Word of the day


Swivet – a state of anxiety, discomposure, panic or agitation; affright; tizzy.

Flaming tractor doused in lake


When Te Anau’s Lex Lawrence realised his tractor was on fire he did what any Southern man would and took it to the nearest water.


While trying to beat the grass fire out, he turned to find his tractor was also on fire.

“So I jumped in the tractor and drove it into the lake, as deep as I could go.  . . .

As you do.

Apropos of this, a few years ago my farmer  stopped about a kilometre from home to complete a cell phone call while he still had reception, smelled something burning and worked out it was under his vehicle.

The cover over the exhaust had detached at the front  and acted like a scoop gathering up dry grass and seeds when he drove through paddocks and the debris had started to smoulder.

He dropped the call, rushed home and tore inside to get the fire extinguisher.

It had gone out to a paddock some months before and as such things do hadn’t come back.

He went to plan B and drove the vehicle to the big hose used for filing the sprayer. Trouble was that was right beside the diesel and petrol pumps.

He then went to plan C – drove the vehicle to the very edge of a loading bank which enabled him to get under it and hook the smouldering foliage out with a shepherd’s crook.

All our vehicles now have fire extinguishers and they’re checked regularly.

Take the weather with us


I think I might have been a tomato in a former life.

I’m definitely not red now but I’ve retained the sun-loving and heat-seeking genes.

It’s not that I don’t like rain. Living in a drought prone area I know only too well how important it is and North Otago farmers appreciated the 9 to 18 mms we got at the weekend.

But I prefer blue sky to grey and find life goes better when the sun shines, especially in summer.

This isn’t unusual. Eric Barker writes about how we take the weather with us.

He found studies which showed how warm or cold we are towards others varies with the weather; people shop more on sunny days and work more when it’s wet; cloud cover influences which university people pick and job interview performance and heat also increases aggression.

Given all but the last point, the southern South Island has been the place to be for the last couple of weeks.

We came over to Wanaka on Christmas night and have had the sort of weather I remember as a child with sun every day.

My farmer’s had to go back to the farm but I’m taking an extra couple of days to extend the sunshine-fix.

As a public service for those who’ve not been fortunate enough to have summer yet, this is what the day looked like as I walked down Mt Iron this morning:





Tweet of the day:

    Raybon Kan

Can’t believe they made a film about Margaret Thatcher and called it The Iron Lady. It’s 2012!!! Ladies don’t just do ironing!

Hat tip: SST

Child poverty symptom not problem


Child poverty sounds much worse than poverty by itself.

Children are rarely in a position to help themselves, therefore alleviating their poverty requires the help of others. Most of those focussing on child poverty think that means the government in general and publicly funded welfare in particular.

However, there is little if any real child poverty in New Zealand.

This isn’t a third world country where large numbers of children have lost or been abandoned by their parents.

Most if not all children living in poverty in New Zealand are under the care, however adequate or not that might be, of adults. Most, if not all,  of those adults are receiving benefits or tax relief which takes into account they have children.

The term child poverty is being used more in New Zealand but it is a slogan that identifies a symptom not the problem.

The problem is poverty in general and it has more than one definition and many causes.

One definitionn of  poverty, particularly popular among the political left, is receivving less than  60% of the median income. That is a measure of inequality rather than poverty

Dragging the wealthy down would reduce inequality but would not address the problems of real poverty.

A more useful definition is the World Bank’s which is whether households or individuals have enough resources or abilities today to meet their needs.

That some – and any is too many –  children in New Zealand are ill-nourished, poorly clothed and housed, have inadequate hygiene and ill-health is not always because their parents have low incomes.

Other causes include poor management of the money they do have, poor literacy and numeracy, drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, other physical and mental health problems and debt.

Many of these problems are inter-generational and they won’t be solved by focussing on child poverty.

This is not the children’s fault and they almost certainly suffer most from it.

The challenge is to find a way to ensure children have what they need without enabling those charged with caring for them to abdicate further from their responsibility to do so.

Another challenge is to increase economic growth because lack of national wealth is also part of the problem.

January 9 in history


1349 The Jewish population of Basel, Switzerland, believed by the residents to be the cause of the ongoing Black Death, was rounded up and incinerated.

1431 Judges’ investigations for the trial of Joan of Arc began in Rouen, France, the seat of the English occupation government.

1768  Philip Astley staged the first modern circus in London.

1773 – Cassandra Austen, English watercolorist and sister of Jane Austen, was born (d. 1845).

1793  Jean-Pierre Blanchard became the first person to fly in a balloon in the United States.

1799 British Prime Minister William Pitt introduced income tax to raise funds for the war against Napoleon.

1806 – Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson received a state funeral and was interred in St Paul’s Cathedral.

1816 Sir Humphry Davy tested the Davy lamp for miners at Hebburn Colliery.

1822  Portuguese prince Pedro I of Brazil decided to stay in Brazil against the orders of the Portuguese king João VI, starting the Brazilian independence process.

1839 The French Academy of Sciences announced the Daguerreotype photography process.

1854 Jennie Jerome, American society beauty and mother of Winston Churchill, was born (d. 1921).

1859 Carrie Chapman Catt, American suffragist leader, was born  (d. 1947).

1861  The “Star of the West” incident near Charleston, South Carolina – considered by some historians to be the “First Shots of the American Civil War”.

Steamship Star of the West approaching Fort Sumter. Illustration from Frank Leslie’s Weekly

1878  Umberto I became King of Italy.

1880 – The Great Gale of 1880 devastated parts of Oregon and Washington with high wind and heavy snow.

1894 New England Telephone and Telegraph installed the first battery-operated telephone switchboard in Lexington, Massachusetts.

1896 Warwick Braithwaite, New Zealand-born British conductor, was born (d. 1971).

1898  Gracie Fields, English music hall performer, was born  (d. 1979).

1902 Saint Josemaría Escrivá, Spanish Catholic priest and founder of Opus Dei, was born (d. 1975) .

1903  Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, son of the poet Alfred Tennyson, became the second Governor-General of Australia.

1905 According to the Julian Calendar which was used at the time, Russian workers staged a march on the Winter Palace that ended in the massacre by Tsarist troops known as Bloody Sunday, setting off the Russian Revolution of 1905.

1908  Simone de Beauvoir, French author, was born.

1913  Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States, was born  (d. 1994).

1916  The Battle of Gallipoli concluded with an Ottoman Empire victory when the last Allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula.

1916 Peter Twinn, English World War II code-breaker, was born (d. 2004) .

1918 Battle of Bear Valley: The last battle of the American Indian Wars.

1920 Clive Dunn, British actor, was born.

1923 Katherine Mansfield died.

Death of Katherine Mansfield

1928  Judith Krantz, American author, was born.

1933 Wilbur Smith, Zambian-British novelist, was born.

1939 Susannah York, British actress, was born.

1941 Joan Baez, American singer and activist, was born.

1942 Lee Kun-hee, Korean industrialist, chairman of Samsung, was born.

1944  Jimmy Page, British musician and producer (Led Zeppelin), was born.

1948 Bill Cowsill, American singer (The Cowsills), was born (d. 2006).

1951  Crystal Gayle, American singer, was born.

1951 – The United Nations headquarters officially opened in New York City.

1953 Morris Gleitzman, British-Australian children’s author, was born.

1978 – AJ McLean, American singer (Backstreet Boys), was born.

1980 Sergio García, Spanish golfer, was born.

2005  Rawhi Fattouh succeeded  Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization .

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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