30 April 2017

April 2017

April has been a busy month for us here in Wellington, and tonight, the last night of the month, is super stormy. It started off surprisingly warm and sunny, perfect weather for gardening, and now it is dark, windy and rainy. With no curtains to close the view from our house on the hill is all the town lights, looking a little blurry from the water running down the windows. When you move your head it all warps and moves like some sort of optical illusion.

Now while I'm sure there is plenty to say about this month, what is at the top of my mind to begin with is the big story from this weekend. On Saturday morning we woke up to find two chickens out the front of our house, eating our freshly laid grass seed. They looked a little like my chickens, but not quite - and when I checked I found all four of my girls in their coop. So we had two stray chooks looking a bit worse for wear and obviously hungry. I didn't want them to eat all the grass seed so I let them in the gate and they spent the day with my four hens. These two stray hens are a bit smaller than mine and defintely not in such good condition - they are not so shiny and the look a bit bedraggled. They also aren't as tame, they followed me a bit so they are clearly used to being fed, but they won't let people very close to them, won't eat out of your hand or be touched, and don't seem to know how to hang out with a flock - they just kept wandering all over the section (leading one of my girls astray while they were at it). So, last night it rained and I assumed they had gone back where they came from, but it turned out they had roosted over night here. Only they didn't seek shelter, they just roosted on top of the retaining wall in the rain. This morning they were so wet! Today they wandered all around our section, down into the bushes and around the house, but they didn't leave at all and tonight they showed up above the retaining wall again. After it got dark this storm really started and I could see them out there just roosting in the rain, completely soaked again.

I felt bad for the poor stupid things, plus if they're going to hang out at my house they might as well be my chickens. So we went out in the rain in our gumboots, armed with a couple of towels, got up behind them, bundled them up, and stuffed them in the coop with our hens. Let's hope that when they all wake up in the morning they get along OK.

So what else has been going in in April? Well it was great having time off work for Easter and stuff. Could do with some more long weekends. I spent time in the garden - I have started clearing my vege garden area and the slope above it, and planting grass and daffodil bulbs. We've also been getting free loads of topsoil from the neighbour because they are doing lots of excavating - it's high in clay but not so much that we can't plant grass on it. So we have finished the front of house area and planted grass - making the most of this rain to get our future lawn growing. Filled in some space around the chicken coop too, and moved their fence around so that they would stop escaping and going on adventures (the weekend before this one, instead of gaining two chickens, I lost two chickens - they were visiting a lonely hen called Helga).

And of course, our new cat has been settling in - doesn't feel like only a month that we've had him. He's a very cool cat, fits in with us really well. He's cuddly and purry, and will let you hold him and pat him pretty much any way you want, so he's pretty much like a smaller, cuddlier version of the dog. He's pretty bold, he has stolen all the dog's beds, and has tried to stalk the chickens (they chase him off though). He get's into mischief a lot, that's probably how he lost his leg. When we'd only had him for about a week or so, he managed to get up on the bench and try to drink or eat from whatever was in amongst the dishes piled in the sink. He was perched precariously on the dishrack, and next thing I hear all this clattering - he and the dishrack have fallen into the sink of greasy dishes and water, and then they both fell down onto the kitchen floor. He scarpered, and when he finally came back out of hiding, he was the most bedraggled pathetic cat you've ever seen. I thought he was just wet, but when he was still looking awful the next day and starting to smell like chicken, I realised he'd fallen in a greasy roasting dish and the dirty side of his face was also his missing leg side, so he couldn't even wash himself. We had to give the poor thing a bath.

Not much more to say really. It's high time I got to bed. I'll be up at 6 as usual, and looking forward to it today because I have brand new running shoes to try out. In the evening I'm walking an extra dog - there's a lady in my neighbourhood that needed some help for a month and is paying me a pretty good rate to take her dog for a walk three times a week. He's half greyhound and has a huge amount of energy - it's fun and good for Cher to have company, and also we walk along the river and I get to spend time noticing what an awesome place I live in. Along the river you would never guess you are in town, there are places where it could be any rural spot. There's even some sheep and horses! Plus the extra walking is good right now because we are just about to start the 10,000 steps challenge at work. We got our pedometers last week and it's not really a challenge for me, I average between 10 and 20 thousand a day anyway. But I'm team captain so I have a group of people to encourage to walk more. and it's a competition so I will be walking more as well because it would be nice to win a prize. Though MPI is that big, that it's not very likely. And Cher is our mascot.


01 April 2017

March 2017 - one quarter of the year is over already

Here in Wellington March has been a pretty busy month. The weather has switched between summer and winter on a regular basis, work has been flat out and we have been neglecting the interior of the house as we try to get outdoor stuff done before winter really sets in. So we have started to edge our gravel path and car-pad, and lay out soil for planting grass, I have been working on weeding and planting, and Nathan has started building a shed so we can finally get the tools and chicken food and everything else like that out of the house.

I also got the chickens a pedal feeder and taught them to use it, and made them nesting boxes - they better start laying when they are supposed to! We were letting them roam the property when we were home, but it turns out they were getting very bold and going much further than we thought. Not to mention making themselves at home under the couch. Now they are penned it with chicken wire to just a wee corner of the section.

And my peach tree finally produced fruit - I thought with the bad summer they might just stay small and hard, but then they grew and were ready all at once. Not that they really got that big or yellow or sweet, but they felt ripe and then they started falling off the tree in bucketloads. Most were too high to reach so I had to lay down a tarp to catch them, and just go pick them all up once a day (and brush the slaters off). The bad ones went in the compost or too the chickens. The good ones weren't really much good for eating. I tried to make a relish - I followed the directions but I'm not sure if it will be edible, it seemed very vinegary. Then I tried to make jam - I think I burnt it a bit (I'm calling it caramelised) and it didn't really set. I have enough for one more try at jam. I also had a go at blackberry jam - there are lots of bramble patches around the neighbourhood so I've been picking berries all month. That jam didn't really set properly either. But I got proper canning jars off of trademe so at least I know my runny jam is sealed properly and won't poison us.

And then I ended the month by getting a 3-legged kitten. We've had him for a week now and he's getting quite bold about exploring the house.

01 March 2017

February 2017

Today is the first day of autumn and I am struggling to remember what I did for the last month of summer. Here in Wellington we have finally had good weather. Sometime in February the cicadas came out, now they are so loud and they begin before the sun comes up. We haven't done any more work around the house yet, for various reasons, but our up-top neighbour gave us a trailer load of top soil so next weekend we're going to edge our path and carpad, and then spread out the soil and plant grass. We also have a green-waste wheelie bin on the way, so we can finally start keeping up with the yard work (but it's not a yard, it's a couple of slopes that really like growing weeds and scrub). And I have started the rather large task of planting all the empty spaces. I had a nursery voucher - it doesn't really go that far but I got a bunch of native groundcovers and we'll see what grows in the clay.

The hens are still growing. It's time to make them some nesting boxes so they can get used to them before they start laying. They get to free-range when we are home, and go from one side of the house to the other by sneaking underneath it. One of them caught a cricket the other day, the others chased her around. Another day I saw a grey tabby cat outside near the house, and the hens saw it too. They stalked towards it as a gang and chased it down the hill.They're not very good at eating leftovers yet, but they know that I'm the feeder, and they cluck outside the door when they are getting hungry. When they really decide it's time for dinner they come right up to the front door, and then inside if we're not careful. The dog doesn't help, the chooks aren't scared of her. In fact, they're not really scared of us either, if we want them to get back outside we pretty much have to push them. A squirt of water is most effective, I'm using it to train them away from my plants.

We've also been exploring our new suburb. Haven't gone far yet, but we finally went to the local pool (it's an outdoor pool so not surprising that we hadn't gone yet, considering the weather). It's really awesome though, it's only open in summer and there is a hydroslide. It starts up the hill amongst the trees, it has an open top and you go really fast, so it's like you're flying beneath the trees. It has a lot of twists so you sort of get bashed around a bit, and at the bottom you get thrown into a pool and sort of rolled under the water. It's the best hydroslide I've been on in ages. I definitely will be making use of that pool for many summers to come!

Nothing else much is happening I'm sure. Here are some more pictures of our amazing view:

01 February 2017

January 2017

We have been in our new house for nearly two months now. And after a steady stream of guests on the first month, we've now had a couple of quiet weeks to ourselves. We have still been pretty busy since I last wrote. We had to finish the chicken coop and get those chicks outside because they started getting big very quickly. And we put up a tiled splashback in the kitchen. We still haven't bought a weedwacker, everything has just been growing wild - hopefully we'll do that this weekend. I have slowly been planting stuff but that is a job that will take years.

So despite not having much summer weather January started out pretty well - no work and going to the UB40 concert. That was actually my first trip out to Martinborough. But of course work did start again and there were only a couple of quiet days before everyone was back and things got really busy. It hasn't stopped since. At least there are a lot of long weekends at this time of year. We have needed them too, there has still been plenty to do around the house and Nathan generally works at least one day of the weekend, so we don't have much time to get the big stuff done. Like making gardens and edging the car pad and putting up the chicken coop. Which is a whole story of its own.

We installed the chicken coop just a couple of weeks ago - down by the veggie garden where I always planned on putting it. Which just so happens to be near the lower neighbours' house. And yes, there is a gap in the bushes so they can see directly into the patch where we put the coop, and yes they have a wee patio where they like to sit so it was noticeable to them. But who would have thought that anybody would really care that they can see a chicken coop? I don't know anyone that would. But they did care - they didn't want to see it, they didn't want to hear it (apparently they could hear them all through their house), they didn't want to smell it and they think it will attract rats. And there is a bylaw about keeping poultry, and even though we followed it there is a line there which basically says your neighbours need to be OK with it. So we had to listen to them. I wanted to simply build a fence sooner rather than later, figuring out of sight, out of mind. Plus, I want to fix the problem of the fact that they currently are encroaching on our land. But this wasn't good enough for them, they are seriously anxious and neurotic about rats. Now here is the thing - we live right on the bush. Of course there are rats. And the population will increase every warm summer. While rats might like chicken coops, I doubt there would be any serious increase so long as I keep it clean. Anyway, we also got the feeling that they don't really want a fence. So we capitulated. We let them completely choose where we put the coop - though I refused to help move it and we made him and their son volunteer to spend the next weekend doing the work. And of course in return for my graciously conceding to their wishes, I expect them to be amenable to putting up a fence, and quickly. And to pay for half of it of course.

Also, the chooks are now right beside our bedroom and I have never heard a peep from them when I am inside the house. So I think they were pretty much full of shit.

As for the rat issue - I did not point out that I have had a compost bin down there by the veggie garden since we moved in. Obviously it hasn't attracted a noticeable level of rat activity. What ridiculously neurotic people.

And everybody that I have talked to thinks they have completely overstepped the line.

Anyway, that is over now. They want to be good neighbours and friendly but I have no interest, I just want to be left alone. In my opinion good neighbours give you a wave when you see them and maybe say hi and stop there for the most part. Guess I just have to build a high fence and plant some tall trees.

Do I have any other stories from January? Well, we have had the odd but of time to relax and enjoy our house. We have great views. The shitty weather often obscures it at them moment though. I have been making lots of plans for the gardens, but I haven't had a lot of time to do much yet. This weekend I plan on spending my garden centre voucher on lots of plants though. I have learnt to use the skill saw so next time I want a garden bed or something I can build it myself. I have done a little bit of exploring of my new suburb but not much yet. Now that we live in Lower Hutt I have to go to a different market on the weekend, and while I think the prices might be better they have a no-dogs policy so I don't like it as much as the Wellington markets. The dog seems pretty happy out here too, and I think she likes the house - she moves from one room to another with the sun, and just lazes around overheating all day.

It is time to go for the evening. Here are some January pictures to leave you with:

10 January 2017

December 2016 - moving house

Happy New Year all. I am 10 days late in writing my December post, and even later for letting you know that we finally moved house, a whole month ago. Sorry for the delay ... it took ages to get our internet connected, plus we had a constant stream of guests so life has been a bit crazy. It's finally settling down, but unfortunately that is coinciding with starting back at work so it doesn't really feel like I had a Christmas holiday.

Well I think it's more than just being late for posting for December, as in November I posted an early update about our holiday (which I really will add photos too, just give me a couple more days) and then everything was too busy with the final stages of the house finishing, getting building consent, packing and moving. It was awful and stressful to be honest - the building consent was a nightmare right up until we got the certificate. Which after all the fuss actually happened really quickly, because the guy from the building company knew the council officer that did the inspection and just managed to get the verdict right away and the certificate the next day. So after weeks of having no sure answer, we suddenly had building consent and a big final invoice to pay, and then it was all go.

When we took possession of the house it was a Thursday so the plan was to move that weekend. Of course, it being December and summer and all, it immediately started to rain torrentially and didn't stop until the moving was over and done with. The first glimpses of the house were pretty amazing - it was empty and clean and just seemed so big. The company gave us flowers and chocolates, showed us around, handed over the keys and that was pretty much it. Next thing, he left and we emptied the first load that I had packed into the car. I must say, if we ever move again (and hopefully that won't be for a very very long time) I am definitely hiring a truck. For all the car loads we did (including one with a mattress tied to the top of the car, on the motorway, in the dark, with the wind picking up), the money we spent on petrol would have probably covered the rental cost for a day with a small truck. But we just wanted to move, to get out of the old place and into our new house, so we just did it. Several car loads, and a trailer load of great furniture from the in-laws, and we pretty much had a furnished house. There was still cleaning the awful old rental to do, which was stressful and hard work and took way, way longer than we had anticipated (it always does). And there was the stress of having moved before our fridge had arrived. And not having a driveway for a week, just clay and lots of rainy days - keeping the new carpet clean was a mission (the dog doesn't quite get the whole wiping your feet thing). The driveway was laid in our second week, and it's just gravel but it's so much better. And of course we had loads of people showing up for Christmas so we couldn't just move and take our time to unpack and settle in. We had to do it right away. So things were crazy and hectic right up until Christmas Day really.

Now, about the house. There will be photos - I'll try do it tomorrow. We have some great views, and it's really warm. The living room/kitchen doesn't get a lot of direct sun, and that turns out to be a good thing in summer at least because the bedrooms get really hot. The spare room gets the morning sun and I have put all my pot plants and seedlings in there. Our bedroom gets the afternoon sun, so I come home from work to a really warm toasty room. Because we are in a valley there will be much less sun in the winter but I think we are high enough on the hill that it won't be too bad. There will likely be less morning sun but our bedroom should still get toasty and warm in the afternoon on a clear day. The kitchen took a bit of getting used to, and I moved things around a couple of times as I figured out what fit best where. There is so much more storage space than our old place but I have pretty much managed to fill it all. There is a lot more bench space too, and it is at a good height for me, plus we have bright LED lights so it's an all round better workspace. The kitchen island is great for sitting at, for a meal, or with the computer, or for other people to talk to me while I am cooking. We have loads of living room space, and we managed to buy a good couch before Christmas. We went to Big Save, and I told the lady my budget, what style I preferred and that I needed it delivered before Christmas. She showed me my options and it ended up being really easy. We also managed to get a wall mount for the TV and on Christmas eve put it up, so it was suddenly looking like a proper lived in home.

I also went and got some chickens right away. They were just a week old when I picked them up, and we put them in a box inside. They are growing so quickly though, soon enough I needed to attach a second box, then a third, then make the walls higher, and now they have a pen outside for when I am home, and a cover on their box for when they're inside because they keep flying out! They have just gone four weeks old and technically should not be outside in a coop yet, but it's warm enough here that I am determined to get them out as soon as possible. Unfortunately a very rainy New Years meant we could get the coop finished, so they are still inside. The coop was finished this weekend just been but we still need to add a run before we can banish the little monsters to the yard. There are a lot of cats and dogs in the neighbourhood and they are still small enough that they would be easy prey so we need a fully enclosed run. But it should only be another week so I think I can deal with them in the house till then. At least it's making them tame and friendly. And they all have names: Blondie, Princess Leia, McQueen and Goldilocks. Only Blondie's head feathers have come in and she's not blonde anymore. Oh well.

Living out in a much further flung suburb is way different. There is a supermarket here and some small shops but to do real shopping is a 15 minute drive. My commute is longer and more expensive, and I take the train. Walking the dog is easy enough, there's a creek and an abandoned school with a big field right below us. Apparently it's iwi-owned land and is going to be turned into low cost housing, but hopefully that takes ages because I like having an empty field there. I don't know people out here yet, the neighbours below are friendly but we will need to meet some people our own age at some point. Not many Wellingtonians have cars so old friends are unlikely to be visiting! Cher seems to like the place, she lies around on the carpet and moves from room to room as the sun moves. She growls when cars and people go down the road but there is not more flatmate for her to bark at all the time.

I think that's enough for now, I'll add photos tomorrow and write again soon.

02 December 2016

November 2016 - trip to Rarotonga

Well I should have written this weeks ago but things have been pretty busy, with the house, with work, and with the earthquake disrupting pretty much everything.

So, to go back a whole month, at the start of November we went to Rarotonga. My first trip outside of NZ in three years and my first visit to a tropical island. We arrived at night and the owner of the apartment we were booked into picked us up at the airport. She was an old German lady, very chatty but a little hard to follow. She had a lei for each of us, made with fresh flowers - they smelled really good. The place we stayed was nothing fancy, one of a few bungalow style units just outside of the main town, and not on the beach. If we go again I will sort out the accommodation out earlier and get somewhere right on the beach. It was fine though, we had a wee deck looking out onto the garden and we never intended to spend much time hanging around there anyway. Instead we hired a scooter and got about the island on that.

On our first day I was determined to see the island and go swimming and drink out of a coconut. The day started off great but it clouded over and started to rain. Of course, by the time it seriously started to rain we were that far round the island that we couldn't tell if it was worthwhile going back or just waiting it out. We got pretty cold and wet - Nathan more so because he was driving and I was sheltered by him as I rode on the back of the bike. We finally stopped and took shelter at a minigolf course that had a restaurant and bar. The rain eased up and I wanted to go to the beach (which was just over the road) but it hadn't really stopped raining and we were cold so I had to concede that we better go back. We got soaked again. But then the rain cleared so we got changed and went back out, to see the other half of the island. We took jumpers this time. Once again, as soon as we were a decent distance from the town the rain started. And then got heavier. Before we knew it we were pretty wet again. We stopped again for a drink but the rain kept on so we just had to go out in it again and get wet. We did make it all the way around the island though - it's only 30k or so.

So we gave up on the outdoors and opened a bottle of rum, and played monopoly cards on the porch till it go dark. And finally the rain really cleared! Only it was 9pm already and when we headed out in search of food we found most places were closed or not serving food. Finally we found somewhere with the kitchen still open and ordered a pizza. I got my cocktail in a coconut and it was really nice. A band started up but we found we were too tired to hang around until the place really got going, which is apparently around midnight. So that was my first birthday, but Rarotonga is a day behind NZ so it was my birthday again the next day.

For my birthday in Rarotonga time the sun was shining and we started the day by going to the market. It was very touristy, as you might expect, and I wanted to buy everything. We got a drinking coconut to share, they are the young ones that are full of coconut water. It was OK, slightly weird tasting and quite filling. Nathan didn't like how the market was so targeted towards separating tourists from their money so we went on our way and found a beach. It was sunny and the water was far warmer than here, but still cooler than the air, which was good because it was really bloody hot. We swam and I found some pretty seashells to take home. We both got sunburnt, we had sunscreen but between sweating in the heat and swimming, it had worn off. We spent that day driving around the island, stopping at places that looked good to swim at. We didn't go anywhere fancy for a birthday dinner, instead  asked to go on one of the lagoon cruises. So with that planned for the Sunday we just took it easy for Saturday. Found a good burger joint. Had an ice-cream. Drank more rum and felt sorry for myself for being so sunburnt.

The lagoon cruise on Sunday was really good. There are several but we chose the one that has been around the longest. It starts by going out on a boat and the guys tell you about Rarotonga until you get to the marine reserve. Then they hand out snorkels and you get in the water and look at fish. It was cool. We didn't see as much as the time I was scuba diving in Oman, but it's way easier and cheaper than scuba diving! We saw lots of cool colourful fish though, and then the boat took us to an island and there was a beach BBQ, with tuna and lots of delicious fresh fruit. After food there are demonstrations - one of the crew climbed a coconut tree, then they showed us how to husk a coconut, and how to tie a sarong in a few different ways. I volunteered Nathan, he didn't appreciate it. And after husking a coconut he showed us how they grate out the inside and squeeze it to make coconut cream. It was awesome. They told us that there was a night market if we wanted a feed that evening, so we headed to that later in the evening. It was like a huge pot-luck dinner with a whole lot of strangers. There were stalls all around the edge of this carpark full of trestle tables, and the stalls had all sorts of food like BBQ and various sorts of cuisine from around the world, plus baked goods and desserts. We had BBQ and we tried the local raw fish delicacy, called ike-mata. It was marinated in some sort of lemon and coconut cream sauce with onion and other good stuff. I was wary and made Nathan try it first but it was actually delicious and I ate it all. Then we bought pineapple pie, apparently another local favourite - it was incredibly bland. Luckily the chocolate cake we also brought was really good and so was the ice-cream. The night market was so worth going to.

The Monday was our last day and we stayed in the main town for it. We shopped and looked in most of the jewellery stores to find me a birthday present. The Cook Islands are famous for their black pearls and we looked at pendants, bracelets and rings. Finally we settled on a really classy silver ring with a dark blue/green pearl. It fit me perfectly, but it turned out my hands were a bit swollen in the heat because when I got back to NZ it was too big! I shopped for a few small souvenirs, but not many because food there was really expensive so I had pretty much run out of money. I got the obligatory seashell souvenir and a fridge magnet to add to my collection. Then we pretty much just had to pack up our things and wait until our very late flight at 2am. It wasn't really a fun wait. There is a hotel with a restaurant and bar across the road from the little airport and it was awful. The pizza was awful, the music was bad, the ice-cream sundae was not even as good as a MacDonald's one and the service was not great. When it was late enough to check in for our flight, we discovered that Nathan's new passport didn't have his NZ visa information so that was a huge hassle! But finally we were on our way, we had a long uncomfortable jetstar flight back home, and arrived in Welly to a broken down car (it just needed a new key, it's all better now).

So that was my birthday holiday, feels like forever ago. It has been a pretty hectic month since, but I'm done writing for today so maybe I'll talk about that another time. I will add photos soon - they are on my computer in Wellington and I am in Invers right now so that will have to wait.