Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Give and inch......

It's been a busy couple of days with MT's parents arriving and a few bits of work on the horizon this week that needed preparation for. What's been most time consuming though is keeping track of our bassets who are getting more independent minded every day.

I think Fortnum and Mason are disgusted with my grass growing capability and have therefore taken to wandering off and getting into mischief as punishment for them not having their green grass to play on.

Let's just say that the Basset owners number one characteristic has been tested to the limit - patience. It becomes a battle of wills as to whether they can stand (or rather sit or lie) their ground and not budge if they don't want to.

They are born explorers using their snouts to sniff out the best there is to find. Here's a few pics on their adventures following a basset break out from my clutches today.

"Well you have to give her credit for a few green bits which are quite tasty to eat"

"Not much here either"

"Quick she's coming......"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rainbow, rainbow

It's not been a basset friendly day. We woke up to drizzle and our evening constitutional to spy on Mike and Andrea's house was in the wet too. But wow was it worth it to be able to see rainbow-rainbow. Yes a double rainbow.

Oh course this was just the time for the camera to tell us to "change the battery pack" so we couldn't capture it on film so you'll have to make do with a shot from the internet. You can find out all about rainbow-rainbows at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow

It was indeed a beautiful sight and we could see when the pot of gold was buried. I'd be lying if I said it was in our back garden but it was close enough! With or without a rainbow pot of gold you can't beat our back view for sunsets. Tonight's was a particularly vivid pink with fluffy clouds flying over the hills. It's the sort of view that you simply have to put into your memory bank and think about on a bad day.

I'm not sure Fortnum and Mason appreciated the wonder of it all. They were trotting along trying to get back as soon as possible and get out of the wet.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Growing taller some days

Mike and Andrea's house is growing but I regret to say not every day. We had a spurt of framing and then nothing. Now the roof rafters have gone on but the builders seem to only work every alternate day.

The roofers were due on site last week and now they've had to go and do another job as it looks like the builders are going to take another week to get the final purlins in place.

Framing and roofing is a critical time in a build. You need to get the lid on top at the earliest opportunity. Whether it's rain or sun the effects can be equally devastating to timber that can swell, warp and generally misbehave in ways that home builders don't want to happen.

As I look out of the window of domestic executive HQ I can see the top of the roof and chimney which in some ways is a comforting sight and not too intrusive. Let's hope the builders get their fingers out otherwise the handover date in May will certainly be a challenge.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Local shopping

Part of the idea of moving to the country was to be able to source our food and produce from local suppliers or ideally from our home grown land and stock. We started with the honey and have now moved to getting our firewood from a local source. Our neighbour.

Or rather I should say our neighbour's friend. The deal was he would cut the trees and then could sell the wood. Seems that the initial thoughts of reaping about $30,000 through the sale has ended up closer to about $3,000 after the outlay on the equipment to cut it and the trailer to sell it, not to mention the time to cut the darn stuff up.

We were proud to be his first customer although half way through stacking it in the barn it didn't feel like such a good idea. They always say you get warm twice from firewood and this was no exception. It did seem very strange to be working up a sweat in 25+ degrees shifting wood for the winter. There was method in our madness. There was a huge rain cloud heading our way.

We managed to shift the lot in about 90 minutes which was pretty good going. We're now stocked ready for next winter and there's plenty of time for the wood to be drying out. We've got a "wet-back" on our wood burner so we'll heat our water as well as heat the house. Pretty neat eh. Local supplier of sustainable product to add to our energy efficient house!

Our wood came from here
MT hard at work

Tadaaaaa (I'd just like to point out that this pile is three layers deep - the picture is very deceiving!)

On the subject of wood and fires, this was the view out the back window the other day. I got quite a shock to see that the forestry block over the back was actually on fire. I called 111 (our emergency number) and was relieved to know that they were already on their way to put it out. We had helicopters too to check that there were no other outbreaks.
It makes you realise how quickly forest fires spread. I was digging out my insurance policies, passports and other precious things to pack in case it got much closer to our very dry grass and bush. Luckily the wind was blowing the other way and the rural fire folks did a fantastic job and put it out very quickly.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Beach boys in training

It was a beautiful day and when my friend Anna suggested a dog party at the beach, I thought why not. Fortnum and Mason deserve a treat and I could do with some time away from domestic executive duties. So off we went.

We went to Island Bay which is on the south side of Wellington so the boys had to endure quite a long drive to get their but their caught up on their snoozing so didn't mind too much.

Part of the adventure was to allow the bassets meet a new friend and learn a few things about how to behave on a beach. Anna's dog is getting on now and a little deaf but Ziggy was the perfect old hand to show two puppies how to be the perfect beach boys.

Let's just say that old hands may impart plenty of sound advice but you just can't tell the youth of today how to behave.

"Hmm, seen this wet blue stuff before"

"You are joking Anna, whatever you say, we're not following him"
"Now boys, here's how it goes........"

"Watch and learn!"

"I said WATCH!"

"That's it Mason, you're getting the right idea!"

"Well maybe not....."

"These younguns they just don't get it - I'm off to find my stick!"

"I think he takes himself a bit too seriously!"

"Mind out, that wet stuff is coming to get us......"

"At least the two legged one has water, biscuits and nice clean trousers we can slobber on"

Testing the DE waters

I ventured back to the smoke yesterday to see a couple of clients, one for coaching and the other consulting. It was weird to be back into smart clothes (which the puppies promptly chewed on their journey from outside pen to be locked in the house).

Although you have to invest time to win business the thing I found most difficult was all the coffee drinking. Here in New Zealand doing coffee is a big thing. There are however only so many lattes and cappuccinos that you can drink in a morning. By the time I was back home at lunch time I was almost as hyperactive as the puppies were on their release from the house.

Still it was a gentle test of the domestic executive waters to see how it felt.

I was actually quite pleased to be able to engage in conversations other than basset hound routines and what to buy at the supermarket. But not as pleased to come up the Te Marua hill towards the house and eventually come along the drive to see the house and view behind. Cruising along Lambton Quay and window shopping for new trousers was pretty good. You'll be pleased to know that I was successful in finding a new pair of shoes in the sale to replace the trousers (I know, but when a girl needs cheering up it's only really shoes that do it).

Today it's back to DE responsibilities again and playing at consultant has to wait again for another day. If all the offers of work come off I'm going to be a very busy beaver very soon. A nice prospect as long as it doesn't take me too far from my view of the hills.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How high can bassets jump?

If you want to protect your hard work, and your house and garden, much needs to be done to basset proof it. Of course it's also important for their own health and safety.

After putting so much effort into planting the new flower beds around the house it was important to break the puppies habit of using the flower beds for (a) the quickest route back to the house and (b) a nice soft place in which to do your personal business.

Despite the suggestions at the local DIY store, I knew that granules of chemical solutions was not going to keep my boys off their favourite place. More drastic measures were required. Fortunately having my Dad on hand meant we could install basset fencing.

So, how high can a basset jump we wondered?

Let me tell you they can't jump very high (unless they are trying to get their dinner of the kitchen bench) but they can trample small fences intended to keep them out which are not entirely secured in place!

It's so comical to see them bounding towards the flower beds after running up and down the veranda by the front door thinking that they are going to nip across the direct route and beat me to the step. Let's just say that the fencing doesn't leave a lasting indentation on their faces but momentarily they are squished as they bash into the offending barrier. It seems also unfair too when they are in their post snooze stagger off the veranda to relieve themselves only to find that their is no access to that lovely soft stuff.

Although I know that they think it's a hard life being a basset in want and need of the flower bed. But my need is greater than theirs so they are going to have to get used to it!

PS - please no comments on my desert like lawn which makes an appearance in the following pictures.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A nation mourns it's hero

Today is the state funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary. There has been wall to wall media coverage since he died last week. An icon of New Zealand, a national hero, has brought 10's of thousands to walk past his coffin in Auckland before the state funeral today.

One of the greatest known explorers has had a huge impact on NZ. He put NZ on the map and has since climbing Everest been known not just as a mountaineer but a philanthropist and father figure to the country.

The Royal Family have taken a beating though after it was announced that noone would be flying over for the state funeral. Even an obscure minor royal would have been seen as giving Sir Ed the recognition he deserved. Instead he's got the Governor General and our PM to be a poor exuse for royal representation. The NZ republicans are loving it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bassets, bassets everywhere!

The perfect antedote to post parents departure today was a trip to the Wellington Basset Hound show. We thought it would be fun to have a reunion with our bassets' family and also so see what a baggle of bassets really looks like.

Much to our amazement Fortnum and Mason were the perfect hounds. Totally well behaved and much admired by owners of the other basset puppies ("how long did it take you to get them to obey?" was a favourite question!). The key is not how long but how many treats did it take.

There were plenty of new sights and smells which I think was quite overwhelming for our pair. They had to contend with a very hot day (over 30 degrees), more bassets than they have ever seen in their life and actual grass on which to lie (making our failed lawn a sore point for them too!).

"Hmm, so what is that you have to do to be a show dog? Lets watch....."

Bassets on show. Fraser (their brother) is the one on the far right, clearly still learning the ropes!

MT thought that the basset owners were the source of comic value in this pic.

A very hot Fortnum.

"So this is what she is trying to get for us at home. Do you think that she knows how far she's got to go to make it all lush, green and comfy like this stuff?"

Father and daughter

It's been a tough day today in a family sense. My parents left today to return to the UK. It's been a wierd couple of days knowing that time was running out before they left but nothing as painful as the final goodbyes.

Can you spot the family resemblance here?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nosey neighbours

I couldn't resist checking out what the views will be like from our neighbours house so went up to have a peak at the views. They have some awesome views of the valley and hills and a splendid view of a fantastic house built close by!

As part of the visit we decided to introduce Fortnum and Mason to the steers which are living in the paddock next door. After much fuss about what they were the bassets finally decided that it was safe to look, sniff and maybe make friends.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lessons in life

Yesterday Mason learned a huge lesson in life. Don't stick your snout where it's going to get stung by a bee.

It was quite a traumatic morning all round, mostly for me.

I knew that something had got him when he keep pawing at his nose. Within a few minutes we were revisiting his weetbix and chicken necks. As I fretted over what was happening, Fortnum and Mason just decided it would be best to have a punch up over who was going to re-eat breakfast (puppies are really gross).

Anyway, to cut a long story short - swelling on Mason's face was size of golf ball. He brought up the rest of his stomach contents several times and felt very sorry for himself. All I could do was ring the vet who didn't seem overly concerned since he was still breathing and jumping around. I tried some ice in a tea towel to help with the sting. All Mason did was eat the tea towel.

By lunch time he was fine and back to his usual tricks.

I'm sure that the lesson has struck home though as this morning when we were following our usual snouting route and all of a sudden Mason deviated from the exact spot when he got his snout stung. See, he's a smart dog!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dark over Mike's house

At last the neighbours have started the actual framing on their house. I know it's a huge relief to them after waiting since April for their build to begin.

Talking to them it seems that they have been having builder problems of a magnitude that I wouldn't like to think about. Their budget has blown, they've had to take out loads of stuff from their spec and ended up signing a contract where they will do the painting, tiling and rest of finishing themselves. Crikey, things must be bad.
Still, it's going to be a smashing house I am sure. 4 bedrooms and 245m sq. They get decent views through the gap between our house and the bush. They don't overlook us really which is good although I'm sure we'll need to test this before start going au natural in the garden.
It will be nice to have neighbours to bond with. Jim, our other neighbour who sold us the land is a lovely Irish guy who is a self confessed nosey parker when it comes to seeing what's been going on with the build. He came down this week and upset me no end as he seeded his new lawn at the same time as us and he is mowing his whilst I am still trying to coax mine to grow.
I'm slightly concerned about Mike and Andrea who are building though. I found them weeding the thistles from the edge of their land. This was after mowing their section. We are like the hill billies next door with a thriving thistle patch and grass that's up to your knees.
Whilst they may have a beautiful piece of land, we're at least in our beautiful house and dreaming of when the grass will grow!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Teacher's Pets

I'm as proud as a puppy owner could be. The report card for our two boys came in from the dog trainer and behaviouralist said

"Both Fortnum and Mason are delightful and intelligent dogs. I was also impressed with their level of focus and attention-span during my visit."

Wow, who'd have guessed our bundles of mischief would be top of the class!

As you can imagine as soon as the lady with the bag of treats left the property our bassets returned to their normal ways running rings around me. Despite all the success of "sit" and "come" when you are dangling food in front of them when it comes to capturing their attention, and indeed them, when they are on a great escape is rather a tall order. Today they escape from my clutches to bound across the non-lawn down the paddock to hide in the grass by the washing line. Do you think that they would come back.........?

Anyway, you can't help but adore them when....
- they are asleep
- they wag their tails at you
- they bound over to you with their ears bouncing
- lick your face (really gross) to say that they love you!

Who do these remind you of? Just in case I might forget them for real, these replica bassets - a gift from my parents - are taking pride of place on the domestic executive HQ desk.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Domestic dash

I know it's a bit cliché but being a domestic operative really is a full time job. It was much easier being an executive sitting a desk all day jawing to people about nothing of any real significance (compared to the rest of life).

I am looking forward to a break away from home in a few weeks to escape the domestic treadmill which I've been treading for the last few months. No joke, it feels like I dash around all day and when the sun goes down my batteries are flat and all I can do is haul my body off to bed.

I wouldn't change things at all though really. Getting up at the crack of dawn to take the puppies out to admire the beautiful summer morning beats the commuter rush. Fortnum, Mason and I leave all that rushing stuff to MT. Our world however requires stamina to keep going all day.

I hate to be premature in my announcements but it really does feel like summer is arriving. So far it's been the unpredictable not sure what's going to happen next type of weather. The skies are getting bluer, the wind starting to die down and the temperatures regularly reaching 25-30 degrees. Hopefully the good weather will continue for our continuing visitors as there is nothing more miserable than a holiday in the rain. Whatever happens, you can't beat the early mornings at the moment with the mist rolling down the hills with the sun shining behind. I wish I could capture this on camera as it really is a beautiful sight.

As I gazed out to the view this morning, I wondered do I miss the cut and thrust of corporate life. Heck no. When you've replaced the trim lattes for home made lemonade and the lunch box for a sandwich on the veranda you just can't beat it!

Don't be lulled into some romantic notion that I sit and look at the view all day. There are plenty of chores to be done and already the phone is ringing for executive work. I admit I'm putting that off for a while but it still requires some effort to win the business now. Hard to concentrate when there is more fun things to do around the house!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blast from the past

For all those RCN blog readers, here's evidence that you've been beaten to Kaitoke by Margaret our intrepid traveller from Scotland. We've been lucky to have her as a house guest this week and share with her some of what Wellington has to offer.

Of course we did some touristy things but Margaret loved to spend time with the hounds and simply hang out and admire the view (she has impecable taste you know!).

As I dropped her off at the airport for her flight onto Auckland, I felt very sad that time had flown and she was off again. As a regular traveller to Australia I feel it won't be the last time we'll be welcoming Margaret to Wellington.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tell them about the honey!

There was a parcel left on our veranda today from Al our beekeeper friend. Our first Treanor Honey!

It was amazing to see the first produce from our very own land. Admittedly we're relied entirely on Al to do the hard work - oh and the bees of course!

After a moment of joy, sheer panic. What the heck do I do with it now, after all my honey usually arrives in a jar not a slab of honeycomb. After a few texts to our experts suggested just cutting it up into pieces and spreading on toast. Which is exactly what we did this morning.

Without wishing to make you too jealous, I have to say this honey was the best I've ever tasted. A deep rich taste, sweet but not too much. MT was very pleased and is planning to do an alternative morning tea at work - toast, butter and honey. Now that's a conversation stopper at the water cooler if I ever heard one!

From this, you get......

Some of this......
All set for our honey feast

Friday, January 11, 2008

Holiday reports

I'd quite forgotten the impact of holiday time on how New Zealand operates. The fact that we've had to set the alarm for MT in the morning to catch his train on time has reminded me that during the holiday season much of National Radio (our favourite NZ channel) has gone on holiday too.

Instead of lively chat and reports on home and world news we have some idiot who yesterday spent at least 3 minutes talking about the fact he'd left his glasses at home and had borrowed some glasses from his mate. Agh, it's just not what you need when you're trying to wake up. Doom and gloom stories of the world is what makes you listen more intently not drivel about someone's lack of reading capability.

So we're enjoying a review of almost every National Radio programme where they play back snippets of what they thing was the best of their broadcasting last year. It's been really lame and I'm almost wishing that we could get back listening to the stories of Harry Wakatipu which annoyed me so much last year.

Still, this domestic executive doesn't have time for lying in bed listening to the radio. I'm up with the larks, or rather the puppies, for their morning routine. Then it's grass watering duties before finally slumping into Domestic Executive HQ for a spot of email and blog catching up. All this is a rest before the days work really begins!

Away from the routine of DE life, I'm still relishing the beauty of the place that we live. The morning's are crisp and bright with our two friendly parakeets flying around and watching the feral bunnies hop around the bottom of the garden (if only they knew there were two hungry hounds watching them too!).

Did I tell you that the goats escaped and haven't come back? Not best pleased about that. Our neighbour hadn't secured the fencing properly so this dinky family I had come to love are now fending for themselves up in the forestry area. Maybe they'll come back and if they do I'm planning to kidnap (sorry, excuse the pun) and bring them over the fence to live with the rabbits at the bottom of the garden. Psst, don't tell MT he doesn't know about this plan yet!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Houseblogging: Putting down roots

It is starting to feel like the house is really putting down roots now and becoming part of the landscape. We don't quite stick out like the sore thumb we did when the build was under way and with the surrounding landscape in the bloom of early summer it looks and feels good.

There is some way to go with the immediate landscaping around the house though. Our lawn is having problem putting down roots because the weather is so dry but we've been watering it like mad in an effort to get it to grow. There are a few lush patches (and I mean a few) but with the rain in the last few days it might give it the boost it needs to get growing. When it's finally got it's roots down it's going to be a real lush green oasis amongst the brown of the remaining groundworks.

We've planted around a hundred plants too around the house with more being delivered this week. This is starting to soften the lines of the house and give it more of a garden feel. It's a problem keeping Fortnum and Mason off the beds but since they are the first soft things that they come to in the morning you can't blame them for feeling it's their duty to give the beds their daily watering!

Views from the Tunnel Gulley Track

The familiar view of the house complete with flower beds and early signs of a lawn.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Doggy domestic routines

Bringing bassets into our lives has required adjustment to the usual domestic routine. As a modern domestic executive I can move with the times although I never realised how extensive the dog catering repetoire would have to be.

We signed an agreement with the breeder of Fortnum and Mason that we would follow the diet she advised. Whilst many puppies in the world are getting three dry food meals a day our pups follow a gourmet menu with such variation I think I need a database to monitor what they've had when to avoid gastly mishaps of serving them the same thing twice in a week!

OK, it's not quite that bad but it does take some thinking through. Here's a taster:

Breakfast - milk and cereal [either Weetbix - the kiwi version of weetabix although more like cardboard than the UK version - or Farex mix, a mix of complan (chocolate is their preferred choice), farex (baby cereal), and bone grow (for calcium etc)]. Followed by a couple of chicken necks.

Morning tea - a snack of biscuits or marmite and cheese on toast (yes, really - the marmite is good for their colour and tastes fantastic)

Lunch - meat (dog roll, tinned or fresh meat) with biscuits and dollop of yoghurt (to aid digestion don't you know)

Afternoon tea - a snack of biscuits or a bone (yippee)

Dinner - meat (similar to lunch unless it's special occasion when they can have home make cooked meatloaf - rice, mince and cheese - our favourite!)

Supper - snack of biscuits (tight wads only give us a couple)

As you can see, basset feeding time is quite an adventure and not a speedy exercise which can be a cause of considerable frustration to Fortnum and Mason. Enjoy this photo blog of chow time!
"Peckish? Hmm, me too!"

"Hurry up why don't you!"

The dance of the puppy food bowls
"Quick, let's clean the floor together to make sure we don't miss any bits left"