“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.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Countdown to Christmas

Once again, my friend Holly and I hosted a Thanksgiving picnic. This year's picnic was held at Muriwai Beach, on the west coast north of Auckland. A lot of people showed up, each bringing a dish to share, creating enormous amounts of food. Holly's partner Steve is shown above, cutting up the wild turkey they prepared. Darin shot it on our Maungaturoto land, but Steve and Holly plucked and cleaned it, and prepared it. I baked roast beef. Strawberries are in season again, and they are in abundance. The day was glorious! Still, because this is a remote beach, I was shocked to see so many people there!
Christmas is nearly upon us. Just 3 days of work next week, then 11 days off for the Xmas/summer break! Yippee! Last week, we returned from our weekly trip to Maungaturoto (water the trees, play with the dogs), and found this in our mailbox:

Our next-door-neighbor's son made this for us. Byron and his younger sister Bronte were then ringing the doorbell to ask if we got it. I told them how much I love it. I don't think the photo displays the pop-up design. The reindeer have hats on, and Santa's mustache is green! I love it as much as the Santa my niece Lydia drew for me years back: He appears to be saying HOI HOI HOI because the exclamation points (!) are upside-down. (Ho! Ho! Ho!). Anyway, Byron and Bronte got home-made chocolate chip cookies from me.Darin and I enjoy playing board games with our friends here, and we decided we needed to buy one to share. Agricola is the #1 boardgame on boardgamegeek.com (all the geek details are here). We really like it. Darin has won every time he's played, and I'm struggling to figure out how to do better. Meanwhile, we are mirroring the actions in the game, one of which is butchering a sheep. In the photo below, it is a goat, but that's a minor detail. This photo depicts our other new Christmas gift to ourselves, a butcher's bone saw. We decided to get this after seeing a distributor selling whole frozen goat carcasses for $5 per kilo. Apparently they were for export, but for some reason the sale didn't go through. We ended up with 4 of them, each about 15 lbs. We LOVE having chest freezers (yeah, we have 2: one for people food, one for dog). The idea was to feed the goat to our pets, but then I got to thinking that I should try to prepare some of it and see how it tastes. That is on my list of things to do during my holiday break.
Darin also bought a whole albacore tuna from the fish market. We ate some of it as sashimi (shown above, in soy sauce), some of it grilled, and froze the rest in vacuum sealed packages. The grilled tuna was so delicious! The recipe is to marinate tuna steaks about 30 min. in: dry sherry, 3 crushed garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and finely chopped parsley and cilantro. While it grills, a peeled/seeded mango is blended with orange juice, white wine, and 1 habanero pepper. This sauce is served over it. It's shown below with the grilled zucchini. One of them was the first one from my garden.Here's how the garden is doing: Those are lettuces and carrots on the left, then moving right: another variety of carrot, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, sliverbeet (chard), red onions, spring onions, yellow onions, garlic, zucchini, another spaghetti squash, and a cucumber (the last two have yet to fruit). Darin sprayed the "wooly jumpers", but they are unaffected. So far, no sign of the nasty green stinkbugs, but the slugs have been having their way with some of the lettuces.
I have been taking Ruby to the Dogsport NZ Auckland club for a few months. They have accepted me as a new member, and it's interesting to compare it to the Schutzhund clubs I knew back in Southern California. They hosted a trial this weekend. Two of the teams I train with earned new titles: the BH (obedience) and IPO I (tracking, obedience, and protection/"carachter work"). I was impressed with the performances overall.
Also this past month, I went to the 24-hour Incredibly Strange movie marathon.
This was hosted at the Hollywood Cinema in Avondale, where they have a Wurlitzer organ and big balcony. The seats in the center front of the theatre were moved to make space for people to bring their bean bag chairs. People were also allowed to bring outside food and drink. The event was sponsored by the energy drink V, and 3 were given to me as I went inside. I had two of them plus a couple of cans of Coke, so my stomach was in a knot from all the caffine. I did manage to stay awake during most of the 15 movies, which included: Lady in a Cage, Krull, Role Model ,The Ruins, Dying Breed, The Road Warrior, Desperate Living (John Waters), Mr Mike's Mondo Video, Moonshiner's Woman, Ninja Turf, The Last Dragon, Small Eyes, King Dinosaur, and Time Machine (the original). Highlights were Dying Breed, Desperate Living, The Last Dragon, and The Road Warrior.
Finally, books. I don't think I mentioned that I finished Roots, but found that I lost interest when he got to Chicken George. This section went on way too long, and then the characters started changing quickly, so they didn't get developed as well. I finished In the Land of Invisible Women. I was annoyed with the writing or editing, because names come up without any background mention. The author is both very forgiving and at times very critical of the Saudi culture. She went on WAY too long about doing a muslim pilgrimage (ho hum). It confirmed what I knew and gave me new knowledge about the society, and it's really ugly. I'm now reading Heat, An Amateur's Adventures as a Kitchen Slave (etc). Pretty good subject, insight, and entertaining writing. I'm nearly finished with it, and next is Steve Martin's biography, Born Standing Up. Three cheers for the library!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Zealand farm and wild life

We have 5 chicks, hatched from eggs by our Araucana hen. She's a really good mom, but didn't lay any of the eggs she hatched. The chicks are a Barred Rock cross. One of them has 5 toes, and another has blue/grey eyes, different from the others with golden eyes. They hatched just after we returned from our Labour Day holiday in October, so they are about 4 weeks old now. They've joined the rest of the girls in the yard, but are still snuggling with Araucana at night.
This photo is the new trailer we bought in association with my sister and BIL. It has a cage around it, that is removable, for transporting small stock. Lots of work has been going on at our land in Maungaturoto:
The building pad for our KiwiSpan garage:
The fence around the orchard is finished: We have a large gate for access from the driveway, and there's a personal/walk thru gate on the opposite side. The small gate gets us down to the stream to fetch buckets of water to water the trees. The dogs love to play in the stream, playing tug and fetch with old branches or logs from trees. Sadly for Fargo, he bit his tongue trying to run through the personal gate (3 feet wide) while carrying a 4 foot long log in his mouth. I was worried he'd broken a tooth, it bled so much. The wound healed really fast, to my delight. As we watered the trees recently, we noticed small freshwater shrimps in the buckets. We rescued them and re-homed them in the newly-created and still filling pond at the ravine crossing of our driveway. We heard a splash while there, and suspect a toad has moved in. Good! We've also noticed rabbits in that ravine. Also in Recent Wildlife News, we saw a turkey hen with an adorable, fluffy turkey chick. Yes only one, and we suspect the hawks we see flying around have taken a few. Finally, do you know that song, Thank God I'm a Country Boy by John Denver (watch here on YouTube, funny!) Well, there is a bird that sounds like it's singing the tune to this part of the song (lyrics):
Well I got me a fine wife I got me a fiddle
When the suns comin up I got cakes on the griddle
It is incredibly annoying, being reminded of this song and having it go through my head as I walk up and down that hill hauling water. In all honesty though, I must agree with him that being out there on the farm is incredibly gratifying (despite the lack of pancakes).

Two weeks ago, Darin and I took our new trailer up to our farm and camped overnight for the first time. We went possum hunting along the ravine after nightfall, but didn't see any. We have seen them as roadkill up there, and we worry for our tender young fruit trees. We worked so hard planting them, and the cost of them and all the gas/petrol going to and from the farm to water them almost every weekend is large. So, when Darin spotted a possum as we walked past an area near the road this weekend, he killed it. We knew something was wrong with it- possum are nocturnal, and live in trees. This one was on the ground, in the middle of the afternoon. When it was dead, we noticed that it had a road rash on it's back. It had been hit by a car, but survived, and crawled down the embankment onto our property. We brought it home as food for our pets. I've blogged before about possum, that it's a pest in NZ, and good to eat (for people and pets). The major benefit in my eyes is that it is a wild food, so no factory farming, no dis-assebly- line slaughter, and it's free (except for the butchering time). Darin found when he butchered it, that it's back was broken. It probably had happened earlier that day, because it still had food in it's guts. So he actually stopped the possum from suffering an agonizing death by killing it right away. Awww, poor fellow...er, I mean, wait, not this evil nasty beast?!Well that is the before photo, and here's the after: A VERY happy kitty, who was eating an animal about his own size:Here's a photo of the dogs' dinners. You can see that they also got some homemade vegetable soup (chard, potatoes, carrots, squash, tomato paste, Emeril's seasoning, ginger, olive oil, and oatmeal) and fresh apple.

The reason this was all very exciting is that possum is very healty, for both the environment and the eater. I think more people would feed it if they knew where to get it. I did find this canned dog food, a New Zealand product, called Possyum. I haven't fed it to the dogs yet, but it looks quite good. It also has venison in it. I think it cost about $4 or 5. I can also buy raw possum quarters for pet food from K9 Raw Food Barn for about 7 or 8 dollars a kg (2.2lbs). For the readers among you who want more information about raw feeding your dog or cat, look here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

South of the North Island

View of the Tasman Sea from New Plymouth.

In my previous posts, I described the road trip from Christchurch to Greymouth, and from Greymouth to Nelson. We took the ferry from Picton, on the south island, to Wellington, on the south end of the north island. We felt so disappointed to be back in civilization. The south island of New Zealand really feels like another world, or at least a different country. On the other hand, we stayed at the nicest bed and breakfast places on the way back to Auckland. The first, Oceanus Holiday home in Papapapaumu, north of Wellington on the Kapiti coast, was like a nice home-away-from-home. We could have cooked dinner there, with a full kitchen. Even better was the accomodation outside of New Plymouth, a cabin called Logger's Retreat. New Plymouth is supposed to be one of the nicest places to live in New Zealand. It is pretty remote, but has beautiful parks and convenient access to Mt Taranaki (below).Those beautiful photos of the New Plymouth coast don't display the bitter cold wind that was howling all day, and prevented us from going up the mountain at all. As we discovered the following day, it's only about 6 hours drive from Auckland, so not that remote that we won't go back some time.

Back in Auckland, the following weekend was Halloween, and friends Adam and Roberta hosted a "fun as" party. Check out Sara Palin and POW John McCain, and the other awesome costumes of our friends.

This year, I was a Lucha Libre. I had bought that mask at the San Diego Comic-Con some years back.

Book reviews:

I finished Pitcairn, Paradise Lost, by Kathy Marks. She was one of only 6 journalists allowed to cover the trials on the island. This book has shocking descriptions of child rape, which has basically been going on since Fletcher Christian and his crew basically kidnapped women and brought them there. Apparently, several of the men convicted are here in New Zealand, as well as the victims, making it more personal. The story is very sad, but shows that due to one woman's courage to speak out, and the pursuit of justice by New Zealand and England, behaviors are changing.

Following that, I started Roots. I'm 400 pages into it. This story is a real tragedy. I mean, the writing is fine, but the detail of the story made me physically nauseous and repeatedly brought me to tears. One quibble I have with the writing, is that the level of detail is a bit much. The whole book is 688 pages, and even reading about 1.5 hrs a day, it's been a long read. I understand that the author (Alex Haley) is trying to include a lot of relevant history, but it's sometimes a drag on the plot. Some of the things he writes just slap you in the face with relevance to the world even today. The most interesting thing I have learned is that slave taking is a part of nearly every culture, even in Africa. And today it persists. I just saw an article about a "baby factory" in Nigeria, on BBC news, where women were raped, and when the babies are born, taken away and sold.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

South Island surprises part 2

In my previous post, I described the road trip from Christchurch to Greymouth and up to Pancake Rocks. The road (highway? 6) runs along the coast before heading inland and north toward Nelson. You can click here for a map of the area. We were awed by the lower and upper Buller River Gorge, as we drove along for what seemed like hours. I developed an understanding of why the poison 1080 is applied here for possum control. To hunt the critters out of this rugged terrain would be next to impossible. Unfortunately, this poison is dropped over mountainous forests via helicopter, and kills deer and other ruminants, besides possums. It's a horrible, agonizing death for the deer. Sometimes cows, horses, or dogs get poisoned by it. But I digress.We had lunch in Murchison and discovered the winner of a NZ bacon competition located here. I had some on a BLT sandwich for lunch at the Rivers Cafe across the street. Yum! We would really like to go back there and go river rafting. For our afternoon entertainment, we stopped at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge "adventure and heritage park". We did the tandem comet line, wihch was fun, but not long enough. The swing bridge was narrow and bouncy. We had a bit of rain during the drive, but it was just overcast when we got to Nelson. We went for a stroll on the beach to stretch our legs before heading to dinner with friends Don and Angela. We had a great time with them. Angela wrote a good bit about NZ elections on her blog, here. As immigrants with permanant residence, we get to vote for a new Prime Minister this Saturday. I already voted in the US presidential election (for Obama, of course).
The next day, we went to the fabulous Nelson Saturday Market, where you can buy fresh produce, cheese, sausages, plants, art, crafts, clothes, and other good, fun stuff. I got a skirt from Vintage Heaven. Have a look at their clothes here. I also replaced my torn raincoat with a new one.
We had an afternoon ferry crossing with our rental vehicle, so we headed out of Nelson toward Picton. The Queen Charlotte Drive into Picton is super twisty and scenic. I would like to go back some time to do the Queen Charlotte Track. Hopefully when it's not raining, as it was when we got on the ferry. I dashed out of the lounge on board the ferry to snap a few photos, but it was too windy, wet, and cold to linger.
I'll have to save the North Island for the next post.
We have put a deposit on a building for our Maungaturoto property. It is a Kiwi Span garage, with two roller doors, one window, and one personal door. We will have the ground prepared sometime this month.
The trees in our orchard are now fully fenced, and the neigbor's beasts (cows and sheep) have been let back on property to mow the grass. They have to be kept away from the trees, because they love to eat them. Darin took the mower up this week, and spent 4 brutal hours cutting the grass in the orchard. Though the trees were spared from the cows and sheep, some of them fell victim to aphids. Poor, innocent little trees, with their fresh young leaves, corrupted by the nasty, ugly aphids! They were treated with pesticide, and we'll have to keep a close eye on them for recurrence.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

South Island Surprises (part 1)

Labour Day weekend, Darin and I did a road trip. What an outstanding trip we had! Over 5 days, we drove 1500 kilometers across two islands. We flew Air New Zealand from Auckland to Christchurch Wednesday evening, and picked up our rental car the next morning. Our first stop was to be the Simpson's Movie donut in Springfield, but we discovered it was gone. We had a good breakfast at this cafe instead. Moving on toward Arthur's Pass, heading into the mountains, we were surprised by these lovely large boulders. The weather was fine, so we went exploring. This was one of the highlights of the road trip. This place is called Castle Hill, and is popular with climbers. Not on this day; we basically had the place to ourselves.

Continuing on through the mountains, we stopped in Arthur's Pass, where we had ice cream cones for lunch (hey, we're on vacation!) and met the local Keas (photo on the previous post). They are very entertaining. When one jumped up to the water fountain, I turned it on and the parrot drank water. Afterward, we walked up to the base of the Devil's Punchbowl waterfall. We carried on to Greymouth. We had the brewery tour at Monteith's (140 years old!), and discovered that beer tastes so much better when freshly made.
Have I mentioned how expensive beer is here? The Monteith's range is typically $13.00 for a 6-pack. So this was a special treat, because we just don't drink it that much due to cost. We stayed at the Cathedral Hill Bed and Breakfast a few kilometers south of Greymouth, and it was really good. The hostess seved us port in crystal glasses and visited with us. We went to visit her sheep in the morning, and they were very friendly.
Leaving Greymouth, heading north along the West coast, we were awed by the scenery. It reminded us of the norther California coast, except more green and tree ferns. We saw a sign for penguins, but didn't stop to look for them. We were on our way to the Pancake Rocks, which are best at high tide. We were really impressed. I love the picture below:
I'll post more about this trip in my next update.
Before we left for this trip, our Rottweiler puppy, Ruby, now 10 months old, came into her first estrous cycle. She and Fargo were booked into the kennel, so I called to tell them about it. I was told to not bring her, she would be too disruptive. The trip was not-cancellable, and I there was little chance of another kennel being available to take her, even if they would accept her. I rang her breeder, and she fortunately agreed to take Ruby.
I finishedthe book Persepolis, and really liked it. I needed something else to read, so picked up State of Fear by Michael Crichton. I really disliked it. It was totally predictable and the story had massive holes in it. The characters are shallow, the dialog is laughable, and you feel like you are being lectured to. I still hadn't gotten anything off my request list at the library, so I picked up a book that's been on my shelf for awhile, that I started and never finished. The book is Complications, and it's a collection of essays about medicine. I enjoyed reading about decision making and intuition. Now I'm reading Pitcairn: Paradise Lost. This is about the island where Fletcher Christian escaped the British navy and scuttled the Bounty after he and the crew mutinied. What started with an alleged rape of a 12 year old Australian girl became an inquiry into widespread sexual abuse. It was written by one of only 6 reporters allowed on the island to cover the trial. So far, very engaging and interesting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lucky to be alive

My brother, Bill, was in Fargo visiting my parents. My eldest sister, Teresa, was also there, watching football on tv after dinner. When Dad appeared to be experiencing a heart attack, Bill gave him CPR and someone called 911 (emergency). The police arrived quickly, and hooked him up to the defibrillator. The machine shocked him, and got his pulse back. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital. Amazingly, after four radial artery grafts, Dad is fine. He has a steady golf habit, and likes to keep fit, so I am sure that helped him survive. Here are some statistics from my brother, who happens to be a cardiac pharmacist at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester (sister to the Mayo):

I looked up some information on out of hospital cardiac arrests. 90% of events are due to ventricular fibrillation. CPR (chest compressions and rescue breathing) typically have little benefit in improving outcomes. Only 2-5% of patients survive out of hospital arrests. Early defibrillation is the key. If more than 8 minutes have past - survival is almost zero. Of the patients who are resuscitated only 30-40% have no neurological damage. Source: New England Journal of Medicine. Wow! Dad is so, so lucky.

The police officer who put the defibrillator on my father said that usually the machine won't shock the person because it's too late. This was the first time he got to save someone.

Of course, when I got the news about Dad's heart attack, I was so upset. I had never expected something like this to happen. I looked into costs to fly home on short notice, and found it to be impossibly high. That just made the situation worse. I had always thought that if something bad happened, I would fly home, no second thoughts, but I really had to control myself. I have never wanted to go home so badly before.

Now that the crisis is past, I am planning on a trip home in June, for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. We were hoping for a family holiday in Hawaii, but I think the cost will be to high for everyone to do that.

I am incredibly thankful to Bill and Teresa for being there for Mom and Dad.
The bird at the top of the blog is a Kea, the New Zealand mountain parrot. They too are lucky to be alive, because the government drops a poison to kill possums, 1080, that has recently been shown to be killing these endagered birds. I am writing this from Greymouth, on the South Island on NZ, where we're having a holiday. More awesome photos to come, check back soon!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Two years in New Zealand!

Wow, two years now. I think back to when I first arrived, and how weird I felt. I'm not sorry I moved, but I still think about and miss my friends in San Diego. I hope my friends and family aren't suffering too much from the historic failure of the US economy. I'm a bit freaked out by the train crash in LA that injured many and killed a bunch of people recently. The same thing could happen here- there are single tracks along the route that accomodate trains going both directions. Even the same company, Veolia Transport, is operating the trains here. I still continue to commute to and from work on the train. I pay $160 for a monthly pass. My drive to the station is about 3 minutes, the train comes every 15 minutes, and the ride to my stop is about 50 min. The walk to the hospital is about 10 min. I like avoiding the hassle of finding parking and dealing with traffic. As a bonus, I am getting a lot of reading done. I read The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and felt like I needed a companion Spanish-English Urban Dictionary to decipher some of the text. The book is about a Dominican boy/man looking for love, despite a curse on his family/culture. Lots of dark and dirty history there, too. I also requested the library get Mary Roach's new book, Bonk, The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex and they did! Yay for the Waitakere Library! I really enjoyed Bonk, but it could have been another 600 pages. I think I should write a sequel. Her first book, Stiff, The Secret Life of Human Cadavers, is still my favorite. Highly recommended. Now I'm reading Eiger Dreams by John Krakauer, a collection of short essays about men and mountain climbing. The book was handy, and is filling the gap until I get the next library book, Persepolis. This will be another history-rich fiction, which I tend to prefer.

Spring is definitely here. We've been spending almost every weekend at the farm. We just go for a day, stopping at the Italian Bakery in Kaiwaka on the way. Check us out in our new coveralls! We are kicking ourselves for not getting them sooner.
The photos below show the erosion along the banks of the stream through our property as a result of the heavy rains this winter, and the evidence of flooding. On the plus side, we now have a more sandy bottom.

We plan to put in a small bridge across the stream at the corner shown below, from the tree to where I and the dogs are hanging out. In our hikes around the land, we found that we have several more swampy areas than we'd known about. I hope they'll dry out some, or we'll be sucked dry by mosquitoes. Because the land is pasture for cows and sheep, there are ticks. We found lots of tiny baby ticks on the dogs and Darin. The dogs are getting treated with Frontline for the forseeable future. We've developed some ideas for where to put the fencing, to break the land into 4 grazing paddocks. The orchard is currently being fenced, thanks to assistance from our awesome neighbor Don. Darin planted two avocado trees last weekend, and there seems to be room for 2 more. I am advocating for an apricot.
In my previous blog I mentioned the 9 turkeys we shot and butchered. Their scent seems to appeal to Ruby, now that she's eaten plenty of raw turkey meals. We saw her tracking instinct kick in as we walked uphill toward where we'd seen the turkeys retreat when we arrived. I thought that they'd crossed the fence to the neighbor's paddock, but they were still there. She never saw them, only scented them in the grass, until they took off about 20 feet away. These wild turkeys can fly pretty well, but not very far. Still, we never expected that she would have the ability to chase one of them from one end of the property to the other, but she did. She must have surprised one on the initial charge, and trapped it in the ravine. Darin put the bird out of her misery, and butchered it for the dogs when we returned home. Ruby was so proud of herself! She and I are now going to the Dogsport (Schutzhund) club in Auckland, as a way to focus her drive into obedience training.
The following weekend we went to the land, Darin and I worked on her recalls, and I kept her on a short leash for a short walk. We didn't see any turkeys around, so I let Ruby off leash, and she was totally fine. I had been concerned that she would run off looking for the turkeys, but she didn't. She is getting so big.
We've done a bit of work in the garden at home. Darin put chickenwire around the perimeter to keep the dogs and chickens out. I turned the soil, pulled out the lemongrass (it might survive in the pot) and all the weeds, and mixed in the compost. We planted lettuce and carrot seeds, spring and yellow onions, silverbeet (chard), and garlic. I've never grown garlic before, and it may be too late to be planting it (should be put out in winter), so I'm curious to see what happens. I collected a bag of espresso grounds from the coffee shop in the hospital and put it into the new batch of compost I made.
My sister Barb was recently back in the US. I ordered a pound of the Bold Taco seasoning from Penzey's, had it sent to my sister in Minnesota, and Barb brought it back. Yay! Darin and I are huge fans. The fajita seasoning is also great.
Asparagus season is here, and I've been using our fresh eggs for asparagus and cheese omelettes. YUM! Tomorrow I'm going to make a (wild) turkey and asparagus strata with cheese.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The rain will never stop, and more musings

This has been the rainiest winter in the North Island for about 20 years. It's rained at least 1/2 days every weekend since May, and we've had 1.1 meters (1100 mm) this year (most of it fell since June). My sister's land has had a slip. We had two trees fall down at our house, one fell on my car, left a dent on the top side, and smashed the back window.

We finally made it back up to our property to find, surprisingly, that the fruit trees we planted were still standing. We worried about them during all the weeks of fierce storms. We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary by renting a "bach" or cottage in Whakapirau for the weekend. The owners allow dogs, the house is right on the beach, and there are kayaks in the garage for use (when it's not raining). There is a great restaurant in nearby Paparoa, the Sahara, where I enjoyed a rabbit stew for dinner. Also worth a visit, should you find yourself in Maungaturoto, is BJ's cafe, where you can get yummy real milk shakes and steak and cheese pies. ("oooh I love BJs!" Ha ha!). We tried to see the falls near Maungaturoto, but the stream crossing was flooded. We enjoyed the scenic drive through the Waipu Gorge, seen below. The Waipu area hosts a plethora of outstanding scenery, including the caves, as previously mentioned in my blog. We really like our neighbor, who previously owned the land. We've been to their house for tea several times, and this time we got to see the fabulous rotating dairy shed and the baby cow shed. These cuties are known as a "Kiwi Cross", which is bred to optimise the protein and fat content in the milk. Our neighbor also raises cattle for beef, and told us that the US pays quite well for old dairy cows past their prime, that have very little fat on them. Their meat gets mixed with the super-fatty, corn-fed American beef.

The following weekend found us back up at our land, this time to plant another 22 trees (mainly varieties of citrus: lemons, limes, orange, mandarin, feijoa, and plum). We found a flock of about 30 turkeys there. They are very well adapted and prolific breeders around that area, and we agreed to bring the gun next time. So we did, and though we didn't see them right away, I spotted them down by the stream. We snuck around the top of the hill and ambushed them. Darin took out the big tom, which I estimated to be about 35 pounds dead weight, along with 8 others. Fortunately, out other neighbor stopped by and was so pleased that we'd taken some out. We encouraged her to take 2 of them. We were totally wiped out when, after planting 22 trees, we then butchered 7 turkeys on the front porch (covered, fortunately, from yet more rain). The result was 8.5 kg of turkey breast meat, along with unmeasured but large amounts of turkey parts for dog and cat food. I had the job of gutting the birds, and saved some the liver and hearts for making home-made dog treats (pureed with egg, banana, and garlic, mixed with flour and baked- so easy!). I never realized before this, but the lungs are very spongey and sort of stuck in the back ribs. I had to really get my fingers in there- gross! Good thing the trash men came on Monday morning, heh.
I have been super busy at work. I'm learning so much, and getting to do a lot of different things, so that's a positive. Also, one of my trials is a big one for Roche Pharmaceuticals. This is my most demanding trial, so I was pleased when I was invited to go to a meeting at their expense in Melbourne. This was my first trip to Australia. Melbourne is a great city, a "real" city, very cosmopolitan with lots of parks and arts. Though I was only there for 2 days, and I definitely want to go back. The meeting was at the Langham, which is a very nice hotel, right on the river.

Roche took us out to a very nice dinner and covered all my expenses, even my visa, so I FINALLY got what I deserved- a bit of luxury for all my hard work. I also learned that the New Zealand clinical trial sites are kicking the Australian trial sites' asses, in terms of getting paperwork done on time, and getting patient's visits done within their strict time window. What's the trial, you ask? It is for the drug Avastin, and the target is colon cancer. It's not a chemotherapy as such, it is an antibody directed against "vascular endothelial growth factor" or vEGF. The idea is that it interrupts the fast, new growth of blood vessles on which tumors depend.
Entertaining myself
Books I've read recently:
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, by Mary Roach - Enjoy reading her work. Stiff was better.
The Other End of the Leash Patricia McConnell - good stuff, but sort of obvious (to me anyway)

Movies I saw recently include:
Hellboy 2 - definitely worth a watch, with Guillemo del Toro directing (Pan's Labarynth). Best line in the film: "I'm not a baby, I'm a tumor".
Lars and the Real Girl - very good. Surprised, and a bit disappointed, at how NICE everyone was to Lars- because REAL small towns are definitely full of redneck bigots who love to find any excuse to beat the crap out of you for being different.
Be Kind, Rewind- amusing, but less than I'd hoped for. I was planning to see Kung Fu Panda on the way back from Melbourne, but flew on one of the Air NZ planes that doesn't yet have the in-seat video.

Auckland is host to an annual event promoting the Erotica Expo, "Boobs On Bikes". It was during the week at lunchtime, and so Darin, working only part-time and flexible hours, managed to get downtown to snap a few photos. What a spectacle, and I don't mean the boobs, but all the dicks that came out to look at boobs- ha ha! Woo hoo, free show!

Finally, I can't pass up an opportunity to poke fun at the Republican VP selection, Sarah Palin- she's FAILTASTIC!

If McCain is elected, the probability is good that he will die or get sick in office, and this mother of 5 will be running the USA. Someone, please tell me, how you are supposed to be a good parent AND be president? The results are in, and she is a failure as a parent- her opposition to contraceptive education and support of "abstinence only" sex ed. has gotten her teenage daughter pregnant. Does this girl, just 17 WANT to marry the father? Does he, who says he doesn't want kids on his MySpace page, want a family at age 18? Surely a baby is not going to solve anyone's problems. I don't want a potential president to be torn between the needs of her family and of her country. She has a special needs child not even a year old; this kid is going to need extra support from his mother. I don't want to hear any of that "double standard" crap now, because that mudslinging is designed to agitate the over-worked moms who "want to have it all". Guess what? We're all over-worked; and it doesn't matter if you think women should stay at home barefoot and pregnant, or if you think women can raise a family and have a fulfilling career too. The question of the day is: who is going to pay the bills, and where will you live when you can't pay your mortgage on the McMansion (TM)? Most anyone can get pregnant and give birth, but to be a good parent is a completely different skill, which is critically important and unfortunately very time consuming. I do think it's fair to draw a parallel between one's parenting skill and management skill. Obama hasn't failed his daughter(s) (yet).

Election=OVER. Congratulations President Obama.