“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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dog days of summer

We have been in a holding pattern since the agreement to purchase the farm (which needs a clever name, any suggestions are welcome). Several phone calls to the solicitor/lawyer, Kaipara District Council, and the bank have advanced the campaign, and next week we'll "go unconditional". This means we'll pay for it.

The summer has been very dry. The weather has been gorgeous, really spectacular and perfect for the beach. I took Fargo to Bethell's (the local west coast) beach on Monday, and gave him a bath afterwards. The garden has needed water more than I have been watering, so the tomatoes are struggling, but there are plenty of small green ones on the vines. The zucchini plant just keeps giving, and the silverbeet/chard too. The pumpkin (volunteer plants) has dominated one corner of the garden and spilled over into the rest of the yard. There are several pumpkins on the vine looking mighty tasty. The lemons, OH the lemons, so many, what to do? I kept thinking I should make cookies or muffins or sorbet or something, but it never happened. Finally I remembered the saying that "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade"- so I did. We developed a delicious strawberry lemonade with lots of ice, using fresh strawberries, that was perfect for these warm summer afternoons. As they say here in NZ, "choice" (SO 80's!) We are going to have a massive crop of blackberries, which are growing on thornless vines, fortunately. They are currently plagued by little grey moths, so I've been going out there after work to spray them with my homemade pesticide garlic spray. I have no idea if it works or not, and I might be infusing the berries with garlic- yikes! I'll find out soon enough, eh!

We saw the movie Cloverfield last weekend, and really liked it. I thought I might get motion sickness from the handheld camera movement, but it didn't bother me. It was predictable, but that was part of the fun. I recently found a few DVDs for less than $10, so bought House of 1000 Corpses, The Thing, and Evil Dead 2 to add to my collection. I had an awesome collection on VHS before we moved here, and am trying to rebuild it slowly on DVD.

Darin is away this week, so this is a perfect opportunity to watch horror movies.I watched House of 1000 Corpses tonight after being inspired by all the fresh raw meat we picked up at the home kill butcher's home. It cost $1 per kg, and the bill was $188 so I guess 188 kg! Well that's based on the cow's carcass weight, so the cut meat would be less than that. Darin saved the liver, heart, and tongue for the pets. I fed them the tongue this week, and they really liked it. Barb gave her cow tongues to a Philipino co-worker, who made a dish with them she claims her family is very fond of. Bones were also saved for the pets, but they look good enough to use to make stock.

Darin is on his 5 day sailing course, and having a great time. He's in cell/mobile phone range sometimes so calls or texts in the evening or morning. I encouraged him to take this course because I was sure he'd be good at it, and pretty sure he'd enjoy it. I have such a hard time finding good gifts for him, but this one is worthy. Expensive, but worth it because now he will have a skill he can apply recreationally.

Friday, January 18, 2008

We bought the farm!

WE DID IT! Sooner than we thought, we knew right away when we saw it that it was THE place. My Fotki account is full, and KodakGallery is down for maintenence, so here's a few photos of the 10 acres on the North side of the Kaipara Harbor, about 1 hr 45 min from Auckland, on the way to the Kauri Museum (which is AWESOME). It's close to Maungaturoto. The land has a beautiful stream, mature native trees, is on a tar-sealed, low volume road, in the midst of much larger farms.

We have been looking at property since the beginning of the year, and decided that we want to be near-ish to Auckland so we can go there on the weekends to work on the land, that is, to plant trees, build a long drop/pit toilet, driveway, water cistern, etc. Our plan is to develop the property slowly over time, and eventually move there. For now, we're arranging for cattle/sheep to graze the land and keep it tidy until we decide we want them (previous owners) to put up the fence.

Meanwhile, we managed to hunt down our wayward cow, get her loaded into a horse float and back to Barb's property before she jumped out. Now, if she will only stay there until Wednesday, we'll have satisfying free-range beef in the freezer soon.

Other news concerns the Rottweiler pups born Dec 30, 2007. I saw them at 2.5 weeks old, and they are precious.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New year in New Zealand

Happy new year, everyone! Well the time sure is flying by, filled with new experiences. In 2008, I will start a new career (Clinical Trials Coordinator in Oncology at Auckland City Hospital), Darin will learn to sail, and we will probably get a Rottweiler puppy. Three pups (1 boy, 2 girls) were born to a lovely local bitch owned by a woman I met by researching a dog in Australia. He is an import from Croatia with working and conformation titles, and his semen was imported to NZ to sire this litter. Wenno We saw the pups when they were not quite 24 hours old. I'd like to get a pup that Fargo can help to raise, because dogs are pack animals and learn a lot from other dogs. There is a Dogsport club in Auckland, so it's likely that I would join if the dog has good drive and is willing to please.

We got a little money for Christmas, so we bought ourselves a brand-spanking new wheelbarrow and a bread-making machine. The wheelbarrow was put to use hauling cut, wet wood from the front yard to the back, under the house so it can dry out. The bread machine was bought because we've been paying about $3.60 NZD for a good loaf of sliced bread, and it's unreasonably expensive in our view. Darin made pizza dough in the machine and we baked pizzas for dinner tonight, and it turned out great. The bread also turned out well, and all for a fraction of the cost of a store-bought loaf, and the benefit of the yummy baking-bread smell.

I went back to work after a two week break this past Monday. This Friday is my last day of work, and I'm really happy to know I'll soon be free of that soul-sucking environment. I will bring home all my scientific journal articles, but they will probably gather dust in the garage. I feel somewhat sad that all my neuroscience and behavioral pharmacology experience won't be used anymore, but also giddy that I've escaped the drudgery of working with rats and mice.

Since my last blog, we have had some really fun activities with my sister and her husband. Jan 2 we went to Tree Adventures in Woodhill Forest. This is a fantastic opportunity and I've never seen anything like it. The staff strap you into a leg and waist harness with two carbiners and a pulley. After a short orientation, we did obstacle courses 5-8, which is the more challenging (vs 1-4), high up in the trees, for a good 2 hours. The best part is the flying fox. Next time, and there will be a next time, I'll bring leather gloves to minimize the redness and swelling from the metal cables. Following this, we deserved a nice cold beer and some good food, so we went back to Hallertau. Love that place! After a chance meeting with out friend Misato and her husband, we kept the good times rolling with a trip over to the east coast to check out the new Auckland Luge. You sit in this plastic cart with wheels, get on a conveyor belt to get to the top of the hill, and then push the bar forward to go, back to stop, down a twisty and sometimes steep cement driveway. Barb said the one in Rotorua is better. I had fun, but it cannot compare to the joy of a motorcycle ride. I miss my bike. Also the carts created an unpleasant vibration in the butt when it got going fast. Some may like it, but it's not for me. We opted to end the afternoon with a stiff competition on the mini-golf course.
We also took a ride on WaterCare's narrow gauge railroad, the Rainforest Express, out to the Nihotupo Dam. It took us through several long and short tunnels, some filled with cave wetas (see photo), then stopped before the dam so we could walk up the STEEP steps (only one way, UP). From there you have beautiful views, and you can see we enjoyed yet another gorgeous summer day. I brought along a nice Rose wine from Hawke's Bay and a bit of cheese, which we enjoyed after walking down the road from the dam to the picnic spot.

Finally, Darin turned 39 on January 5th. My sister and her husband joined us at Wildfire restaurant at the viaduct downtown Auckland. They gave us great service and the food was delicious.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Darin is taking a sailing course, to begin the end of January. This was his birthday present. The course is for 5 days, and he will live on board the boat during the training. They call the course "competent crew", and following this certification, he'll be able to do a bit more training to attain the "day skipper" certification. I'm pretty sure he'll do well at it and enjoy it. If so, we'll be able to charter a boat for a day or weekend getaway pretty much anywhere. It doesn't require the consumption of fossil fuels, so that's a positive benefit. The course is expensive, but it's a great opportunity, and knowledge is usually worth the cost.

We saw the movie I Am Legend, and both Barb and I were sobbing during that scene with the dog- I won't give it away, but if you've seen it you'll know what I mean. I haven't cried like that during a movie EVER. It was horrible and sad. I also get annoyed by jerky camera movement, and there was a bit of that in some scenes. Overall though, I have to say I liked the movie. Will Smith gets extra bonus points for being a Rottweiler owner.