Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday, November 27- I'm on a boat...

I got to drive a freaking boat today! Look, look, look! 
That's me! I got to steer and wear the skipper's hat and everything!! 
This was my trusty ship, the Ernest Kemp. 
Look how brave and sturdy she is! This is Simon, the skipper. He was awesome.
This is where we went and what we saw!
Maori cliff carvings! (This is where you "ooo" and "ah" appropriately.) Yes! They were pretty awesome to behold.
Don't be deceived though. They're only 33 years old, having been carved in 1980. It took a year to complete and was done by two local Maori artists. The impressive thing, other than their size obviously is their rarity. Since wood is incredibly plentiful in New Zealand, carvings were and are rarely produced in stone. This piece, if taken care of properly, will someday be both old and rare. That's forward thinking chaps! Well done.
Certainly worth $35 to see. Hmmm let's see what else... Ah! Did I mention that I got to captain a boat today!? 
All aboard! 

Tuesday, November 26- Lake Taupo Day 1

Dude. Lake Taupo is awesome. It's amazing how much you can fit into a short window of time.  
My first adventure was to Huka falls. It is on the Waiketo river, the longest river in New Zealand-425 kilometers to be precise, and at the falls processes enough water to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool in one second. It's kind if a big deal. Anyway, I took the Huka Falls jet to the lion's mouth and had a great time. I will say this though. If you have recently gotten into a major car accident and are prone to post traumatic stress, wait awhile before you do this. There is a lot if spinning, driving straight at solid objects and last minute swerving. It will either cure what ails you, or send turn you into a shrieking mess. 
Next up was a visit to Spa Thermal Park. It sits above Huka falls and drains hot mineral water straight into the river. People come and soak in these scalding waters year round. It was an excellent place to unwind my tense neck muscles.
I just couldn't get over how clear the river was, and it was this green every where! I kept wanting to jump in every time I rounded a bend. 
And I rounded a few on the hike I took to the middle of nowhere and back. On my way into the park I had glanced quickly at the map of the area and decided when I was done to go a different way back to the start. Well later, in true "Wait. This doesn't feel right" fashion I found myself on a deserted rotary mountain bike trail headed away from town. But did I turn around? Hell no! I kept going, following my inner compass and pathfindering skills until I found myself in familiar territory again. Boo ya bitches. Adventure is out there. 
And look! I found some nice trees! I figured if worst came to worst I could hug them until someone found me. Thankfully it didn't come to that. 
There was a storm threatening tonight so I got a rockin' sunset. Exhibit A:
Day 1? Big fan.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sunday, November 24- I'm not dead yet...

I'm starting out by saying, I'm ok. But after you see the pictures you might find it hard to believe. God had his hand on me today. That's all there is to it. There is no amount of luck that could have done what He did.

Parker, Ze Germans, and I went on an adventure this morning to a rally car event. The Hawkes Bay Motor Club was holding a qualifying event just up the road from the farm and after seeing all the vehicles pour past us on the way to the start there was no way we were staying put. So off we went in the Prado up the gravel road and spent an hour or so watching vehicles with popping engines scream past us as they rounded wild corners and sprayed metal, the kiwi word for 'gravel', everywhere. The sheep were not impressed. 
We were in high spirits as we piled into the car and headed home. I mean, really? How could you not be? Fast cars people. Fast. Cars. 
I was happily journaling on my phone in the front passenger's seat when I felt the back of the car staring to slide out. I went on alert and I looked up. We weren't going particularly fast but as I saw the bank of the left side of the road approaching, I realized that 5 miles per hour would have seemed too fast because we were in a slide and I knew there was amount of braking that would save us.
The corner and swerve marks.
I've been in one other major accident. It happened in college when Jackie and I were coming home for Christmas break. Long story short we swerved to miss a deer that was in the road, got thrown into a spin, and were hit in the wheel well of the driver's side by a semi-truck. It was a miracle that we walked away from that one with our lives. I feel the same way about this.

It's strange. There came a point in the slide when I knew that we were going to hit the bank and rather than tense up and panic I relaxed. I can't really explain it. I just felt that I needed to be as loose as possible RIGHT NOW, so I did. And then we hit and the world turned upside down. I blinked slowly and just tried to breathe. Airbags deployed. Glass rained. I heard the muffled sound of bending metal. Hoped that we were not trapped. And then...we stopped. I opened my eyes and looked around.
We were upside down. “Is everyone ok?” I called out searching for my seat belt. It was locked tight.“Guys? Everyone still in one piece? “Ya, Ve are ok,” said one of the Germans from the back. “Shit,” said Parker. “Ah, shit.” My head whipped to the side expecting to see something sprouting from his chest. There was nothing. “What? What's wrong?” My eyes searched for injuries. “Are you OK?” “Yeah,” He said, gathering himself. “I'm ok.” “Ok.” GET OUT OF THE CAR. As I fumbled with my seat belt I thanked God that it actually worked. My window had blown out and I know that I would have been outside somewhere if I had been without it. My hands went up to the ground and pushed releasing the pressure on the buckle. I clicked it open and set my feet on the ceiling getting my bearings and then scrambled up and out of my window. There was a man coming towards me. I looked across the road and saw that a car had pulled up. A woman was following him. People started emerging from the our car like rats out of the sewer, being helped out by the man and his girlfriend. As they came out I inspected them for cuts and foreign objects, but apart from one cut thumb and my scraped left knee, everyone was fine. The car on the other hand was fucked.
“Craig is going to kill me,” said Parker as we piled into the couple's car and headed home. I laughed. “At least we're all ok. That's what's important.” As I watch the sun go down tonight I'm happy to report that Parker is still alive, my knee suffered no lasting damage and the thumb was just a decent scratch. For all of you who have been praying for me, I just want to say thank you. You better believe I'm counting my blessings tonight.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday, October 14- Fly Away Home

This is where they were born.
They used to fall asleep on me like this.
When they were smaller I would stash all three of them in my hood in the morning while I made breakfast and ate. It stopped this day when one projectile pooped and it landed inches from my bowl. :-)
They wanted to be near me whenever I was outside. They would sit on my paper when I was writing. They would try to eat my pens, and zippers, and fingers. They thought my white gum boots were their very special friend. They protected the yard. They hung out with chickens. They wiggled their tails when they ate grasses. They shook their heads when they ate meal. They loved sticky weed.
They stuck their necks out and flapped their wings when they ran. Their tail feathers started growing in last Wednesday, their wing feathers, Friday. One was a boy, the other a girl. One had yellow around the eyes, the other gray. One had a yellow bill, the other gray. They would come running when I called. They liked “A million ways to be cruel” by O.K. Go. They cheeped like chicks. They were nearly the size of full grown ducks. They would let me pick them up and pet them, even though they insisted they were too big for such nonsense. Their necks had just started to get shapely. Their webbed feet were the size of my palm. They went everywhere together. They died 5 feet apart last night of unknown causes and were buried side by side next to Porthos. Craig says that when you have livestock, sometimes you have deadstock. But these creatures weren't stock. They were mine. And like their brother, I loved them. Rest in peace you geese, sweet Athos and Aramis. I will miss you more than I can say.  

Thursday, October 14- Happy Birthday Dear...

So in 2000 my family was on a hike on Mt. Hood when I split my scalp open and we had to use one of those emergency call boxes to ring up some EMTs. It took about 10 minutes for them to arrive and when they did I had a bit of a townie surprise. The woman who came forward to examine my cut had THE LONGEST underarm hair I had ever seen. It took all my will power to keep my mouth shut as I stared in wonder at this social faux pas. I didn't understand. It was so gross. Why didn't she shave? Was she lazy? What did her partner think about it? Did he like it? He must. That's curious. She seem nice enough, and she is taking care of me. I should stop judging. Wow. It's just so LONG.

Needless to say, I survived and am now playing dirty hippie myself, for today I am celebrating the 2 month birthday of my underarm hair. That's right. I haven't shaved since I left the States and I'm not going to lie, it's pretty great. I totally understand why my EMT chose to go au naturale. For one thing, it's soft. Super soft. For another it's warm, and for someone who is perpetually cold that's a beautiful thing. Lastly, and this one truly mystifies me, it seems to do something magical with my sweat. Like making it disappear. I don't know how this is possible, because I sweat a ton, but it does. Yay super soft, warm and naturally absorbent underarm hair! You rock!

There have been some developmental stages that I have taken note of in the last two months. That moment when I first caught it in my peripheral vision, the day I could part it, the day it grew to 1 inch in length. -sigh- We've come so far. The funny thing is I sometimes forget how long it is and it startles me. For instance I'll be standing in the bathroom in my towel messing with my hair and I'll catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and I'll look down because I think it's lint from whatever shirt I was wearing, and go to dust it off, but it won't come off. And that will scare me a little. And then I realize that it's my amazonian arm hair and I laugh, straighten it out carry on.

Having a secret stash of crazy long underarm hair amuses me to no end. We're approaching summer here and each time we go into town there are heaps of girls running around in short sleeve dresses, with not a hair out of place. As I pass them in my long sleeves and jeans that smell perpetually of poo, I wonder how they would respond if I, an EMT clad in a tank top and flowing skirt were to come to their aid. No doubt they would stare in horror and ask “Why?!” To which I would reply, “You really don't know what you're missing.”
Man hair. Don't knock it till you've tried it. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gardening. Who knew?

Gah! Guys, everything is growing. EVERYTHING. ALL. OF. THE. THINGS!!!!

Seriously, I can't tell you how excited I am. For years I have thought gardening was lame. Super lame. Lame, lame, lame. Mainly because gardening in my head equated to pulling weeds. It always seemed like weeding interrupted my most delightful nights of sleep. Whether it was beautiful summer's day or a blissful Sunday in the spring, mom would walk into our rooms bright and early and ask us to help her for a “half hour” in the yard before it got too hot. I would sigh and roll out of bed and report for duty for what was NEVER a half hour and grumble inwardly at the injustice of not being able to sleep in on a Sunday when I had worked SO HARD at school during the week. Seriously, when I was parent I would let MY kids sleep in and not LIE to them about how long it would take. Life was so unfair.

And so it was that my hatred of “gardening” was born. As I pulled out weed after weed I would wish death upon them all finding a bit of joy in the piles of discarded remains that would grow up around me. When I got older my loathing grew considerably less but transformed into this idea that I had a black thumb. No doubt because I had spent my childhood bringing destruction to the plant kingdom.

Looking back, I KNOW that mom only made us get up and weed in the morning because it actually WAS cooler and she wanted to spare us the discomfort of the midday sun but in any case the damage had been done. Gardening was lame.

Fast forward to this last summer. I come home from Hawaii to find that Mom and Tobi, my Danish brother-in-law, have gone cray cray in the garden and there are heaps of delightful things falling onto the table every night. (And yes, I'm laughing right now because I just made you say “cray cray” four times. ) Suddenly gardening seemed a little more cool. Just add water and all of this produce just appears? I might be able to do that. Maybe. But Tobi seemed to be doing a lot of...stuff...that I couldn't get a handle on. Evidently gardening involved a lot of pacing, prodding, watching, and some sort of Danish magic. He had books, and talked about mulching and how somebody had walked on his beds and “compacted” the soil...and evidently that was a bad thing. “Ok,” I thought, dusting the dirt out from between my toes when he turned his back. “Stay out of the growing beds. Check.”

And then I signed on here. My job? Plant a garden. What? I know. Death hands. But I am nothing if not fiercely stubborn and I wasn't about to let the fact that I had only ever pulled things out of the ground stop me. I had been around gardeners my whole life. Some things were bound to have rubbed off. I hoped. Besides, gardening seemed to spin a lot of people's wheels. Why not give it a shot? It was high time I stopped judging and got my hands dirty.

And so I arrived and cultivated the soil. It was shit. No really. The top two feet was almost entirely sheep shit that had been aged to perfection underneath the wool shed. “If I can't grow something in this,” I thought as I turned shovel full after shovel full of brown gold under, “I clearly can't grow anything.” So I planted. And things grew. A lot. Even things I didn't plant. Like potatoes. Gosh, I have potatoes EVERYWHERE, but more on that later. I was elated. Seriously, stoked out of my mind. But I didn't feel like a real gardener yet because I had planted things that we had purchased from the store. I hadn't actually sewn seeds. So I sang a sweet song and sewed my seeds and sprinkled soil softly so they would surely sprout speedily. But to be honest, I didn't actually think they would grow. “They're too close together! They're too far apart! They're too deep! They're too shallow! They aren't getting enough sun. The wind is too windy. Did I water them enough? Did I water them too much? How will I know the difference between my plants and the weeds? What is going on down there??” I was a wreck. I mainly just tried not to get too emotionally involved in the outcome, but I knew I had failed when, a week and a half later, I began to see tiny green sprouts pushing through the top soil in perfectly straight rows. “ERMERGERSH!!” I squealed when I saw them, sitting there in all their glory. “PLANTS!!! I grew plants!! These are MY plants! Mine! I grew them!” I danced. I sang. I had an epiphany.

Growing up I had read the story of Peter Rabbit and had always thought that Mr. McGregor was the villain. Shooting poor Peter's tail off when all Peter wanted was a little snack. What a jerk. But as I looked down at my beautiful baby plants and imagined a rabbit sitting among them nibbling away I realized that Mr. McGregor was not the villain. Peter was. Just where did he get off, waltzing in and eating someone else's plants? If Peter wandered into my garden, I would shoot him dead. Yes. That's right. Dead. I would hang his little blue jacket up next to Sam's head so all the other little rabbits would know to stay the fox away. And then I would put him into a stew, and eat him, because rabbits are delicious, and I make a mean rabbit stew. Eat my plants will you? I'd like to see him try.

So anyway have decided that gardening is AWESOME. In fact, it's fucking magical. I'm sorry, but it IS. You bury these tiny things in the ground, cover them with dirt, add water and a week or two later, green bits burst forth carrying the promise of delicious foods to come? What is that?! Seriously people. Seeds? MAGIC.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Spring means babies

Spring time is awesome. We have babies coming out our ears. Every time I turn around something new, fuzzy and wobbly is prancing around the farm. Last week Wednesday our Jersey, Honey, gave birth to this little lass.

 Her name is Shannon and she is a Highland-Jersey cross, which means that she is small, frisky and super soft. Her brother arrived from a neighbor's farm the next day, and we promptly named him Seamus.

It wasn't until later that we remembered/were told that Highland cows were from Scotland, not Ireland and that better names would have been Fiona and Wallace but by that time we had already been speaking to them in Irish accents for about 4 days and didn't want them to have an identity crisis. So Irish highlanders they remain.

Our most recent addition arrived just this morning. Her name is Coco and she is 10 weeks old.
You want energy? Oh man. She is all paws, pounce, and pretty awesome kisses. She's what's called a “heading dog” which means that she musters cattle beasts by staring at them, rather than barking like a “hunt away” dog. I had the opportunity to watch some dog trials at the Hamilton fair.  It's pretty impressive to watch. It's the most sedate looking event ever if done right. Man and dog working as one. Simple commands, immediate and silent response. If and when I get another dog, I'm thinking this breed will be on my “dogs to consider” list.