Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Monday, June 29, 2009

We hate wet Mondays

We hate wet Mondays – and today is a shocker, wet, wild and windy.  What a start to the working week.  My workplace is a huge barn of a building and after the weekend it takes a while for the heating to take effect.  About half the staff in my area were home sick today, and the sounds of coughing and sneezing emanated from the ones who had made it to work.

Robin drives a truck so he has been outside in the rain and the wind today.   Although he is well protected from the elements he is still wearing shorts.  As he says, bare legs dry faster than wet trousers!!  Here he is, just returned home from a hard day’s work.

DSCF1508 Robin in his woolly hat, rain jacket, and shorts

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Stokes Valley

We took a trip to Stokes Valley today to call in on our friends Graeme and Kathryn.  Stokes Valley is a suburb of Lower Hutt,  with the valley floor sheltered by the surrounding bush clad hills.  There is an interesting concrete sculpture by the artist Guy Ngan at the entrance of the valley.

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The valley was formed during the ice age approximately 20, 000 years ago by glacial scouring.  The area was first surveyed about 1840, and the uninhabited valley was named after Robert Stokes, one of the six man surveying party.  Gradual settlement took place, firstly with many holiday bach’s (huts)  in the early years.  These days Stokes Valley is covered with modern homes  on the valley floor and on the hills both sides of the valley entrance.

A few door away from our friends home we spotted this large car, an American car lover’s dream by the look of it.  It is covered with many different paintings of wild life, and an American flag on the bonnet.  We are sure it gets many admiring glances from car enthusiasts as they drive by.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Piggy Protectors

With the nasty Swine Flu sweeping the world, we all must wonder what is in store for us all.  Wellington, our Capital City (and not too far from where we live), has been named as the place with the most numerous numbers of cases in New Zealand.  The Health Minister has stated that he expects one in four people to catch swine flu before the pandemic eases.  Just as well we have some piggy protectors looking after us.

DSCF1215 These little beauties are sitting on a shelf by my desk and their job is to keep me safe while I am at work.

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We caught this one sleeping on the job.  He should really be watching over us and keeping us safe at home.  So the message is:  swine flu, keep away, we have protection!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Which means of course that tonight is the longest night. We celebrated with a special turkey Solstice dinner, just the two of us. No, not a whole bird, with wings, drumsticks and a huge body. The chief cook wouldn’t be able to cope with that!! Our turkey was a nice little rolled turkey breast with apricot stuffing, which we found in the freezer department of the supermarket. Served with gravy, roast pumpkin, potatoes and kumara (New Zealand sweet potatoes) and finely chopped silver beet flavoured with garlic, it was was a tasty Winter Solstice dinner. We followed this with an apple and cinnamon bread and butter pudding.

To our friends in the Northern Hemisphere, happy Summer Solstice to you, from us here celebrating the Winter Solstice.

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We found this brave little jonquil flowering all by itself in our garden, just in time for the Winter Solstice.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

To market, to market

We braved the wind and rain this morning and drove down to the Hutt Riverbank Markets this morning.  The bad weather didn’t seem to have kept the customers away.  The main attraction of the market are the many market gardeners who bring their produce down from the Otaki region.  We were looking for fresh vegetables, and there was plenty on offer.  The people selling this produce are the growers so you certainly can’t get fresher than that.

DSCF1478  Part of the riverbank market

After buying our veggies, we went looking for one of our favourite stalls,  the cake stall.  The couple who run it told us that they start baking on Thursdays and cook in 4 ovens at a time.  That’s a lot of home baking!!  We love their fruit cake and melting moments, so just had to take some home.

We came across a couple from Feilding selling their own farmed  lamb which looked so nice that we parted with some more dollars.  We love lamb, so came away with loin chops, leg roast and something we haven’t tasted before, lamb and rosemary sausages.  All in all, we had an enjoyable time in the hustle and bustle, before heading home.  And yes, the rain still kept falling.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just dropped in by Helicopter

DSCF1424 Parked to the side of  the car park  at Mount Bruce on Sunday was a large shiny black helicopter.  We wondered who the important people were and went closer to have a look.  Out came the camera,  and the rotor started up.  Looks like we were just in time, as the visit was nearly over.  The engine changed sound as the rotor speed increased, then up and away  the helicopter lifted off and flew away.

DSCF1426 Off they go to the Tui Brewery

At the reception desk we asked what the helicopter was doing here at Mount Bruce.  Seems that it was owned by an business man in the electronics industry, and the visit was a birthday treat for his young son.    He had just flown his family down from Hawkes Bay for a visit to Mount Bruce, and had kindly donated three transmitters to keep track of released Kiwis.  They were flying on to the Tui Brewery Cafe at Mangatainoka for a birthday lunch.  What a wonderful birthday celebration for the whole family, and the transmitter donation will certainly benefit the endangered species breeding  programme.

DSCF1421 Robin outside the Mount Bruce entrance way

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Feeding Frenzies

DSCF1434 Eels fighting over the food

We timed our walk around the Mount Bruce complex on Sunday to allow us to witness the two feeding displays on offer.  The eel feeding was at 1.30pm.    Now, I really do not like eels at all, they look altogether rather like snakes to me.  (Luckily we do not have snakes in New Zealand).  However, we stood on the bridge over the stream with all the others looking down at the eels.  Those eels certainly knew that feeding time had arrived. The ranger arrived and gave her talk as she tossed tasty eel treats into the water.  The eels churned the water up in a mess of writhing eel bodies as they slid over and under each other in a frenzy to get to the food.  Long finned eels are endemic to New Zealand and can grow up to 2 metres in length.

DSCF1458 Kakas on the feeding platform

Later in the afternoon a large crowd gathered in a clearing to watch the Kaka feeding.  The surrounding trees were full of these noisy birds as they impatiently waited for the ranger to arrive with her bucket full of titbits.  Kakas have brown/green feathers with brilliant flashes of orange and scarlet under their wings.  The feeding platforms were loaded with food and drink while on the ground, then lifted up and bolted onto the stands.  The birds went wild, squawking and screeching as they jostled for position on the platforms.  All these birds fly free and find plenty to eat in the surrounding forest.   The extra food and drink offered in the afternoons gives wonderful photo opportunities to the public, and allows the rangers to check bird numbers.

DSCF1471 Sipping fruit flavoured water

After all this frenzy, things were much quieter inside the Kiwi House.  Kiwis are nocturnal birds and the Kiwi House reverses night and day to allow visitors to see them go about their evening foraging expeditions.  It took a while for our eyes to adjust to the darkness, and then we saw them.  A couple of kiwis poking their long beaks into the soft ground looking for insects to eat.  We could not take any photos of live Kiwis in the Kiwi House due to the low level lighting so took a snap of this Kiwi who had met up with a taxidermist.

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We had a wonderful day at Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre and they are to be congratulated on the wonderful work they do with endangered birds.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pukaha Mount Bruce

On Sunday we visited Pukaha Mount Bruce with our SLG friends.  Mount Bruce is the National Wildlife Centre for threatened species, is run by the Department of Conservation, and has a very successful captive breeding programme.  The Mount Bruce Forest is the last surviving 1000 hectares  of the ancient “70 Mile Bush”, that originally stretched from Masterton to Norsewood.

While enjoying our lunch we could see several Takahe outside through the cafe windows.  In  1958 Elwyn Welch, a Wairarapa farmer and keen ornithologist, took four Takahe chicks back to his farm to safeguard the species from extinction.  The Takahe had been rediscovered in Fiordland 10 years earlier, after being thought extinct for more than 50 years. The chicks were successfully fostered by bantam hens.  The New Zealand Wildlife Service took over Welch's work in 1962, setting up a native bird management reserve in the Mount Bruce Forest.   Takahe are a sturdy bird (about the size of a domestic hen) with beautiful  blue/green feathers and a red beak. 

P6143360 Takahe – the first endangered birds bred at Mount Bruce

As we followed the pathway through the reserve, we came to an enclosure with Kakariki, a small green parrot.  Once flocks of these pretty birds ranged through the forests but are now sadly “in gradual decline”.

P6143364 Kakariki

We were entranced with the antics of the Hihi, or Stitchbird.  They are one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and we had not seen one before.  These busy little birds with their distinctive yellow stripe were quite a challenge to photograph as they flitted around and around their enclosure.  Robin waited patiently with his camera ready for action and finally managed to snap a few photos.  Hihi reared at Mount Bruce are now breeding on offshore islands.

P6143374 Hihi, or Stitchbird

With intensive pest control to eradicate possums, rats, stoats and ferrets, (all introduced pests) the bird life in Mount Bruce forest will continue to increase.  It was a pleasure to walk along the well kept pathways and enjoy the birdsong of the native birds.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Golden Carpet

What a lovely picture this makes – seen down the road from our house.  This lovely tree surrounded by a carpet of golden leaves. 

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The fallen leaves certainly show that the winter season is well and truly here.   

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fishing for Snapper

We went down to the local shopping mall after work today to change our old pre-paid bus cards for the new fangled ones.  Our old “Go Rider” cards have been phased out and we handed them over to a helpful young lady.  She replaced them with the new “Snapper”cards,  transferring the balance remaining onto the new cards.  These Snapper cards are just like the Oyster cards we were using on the Underground in London last year.  You touch the card to the screen on entering the bus, then touch again on exiting, and the fare is calculated and deducted, just like that!!

DSCF1420 We don’t use the bus system a great deal, except perhaps for  the Airport Flyer bus into Wellington.  And we will be boarding that in a few weeks time to have a weekend away in Christchurch, but that’s another story………..

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hot off the Press

Here it is, the story of our overseas trip all printed and bound.  I have been busy over the last wee while copying our blog pages as a Word document, then printing them off on our colour printer, one by one.  We added  a few photos to some of the posts we did when the computer connection was too poor to allow photos to be added at the time.

DSCF1375 Our exclusive “one of a kind” travel book

At over 100 pages, it cost just $5.00 to get spiral bound with covers back and front.  Not too bad, we thought.  Flicking through this will certainly keep the memories alive.  Wonder when we can begin planning our next overseas holiday – guess we will have to keep buying the Lotto tickets!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A touch of Frost

Brrr, it was a chilly morning today with more than a touch of frost outside.  If I had left for work at 6.30am as I usually do, it would have been too dark to notice the frost.  The wooden steps were sparkling in the chilly morning sunshine with a cover of frost making it slippery underfoot.

DSCF1396 Frost on the grass and the leaves have fallen off the grape vine

Mind you, I didn’t surface till after 9.00am as it was my turn to stay home sick today.    Last  week all and sundry were coughing and sneezing around me at work,  so it was just a matter of time till the germs found a new person to infect, me!!  So here I am, with a runny nose, a sore throat and a head ache.  Welcome to winter.

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Yesterday morning we spotted this rainbow in the sky, isn’t it pretty.  Wonder where the pot of gold is hidden?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It’s our Blogging Birthday

That’s right, our blog is one year old today. Originally set up to record our overseas trip last year, it worked really well as we travelled around Britain, with stop-overs at Singapore and New York. We decided to keep it active when we returned home. This is blog number 190 and we still have plenty of messages and photos to post on the blog. We travel around in our caravan regularly and there are still lots of places we haven't seen, and adventures and new experiences to be had.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hard at work

No complaints about the weather today – we were having a weekend at home after being away last weekend in atrocious weather, and it was good to get those long overdue jobs done.   Fluttering outside was our New Zealand flag on the flagpole.  Robin decided to make the most of the sunny afternoon and clean our 4WD.  After a trip down to the coast last weekend along an unsealed road, it certainly needed cleaning.

DSCF1384  Robin hard at work

It has been a matter of “hubble bubble” in the kitchen while I was boiling up a batch of Kiwifruit jam.  When we were growing up these little furry fruits were known as Chinese Gooseberries.   More than a century ago in 1904, Isabel Fraser returned from a trip to China with some very special black seeds. Horticulturist, Alexander Allison sprouted those seeds and in doing so, started the beginnings of growing Kiwifruit in New Zealand.  These days  Kiwifruit come with either green or the newer gold flesh.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Is that smoke I can smell?

It started off as an ordinary work day for me.  Head down, fingers tapping away, concentrating on the data entry work that I do.  Then……..is that smoke I can smell?  I asked around my work-mates to see what they thought.  Some had winter colds and couldn’t smell anything.  The smell of smoke was getting stronger so I approached our Team Leader.  No, she was another one with a cold and couldn’t smell it either.  Well, I decided, I’m not sitting here if something is wrong and no one is going to do anything about it, so I went out to the office – Business Support,  they call themselves these days.  I was told that workmen were up in the ceiling servicing the air conditioner and the smell would be checked out.

Back I went to my desk and then heard bang, bang, bang up above.  We all looked up and gazed in amazement.  The ceiling tiles were  shaking up and down as someone was running overhead along the rafters.  Something was definitely wrong.  Just then the fire alarm sounded.  With the smell of smoke stronger than ever we grabbed our coats and bags and hurried outside. 

DSCF1361 Smoke coming out of the vent

Gathering outside in our teams we heard someone say,  “Look at the smoke”.  White smoke was billowing out of one of the vents in the roof.  Just as well I had my camera with me!!  With the siren blaring, the fire appliance arrived.  We watched as the firemen donned their breathing apparatus and went inside the building.  They finally came out and announced it safe for us all to return inside. 

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We needed a caffeine fix to sooth the jangled nerves so stopped at the canteen for a cuppa.   Several of the panels had been removed from the ceiling close by my area.  We were told later that the ceiling cavity had been full of smoke so that is why the workman was in such a hurry to escape.  The smell of smoke was still in the air as we settled back to work.   I kept glancing at the exposed ceiling thinking that the day could have ended so very differently.  That was enough excitement for the day.

DSCF1369 Checking the damage

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Snow on the Tararuas

The stormy weather has passed on, leaving snow on the top of the Tararua Ranges, sparkling in the winter sun shine.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Down the coast to Tora

“Let’s take a trip to Tora”, Robin suggested on Sunday.  Might as well, the weather was cold and miserable. We were fed up with walking through the boggy conditions at the Motor Camp.  A polar blast was travelling up the country, bringing freezing temperatures and hail storms.  A run in the 4WD to the coast sounded just the thing this afternoon.  Geoff and Eileen decided to join us as well, so off we set.  We stopped to have a look at the Hau Nui Wind farm.  The blades on the turbines spun around in the wind, generating electricity for the National Grid.  Clearly a hail storm must have passed by recently, as hail stones were lying all over the ground. 

DSCF1349 Turbines at the Hau Nui Wind Farm

From the turn off  at Tutuamuri the road became one lane only and unsealed as it wound its way down to the coast.  Luckily there was not a great deal of traffic to contend with.  The Tora coastline is wild, rough and rocky at the best of times, and in the middle of such bad weather is was particularly rough.  Huge breakers pounded the rocky coastline and debris covered the road in places.

DSCF1357 Tora Coastline

We spotted part of a long ago shipwreck in the surf, which we were told was the Cleopatra.    The bow, boiler and stern are still quite recognisable and must all attached together under the  water line.

DSCF1354 Wonder when this ship went down?

Tora is well known as a fishing village and there is a small population living there, as well as some weekend holiday homes.  However, the population is set to increase as we noticed that there is a  new subdivision offering sections for sale.  Guess only hardy souls would want to live here, in this wild, windswept place.  Don’t think the wind stops blowing even in summer time.

DSCF1358 A bit dilapidated, don’t you think?