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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Firing up the Weber

A pork roast for dinner – let’s try it in our Weber Baby Q.  The BBQ certainly cooks a leg of lamb to perfection, so we were hoping that a piece of pork would come out just as nice. 

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Firing up the BBQ

The first thing to do was to prepare the skin for crackling.  Robin had found a hint on the Weber Owner’s Face Book page – so easy that we wondered why we had not thought of it ourselves.  And it worked beautifully – although we probably aren’t allowed to divulge such secrets to non Webber owners!

Delicious aromas filled the air outside in our small courtyard as  the pork was cooking.  Using a meat thermometer makes cooking a roast easy – when the meat reaches the required temperature, it is done.

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Half way through the process

When the pork was done we took it off the BBQ to rest for a while (that’s what the TV chefs tell you to do) and took the roast veggies out of the pan and onto the grill plate to get nice and crispy.

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Pork is cooked, roast veggies almost done

That gave me time to cook some lovely fresh asparagus, make some gravy, and then we were ready to sit down and enjoy our Sunday roast.  And there is nothing nicer!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Lunch at Kiwitea

Where is Kiwitea where our rellies live – you may well  ask?  It is about 20kms up SH54 from Feilding, a tiny speck of a place, and named after a light coloured kiwi, so Mr Google told me.  Our daughter and family have lived the rural lifestyle on a 10 hectare block for some years now and enjoy the country life.  Dad Robert and the two girls are heavily involved in horses, and compete in all sorts of horse events and the local hunt.  With the two grand-daughters having birthdays to celebrate, a lunch time get-together was in order.

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Through Feilding, on the way to Kiwitea

We drove past several paddocks awash with neon yellow flowers, which we presume is canola?

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Paddocks of yellow canola, perhaps

The presents were swiftly opened, followed by a tasty lunch.  Then we showed them a slideshow of our recent holiday aboard the mighty Ghan Railway.

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Big squishy parcels for the girls

Robert left on his quad bike to lend a hand at a neighbour’s place up the road.  His young dog Noodle went along for the ride, perched quite happily on the back of the bike.

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Robert and Noodle going to lend a hand

I had to go and see the horses – according to the grand-children this is a must do visit each time I come to up here.  So off I trotted, shod in a pair of borrowed gum boots, to carefully pick my way through the squelchy paddock, passing the small flock of sheep and their lambs.  The sheep weren’t at all interested in me and couldn’t get away fast enough.

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Lamb chops in the paddock

Emma is very proud of her foal Fire Dancer, who shares the same birthday as me, I was told.  Guess there aren’t too many grand-mothers who had a foal born on their birthday!  We took carrots over to give the horses, and they were taken from our hands with gentle horse lips.


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Emma and Fire Dancer

Then we walked to an adjoining paddock to say hello to Sonata, mother of the foal Fire Dancer.  Sonata very carefully sniffed Robin’s hands – perhaps she was looking for carrots too?

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Emma and Robin with Sonata

Visit over, it was time to get in the car and head for home.  We didn’t come away empty handed though – and brought home a bunch of young tomatoe plants for the garden, plus some parsley.  That’s handy, now is the time to plant them, I think.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Probus Car Rally

A car rally sounded like fun, and we were pleased that yes, we were home, and doubly important, could fit it in.  No appointments, meetings, having to be somewhere else – and even better, no lunch and hot thermos to prepare and take with us.  We were booked in “somewhere” for lunch, we were told, but the participants had no idea where they would end up.  But that is the fun of a car rally, isn’t it?

The Probus club committee seem to run these rallies every year or so, but this was the first one we had attended.  We gathered in the car park with all the other eager beavers, and were presented with a little bag of goodies each, an emergency kit, we were told, containing a few sweets and a tissue.  The sweets to eat during our journey, and the tissues in case the driver says harsh words to the navigator and makes her cry!  Well, that’s what I reckon, anyway.

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Awaiting instructions

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The cars were sent off at regular intervals, using a stop-watch, no less.

Finally it was our turn.  Our President Dave peered through our open window,  handed over the instruction sheets, and told us that he had written his cell phone number down in case anyone got lost.  With our emergency kits safely stashed away on the dash board, and a bottle of water to hand, we were sent on our way – out into the great unknown.

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Dave telling us to go, and our bags of sweets

I carefully read each instruction out – turn right at T intersection, left at the cross road, cross the railway line, and so on.  It took an amazing 20 instructions to get out of town and onto SH57 travelling north.  Then we left the busy road again and following instructions, meandered through country roads we had never travelled on before.  You know you are on a country road when you see signs telling you to watch out for wandering cattle.  And it was further reinforced when we travelled along an unsealed road – hadn’t been on one of those for a while.

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Unsealed country road

We drove along the back roads to Shannon, turning left and right through lush green farmland as instructed, finally arriving at Ashurst where we were directed to the Domain in case the drivers needed a comfort stop.  After all that driving and navigating we certainly did.  The sports pavilion was covered in paintings, showing pictures of locals enjoying themselves in both earlier times as well as in the present day.

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Painting covering the sports pavilion

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More windmills – didn’t we see these last week?

On the way out of town we came across some “tree art” where someone had been busy cutting and shaping their tree into a koru shape.  It looked so good we had to backtrack to take a photo.

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Interesting tree art in Ashurst

The trip continued on and we started taking guesses as to where we would end up.  The last clue guided us into a car park festooned with balloons, telling us we had reached our lunch destination.

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We arrived safe and sound

We had made it to the Rangitikei Club, and there was time before lunch to enjoy a coffee, cup of tea, or even a beer.  As we sat down to talk about how the rally went for the various car loads, and some admitted to getting a little lost, our President totted up the answer sheets and announced the winners.  It was car number 5, with 100% correct answers.

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Guess who won!

Our morning concluded with lunch in the club restaurant, and must admit it was very reasonably priced too.  Roast pork was on the menu so of course that was our choice, while others enjoyed fish, chicken pie, or toasted sandwiches.  Lunch over, it was time to thank the organizers and head back home.  Not back tracking over the long meandering scenic route we took to get there is the first place, but the much more direct route along the main road.  It was a great day out, thanks Probus.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cream Horns, Picnic Lunch, and Card Making

Sunday at the caravan rally was full to bursting.   We shared weekend  Rally Captain duties with Dot and Derek, (our day was Saturday)  and they planned a very full Sunday for us.  What better start to the morning than a ride up to Sanson to Viv’s Kitchen, and sample one of her world famous cream horns?  Our previously booked tables were ready and waiting for us – bookings for a group are essential at this very popular café – and 15 happy campers trooped inside for morning tea.  There was soon a long queue waiting to place their orders.

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Caravan Club members waiting to place their orders

Most of us ordered cream horns, although I noticed a few other choices on the tables.  We had time to walk around the garden after morning tea.  There are a lot of changes happening outside, new outdoor seating, and a new ablution block planned shortly.

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Selwyn, Kath, Jenny and Robin

Morning tea over, we headed northwards to see the windmills of Apiti Wind Farm slowly turning their blades on the hills near the Manawatu Gorge.  These windmills have a hypnotic quality about them and it doesn’t pay to get fixated on their motion when you should be concentrating on the road!

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Apiti Wind Farm

Our destination was to the lovely Pohangina Valley to check out a venue for an upcoming rally.  Oops, nearly missed the sign.


We were looking for the former Pohangina School, now run by the community as a picnic and camping area.  Families were enjoying a picnic in the grounds under the shady trees, while others were having fun on the playground equipment.  Such a lovely place, it will be perfect for our rally early next year.  In the meantime out came our folding chairs and tables and we enjoyed our own picnic in the sunshine. On our drive back to camp, we just had to stop at a local shop and purchase an ice-cream – what a great finish to a nice sunny afternoon’s drive.

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Picnic at Pohangina

We all gathered in the hall in the evening and were handed a pack containing a card making kit.  We all had the same assortment, and it was our choice to use all or just some of what what provided.  Plus glue, of course.  Here we are -  a study of concentration as we decided on the best way to put our Christmas card together.

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Card making exercise

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The finished products were rather good

As Sunday was my birthday, we provided some goodies for supper.  Robin had tried his hand at making an old favourite from years ago, chocolate crackles, made with rice bubbles and kremelta.  Several of the caravan club men do some baking occasionally, so I’ll have to encourage Robin to keep it up! 

And talking of cards, this is the birthday card which Robin presented to me, with one of my favourite TV characters, Sheldon, from Big Bang Theory.  I’m not usually a fan of American comedy, but can’t get enough of this band of highly intelligent but socially inept misfits.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sheep Skin Tour at Oroua Downs

Saturday morning at Oroua Downs School was nice and sunny so it was a no brainer to have Morning Tea outside.  Kath’s birthday was coming up fast, so she brought along some home baking to share with us all.  And we welcomed Life members Elaine  and Peter, who came to spend the day with us all – it was so nice to see them again.

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Kath and Selwyn, Elaine and Peter

The rest of the morning was free so I had a look around the school buildings.  And discovered a wall of history, tiles painted by the pupils, telling the story of the local area.  Bridgette Murphy from the Rangiwahia Arts Trust researched, collecting stories that could be told in pictures painted on tiles, and gathered an interested group of pupils together.  One of the stories, painted on a series of tiles by pupil Connor Hughes, is about the original Oroua Downs homestead, dragged from Foxton by bullocks, reaching Oroua Downs as night fell.  Extra help in assisting with the tile painting came from the staff of Ceramic Studio in Palmerston North, who then took the tiles to be fired.  The end result is a mosaic of decorated tiles, certainly something for the school to be proud of.

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Tiles painted by school pupils

After lunch we had organized a visit through Oroua Downs Sheepskin factory, just a little way up the road. 

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Outside Oroua Downs Sheepskin Ltd

Although the company no longer tan sheepskins, they do the finishing of rugs, manufacture car seat covers, and slippers.  Manager Andrew showed us the various processes involved to make the rugs soft and supple.  It certainly seems quite a hands on business, ably run with just two staff members these days.

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Andrew demonstrating the finishing processes

And now for something he had prepared earlier………. our lovely new set of sheepskin car seat covers.  When we had called into the business several weeks ago to book the tour, we chose some natural coloured sheepskins and Andrew added the extra head fitting and straps to turn them into seat covers for us.  Robin was happy – he has been waiting a long time for cozy sheepskin covers. 

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Our new seat covers

Saturday evening was a film night in the hall, when Robin presented a slide show of our recent trip on the Ghan Railway.  What a wonderful experience it was, great service, fine dining, and interesting off train excursions.  It’s certainly piqued our interest, and we would rather like to travel on the Indian Pacific train now.  Many thanks to Selwyn for the loan of his projector and screen for the evening show. 

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Memories of the fabulous Ghan Railway trip

Monday, October 24, 2016

Weekend at Oroua Downs

It’s been a long time between caravan rallies, as far as the man of the house is concerned.  Never mind that we spent several weeks travelling around Australia – that doesn’t count.  With the three day Labour Weekend to look forward to, he finally got his wish, and we travelled about 30km up SH1 to Oroua Downs school.  The only problem with having a caravan rally in school grounds is that entry is not allowed till about 4.00pm, to allow the children to leave the grounds safely before our caravans turn up.  But we had a cunning plan so that we would not waste all those hours.  Those interested would leave home early, and meet up somewhere for lunch.

Our lunch stop was to be the Manawatu Boating Club grounds, on the banks of the Manawatu Estuary, and we were first to arrive.  The wind was fierce, and luckily we had parked the caravan against the wind, so that we weren’t fighting to open and close the door.

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First to arrive for lunch

The cold wind didn’t seem to deter the keen fisherman trying their luck  from the wharf - and with the number of noisy squawking gulls around this fellow, it was obvious he was hauling up a few fish from time to time.

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Fishing off the wharf

One by one the other caravans arrived.  I put the billy on for a cuppa, sandwiches were prepared, and we all ate lunch together in our van.  It was a very pleasant afternoon, chatting away and putting the world to rights.

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We now have company

The time ticked by and it was finally time to leave and drive up to the school grounds.  Not too far to go, and we all made good time.

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There was a bit of too-ing and fro-ing as the drivers decided where best to park the vans.  Although the ground looked flat, there was a  definite tilt, and some of us had to get the levelling blocks out.  Finally, five caravans and three motor-homes were parked up, and our weekend began.

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Parked up at Ororua Downs School

We had the use of a small hall for the weekend.  The hall was built in the 1890s and started life as a Sunday School hall in Sanson, and cost 166 pounds to build.  In 1963 the hall was put up for tender, was moved to Himitangi, and was used by several different groups in the area.  It was moved again in 1992 to the school grounds, where it now used by a group running an after school programme.

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The old hall, built in 1890s

We did wonder the story behind the aircraft propeller mounted on the wall.  It came from a RNZAF training aircraft which had crashed near Ekatahuna in 1943, and was donated by Mr  Bill Kendall to the Air Scout Troop which met in the hall in earlier years.

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Propeller from training aircraft

Friday evenings are fairly low key and we met in the hall to catch up with everyone’s news.  As usual, Friday night is joke night, and we can always count on Val to come along with a few jokes to read out.  With a three day weekend there were plans afoot to keep everyone busy and entertained.  To make these plans happen, we really wanted fine weather.  Check in later to see what we got up to.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Visiting the Foxton Stripper

It was a day out with the boys when the Menz Shed blokes invited their spouses out for lunch in Foxton.  We all met at the Dutch Oven Café, checked out the cabinet display.  Consequently, three helpings of macaroni cheese and one large sausage roll and salad was delivered to our table.

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At the Dutch Oven Café

Lunch over, the team gathered at the Flax Stripper Museum, which opened in 1990.  Volunteer Tony Hunt was extremely knowledgeable about the history of flax in the area.

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Foxton was the only town in New Zealand to develop a large-scale flax industry which lasted from 1888 to 1974.  The production of flax fibre was Foxton's principal source of income and three generations of workers found employment in the swamps and mills of the district.  The invention of a machine (known as a stripper) to extract fibre from the flax leaves could eventually produce 560 pounds of fibre in a day, and led to large scale production. This was draped outside to dry and bleach in the sun.

The invention of the stripper quickly led to the development of a substantial export trade and the establishment of flax dressing factories in many parts of New Zealand.  Flax mills were usually situated in close proximity to a flax swamp and on the banks of a river or stream, for a good supply of running water was needed to wash the fibre after it had emerged from the stripper. Most of these early mills were powered by steam engines, but some utilized water wheels, or were driven by horses walking in a circle.  In the late 1800s there were 50 mills operating in the Manawatu area.

Tony gave us a demonstration of this rather lethal looking machine and fed flax leaves though the stripper.  Whoosh, with a hiss and a roar the leaves were sucked through the machine in a blink of an eye.  

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The Stripper machine

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And came out looking like this

The flax industry went through several boom and bust cycles, disease spread through the plants, cheaper fibre from overseas became available, all contributing to the local decline.  Woolpacks and Textile Company kept the local economy afloat manufacturing wool packs, flax underfelt, hardwearing  matting, and in  1955 the 100% sisal carpet, cordella, was introduced.  But tastes and times were changing and the factory was closed in 1980s.

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Examples of hard wearing sisal matting

Of course, before all this mechanization, the Maori people knew all about flax, weaving it into baskets and mats, and using the fibre to make ropes, footwear and clothing.  The nectar from its flowers made a sweet drink. The crushed roots made poultices for skin infections, and produced a juice with disinfectant and laxative properties. The gum from the base of the leaves eased pain and healed wounds, especially burns. The leaves themselves could be used as bandages and to secure broken bones.

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Clothing utilizing flax

The “Keep Foxton Beautiful” group were instrumental in securing the last remaining flax stripper for the museum.  And what a good thing it was rescued, a very important piece of Foxton’s heritage.  Many thanks to Tony Hunt for an interesting afternoon.