Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas Time... Again

Christmas seems to have come again so fast. What has happened to the year? It seems to have gone in a flash. But it's time to celebrate this special time again.

Like all our birthdays it comes round once a year... We celebrate or commiserate that we are another year older.

And so it is at Christmas, a very special birthday - of Jesus, the Christ - Jesus given to us as a gift from the eternal God.

I'm not at all enthusiastic about the hype of Christmas, all the money that is spent, the debt that people run up. All the food that we must buy and eat. All this, to me, eclipses the real and most significant reason why we have and celebrate Christmas.

Birthdays often are family times. We gather together and give gifts. We socialise and eat together

This year I had two things to celebrate...
First - The birth of Jesus, born in the year five. 2010 years ago!
Each of the gospels tells the story of His birth... The angel told Joseph "Mary will give birth to a son who has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. You are to give him the name Jesus"
This message had been foretold word for word by the prophet Isaiah about the year 745BC. "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel - God with us"

As I am a believer in God and his son Jesus, this is my first celebration - Jesus birthday, God's gift to me.

My second celebration and the reason I am back in Christchurch for a week - is my father. I've already told you a lot about him. He is well and enjoying life in his own way.
So I was pleased to be able to celebrate this Christmas time with him.

The gift of Jesus is symbolised in the gifts we give each other, so I packed up a little 'santa sack' with favourite things and we had morning coffee together on Christmas morning.

He's very engrossed.

In the afternoon we visited friends for yummy Christmas deserts... It was a special day

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Morning and Evening... The Longest Day

My last night on Hillbilly Farm had come. I had enjoyed my unexpected week, especially the wide open spaces and the relative isolation. It's not often I'm parked alone in a safe place.
It's the longest day in New Zealand. It's a time of the year I love. Sunrise here is at 5.45am and sunset at 9.15pm... Makes for very long days. I love being outside in the late and early light in the silence just listening to the sounds of nature and the birds around me... Bliss.

9.30 in the evening... All is quiet and still...

7am this morning... The sun's been up for over an hour. It's an overcast, totally still morning and still very warm after an exceptionally hot day yesterday. The earth is still baking, waiting for the rain that is forecast to come soon.

The heavy clouds are making a strange half light.
Am I the only person that loves these still times of each day?
Today I'm packing up and moving back to Christchurch, to traffic,  to people,  to the Xmas 
rush and bustle, to spend this Xmas week with my father...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Hillbilly Farm... Fresh Snow On The Mountains...

 I couldn't believe my eyes when I woke up yesterday morning.
It was a sunny hot clear blue day and... Snow on the mountains
tops. If Mr Hillbilly was here he could tell you the names
of each of the mountains, I just know it's the Lewis Pass
and Nelson ranges...

It's rather an incongruous scene, so dry although the last
couple of days have been rain and drizzle and cool...
I've had my fire going... But fresh snow and
it's nearly Xmas!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Hillbilly Farm... It's Wash Day

 Here is the washing machine... It's connected to power
but not to the water... So it gets filled with the hose.
That works well except I have to turn the hose on and
fill it, turn the hose off then on again to fill it to rinse.
So it's not a process I can turn my back on and come back
in an hour and it's all done.
However, I'm not complaining as it's just outside my
bus and having a washing machine to use as much
as I like is wonderful... For a while.
All my bed linen is white and it is my considered
opinion that laundromats are too quick and
do not keep it a good colour. So to be able to
soak for hours and wash several times was great. 

 I needed to make some more laundry powder... Equal quantities
of baking soda and soda ash (washing soda), in this case a cup of each...
And one block of finely grated 'Sunlight' Soap. You can use Dr Bonners
Castile soap... Purer and greener but much more expensive.

 Mixed together and ready to use.
I use one small scoop and dissolve it in boiling water in 
a bucket and add it to the cold water in the washing machine.
To the whites I add a scoop of Sodium Percarbonate which
is an eco friendly pure oxygen cleaner... Chlorine free
non toxic and biodegradable... Important when I sometimes 
want to tip my laundry water on the ground and here
at this outdoor 'Hillbilly Laundry' there is no plumbing!
All these ingredients are cheap at Bin Inn.
This mix is also good for blacks and colours - no bleach of course!

 And here's my 'whiter than white' laundry... Or the beginning of it.

And while I was making things I made some
new mouth wash for cleaning my teeth.
The recipe is from Wendyl Nissan's book
'A Home Companion'
Commercial mouth washes contain ethanol,
there has been concerns raised about oral
cancer and product recalls because of safety...
So make your own... The recipe is-
30ml water, 1 teaspoon lemon juice,
1 teaspoon brandy, 1 drop pepperment
essential oil. Multiply this amount to fill a
small bottle.
I used what I had - Vodka - it's the base
for homemade perfume and I have
run out of lemons till I go shopping again
and none in the garden here!
I also put extra peppermint oil but not
too much or its bitter. If you put lemon juice
it won't keep so long. 
AND - don't drink all the vodka!

'Hillbilly Farm'... Along Hurunui Bluff Road...

 Amazing and unexpected things do happen! I was parked at the
Hurunui Bluff lookout. I showed you the sign and 
wondered what was further round the road... would I go and 
have a look? I had stayed the night and was just pottering
away the next morning enjoying the view and the sun...
And 'Mr Hillbilly' pulled up alongside in his car.
This total stranger, who had seen me there
the day before as we all watched the fire, asked if I 
would like to house sit for a week, was I doing anything?
He and his family were going away the next day
and would I have a look and consider the job?

So... Here I am, parked at Hillbilly Farm and in charge
of 20 acres, a house, 7 hens and a rooster, a cat and
watering large gardens... It's rained so I haven't had
to do that yet. In return there is home killed organic meat
in the freezer, eggs from the chooks, hot showers if I light
the big fire in the kitchen to heat the water, as many fresh
veges as I want and unlimited firewood.

 This property is five km further round the Hurunui Bluff Road...
It widens out into a strip of land between the river and the hills.
It goes another 20km further east along the valley but I haven't
been any further. The road is gravel and incredibly dusty
creating thick clouds of dust. You can see the brown paddocks
and why it is such a fire risk.
This is looking at the property from the front gate.

 The dry, dry paddocks and my nearest neighbours to the east.

 Beside where I am parked, up on the ridge beside the
house to give me some shelter from the westerly wind,
is a bath full of strawberries... I've had a few ripe ones
and feed them my coffee grounds.

 Another old bus, I'm told it is a 'Park Royal'... It's the guest
accommodation if you don't bring your own!
 The old horse float is the hen house... Not the most
salubrious accommodation.

 The woodshed...

The tractor and implement shed with the black currant
bushes behind it - laden and yummy.
There are numerous peach, nectarine and apricot
trees, also some apples and grape vines...

 The hot house... Access from the other side. It's a sauna in
there and all sorts of things growing madly... 
Incuding sugar cane and taro...

 Past the hot house is a large and rambling garden...

 Potatoes which I've been digging and eating...

 The watering system! There is also a big hose system
that has to be turned on and manually watered and the
hose joined together to reach far enough - I'm glad it's rained.

 This is the spinach and fat hen patch...

 Did you know fat hen is edible - in stir frys or raw... Pick the tips.
I've tried it and I'm still alive!

 Several varieties of cabbage and lettuce...

 On the bottom level, closer to the road is another cultivated
garden... Long rows of potatoes... Broad beans and new
ones coming on...

 Garlic and sweet corn...

 Today I picked broad beans and some garlic from the bottom
garden, dug some potatoes and a courgette from the top
garden and a cucumber from the hot house...

 The broad beans shelled, ready to cook for 2 minutes, then
I put them in cold water. Was then able to squeeze the thick grey
skins off and be left with the  green bean inside. Stir fried in
coconut oil with garlic, bacon and chilli...

Breakfast was steamed spinach and fresh poached eggs.
Avocado for some good fat. No need to ever be hungry here!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Fire At Balmoral Reserve... North Canterbury

 My day started of peacefully. Beautiful sun, no wind and
breakfast outside... Kumera and parsley rosti, poached eggs and bacon. 
The black specs are kelp! Yum...
I sat in the sun most of the morning finished reading a book
then gave myself a pedicure... and was  just pottering
through the day when...

 Suddenly I was enveloped in smoke and coughing. I raced
outside wondering if I was on fire but there
were thick clouds of smoke billowing though the trees. The
bush and scrub were on fire.
I've never packed up so fast, things thrown into the bus and
I was off out the gate. I drove over the Hurunui River bridge...
And could see what was happening... Fourteen fire trucks and
water tankers and three helicopters with monsoon buckets...
Plus police, trucks, men with quads... The helicopters
dropped buckets of water for four hours...

 And smoke everywhere for a long way down the river.
The countryside is brown and tinder dry.
The teenager from the camp ground who struck the match
set fire to a lot more than he intended.

 But eventually it was under contrtol, the noise stopped
and everything was peaceful as the sun began to set...
What a long afternoon wondering if the fire would
be brought under control before dark.

 I'm parked up the Hurunui Bluff Road at a lookout point.
It was a birds eye view for me and many others.
But I'm here by myself now...

Don't know if I'll venture any further tomorrow!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Wheels Are Back On... But!

 The day finally came and Tom from Deans Trucks turned
up one morning with all my brake parts. A few hours later
all the bits and  pieces were put together and the wheels went
back on. What a relief. Life on the road was looking as
though it might happen again. Then the brake vacuum drum...
But oh dear... Something wasn't working... 

 So it was into the workshop again and over the pit...

 Surrounded by all sorts of things...

And other buses... While the problem with the brake vacuum
drum got sorted out. It actually had to go back to Nelson again...
So I spent two days and the night in between
parked here. I find myself sleeping in some strange locations
sometimes but this is the first time in a workshop over the
pit - by myself - Only two conditions, the light had to be left on
all night..  There was no way I was staying there in the dark... 
And I wasn't  to cook bacon and eggs for breakfast...
They'd all want some!
 Trucks of all shapes and sizes...

But that yellow vehicle peeking out... Is that another Bedford?

 Sure enough... Looking rather neglected and forgotten
but it belongs to a lady who is restoring it... With Dean's help!

Here are Dean, on the left, Tom, he's so cute! He did most of
the work on my brakes and told me all about his girlfriend
and whitebaiting and fishing... He's the apprentice...And Charlie. 
I'd say these three muskeeters are the best and most good natured
Bedford repair experts I've come across. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Brakes... And Deans Trucks...

 Well... From a beautiful lake, to a lovely orchard and now...
Here I am at Dean's Truck Services.
I just pulled in on the off chance they wouldn't be too busy.
After all... I was sure the brake problem was just a loose wire
or cable... Or something!

 As usual in these truck places I was surrounded by all sorts
of vehicles much bigger than me.

 But I parked in the sun and waited, they were busy and
would have a look when they could squeeze me in...
Three hours later I was put over the rollers and found I had
no brakes at all on the front left wheel. That explained why,
when the brakes did work I lurched to the left. Also the
vacuum assist wasn't working... That's what made the
brake pedal hard like a rock and not usable... Oh dear!

 So I was directed further along the road to Marchwood Park...
A council camping ground and found somewhere to park
Two mechanics from Dean's arrived...

 And spent two hours taking of both front wheels, 

 And absolutely everything to do with the brakes except the axel.
Turned out the right hand brake cylinder was leaking
and this side began to leak as it was taken apart.

 So I was propped up on blocks and jacks, a wheel put underneath
in case anything collapsed to be support #2...

 The big vacuum drum was taken off...

This is the mess the oil leak made...
The brake cylinders had to go to Christchurch...
The vacuum drum to Nelson...
And there I was... Going nowhere.
But Deans very kindly lent me a courtesy car.
I had come from Christchurch and made it this far.
It was my daughter's 50th birthday in Pohara
and do or die I was going to get there...
And I did thanks to Deans.

Little did I know at the time that my bus was not
going to be mobile again for three weeks!