“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cutest chicks in the world, EVER!

Our lavender Araucana chicks hatched on Jan 22 and 23. Nine of the 12 eggs hatched- two were duds, and a Pukeko got one of them when the hens and eggs were still at Barb and Eric's home. The hens that hatched them are taking great care of them. They're confined in the coop until the chicks get a little older. We still have neighborhood cats roaming into our yard, and would hate to lose any of our darling chicks.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rescue Chickens

While awaiting the hatch of our Araucana chicken eggs (Tues!), we arranged to adopt 2 former egg-battery hens. A couple north of Auckland operate "the Sanctuary", where they buy 12 month old hens that have stopped producing eggs because they need to molt their feathers. They recover once the feathers re-grow, but the battery farms don't want to feed them during this time- usually they slaughter them. The hens from the Sanctuary get a second chance, and it's like being reborn because their environment is totally different. While I lend absolutely no support to animal liberation groups, I do think the battery egg farms are cruel and the practice shold be ended. See for yourself, here. Though this video is from California, battery farming a world-wide practice. One look at our rescue hens and you know these birds suffered. If you click on the photo you can enlarge it. One way to minimize the impact of battery farming is to raise awareness, which I support. Also, though they cost a bit more, you can buy cage-free eggs. Our personal solution is to keep our own hens in our yard. They're fairly easy to care for, are entertaining, and provide fresher eggs than you could buy at the grocery.
As you can see in the photos, Thelma and Louise look pretty sad- bare skin, burned-off beak ends, bare feathers. The beak will never regrow, but with time the feathers will. Also with time, they can learn to scratch and peck for food in the yard. Yes this natural behavior has been supressed so long, this behavior and others, like perching, have to be re-learned. I threw a cooked cob of corn and some spinach into the yard, and they haven't eaten it. They are so accustomed to eating a food pellet, they don't realize there is a variety of food to eat. They had been at the Sanctuary about 4 weeks before we got them. Within 24 hours of moving them to their new home, one of them laid a huge egg, and the next day we got 2 eggs!

Here's a photo of their new home, which Darin built using nearly all recycled wood left at our house (under it). Comming soon (we hope), pictures of baby chicks!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Northland NZ visit

Darin turned 38 on Jan 5, and Barb, Eric, and I took him out for really good sushi, at Blowfish (sushi to die for). The restaurant has anime playing on big tvs, no sound, but a very cool interior and vibe. The sushi is YUM. As a birthday gift/entertainment, I arranged for him to go tuna fishing out of the Bay of Islands, a gorgeous coastal destination up north about 3.5 hours drive from Auckland. BIL Eric joined him in fishing, and I went along for the ride. Since we wouldn't arrive until evening of Sat, I booked us into a backpackers/hostel. This was a first for all of us. We each had a bed in one of two attached rooms, which had two bunkbeds in each room. The Pipi Patch was full of attractive young people, but there were a few oldsters. After checking in, there was still enough light for us to walk on the beach. There we found about 10-15 sand castles, some were really well done, with stick, leaf, seaweed, shell, and rock embelishments. We guessed there had been a competition. We checked out the town and ate gelato as we checked out the town of Paihia. As we had an early start in the morning, we had a couple shots at the bar before bed. The accomodations were adequate, and the price is great ($25 pp), but it's not my top choice.

In the morning, we got on the boat, Major Tom II. I forgot to ask what happened to the first Major Tom. Anyway, it was a nice boat, and we had a lovely day cruising around, watching the dolphins, eating, and napping. Though there were 8 poles out trolling for predatory fish the whole day, Darin and Eric caught 1 skipjack each. They are beautiful to look at, but not good to eat. Fortunately, we have a dog and two cats happy to eat them. Apparently, the water wasn't warm enough yet to bring tuna to the area. December was, after all, one of the coldest on record. So, they'll have to go back, darn it all.
What a beautiful place, it reminded me of Avalon on Catalina Island (California).

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Happy new year! 2007

New Year’s eve was celebrated at the not bad Mexican restaurant on the viaduct in downtown Auckland with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law and two more American expats, Rhonda and Stacey. We managed to finish the pathetic blended margaritas and moved on to something that tasted like tequila, tequila shots. We sat on the patio and had a good time people watching. The harbor- front was packed and there were a number of puking drunks to laugh at. Also, somehow New Zealand has fallen into a fashion time warp, it's like 1986 here! We moved to a better view to watch the fireworks get shot off the top of sky tower. It was pretty awesome. My resolution for 2007: no more crazy friends. They are a lot of fun, but you don’t realize until it’s too late that they are crazy. I would really like to make a Kiwi friend. I have several American expat friends, but would like a Kiwi friend. Ha ha, this reminds me of the search for a new black friend by Comedy Central's Steven Colbert, I sorely miss watching the Steven Colbert Report. He is the one who coined the word for 2006, "truthiness".
I did enjoy some American comedy here in Auckland at the concert by Tenacious D on Thursday night. They were funny, very talented, and rocked. I had seen them once before, at ComicCon in San Diego, and loved it. The crowd was very appreciative, especially when they sang a sweet song about New Zealand, basically singing that we have great weed. Apparently Jack Black discovered this while in NZ filming King Kong.
But getting back to this new year business: I have only a few minor ideas of what to expect in 2007. I can predict that we'll have hens, we'll have a fireplace installed in the lounge and carpet in the rumpus room, and the wind will blow and it will rain. Surely I have some other goals for 2007, right? They are:
Go scuba diving in New Zealand (as much as possible!)
Go to Fiji in August, to make up for our pathetic wedding anniversary in 2006
Learn how to cook this vegetable called "silverbeet"
Stay in touch with all the great friends I have in America. I got Christmas cards from some of them, which was really amazing! FYI, it takes 80 cents US to mail a card. Less than a dollar! I love to get mail, hint hint.
One last thought before I stagger off to bed: Sometimes I get bogged down in the daily grind, annoyed by people (who can be such idiots), take offense at something, and get upset and depressed about it. But I have to keep in mind the big picture- last year I had a great year, despite being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I have friends who are dealing with problems much bigger than mine: S, who separated from her alcoholic husband, he put a pistol in a police officer's face; L, who is expecting her first baby at 43-ish while on warfarin (doing great so far :),
and another S who has two little kids with autism spectrum disorder, who had an aneurysm diagnosed and surgery in Dec. This just goes to show you that bad things can happen when you least expect it, but you can recover and hopefully look on the bright side when you get through the tough times. I know the philosophy "it could be worse" is weak, so how about "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger"? Ok that's not always true either, so just make the best of it! You only get to live once, so do it well and with love in your heart. Here's hoping you have a healthy, interesting, and joyful 2007.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Boxing Day hike up Rangitoto

Boxing Day is the day following Christmas Day, and is also a holiday. We found free parking downtown, and took the ferry over to Rangitoto Island. This island was created by a volcano which last erupted 600 years ago- relatively new. It's covered in Pohutakawa forest and a vast variety of ferns. We hiked to the summit, about an hour's walk each way, ate a picnic lunch, and explored the lava caves. We were back home again by 2 pm, so Darin and I went shopping and were able to take advantage of the big sales. We found a nice bedroom suite made of Rimu, discounted almost 50%. The following day, we bought a 2- and 3-seater black leather sofa. The shop would not accept a check unless we had their store's credit card, which took about 7 days to approve, so we went and got cash from the bank. We had already hit the maximum limits on our EFTPOS (debit) card and credit card, both which have miniscule limits. We did manage to get the EFTPOS limit raised to $3000 afterwards.

The other funny thing about this time of year is that many people take a long holiday stretching from before Christmas through the first week of January. I'll enjoy it more next year, but now it's frustrating because we're trying to get things done for the house. We went to 4 different carpet shops, and they're all closed until at least the 3rd of Jan. The same situation with the fireplace- the shop was open, but we can't get anyone to come out for a consultation now. Oh well, plenty of other things to work on. We got our furniture delivered, CDs put away, and clothes put away (well, most of them I think). I know I have too many clothes but can't bear to part with the ones that are still in good condition and cute, but don't fit anymore. One of my goals this year is exercise more, which I intend to do once the house is in order and we're done moving in. Yes, the garage is still full of boxes. There is much to do!