Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Meanwhile, Back on the Farm...

The day after Johnny left for New Zealand, the bucks started fighting and pushed a board off between their pens. I hammered it back into place. The next day they (Gin Rummy, mainly) did it again and broke the board this time. I took a sledge hammer and nailed it back. The third day the board split even more; they broke the latch that holds the gate to Bud's outdoor area open, and I knew I had to separate the bucks. We have had them in those pens for several years and this is the first time they've decided to dismantle them. They must have known Johnny, the fix-it person, was out of the country. I could not even call to ask him what to do since he had forgotten his cell phone, which probably would not have been reachable there anyway. Or it would have cost a fortune to call from the U.S.

Bud the buck

I propped a stout timber to hold the door open so Bud would not get locked indoors. Then I moved the belligerent, board-busting buck, Gin Rummy, into the pig pen and started cleaning pens... two buck pens and a dog pen.  Obviously, I was going to have to separate the bucks with the dog between them. The dog is loose nights but the bucks fight during the day and the dog would not let them fight if he was between them. The pig pen was adequate until it started to get cold and blow rain inside.

Here is Gin Rummy in the pig pen...

Lots of grass and open space so I did not feel sorry for him...

...until the rains came. I finally got all pens cleaned, bucks moved and dog moved between them. (Bucks were moved out of and into pens with the help of a hose. Blubbering bucks do not like to be sprayed, which makes moving them much easier.) Peace was restored.

About then there was a massive earthquake in New Zealand and I waited anxiously for news from Johnny and our kids. Steve skyped to let me know they were all fine. (Ah the wonders of modern technology.) They were on the North Island when the quake hit the South Island and they did not feel it or the aftershocks.

Much relieved, I carried on with endless garden harvesting, which I wrote about in another blog post. We still, as of this writing (last day of November) have corn ripening in the garden. But it has turned cold now so the end is in sight.

I did not work non-stop while Johnny was gone... I tell about some of the more fun times in

I also pruned the grapevines and spent days winding the vines into rounds for Christmas wreaths. I start cutting greens off our farm for the wreaths the week before Thanksgiving so they are not too dried out by the end of the Christmas season. Then it's day after day of wreath making. I forgot to take photos of the entire inside of my workshop (aka stock trailer) lined with finished wreaths. Now 7 have been mailed off and 7 more delivered locally. Several more are due to be delivered soon, with a couple left for us. I took quick photos today before leaving to deliver two more, but they did not come out well. Hopefully, the wreaths in reality look better than their photos.

In the midst of wreath making came Thanksgiving, one week after Johnny's return from New Zealand. Our surrogate grandkids and their friend Michael joined us for the traditional Thanksgiving day hike... although usually not in such damp conditions: it rained and flooded on Thanksgiving Day. But we have lots of rain gear here, so we trundled everyone up in raincoats and boots and off we went.

McCoy, the big white guardian dog, was thrilled to have attention. His dream is to be someone's sofa pet.  Here Kinnera gives him love...

Michael was attacked by a dog as a child and is terrified of them, but McCoy won him over, as he does everyone.

The bucks wanted attention, too, but they are a bit too "ripe" this time of year to be petted. Michael took photos.

Then it was out of the barn and down into the field to visit the horses. Nightingale is always up for attention.

Michael sent me this photo he took of very wet Nightingale and Johnny.

 The photos I took indoors of the Thanksgiving festivities did not come out. I must have been shaking from laughter because they are all blurry. We did have a lot of fun. Friend Barb joined us for the meal, supplying half of it with vegan dishes for Michael and David. I cooked ham for the meat eaters. Kinnera roasted delicata squash slices. Johnny made baked apples for dessert. Mark could not come but sent delicious salads with Barb. With miscellaneous side dishes, we had plenty to eat. And wonderful company to share it all with. Hazel and John, Kinnera and David's parents, had planned to come but were unable to because of John's spinal procedure the day before. We'll have to plan a do-over when he has recovered.

It's nice to have Johnny home (the buck pens are now properly repaired with new boards)... repairing things as they go wrong (the back door refused to open today), bringing in firewood, helping with the normal farm chores, joining me for birding adventures whenever the rain allows...

Ups and downs are both better when shared.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Johnny's New Zealand Finale

The part of the trip I was most eager to hear about and see were the glowworm caves I've heard so much about. Alas, photos not allowed. But Johnny says it was like starlight on the ceiling because of how many glowworms there were. Except they weren't worms, like we have, but rather larva of fungus gnats.

From Wikipedia: The larva spins a nest out of silk on the ceiling of the cave and then hangs down as many as 70 threads of silk (called snares) from around the nest, each up to 3 or 4 cm long and holding droplets of mucus. ...Larvae glow to attract prey into their threads, perhaps luring them into believing they are outdoors, for the roof of a cave covered with larvae can look remarkably like a starry sky at night.

Although Johnny could take no photos, there is a video on the web that shows the glowworms:

They toured one cave on foot. Another cave they walked into but then boarded a boat since there was a river flowing through it.

Here is a sculpture at the visitor's center by the Waitomo Caves.

 The forests in this area are full of palms and tree ferns.

From Wikipedia...

The koru (Māori for "loop"[1]) is a spiral shape based on the shape of a new unfurling silver fern frond and symbolizing new life, growth, strength and peace.[2] It is an integral symbol in Māori art, carving and tattoos. The circular shape of the koru helps to convey the idea of perpetual movement while the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin.

 Air New Zealand uses this shape, in a stylized form, as its logo.

 Of course, there are waterfalls in these fern forests...

 Johnny said this was all one falls in multiple stages. He took the photos in stages from the top to the bottom.

Then it was off to more excitement, a luge down a mountain. Each person gets their own luge... push the handle forward and it goes, but too far forward it slows and stops to prevent you from flying out. Pull backward and it stops. It was tricky to figure out how to operate it.

A gondola lift took them up to the start of the run. This chair lift took them from the bottom of the luge run back to the top.

The luge track is visible under the chairlift.

Somebody is coming down the track in their luge as Steve and Cedrus and Johnny and Kestrel go up.

And here goes Kestrel!

There were three levels of tracks: beginner, medium and advanced. The first time down, three of them did the beginner track while Steve did the medium. Next time Kestrel and Steve moved up to the medium. Johnny and Cedrus stuck with the beginner run.

Johnny's next set of photos are from a Living Maori Village, Whakarawarewa.

From Wikipedia: Whakarawarewa is a geothermal area within Rotorua city in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of New Zealand. This was the site of the Māori fortress of Te Puia, first occupied around 1325, and known as an impenetrable stronghold never taken in battle. Māori have lived here ever since, taking full advantage of the geothermal activity in the valley for heating and cooking. Whakarewarewa has some 500 pools, most of which are alkaline chloride hot springs, and at least 65 geyser vents, each with their own name. Seven geysers are currently active. Pohutu Geyser, meaning big splash or explosion, erupts approximately hourly to heights of up to 30 m.

The Maori make their living in Whakarawarewa now from tourists. Here they give a traditional performance.

Just to show that he and the others were not on the go every minute, Johnny took a photo of relax time in their airbnb.

The Maori performances had featured lots of tongue lolling, for reasons Johnny did not learn. But when in New Zealand, do as New Zealanders do, so...

Johnny said that everywhere along the roads in the lowland areas were hedge rows of various kinds of trees. They were apparently planted as windbreaks, all neatly trimmed no matter how tall.

At last, it was time for Johnny to board a bus for Auckland and the airport. He sat up top and front where he could see the scenery.

At the airport was this statue, perhaps a tribute to the filming of the Hobbit movies in New Zealand.

The inscription reads: On loan from Middle Earth. Do not touch.

Thanks to the time difference, Johnny arrived in San Francisco before he left New Zealand, but it took him a whole day to do it, then another day (thanks to layovers) to get to Oregon. The rest of the troops stayed another two weeks after Munazza's retreat was over. They arrived back in the U.S. on Saturday, Nov. 26, having left New Zealand on Sunday, Nov. 27. Time travel is real.

It was a grand adventure and I'm glad I got to see it through Johnny's eyes via his photos.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Johnny in New Zealand's Taupo Area

 The Taupo area, in the center of the North Island on the shores of Taupo Lake, had a lot of stuff to see and do. So Johnny, Steve and the kids spent a lot of time there... and took a lot of photos. I'll mostly just post photos with little commentary.

The first photos are of Huka Falls

Jet boats take tourists to the foot of the waterfall.

Also, ferry boats take tourists there. You can tell that Johnny et al drove around above to view.

Craters of the Moon is a geothermal area in the Taupo region.

a crater

hot, bubbling mud pool

Aratiatia Dam is opened several times a day. Johnny et al watched the water spew forth.

This Chaffinch was very friendly, looking for a handout apparently. What a pretty bird!

At a museum, the kids held up a light weight volcanic boulder.

This was a bungee jumping and big swing site. They were hoping to see someone jump but did not. I cannot even imagine...

 Spa Thermal Park is a very popular swimming/soaking area. Two hot streams combine and feed into a very cold river. The water ranged from very hot at the upper end to pleasantly hot farther down... and icy cold in the river, with warnings not to go into the river as it was very fast and very cold.

This kid friendly zip line did not get far off the ground. Steve had to hold his feet up high.

 Another playground and another interesting public restroom...

 A Maori design on a weaving at the Taupo Museum and Maori Cultural Center...

And a modern sculpture of a Maori god...

Another geothermal area, Orakei Korako Thermal Area, with geysers and steaming mud pools...

and a geyser just beginning to erupt when they arrived...

 More North Island adventures yet to come!