Cathy came to visit us today, on her 23rd Birthday. That’s the good part. The bad part is that this is the last time she will visit because she is returning to France next week. She told us back in June or July that she felt the time had come for her to go home. The time seems to have flown by since then and here we are – saying goodbye. She also came to visit a few days ago – on Sunday – mainly to say goodbye to the horses and have one last ride of Danny. She’s a great dressage rider.

For her birthday, I took her to a local cafe for morning tea, then onto a gift shop to buy her birthday present. She chose some gorgeous earrings and said she will remember us every time she wears them. She gave me a beautiful pashmina that I will treasure.

We’ve known her for 2.5 years now. We met whilst both volunteering for Riding with the Disabled. She has (quite frankly) restored my faith in 20-something year olds. I have not had great experience with people in their early 20s, sad to say.

Cathy is thinking that if she doesn’t like France, she might return to NZ. I am hoping so. I joke that I should introduce her to my step-son, who is also French and 24 years old. Mmmm….might orchestrate that. Although he’s working in Colombia these days.

So it was a sad day and I will miss Cathy a lot. We both dissolved into tears :-( But it’s time for her to be with parents, after almost 3 years in NZ, and time for her to decide on her career path. I know she will do very well no matter what she chooses in life. And I know we will meet again. Meanwhile, safe travels Cathy!

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Cathy’s last ride on Danny.

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Spending quiet time with Danny.

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Cathy enjoys her birthday morning tea!

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Gorgeous pashmina! – a gift from Cathy.

 

 

Oh yeah people! Yet ANOTHER friggin’ gale passed our way. In October, we were hit with strong winds that brought down heavy willow tree branches. Then last week, not one but TWO nights of howling winds. The second night was the worst. We were woken up about 4.00am by swirling blasts that shook the house.

We had seen the weather report earlier in the evening and thought we’d best prepare ourselves (again). I never stable the horses in high winds because there are too many trees surrounding the stables and tack room area. I don’t want them locked in their stalls, frightened by the sound of tree branches falling on the roof. I make sure they are in a safe area of the property and leave them to do what they do best – turn their hindquarters facing the wind, with tail clamped and heads down.

The power went off around 4.30am for a couple of hours. Zeph and Zsa Zsa were safely tucked up in their crates, with plenty of blankets on top to protect the crates if windows blew in. The house shook, rattled and rolled. I truly thought the roof would come off. There’s no way you can sleep when these North West winds hit. You try and nod off but then a huge gust smacks into the house and it creaks and groans.

Sunday was Clearing Up Again day. Huge branches had fallen and a few crashed into electric fences. The horses were more than happy to supervise the cleaning up. Quite a few willow branches landed in the stream – the horses have free access to this stream via a slight incline. I found them with their hooves plonked in the water and stretching their necks across to the other side of the embankment to gobble the willow

No sooner had the winds started than they stopped and all was eerily quiet. Spring is NW winds season but it seems that this year and last year the winds have been unusually fierce. Climate change (it’s real people) is resulting in patterns of extreme weather. Whether it’s anthropogenic or a natural, planetary cycle is a debate that will go on. Meanwhile, the world will experience more severe droughts, hotter temperatures, more tornadoes, hurricanes and fierce wind patterns.

So we continue looking for a new place to live. We have decided on the North Island but it’s still up for grabs. Anywhere in NZ can experience wild weather but we’re hopeful of finding a tradeoff – somewhere that is pleasant with minimal weather issues. We often wonder about a return to Australia but we prefer NZ. The search continues!

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Saffy anticipates a HUGE willow feast.

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Large willow branch crashed down.

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The mares having breakfast!

 

 

 

You have horses; you learn something new every day. A few weeks ago, I noticed a large white mark on Karma’s face. She’s a beautiful solid chestnut colour, so the white spot was quite noticeable. I didn’t think much of it until, literally overnight, many more white spots suddenly appeared on her face and body. I thought maybe she has a skin disease of some sort or maybe it’s a vitamin deficiency.

I hauled in the equine vet and found out that Karma has…..Birdcatcher Spots. What the? Birdcatcher Spots can appear as solid white spots on a horse’s body once it reaches adulthood. Karma is rising seven and horses reach full development at around five years of age. These spots are quite mysterious and appear to occur with chestnut horses. Apparently, these spots are named after a chestnut Thoroughbred stallion with dark spots on his body. As you’ve probably guessed, this horse’s name was Birdcatcher. He was an Irish Thoroughbred who was foaled in 1833. The white markings may increase or they may disappear with age. Karma may even have them for the rest of her life.

It’s taken me a little while to get used to seeing her looking a bit like a leopard. Each day, more spots seem to be appearing, mainly on her body, although new markings appeared yesterday around her ears. I don’t think it means that Karma is a direct descendant of Birdcatcher as it seems a common occurrence in horses; although Birdcatcher Spots can be confused with Chubari spots and and Tetrarch spots.

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Beautiful girl, Karma, and her Birdcatcher Spots.

So Dear Reader: I’ve been spending time on photography lately. One of the dramas living where I do is that no-one seems to have heard of lomography. I have a number of lomo cameras and I use all sorts of film but, the other drama is trying to get the film cross-processed to get the vibrant colours I like. In Sydney, it was easy but I had a couple of films processed locally and it was a disaster. Until I sort it out, I’m back to using my digital camera: the faithful Nikon D40 (a now-discontinued digital SLR).

This is not the point of my post though. I wanted to tell you about one of those amazing coincidences that can happen in life. On Facebook, I belong to my old Primary School reunion group. There’s a reunion planned for September 2015 in Sydney and I’ll fly to Sydney for this. There’s also my High School reunion coming up in a week or so but I’m not going – largely because I have stronger (and fonder) memories of people in Primary School. BTW: Hugh Jackman went to my Primary School. You Google this and you’ll find out what Primary School I went to. Alas, he was not in my class :-(

So….we are all chatting away on the Primary School FB page and a guy mentioned he lives in Avalon. I say yep, a lot of great memories from Avalon as my grandparents lived there. My grandmother’s sister, Mabel, lived with them and she used to pick up from school on Friday afternoons. We’d drive down to Avalon from Pymble and I’d spend the weekend with my grandparents and grand-Aunt. My parents would arrive Sunday, around lunch time, and we’d have the slap up Sunday lunch. Then motor on home around 3.30pm.

I remember my grandparents house as being rather grand and large. I’m sure if I saw it now I’d be stunned at how small it is but maybe not! Anyway. The chap asked me where in Avalon so I told him the address and that’s where it got interesting. He had tiled the front steps to the house recently and then another fellow student said he had lived in the downstairs flat during the 1980s. During my grandparent’s time, the downstairs flat was used for family visitors and also as my private play area.

After getting over the amazing coincidence of two fellow students having connections to my grandparent’s house, I then find them organizing to go and get photos. The chap who tiled knows the current owners and went there the next day to get tons of photos for me. The owners have said I can have a tour when I’m over in Sydney for the reunion.

I was really touched that these two guys would go to all the trouble of getting photos. Both of them worked on making the images as clear as possible, then posted them to the group. WOW is the word I’d be using. I can still recognise my childhood second home but, at the same time, it’s wildly different. Some walls have been knocked out and, of course, it looks so different with contemporary furnishing (as opposed to the 1950’s style my grandparents had – since they built the house in the 50s).

I don’t have any photos of my grandparent’s house as it was but I have the strong memories. I do, however, have one photo of me with my grandfather and my grand-Aunt standing at the top of the circular steps, leading up to the front verandah. In the FB group, the tiling chap said he had tiled circular steps. I was perplexed as I didn’t recall the steps as circular but….I was certain I had a photo of the front verandah and, hopefully, those steps. Bingo…I do and yep, they’re circular. Funny how we can have memories of certain things and totally forget other details.

The renovations done to the house are amazing and it looks beautiful. I am SO going to take the current owners up on having a tour next year when I attend the reunion. Can’t wait. Apparently, they have kept the original light fittings and the large garden on one side of the house that my grandmother lovingly created and tended. My grandparents would be super-pleased if they could see the house as it is now.

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The circular steps weren’t tiled when my grandparents owned the house and I don’t think the verandah had an open roof either. More lush trees surround the house now too.

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Me with my grandfather and grand-Aunt, Mabel. They’ve taken down the wrought iron ballustrades and opened it all up more.

Unexpectedly, dear reader, we were hit with very strong winds this week. And I mean VERY strong. Not as bad as last September’s hurricane-type winds that took down twelve pretty massive Eucalyptus trees. Thankfully.

This week’s winds seemed to come from nowhere. I check a lot of weather reports on a daily basis and, although winds were forecast, they were supposed to be light winds. Obviously, the winds missed that forecast.

They started around 6.00am and just built up from there. Zsa Zsa was too afraid to go outside and Zeph rushed out to do his business and rushed back in. We saw a large branch from a willow tree crash onto an electric fence.

The horses were very stoic about it all. Saffy was busy enjoying her feast of willow branches as they crashed around her. Once the winds died down around mid-morning, I went outside to survey the damage. Thankfully, no trees came down but a heck of a lot of willow branches were strewn around the garden area.

Willow has anti-inflammatory properties and contains a chemical called salicin that is similar to aspirin. I presume that the horses had massive migraines from the howling wind because they have been gorging on willow!

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One of the many heavy willow branches that came down.

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Miss Rosie was rock solid during the winds. Here she is with willow branches flapping around her and she’s not even slightly fazed.

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Karma, Saffy and Rosie feast on willow.

We’re enjoying wonderful weather here in NZ. The days are getting quite warm. Some unsettled weather but, on the whole, coolish mornings followed by glorious bright blue sunny days. The cherry blossom in the front yard is in full bloom. I look forward to its appearance every year. It only blossoms for a few short weeks and that’s that.

Zeph and Zsa Zsa love spending time under the cherry blossom. Since the tree is right next to the stream in the Secret Garden, insects and small white butterflies buzz around. Both dogs love to chase fluttering things.

Walking back to the house the other day, after walking the dogs in the paddocks, I spotted an amazing cloud formation. Looks like a speech bubble to me.

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Weird cloud formation.

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Zeph leaps after an insect – under the magnificent cherry blossom.

Remember Zeph’s daughter, Maybe? For Zeph’s fourth birthday last week, we took him for a visit to the kennels. He loves going there as he is one of two males, the other being his brother, Wot. Of course, they both strut around huffing and puffing but the breeder is very good at keeping them apart.

For his visit, he met his daughter for the very first time. Of course, he’s seen her when staying at the kennels but we were all waiting for Maybe to be a little older before she met her Dad. Maybe is now 10 months old and what a bundle of energy. I thought Zeph was a handful but Maybe is double Zeph’s energy capacity!

She looks so much like Zsa Zsa; I can’t get over it. Zeph and Zsa Zsa share the same great-grand parents so no doubt, if I do some digging around, I’ll found out how Zsa Zsa and Maybe are related.

In extra exciting news, Maybe will be coming for a visit to our place in the next month. The friend of ours who has five Pointers (including Zeph’s dad, Sam) is training for sled racing. She regularly races with her Pointers and the breeder, in an effort to burn off some of Maybe’s puppy energy, has asked our friend to take her some weekends and introduce her to sled racing. Maybe will pop in for a visit on those weekends and we’ll let her run in one of our large paddocks. Can’t wait!

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It’s me, Maybe! But don’t you think I look like Zsa Zsa?

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Zeph meets his daughter for the first time.

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