Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Maintenance Tuition


Our son Tim won’t believe I am capable of understanding or doing it, but yesterday Ed gave me some instruction in engine maintenance. I asked him after reading Paul Smith’s Living on a Narrowboat newsletter a couple of months ago where he described the tuition he had from Kerry of RCR (River Canal Rescue who we used a couple of times early last season, before we discovered Aqua Narrowboats and then the lovely Ed).

So here’s what I learned (by doing) yesterday:
·      How to change a fuel filter, preparation, doing the job, checking fuel for diesel bug, restoring bits afterwards
·      Then how to bleed the air out of the fuel line via the filter
·      And how to bleed the four fuel injectors
·      Checking the alternator belts for appropriate tautness – I doubt I'll be adjusting the bolts on the alternators though – requires more brute strength than I have to move the alternator, but I will know when to stop at the next engineer’s place and get it done
·      Checking the engine mounts
·      Checking and refilling the PRM gearbox
·      Oil changing process and changing the filter

I know that for most boaters this stuff is easy peasy lemon squeezy, but for us it’s been a bit of a black art. I’ve known it in theory – after all, I am my father’s daughter and you couldn't assist dad in all the stuff** he needed a labourer for without getting the explanations and process discussed and taught – but I've not actually done it before. I did try to change the oil last year, but the manual failed to mention one critical instruction – undo the nut at the bottom of the pumpy thing so the oil can come out of the pump. That time, we decided it was  better to pay someone to do it for us. Now I feel confident that we can do it ourselves. The only issue is whether I can contort myself down into the engine bay and survive the cricks in my neck and back. I am small enough to fit easily, it's just the contortions that left me feeling rather sore yesterday!

** included building a number of jet boats (wood covered with fiassisting David and me in the renovation of our home in Johnsonville .. unless it was fixing a radio or TV or wallpapering he would do the job.

As we are heading for London, we need to be a bit self sufficient and able to identify and eliminate issues if something goes wrong when we are out of reach of the fabulous Ed. It’s a gradual process, this learning about the boat. Steering it has been easy peasy, but learning how it all works, in the cabin, in the electrical department and in the engine bay has taken some time. We will never be able to do the things I read about on the boating forums - I don’t even know what most of them mean or even where to start looking, but we can now manage the basics.

I am feeling quite chuffed!

Today Tim David from Onboard Solar is coming to fit our 4 solar panels and MPPT controller – another thing to learn about, and as it’s electrics, it’s David’s domain.

I have to go to the bank and get the cash, do some food shopping, go to the chandlers and buy some spares (fuel filter, belts, air filter) plus a marine magnet. We’ve had the Webasto on this morning warming the boat (it is a bit chilly in the Midlands at the moment) and heating the water, so now I can have a shower then make brekkie and face the day – it looks like it’s quite sunny – yay! The forecast last night said it was meant to reach a whole 19 deg C today and that the UV rating would be quite high – what are they on about???

PS We met some more antipodeans yesterday – Diane and Malcolm on Idle Jack who’ve just arrived back from Melbourne in Australia and are moored up a couple of boats away before they head off today. They came over for a glass of wine last night – I have to confess I was asleep on the sofa when they arrived, but it was lovely to see them and I hope we see them again on our travels – they are heading in a different direction at first, but maybe as we converge back here later in the year.

Back on-board


After a long wet drive down from St John’s Town of Dalry on Tuesday we arrived at the boat in Barby Moorings in the late afternoon. We had diverted to Desborough to look for our friends Mick and Julia, owners of the beautiful traditional style nb Arch Stanton. We had seen them on our last day of boating last year, had run down the towpath after them, got their address and phone number and then lost it somewhere between the boat and the new house. Dammit!

Mick and Julia weren’t home at the address David had tracked down through various avenues on the Net, but we left a note for them. Hopefully they will be home before too long and get in touch with us! If any readers see the nb Arch Stanton out and about, can you please tell Mick and Julia we desperately want to hear from them and give them my number (07474 247 857).

So back at the boat, it had to be moved from being breasted up with a few other boats to being on a pontoon so we could decant the contents of the rental car into it.

My first brain fade was in not knowing where the ignition keyhole was … The many years of hiring Black Prince boats was foremost in my mind, but Waka Huia’s ignition and electrical workings are not in the same position … David had to show me. My excuse is that I was tired from 6 hours of driving and still suffering from jet lag. But really my mind just went blank.

The engine started first go and then stopped after a few seconds. That was remedied by Penny who did what I should have done first up - pumped fuel around the system - and we had another go. Bingo! We then extricated ourselves from the ties that bind, reversed out, turned around and made it to the pontoon without touching another boat – I was dead pleased, esp as I’d started off not knowing where to place the key … A bit of redemption there.

We had thought, given Ed was due the following morning to give me engine maintenance tuition, that it would be a good idea to reconstruct the pram cover. So while I was unloading the car and toting stuff to the boat, David was assembling the pieces. Cross purposes – I had meant we should do it AFTER we emptied the car.

As I was running on empty, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and in the interests of not killing each other, the pram cover should be left until we’d had a good night’s sleep. Excellent decision!

Suitcases in the saloon, bed made, food stowed away, ham salad for dinner with chardonnay and muscato and it was good night from her and good night from him shortly thereafter. I was whacked!

We did wake early but that was fine as we’d retired before it was dark. In the middle of the night I had woken and thought about the pram cover and how it fitted together, and thought how sensible we had been not to tackle it on arrival – if I couldn’t remember where the key went, I also could not remember at that time how that damned thing fitted together either! But in the dark of the night, with my mind cleared of extraneous concerns, it came back.

Even so, it took 1.75 hours to get it back up, and even now I have tied the straps that I couldn’t get the through the cinches. I’ll do them today, standing on my stool so I can reach comfortably and see better, and I’ll use a sharpish knife to encourage them … So a fairly long task made longer by the fact that we hadn’t realised that the pieces were not entirely symmetrical and there are differences between the port and starboard fittings, namely the lugs and their corresponding lugholes that needed to be in the right place for the curved struts to slot into. I have to confess that one of them is not slotted in to a lughole – I lost the will to live over swapping the fittings over as it couldn’t be turned by hand in its cup – I had already dropped David’s favourite screwdriver into the cut, never to be seen again – I got the distinct impression that he expected me to climb in and retrieve it, but, as Marta would say, that’s not going to happen. NOTE TO SELF: MARK THE POLES WITH P&S AS APPROPRIATE SO WE PUT THEM ON THE CORRECT SIDE FIRST UP NEXT TIME.

After brekkie – yes, all that effort took place before we had eaten (well, to be strictly honest, we’d had a banana each) – we started to unpack the wardrobes of the bedding that I had vacuum packed in October to help prevent it getting damp, so we could get the clothing stored. But when I opened two of the forward lockers under the sofa to store said bedding, I saw water on the base. David was called to investigate and discovered the source of the water that had plagued us all last season at the inspection hatch at the stern in the galley – there was a leak in the isolation tap on the pipe from the water tank.  

So Ed’s list was growing. But by the time he arrived, the saloon was impenetrable from the rear – I do wish I had taken photos. The suitcases and half of the sofa were covered in sofa cushions and tat (battery drill, drill bits, children’s games, boat manual case, etc) from the lockers. David had mopped up the water and had the fan heater in one locker drying it off. I continued to sort the bedding into single (re-vacuum packed for storage in the lockers later) and double (folded and stored in a plastic tub under our bed). Then I de-vacuumed packed the clothing I had left on-board, and realised that, apart from the going out stuff, I hadn’t needed to bring anything! I counted 12 short sleeved tops already in situ, 5 long sleeved tops, 4 pairs of shorts and two pairs of jeans, lots of socks and underwear plus plenty of footwear! So a lot of what I trundled over here last week and sweated over the packing of and weighing and 3D jigsaw puzzling has been put back in the suitcase and stowed under the bed to be left to lie quietly until October rolls around. I then started on David’s stuff, and found the same thing. NOTE TO SELF: MAKE A BLOODY INVENTORY BEFORE LEAVING IN OCTOBER!!!

The leaking fitting was replaced, the water filter removed (there is one under the sink so two is a bit of overkill), and after an interval to let the paste dry (paste? On plumbing bits? I ask you!) the tank was refilled for the second time – we know that the tank has been flushed good and proper now. NOTE TO SELF: TANK NEEDS TO BE FULLY DRAINED THIS WINTER AS THESE FITTINGS MAY FREEZE AND SPLIT.

There is more about yesterday, but I will post it separately shortly – right now I need to get some brekkie.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Back in the UK

It's 4.30am, I have been awake since 12.30am, David since 11pm. He's trying to go back to sleep but I have officially given up that struggle and am at the kitchen table at Tim and Marta's place having made a cup of tea and found the gluten free apple pies I got from Tescos in Ayr yesterday.

In their house at the moment five out of six inhabitants (not counting Jandal, the enormous dog) are jet lagged. Tim, Olek and Karol arrived back from NZ late yesterday morning and Tim is now reading on the couch in the lounge hoping he'll go back to sleep. I am hoping the boys are still asleep - they managed to stay awake till about 7 last night which was a valiant effort. I didn't do so well and had a bit of a sleep on the couch waiting for them to arrive home.

Our trip over was uneventful after we left NZ, but getting to that point was more interesting. I am beginning to think that we have chosen the wrong time to leave NZ as for the third year in a row,  Wellington's weather has conspired against a seamless journey. Last year we hired a car and drove to Auckland - a drive of about 620 kms (about 390 miles) as the weather was diabolical and we were proved correct in our thinking that our WLG - AKL flight would not eventuate.

We had made the plan this time that if the weather looked like being problematic we would once again hire a car and drive. David hates travelling by car so he was reluctant (esp as there had been 10 road deaths over the previous weekend - the worst weekend in many years) so it was a difficult decision - for him, not me - I prefer driving to flying anytime. The weather forecasters had been predicting gale force winds for the Wednesday but, until Wednesday, had not mentioned them in Thursday's forecast. When we saw that, the reluctant decision was made and on Wednesday afternoon I headed into the city on the train to organise a car. There are a couple of places you can hire a car on the Kapiti Coast but they are local outfits and don't do one-way hires. So through the rain I travelled (well, sat on the train, sat on a bus, walked 500 yards to the hire place). With the car safely back in our driveway in Waikanae, we finished the packing, finished clearing the house - most of which had been done by Joe as I spent ages doing the 3D puzzles that are involved in getting all the things that needed to be brought over into the four allowable bags. Of course, the 4th dimension is weight ... So packing complete, dinner consumed, it was early to bed for an early start. It rained solidly all night, I believe - I did hear it at about 3am and wondered that there was no wind with it. And hoped that David wouldn't be grumpy that the gales hadn't eventuated.

Car packed, breakfast consumed, fridge emptied and left propped open, all power points unplugged, gas, power and water switched off, house locked up and picking our way through the puddles on the driveway, we were in the car and ready to go before 8am. Our neighbours, Jenny and John, had offered to take us to the station for our trip to the airport, and I hadn't had time to see them the evening before to let them know the change of plan. So I called them from the car to be greeted by John asking if I'd heard the disastrous news about the slip blocking the road and closing the rail between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay - 40cu/m of rocks and the road would be closed for most of the day and trains wouldn't be running, the detours usually available were also closed because of slips. And there we were, with a rental car on the northern side of the disaster and an alternative travel plan already in implementation! Did I feel smug, or what!?

So off we headed, keeping up with the news about the weather and conditions in Wellington which only got worse during the day - at first the radio reporter spoke about the Kapiti Coast being cut off - as David and I cynically agreed, the KC was only blocked of its access to Wellington - we could go north then east or west as we chose. After about 10am the reporters were talking in more realistic terms of Wellington being cut off - throughout the day the heavy rain continued over the whole of the Wellington region and transport links were progressively closed - no trains out of Wellington at all, State Highway 2 through the Hutt Valley and over the Rimutaka Hill was closed. The slip between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay was partially cleared and the road was opened to one lane of traffic (this is NZ's version of the M1, mind you), but the police were asking the commuters who'd managed to get in that morning, not to try and leave Wellington but to find somewhere to stay in the city. They indicated that 30,000 people who would ordinarily have gone home to points north and east were going to have to stay put. One such casualty was David's sister Ginny who was due to fly home to Brisbane that day. She had got the train from Masterton, but with the conditions on the railway line between Petone and Wellington, her train stopped at Petone and they were told after 3 hours (by which time her flight was boarding only 6 or so miles away as the crow flies, but the crow wasn't taking passengers) that the train would not be moving until at least 7pm, ie after high tide because of the proximity of the railway line to the harbour (separated by a bank of rocks). Ginny somehow got to the airport to be booked on a flight the following morning and with the requirement to find a bed for the night. Once that was accomplished, she was comfortable. I am sure many others were not so fortunate.

The Kapiti Coast did suffer quite severely with the heavy rain, Waikanae River reached 10 year levels and a number of homes were evacuated. Raumati seemed to suffer quite badly. But of course, once the transport links out of Wellington were out of action, that became the main focus of the news. I haven't managed to find out much more, or how our house fared, but then I haven't yet phoned back to NZ...

Our drive to AKL was pleasant but a bit damp in places. We stopped for lunch at John and Adair's in Pukawa, almost exactly halfway, and then continued on. I managed to muck up avoiding the trek through Hamilton because I forgot where Taupiri was when I saw the SH1b sign to there (David was on the phone to Ginny about then and I was left to my own devices in the navigation game). We got to the car rental place by 6pm and got driven to the airport in their shuttle, checked in without delay and having explained that we had not completed the first flight and why. Then through Security (we had learned our Sydney lesson ...) and on up to The Blue Bar and Bistro for dinner and a couple of well-deserved wines (riesling for him, chardonnay for her) and the wait till boarding.

I was a wreck for the first couple of hours of the flight to Singapore - my tolerance for flying has diminished over the last year - now I not only have to worry about the turbulence and the plane's structural ability to withstand it and the pilots' competence to deal with it, but I also have to contend with suicidal pilots who are happy to take down their passengers in their own bid for self-immolation, rogue rebels or others who decide to shoot down a passenger plane because they can, and airlines that send their planes over Afghanistan because it's cheaper than diverting them over safer airspace and paying a bit more for fuel.

So until the phenergan kicked in to calm me down, I was as David described it, hyperactive. I couldn't sit still, I couldn't relax, I struggled in thinking clearly to make sure I had in reach the stuff I needed during the flight, I needed to pee, I needed a drink of water, I needed to pee, I needed to sleep, I needed to stay awake, I needed to pee, I wanted to hold David's hand, it was too hot to hold his hand, I wanted to watch a movie, I couldn't watch a movie, I wanted to listen to music, I couldn't listen, I wanted to read my kindle, I couldn't read my kindle. On it went until I finally succumbed to sleep. About the only redeeming feature of my travelling style is that I NEVER touch the seat of the person in front of me. I may drive David crazy with my up, down, turn around pick a bale of cotton maniacal behaviour, but I don't haul on the seat back of the person in front of me.

So we proceeded to Singapore, stayed in transit for a couple of hours and then boarded the flight to LHR. I was better that trip - the phenergan was still in my system and I was too tired to be too manic. I slept and watched a movie and read a bit and watched the Flight Path screen and kept an eye as we inched at snail's pace across the Afghan skies, and slept again until we were over the Netherlands. We circled London and Surrey a few times and then landed gently and I took probably my first deep breath in over 24 hours. Do you know how hyper you get when hyperventilating?

Immigration was a breeze with a cheery man at the desk with a great sense of humour, the bags arrived in quick time and we were out through Customs. And what do you know? There was Barry waiting to meet us - an absolutely unexpected pleasure! He was all dressed up in his suit and tie so it was a good thing he had a sign welcoming the Waka Huia treasures back to the UK - that's us if you didn't know.

He helped us with our bags on to the tube to Hatton Cross, wheeled one of them over to the hotel and stayed for a coffee before heading back into the city where he and Pauline were going on a dine and dance cruise. They love to dance and are good at it! We showered, went down for a small meal and then back to bed to sleep - woke at not long after midnight and watched a couple of downloaded pre-election episodes of Have I got News for You and went back to sleep till 5.30, got up, showered, packed (how does David manage to spread so many cables across one hotel bedroom floor? where do they all come from? I am sure it's that procreation programme again - when stored together in the heat of a plastic bag in the dark, they fornicate and mulitply ...), breakfasted and caught the bus over to Terminal 5 for our flight to Glasgow.

I decided that I could not cope with another round of feeling terrified so decided I would not think catastrophic flying thoughts for the duration of the wait at the gate or the flight. Hence it was a pleasant trip. I need to practise that and lengthen the duration of such thinking.

A lovely drive in a Renault Megane down from Glasgow to Dalry, and here we are. It's still not 6am - Olek has been in and tells me he's been awake since 4.30am and is now watching TV, Tim has taken Jandal for a walk. I think I'll go and have a lie down and see if sleep overtakes me for a bit. On second thoughts, I think I'll go out for a bit of fresh air and a walk around the village.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Two days till lift off

So I have commenced the packing and managed to scare myself with how much the first bag weighed on the hanging scale - until I realised I was looking at the gradations for lbs rather than kgs. Doh!! What was even sillier about it is that there is NO WAY I can lift 30kgs without a severe struggle, so why I didn't realise sooner is beyond me.

David has been to visit his mum in Masterton and say goodbye for 5 months. His sister is over from Brisbane at the moment and they have sorted out what to do if things go pear-shaped while we are away. Mary has a wonderful carer who comes in a couple of times a day and on one of her visits brings a plated up evening meal - since Judy has been doing that, Mary's health has improved.

Yesterday Joe started the spring (well, autumn actually) cleaning of the house - the bathroom and toilet are sparkling. Just the rest of the rooms to go today before he leaves us. He has been living with us for almost four years and it feels strange and sad to be saying goodbye, but we all agree it's time.

On Saturday we had an At Home for friends and neighbours to say a temporary goodbye - a lovely event with lots of laughter and mingling of an eclectic group of people. The weather is still so mild here that a number of people sat outside in the sunshine. I did go and get the box of pashminas for additional warmth at one point, and managed to give away two of them - two that I hardly use.

So today there are a few tasks remaining including completing the packing, buying a few more paving stones to be placed under the clothesline and the bags of sand to set them on. Then it's finishing the cleaning and clearing.

We aren't due to leave till Thursday but if the forecast is for crap weather that may stop us flying to Auckland for the international flight, we will hire a car and drive up. So we need to be ready early just in case.

We are excited to be coming back to spend time on the cut, and we also feel sad to be leaving our close friends and new home here in Waikanae. We love it here and are so pleased we made the move.

So another cup of tea and then up and at'em, Atom Ant! The packing and cleaning won't do themselves, now will they?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Grandsons are grand

Tim has brought Olek and Karol to NZ from Scotland for a fortnight while he sorts out their house in Opunake. It's an opportunity for the boys to reconnect with friends up there in Taranaki, and to see family. Yesterday Tim brought them down to Masterton to visit David's mum, (Tim's Grandma Mary) and also David's sister Ginny who is over visiting from Brisbane at the moment.

They then came down to Waikanae - well, actually due west. Waikanae is 50kms due west of Masterton, but much further by road as they are separated by a large range of very high hills with no direct way across without a helicopter or by very long walk. In the UK those hills would be considered mountains, but here they are just big hills. So it is a drive of at least one and three quarter hours, down through the Wairarapa Plains, over the Rimutaka Hill which is about 3000 feet high, then over the much lower Kaitoke Hill towards Upper Hutt, from there it's a right turn into the narrow and winding Akatarawa Valley through the range of hills to Waikanae.

So late yesterday afternoon, earlier than we had expected, YAY YAY YAY, they arrived with us and it was such a lovely thing to see them all. Olek who is the spitting image of their lovely mother Marta, Karol who is a little Tim, and of course the lovely father bear, Tim.

Luke and Diane came for dinner with Lyall so that Tim had a chance to catch up with them. It was a grand evening - dinner was NZ corned beef (a corned silverside joint simmered in water for 3 hours with onion, golden syrup and vinegar), mash, lots of green veges and carrots, followed by banana cake (made using the world famous in NZ, and anywhere that NZers are doing their OE,  Edmonds' recipe) with lemon cream cheese icing, accompanied by cream and hokey pokey ice-cream. Hokey pokey ice-cream is an NZ favourite - vanilla with chunks of hokey pokey throughout. It is yummy, and I decided that it would be a good homecoming treat for Tim in particular. Accordingly, the remains of the 2 litre container has gone back to Opunake, wrapped in copious layers of newspapers and a corrugated cardboard box. Hopefully it stayed frozen enough for them to make good use of it when they are back there.

This morning I took the boys to Southwards Car Museum. http://www.southwardcarmuseum.co.nz/
It is a wonderful tourist attraction and not seen enough - apart from being a lovely wedding venue as the gardens are great for photos. There are a huge number of old and vintage cars there and they are all special. The motorbikes  are amazing - the early ones are so similar to bicycles and as they evolved they developed their own forms and became more streamlined. Strangely, in my view they, like the cars, have become less attractive as they have modernised. It is clearly a function of my age.

The boys enjoyed the museum - they are both keen on cars and their focus is on faster, shinier ones. About 6 years back, I took Olek there when he came to stay with us for a week from Opunake. He absolutely RACED through the place that day and we were all done in about 20 minutes! It took a lot of effort to extend the visit then but today it wasn't rushed. There were a few photos taken by me, and Karol was keen to take some of me too. So when you see them below recognise he's just 5. He did have the technique in how he held the phone tho - I could see his mum's hand position as he aims it to take the photos.

There is absolutely NO accuracy in the juxtaposition of the child and the words ... Karol is a neat 5 year old kid.

Olek and the Impala, I think. He is getting tall (now taller than David's tiny mum) and the car is also very large - not sure I'd see over the steering wheel, BUT I do see over his head still.
Karol liked these Citroens - one seater CVs I think

Just so you know, he didn't like these Reliants, but did think they were funny with their single front wheel

Don't care what the car is, but I know that lovely grandson!
Karol with some of the more modern motorbikes
I think Olek took this one of me by what was labelled as the oddest motorcycle ever

I'm a bit fuzzy, thanks, Karol
Still fuzzy

And I am sure I am in here somewhere!
Don't tell them, but Karol is behind the rope. No touching though!

Love that boy, but what is the car? Actually, I don't care!
The attraction of these mirrors is universal, I think ... the lovely Karol looks like a smurf!

Cute, and we love them dearly


A new NZ cap each (with obligatory silver fern of course) and a Trumpet ice-cream (similar to a Cornetto) before we headed home for lunch with discussions about Taranaki being a volcano and MUCH bigger than any mountains in Scotland, their new home.

Shortly after lunch they headed off back to Opunake. The only thing that made is acceptable to say goodbye to them and have them leave us was that we will see them again in 9 sleeps back in St John's Town of Dalry at their home.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Visiting bloggers, equine excrement, and the inevitable toilets

Last week I went to visit Jenny and Robin Benton at their home in Levin. They had recently returned from a 4 week jaunt around parts of the North Island, and invited David and me to come for afternoon tea with Geoff and Eileen Turnbull.

Geoff and Eileen have a connection with Ray and Diane Pearson's boat nb Ferndale, as they assisted in its maiden voyage when (hope I've got this right) it had a different name and was owned by another couple (Dot and Derek, yes/no?)

We met J&R, G&E a few months ago when they got in touch after reading our blog and seeing that we had moved to Waikanae. Our place is within a bull's roar of both of them - well, nearly. A mere 30 minute drive to Levin and a hip skop and jump to Te Horo where Geoff and Eileen are. They came to us for afternoon tea earlier this year, and Jenny mentioned it on her blog: http://romanyrambler.blogspot.co.nz/2015/01/meeting-crew-from-waka-huia.html

I have driven past Jenny and Robin's several times without knowing it as they are quite close to SH 57 which goes from Levin over to Palmerston North, and when my sister Dee and her husband Murray were staying in PN I drove over to spend time with Dee as often as I could. Dee and Murray have lived in their motor home for 10 years now. While they spend most of their time 'moored up' near New Plymouth, being motor-homers means they can be flexible about where they are located for Murray's truck driving assignments. They had time this summer in Picton followed by Palmerston North. Both are closer to us than New Plymouth is.

Back to last week's afternoon tea, Marilyn. Focus, girl!

So I went on my own to visit with J&R, E&G as David is flat out finishing off his Weaving Memories work prior to our heading away to the boat. He is putting in long hours each day and cannot be allowed away from his desk for pleasurable activities.

It was lovely to see them all again (lots of laughter and chat about boats, caravanning and grandchildren) and to eat home made cake and biscuits - no dinner required for me that night! Of course we did discuss toilets - David and I have ordered a composting loo, so there was much discussion about what to use in place of cocoa bean husks which Jaq Biggs (nb Valerie) tells me are becoming increasingly hard to find in the UK.**  Robin told me that the ones in DOC camps here in NZ use sawdust from (probably) untreated timber and do not smell.  Sounds woth investigating. And the thought of the fresh smell of sawdust being stored in the boat (probably under the bed) is appealing! Probably as nice as the smell of chocolate.

J&R gave me a tour of their home and garden, and as Jenny was showing me her quilts we discovered that we both know Leith McD who had done some machine quilting sewing/stitching for Jenny. I am not sure what it is actually called but it occurs on the giantest sewing machine I have ever seen! So there it was again - the NZ trait of 2 degrees of separation, rather than the standard 6.

I was also massively impressed with the rampant growth of their rhubarb and passionfruit. Robin mentioned horse poo. So, inspired by that, I went out yesterday and paid $2 for a $1 bag of equine excrement on Paetawa Rd a few kms from us (didn't have correct change and it's still a bargain). A few plops of it are now in a bucket filled with water, and horse poo tea is being brewed for pouring around said rhubarb and passionfruit vine. I brought the rhubarb plant up from Cherswud, suitably split and distributed to friends. And our plant hasn't been keeping up with its previous growth rate. We DID used to regularly feed it with horse poo tea, concocted from the neighbours' daughter in law's horses' poo, but hadn't continued the practice here. I guess I had thought that Waikanae has such fertile growing conditions that additional help wasn't required. But both rhubarb and passionfruit are gross feeders. So poo will be applied.

** We went to see Derek and Ted on Saturday morning  to check out their new (to them) campervan. (The visit comprised a tour, breakfast and then back home so David could be set to work again.) Their camper doesn't have a composting toilet (cassette instead). However in their garage, their trailer has 4 giant sacks of cocoa bean husks waiting to be used in their garden ...  I wonder if I could bring one over to the UK as hand luggage or as one of our baggage allowance items?

Ooops! The previous three posts are in the wrong order - Doh!!

I hope you can cope with that! Please start with Part One and make your way to Part Three.