Jill and I went over to Jude's place to help tidy and clean before her big Birthday party tomorrow.
In the early afternoon, Jill's youngest brother, Peter, arrived. I haven't seen him since my brother Bob's funeral. We had a fun time catching up with respective family news and decided we should definitely record the meeting with a photograph. The boys ran away.
We are Peter, Jill, Stella (holding Cecil the dog-not-rat), Rachel, Ruth, Jude and Roger.
Stephan drove down to Auckland this morning for Jude's party, bringing a ute-load of lovely Kanuka firewood for her. He's spent the last couple of weeks working on her present, but things didn't go as planned and it isn't finished. At least they'll all be warm.
The party was a well-run affair with Jude's usual flair for organising such things making it a great event. There was standing-room only although moving through the crowd wasn't difficult, the people all being considerate and careful about drinks and others' movements.
After the band left and before the DJ began his time, Stella performed three songs, two of which she'd written herself. The one which caused a lot of weepy eyes in most of Jude's mummy friends was a song about how marvellous Stella thinks her mother is. Lucky child. I think it should be recorded for playing back to her if she turns into a terrible teenager.
It looks like the children have inherited much of Jude's natural musical talent - that little Judith who used to play the piano as soon as she could reach it. Jude had put together a photo board of pictures from throughout her life. There were lots of images I haven't seen for years; a nice walk along memory lane.
I did more cleaning and decluttering of Jill's place and then Stephan and I left her and joined Rachel and Jude for lunch together, before heading north.
Rachel's off to Abu Dhabi on Thursday and we might see her if she comes home for Christmas, but I don't always get down to Auckland then and she won't have long.
We'd arranged to go and visit Suzi (who came here early last year, after winning 2012's Calving Date Competition) and her partner at their lovely property in the back-blocks somewhere near Puhoi, north of Auckland. We dropped off the Northern Motorway at Silverdale and we spotted a closing-down sale in a hardware store where I bought two bright yellow umbrellas to take down to Jill's place, next time I visit her. I will indelibly mark them with her name and address, in the hope they do not go wherever all her other umbrellas have gone.
We spent a very pleasant late afternoon and evening with Suzi and Peter and set off this morning on our way home. Originally we'd arranged to stay with them because we had an appointment in Warkworth today, but that was cancelled suddenly, yesterday.
Having no time constraints, we followed Peter's instructions for getting north to Puhoi via the back roads, including an interesting short section of road along the razor-back of a ridge - it drops away very steeply on both sides and gave a fabulous view back in the direction we'd travelled.
In Warkworth we found a Hospice Shop (run by volunteers, selling donated goods to raise funds for their local Hospice) full of a fascinating range of goods. As neither of us was carrying cash and I could only find one small item I was interested in, we simply looked. At the wool shop along the road, I bought some lovely Alpaca/Merino/Silk sock yarn.
Next we stopped in Wellsford, having spotted a Hospice Shop on the main road through the town. When we stopped in Waipu for lunch, there was another one! Lunch was a bowl of very nice soup and bread each, with coffee (I'll remember that nice café is there for such stops!), then we went over the road to browse the wares of the Hospice Shop, finding all manner of interesting things. Somebody with a very old collection of wool must have died and their yarn been donated to the shop, so I now have yarn for even more socks! The labels had weights in ounces, on wools produced by long-closed New Zealand companies. I will enjoy using it.
We arrived home at four o'clock, with plenty of time for me to visit all the cattle and ensure they were alright.
Demelza and her family always amuse me, in the way they regularly hang around together: (left to right) daughter Eva, sister Dinky, Demelza, daughter Emma.
We have charming neighbours who think nothing of burning substances which are prohibited under the clean air regulations of the local councils. This hideous cloud appeared just after I'd put a load of clean washing out on the line in the brisk, drying breeze, which very quickly brought the stench directly to our house. Stephan went to discuss the matter with them and discovered they'd decided to burn a mattress.
The Regional Council tell me it's a long process (or one they're obviously not keen on following) to enforce their regulations, despite the pollution and unpleasantness such transgressions cause.
I think the cows are still holding condition well enough, although now we're in to August, there's little grass growing. This is always the hardest month of the year, but at least we've not already had three weeks of no grass before now, and if the temperatures continue to be as mild as they have been for most of the winter, it won't be very long before the feed situation eases again.
A friend just north of Auckland suggested we welcome a couple of people she'd been working with as a HelpX (farm workers similar to WOOFers) host. They arrived yesterday.
We were across the road preparing to move the cows from the main farm to the hill paddock, where they should be happy for a week or two.