A few weeks ago, when planning my trip to Wellington, I discovered that the New Zealand Theatre Federation Festival of Community Theatre National Finals were being held in Palmerston North on the very nights I was to be there. I booked three tickets for tonight, the second and last night, and so L-J, Fran and I went to the Globe Theatre. We saw three one-act plays from groups from Westport (West coast of the South Island), Marlborough (top of the South Island) and Canterbury, just to keep them all in the same island, obviously! Whilst one might suspect that the better plays were on stage on the first night (from the awards presented), it was an entertaining evening.
The local member of Parliament was in attendance (and presented some of the awards) and we were, all three, disappointed in his stupid anti-opposition-party "joke" during his speech. I think it is entirely unnecessary and bad form for a politician to take swipes at the opposition at such an event. He would have alienated any supporters of the other side who happened to be in the audience, and he most definitely annoyed us, even though we are supportive of the parties on his side of the house. It was badly done, Mr Maharey, badly done indeed!
I took my leave of my most entertaining hosts, and flew north.
My lovely family, sisters Rachel and Jude, and Jude's three children, Stella, Jasper and Louie, met me at Auckland airport and we had a picnic Birthday lunch on the observation deck, since I had an hour to wait for the Kaitaia flight. Stella had painted a picture and they'd all made a card and Jude brought a flowering native Clematis plant, but I had to leave that behind, knowing how little one can actually fit into the seat space on the small planes!
The flight home was uneventful until we flew past the airport and wondered if we were carrying on to Australia! We had a wonderful view up and down 90-mile Beach and the Aupouri forest (I'd forgotten how large the area of Pine plantation really is), as we flew out over the Tasman sea. Then, because we turned to come back in to the runway from the west, I had a great view of the east coast across Doubtless Bay.
There was some heavy rain as we came down and then as Stephan and I were driving home, so much rain fell we had to slow to a crawl to see where we were going! There had apparently been rather more rain up in the hills, evidenced by the level of our river. So we sat for an hour or so, ate some of the delicious chocolate biscuits Fran had sent home with me, listened to the radio, then eventually, when I felt I simply had to try and get home and the river had dropped a little, I took off my shoes and trousers and waded across. Leaving Palmerston North this morning, I had not expected to arrive home dripping wet with only half my clothes on!
I went out to move and check on the cows and noticed some definite udder development on several of them. It must be time to get the calving-date list finalised and start thinking about which animals need to be where.
Jill and Bruce came up to stay overnight to join us for my birthday dinner. Jill had, at my request, brought one of the old Pamir Restaurant favourites, a dessert called Café Parfait, which, as children, we called caffay paffay and never ate.
Jill and I walked out to say Happy Birthday to Abigail, since I'd forgotten to do so yesterday! I suppose that's why she didn't bother to sing Happy Birthday to me today.
What do you mean cows don't sing?
We had a lovely lunch, with the obligatory bottle of Asti Riccadonna (the family favourite celebratory plonk) and then walked to the top of the hill over the road. Through most of my adult life I've done something at 2 o'clock with Jill on my birthday, to mark the moment of my birth. Mostly it has just provided an excellent excuse for cracking open a nice bottle of wine in the mid-afternoon.
This is the view from the top of the hill of the bit of the PWHS which Stephan has been clearing, looking lovely and park-like in places. The green bit at the top was mulched in the summer, but further down has all been done by hand, and there's still quite a bit more to clear.
The sheep have been over at the neighbours' place for a while again recently, but having heard from them that a little dog (which I've seen wandering but not been able to catch) was harassing them the other week, I thought it best we brought them closer to home. Now that they're starting to look quite close to lambing (I calculate they're due from the 14th), we've moved them into the paddock adjacent to our house.
This is Dotty, pregnant with her first lamb(s) at the great age of three. She's a lovely animal, the only sheep I've had who enjoys being scratched and stroked around her face.
Dotty was one of the 2003 bottle-fed lambs. There are some pictures of her as a baby.
There has been all sorts of jumping up and down in the media after the latest Lonely Planet guide was released, with some uncomplimentary comments about Kaitaia. I just think that if you only went to Kaitaia and didn't find your way out into the countryside and the homes of any of the wonderful people in the surrounding areas, you'd be missing out on the best part anyway. I'm all for real tourism, the sort which enables people to experience some of the reality of life in a different place, rather than the sort that buys the t-shirt and postcard on the great been-there-done-that whistle-stop tour.
Bring your tent - Diggers Valley is open for the summer!
Stephan's out there again, cutting down gorse and Manuka. What a guy!
I took the Pukeko with me for a walk this afternoon, to go and inspect Stephan's work. I sat and talked with Stephan while he had a coffee and a sit-down and the Pukeko set about tearing the bark from the bottom of a Totara tree, finding all sorts of crawly things to eat!
There are suddenly, again, bright white patches in the tops of the trees around us, as the native Clematis vines burst into flower. I think they're a little earlier than usual this year, as most things seem to be (although I see they were similarly early last year). Thank goodness for an early spring, after the surprisingly early start to the winter!
The yearling heifers are in pretty good nick. I sometimes think they look quite small from a distance, but close up and in motion, they're pretty hefty, well-grown animals.
I haven't weighed them since June, so I shall have to get the scales out and see how far they have to go before they reach minimum weight for mating this season.
The larger one in the left foreground is the only R2 heifer which didn't get in calf this year.
A different view of Dotty! Yvette will be the first to lamb, from my notes on the ram's activities in April, but since neither Stephan nor I saw the ram taking any interest in Dotty, I'm watching her carefully every day, not knowing when she might actually be due.
The gorse is in flower everywhere. It's a dreadful, nastily prickly weed, but if you have to walk through it, stop and smell the flowers; they have the most exquisite scent! They smell a little like sweet pea flowers and I suspect the loveliness of the smell is exaggerated in my estimation by the surprise of finding it in the midst of such a hated weed!
Old Ivy and her paddock mate, Ms Grey 443, have both been steadily gaining weight. They're down to one feed of nuts and Molasses per day now, since the grass is growing faster and Ivy's looking so much better. The grey cow seems suddenly to have put on quite a bit of condition and looks really solid from the front! She was pretty light at weaning, so it's good to see her like this now.