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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.

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.

21 January 2017

I should say to anyone wondering where I’ve been of late, it’s been a very busy year. I wrote three and a half books, and much of my computer equipment piece by piece had terminal meltdowns. The outcome has been that I have replaced my printer, and my desktop, and am hoping to replace my laytop any day now.
On the 2016 book front, I had one book out, SHERLOCK HOLMES: POISONOUS PEOPLE, and three Sherlock novellas, they are now just out in print as well, in the form of CATALYST, (book) which includes a new short story. Wildside also has lined up to appear very shortly – my fantasy, BASTET’S DAUGHTERS, my next Holmes double, SHERLOCK HOLMES:FAMILIAR CRIMES, (both written last year) and I have turned in to them, SHERLOCK HOLMES:STRANGE EVENTS, and the first two of the next three novellas.
So far this year I have lined up on my schedule, the third novella and short story, (To complete CATACLYSM,) plus another fantasy, and the next Holmes double. So please forgive me if anyone thought I’d died. I haven’t, but between not being able to get letters printed, and running in circles writing, and cursing some technology, I wasn’t always up to date over 2016. I can’t promise. But I’ll try to do better this year.

4 December 2016

It’s probably a combination of that earthquake and the season. Thunder is often firmly affixed to me around now and for some weeks. That’s because I’ve stopped running the fire most days, but he regards temperatures as still a little cooler than he’d like, hence he comes ambling in and attaches himself to me. Happiness is a warm human.
But with the quake on top of that, he’s more firmly and more often affixed than usual, and he wants more attention, crawling up my chest, butting me gently and insisting on being cuddled: and unless I really am too busy, he gets that. And, as I’ve had more friends than usual dropping in this past two weeeks, and most of them will cuddle a hopeful cat, he’s getting – well – not ALL the attention he could wish for, he wishes for far more than anything less than a continuous stream of cat-lovers could provide, but he’s getting at least some of the amount he’d like, so he’s happy. While I, having survived the quake with nothing more than some damage to my huge old rainwater tank, am quite happy too.

14 November 2016

I was comfortably asleep when, a couple of minutes after midnight Sunday, the night of November the 13th, a 7.5 quake hit the South island. At that magnitude it didn’t stay there but extended all the way up to us where my home rock and rolled for about 2 minutes. Ten minutes later my neighbour arrived hammering on my window to see if I was okay. I was. The geese are still stalking about the lawn with the air of those that have been discombobulated and don’t appreciate it. Thunder is clingy, no cat likes his home bouncing like that, and my big water tank may be damaged. We stood chatting in my kitchen briefly, then she went home and I went back to bed.
I got up around half past 6am, fed everything including me, and logged on to my email to find a dozen friends all asking if I was still in one piece. I am. Apart from the water tank which may be cracked around the top, I’m fine and so is everything else here. I’m not even that bothered. It isn’t as if there’s never been a quake here, and while 7.5 is rather more than usual, the lack of any real damage means I’m not as upset as I could have been.
With that intensity the quake could have been far far worse, the last (lower level) quake in that approximate area killed over 200 people and did far more real damage, so all in all I think the country got off lightly. Of course, we all thought that in the first Christchurch quake – which was then followed by the seond that was so bad. Now I’m hoping we don’t have the same pattern. I’d rather sit at my computer thanking fortune that almost everybody/thing survived, then have a second quake roll up and devastate the place. But then, things can always be worse, and right now I’m simply grateful they weren’t and hopeful that won’t change.

6 November 2016

At six last night I was off two doors down to the park for Guy Fawkes night. It was a pleasant interlude, quite peaceful – something the latter afternoon had not been. For some reason local bumble bees decided that being inside out of the sun was an excellent idea, and in the last three hours before I left for our Guy Fawkes evening I had to catch and evict nine of them. I say ‘have to,’ since each time one came in, Thunder arrived in the bedorom, landed on me wailing, and demanded I remove this unwanted visiter – severely interrupting my revision of the latest fantasy novel that I wanted to get done by the end of the weekend.
Somewhere in there I forgot to feed the poultry, all of whom arrived on the doorstep and announced immanent starvation molto voce. Between feeding them, collecting their eggs, feeding and soothing Thunder and evicting bumble bees my Saturday afternoon was slightly more hectic than usual. So that later on, being surrounded by people letting off fireworks, offering me cooked sausages, asking what my next article in the paper will be, and selling me raffle tickets, was, as I suspected it would be, almost peaceful in comparison.
And the next friend from the city wo comments how quiet and easy-going life is in the country, is going to be firmly disabused of that!

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