across the road from our problem neighbor and his wild herding dogs has not escaped my attention.

Fully Licensed

So, last night was very rage-ful.

We have made it our habit to go out every evening and say “Hi” to the ‘paca when Tam gets home for work. This way Tam can seen them on more than the weekends during the dark winter months, and a 15-20 minute walk each night is not a bad thing in its own right.

Our northern neighbor (with whom we have other stuid issues) lets his dogs out for a run each night about the same time. He also takes a walk around his back paddock while the dogs are hooning around and barking like mad. Last night we look up, and see his two dogs running around on our back hill, chasing Stuart’s sheep (Stuart has about 4 ewes that sneak onto our side, we both known they are there, and that is fine until we get the hole patched in the fence).

Dogs chasing stock. On our property. Very, VERY not-cool. Under NZ law we would have been 100% right to shoot them then and there. Not having a gun, we could not do so. So we resorted to an angry phone call. His excuse for there precence there was that they had chased some of Stuarts sheep through from his side to ours… so his excuse was they were harrying stock? WTF?

It saddens me that those dogs may end up shot. It is not their fault, really. The “no bad dogs, just bad owners” line comes to mind. Most people just don’t understand that in a rural environment dogs are not toys, they are tools. He thinks because they are huntaway crosses (a breed of stock-dog) they are safe. Wrong, breeders of stock dogs kill many of the pups as they will never be safe with stock. And without strong alpha-human leadership, even “safe and trained” stock dogs will kill sheep. That is why they are locked in kennels when not working under direct supervision.

Our neighbor claims it will never happen again. We don’t belive him. Now I get to spend my evenings sitting out there with a camera, hoping to catch them in the act again. I also need to get off my rear and get myself a firearms license. I don’t want to shoot his dogs, but I will if I have to. I can deal better with the guilt of a few dead dogs, than the guilt of burying a half-score mauled ‘paca.

Regarding Meat

Being omnivores, we eat meat. Tasty meat. Until recently the selections had largely been limited to the finest product of cow and chicken (and the occasional baby sheep). But now I have discovered the “wild game meat” section at Moore Wilsons*. A wide variety of interesting meats at remarkably low pirces (cheaper than beef mince at the supermarket!).

Last night I made a tasty North African of spicy meat over cuscus, but this time I used wild goat meat. That is probably the actual meat they would use in Africa, it was very tasty.

Over the weekend I made a lasagne, and it didn’t quite come out right. Now I know why, the absence of Wallaby meat. I will correct that for the next one. Mmmmmm, Wallaby Lasagne.

(*Moore Wilsons is an interesting store. It is not really a CostCo or BJ’s, it really is much more of a restaurant supply store. Some things there are good and cheap, much better than the normal supermarket, but other items are actually more expensive, so careful shopping is required. Unlike everywhere else, they list their prices without GST added, so a “low” price needs 12.5% tacked on for a direct comparison to other stores.)

Noble sacrifices.

What are you willing to sacrifice for your friends, for honor, to get the job done? In Dunedin this weekend, I might not have given it my all, but I gave my pants. For science.

It was the 2007 alpaca conference. I had foolishly asked the “do you need any help?” question. I took up the call, went down early, and did the scut-work that helps make a conference run well. On Thursday afternoon that involved helping to load and unload animals that were being moved around fro various workshops. The little newly weaned ones were fine, but when it came time to load a massively pregnant girl onto the back of the van things were a bit more tough. A mighty heave got her aboard, but at the cost of my pants, but not my dignity. No fear there, nothing to lose. At least I had emergency pants. Always travel with emergency pants.

The conference was great. Super-informative. I have pages and pages of notes in additional to the comprehensive conference book. It was all rather exhausting, though. I was completely “on” for the entire time (7Am to 11:30 PM, for 5 days) in what has been most eloquently described as “The Stephen Show.” Which is even measures entertaining and alarming. I am sure I left a strong impression in the minds of many of the guests and delegates, an impression that will take major medication and years of therapy to remove.

My talk on Sunday went very well. It is always a good sign when internationally reknowned camelid vets are asking you to mail them your data, and asking when you plan to publish it all. I guess I should start working on that. It would be good to get the peer-reviewed publications rolling again after a few year hiatus. I have also been asked to give the talk again at other conferences.

It does seem that we are in fact the only people running national health surveys. I probably have one of the better alpaca morbidity and mortality databases in the world, now. I had Australians coming up and volunteering to send in their info, as there is no such service there. We shall see if the enthusiasm of the moment translates into action later.

Now to play catch up with all the things that need to get done. All the trips lately have really put me back on lots of projects. My hopes for a quiet winter where I could work on my book don’t seem to be coming to pass.