Saturday, 30 April 2011

Kiss a frog day

Today is Save the Frogs Day.   All girls know you have to kiss a few frogs to find a prince.   No jokes about princesses and frogs please - the groom's father has heard them all before.

It was teenager Lucy’s first ever royal wedding.  

We were a bit lacking in frogs, chandeliers, dainty cucumber and fennel pollen sandwiches  and quails eggs but we didn’t miss the chance of a bit of fun.   Very different from watching Princess Margaret’s wedding in hushed silence on a neighbour’s TV (my family didn’t have one) when I was just slightly younger than Lucy.

concentratingLucy in deep concentration decorating the wedding cake

 We had princesses and a few frogettes:

liz and sister

And, yes, we liked the dress!  And isn’t that what it was all about?

Friday, 29 April 2011


For this week’s FSO topic – textures – we were encouraged to “think fabrics, exteriors of buildings, tree bark, there are many possibilities.”

Well, I got a bit of fabric into one of my shots, so that’s a start:
seed pods

I think this was a great topic and am disappointed I got sidetracked trying to find contrasting textures. 

To see some wonderful photography from the rest of the FSO team just pop over here.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Monday, 25 April 2011

No expectations

Mid afternoon I just felt like getting out with my camera.  Despite it being a gloomy day with steady rain that’s what I felt like, so that’s what I did.  I had no idea what I was looking for but just looked around for what I could see.  

 I didn’t expect to see a small crowd gathered on a neighbours property for sheep dog trials.

sheep dog trials

When I got home I learned they were there for the 99th Annual Maungakaramea trials.  Searching a bit further I discovered that the first dog trials were held in New Zealand in 1867, in Australia in 1981, in the UK in 1873 and in USA in the 1880s.   That’s one for the books.

In sheep dog trials, there are several events, but the key element is the control of three to six sheep by one or two highly trained dogs under the control of a single handler. Both time and obedience play a part, as competitors are penalized if a sheep strays from the prescribed course. Another popular event involves having the dog split six sheep into two groups of three and conducting each group in turn to small pens through a defined course by heading dogs. The group not being led is guarded by one of the two dogs, an eye-dog (from its ability to keep the sheep still by head movement alone). This is more difficult than it sounds because the two groups of sheep invariably try to stay together.  Anyone who has worked with sheep cannot but help admire the skill of both the dogs and their handler. 

I didn’t have any of that on mind when I left home.  Actually I didn’t have much of anything on my mind.  But I’m very happy with the results of an empty mind.  I stopped and took photos out the car window at spots I don’t usually notice:

Field of Remembrance

A Tribute to ANZAC Day

With their hair a little whiter, their step not quite so sure
Still they march on proudly as they did the year before.
Theirs were the hands that saved us, their courage showed the way
Their lives they laid down for us, that we may live today.
From Gallipoli's rugged hillsides, to the sands of Alamein
On rolling seas and in the skies, those memories will remain.
Of airmen and the sailors, of Lone Pine and Suvla Bay
The boys of the Dardenelles are remembered on this day.
They fought their way through jungles, their blood soaked desert sands
They still remember comrades who rest in foreign lands.
They remember the siege of old Tobruk, the mud of the Kokoda Trail
Some paying the supreme sacrifice with courage that did not fail.
To the icy land of Korea, the steamy jungles of Vietnam
And the heroic battle of Kapyong and that epic victory at Long Tan.
Fathers, sons and brothers, together they fought and died
That we may live in peace together, while at home their mothers cried.
When that final bugle calls them to cross that great divide
Those comrades will be waiting when they reach the other side.

Ken Bunker

In a public park in Whangarei 600 white crosses have been installed in a special Field of Remembrance to honour those who did not return from war.  The crosses were laid by students last month in the first stage of a 30-day Anzac commemoration - one day for every 1000 New Zealanders who did not return from war service. 


Sunday, 24 April 2011

It’s a takeover

Easter Sunday and if there were any bunnies on the loose they probably would have found their way to my place.  My grandchildrens’ dog and cat have taken up residence.  One has slept most of the day on a seat on the deck and the other has taken over the lounge chair, not just anywhere but where I sit on that lounge chair.  She nestles herself between my left shoulder and side arm, right beside my left ear.  When I get up she is so drowsy her bum slides down into the chair and she looks at me as if trying to understand why I have upset her slumber.  

She has slept there most of the day.  Wish it had been all day as I can now testify its dangerous to have something wrapping itself around your legs when walking down stairs.  I called her when I left to walk up to her home to feed the other animals but she stayed put.   The other kitten was happy to see me but wasn’t tempted to follow me back home – thank heavens!  The rest of the menagerie live in cages, or bowls.  The birds were singing, the guinea pigs were sleepy and the turtle just looked like a turtle.  So I guess all is well. 

Sammy came for a walk with me around the farm, not running off investigating every smell like he usually does but staying at my heels.  I think he is missing the girls.  The day has been dull and overcast but pleasant enough with my new found friends.   The only photos I took were from up at the house but the sky doesn’t look near as dramatic in the them as it really was.   Hope the good weather holds for the holiday makers enjoying the Easter break but I suspect there is rain on the way.  


Saturday, 23 April 2011

My new mate

Am I imagining it or does Sammy look a bit sad.  He’s been a visitor at my house since he was a pup.  Until my old dog died, they were constant companions.   Since Lewey died he’s continued to make this his second home.  He’s assumed Lewey’s “Top Dog” position.  When The boss was here Sammy had to sleep on the second step but it didn’t take him long to claim the top step for himself.   

Last night Sammy’s family left for a holiday in Australia.  Today Sammy hasn’t left my side, maybe it’s my imagination but I thought he looked a bit sad.  

 He accompanied me when I went up to the family’s house to feed the animals this evening.   The cows were wandering back to their paddock after milking:

 As I walked through a paddock on my way home I heard a plaintive meow, looked around and there was one of the kittens that had decided that my house would be better than a house minus children.  

ginger cat
 She’s still here making a proper nuisance of herself. Won't hurt me to be nice to her I guess.  Don't worry I'm not near as tough as I make out!

The fog’s back

I’m not a morning person, never have been, even as a child, as my siblings will attest.   Those extra few minutes in bed each morning always have been (and still are) the best. 

I’ve never liked winter much either.  Didn’t know what it was really when I was a child as I grew up in Brisbane, Australia, not exactly a winter wonderland.  And then lived in tropical North Queensland.  My first winters in New Zealand were very hard for me.   How would I have survived, no how would anyone have survived my complaints, had I been transplanted anywhere except the north of the country?

But since I’ve lived here, near these mountains, in winter I sometimes get out of bed a few minutes early so I will have time to stop on the way to work and take photos of the fog.  It’s taken a long time but finally I appreciate winter mornings.   Not that it’s winter yet but we’re getting there.


Friday, 22 April 2011

FSO–Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, today’s topic are things earthy – trees, leaves, branches, dirt, planting for Earth Day.

We have many trees here on the farm, most of them natives but a few introduced species as well.  Of these, I think the poplar is probably the most profuse.   They were first grown in New Zealand in the 1830s as ornamental trees and for shelter.  Although they do add beauty and provide shelter for the stock, their main function on farms today is to prevent erosion on hill country farms and along creeks and drains.   In this photo you can see poplars growing happily alongside several native species and the native forest in the background.

on farm

When I thought about just one tree to feature I was torn between my favourite tree beside the road between here and town or the historic one I visited a couple of weeks ago.   My favourite is a bit out of season right now, so I decided on the historic one.   Despite being a native of the east coast of Australia it is ranked among New Zealand’s 10 most notable trees.  Planted around 1850, it’s a Moreton Bay Fig and in 1984 stood 26.5 m (86.9 feet) high and 48.5 m (159 feet) wide.  No, I didn’t measure it, that’s according to Wikipedia.  Some dead branches must have been removed on the left, as in my older photos it is perfectly rounded.


The rest of my photos are taken on the farm:

in garden

Branches and twigs sitting on the banks of our little Pikiwahine Stream:

branches by creek1

They were washed downstream in the most recent flood in February, and along with bigger logs, took out my son’s bridge over the stream.  I like looking at the layers in the dirt along the banks of the stream.  They tell the history of the land. 

Our dirt road (and a few trees) as it weaves its way up the valley past the farm:

dirt road

I've had a peep at some of the other participants shots this week and they are well worth popping over here to see.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A lot of to do about nothing

My grandmother wasn't into Shakespeare so, rather than much to do, she always said, "A lot of to do about nothing" when we exaggerated something.  If she'd heard of the "drama queen" expression, I'm sure she would have used that instead. This morning when I looked out the window and saw the lovely day that had dawned after my prophecy of doom yesterday, I muttered her expression to myself and added, "Drama Queen" for good measure. 
Yes, I had made a lot of to about nothing. Sure, the temperature dropped and yes, there was a bit of wind and rain.  But it all came to nothing.  

 Driving down the road I couldn't even see any leaves and branches across the road, let alone the fallen trees I had imagined.  Rather it was a typical autumn day, coolish and a little breezy but a clear blue sky and mild sunshine which strengthed during the day just enough to cast a shadow.


 The sheep couldn't have been happier by the look of them - and neither could I!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Just a taster

Right now we are being dished out a taste of winter weather ahead.  About half an hour ago I decided to give up trying to convince myself it was too early in the season to don the fleecy trackies and changed out of my three quarter length cotton pants.  When that wasn’t enough to warm me up, I gave in and turned on the heater. 

Squally bursts are sending the rain horizontally across the paddocks, a cold south-westerly wind is buffeting the house.  I imagine I’m lucky not to be living in an exposed area.  All the same, I’m glad it’s not me in the cowshed milking the cows.  Who’d be a farmer in weather like this?

The Met Service has a Severe Weather Watch out for this area. Gusts of up to 110 km/hr are likely. 
I’m one of the few people who think the Met Service does a pretty good job in predicting the weather.   After all New Zealand is a very small bit of land out in the middle of a very large ocean.  To me it seems it must be like trying to predict the weather for a large ocean liner. 

I find it re-assuring to know that:
“MetService forecasters will continue to monitor the situation and advise people in these areas to remain up to date with the latest forecasts in case a full warning becomes necessary.”

Now I’m thinking what do I have to do at work tomorrow?  Will I be able to do it from home if there are trees across the road in the morning?  Yeah, I think so, as long as the power and phone lines don’t go down.

Oh, and it isn’t just the farmers who have my sympathy.  Today is the first day of the school holidays.  I know other children aren’t all the same as mine were but if there was one thing that didn’t go down well with my lot during the holidays it was being cooped up inside. 

Me, I don’t mind so much any more.

Friday, 15 April 2011

FSO - Places of Worship

The theme for April 15th is Temples, Churches, Synagogues, Houses of Prayer.

Synagogues – I’m reasonably sure there is no synagogue in the north although I found a reference on the net to “about 100” Jews living in the area in December, 2000.   

But we do have a temple.  Jam Tse Dhargyey Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre sits high on a hill just north of Whangarei with panoramic views over the city and beyond.  

stupa from road
The 'stupa' from below

from abovefrom above, a small shrine and the ‘stupa’ with the monks’ pizza oven a little to the left (seems to me that these monks have a sense of humour).


(You can see how changeable the autumn weather is by the difference in the sky in just a few minutes)

Anyone who has been visiting my blog for a while knows that I love the humble little wooden churches of the north of New Zealand where I live.  Sometimes they appear in a paddock beside a back road, looking sad and neglected.  There's something about their simplicity that I love, often it's a nice addition to the simpleness of their rural surroundings. 

I am constantly touched by their humble plainness, by the quietness, the stillness of their plain and simple interiors.  Sometimes a perfectly ordinary exterior reveals magnificent native timbers inside.  Of all the altars I’ve seen this, made from kauri I think, is the loveliest.  

 And, quite often, there is a wonderful mix of the European and Maori cultures:

st francis1

I have chosen St Barnabas at Peria as an example of these humble little churches.  Last time I visited, it looked very sad indeed but inside we found two dedicated parishioners taking down the curtains behind the altar after its recent de-consecration in preparation for a ‘make over”.

St b peria
To see lots of places or prayer from other parts of the world, just pop over here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A Different View

Today I saw the Uppity Downity Mountains from a different angle.   They are the mountains of the Tangihua Forest next to where I live.  I've called them the Uppity Downities since the first time I saw them.  I imagine all sorts of mystical, magical things taking place in their misty valleys. 

They stand out for miles around.  I've seen them from the West Coast and the East Coast (the North Island is quite narrow here).  Always they speak of  happiness and 'home'. 

Today I visited a temple to take photos for Fridays Shoot Out and feel strangely comforted that the beautiful temple looks out over my Uppity Downities. 

The Vodafone tower that I look at every day is on the peak behind and just to the right of the highest hill in the foreground on the left.  I can see it because I know its there but you may not be able to.  You were right, Chris, it was the peak you thought it was.

Monday, 11 April 2011

What the....? How ....?

I really freaked myself out this morning.  That doesn’t happen often.  I may freak others out from time to time but I’m usually quite comfortable with myself.

I walked into the office of a team member and was struck speechless by seeing a deep purple around her head.  Speechless and a bit mindless.  I could only blurt out in a sort of breathless whisper, “Where did that come from?” and step back out the door and looked all around me.  I was aware of her looking at me enquiringly but couldn’t gather my wits and speak coherently.  I stepped back into her office and looked frantically all around her walls as if they held the answer, then back outside once again looking for I know not what.  I was spluttering and spitting out part formed sentances….”What was that?  What …?  Where …?  How did that..?”   Finally I managed to say, “I just saw purple all around your head!  Where did it come from?”  I think we may have been a bit noisy as another of the team came running to see what was going on and asking what colour I saw around her. 

Finally I managed to explain that I’d just come in to get Terri to sign a birthday card and noticed as I handed it to her, that the background was a deep purple!  It was a slightly different shade of purple than what I’d seen but close enough to assure me that I wasn’t turning into an aura seer.  I’m sure that’s not the right title but you know what I mean. 

I wish I understood how I had transferred a colour I hadn’t looked at for a few minutes (it was face down against the envelope in case the birthday girl saw me carrying it around) into what I saw around Terri’s head.  And it was only around her head, not the rest of her. 

Anyone got any explanations? 

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Puhoi party

The scene this morning, before 89 year old Aunty Ethel waltzed up and down the hallway playing sprightly tunes on her hormonica, was serene and rustic.  


The décor is ‘history recalled’, Puhoi Pub is like a working museum.   Everywhere you look are old things unknown by youngsters, nostalgic to older folks.  And some things are a mystery to even the oldest amongst us.  

We gathered last night in the old fashioned dining room, a smallish gathering of relatives of my ex husband’s cousin, Eric, to celebrate his 70th birthday.  Most of the guests moved to the verandah outside the upstairs bedrooms when the bar closed.  Luckily we had taken all the available rooms, so we didn’t disturb any other guests.  I think there are only 8 rooms, 4 doubles down one side of the hall and four singles and the bathrooms along the other.  None of the modern trappings of accommodation but after a party you just want a bed, right?  And mine was cosy and comfy, and much appreciated by the time I finally found my way to it. 

Three of my children just loved catching up with their cousin David (second from the right) who none of us had seen since he was a teenager, and meeting his lovely wife.  (We also met Eric’s charming new wife.)  When they were growing up David enjoyed (I hope) many holidays on the farm with us.  For my Canadian son-in-law it was an opportunity to meet some more Kiwi relations. 

 I stepped out on to the verandah this morning to take a photo of the grape vine but was more taken with our little party table.  Every picture tells a story, right?

morning table

You could take photos all night inside this pub but I will limit myself to a couple of signs:

service sign

pool table
 Oh, and I must include one photo of the guest of honour, after all it was all about him.  Here he is entertaining my son.

eric and dan

And now I’m off for a nap, after all I’ve earnt it.