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....

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fantastic Yarn Day

Last Thursday was a really, really, really good yarn day. Two different packages full of yarn showed up. And since they were sent by two different methods, they showed up at different times. I got to be excited twice in one day. Although I didn't open them right away. (With good reason I assure you.)

And that reason was because I went down to the Holland Road Yarn Co on Willis St. in Wellington and taught a class on starting the Southern Skies. Well, of course I forgot to take a picture of everyone. But I did get a picture of Jenn's start on her Southern Skies.

Now, being at the Holland Road Yarn Co, it's hard not to leave without some yarn. I'd been there earlier in my trip, so I thought I was safe. Not so. They had restocked their Mythral.... and they had the Rata color way that I had been unsuccessful in procuring the last time I'd been in New Zealand. I hemmed, I hawed, I bought.

But with only 8 balls (I had bought all they had in stock) I wasn't sure I'd be able to make the sweater I wanted. After talking to Wei Siew about what my options might be, she dove into her stash and came out with 5 more balls... in the same dye lot. She asked how many I needed, but I honestly couldn't answer her because my jaw had dropped. Too bad there isn't a picture of it. She said I could take all of them after I was unable to scoop my jaw back up off of the floor. She also gave me a project bag. I suppose stuffing one's half knit sock into one's pocket guarantees sympathy from another knitter.

So after all that, I did finally open my yarn packages. I ordered 5 skeins of Anna Gratton's 4ply Pure Wool in Natural White for a super secret project. Poor Wei Siew has had to listen to me prattle on about what they will grow up to be.

And after knitting part of a sock in the Stray Cat Sock that Wei Siew treated me to, I went ahead and bought myself two more balls in the Jaffa and Silver Star color ways.

So if we knitters are to learn any lesson in all of this, it is that if you are far away from your yarn stash, you will start building a new one. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Colonial Knob

The weather report is always threatening rain, but every time I go hiking it doesn't seem to happen. Last week Chris, Ian, and I went out to Colonial Knob. 

Apparently Chris and Ian usually go a different direction. The way we went involved a million steps. Every time I thought we had gotten to the top of all the steps a new long line would appear.
Not pictured: the other 999,950 other steps

We finally emerged out of the bush and went to a lookout. I mistakenly thought that we had reached the peak of our hike. I didn't mention this to anyone. Especially not after it was pointed out that we were still had a ways to go. And that included climbing upwards still. At least the steps were gone.

I felt like I'd earned lunch by the time we made it to the top.

I also got a lesson on another plant. It has hooks on the underside of the leaf and is called Bush Lawyer. Presumably because once it has got its claws in you....

Before heading back down, we hopped a fence and got a terrific view of the South Island. I'm looking forward to actually being on that island rather than just seeing it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Otari-Wilton's Bush

Chris is leading a walk in the Otari-Wilton's Bush, so Owen and I came along as he did the walk to test out how long it would be.

Part of the walk takes you through a graveyard. And one of the graves belongs to a man who was on the Shackleton expedition: Harry McNish. 

McNish was the carpenter. He had a cat that unfortunately had to be put down after the ship broke up in the ice.

There were some more surprises in store during the walk. A warning was painted on this low hanging branch. Owen commented that despite the warning, you were more likely to be looking down while passing by and would hit your head anyways. We thought that a streamer should also be hung to help preserve heads.

When we reached the pine forest, Chris told us about the time that he saw the ground move in a similar pine forest. Apparently it had been so windy and the pine trees were swaying so much that their roots were lifting the ground.

 Along the way I finally learned what a stinging nettle looked like. Luckily I didn't learn the hard way.

It really was a great day for a walk. I keep packing my raincoat just in case, but it always seems to stay pretty sunny when I go out hiking. I hope my luck continues.
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