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

Friday, 28 June 2013

Flat Pack Magic

We’ve just had our first venture into the flat pack world.  We were after some white melamine finished cabinets for garage storage.  Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are sold in a flat pack along with all the hardware needed for assembly, and have been around for ages.  Because home owners do the assembling, it is quite a reasonable option.  All of the parts have been cut to size, holes drilled, and all the hardware fittings needed for assembly are supplied.   Then the parts are stacked, wrapped, delivered to the hardware shops.  All Robin had to do was to decide which sort he wanted, hand over some money,  load them in the back of the 4WD to take home, then assemble them.
DSCF5764 Just about done

Once the first one was assembled, putting the second unit together was a piece of cake.  Robin found the instructions perfectly adequate, and the only tool needed was a screwdriver.  The assembled units have been placed in position in the garage, and are just about filled up already.  We will probably need to buy a few more shelves for them, as there are only three shelves supplied for each unit, not nearly enough for our needs.  And perhaps we should buy a third cupboard so we can tidy up even more garage stuff?  Not sure – we will have to think about that.   

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Volunteer Driving again

Now we are reasonably well settled into our new home, Robin was keen to get back into his volunteer driving duties for the Cancer Society.  His application to become a driver for the Horowhenua area was gladly accepted, but first he had to be shown  the ropes.  Ray, the Driver Co-ordinator, collected Robin today to show him around the hospital.  Some patients go in for treatment, while others have specialist appointments, and the volunteer drivers make transport to the hospital one less thing for these sick people to have to worry about.  After a very quick cuppa, they were off and on their way.


They drove through to Palmerston North Hospital, where Ray pointed out the Cancer treatment wing, where to drop off and collect the patients, and where to park the car.  Now he knows the ropes, Robin will be all set to drive solo with a patient next time.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Concrete Guys came back

The sun has returned, and so did the concrete guys today, to finish off our job.  The concrete truck arrived with a hiss and a roar, driving the wrong way up our one way street in our village.  Robin removed our 4WD from the car park, and the driver backed the concrete truck into this space.  This would make it closer to where the concrete was needed, without blocking off the narrow road.  

DSCF5756 The concrete truck has arrived

But first the workmen had to add some sand to the base, level it out, then get the compactor on the job.  That didn’t take too long at all.

DSCF5755Compacting the area

Then it was all hands to help, as the concrete flowed down the shute, and into the barrows. Even the boss man was there to help.  Just don’t tell the caretaker that everyone is trampling his brand new lawn, which hasn’t really had time to get established. 

DSCF5760 Filling up the barrows

It took quite some time for the concrete to be poured, levelled off and then screed.  Those blokes were busy all day working in both the back and side yards. 


DSCF5768  A job well done

The workers will return tomorrow to remove the boxing, we were told.  Now that job is ticked off our list, Robin can see about getting his new shed.  And shift the clothesline.  We’ve still got a long list of things that need doing.  Perhaps he should sow some more lawn seed too, where it has all been flattened and walked over.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Shortest Day

Today is the “shortest day” in our part of paradise.  There's snow on the Tararua Ranges behind us and a definite chill in the air. 

P6218046 Snow on the Tararua Ranges

Here in Levin we seem to have missed the worst of the polar blast sweeping the country.  Wellington, our capital city, wasn’t so lucky.  The weather forecaster was quoted as saying, “The storm hit like a freight train”.  With 25,000 homes without power, wind gusts of 140kph, trains, planes and ferry crossings cancelled, we are pleased that we no longer live and work in the Wellington region.  We are cosily tucked up inside our new home with the heat pump keeping us warm, plenty of food in the cupboards, and no reason to venture too far from home.

The 21st June is also celebrated for another reason.  In 1964 on this day the Beatles arrived in New Zealand.  How I wished I could have been amongst the screaming crowds to see them – but it wasn’t to be.  Never mind – 49 years later, I’ve just about got over my disappointment!  

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Big Egg

Various towns around New Zealand have something to skite about.  Ohakune has the Big Carrot, and Taihape has the Big Gumboot.  Here in our new home town of Levin, there is the Big Egg.  Actually, all we saw was a sign, we really didn’t see a big egg at all.  But we called around to The Big Egg Company this morning to purchase some free range eggs.

DSCF5732 Free range eggs this way

It wasn’t hard to decide which grade of eggs to buy.  Jumbos, of course.  Robin loves his eggs for breakfast, so why buy tiny eggs when we can get jumbos?  I can see we will be having a bacon and egg breakfast tomorrow.

DSCF5731 Inside the shop

The extinct New Zealand Moa must win the prize for the largest egg.  Imagine how much scrambled eggs you would get from an egg this size.  Fragments of moa eggshell are often encountered in archaeological sites and sand dunes around our coast line.  Thirty six whole moa eggs exist in museum collections and vary greatly in size (from 120–240 millimetres (4.7–9.4 in) in length and 91–178 millimetres (3.6–7.0 in) wide

Moa egg

During the first century or so after their arrival in New Zealand from Polynesia (1250–1300 AD), the Maori people extensively hunted moa as a ready source of food.  Moa bones were carved into fish hooks and pendants, and the skins and feathers were made into clothing.  Weighing up to 250Kg and 2.5 metres high, these magnificent birds were hunted to extinction by about 400 years ago.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Getting some Blokes in

A couple of good keen blokes called around today, ready to start our small concreting jobs in the back yard.  First they had to dig out the area by hand, and the soil was piled up on our brand new lawn.  Oops, that won’t do the tender baby blades of grass much good at all.  It didn’t take too long to dig out where the extra path and clothes line pad is to go, and put the boxing in place.
DSCF5722 Preparation for clothes line pad

Digging out the other area was a much bigger job, and all the heavy rain falling over the last few days made the soil very heavy.  Millie the dog was there to keep an eye on the boys, and make sure they were doing a good job.  Millie belongs to the boss, but obviously likes spending time with the young workers.  “She keeps an eye on us, but she doesn’t tell us what to do”,  one of the lads told me.  And our cat Muffy was keeping a good watch on the dog through the windows, we noticed.

DSCF5713  Hard at work with Millie watching

We ended up with a huge pile of dirt from this area.  The contractor took some away for us, and we are keeping the balance to use in a raised garden.

DSCF5716Our brave little lemon tree  is overshadowed by the big pile of dirt

DSCF5723All boxed out

The workers carried many barrows of dirt out to their truck, and they will be able to use it at other projects.  Then they borrowed our hose and carefully hosed down all the mud from the paths.  Our friends Anne and Les had come visiting from the Wairarapa for lunch, so there was a lot going on to keep them amused.  While we were enjoying our pumpkin soup we heard “bang, bang, bang” right above us.  It sounded like someone was up on the roof!  What on earth was going on? 

DSCF5717 Who is that on our roof?

Another couple of blokes had turned up, and sure enough, there they were, up on the roof.  They were there to replace a few damaged tiles, and to paint over some which were scratched, they told us.
DSCF5721 Repairs and repaint

Anne and Les wanted to call around to R J Liquorice shop for some more supplies before they started their journey home, but couldn’t remember how to get there.  “Follow us”, we told them, “we could do with some more liquorice to nibble too”.  We took them over the railway lines, around a few corners, and we arrived at RJs.  Buying a couple of packets each, we were happy  to get our liquorice fix, and waved our visitors goodbye.   Well, it certainly turned out to be a busy old day.   

Monday, 17 June 2013

Water, water, everywhere

It’s been a wet couple of days here, the rain just keeps coming down.  And then while we were out and about today we spotted this, even more water.  A water spout down the street – looks like the workmen hit the pipes.  There is a whole lot of work being done down this road, digging up the footpaths, replacing pipes, re-laying the concrete paths.  And in the middle of it today we saw not one, but two spouts of water erupting. 

DSCF5708Quick, turn off the tap

The contractor doing all the concrete work down the street is coming to do a small job at our new house. He called around today with one of his workers to show him what needed doing.  “How are you going on your big job down the road?”, I asked him.  He’s got enough work from the local council to last him 2 years, was his reply.  Luckily, we won’t have to wait till then before we get our own small job done.  He expects to be up our way any day now – weather dependant, we suppose.  So hopefully, we will soon have a path laid, and a pad for under the clothesline in the back yard.  Once this is done Robin can move the clothesline to its new position, and  finally get a shed.  We are also getting concrete laid in the area outside our dining room where we can sit and have BBQs in a few months time.  The shortest day is coming up fast, then it will count down to summer.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Black Beauty comes to Levin

An eye catching steel and fibre glass sculpture of a magnificent horse has recently appeared at the southern end of Levin.  This sculpture stood proudly in front of the Awapuni Hotel, Palmerston North,  since the 1990s.  But the pub was being demolished and Black Beauty was to be sent away to the scrap metal yard.  Local stonemason Richie Cornell of Designer Stones was having none of that.  A regular at the pub in his younger days, he had always admired the horse.  Richie decided he must save Black Beauty and give him a new home.

After agreeing on a price, the next step was working out how to transport the large sculpture which weighed well over a tonne.  A friend who owned a crane offered his help, and a special harness was procured to do the lifting without causing any damage.  After decades of exposure to the weather and little maintenance, the horse needed a fair bit of painstaking restoration.  All worth the effort, Richie said, who created the cradle on which to display the horse.  With his head down, and his hooves and tail flying in the wind, Black Beauty is now on display in the front paddock of Richie’s home for all to passers by to enjoy.

P6148043 Black Beauty rides again

This magnificent piece was the work of J. A. Fligel, originally from Scotland but who now lives in Toronto.  During 1992 - 1993  he travelled to New Zealand where he designed and built the large stylized horse for the Awapuni Hotel, made of metal and mixed media.  No doubt he would be very pleased indeed that his horse did not end up in the knackers yard, after all.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

A Day of Roses and Jam

What to do with our SLG friends for the day?  That was the question.  It was my turn to organise our monthly get-together.  This usually involves a visit somewhere or other interesting, a stop for refreshments, and now that we are all getting that a little bit long in the tooth, we have to factor in a comfort stop or two along the way.  Oh dear – the joys of getting older!  I decided to see what was available locally, in our new home town of Levin. 
 DSCF5656 Long stemmed rose

It was a day with a difference alright, starting off with a visit to “Roses by Rusden”.  We knew Russell from way back, and he was happy to accommodate our group with a tour though his greenhouses.  Russell and his wife Denise bought the business in 1996 after being made redundant from Telecom – just like Robin was, all those years ago.  It was certainly a steep learning curve for them both.

DSCF5654 Russell talking about the rose business

The two greenhouses are slowly being changed to all hydroponic management.  The roses are purchased as seedlings, and are grown two to a pot.  Russell’s busy day starts with cutting blooms in the early mornings, pruning, and checking for any pests, such as aphids.
DSCF5657 The hydroponic greenhouse

Growing roses is a 7 day a week operation, and these long stemmed beauties are bred for the cut flower market.   The flowers are cut in the early morning, and stored in the large chiller which keeps them fresh.  Packing is done two days a week, when the roses are sorted into length and different varieties, and graded by the straightness of the stems.  The bottom leaves and thorns are stripped off, and the roses  are put into bundles of 10, known as a deck.  Rusden’s roses are sold to local florists, supermarkets, and the excess gets sent to market.  Fourteen different varieties are grown, and 75,000 stems are cut each year.

DSCF5658 Buckets of beautiful roses

Before we left, we were invited to choose some roses to take home with us.  It was interesting to see how the we ladies gravitated to different colours.  My choice was more in the pastel line, and I was very happy with my bunch of freshly picked roses.  Russell gave us a few tips on how to make the blooms last longer, such as to cut the stems on an angle, and place them in warm water. 

P6128042 What a beautiful bunch

After a tasty lunch at Te Horo Cafe, our next stop was a visit to Te Horo Foods.  Crossing over the Main Trunk lime, we travelled  down narrow country roads, finally turning into the farm where some of the fruit is grown. We were given a tour through the kitchen, where the smell of lovely fresh raspberry jam greeted us.  I was surprised to see that the jam is cooked up in small batches, using a preserving pan, just like the one I use myself at home.  Te Horo Foods make their jam from 100% pure New Zealand fruit, natural sugar and a trace of butter to help the cooking process.  As the label says, “each batch is individually  hand made, using traditional methods and recipes”.  That's certainly true.

DSCF5662  Raspberry jam being cooked today

The jam is then cooled before being put through this machine which pottles and seals the jam, which is then packed into cartons, ready to be delivered to supermarkets throughout the country.



After our look through the operational areas, we were taken back to the office building where a spread of pikelets, Te Horo jam and cream awaited us, together with tea and coffee.  There was much discussion on which jams to try, and we all had our favourites.

DSCF5673  Afternoon tea

Having eaten our full, we were each presented with a pottle of Omega plum jam to take home, and most of us purchased another one or two as well – our choices were blackberry and raspberry.  That should keep us going for a while.  Our day of roses and jam came to an end, we said our goodbyes, and headed off home.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bright and Shiny

Our 4WD looks so bright and shiny after it’s paint job.  Gone are those awful white splodges of paint on the bonnet and the roof where the dark paint has been breaking down.  Our strong New Zealand sunshine full of UV rays is well known for causing paint damage. What had happened was the clear coat had broken down under our harsh UV conditions and once that had occurred the colour went as well; the vehicle being a Japanese import was manufactured for the local market in Japan so the paint did not conform to the same spec’s as would be required for a NZ new vehicle.. The top of the roof, bonnet and right front guard all suffered this condition so virtually the vehicle has been half re-sprayed and is now looking a million dollars.
 DSCF5617Our LC80 series looks much nicer now

Our car was delivered to the local paint shop, Marty’s Panel and Paint, last week.  There it was rubbed down, re-sprayed and had a wax and buff polish to complete the job.  It is a job well done and we recommend Marty’s for any paint work you may require.

One of the problems of owning an almost twenty year old vehicle is that things tend to go wrong in groups of three. We had an engine malfunction earlier this year, the paint deteriorated to a stage we could not stand it anymore, and now at WOF time we were informed that the injector pump is leaking (god knows how much that will cost to repair). The only thing now not covered is the turbo, I guess that will need servicing at some stage.

As the vehicle is such a good tow wagon for our 2.3t Leisureline caravan we intend to keep it, anyhow a LC 200 series is out of our reach so this one will have to do.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Open to View - Moutoa Sluice Gates

Celebrating 50 years of operation, the Moutoa sluice gates have been protecting the local area against the ravages of flooding.  The floodgates were open to view today, courtesy of Horizons Regional Council.  After the official presentation to important guests, (no, we weren’t invited) free buses filled with interested members of the public arrived from Palmerston North, Foxton, Shannon and Levin.  This seemed an interesting local outing, so we phoned the hot line several weeks ago to ensure our places were booked on the bus.

DSCF5622 All aboard

On arrival at the sluice gates, we were put into three groups and sent on our way with one of the engineers.  The Manawatu flood plain was previously swampy land, and had a thriving flax industry.  When farming became more widespread, it was apparent that something needed to be done to protect the productive farm land, although it took many years of planning, surveying, designing, and legal battles.  The flood of 1953 was the catalyst needed to develop a comprehensive flood and erosion scheme.  The Moutoa sluice gates were constructed between 1959 and 1962, and was the biggest river control work undertaken in the country, at the time.

P6088030 Moutoa sluice gates

The nine steel radial gates, each 15m wide by 4.5m tall, and  weigh 15 tonnes each.  They are raised by pulleys and wire ropes, by electric motors.  The gates are opened slowly, and no more than necessary, at the right speed to keep the river at the target level.  The construction took 26,000 tonnes of concrete and 1000 tonnes of reinforcing steel, and the build cost 600,000 pounds at the time.  That’s $18 million in today’s terms. 


P6088032 Views of the sluice gates, wide open

During a flood, the river downstream of the gates cannot carry all the water away because the flow is too slow because of a very flat gradient down to the sea.  The sluice gates are opened when needed, so that the water can flow out of the river and down the 10km floodway, which is bordered with stop banks, and bypasses 30km of low capacity river channel.  

P6088034 Exit side of the gates

Farmers who lease the Horizon owned land are given notice to safely remove stock and drop their fences down before the gates are opened.  The gates have been partially opened 39 times during flooding in the last 50 years, and only fully opened 3 times.  It is certainly an impressive structure when seen up close. In 1990 the gates were recognised by the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand as having made an outstanding contribution to NZ’s engineering heritage and prosperity.

We climbed the narrow stair case to view the control room, with a bank of buttons all ready for action.  But not today, the sun was shining, and there was no sign of flooding at all.

P6088031 Through the control room windows

Work is done continually on the stop-banks.  Silt removal is ongoing, and willows are planted, layered, and trimmed when they get too large.  Various types of willows are used, including Japanese willows, which are resistant to salt water.

DSCF5630 Japanese willows to be planted on the river banks

At the end of our tour we gratefully enjoyed a cup of coffee and a muffin, just what we needed to recharge the batteries.  While we were munching on our muffins we noticed a line of vintage cars driving by, all off on a Saturday drive, no doubt.

DSCF5632 Taking a Saturday drive in the sun

Then it was time to board the bus for our return journey.  What an interesting morning it was.  Next time we drive along this road which links Shannon and Foxton and cross over the bridge, we will know exactly what that strange metal and concrete structure is.


Friday, 7 June 2013

GPS Mapping Trial

Recently we did a trip through the northern Wairarapa to attend a Heretaunga Caravan Club rally at Carterton Holiday Camp.

I have downloaded a map of our trip from our Garmin GPS into Garmin Basecamp program on the laptop with the intention of posting on our blog. The process was a bit convoluted as I had to create the map first in Basecamp, then print it, and then scan back onto the laptop as a Jpeg file just so that it can be loaded onto the blog.

So here goes:
QB Route0001

Not to bad really. Look out for our next trip. Maybe by then I will have figured out an easier way of achieving the same result.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Look at Me!!

Our cat Muffy is rather like a naughty child at times.  We were both busy doing “stuff” and she couldn’t find a lap to curl up on.  After wandering around and making pitiful noises she decided that she really would get our attention, one way or the other.  So what did she do?  Jump up on the wall unit, and carefully wind her way round behind the tray of coffee pots.  Then she was stuck.  “Help, help”, she cried, “look where I’ve got stuck”.  By the time I raced to get my camera she had worked out that she needed to back up to get out of the tight spot.

DSCF5599 Coming out backwards

We’ve just attended our first visit to a Probus group – something we had planned to do since moving up to Levin.  By a co-incidence, I was seated next to the President at the movies several weeks ago, who told me of meetings times, what the group gets up to, and encouraged the pair of us to come along to the next meeting.  And very interesting it was too.  There were two speakers, the first being a club member who was a doctor in his working life.  He told us all about the scourge of tuberculosis, which has been around for thousands of years.  Just think of the Victorian ladies slowly dying of consumption, which  Bronte sisters succumbed to.  Sadly, TB is yet another disease which is becoming drug resistant.

The guest speaker was a Vet who had the hall in stitches as he related tall tales from his student days, and his time as a brand new vet.  In between the funny stories, there were sad endings too.   And he related the statistics that unfortunately many vets are particularly prone to alcoholism, depression and suicide.  The Probus club members were very friendly, and we met up with a couple of people we know from caravanning, who did not realise that we had moved up this way.  We will certainly return next month, and have already filled in our membership application. 

Now, what is that cat up to?  There she is, on top of the couch, watching me with her beady eyes.  OK Muffy, we’ll sit down in front of the telly now, and you can choose which lap you would like to curl up on.

DSCF5601 It’s time for a cuddle now

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Fun and Games at Carterton

Our caravan rally weekend at Carterton is now over, but we certainly got up to some fun and games.  The Carterton Holiday Park  is one of our favourite places to stay, and Pete and Di always make us most welcome.  The camp is always well maintained and the golden autumn leaves looked so inviting – we were almost tempted to roll around on the ground and throw them all over ourselves!  So just what we get up to over the weekend?

DSCF5570 Golden leaves at Carterton

There was plenty of eating going on, starting with a meal out on Friday evening at “The Marquis of Normanby Hotel”.  The Marquis, George Augustus Constantine Phipps was born in England in 1819.  He had an illustrious career, and  was made Governor of Nova Scotia and Queensland, before becoming Governor of New Zealand from 1874-1879.  The hotel was built during his time in New Zealand as Governor, but was burnt down in 1924, and was rebuilt on the same site.  The Marquis moved on to become Governor of Victoria, where he  gave final approval for the hanging of outlaw Ned Kelly.  Our group of happy campers enjoyed our very reasonably priced meals which were served to us in the private dining room.
The Marquis of Normanby Hotel

We helped Geoff celebrate his recent birthday with a delicious home made birthday cake made by Eileen.  And then “Camp Mother” Di kindly baked a fruit cake and presented it to our club members, which we ate for supper on Sunday evening.

DSCF5580 Happy Birthday, Geoff

The Rally Captains had some games organised to keep us occupied over the weekend.  Saturday evening was Bingo night, and we all brought along a collection of 10 cent coins for the Bingo cards.  Selwyn really looked the part of Bingo Master with his dinky little wind up contraption to mix the numbered tokens up.  Most of us managed to win a line or two, or scoop the pool for the house.  Barbara, however, was pipped at the post by yours truly in the very last game, and she unfortunately was the only player who hadn’t managed a win all evening.  Never mind, at ten cents a card, our winnings didn’t really turn us into overnight millionaires.

DSCF5578   Selwyn rolling the balls

More games tested our brains on Sunday evening, when we were put into teams.  Our team had three ladies plus Robin, who came in very handy when we had to remember the manufacturer’s names of cars available in New Zealand.  Then the ladies brains came to the fore when we had to work out what items in the pantry have a medicinal use – everyone knew about ginger for travel sickness.  Various questions were called, as we feverishly wrote down the answers.  And yes, our team beat their team!

Our friends Geoff and Pauline, fellow travellers on our South Island Odyssey Trip last year were also in the Wairarapa over the weekend.  They were staying at Masterton Motor Camp with their own caravan club, so we popped in for a visit.  They now have a new addition in their family, so we were introduced to their new dog, Charlie the Schnauzer. Charlie had recently been to the dog groomer, and looked very smart indeed with his latest hair cut.  The coat on the body is kept short, and Charlie sports a fine set of whiskers and bushy eyebrows. 

DSCF5575 Charlie the Schnauzer

A walk up the road one morning to the local bakery for a loaf of fresh bread took me under a large gum tree full of tuis.  They were busy feeding and making quite a racket as they hopped from branch to branch sipping  nectar from the flowers.  These lovely native birds were known as Parson birds by the early settlers because of the tuft of white feathers at the neck, which resembled a parson in clerical attire.

DSCF5555 Tui in a gum tree

As our three day weekend came to an end, we reflected on how good the weather had been, with none of the expected severe frosts which the Wairarapa is prone to.  Then it was time to pack up, break camp, and head off to our various homes.  Ours was one of the longer trips, a 156km journey taking us through the northern Wairarapa, up and over the Pahiatua Track, and back via Shannon to Levin.  It was a great weekend, made all the better with the good company of friends.

DSCF5572 Camping at Carterton