Saturday, November 29, 2014

Post And Rail Fence

After all the mowing, horse training, and tractor driving, I couldn't think of anything else I might be able to learn.... until Dennis said that he'd like to build a fence. There is a post and rail fence in one section of the farm and our aim was to add another section before I left.

I had been out working in the garden, but I finished a section of bricks and thought I'd go see what Dennis was up to. He was walking over to find me to help him put the auger onto the tractor. As much of a pain as it was to attach it, it was worth the effort. It loosened up the earth quite well... after we figured out that the reason it wasn't working was because it had hit a layer of rocks. Not pictured is me digging out and deepening most of the holes with the shovel.

Next came placing all the posts, making sure they were aligned right for all the rails. I held the posts while Dennis filled the holes and tamped down the earth. It was really had work! Eventually Dennis tired out and I took a turn at tamping. Dennis remarked that he hoped Diane wasn't taking a picture of me doing the hard labor while he stood holding the post. I secretly hoped that she was.

It felt pretty good to look at a row of posts all assembled. Next came adding some nails for the rails to  sit on so that it was easier to get the bolts in without having the rails fall down. While I hammered away, Dennis cut the rails to the correct measurements.

24 bolts might not seem like a lot, but I had to screw them all in, and I'll tell you that it was quite a bit. Especially because I had to un and re screw some of them as we decided to make some adjustments on the rail lengths. The rails had also warped a bit in between being bought and being screwed in. Dennis told me that if they hadn't warped, I probably could have done much of it myself. As it stood, it took two of us to wrestle the rails into submission. Then I removed the extra nails that were holding up the rails. Dennis added a few nails to the middle of the rails to help the centers from sagging.

Diane picked up some used engine oil and yours truly painted away for a few hours. It was told to not stand down wind of where I was painting. It was windy. I got oil all over me anyways.

The end result made the five day's worth of work feel worth it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Silence In Christchurch

Dennis took me to see the heart of Christchurch on one of the days I was there. He pointed out how almost all the tall buildings were gone. What struck me was how quiet the city was. There wasn't any sound of cars or people. It felt post apocalyptic. We went to the square where the famous cathedral was. There has been large disagreements on whether to rebuild it entirely or to repair what is still there. So four years on it still sits in pieces. 

A replacement worship space has been built not too far away. It is called the cardboard cathedral. Much of it is made of cardboard, including the seats and the cross above the alter. We walked in while the choir was rehearsing, which was a treat.

There are other significant buildings that don't get the same attention as the cathedral. Here is the Catholic church building that also was destroyed.

In the meantime, Christchurch has come up with a pretty clever solution for the lack buildings. Shipping crates! They've used shipping crates to house everything from shops, to cafes, to banks. I personally think that even as they rebuild, it would be smart to have a part of the city remain in shipping crates as a tourist draw. Many businesses moved out of the downtown and do not plan to go back. A shipping crate city would certainly be worth visiting and would help the city build up again.

Meanwhile, jobs on the farm continued. I learned how to use two different mowers. The small riding mower and the large mower on the back of the tractor. Lessons continued with understanding how high the rev count had to be in order to not stall out the tractor while mowing.

Maintenance in the lovely backyard included digging up all the bricks that had been overgrown by the lawn and relaying many of them so they wouldn't be as sunken. Every time I was in between jobs on the farm, I'd head to the backyards to work more on the bricks. I'm proud to say that all the bricks were eventually dug out and many of them were raised before I left the farm.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mares, Foals, And Dodging The Runs

One of the horses Dennis had bred was Mainland Banner. It was a 4 year old mare when it won the New Zealand Cup (NZ's version of the Kentucky Derby). This was huge deal because usually stallions win and usually they are older horses.

One of the days, Dennis took me along when he took a horse to the Nevele R Stud. This is where Mainland Banner's sire, Christian Cullen, lives. The architecture is pretty neat. The same stone used on the Christchurch Cathedral was used at the stud. I also learned that each stallion has a particular person that handles it and that they have a particular order that they are taken out to the pasture and a particular order they are taken back to the stables.

Dennis, Diane, and I had spent cup day pretending to place bets using the paper. I was taught how to read different horse stats. A few days after cup day, I was taken to the races. Not only did I get to sit in the member's box, we also got to go down to the stables. It was so neat! The current hot racer is Dexter Dunn. He passed by us in the stables. I spotted a place in the stables labeled "horse urinal". I had no idea that if you take a horse to a spot that is soft underfoot and whistled, it would inspire the horse to pee.

Dennis chooses to get his foals used to a harness pretty early. So on many days, we'd bring in various foals to get them familiar with a harness. I got a fair bit of training early on too. It became my job to retrieve the mares and their foals. This is Sandy and her son Sam.

Sam and I got on well. He would nuzzle my armpit (I'm assuming looking for milk) and nibble my hand. The backstrap was put over his rump to help us pull him forward. He was pretty smart, so you never had to pull much. Just a little tug so he understood that he needed to move forward.
Not pictured is the day that I was in the box with Percy while his mum was being checked by the vet. I learned that when a mare is in heat, her foal can get the runs. Well..... I swear that Percy was a meter from the wall, but there was force behind his output. I told Dennis and the vet that I'd like to get out of the box soon since the foal had gotten mess on his tail and was swinging it around. I had some difficulty keeping out of the line of fire since I was holding the twitch (a bit of rope wrapped on the mare's upper lip to keep her calm while the vet did his work) and I couldn't go very far. Dennis and the vet called me a "Townie", but I'm sure no one would have wanted to be in that box. 

Back out in the paddocks, I wondered out loud about how I was sure that beavers didn't live in New Zealand. Apparently this is the work of horses. Some of the posts were tastier than others.

While we were training the foals, we also were keeping an eye on the remaining pregnant mares, such as Gretna. Dennis attached an alarm to the bottom of the pregnant mare's harness so that when they lay on their side, which usually occurs when they are giving birth, we'd hear about it in the house. 

She was checked on daily, but like clockwork, it was 4AM when she gave birth. Dennis gave Grenta a little help and pulled George out. His head looked like it was below his legs and we had to be sure he wasn't twisted up. As it turns out, his head was just to the side of his legs. Gretna spent an age licking him. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Beginning Of The Christchurch Adventure

Yesterday I arrived back on the North Island after a 3 week long trip around the South Island. My goal was to come back exhausted. I got my wish. It also meant that I didn't knit or blog anything while I was gone. All my time was spent working or sleeping. It's about time I caught everyone up.

I started out by flying from Wellington to Christchurch. Dennis picked me up and gave me a tour of the horse farm. One of his mares was quite close to foaling and I was asked if I wanted to be woken up if it happened. It did and at 4AM I found myself out in a field meeting Percy. I held him still while Dennis put iodine on his belly button.

The next day we got to work. Dennis had a bunch of trees ripped out of his yard and we spent two days cutting them up and putting them in the fire pit. For this job I got to learn how to drive a tractor. We started out with, "Do you know how to drive a manual?" "No."

I got good by the end. I was left to pick up as much wood as I could, then drive it to the pit where I drove startlingly close to the edge before dumping everything. Every time I drove up to the edge, a voice in my head would shout, "For the love of God, put it in neutral!" I made sure I followed that instruction before dumping each load.

The second day I learned how to use a chainsaw. All went well and I felt a bit more empowered. But it sure is tough on the back. I liked driving the tractor much more.

While we were working Dennis asked me if I was tired. I told him I was tired hours ago, but I was happy to keep working. I've never slept so solidly.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Wairarapa Pt.2 - Baby Seals And Cape Palliser

After we finished hiking the Pinnacles, we headed out towards Cape Palliser. On the way we stopped at a spot where we knew we'd see some seals. Little did we know that there were babies around.

They were everywhere! We walked by this rock and nearly jumped out of our skins when the rock barked at us. This little guy was hiding behind it.
Thanks for the picture, Owen!

There was this protected pool by the sea and in it there were many baby seals frolicking. They would jump out of the water only to crash back in it.
Thanks for this picture too, Owen.

After looking at the seals, we went to the Cape Palliser Lighthouse. I'd been here before in 2010. I remembered all 252 steps.

It was as tough this time as it was last time.

But it was worth it. The lighthouse is quite impressive and the view is hard to beat.
Thanks for taking this picture, Chris!

We were treated to another great view as we drove back home. The New Zealand coast is hard to beat.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Wairarapa Pt.1 - Pinnacles

It looked like it was going to rain all week, so even though Chris and I had two hiking days in a row, we decided to go to the Wairarapa and have a third hiking day. Owen joined us. Both he and Chris contained their terror as I drove us all the way there.

The Pinnacles are made of an aggregate, so the trail is largely made from all the erosion that occurs there. For every step forward you took, you'd end up half a step back. It was tough going.
Thanks for the picture, Owen!

There was also a rock fall warning sign just in case the trail wasn't enough evidence.

We climbed up this narrow canyon to have a better look. Unbeknownst to me, Chris demonstrated his maturity level behind me.
Thanks for this picture as well, Owen! 

The Pinnacles are pretty impressive.

However, we did hear some pebbles falling. This worried me because I didn't want to get hit by anything bigger. Note the face of worry.
Another great capture by Owen

Chris said he wanted to take a picture of me in the narrow canyon. I wasn't sure this was a good idea because of all the falling pebbles. Dutifully I stood.... until a large pebble hit me in the head. Chris said he never saw someone run down a trail so quickly.

After exploring the Pinnacles, we had lunch and carried on with our adventure. To be continued....
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