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Writer's assistantThis section of my blog is for general comments about life at Farside Farm: the animals, my writing, other happenings. Thunder, my ocicat, will supervise to make sure I don’t forget something important, especially if it has to do with him.

26 June 2017

Trying to persuade my computers to cooperate while doing final revision was interrupted last week. I’d posted two blog items and was about to add a third, when my pal rocketed in from next door in to say “Peter’s on fire!” assuming (rightly, thank heavens) that she meant the neighbour’s place and not the chap himself, I shot out after her to find that, yes, yes indeed, Peter’s WAS on fire. In fact I have rarely seen a place so throughly on fire. The house, various sheds, and stacks of salvaged timber, polystyrene panels, and other flamables was ablaze, flames reaching to 30-40 feet, and as we collected together and moved cautiously closer, there was a hollow boom, and the front shed fireballed. (Propane/gas cylinders was my bet – firefighters later agreed.)
About then the house roof fell in, planking was falling from the walls and blazing up, and only a few studs remained, they followed soon after however leaving nothing but the old chimney. Luckily the beautiful fluffy tortoiseshell stray cat he’d been feeding, being a cat and not that stupid, had removed herself to the barn, where she was extracted by local cat carers and taken to a safe place. Luckier still, Peter was away visiting family for a couple of weeks, but it’s not going to be fun for him dealing with the aftermath.
But it certainly enlivened my morning. Just a pity that one of my last Holmes books used a ‘fire plot,’ or I could have pinched that,

21 June 2017

So my old computer began to die slowly. It’s a Comnpaq Presario and after only 6 years I’m not at all happy about that. If I pay what I did for that as a fridge or stove, I’d expect it to last 10-15 years, NOT SIX!
I get a new computer, an Acer, and after almost two months, NO ONE appears able to get it connected on-line. It has now been to THREE technical firms, the final one swore to me that they’d done it and it was now on-line, and guess what? It isn’t!!!
So, reluctently and with rage, I’m having to go from dail-up wbhich suited me fine, to broadband – which I didn’t want – and hope that will fix the problem, not that I’m holding my breath on that either. But what is it with computer companies. can’t they produce a computer that actually works off the shelf the way it should. Why am I buying the nmechine then havving to spend weeks and dollars to get it working? If that happened with almost any other technology there’s be a massive outcry, so why do we accept it with computers? And all I can say is, that’s two more brands I’m crossing off my list to ever buy again.

3 May 2017

Not that I had to in the end, but incredibly April here saw 270 mms, or just under eleven inches of rain land on my farm. The hens – completly furious – all moulted and went off laying. And Mopsy, one of my ewes lay down and died. Not surprising since she was 17, but I’m mildly sad. On the other hand it isn’t as if she didn’t have a VERY long life for a sheep, and a good one. I’m only hoping now that May won’t be quite so wet, in fact it looks as if it may not be, but it also looks as if the weather is going to vary that by being colder instead. Sigh. Swings & roundabouts.

22 April 2017

Mind you, that was divided between two entities. My physio came the other week and was on the kicthen floor showing me a new exercise. She sat, Thunder sat with her. She lay down, so did he. She rolled on her back and – Thunder rolled on his back and waved his paws at me. Wasn’t this fun? It isn’t often visiters get down with him…I roared, and offended, sir vanished up the house while my physio looked puzzled, not having seen Thunder’s copycat act. But remembering it makes me smile again. Him and the physio, both demonstrating a new exercise. Maybe Jane Fonda could take the tip and add a cat to her videos.

24 March 2017

yes, last weekend our village had a car boot fair down at the “Wop Wops”, the small park run by a local business (Norsewool) which features native eels amongst other items. I shot down at 10am on the scooter and bought books and raffle tickets. Great combination. I dived into the books at once – one at least will be excellent fodder for older books reviews I do for a UK magazine – while the raffle tickets provide pleasant anticipation for weeks until I hear the results.
And, still more happily, the next village to the north of us will be having their usual bookarama in May. My oldest friend tends to take me to that as my birthday present, and I can go really mad buying books then with both hands. Ah, as Andre used to say to me, “Cats, books, life is good.”

15 March 2017

My cat isn’t terribly happy just now, although he’s a lot happier than he was a week ago when he went into the vet for a complete WOF (Warrent of Fitness for those that don’t use the term.) He had blood tests, and all sorts of indignties visited upon him, and the conclusion was that his health wasn’t bad. However some of his teeth were, and he spent the night there, being operated on next morming and having five teeth extracted.
He came home Thursday night, sorry for himself, leapt out of his carrier, flung himself at my friend and I – he hadn’t seen me for a whole day and a half – and was cuddled. Then he bellowed for food. Didn’t I know those people hadn’t given him a single bite all the time they’d had him and he was STARVING? What I know is that he’s a liar, but I did feed him. He was fine that night and into Friday evening.
After which things caught up with him. His mouth hurt, he didn’t want to eat all Saturday and Sunday, no, he didn’t want yoghurt, but on Monday, um, yes, a little ham would be acceptable. So he had ham on Monday and Tuesday, after which he found that his appetite had returned and since then he’s been eating normally (In other words, anything at all he can get his paws on.)
Anything that is but his larger and harder dental biscuits, but then that’s understandable, so at the moment he’s eating Friskies and Diet Biscuits, and drinking lots, since I was told to keep him reasonably warm. And, of course, in the cussed way that things do, the weather promptly dropped temperatures a bit. So I’ve been running the freestanding enclosed fire since he came home, on very low, but enough to keep the house around 24-25 degrees which has seen him happily ensconced right beside it.
It’s the great disservice that animals do us, their lives are so much shorter, and Thunder was 13 last December. I know I won’t have him many more years and I’ll mourn when he goes, as I mourned Tiger before him, Tai before that, Rasti earlier, and my beloved Tigger and his mum earlier still, but it won’t be unexpected. To me it’s a fair trade. The companioned years more than ballance the sorrow when each loved friend is gone.
And to misquote something I heard years ago. Heaven will not heaven be, if my cats can’t be with me. (Although considering that Thunder does NOT like other cats, heaven, if I do get all my cats, is mainly going to be a series of ongoing cat fights…)

5 March 2017

Yup, as of Thursday I have a gorgeous black Arapawa ram on loan for a couple of months, he was persuaded out of the trailer, ambled through the gate, saw my ewes and accelerated considerably. So did my ewes – in his direction, I hasten to add. They met in the middle of the paddock, a woolly whirl, and I suspect by now at least one is in lamb. And when I looked at everyone this morning, they all looked very happy. He’s borrowed as I said, so – from hire to maternity?

15 February 2017

while my own area, the Tararua, tends to the median in weather (other people get floods, we get a fair bit of rain, other people get drought, we have a dryish season) right now I’m starting to worry a little. In Australia they have raging fires, something that for almost 30 years I’ve watched in horror over summers and hoped all my Ausssie friends will be fine. But this year I had a feeling by the end of 2016 that it could be going to be more than just dry here and in early February I sold off all my surplus sheep, cutting right back to just the breeding ewes.
Right now Australia is getting its ferocious summer fires, the problem is that for once, while they haven’t hit us – yet – they’re closing in. Hawkes Bay, less than an hour’s drive from me, is in flames. Massive vegetation fires, houses destroyed, acres of farmland and bush lost, and now – a life too. A helicopter pilot, risking his own life to combat the fires, crashed. And all the while the fires are growing, and coming slowly closer. I think we’ll be allright in the end, but there are no guarantees.
Back in 1888, people here probably thought the same thing. And of course, there was a lot more bush then, fewer people, and they didn’t have the superbly trained, equiped, and organised, volunteer firefighters we have here now. (Down at the station last weekend admiring new engines, water tanker, and gear.) That year in 1888, Norsewood (and Ormondville) burned. people died in the fires, houses burned, as did stables, barns filled with hay and oats, local stores, churches and vicarages, the school and teacher’s house along with the small local brewery.
And now I wonder as I look at the current photos of burning land and houses that fill our local newspaper, and consider the pilot who died trying to save others, if 1888 isn’t repeating. And if so, I’m deeply thankful for neighbours who’ll help each other, our firefighters, and my insurance. And having said and published that, it’s now likely it’ll rain for days. Because that’s the way life is – or at least, that’s what I’m hoping. It’s worked that way before and we need the rain, because if my house burns down, how the heck will I ever find copies of my 7,469 books to replace my library? (Not to mention the cat won’t like living somewhere else – and nor will I) AND if I have to flee, while I can take the cat and make a run for it, how the heck do you load five ewes, nine hens, a rooster and five geese on a mobility scooter? So, if the fires get any worse, life is going to become ‘interesting’ in a Chinese curse kind of way, and I really don’t have time for that.

9 February 2017

On the bright side of that, the hens are really happy it is. They haven’t stopped laying, and – while it can be sometimes difficult to find the results – I’m currently getting 4-5 eggs every day. The wild-bird population seems happy about the weather too, since the second hatching of starlings is underway in my pumphouse. And I used less firewood this past year than ever before, so my dud leg stayed quieter. Yup, even if we do get that possible drought, the (lack of) clouds, has a silver lining.
Meanwhile over january we had what would appear at first sight to be a fair amount of rain. A whole 74mls, or just about three inches. It wasn’t as it appeared however, since we also had gales all month, and IMHO the drying effect of the gales would have effectively negated the 74mls. This month we’ve currently had nearly two inches, but then again, it’s been hot, and still windy, so I’d discount most of that too. I looked at the portents about ten days ago and sold all my surplus lambs and sheep.And while today is cooler, and dampish, I have a feeling that was the smart decision.

24 January 2017

The last three months haven’t been very wet. And the last month we’ve been swept over and over with gales, these leech the moisture out of the ground, and I have a nasty suspicion that this month, January, the gales have balanced the rain, and in effect we didn’t get any. So, as I say, I’m not absolutely positive, but there’s a feeling at the back of my neck that says ‘drought!’. So I sold all my spare ewes and lambs yesterday. I’d rather borrow stock to eat down surplus grass, than have starving animals, I’d rather get good prices right now, than almost nothing for starving stock later on. I’m just lucky I have a very small farm, and can afford to do that. Larger farms won’t, and if I’m right and a drought does come, they’ll lose – maybe a lot. There’s times when it pays to be a smallholder.

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