Two Hot Tubs

Just a few days ago, I sat in a hot tub overlooking Big Bay. The weather changed every few minutes from blue skies and sunshine to light rain and clouds, and then back again. Every hour or so, a big jet would fly over, heading out from nearby Auckland, beginning a journey to other lands. I would be on a similar plane later that day.

 

Our bach consisted of two small buildings hanging (quite literally) on the edge of a sandstone cliff. A small white picket fence surrounded the property and kept Obi and Charlee safe from falls. Two steep driveways led to the road (one so steep we couldn’t get up it in Annie’s van!) The path down to the waterfront switched back and forth to a small grassy landing, lined with rocks and a lot of seaweed. Tides changed our view throughout the day, as did the changing weather. We saw many rainbows as the sun filtered through the light rain.

John and I claimed the smaller building, a 9 x 12 room with a whole wall of windows/doors facing north towards the bay. It had room for a bed, a chair and a couple tables. We moved furniture around to make room for a small mattress for Charlee and shared it with her. So sweet to share our space–and bed–with her our last two mornings.

In New Zealand, a bach is usually a rustic cottage on or near the coast. (On the South Island, they are called cribs.) I’m sure there are lots of really lovely bachs, but probably not in our price range! This one was pretty basic, except for the hot tub.

Today, I looked over the edge of another hot tub at a completely different view: evergreen trees, a grassy winter yard (no snow!) and blue skies. We’re back home, getting over jet lag, and feeling a little stunned to find ourselves back in the U.S.A. Even though we got on that plane and flew for 11 + 4 hours, its hard to fathom the distance between here and New Zealand. (Is anyone else still amazed by the fact of overseas air travel? It seems so common and yet, surreal.)

Coming home to a “new” house might have contributed to this odd feeling. Surveying some of the damage to said house probably also had an impact. (John2 didn’t do well on his own.) An enthusiastic welcome at the Birkey house and Charlee’s new level of response when Skyping will probably help us ease back into our life. As the week progresses and normal activities begin to take over, I’m sure we’ll feel better.

That, and a hot tub with a view!

Last Supper

Today was our last full day at Cherry Lane Cottage–and it was a full day. I made cinnamon rolls for morning tea and Anne made bao buns with twice cooked pork for dinner. They were amazing. She’s quite a good cook.

 

 

Charlee and I took a fun walk in the rain, in the cutest little rain suit you’ve ever seen. Anne first saw these in Petersburg in 2010. When I was there this summer, I looked for them and then searched the Internet, finding them on Amazon (of course. If you really want to see how they work, check out this video of Oaks and Olive demonstrating (make sure you make it at least halfway through the video. It is worth it.)

 

Lizi fed the chickens for the last time. She has really enjoyed the animals here–chickens, cats, cows, sheep and the dog–but I think she might like the chickens the best, especially the four little chicks. 

Grampa spent the day finishing a big girl bed for Charlee. She was quite the helper throughout the day and with the final production. She will sleep in it tonight.

 

Tomorrow morning James leaves early for a whitewater kayaking trip and we are going to a bach (not a typo) about an hour southwest of Auckland. Annie’s friend Emily is flying in from Canada tomorrow evening. We’ll spend the next two days playing at the beach and then they will drop us off at the airport on Thursday afternoon. I thought that might make our parting a little easier.

Cherry Lane Cottage

James and Annie’s address is 44 Kentucky Road, Karapiro, 3494, New Zealand, but at the end of her driveway is a sign with a sweeter name: Cherry Lane Cottage. We haven’t found the cherry trees yet, but there are plenty of other fruit trees on the property–lemons, grapefruit, fig, apple, avocado, fejjoa and peaches. Anne has also planted a mandarin orange tree, a lemonade tree (seriously), and grapes, raspberries and blueberries.

 

 

 

 

 

What fun it is to bake here at Cherry Lane Cottage. The first week we made cinnamon rolls, homemade marshmallows, and bagels. Last week Anne made a pear pie and today I’m going to try a peach cobbler. John just picked a bag of peaches from the tree. We are also in the process of freezing peaches and blueberries (purchased yesterday at the Blueberry Cafe.)

Yesterday and today, I processed 5 HUGE zucchini (corgettes in New Zealand) and made zucchini bread and muffins. I will freeze the rest for later recipes, or maybe donate some of it to the ABS Lodge. (I ended up with something like 20 cups of grated squash.)

 

 

It’s so lovely to have a ready supply of fruit, especially lemons. John makes lemon cordial every few days so that we have always have lemonade on hand. At home, I rarely have lemons when called for in a recipe, but here they are always available, at least in season. A small glass lemon squeezer is easy to use and quick to clean up. The best part is that all the rinds can be fed to the cows and chickens or dropped into the compost. The same goes for all the excess zucchini parts. No waste.

And eggs. There are six laying hens at the moment so we get about 3-5 eggs most every day. We know where one of the nests is, but we have been having a hard time finding where the others are laying. They cackle loudly after laying but we haven’t been quick enough to figure out where they are laying. This week John and Anne worked on the chicken coop, with a goal of keeping the hens out of her garden at the very least and also to get the chickens laying in an accessible place. I’m really going to miss having fresh eggs for breakfast and baking.

There is one thing, however, that I will not miss about farm life: flies! We bought a three- pack of fly swatters and have pretty much worn them out. John built a screen for one of the kitchen windows and is thinking about a door screen as well. It’s so lovely to have the doors and windows open, but not so nice to share our space with the flies.

We have about ten days left at Cherry Lane Cottage. We hope to spend at least one more day at the beach and our last two days at a bach near Auckland. It’s going to be hard to get on that plane to come home. We will miss the warm weather, the fresh eggs and fruit, but mostly Anne, James and Charlee. Good thing we’re coming home to more grandchildren. And spring is right around the corner, eh?

 

44 Kentucky Road

I always imagined I would enjoy a rural life–and I’m finding that I really do like it.

This morning we listened to the chickens loudly cackling, announcing the presence of a few more fresh eggs. There were five eggs hidden under the bushes and one chicken still laying, so we left her–and the eggs–alone.

Yesterday in the middle of laundry, our water ran out. James and Anne have a huge cistern–20,000 litres–that is usually kept full with rainwater, but it was empty that morning. We showered at the lodge and brushed out teeth with bottled water. There was still water in a smaller tank, so John filled a rubbish bin with water and we dipped into it to flush the toilets.

This morning we called to order water. While James was making the call, we noticed that the Internet was down. Then John couldn’t get the toaster to work. We finally figured out that the power was out too. About that time, the water man told us that he couldn’t give us a time for the delivery because the power was out in Cambridge, 15 km away. It was a pretty big outage, covering all the the Waikato and even up into the Cormandol.

Annie had an ultrasound scheduled for this morning, so that was off as well. Fortunately, the power came back on within a couple of hours; the water man came with with 1300 litres and pumped them into the cistern; AND the ultrasound was back on schedule. (Baby looks fine. Gender not revealed, though a “guess” has been placed in a sealed envelope.)

 

 

 

This afternoon, we did more laundry, hanging it all out to dry, which is fun on a sunny summer day. (It’s not so fun in the middle of winter.)

 

 

Charlee had her bath outdoors in a plastic laundry bin.

Lizi feeds the chickens once a day. There are nine hens and four chicks. Two of the hens are on maternity leave, even though their chicks are surrogate chicks ordered from Raglan. They are truly free range, sometimes even venturing into the house!

 

After dinner, I walked the length of Kentucky Road, 2K, in the cool evening, watching the sun set, turning puffy clouds pink. There are seven farms along this road, ranging in size from small to large. Two are working farms (beef, goats and dairy) and the others are more hobby farms. Anne and James live on the smallest “farm”: Two calves, one sheep, 9 hens and 4 chicks, two cats, and one dog.

 

Living the dream here on 44 Kentucky Road.

Christmas al fresco

We celebrated Christmas today. We had cinnamon rolls with fresh eggs; read the Christmas story from Luke 2;  enjoyed watching Charlee open her presents and played the new game that was James’ gift, King of Tokyo. James and Anne gardened and clipped the chickens’ wings. We went swimming.

 

And then we had a lovely dinner of roasted chicken, roasted vegetables and pavlova–outdoors.

 

Its been overcast and rainy since we arrived but we haven’t minded. We needed time to get over jet lag and enjoy little Charlee.

 

She is a busy little girl with a beautiful one-dimple smile, white-blond curls, and a solid, strong body. She inherited agility from both James and Anne: climbs confidently, wanders freely, and handles the animals with ease.

Her Christmas presents were a bike, a baby doll (w/cradle, quilt and baby paraphernalia), a stuffed singing elephant, and a coffee-maker wooden toy. The bike was from her parents and later that day, James made a ramp for her! John made the cradle and I made the quilt. She is a busy little mama, caring for the baby. Good practice for the real baby coming in June.

Anne and James are now away on a two-day vacation, the first time they’ve both been away from Charlee overnight. The three of us are managing to keep up with one busy little girl.

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas! (It’s finally over :-)!

 

 

All I want for Christmas…

A week or two before Christmas John asked me if there was anything I wanted for Christmas. I replied, “All I want is for it to be over!”

The next day, I listed all the “new” things in my life: a new house with new furniture, a new piano and a new hot tub, as well as a garage I can park in, a first floor laundry room, a master bedroom suite and a fantastic kitchen. I really didn’t need anything for Christmas. (Though I still desperately wanted it to be over!)

December and early January is a difficult time in our house. The combination of winter weather mixed with the holidays (and John2’s birthday) means a lot of added stress. It started early in December this year with John2 obsessing about gifts, both for himself and for others. He loves to give gifts, but also loves to get them. His wish list start sounding like a list of demands for a calm Christmas. And once we get through Christmas, his birthday is ten days later, with a different set of expectations. We must go ice skating on his birthday; we have halibut and baked Alaska for dinner, and there is another wish list. This year I had Lizi give him his Audrey Hepburn calendar as a Christmas gift, which bothered him. I also tried changing the menu.

Anyways, we made it through the month of December, Christmas and John’s birthday.

Now we are packing, and getting ready to celebrate another birthday (Anne’s) and Christmas in New Zealand. It’s too expensive to mail packages and Annie is a lot more relaxed about gifts and traditions. They were traveling anyways, spending her birthday and Christmas on the South Island with James’ family.

We are sewing and building and still ordering things on Amazon while we are un-decorating our house and packing for summer. Two weeks of white snow and arctic temperatures will give way this week to a heat wave in the 30s. Next Monday (January 15) we will start our journey to the other side of the world, arriving on the 17th, with a day lost on the way. (We’ll pick it up on the way home.) Maybe we’ll celebrate Anne’s birthday on January 21 and Christmas on January 25th. Or maybe not.

We are all so excited to see–and hug–Annie, James and Charlee so much that the rest seems inconsequential. We’ll spend five weeks with them on their “farmette” eating from the fruit trees and garden, caring for the animals, and loving on little Charlee. And we’ll get mid-winter tans as well 🙂 Our first New Zealand summer!

P.S. John2 will be home alone for five weeks. Please pray for him–and if you are nearby and feel “called,” reach out to him with a phone call, a text, a meal, or an invitation. His phone number is 630-200-0415. He may or may not answer it, but will likely listen to your message and may return your call. Or maybe not.

Denali Finale

When we left Petersburg, we considered changing our tickets and going straight home-to deal with a crisis at home. We decided against it when we looked at the cost and were advised against coming home to “rescue.” We carried on.

 

We spent a rainy day in Juneau. We decided to rent a car, which allowed us to drive out to the Mendenhall glacier, shop, and stay relatively dry. That evening we boarded a flight to Anchorage, where we rented another car, drove to the mission guest house, and tucked ourselves in bed.

The next morning I had breakfast with my friend, Sharlane before she went to work. The weather didn’t look good for the trip towards Denali that I had planned, but we decided to go for it anyways. We packed for a possible overnight and headed north.

Six hours later, we arrived at Denali National Park and gleefully stamped our retirement Passport book. On the way, we stopped and took just a couple pictures of the great mountain. We could see most of the massive mountain, but the top was obscured by clouds. It’s hard to see but it is there in the center of the photo.

 

In 2010, during an 8 hour layover in Anchorage, Anne, a friend, and I had made a spontaneous trip towards Denali. We stopped more than 100 miles from the mountain but were still awed by its majesty. I wanted John to have that experience.

He (and I) had a completely different experience of Denali.

It turns out that one of the best places to see the mountain is from a distance. For one thing, the road that leads into Denali National Park is located on the east side of the mountain range that runs almost straight east and west. To cut down on the impact on the environment, travel within the park is limited a to a bus system that we didn’t have time to access. (The shortest tour was 4.5 hours; the full tour was 11 hours.) Cars were only allowed to the visitors center, the campgrounds, and a fifteen-mile stretch of road.

We took an evening and morning trip up the park road and a two-mile hike at Savage Creek, in wind and rain. Autumn was in full bloom in the park, with red brush, yellow aspens and green pines. Stunning. Our pictures can’t possibly do justice to the beauty we experienced. We really enjoyed the vast and beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

It was a fitting finale for our Alaska adventure.

 

 

 

 

*One of the things I love about Alaska is that there are three highways: 1, 2, 3, forming a triangle between Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Tok, which is just east of Glennallen, our first home when we lived in Alaska. We have transversed Hwy 1 between Tok and Anchorage several times; part of Hwy 2 to the Sourdough Lodge; and now we’ve been more than halfway up Hwy 3 towards Fairbanks. My goal is to make the whole loop next time we come.

 

Petersburg Peeps

Late last night we said a reluctant goodbye to Petersburg, watching from the deck of the Malaspina as the lights of town slipped out of sight. It was a good week.

Three full-on rain days gradually turned into partly sunny days at the end. We donned our rain jackets and (in my case) garden shoes and carried on. I shopped, walked and visited the new library. We took trips out the road in both directions, nearly circumventing the island.

 

But mostly, Petersburg was about our people: We had two delightful evenings with good friends from the Bible church, reminiscing and catching up on our families. Both served us halibut–a special treat! We spent a lot of time with our friend “Clyde”, eating out and doing errands around town. (His real name is Harvey but he decided to use his middle name in light of the hurricane ravaging the South.) Anne and I had a wonderful lunch and caught up, chatting at the Pilot office, the newspaper she and her husband own. On Sunday we enjoyed fellowshipping at the Bible church and sharing in a Back-to-School BBQ.

We were sad to see the empty KRSA studio building, the still blinking towers (without a signal) and our house, the back porch littered with beer bottles. Sometime after our last visit (2010) the mission decided to pull out of radio ministry in Southeast Alaska. For awhile other groups attempted to run the station and then finally, just a few years ago, KRSA was completely shut down. Changes in radio and the accessibility of the Internet precipitated some of the changes, but a change in focus (to church planting) for the mission also contributed. We knew about these changes, of course, but seeing the empty building made it a lot more real.

Once again, it was the people–and their stories–that encouraged us. It was really fun to meet almost all of Brian & Carol’s family (including 7 grandchildren), to hear so many stories about other adults that were small children so many years ago. This generation of believers has built a beautiful new church building and carried on ministry to the community, growing strong in Christ. I don’t think we realized how new many of our friends had been to the faith back then, nor how recently the church had been established.

 

We dug our roots down deeply there–even though we were only in Petersburg for 18 months–so we were delighted to see how God has been working in their lives in the intervening years.

 

 

 

In the 35 years since we left Petersburg with our 8-month old firstborn, we’ve traveled back several times. We went back with our small children three years later (1985) and again when John2 graduated from high school (2000.) Chris visited with Ellen Ferris once, and John (once with John2) came back twice to help with engineering in the later years. In 2010, we sent Annie to Petersburg to “practice” being far from home before going to New Zealand for Bible school. After she left–and found that she loved Petersburg–Chris decided to go up and visit for the last week. This trip was our 6th and probably not our last.

We love our Petersburg Peeps.

Sunny. Or not.

Sunny days in Southeast Alaska are like gold. You don’t squander them. The blue skies and sun lasted all the way up our trip up the Inside Passage–and we spent as much of it as we could basking in the sunshine and warmth.

This is what we woke up to the next morning:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is the forecast for today:

100% chance of rain all day. At least an inch of rain is projected. In Ketchikan a sign measures “liquid sunshine,” so I guess that’s what we are getting now. We saw this sign on a store today:

 

 

 

 

 

We are settled into a B&B on the waterfront with a HOT TUB! This is my twice-a-day view of Petersburg:

So, sunny or not, we are having a good time.

Ketchikan

I’m sitting on a plastic lounge chair atop the Matanuska, a mid-sized boat on the Alaska Marine Highway system. We are docked at Ketchikan waiting for our ferry to continue its journey north.

Amazingly, the sun is shining and it is warm.

 

 

Yesterday morning we left our house early to arrive at the airport by 8:30 a.m. We dropped Lizi off at the American Airlines gate for Denver and found our way to an Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. Four hours later we landed at Sea-Tac and got on another flight going north to Ketchikan. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon.

After settling in to our hotel, we walked around the town, looking at tourist shops and eating King Crab and halibut fish ’n chips. We walked up steep stairways to get a better view of the harbour (which at the time was dominated by the presence of two mammoth cruise ships.) By late afternoon we were exhausted so we went back to the room to power nap for a bit. While I slept, the cruise ships mercifully continued on their way so that when we went back out to enjoy the sunshine and sunset, our views were unobstructed. (Three more ships came in by daylight and the town was again teeming with cruisers.) We had dessert on a third-floor restaurant and then walked a couple miles trying to burn off the calories.

In the morning, I walked further into the historic district and meandered through art galleries. (I informed John that this is a “buying trip” for our Alaskan master suite 🙂 I even found a quilt store.

Sunshine in Southeast Alaska is a rare treat.

 

When I checked the weather app for Petersburg it listed clouds and rain for the entire week. When we got off the plane, someone told us that this was the 10th sunshiny day of the entire summer. In fact, they’ve had so much rain that they have experienced flooding for the first time she can remember in 40 years. We’re thrilled that we are getting to start our trip with sunshine and will have it for at least some of our trip up the Inside Passage.

 

Speaking of 40 years, this is the official celebration of our 40th Anniversary, actually occurring last April. We planned to meet James & Anne (and Charlee, of course) in Hawaii, but James has been busy preparing his Adventure Bible School for an audit, so it never worked out. We decided to revisit one of the most fun times of our life together by planning a ten-day trip to Alaska. We considered a cruise, but didn’t like the idea of the big boats (which we like even less now that we’ve seen them up close.) This ferry boat suits us just fine and will deliver us tonight to Petersburg, our home for 18 months (March 81-September 82.) For the next 9 hours, all we have to do is relax—and enjoy the sunshine.