In a recent WednesdayBusk, our friend Renée wrote about Macular Degeneration, commenting that it is something most people don't know anything about. Oddly enough, we've at least three people in our acquaintance who have or had it, so I had thought it was a condition well known.
Over the years I've delighted in playing with colours in these pages, fascinated by the ability to change the appearance of a page by the alteration of a six-letter code, or a colour name. I've always liked bright colours, which has probably tried the eyes and tolerance of some of my readers and I have gone back to tone down some of my earlier extravagances. In recent months I have been trying to be more considerate, particularly when Renée commented that a particular combination worked well for her.
Now I have decided, until I can figure out some way to particularly provide for anyone requiring the clearest contrast options, to go black-and-white. I am also experimenting with providing an audio accompaniment to each page. You will see it down in the bottom right corner, where it will stay, no matter where you scroll on the page. Please tell me if you find it annoying or helpful. Comments on my accent and voice not being as you'd expected will also be accepted with interest. I don't sound the way I think when I hear myself either!
The audio is for the whole page, is just under 14 minutes long and just under 20Mb but should not download unless you press play, so if you have limited data, don't do that.
Because there's nothing much in the garden and the weather is so unpleasant, we've been letting the hens out far more often than we usually would.
Under the big Pūriri the soil is quite dry, providing a lovely place for dust-bathing and preening.
I have been becoming increasingly concerned about the rotting Kahikatea tree at the bottom of Flat 2, fearing that in a high wind it might fall and injure one of my animals.
Today when Mathew, Sarah and Wana-i-Rangi arrived, I asked Wana-i-Rangi if she'd like to go and help cut down a big tree? What an adventure!
Stephan cut the first part, which had to be helped to fall all the way, having been caught in the branches of a neighbouring tree, but this second, main part, fell more easily.
Every time I turned to look at Wana-i-Rangi, she seemed to have just got up from falling into a cow pat. I suspect she was finding them and stomping around, then stumbling into them.
Here she had muck on her hands and wanted me to do something about it. I suggested she wipe her hands on the leg of my jeans.
While we were over there, we moved a couple of mobs of cattle: these are the big heifer, 190 and the steer, 861, both looking very warily at the small human moving across the paddock with me.
We're going on a trip tomorrow and getting away from the farm for a few days seems to require as many days' preparation.
The five "young thin" heifers, Zoom and four others, have been grazing Mushroom 2 & 3 and I wanted to extend their area to Mushroom 1. But with strong wind and rain warnings in place for tomorrow, I decided to exclude them from the probable fall zone if the last part of the damaged tree gets blown over.
The crack up its main trunk looks reasonably stable but there's no knowing how much wind force it will withstand.
I was a picture of efficiency, setting this up while the cows on the left were coming along the lane to go out to the Spring paddock.
Then having assessed how much grass isn't really anywhere, I split the young cattle into two groups. Smaller groups will last longer in their grazing areas without getting hungry.
I propelled the yearlings ahead of me to the Swamp East Right, with the others (pictured) hot on my heels as we went up the lane.
Stephan came out to help me take the older youngsters along Route 356 to the Middle Back.
On our way back, we walked across to the Swamp East Right to open the little connection lane to the Left paddock so the yearlings can have both.
Then we removed the unelectrified tape from this still-unfenced Pūriri. I have seen what can happen to cattle who get tangled in that tough tape and I'd rather not risk any of them doing anything unfortunate while we're not here over the next few days.
Mathew is coming out to look after things for us but I was concerned that if some disaster prevented him from leaving work at the end of his shift this morning, he might not get here to milk Zella, so we would do that, then go.
The weather was horrible until just north of Auckland - although not as bad as it could have been: visibility wasn't really much reduced by heavy rain, it was just continually wet.
At least now when we go south we can go through the Mangamuka Gorge, it having opened again in the last couple of weeks after being closed since July last year, when a big storm caused a slip which damaged a portion of the road so badly that part of the hillside had to be rebuilt for the road to be reinstated. Waka Kotahi has a page detailing the slips and repairs. There are some different pictures in the Stuff news site. It's an impressive bit of work!
I drove until somewhere north of Auckland, then Stephan took his turn. While he was driving I was taking a great leap across the digital divide: last week I phoned the telecommunications company to which our mobile phones are sometimes connected (but barely work except in some areas out on the farm) and had a number assigned to the "smart" phone I bought a couple of years ago. I've only ever used it on Wifi connections, never as a telephone.
I spent a whole $20 to purchase a month of voice, text and data and while I'm quite clever and knew intellectually that people were able to connect to the internet with their phones, somehow I'd never quite realised that's what they were doing when constantly looking down at the things. I thought they just had a lot of texting friends.
I spent the next hour not noticing what was happening around me!
Tāmaki-makau-rau, Auckland city at 2.15pm.
It had just stopped raining, so the view was dreary.
I thought the flags on the harbour bridge had been changed, so that one was the national flag and the other the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, but that apparently only happens on certain days. I look forward to that changing!
Fortunately the traffic was flowing smoothly all the way through Auckland. Stephan carried on down the motorway, since there was no opportunity to stop anyway.
We arrived in Rotorua just on dark and, with the cheerful assistance of a voice from my phone, found our way to the Bed & Breakfast accommodation we'd been invited to use, run by the owners of Peterson Sawmills, and offered to all their customers who needed to stay overnight when they came to look at, or collect, a new mill.
Cathie and Andrew, who live in Rotorua, came and picked us up for dinner. They took us to Atticus Finch, a restaurant serving "sharing dishes", which was, even for someone disinclined to food-sharing, a marvellous experience, because we all had a little of many delicious dishes, rather than having to make individual choices.
Our night was akin to sleeping in a diesel-motor launch on a deadline from one port to another: on the outside wall of the bedroom was a heat-pump unit and even with good ear-plugs, it woke me often. Madness. Why would you install such machinery in that position? I could not have stayed another night. Fortunately we didn't need to.
Over the last few months there have been aspirational discussions, some between Andrew and Stephan, and the make-it-happen ones between Cathie and I, leading to the joint purchase of a Junior Peterson sawmill.
When Oscar bought his mill, Stephan began taking trees there for milling and Oscar suggested that at some time he would bring his mill here and they'd do the Pines together. However, once one has a mill, it appears one gets very busy and it doesn't look like that plan will come to fruition. There are too many big trees to keep transporting them to where Oscar is set up and it's probably not reasonable to ask him to do so many anyway.
Andrew and Cathie discovered the Peterson mills in Rotorua and told us about them and one thing led to another and so there we were today, to receive instruction on safety and operation of the mill we were to take home with us.
Stephan, who will be the usual operator until Andrew gets around to retiring and joining in the fun, did most of the hands-on things today, under instruction by Greg (in the middle), while Andrew watched and I took photographs and a few videos.
There was a log set up for practising on and after Greg demonstrated various things, Stephan cut several bits of timber himself.
When we'd finished asking questions, had signed all the paperwork, paid the money and had some lunch (thanks Greg), some of the workers helped load the mill on the back of the ute and we set off for Tauranga, less than an hour to the North.
It was a nervous trip with the cumbersome load, but everything was well strapped on and we were able to pull over as necessary to let others pass, so we didn't have to hurry.
In Tauranga we went to the new home of nephew Simon and Anna and the two (nearly three) children, to stay for a couple of nights. Fortunately they live in a very quiet cul-de-sac, where our heavy load could be safely parked on the roadside; although Stephan did sleep in the lounge and looked out the window several times during the two nights!
I did a DNA test a year or two ago when I began investigating my family's origins and one of the people who was shown to be a close match was my paternal grandmother's niece, Eleanor. She and I have been corresponding for the last couple of months and had arranged to meet while I was in her neighbourhood. This morning she came and picked me up, took me back to her home for some sharing of photographs and stories.
Her son, my second cousin, was coming through on a holiday and so I got to meet him too, a warm delight. His wife had worked with my sister, Rachel, at a school in Auckland, a few years ago, although then knew nothing of this family link.
Eleanor dropped me back again in the afternoon and we thought a photograph was a good idea.
The background isn't the prettiest, but I thought it would be useful to connect two events in time and place. How I wish some of my forebears had done similarly in the few photos I've seen, although one still needs the stories to make sense of anything else in a photo.
During the day, which Stephan spent with Anna and the children, three courier packages had arrived, one with plastic packets of air to cushion its contents.
When I arrived back the children were playing in the three big boxes and had discovered the air packets would pop with a loud bang if jumped on. To think some of us used to be satisfied with popping bubble-wrap!
And we used to think nothing of all this plastic either. You'd think, nowadays, companies would be more likely to use crunched-up paper products for shock-reducing packaging around the things they send.
In the evening, daughter Ella and her boyfriend Dylan came to join us all for dinner. It was lovely to see her after far too long and good to meet Dylan, about whom we'd already heard a little from Ella over the last few months.
I always like to take advantage of these opportunities for Ella to meet with her cousins.
We left Tauranga at about 11am, not feeling a great need to rush home, as long as we weren't too late.
This is the Ohinemuri River in the Karangahake Gorge. My father often talked about this area, having taught in Te Whāiti or Minginui in the 40s or 50s.
We stopped here to eat some lunch and have a coffee. I would have liked to go for a walk to see what was on the other side of the stream but didn't want to be too long, nor leave the ute and all the interesting things on the back. Another time, I hope.
We travelled through Auckland with some trepidation as flashing signs appeared warning of an incident at Penrose and we couldn't work out whether we were supposed to get off the motorway and take some other route north or not. Fortunately there was no major hold-up but reports of another kind of hold-up somewhere beneath the motorway were all over the news later on.
Otherwise our trip was uneventful and we arrived home by around 7.30pm.
I was not sure whether Mathew had checked my heifers Over the Road, although he had opened up the other part of the paddock for them, so Stephan and I went for an early stroll.
All were fine and quietly grazing.
Then during the rest of the morning we gradually caught up with ourselves, unpacked the ute properly, unloaded the mill and its bits and pieces and put things back to rights again.
Here are the yearlings, coming across the stream from the Swamp East Left to the Frog paddock.
And the others, in the Middle Back, seemed happy enough even though their feed was getting a bit low, so I left them there for another day.
There's no reason why anything shouldn't be fine while we're not here, especially when we're away for only a day longer than my usual cattle checking frequency at this time of year but it's good to find all is well.