Oxford


Oh yeah, so…..late last week, we were hit with a pretty fierce snowstorm. We lost power for over 24 hours and had to sit in a dark living room with candles and, gasp: talk to each other.

It’s been friggin’ cold as New Zealand is in the grip of some Antarctic blast. Parts of NZ have seen temperatures as low as -20C (-4F). We probably had about 10-12cm of snow and, four days later, it still hasn’t melted because the early morning frosts are pretty severe.

The horses are a bit odd. They seem to love the snow and roll in it. Every time I go out, Saffy seems to be rolling in the snow. Karma likes to frolic in the white stuff and Miss Rosie, well she is stoic and watches Karma and Saffy being lunatics. Although, she occasionally rushes around.

Zeph and Zsa Zsa have busted out their fleecy, warm dog coats. They wear these after getting up in the morning, until it warms up. Then Zsa Zsa rushes out into the snow and runs around. She seems to love it, whilst Zeph is less than enthused.

I’m hoping this is the only dump of snow we get this Winter. It’s very pretty to look at but, when it melts, not so great. I’ve been slipping and sliding over parts of the property due to the black ice. Bring on Spring!!!

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Zsa Zsa was initially not sure about the snow.

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Looks like a Winter wonderland!

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Looking at the stream area.

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Karma and Miss Rosie frolicking in the snow.

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Zsa Zsa frolics!

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Zeph declines to get his paws wet hahaha

It’s in the air. Spring. Well, this week we’ve had a bit of a cold spell but, mostly, Winter has been pretty mild. No huge dump of snow. Just two nights of wet flurries that painted the landscape snow white the next day but quickly melted with the appearance of warm sun.

Spring in the Southern Hemisphere starts on September 1st and that’s just two short weeks from now. Some cherry blossoms are already in bloom in Christchurch and, the other day, I found one of our cherry blossoms awakening, as well as daffodil buds appearing. This is my favourite time of year on the property. It seems we have long Winters and you get sick of the rain and overcast days. Mind you, in Canterbury we can get cold, frosty mornings followed by beautiful, bright blue sunny days – so I can’t complain too much.

It’s the anticipation that I savour. Of seeing the pink and white pastel cherry blossoms abloom; spring lambs leaping about on the neighbouring property; canary yellow daffodils bobbing their pretty heads; and the general feeling of rebirth. It’s approaching.

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One of the cherry blossoms stirs.

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A daffodil bud.

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The large cherry blossom in the front garden usually waits until October to unfold in all its glory.

 

 

Part of the charm of living in rural New Zealand is that everything is at the local shops. A mere 5 minutes walk to the local pharmacy, three cafes and two restaurants, my hairdresser, supermarket, boutiques where you can buy kitchenware, clothes, shoes, linen, an art gallery and museum plus a bookshop and antiques store. Basically, you never have to leave Oxford. The only thing we lack is a good bakery but since the township is expanding fast, I don’t think I’ll have to wait too long.

On Sundays, I can rush up and buy some baked goods because that’s when the local farmer’s market happens. Aside from buying fresh produce, I can also get Italian cheeses, German bread and cakes, local jam and honey as well as meat from local farms. A mobile coffee van churns out lattes and cappuccinos. I can even get a chai latte.

But all this shopping is tough on the men, so we have a special place to park them LOL.

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This week we’ve been preparing for The Snow. In 2011 and 2012, I was in Rome and missed the annual dump of the white stuff. So I was mildly excited that a polar blast was coming our way. Yeah, right: I’m over it already.

At around 1.00am this morning, the snow started. When we woke up and looked out, it was a truly beautiful sight. The first thing that struck me was the quiet. Snow muffles sound and a thick blanket of white snow seems to muffle the eye too. All is serene. Eerily serene.

Zeph and Zsa Zsa looked momentarily confused when they rushed outside. Then they started playing in the snow. Zeph ended up shivering so they had to come inside and be rugged up and plonked before the log fire. It actually hasn’t been too cold and the horses are fine in the paddocks. But tomorrow, high winds are expected along with snow for the next two days. That could mean the horses will get cold and so it will up to the stables for them.

After a few hours of schlepping around in the snow, carrying bales of hay and coping with wet dogs – I’m OVER IT. The next three days will be wet snow and then….get this…we’ll get five days of SUN. Then one day of snow again; then SUN.

Wellington has been battered and flights cancelled. Local farmers around here were saying that this will be the worst snow since 1992. No idea what happened in 1992 but it did have us a bit worried. So we spent this week preparing the property and making sure we had enough food in case…of what we weren’t sure. But power cuts would be a start. Frozen water pipes another issue. Flooding from all the rain and then melting snow.

Counting the minutes until Sunday when the sun will make a VERY welcome appearance.

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As we opened the door this morning at the front of the house – we were met with a Winter Wonderland.

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I like to sit at this table and have my morning coffee. Not this morning!

I was getting a bit worried about the cherry blossom. It wasn’t wakening from its winter slumber. Since I arrived back from Sweden in early September, the cherry blossoms have been out and about in Christchurch and the Oxford district. Christchurch city and suburbs are bursting with pastel colours.

But my cherry blossom? Nope. No signs of anything happening until late last week when I spotted tiny buds. And then literally, overnight, the cherry blossom gracefully unfolded its delicate pink and white flowers as if to say see, it was worth the wait. And indeed it was worth the wait. The blossoms are a creamy pearl colour interspersed with dusky pink. But already the petals are floating to the ground. So I won’t be able to enjoy its beauty for too much longer I suspect.

Every day, I stand underneath its branches and feel like I’m enfolded in a pastel pink and white umbrella. The tree is next to the weeping willow, which is also cascading its fronds in full glory along with the daffodils waving their cheery heads.

This is my favourite time of year in New Zealand. Just before the heat of summer. Yep, it can get hot here. Not as hot as Oz but the days are warm enough to break out a sweat. Right now, the evenings and mornings are a bit cool and daytime isn’t T-shirt weather just yet. But evidence of the approaching warm weather is everywhere.

The grass is growing faster than we can mow it. Spring lambs are jumping up and down on the sheep property next to us. Baby rabbits are scooting across the paddocks. Birds are happily chirping and the sun is (usually) shining on blue sky days.

What is it with snow and Rome? Last year, I was in Rome working and it snowed while I was away. About 22 centimetres of snow. That was around August 15 or 16 last year. Coming from Sydney, where I was more used to hot, humid days, snow is still an exciting novelty for me.

So this year I was secretly pleased to be in Rome during May and June. I thought this was a rather cunning plan actually. Beat the brutal heat of July/August (which I suffered through last year) and get back to New Zealand in time for fluffy white snow in July. Well, that cunning plan has been foiled dear reader!

Quite unexpectedly, Oxford experienced an early snowstorm on June 5. Around 70 centimetres according to El Hubs – although I’m sure he’s exaggerating. What he’s clearly not exaggerating is the angle of the snowflakes. He thought it odd that they were falling straight down (as opposed to at a slant).

Apparently, this is due to the storm not being accompanied by any wind and basically hanging directly over the Canterbury area where we live. According to a report, Canterbury became the battleground for cold and warm air masses. All too scientific for me. I just know that I could see a lot of white stuff all over our front yard as I was talking to El Hubs via Skype around 6.30am that morning.

Zeph and Zsa Zsa were apparently running around like lunatics in the snow. Last year, during a snowfall, they were at their breeder’s so were toasty and warm inside their kennel. Guess snow is a novelty for them too.

This snowfall was pretty early in the winter season. I’m hoping that we get snow in July or August as the property is magical and silent when it’s covered with snow. Of course, you then have to suffer the melting snow and crappy mud but there’s something so eerily beautiful about snow don’t you think?

I’m hoping these plants (which we recently planted in their pots) are okay after the snow dump.

Zsa Zsa was apparently besotted with the snow & running around like a mad thing. I couldn’t help laughing at her.

You can see the electricity wires have come down due to the weight of the snow. These lines power the stables.

Snow on roof of house. We have a very steep roof as do most houses in Canterbury – to withstand the weight of snow.

El Hubs points to one of my horses standing under the shelter of a tree. I think it’s Rosie.

Hilarious! Little Zsa Zsa still playing in the snow with her ears flapping.

Zsa Zsa.

My step-son, Stephane, who’s French and visiting from Bordeaux tells me about the snowstorm.

The front yard – like a Christmas Wonderland.

I love the trees in our front garden. In fact, I love the trees all over the North Canterbury region. Don’t worry. I’m not some whacko hippie dippie tree hugger. I just appreciate the enormous beauty that nature offers us mere mortals. Trees here soften the landscape with their different textures and colours and this is part of what attracted us to New Zealand and this area.

My favourite trees in our garden are the magnificent weeping willow, the cherry blossom and the truly stunning golden elm. March and April are the best months here. Crisp, coolish early mornings followed by bright sunny days that can often be T-shirt warm. And when the sun’s rays shine through the branches and foliage of the golden elm, it’s like looking at a tree of gold.

Under the golden elm is Zsa Zsa’s favourite play and rest area. Sometimes when I wonder where she is, I look out to see her sniffing the grass around the tree or sitting quietly, enveloped by its cool protection. I often stand beside the tree trunk and look upwards, catching glimpses of sky blue peeping through the gold foliage.

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