Yes, we have been slack about updating the blog lately. So what have we been doing lately?
We have been wet. Often. It has rained every day for the last 20 days, with a total accumulation of about 210 mm (8 inches). Thankfully the rain has never been too instense for too long, but even so everything has gotten very soggy. (And my plans for building a few new fences are on hold until the ground dries out a bit.) The sun does peek out on occasion. If it would stay out for a few days running the grass would start growing, and everyone (well, all the farmers at least) would be happier.
This last weekend we flew down to Christchurch for a party. This was the 9th (?) annual “Winter Weekend”, where a group of people (amny of whom we know from SCA events) head out to the My Hutt Retreat, and commence 4 days of lazing about which involved sitting in a spa pool, watching movies and playing board games. This was my first time off the farm (except an alpaca-related trip to Auckland back in May) in 8 months. It took me a few days just to relax a bit and stop fretting about the ‘paca.
Did you know that a llama appears in Conan the Barbarian? I didn’t, ’till I rewatched it Friday night.
It is also amazing what people will sit and listen to. One of the many games on hand was a set of steel balls and many magnet-ended plastic tubes of various lengths and curvatures. These could be used to assemble a wide variety of 3-dimensional shapes. It also turns out that they make fairly effective teching tools for organic chemistry. Yes, I spent about 45 minutes before breakfast Friday morning giving an impromptu lesson on basic O-chem/Biochem (focusing on the role of sterics and electrostatics in binding site recognition) to a half dozen people. At the end of it more than one person stated (clearly in amazement) how interesting that all was. I guess any subject can be made fun with a sufficiently spaztic lecturer.
On Saturday we did some hiking in the morning, trying to get up to the snow line. The ridge we were hiking along was not quite high enough, we could see snow only about 50 meters up on the adjacent ridge, but we had largely run out of “up” when we decided to turn around.
We tried fossiking in some of the streams near the farm where Zane grew up for agate and petrified wood, but without success (heading out with a geologist with local knowledge ensures you look in the streams that have potential for good finds). It was distressing to see how the nutrient runoff from all the dairy farms they are putting in had affected the streams. What should have been clear-channeled gravel-bedded streams where now choked with growth due to the excessive nitrates. Bleah.
Zane also took us down to his family farm, which is an experience in itself with all the old vehicles, tractors, and bren-gun carriers scattered among the paddocks. We hiked up the old tram way at the back of the farm towards the abandoned coal mines (dating from the 1880’s). Amazingly the wooden rails of the old tram were still there, barely rotted even though they had been sitting on the floor of a rain forest for 130 years. Australian hard wood- nothing in NZ eats it! Zane did fine one nice chunk of petrified wood for Tam in the stream up near the coal mines.
Zane had also brought along a nifty .58 caliber black-powder muzzle-loading rifle on the trek, in case we came across any deer. We saw lots of deer-sign, but the living deer remained hidden. I am kind of glad for that, as otherwise we would have had to carry the carcass out of that rather challenging terrain. He ended up discharging the weapon into a clay bank (can’t unlaod a muzzle-loader!), and the report was quite impressive. A powerful low roar, very different from modern rifles. We may do a black-powder day some time up at our farm, that should make the neighbors curious!
On the way out we visited Z’s brothers place, which also had an impressive (if somewhat smaller) collection of vehicles. The collection included an operational 77mm field gun! (Which every farm needs, clearly.) I have to see when we can get one for our farm!