Autumn 2011

Holidays again and it is raining, but I shouldn’t complain because it has been fine most of the time and it does make me sit at my computer and do some work.  Lol!  I am doing anything but work but am trying to catch up with some admin sort of stuff and tidying up of loose ends that I haven’t had time to do during the term.  Must get down to it though so that I am on top of things for next week and I will spend a day in school at the end of the week to get some photocopying and stuff done before Monday!

Aonghas and I had a fun day at the beach at Raglan last week with some girls that came over on an exchange from Hong Kong.  He was the only boy amongst 30 or so girls and managed surprisingly well.  They, of course thought he was adorable and once they all got over their shyness they crowded round him asking him questions and teaching him how to say “I love you” in Chinese!  He also joined in some of their classes during the week and acted as interviewer during one session which we videoed.  They were amazed at how little homework he had each week (he thinks he has loads!) and thought he must have lots of time to sleep if he didn’t have any homework to do!  When asked what they were looking forward to most whilst they were in New Zealand they replied that they really wanted to go to Candyland so that they could make their own sweets and buy lots! So much for the beautiful scenery, the culture, the native flora and fauna…..!  But then, you have to remember that they are eleven year olds!

We had a couple of family walks out over the Easter weekend – nothing adventurous but it was good to get out and escape the house and work for a few hours and to remind ourselves to get out more often.  It is easy to get bogged down in the day to day demands of work and home and forget that we should make time for each other.  On Friday we went over to Pirongia and spent the afternoon on the Nikau Walk and took in Kaniwhaniwha Cave on the way.  The walk itself is not very inspiring – the first part is along a quite wide path that runs along the river – sometimes close enough to see and sometimes you are separated by a swathe of bush. There are some promising places to stop and pic-nic or have a dip in the pools and play but on an autumnal afternoon we weren’t tempted to linger.  It wasn’t particularly cold but the sky was grey and there was a hint of rain.  The second part is in the bush – at the moment they are working on upgrading the paths and the bridges so there are bits of machinery around and piles of gravel.  Autumn is probably not the best time to see the bush – I love the Cabbage Trees, the Nikau Palms and the Tree Ferns but they are all quite dark at this time of year – the freshness of the new light green fronds in the spring and summer has given way to a sombreness which, coupled with an overcast sky, gives the place a melancholy feel.  The bracken is dry and brown, we looked for mushrooms but saw few and the dead leaves lie dank in the undergrowth.  However, the darkness is brightened by the berries on the trees – orange through scarlet to deep red and even purple.  In some places the ground was carpetted with them.  We were also serenaded by the birds; Tui and Bellbirds and the chattering Piwakawaka which hopped alongside us looking for the grubs we might disturb as we walked through the bush.  Lachlan raced ahead, plugged into his ipod in his own world, we caught up with him at Kaniwhaniwha Cave; he had already been round the Nikau Loop Walk three times!  The cave is short – about 20metres!  A short climb down leads to three entrances, the one to the left is silted up and may have once linked to another silted up entrance further round to the left in the dry stream.  To the right a relatively well-decorated hole leads to a drop of about 3 metres maybe – difficult to tell as we couldn’t get in as it has been blocked off with a chain, but it comes out in the main passage.  There are some nice curtains which have clearly been damaged in the past and some flowstone.  The main way lies between the two other entrances; a short climb down leads into the streamway – very little water at present – and a narrow rift passage about 15ft high which is easily negotiable.  A couple of bends and you are soon at a daylight section where it looks like you have to go down on hands and knees in the stream to get under a rock flake but with some thought it is possible to get through without crawling.  There is a wooden ladder here that leads to the surface – that’s it, all done!  We went back the way just so we could have a longer cave- thrill experience and then Aonghas and I went back in to take some photos!  It seems there are no other known caves in the Pirongia Forest Park, but it does seem strange that there aren’t.  There is a cave called Karamu Caves which is on some private land close by; I will be going there next week with our school camp so will report on that later.   On the way over to Pirongia we stopped to find a geocache – Toothbrush – it is situated on the side of the road and is not the usual box  – the picture explains best!  There were a few in the forest too but we couldn’t find them – wonder whether they have been moved or buried by the upgrade work that has been going on?

On Sunday we visited the Taitua Arboretum with some friends, Liz, Chaz, Jamie and Josh.  We have been before a few times and it always an interesting place to visit.  We spent all afternoon wandering round looking at the plants and trees and enjoying the warmth of the Autumn sun.  There are lots of fruit and nut trees, and of course at this time of year they are laden with fruit.  We guiltily plucked some Feijoa and some Quince – well they sort of fell off in our hands so they were ready to drop and would only have gone to waste otherwise, wouldn’t they?  Must Google Quince and find out what to do with them!!  The pomegranites didn’t seem quite so ripe, although some people had clearly taken them off the trees as there were remnants of them scattered around the ground, so we left them to ripen on the trees.
Quite a few mushrooms around and about although non edible; it reminded us that we should try to get out a bit more and go mushroom hunting.

The boys had great fun climbing trees and Lachlan showed that just because he is a “grown-up” teenager doesn’t mean that he has lost the boyish desire to climb.  He can now get frighteningly high up and I have to resist the natural protective motherly urge to cry out! He has always been a good climber but I know from experience how much easier it is going up than down…!  Aonghas is a little more circumspect for the time being.

Photos are on Flickr – not so many as the light was not great but there are a few that serve as a record.

Autumn update

It has been a while since I have caught up with this blog – I really ought to try to get into the habit of writing shorter and more often, I suppose, but somehow it just doesn’t happen. Work comes in waves, and whilst there is always something to do, there are times when I am absolutely flat out and just keeping up with day to day tasks like the washing and tidying up is a struggle! I have just about finished planning for the Year 12 camp that goes in the first week of next term and Year 9 Camp is done apart from a few ends to tie up. So I find myself with a little bit of breathing space to catch up with the rest of the world!

Autumn is well and truly here; foggy, damp mornings turn into glorious blue sky days with a crispness in the air that wasn’t there just a few weeks ago. The sun is still hot, and it is still very pleasant to sit out in it but you definitely need a jumper handy. The last week has also seen some exciting downpours, and one day we swung from black, heavy clouds and torrential rain to clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine just about every half hour! The clocks have gone back which has given us some respite from the dark mornings that we were starting to wake up to, but it won’t be long until that is the norm for a couple of months at least. Not looking forward to that!

There is a lot to do in the garden; the warmth and the rain over the last few weeks has meant that the weeds have run rampant, the courgettes have mutated into giant marrows, we have feral cucumbers invading every flower bed and the tomatoes have all split their sides and are spilling seeds everywhere! We are going to try to put some winter veg in this year but need to sort out the summer crops soon and tidy up the beds so that we can sow afresh. There is also something nasty that is biting me to bits everytime I go anywhere near the garden so the incentive to do any real work is very low – I spend all my time afterwards itching and have read weals all over my torso! I had the same thing happen to me this time last year so there must be a specific bitey thing that affects me at this time of the year!

I had a great morning with Aonghas today. Through Scouts we were invited to join the Hamilton Hot Air Balloon Club at their club day at Innes Common by the lake in Hamilton. Rather early on a Sunday mornin for my liking but we arrived at 7am in the semi darkness and they showed us how a hot air balloon works and what you have to before you can get in the air. We helped unpack the balloon, put the basket together, fill the balloon with air and then get it upright using the hot air. Fascinating stuff. We then had a chance to go in the balloon on a tether – that means it is still connected to the ground (well to a couple of cars!) with long ropes, but we were probably about 100ft off the ground. They do that as part of the training for trainee pilots; they have to learn how to adjust the amount of hot air they have to put in the balloon to control the altitude, also to read the wind and air current flows as well as the weight of different people in the basket. It also gives them practice at taking off and landing. They are looking for new, young members of the club to train up which is why they invited the scouts along. Aonghas was quite frightened by the noise and the heat of the burner, but he conquered his fears and decided to go into the balloon. Once he had made his mind up and was in the basket and up in the air a smile grew from ear to ear and he ended up getting back in for a second go! Needless to say he has put his name down to find out more! Pancakes in the French cafe for a late breakfast rounded a good morning off and he was a happy boy!

Lachlan has been busy with Outdoor Education activities. Kayaking at the beginning of term; 7am every morning in the University pool for 4 weeks and then kayak camp down at Taupo was followed by Scuba Diving on Mayor Island last weekend. They had an eventful 4 hour boat ride out there where most of them were sick, and the girls tent fell down in the wind and rain overnight but all seemed to have had a good time. Lachlan is apparently an “air pig”; he gets through twice as much air as anyone else! Mountain biking this week and then who knows what next term! He has started playing football again and played in his first match for the Claudelands Rovers yesterday – a 7-0 drubbing but they are playing in an adult league and held their own pretty well in the second half. Lachlan got 2nd Player of the Day and he played well so was quite pleased with himself. Aonghas has been selected for the 2nd XI hockey team at Berkley and is first reserve for the first team – not bad when you consider that he is competing against Year 7s, 8s and 9s for a place. He is also hoping to trial for Waikato Reps again this year. He too is going to play football; he trialled a couple of weeks ago and is waiting to find out what team he has been selected for. They are both competing in the Waikato Secondary Schools Mountain Biking competition on Wednesday so we will see what that brings.

I am looking forward to the holidays at the end of next week; the first 3 days we are working at the V8s to earn some money for Lachlan’s trip to Cambodia and Vietnam in December, but after that I am hoping for spome lazy days catching up on sleep/reading/housework/garden….! May even get chance to write some letters and get the birthday cards and presents sent that have been sitting here for a couple of months!  Who knows?