2011 in Review, by Dave Clingman, Whakatete Bay, New Zealand

2011 was certainly a year of change for us, and especially for me.  It was probably the best year of my life, at least in many ways if not by all measures.  Following is a list of a few of the highlights of the year, and you’ll probably notice that most of them are a result of our moving here to New Zealand.

Happiest or Most Joyful Moments:
     In the running for this category are such things as eating out in fancy restaurants, watching a cruise ship pull into and out of port in New Plymouth from what Andrew refers to as our “luxury hotel apartment” but which is really the supreme room at our Couch Surfer Hosts’ house, as well as the more minor and everyday things that we so much enjoy, including taking Tazmin for walks on the beach, picking fresh veges from our gardens, and trips to Auckland for shopping and to see and do things.  For Andrew, doing the Canyon Abseiling (rappelling) for his birthday was very high on the list.
     Of the very best in this category, however, all of them basically relate to simply being able to move here to New Zealand.  These include Andrew’s getting an “intellectually stimulating job”, the actual fact of moving here, and all the wonderful parts of life here in New Zealand.  One very nice part of life here in NZ is the great weather we have here, which is not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer and with lots of rain to keep things green and yet plenty of sunshine, too.  Driving across the old Kopu Bridge to arrive in Thames for the first time made me feel like I was coming home, though I can’t even explain that feeling.  Singing New Zealand’s National Anthem for the first time brought tears of joy to my eyes, though again, I cannot account for that emotion.
     But as my number one Happiest Moment of 2011, I would have to place buying our villa.  This is the first house I have ever owned, and it is just about everything that I could have, and have, hoped for in my own home.  It has wonderful growing things, most of which give us yummy things to eat, some seclusion while still being close to town, and beautiful scenery and birds.

Saddest or Worst Moments:
     Among the less than wonderful moments in 2011 for us are the drive north from Guadalajara to Coarsegold, California (though the fact that we were making this move is part of our best things, as well), and the fact that we began the year living in Mexico.  Andrew was never really happy in Mexico, and though I enjoyed most about our life there, his sadness hurt me, too.  Tazmin destroying some of our newly planted trees and vege plants is also not a fun thing.  We now put up chook (chicken) wire around our newly planted things, and this mostly keeps her out.
     But the Worst Moment of 2011 for me was having to leave Mela, our dog, back in Mexico.  She is a wonderful dog, an amazing “mup” (mutt pup) who was more like a cat than a dog.  However, New Zealand doesn’t allow dogs to be imported from Mexico.  We could have placed her somewhere with someone in the USA for half a year and put her through more vaccinations and tests there, and then it still would have cost around a thousand dollars to import her here.  Animals that arrive in New Zealand have to be kenneled in approved importation kennels for a month or so before being allowed into the country.  I still miss her, as does Andrew, and I still consider going through all that stuff to try to get her here.  She would be a wonderful friend for Tazmin, and I imagine they would get along wonderfully, just as Mela and Hazel got along back in GDL.

Funniest Moments:
     There are many little things in our everyday life that keep us smiling and laughing outright, far too many to list, and I am not sure I could even come up with a favorite for this category.  But we enjoy sharing life with each other, and we often make funny little jokes or comments several times each day.
     One thing that is one of my favorites is that when Andrew finishes brushing his teeth, he gargles.  When he does this, he shakes his head back and forth as if saying, “no.”  I often try to ask him a question just as he is about to do this.  This causes us both to laugh, which then stops him from doing his gargling.

Best Buys of 2011:
     We got many amazing deals when we first moved here to New Zealand, which is a good thing since we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to furnish and supply our home and life here as well for the little money we had.  Among the running for this category is our $58 (about $77 US) refrigerator.  This white monster looks like it has been thrown around quite a bit, and in fact, that is what happened to it and why we got such a good deal on it.  When the previous owner was moving to their new home, this refrigerator fell off their trailer while they were going full speed.  It is banged up and scratched and has a problem with producing a lot of water inside of it, but it runs great, so well in fact that we still haven’t considered replacing it.  We simply place a towel and a Leak Frog on the bottom to catch the water and to let us know when the towel is full of water, which takes about two or three weeks.
     Also among our many great purchases are the many Grab One vouchers that we got.  This took us, for half price or less, to many restaurants and cafes that we otherwise wouldn’t have tried, bought us some of the many fruit and nut trees, got us the paint for our roof (which we still have to apply this summer, probably later this month), and Andrew’s Canyon Abseiling adventure last month.  Also, the many garage sales we visted during our first weeks here gave us some great deals.  It seems that the garage sales nowadays, after being here for eight months, have worse prices and fewer good items than when we first moved here.
     Our Mitsubishi Colt was a great purchase, as well.  We love our car.  It runs very well and has great power, and it has good fuel economy, though not quite as good as advertised.  We average around 6.2 litres/100 Km (about 38 mpg), which is far better than our Honda did in USA and Mexico, though we keep wishing it were even better.
     Speaking of transportation, the van (motorhome) that we bought back in California in 2008 and lived in for our two years in Mexico was a very good buy.  It looked pretty bad and had some major problems when we bought it, but the extremely low price made it well worth my time to inflate flat tyres (tires), replace dead batteries and change some filters.  It ran sufficiently well to get us to Mexico and back to California, despite having to buy new/used tyres during our drive north.  We didn’t get back but half of what we paid for it, but if you figure that the price difference goes for providing housing for us for those two years as well as for transporting all our belongings with us, I think it qualifies as a good buy.  (Does it count as a good buy for 2011 if we only just sold it in 2011?)
     There were many other things that were good buys this past year, including our beautiful wood wardrobe, our heat pump, our trailer, lots and lots of gardening tools and plants and trees, and $1 and $4 video rentals at the local store.
     But the Best Buy for 2011 goes to our villa.  This place is simply amazing in many ways.  I have written several times about how wonderful and beautiful our place is.  And the price we paid for it still puts me in awe of how God blesses us.  We never expected to get anything nearly as nice as this place for the price we could afford.  Thanks, God.

Worst Buys of 2011:
     Yes, we bought some things that were not the best deals we could have gotten, and some of the items we truly wish we could go back and do over again.  Among these are:
1.  The drawers that I bought for the garage/workshop – I could have gotten nicer ones if I had just waited for a later garage sale.
2.  Our sailboat – We got a good price on it, but because I get seasick so easily, it is difficult to find days when the wind blows well but the waves are nearly non-existent.  We’ll likely sell our sailboat sometime this summer or autumn.
3.  Andrew’s bike - It’s not the most reliable he could have bought.  The bike was on sale, but we both think we bought the bike without having done enough research as to best brands and prices.  It was a bit of an impulse buy, though we were wanting to buy a bicycle.  Still, Andrew rides the bike to work more times than he drives.
4.  Simply buying most things here in New Zealand is not as nice as buying things back in North America, in either Mexico or USA, because the prices are so much higher:  usually more than twice as expensive as buying in the USA.  For instance, we are considering buying a power lawn mower.  It actually costs less to buy a new mower in the USA and then to pay over $200 US dollars ($250 NZ) for shipping plus more than $100 ($125 NZ) for importation fees than it costs to buy the same mower here.  However, because it will be easier to take the mower in for warranty work, if needed, we’ll likely still buy it here.
     However, our Worst Purchase of 2011 is the chainsaw we bought through Trade Me from the seller easygardenernz, Craig Love.  That horror story (still not concluded) was fully written about in a previous blog.  The chainsaw itself was not all that great a price to begin with, and then to have the problems previously written about made it much less so.  And now, the flywheel has come loose and will require repair.  I’ll not be contacting Easy Gardener NZ for that, though, even if it was under a warranty that Craig Love might honor.  I’ll either repair it myself or take it into a shop for an estimate.  It is likely, though, that we’ll simply end up buying a new chainsaw, a name brand one this time.

Prettiest Things or Moments:
     Most of New Zealand is beautiful.  There is so much to admire and appreciate here.  Andrew likes Mount Ruapehu, but I think Mount Taranaki is prettier.  Then again, Andrew has actually hiked on Ruapehu and has memories of that, whereas my experience with both mountains is just seeing them from a bit of a distance.  (Andrew even was hiking on the mountain the day of its eruption in 1995.)
     All of the Coromandel Peninsula is especially pretty, which is one reason we are very glad to be living here.  We love seeing the flowers in our own gardens every single day, too.  Imagine a beautiful rose and flower garden, and then imagine living right in the middle of it.  That is our place.  It is amazing, but then I guess I’ve written about that a time or two.
     Besides the flowers in our own yard, there are all the birds, as well.  I especially like the rosellas, which are simply the most gorgeously colored parrots I have ever seen, and a pair of them live right here in our yard.  The pukeko, which because of one blog somewhere, I now call “purple chickens” live here, too.  We see two pairs right across the driveway every single day.  There are swallows nesting under our eaves, for which we are very pleased, as they are beautiful birds which also keep down the mosquito population somewhat.  We also have sparrows, magpies, mynas, tuis (also knows as “parson bird”), and many more.
     Of course, the Sierra foothills back in Coarsegold, California are also beautiful during the spring, which is the time of year Andrew lived there, both in 2009 and in 2011 while working toward moving here.  I do miss the people back there in California more than the views and wildlife, and maybe they are part of what makes that area beautiful, too.
     As for Prettiest of 2011, I am not sure I can name one thing.  I live in the most beautiful place I ever have.  As I type this, sitting at my desk in my office (which used to be our bedroom during the cold months), I can see more than a dozen different kinds of flowers, and I hear the calls of half a dozen birds.  And since I can also see the orchard now that we’ve trimmed some trees and bushes that used to be blocking that view, I can see our fruit trees when they flower in the spring.  Anyway, because of all this beauty around me every single day, I don’t think I can pinpoint one thing alone as the prettiest.  Other than, of course, simply living here with Andrew.

Ugliest Thing or Moment:
     Unfortunately, we’ve had some not so pretty, wonderful moments, as well.  I’ve already mentioned the drawers in the garage/workshop.  There was also some pretty ugly art hanging on the walls when we bought this place, which is probably why it was left on the walls when the previous owners vacated.  (There were also some nice things on the walls which were removed by the previous owners.)  We’ve replaced all the ugly art on our walls now either with nicer art, three of which came as a Christmas gift from Andrew’s parents, or simply with blank walls.  As we find nicer art that we both like, we’ll eventually get the empty walls filled.
     There are weeds and pest plants in some of the flower gardens here.  Some of the weeds have pretty flowers, so we don’t mind while they’re flowering.  But the pest plants will eventually take over and kill everything else if we don’t eliminate them.  We’re working on that.  Meanwhile, there are some not so pretty parts of our yard, areas that we’ve already started working on or which are going to be needing work someday.  Of course we’ll eventually get around to all of that.  There is so much to do, and it all takes time.
     Seeing my first garden plants all eaten up when we first moved here was one of the most ugly things since we moved here.  One day things were looking very good, growing nicely, and the very next day, there were only stumps of the little seedlings remaining after the slugs had feasted on them.  That was the main reason for our constructing covers for all of our vege garden boxes.  Since constructing them, we’ve had very little problem with pests eating or infecting our veges, other than Tazmin digging.
     Seeing a rabbit here for the first time kind of brought back memories of watching them back in Coarsegold, California.  But here, they are a major pest.  There is not much that will reduce a rabbit population, and the speed at which rabbits reproduce is infamous.  Since spotting the first rabbit, they have had at least one litter.  Now I see rabbits nearly everyday, sad to say.  Even though I’ve placed wire around our berries, they’ve still managed to reach through or under the wire to eat some of the berries themselves and some of the leaves of both plants.  Fortunately, the coverings for the vege garden boxes seem to be keeping them from eating all our veges, though they’re still getting into the corn and beans, which are protected only by chook (chicken) wire at present.
     Probably my Number One Ugliest Thing around here, though, is the muddy waters of the Firth Of Thames.  The dairy farms of the Waikato presently don’t do much to keep their mess (manure, urine and mud, etc.) from flowing into the Waihou River.  The Waihou River then flows, along with all that stuff, into the Firth Of Thames, which is the long, narrow and shallow bay across the road from where we live.  Most of the time, the mud in the sea water stays mostly south of our beach, but during rough seas or high winds or storms, the muddy sea water will spread north even past our beach.

Most Exciting Moments:
     Simply moving here from Mexico and the USA was probably the highlight of my life so far.  Of course, that entails many, many things, some of which I’ve mentioned above.  For Andrew, one of the most exciting things for 2011 was his Canyon Adventure, as I’ve already mentioned.
     For me, seeing my first Kiwi was one of the most exciting moments of 2011, probably ranking as number two.  Being able to see it myself, when no one else (besides Andrew) was there to spot it, was part of what made that event so wonderful.
     My Number One Most Exciting Moment for 2011 is something that seems to excite me every single day, something I’ve already written about both in this blog and previously.  You’ve probably already guessed that the Most Exciting Thing for me was buying our home.  This place brings me more joy every single day than I’ve ever experienced anywhere in my life, and it reminds me of when my mom and I moved into our little mobile home (trailer) in Squaw Valley, California back in 1976, where we lived without electricity for a month and without a telephone for more than a year.  As I say, this place here reminds me in many ways of that place, but this place is vastly superior to that one for many reasons.  For one thing, the soil is more fertile here, and for another, this place already has established gardens and orchard.  Creating gardens and an orchard from scratch is hard work and is not always successful.  This place is already a “going concern”, and I like that.

     Sharing this place with the love of my life, Andrew J. Wharton, makes it absolutely the most amazing thing in my entire life, not just for 2011.


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One Response to 2011 in Review, by Dave Clingman, Whakatete Bay, New Zealand

  1. Hi Dave,

    What a beautiful post. So great to hear you guys are happy and surrounded by so much beauty every day! It sounds idyllic. I hope I may one day live in such lovely surroundings.

    I follow your posts and enjoy them (a pleasure to read about beautiful things you and Andrew are blessed with and make happen), even if I rarely comment. Your posts are so complete and well-composed that often I can think of very little to add!

    But I wanted to let you know that I appreciate being able to share a little bit of your paradise from a distance via what you share. Thank you!

    All the best to you guys from wintery Finland,