Friday, 17 November 2017

The motorhome has arrived in NZ!!

Yesterday the motorhome swam its way into Auckland - well, the ship it was in berthed there and hopefully, the motorhome was unloaded - we damn well hope so, as the ship left again late last night ... Our fingers are crossed that all is well with it, that nothing has been removed and pilfered, that no damage has been sustained en route. 😓😨
This is the screenshot from the Marine Traffic Update service about an hour or so before the ship (Heogh Seoul) berthed in Auckland.  We have been using this service to track the ship since it left Southampton. Updates are not always provided - if the ship is outside the range of the landbased tracking system (i.e. between South Africa and Perth, and between Brisbane and NZ) we just had to wait until it reappeared - nerve-wracking stuff!

All being well, we are flying up on Wednesday to do all the necessary things to get it inspected, certificated, signed off, validated, COFed, registered and whatever else is required on the Thursday. Then we will commence to wend our way slowly home.

When I woke at about 6am today it was to the sudden realisation that the pile of mulch outside the lounge could be in the way if I cannot reverse the motorhome down the driveway and on to its parking pad - the back up plan is that I drive down forwards past the pad and then reverse into it. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I am reasonably confident that I will be able to do the reverse down the driveway thing, but just in case I cannot, I need that pile of mulch gone.

So today, when our friends, Mary and Alan who stayed with us overnight last night, discovered that the concert they were going to in Paraparaumu didn't start until 4pm, I decided that it was fine to co-opt Mary into coming out and helping me do the newspaper and mulch thing.

What a team! What speed and efficiency! It did make a big difference that David loaded the wheelbarrow when I delivered it back empty, but essentially, Mary and I got a lot done very quickly. So now
  • the garden outside our bedroom is completely covered, 
  • the back garden where Rob and I had to install the edging has been rectified with additional mulch to cover up the newspaper that had re-surfaced during the edging insertion
  • the strip of garden by the driveway has been replenished and 
  • mulch has been strewn under the verbalium hedge on the other side of the driveway.
The mulch pile has diminished greatly, and I reckon that I could get the motorhome in position to be able to reverse back on to the pad if necessary. So, the panic is over!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A clean goat

I looked closely at Mel the other day and realised he was well overdue for his annual bath - by well over 18 months in fact! His nose was grubby and his belly looked decidedly beige instead of cream.

He's spent time on the boat, up in Scotland with the grandsons and then he's had 18 months or so on the boat by himself before we arrived in May this year. He came home with us in October, happily vacuum packed for the journey and we are pleased he didn't require an internal examination in case he was a drug goat as opposed to a mule ...

So yesterday was bath day.


Yay!! A bubble bath!

I'm in - see, Uncle Murray, I love it!!

Time for total immersion therapy!

My sister Dee and her husband Murray think it is very inhumane and unkind of us to put him in the washing machine to spin, but honestly, he loves it. And imagine how long he'd take to dry if we didn't. Or there would have to be some extremely inhumane wringing out done ...

And as a sop to them, I didn't hang him out as I usually do, i.e. pegged by his toes and fingers (cloven hooves, really). Instead he dried like a wuss - inside a towel hammock. So he would feel quite manly, I did peg his front hooves to the side of the towel - actually, it was to stop him falling out if there was a gust of wind ...

He is now clean and fresh as a daisy!

The best use for newspapers

Work in the garden continues - fortunately I have the lovely Kay who is a champion weed remover and who appears to be able to bend and crouch happily for a couple of hours at a time.

She has made great strides in clearing much of the rampant spring growth - she is certainly much faster and more decisive than me, that is for sure.

Her coaching was that if I wanted not to be paying her to come a re-do the job constantly (the growing season in Waikanae ceases for a 5 minute period on 32nd July ...), I needed to mulch bigly. She added to that coaching that newspaper below the mulch suppresses weed growth. So a call went out for newspapers - David and I don't buy them anymore as we can adequately depress ourselves by using our internet access to read how the world is going to hell in a handbasket - why get the hardcopy version of the same good mood suppressants?

So Bruce and Gary, as purchasers of a daily newspaper, have been co-opted into saving theirs for us; and Kay has re-activated her newspaper collection from friends to be re-purposed at Cafe Rata. She also brought a large stack of A4 papers she was about to put in the recycling.

I already have a large stack of mulch out in the driveway - such a stack that I have needed to reverse the car from the road into the garage as I currently don't have the space to turn in front of the garage.

So work has commenced. First I place some paper, and if it is a bit breezy, I wet the paper with the hose to lessen the chances of it blowing away. I then plonk buckets of mulch on it from the wheelbarrow which I have pre-loaded. Pause, stretch the back and repeat x lots.

It all looks rather lovely.
The beginnings of the newspaper and mulching.
And more mulching ... See the lovely clear mowing strip?
Well, it did, until the pesky blackbirds and thrushes came along scratching and flicking in their greed to find bugs, beetles, worms. I am amazed at how strong their flicks are - a bit like kicks and flicks in the jive: I am sure that contestants on Strictly Come Dancing could learn a thing or two!

I started writing this a week or so ago and then got distracted.  But I am back now.

The sight of mulch spread randomly over the brick mowing strip and the lawn was driving me nuts so I went off to buy some garden edging for Rob and me to install. It is about 150mm high (6" to people in the UK and US - isn't it ironic that the US is so wedded to imperial measurement ...👍😜)

It was a two person job - I made a cut with the spade, Rob cleared out that channel and inserted the edging and I collected buckets of potting mix to ram down and keep it firmly ensconced. There was a slight difficulty as the bricks have concrete behind them, so the edging is not right next to them. That required the purchase and planting of small seedlings to soften the line and cover the dirt that is in front. OK, so now the thrushes and blackbirds can continue to rootle around in the mulch and I won't have to go out and clean up after them all the time.
There are pansies, alyssum and a couple of other types of small plants (names unknown to me) in there now. The rooster is one of several china birds protecting the base of the lemon tree from marauding thrushes and blackbirds ... I have several white teapots that I may paint eyes on to exacerbate the scare tactics ...

It was such a successful technique that I have replicated it along the driveway garden - that one I was able to do myself as the concrete was straight-edged - it had been boxed on construction. That one too is looking great, so the last one to be done is the strip of garden along the back of the house - the birds just love it there as they can rootle around in the shade and find shade-loving bugs. And of course such bugs aren't on the surface and need to be excavated for ...😟😡

Needs a sweep, but you get the idea. More daisies and osteospermums are required so I am transplanting a couple of the latter from another part of the garden where they aren't so spectacular, and I have about 7 daisy cuttings on the windowsill in the kitchen working hard to develop roots! In the garden in front of the fence are the cosmos which are the result of two seasons' seeding from wildflowers sown back in 2015 - a few cornflowers also come through, but the cosmos are the most hardily evolved as repeaters!
The newspaper and mulching are on a temporary halt at the moment - my back is getting sore from all the bending. And I've been doing planting as well, so something had to give. But the good news is that the heap has reduced to the extent that I can now reverse the car out of the garage and turn to head out and away for shopping/breakfast/shopping/visiting ...

David is being called in to assist with news-mulching - he doesn't like gardening but is happy to help with tasks that don't require him to differentiate between weeds and plants, as well as those that don't require him to watch where he puts his feet! He's been clearing the area below our cabbage trees just off the driveway - Rob had used it as a bit of a dumping ground for garden detritus when the bin and bags were full; and the arum lilies we discarded thought they were being relocated and sprouted like mad things, dammit. David's done a sterling job - digging the area over and sifting the soil to remove any pesky lily roots and corms (right word?) We are going to add 80 litres of potting mix and some horse-poo tea to the sifted soil as it looks fairly lifeless to me, then I will sprinkle seeds over it and hopefully, in a few weeks it'll be hey presto - wildflowers!!

David's pile of sifted dirt with potting mix at the ready. The horse-poo tea is in a bucket in the shed - keeping away from the flies. Under that slab of concrete there is probably a water bore - we could get it operational again, but it would require plenty of money and digging and the latter would put the cabbage trees at risk. We'll just have to keep using town supply for watering the garden.

Caitlin's rose - looks and smells beautiful. It always flowers at this time of the year - tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of her death, and I will have some of the roses inside.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A weekend away with the boys

On Thursday last week, David flew off to Brisbane to see his sister's new home (I was originally going to go, but work came along and we cancelled my ticket, then work got deferred/postponed/cancelled - not sure which - and it was too expensive to re-purchase my ticket). So I decided on a weekend with the boys.

I joined Bruce and Gary at Pete and Warren's place in Carterton. It was the Wairarapa Agricultural and Pastoral Show and we were going on the Saturday.
Two Toyotas - my small old grey/silver one, and B&G's beast. And the view from my bedroom over to a neighbours' place
Pete and Warren have two of these large plastic magpies - great for changing birds' minds about flying through their verandah - and pooping on the way through ... I think I need a few strategically placed around our garden to discourage them from scratching so actively for lunch in the bark/mulch and spreading it all over the place. GGGRRR!!!

Warren loves having the livestock grazing on their two paddocks. He feeds them the grass clippings and they trot up and down the fence line by the driveway when he is mowing that section - just waiting (and reminding him) for the clippings to be dumped over the fence. Talk about the grass being greener ...

But Friday night came first and there was a modestly sized gathering at P&W's place - much chat and laughter, and for me, a couple of new faces. Still and all, I went off to bed early and slept as soon as my head hit the pillow, I think. I hadn't slept well the night before, as it was the first night David was away and my imagination runs riot about the noises the house makes ... 😫😨😱

So even though there was loud chat, lots of laughter, a bottle of chardonnay** swept off the bench to the floor with a resounding crash, I slept on. And even though the front door was right next to my bedroom, I didn't hear anyone leaving. 😴

We had consulted the A&P Show programme and there seemed to be a general consensus that the shearing and the wood chopping had to be seen for some reason. I lost the guys almost as soon as we arrived as I had to get cash from the EFTPOS service, so I wandered lonely as a cloud while they wandered elsewhere. I managed to buy an Xmas present for a friend, a loaf of ciabatta (merely as comparison, you understand, as I had taken a home-made loaf over to P&W's and I wanted to see what the differences were) and a wet weather fedora-type hat for me - I am starting a collection of that hat style as it is the only one that suits me, and as Kirsty says, if you like it, get one in every colour ...
This wee dress was in the sewing competition, and it reminded me of the dresses that David's mum Mary used to have made for Kirsty when she was little.

I couldn't find the guys and I couldn't get in contact with them either, so decided to walk back to the house - it was sunny and warm with a slight breeze, so not too hot. I did wonder if my silver shoes would be up to it, but they seemed fine.

However, shortly after I got to the main road (the state highway no 2, no less) I got a text telling me where they were. A text exchange followed and Gary said he'd pick me up as they were leaving. I was instructed to wait at the Clareville Nursery and Garden Centre. Of course I was obedient; I had been there the day before with Pete and while he spent about $5 on a marrow plant and a pumpkin plant, I'd spent $75 on a rhododendron, a climber and a tree.
The first rhododendron. The second one is a very very pale lemon - so pale it is almost, but not quite, white.

So while I waited for Gary, of course I had to go in - $32 later for another rhodo, Gary turned up. I did tell him it would have been cheaper if he'd told me to meet him at the cafe ...

Lunch was out at a lovely cafe in Carterton. Very friendly service.

And I liked this tip jar - not that I approve of tipping, mind you - esp not in NZ!

Real grated chocolate on these cappucinos! Yummy indeed!

Warren borrowed Gary's Johnny Cash hat - an actual Johnny Cash hat from the US, not just a cheap knock off, I tell you for real.
The food was lovely but I was still full from brekkie - toasted cheese scones and scrambled egg with lots of other yummy stuff in, so I couldn't really do it justice.

Then a nana nap for me and a SCAN for the others, as they are not nanas. SCAN is a senior citizen afternoon nap. It even sounds medicinal, whereas a nana nap just sounds elderly ...

Dinner was out at a very nice Thai/Vietnamese/Malay restaurant called Marigold which is BYO alcohol - Carterton is quite small, so fusion is important and BYO is a key success factor. Even so it has about 5 or 6 eating out places plus takeaways. And Marigold was quite busy - filled with diners and takeaway customers. I was still full so didn't finish my Tom Ka Gai either. ** Gary had swept the chardonnay off the bench the night before, but told me not to worry - he had a Ponder Estate chardonnay in the boot of their car - I do like their style as they travel with their own wine stash! Ponder Estate chardonnay is VERY nice indeed! It was good I was sharing, as I didn't need more stuff in my stomach!

And then breakfast on Sunday was at Everest cafe in Featherston which is south of Carterton, so it's on the way home for Bruce and Gary and for me. So a three car convoy, followed by a very very nice breakfast for all of us. But boy oh boy, I didn't need any more food for the rest of the day, and ate very little on Monday too.
Gary (under the paddle), Warren, Pete and Bruce with his back to the camera
Warren had grilled asparagus in bacon with poached eggs and rosti

Gary had the Everest Big Breakfast - in the ramekin is cauliflower cheese - interesting addition for brekkie, but seems to fit somehow.

Pete's quiche was apparently nice but didn't really have the breakfast look ...
My eggs benedict - very yummy

Bruce had ranch eggs - they weren't called that, but it's what they were. Kidney beans, tomatoes, chorizo and eggs poached in the mix. I have made these before and the eggs take ages to poach in a tomato mix - clearly tomatoes have a lower boiling point than water!

Then home. And as I came on to Gray's Road in Plimmerton, almost out to State Highway 1 and within about 20kms of home, I get a call from Pete - AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I had left my plants behind!!!

Stupido in extremis - I has been so careful to check the bedroom, the lounge, the kitchen for any of my belongings. but I hadn't looked outside where the plants were nestled in the shade under B&G's bedroom window!

So on Monday, I drove over to collect them - good to see P&W after such a long absence 😏

They gave me a cup of tea and some girl guide biscuits to sustain me for the trip home. Which led to a discussion about where Griffin's biscuits are made now, which led to Pete looking it up on line. Which led to the shock and horror finding that Griffin's gingernuts are now made in the Philippines - triple AAARRRGGGHHH!!! That's the end of buying them then! An NZ icon being made in the Philippines? What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Cheese scones

My routine of gardening first thing after I get up is being sustained - if I leave it till later, my tendency for procrastination will kick in ...

And yesterday I managed 40 minutes and my back seemed to cope quite well. I think it works best when I bend rather than kneel to weed. I always knew that kneeling was bad and that women shouldn't do it!
Standard cos and baby cos lettuces are in - it rained overnight so no watering required today!

Second wheelbarrowful of mulch awaits. In the background are the 4 trunks of a formerly HUGE rhododendron so huge it overhung our roof and Jillian's garage roof. Luke took all of the branches off and it is on probation - either it'll sprout and regrow, but not to its former lofty height or it'll be chopped out at ground level - its probation period is up by the end of this summer, so best it gets itself into gear ...

Later in the day I filled the wheelbarrow with 2 loads of mulch from the front drive's pile, and emptied one load on to the garden at the back outside the bedroom window - the second barrowful is still waiting to be decanted by bucket, as I cannot get the barrow over the box hedge to empty it.

I decided David and I needed a reward for the hard work we are both undertaking, me in the garden and David in the office trawling through our 44,000 digital photos (there is a project underway) and his Weaving Memory assignments. His work now is split between digitally publishing people's old video and old film. And he does a fabulous job with it - cleaning, correcting colour, editing and chapterising. He is always busy!    Here's his website 

So I made cheese scones. While we were on the boat, I made them quite often - they taste great (except twice when I used cream instead of milk [too heavy by several hundredweight] and the time I used baking soda instead of baking powder [tasted strange, looked stranger]).

Yesterday they were magnificent. I am not sure what makes the difference - could be the tasty cheese here is sharper - I think the electric stove may be the change factor - a drier heat, and a bigger oven. Also NZ butter is saltier than any UK brand I've tried, and the combination of cheese scone and cold well flavoured butter is a wonderful taste sensation!

They rose more and took less time to cook

Anyway, they were yummy; so yummy that I hid the last three in plain sight on top of the fridge (our fridge is about 6 foot high so it's out of our sight line, and as any student of child development knows, Piaget says that if a baby cannot see something it no longer exists - not saying David is a baby, mind you 😜😘), and texted Luke that they were his for the picking up. There was a bit of a scuffle at the front door this morning when David realised:
a) that the scones did still exist, and
b) that I was giving them to Luke.

I was on the phone at the time to 2 fifths of the convoy who are home in Desborough, so Mick witnessed aurally the disputed handover. Needless to say, given he is younger and significantly taller, Luke went away with the spoils of that particular battle.

I'd make more for David today but he is off to Brisbane to stay with his sister Ginny and her husband Graham for a long weekend and I am heading to Carterton to stay with Pete and Warren tomorrow. Before I head off in the morning, I'll make a loaf of ciabatta and see if that works better than in England - I have a feeling that the flour I get in the UK is pretty damn good for bread. I'll keep you posted on the result. Of course, my taste testers are probably more critical here than the convoy team of John, Julia and Mick are. It's not that the latter are easier to please, it's that they are kinder!

Monday, 23 October 2017

Gardening continues ...

Instead of watching a Netflix movie before getting up to work in the garden yesterday, I caught up on Adrian and Adam's nb Briar Rose blog about their epic journey aka The North West Passage - I am aware that they have a great deal of boating stamina and can do huge number of hours each day (it's being so youthful, you know!), but reading about it (started from the end and read back to where they left us and Jaq at Tixall Wide) made me tired again. But valiantly, I got up and finished the unpacking, and then went out to get some gardening done.

I managed to empty the raised vege garden (RVG) of all its plants plus an extensive root system of mint, left the large perpetual rocket in place, and saved some things to be replanted:
  • a couple of other small perpetual rocket plants, plus 
  • some mint shoots for transplanting into an isolated container (to curtail the triffids-taking-over-the-world syndrome) and 
  • about 9 hydrangea cuttings put in the RVG earlier in the year that had happily taken and were thriving.
Then it was into the car and off to buy some mulch and compost/potting mix. At 40 litres per bag they were too heavy for me to lift sensibly, so staff loaded them into the boot, and back home David transported them from the car to the RVG in the wheelbarrow - that is Bruce and Gary's, by the way, as we don't own one, but every time David tries to give it back, they say they know where it lives now and can come and 'borrow' it whenever they need to. Lovely, aren't they?

In to the RVG went 80 litres of commercial mulch, then 3 wheelbarrow loads of mulch that is currently residing on our drive (and needs to be out of here before the motorhome** gets here in a month), followed by 80 litres of compost/potting mix. Then I planted the coriander and basil seedlings (some Thai basil in there - yay!!) and the lettuce seedlings. The small potted cherry tomato plant went into a pot and is in the middle of the RVG.

Planting has begun

Happy sprouting hydrangea cuttings

Luke and Diane turned up unexpectedly yesterday arvo with Lyall as the walking wounded, requiring grazed bleeding knee repair and grazed belly repair. Doctor Marilyn was on duty with the trusty Ayrtons ointment (no longer made, dammit!), the plasters, but both preceded by wound washing. I'd have to say that toilet lids are such a handy device as they double quite usefully as seats for patients requiring first aid.

It is great having Luke and Di as surrogate children, by the way. Doesn't mean we love Tim and Kirsty any less, but they are both too far away to be helpful on home handyperson jobs that are now beyond us.
  •  After I had cleaned (with hot water and white vinegar) the outdoor table glass that has been in the garage since we left back in May Luke helped me carry it around and place it again on the table - today it still looks sparkling clean, but that won't last long in the breeze.
  • Lyall recovered well from his injuries and was sent down (by his father) into the sinkhole on the motorhome pad to clear away the leaves. He retreated rapidly when he saw a spider, but not to worry - there weren't many leaves in there and they'll rot away quite happily I think. We just need to put chicken wire over the grill before next autumn so the full crop of falling maple tree leaves doesn't end up down there ... 
  • The RVG had a distinct tilt from back to front - mainly because the corner framing at the front wasn't extended into the ground while the rear ones were (already there as part of a manky old bean frame). So Luke raised the front section - amazing what a spade and garden fork (with suitably strong shafts) can do when wedged under the front bottom plank and levered up using my weight and Luke's.   He rammed a piece of 4x2 under each front corner, and Bob's your uncle. Looks like it was always level!!
The RVG has had a front face lift and now looks pretty level. See the newspaper packs of cos lettuce waiting to be planted when it's a bit cooler this evening? And down to the right of the RVG is the section I weeded today - some spreading thyme is now in place.

Lyall is attempting the blunt instrument solution to effect the termination with extreme prejudice of a small spider ...

Spider conquered, back in the hole goes that child - it is the opposite of chimney sweeps ...

Working, boss!

I have decided that if I do 20 - 30 minutes of weeding a day, I can probably keep on top of the demands of the garden ...

I did more than that yesterday, and did 30 minutes today: a bit more weeding and then I planted the spreading thyme seedlings - some by the RVG, some under the kitchen window and some by the clothesline - it spreads and can be used as lawn or ground cover so sounds ideal to me. On our supermarket visit earlier today I bought some baby cos and cos lettuce seedlings - Cafe Rata's vege garden is back in business!

However I'd have to say that gardening is much easier in the rooftop allotment on nb Waka Huia - no bending, for a start!

** Re the motorhome:
  • It has left Durban and is on its way across the Indian Ocean towards Freemantle, then around the southern coast of Australia, up to Sydney and Brisbane (not sure if it calls in to Adelaide on the way) then around the top of NZ and down to Auckland. Current ETA is 17 November  but likely to be a day or so later, but definitely not earlier!
  • The name is changing - you may remember that we decided on Vangelic (it's a van, my first name is Angela and I am angelic, and the inspiration came from my shouting out the answer to who wrote the music to Chariots of Fire at a pub quiz I wasn't in a team for ... ) However our original name for it was CROW, an acronym for Cafe Rata On Wheels. David didn't like that, hence it was subject to change ...
  • But back when we were moored up at Mount Sorrel, Kirsty (the lovely daughter) rang and indicated that Vangelic was a bit nothing and needed too much explaining. I explained about CROW and she was definitely definite that needed to be the name. Her thinking was this:
    • Crows are covids and covids are apparently the cleverest birds
    • I am a clever bird (OK, that was my addition to the discussion but Kirsty agreed)
    • Cafe Rata on Wheels expresses what will most likely occur with the motorhome
    • I said I would work on her father who was extremely resistant...
  • Fast forward to couple of weeks later and I watched a YouTube video of a Michael Parkinson  interview with David Attenborough (and Billy Connolly) in 1998 Here's the link to it: Michael Parkinson, Billy Connolly and David Attenborough
    • David Attenborough (at about minute 27, if you don't want to watch Billy Connolly and why wouldn't you - he is hilarious) tells the story of a carrion crow in a city in Japan that uses trucks at traffic lights to crack walnuts ...
    • So as we were cruising along towards Debdale, I told David about this, and about my being a clever bird. He said 'OK, I give in, CROW it is.' Yay!!!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The lag of the jet is letting go

It is now 7 days since we were on our way home over Europe (or somewhere), six hours into our flight to Singapore. It will be 6 days ago at midnight tonight that we landed in Auckland and it's 5 days since we got home. I only know these stats because I look at the top right of my laptop screen and I can see the day and the date. Otherwise, I would struggle to respond correctly if administered the confusion test ... 'What day is it today, Marilyn?' 'What day was it when you arrived back in Waikanae?' Ah, no idea on either account over the last few days.

But now I am feeling almost back to my normal nutty self. I think a full day in bed yesterday helped a lot: there was only reading, watching movies on Netflix, getting out of bed just for food and drink preparation and elimination.

I did make avocado on toast for brekkie, preceded by a very early morning cup of tea; for lunch I made cheese tart from pastry and the cheese mixture I had left over from dinner with Joy and Grahame (what night was that?) served with sliced tomato and ciabatta (bought, Julia, not home made), and David made a salad accompanied by tuna and mayo in a pita pocket for dinner.

And even David didn't get out of his pyjamas all day, so it wasn't just me, honest!

Today I am planning on being a fully functioning adult again - there are some final things to put away, the raised vegetable garden needs to be topped up with compost, seedlings planted and the mint brought under control. If my energy holds out, I'll pull a few of the larger weeds from the flower gardens beside the dining room and at the back. And I'll clean the glass top for the outside table so we can put it back on.

Because I am sure there is more to be done, I feel a list coming on! But first I think there's a movie I need to watch on Netflix...