Friday, July 12, 2013

More additions.....

We would like to take this opportunity to introduce Berkley, our two year old Labrador.

To be the worlds greatest exponent of the game fetch appears to be his only goal in life and the amount of joy he appears to expunge from this dull and uneventful game will never cease to amaze.

Like so many of the animals that find their way to the lodge, Berkley was unwanted and found wandering down the state highway. He has however, found a home here and we love him....

New arrivals, a mixed bag of success.......

Further to last year's post Elvis and Pricilla the donkeys never made an appearance at the lodge it just never really came together, but we are not necessarily ruling it out for the future.

Egg hatching......... I think it is fair to say that I have, not yet at least completely mastered the art of artificial incubation. Out of the 8 duck eggs we got three ducklings. Two, George and Mildred were just fine, the third, known affectionately as "stumpy" for reasons that are probably self explanatory, yeah not so much. Anyway, despite Stumpy's obvious disadvantages we pushed on with duck swimming lessons, these did not go so well for our Stumpy, who was not, as it turned out, particularly buoyant.

Unfortunately Stumpy did not stay with us too long, he did not drown by the way, we were on hand during said swimming lessons, he just did not really have much of a chance.

It is here I would love to report that George and Mildred lived happily ever after, as it turned out that was not to be the case either. All seemed to be going swimmingly, excuse the pun, George and Mildred pottered around, George always vocal and would follow us around for food they settled in well. The pair started to nest and lay eggs, great we thought.

Khaki Campbell ducks, however, are a tricky bunch and not quick to give up the location of their nest. So in a ridiculous attempt, that only a couple of ex-city folk, living the high life in rural NZ would come up with we launched a surveillance mission. Sharon and I tactically positioned ourselves, suitably stocked with adequate supplies and provisions, including copious amounts of wine, which was indeed the catalyst for said plan, we staked out our own ducks, for several hours as it turns out. We never did locate the nest!!!

Anyway I digress, George able to continually outwit the two half wits that hatched him, was not so successful against the unknown foe. One day he just disappeared.

We eventually found his remains in the paddock still unsure of the fate that befell him.

Mildred remains with us, currently enjoying the large lakes formed in the garden by the continuous rain. We did try to replace George, with George the second, an incredibly handsome, tall Peking but Mildred was unimpressed, chose to ignore and soon he disappeared too! He may have flown away or Mildred is in fact a serial killer!!!! We just cannot be sure.

First things first.....

Sharon and I are very happy as the lodge continues to head in the right direction, we completed our busiest summer yet and things are looking great for the coming year.

In 2012/13 we welcomed back Ian and Judith for their annual visit and Bob, back again, great to see you guys. We saw "shocker" twice and the second time he brought "dobbsy" along, no, I am not making this stuff up, it was great fun guys and Shocker the big fish are waiting for you this season!!

Ward and Margaret look forward to catching up in October.

Once again to all our guests past or future, thank you....

Still here and going strong!!

Winter has once again befallen the lodge and we have, so far, been doing it pretty tough. Two large dumps of snow and rain, oh boy, gallons and gallons of rain which has led to swollen rivers and wide spread flooding and needless to say things are still pretty soggy under foot.

However, I can't say that it has all been bad; the rain has provided several new swimming holes for our duck Mildred, which I will get to shortly along with other new arrivals, minor disasters also on the duck front, power cuts leading to winter bbq's and candle lit dinners and other exciting developments. Somehow Southland seems to produce some of the most beautiful winter days you can imagine and today is one of those days.

I am currently sat on the new bean bags in the cosy guest lounge here at the lodge, feet up, and the sun has just melted behind Castle Hill to the west after a stunningly bright blue day.  Making this the perfect moment to make some long overdue updates to the blog.........enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The mystery guest and other stuff.

Its now been a couple of months and things are ticking along quite nicely at the lodge, guests have been sporadic but given the global financial situation and all, pretty good. However, we do not dwell too much on the trials and tribulations of the world here in Garston for it seems, at times that we are somewhat protected and removed from those mainstream worries...... so on with the news from our beautiful valley, that was carved from the land by a glacier all those millions of years ago and, of course, our little ol' Lodge.
Since Christmas we have welcomed guests, among others from NZ and the UK, including my Mum and Dad, great to see you both, Australia, Finland, Germany, America and couple of great guys from Liechtenstein, of all places, who I think bought the entire stock of Stu's Fly Fishing Shop.
Although, one guest will stand out above all others for a little while at least and means that we can now make claim the to be the 'Internationally Renowed' Castle Hill Lodge. It all started innocently enough, much like any other before the rumble of tyres across the cattle grid and distinctive crunch as a bland white rental vehicle, much like the thousands of rental vehicles that pass every day meandered its way up the drive and toward the house. Sharon showed it's American occupant, Seth, into the house and he quickly decided on the Borneo room and settled himself in. Not much out of the ordinary there and in fairness it remained that way for the entirety of the Seth's stay. He was very pleasant, very talkative and he seemed pretty comfortable and happily worked away on his computer making use of the Wi-Fi. Off he went the next day after a good breakfast, lots of coffee and some more frantic typing on his laptop, nothing out of the ordinary there either. A few days later, however, an e mail from Seth arrived and read.....
'It's Seth, your solo guest from last week. First, thank you so much for a lovely if brief stay, with individual thanks to Sharon for the excellent breakfast and Mark for the regular coffee. It was the perfect place to rest and get work done, not to mention learn something about the widely ranging personality of goats, before moving on. 
I'm sorry to say I engaged in a bit of deceit during my stay -- I am in fact a travel columnist for The New York Times and write a weekly online article about budget travel.  The work I was doing was an article about the North Island, which I had recently arrived from and was on deadline to produce.  And now, guess what? I'm writing an article about the South Island, which will focus on...rural accommodations.  So, while I will not be writing a review of your place on TripAdvisor, as Sharon requested, I will be mentioning your lovely bed and breakfast (and Basil and Parsley) in an article that will appear in my column, which is called The Frugal Traveler.  It appears at, and should be online by Wednesday morning.'

Needless to say we were very excited and indeed very proud. Seth's (or should we call him the 'Frugal Traveller!) article did indeed appear in the NEW YORK TIMES and can be seen by following the link below:
So that is how our little lodge in Garston, NZ, made its way to the NY Times, and we are all prepared for the inevitable flood of New Yorkans next summer.
In other news, Sid and Reo have both been 'tidied up', a shearer's term for....well a haircut but not around the head, enough said! Reo, who will be a mother this year by the way although she does not know it yet, is of considerable intelligence and she saw it coming a mile off as our good friend Mac unpacked his shearing gear and she proved to be quite a chase! Sid, however, who is of questionable intelligence, cannot claim to have the same foresight. He watched and skipped around with merry abandon as Reo was 'tidied' and proved an easy catch as he walked over to see what was going on and stuck his nose into proceedings, undoubtedly looking for pellets in Mac's pockets!! He looked a bit bemused by the entire process of being flipped on his back and roughly shaved clean but I fear, for Sid at least, it is unlikely that he learnt anything at all from the experience.
Ducks will, hopefully, soon be the new additions to the expanding brood. There are currently 8 Khaki Campbell duck eggs in the incubator and will be due for hatching on or around the 11th May. We have not experienced to much success as yet with the hatching process so fingers crossed! Other than that it is also possible that Elvis and Priscilla the long awaited Donkeys of Castle Hill may soon be making an appearance, watch this space for further news.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Seriously, who gets a chicken for their birthday!!!!!!!!!!

Garston is an occasionally strange and wonderful place!! We are truly blessed with some fantastic friends and neighbours but their choice in birthday presents never fails to amaze. Word of the great stoat attack and loss of one of our dearly beloved hens has clearly reverberated around the area but I could never have guessed that she would be replaced so soon.
Sharon and I celebrated my birthday with lunch at the Mt Difficulty Winery (very good by the way) and then that evening Sharon invited a few of the neighbours around for a few quiet drinks. Which are rarely few or quiet!!
As a staunch and regularly disappointed Everton Fc supporter I was surprised at how it was a blue theme that ran through the evening. Football, or soccer as it is more commonly know here, is a relatively new and largely disliked and disregarded concept, especially in Southland, as rugby, or football as it is more commonly known here, rules all! However, always willing to embrace the unknown, our good friends, embraced the love of the Toffee men, for the evening at least.
I was afforded at bottle of Wolfe Blass wine cleverly disguised as an Everton tipple and was even serenaded with a Kiwi rendition of....... 'it's a grand old team to play for, its a grand old team to support........' you get the idea. Tom even went to the trouble of dressing up, in a, well, ill-conceived but well meaning way, as a Scouser.
But most surprisingly and intriguing of all, taking nothing from Tom's beautiful, if not altogether tuneful voice, was a large box, wrapped lovingly in Batman birthday wrap, gifted by he wonderful Wilkins' clan. Carefully and somewhat nervously I unwrapped the gift. A long standing joke involving some Police 'do not cross' tape and the Wilkins' newly opened vegetable and superb venison and lamb outlet gave me reason to be concerned.
As the batman wrap and small portion of said Police tape peeled back and underlying box revealed it became only too apparent from the agitated scratching and clucking from within what its contents were.........a chicken! However, this was no ordinary chicken, oh no. This chicken had allegiance, this chicken new the pain of supporting perennial under achievers, this chicken supported Everton!! It proudly displayed it's alliance by virtue of its blue beak and claws and most proudly by the medallion that adorned its neck!!! This was, and proud of it, an Everton FC supporting chicken who shall for ever more be known as.... Ever-tina!!
Following the obligatory photographs, see attached, Ever-tina was introduced to the hen house and settled in for the evening as did we. The wine flowed in what turned out to be a fantastic evening. I am regularly, pleasantly, overwhelmed by the people here, their warmth and their humour is unsurpassed.
Castle Hill Lodge would like to inform readers that no chickens were hurt in this episode and Ever-tine has settled in swimmingly with the other girls of the coup.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The little fella didn't last long!!

Sad news I am afraid. Having successfully hatched our first baby Quail on my birthday, I am very sorry to report that today 27th January, 2012 he passed away. He will remain unnamed.

God speed little fella.

We are hoping to have some better luck with future hatchings at the Lodge.