Pancake Rocks

I had checked the tides for Pancake Rocks before we left on our trip, as someone told us once that high tide is the best time to go. High tide was to be around 4:00 the day we visited, so we aimed to get there around 3:30. We had been noticing that the waves were quite high, and the wind was from the north-west, so we were hoping for a good show. We really felt that God blessed us, because the blowholes were spouting quite high. What a sight to see!

The first thing we admired when we arrived, however, was the nikau palms. They are quite an unusual looking palm, and the southern-most palm in the world. We noticed some beginning to bloom, then saw that others had seed or fruit clusters hanging below the leaves. Then, we were tickled to see a wood pigeon helping himself to some of the fruit!IMG_0186IMG_0187DSCF9205

After admiring the palms for a few minutes and poking our heads into the visitor center/gift shop, we went across the road (the main highway) to the rocks themselves. A lovely concrete path has been built through the rocks, with great viewing areas.DSCF9207

Our fourth boy, with his new camera! Funny thing about that is that he is camera-shy! Guess he likes to be on the other side. Isn’t he cute, though?IMG_0189

At one of the first overlooks, we noticed how foamy the sea was. The water was extremely turbulent.


The poor littlest boy was stuck going at the snail’s pace of his mom and grandma.


Mom and Esther admiring the rough seas.


This spot, a near-rectangle with walls all around, is in the middle of the rocks. It is aptly named the Surge Pool. Water comes in through two arches, one of which you can see here and the other is roughly under my feet from where I took the picture.


We finally got to the first blowhole! This is called Chimney Pots. If a wave of the right size comes in and ricochets off the rocks at the right angle, over and over again, it will burst up through a channel in the rocks and form a geyser. It was pretty amazing to see the path the waves had to take to get here—there were at least two right-angle corners they had to turn. The power the water still had when it reached this point was awe-inspiring.


I don’t remember what this spot was called, and I don’t know if there is an open channel to the sea or if the water comes through an archway, but it sure splashed up here!


My boys! Left-right: fourth, first, third, fifth, and second.


The Surge Pool, from the other side.


The sea on the north side of Pancake Rocks.

After we went all the way around, we decided to go back to Chimney Pot and enjoy the spectacle again. Our second boy found a spot on a bridge where the spray from the geysers blew over him. Not only did he get soaked (and later I noticed salt crusting his face!), but he lured a number of unsuspecting tourists to stand there long enough to get wet as well. I hear that he would ask them, “Do you like showers?” then keep them talking till it blew again!IMG_0218DSCF9234

I took a few videos to try to capture the experience. Of course, it isn’t anywhere as good as being there yourself, but these will give you a tiny glimpse of our experience.

This was definitely a highlight of our trip. We felt especially blessed when we were talking to a friend on the way home, who had been to Pancake Rocks a number of times, and he said he had never seen a show such as we described.

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Tauranga Bay and Gold Mine

This is a good way to rest after working in the garden! We only have seven weeks to go before we meet our next little one, and I’m really starting to feel that way. With the help of our fourth boy, and a little help from a couple of the others, I just got our tomato plants set out. It’s supposed to storm this afternoon, so I wanted them in the ground; we’ve had high winds all week since we got home from our trip so I didn’t want to set them out. Today is still quite windy, but with the hope of rain this afternoon we’re taking the chance. Anyway, now I’m tired and ready for a break, so this is a good time to sit down and work on this!

When we left the Coaltown Museum in Westport, it was lunchtime, so we headed out to Cape Foulwind for a picnic. Just south of the cape, at a little bay called Tauranga Bay, we found a lovely spot. We were pretty close to the beach, with New Zealand Flax and other vegetation all around. Several red-billed gulls and a weka or two entertained us with their begging. After lunch, we let the boys go down to the beach for a little while—and of course they immediately started digging a hole!



Wall Island, where a number of species of seabirds nest.

As we started driving again, we enjoyed seeing the clouds caught on the tops of the mountains. Our weather here often comes from the Tasman Sea, between New Zealand and Australia. When the clouds hit the West Coast, they have to rise to get over the mountains, which causes a lot of rainfall on that side of the mountains! By the time the weather gets over the mountains to our side, it’s pretty dry and we end up with hot, dry winds. Since they come from the north-west, they are called nor-westers! So, on a day like today, when we have a hot, dry nor-wester blowing, the West Coast is most likely getting a downpour. Anyway, it was interesting to see it for ourselves, with sunshine down on the coast and clouds in the tops of the mountains immediately inland, as the next picture shows.IMG_0174

Our next stop, after driving half an hour or so, was a historic gold mine near Charleston, which was a boom town at the peak of the gold rush. After the gold rush ended, people moved away, and moved the buildings away, so there was nothing left of the settlement. It is now being rebuilt; we saw several motels. The gold mine was pretty interesting, especially for the boys. They had made sure they had their headlamps and flashlights along this time; when we were there 4 1/2 years ago, we couldn’t explore any of the tunnels, since we didn’t have any lights. This time, they went way in to some of them!





This cute play house is next to the parking lot for the gold mine!

The gold here is in the form of sand. It’s pretty much just dust. The miners would dig out the rocks that contained the ore, and crush them with an apparatus powered by a water wheel. When they had the ore crushed back into sand, they would put it in a sluice and run it over copper plates coated with mercury. The gold dust would combine with the mercury, and then they would heat it in a retort. The mercury would evaporate, then condense again away from the gold and they could reuse the mercury. The gold extracted this way, the man in the office said, was about 99.9% pure!


These two pictures show just a tiny glimpse of the incredible scenery we enjoyed on our way from Westport to Pancake Rocks. We thoroughly enjoyed a sunny day, one of only two on this trip.

Coming next…Pancake Rocks! Check back in another day or two and see if I got the videos up here of the incredible show we were privileged to see!

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Westport = Coal

The first town we stopped in on our West Coast trip was Westport. Westport is a historical coal-mining town, and there is still a lot of coal shipped out of there! It is interesting to look at the cuts along the road; most of them have a coal seam in them. We learned a lot about coal mining. And, an interesting side note—the motel/campground where we spent the night heats their water with coal! My second boy saw the owner, in the morning, loading coal into a large hopper in a building next to the kitchen/toilet block. He asked if the man buys coal by the truckload. No; he digs it out of his own private mine by the truckload!

The first place we went sight-seeing in Westport was an accidental find. We were trying to get out of town to the north to go to the Denniston Incline, and ended up at Tip End, which turned out to be a breakwall we could drive out on, way out to the end of the Buller River. There is a breakwall on each side of the river mouth, forming a harbor for shipping coal. We enjoyed watching the enormous waves roll past and break on the bar at the river mouth. The end of the breakwall doubles as a memorial to sailors lost at sea, from Westport, and some drowned right there at the sandbar


Mom and Esther


This is our sixth, fourth, and second boys.


After spending a little while enjoying the waves out there, we finally did find our way out of town to the Denniston Incline. For about 88 years, until it closed down in 1967, the Denniston Incline was used to transport coal from mines on top of a very high plateau down to sea level, to be shipped to Westport by train and then on ships. It was only one of at least a half dozen inclines, all of which seem to have operated similarly. This one is in the process of being restored. The basic idea was that coal was transported to the edge of the plateau, either in huge “buckets” on aerial tracks or, later, by truck, then put into Q wagons, which are train cars. These Q wagons were run down a very steep track, by gravity, falling 510 meters in 1.7 kilometers! There were two sections of the track, with a brake at the top of each. Once at the bottom, the Q wagons were unhooked, then hooked up to a train for the trip to Westport. Each full wagon, as it went down, pulled an empty one back up to the top. That must have taken some coordination; a lot of places, there was only room for a single track! They obviously had it timed so that the full and empty wagons passed in the places where there was room for two tracks. We really enjoyed walking around the site, although it would have been much better if the weather was better. It was raining and sleeting and cold during this visit! That is not uncommon weather there, though.


A view on the way up to the top. The road is not for the faint of heart! Very steep, and a lot of winding back and forth. I noticed a sign at the bottom warning that this road is used seven days a week by mining trucks.


The top of the incline, and looking down it. Not too good a picture, but remember what I said about the weather?!


After the incline was shut down, the buildings burned, and these ruins are what is left. The tracks in the upper center lead to the top of the incline; you can see it start to go down.


Gayle and the boys did more exploring than we females. I’m not sure what this was; my fourth son has his own camera and he took this picture. Edited to add: I have now been told that this was a track that led up to the mouth of a mine. It had rails on it that trolleys of coal were pushed along to take them to the top of the incline, and there are apparently even trolleys left there!

The next day, the weather was great—and we toured the Coaltown Museum in Westport! We should have done that the first day, and gone up to Denniston the second day. Ah, hindsight. It was quite interesting to see the exhibits, though, after having toured Denniston already.IMG_0139

This is what we saw from where we parked to visit the museum!IMG_0141

Not sure who took this picture, but I thought it was cute. Daddy carried the youngest from the van to the museum.IMG_0142IMG_0143IMG_0144IMG_0153

A few pictures from the museum: Top is a Q wagon at the actual slope at the steepest part of the incline. Third is the brake drum used to stop the wagons, and bottom is our youngest in front of one of the small wagons they used to pull coal out of the mines.

All in all, it was a very educational time we spent in Westport! The museum is very well done, and economical for even a large family. We would love to spend more time at the Denniston Incline, and I look forward to seeing further restoration there. A lot has been done since we were there four and a half years ago.

More about the trip to follow!

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Off on a Holiday!

We don’t get to take very many trips, which is fine with me, being a homebody, but ever since May we’ve been planning to go to the West Coast while Mom is here. Gayle has a very hard time getting permission to take time off from work, even though he is legally entitled to it, so we were excited a couple of months ago when his request for a week right now was finally approved—after waiting three or four months for his boss to make the decision! We borrowed a neighbor’s pop-top camper again, and Wednesday morning last week packed it and the van with all we thought we’d need for a week of camping, and then took off!

We made it across the range of hills directly to the west of us, and passed through the little village of Waiau, then crossed the Waiau River on this long one-lane bridge. It’s a good thing it has a passing bay in the middle, as someone was coming toward us and had to pull off for us to pass!IMG_0102IMG_0103

Then, we went up through wilder and wilder hills towards Lewis Pass.IMG_0105IMG_0108IMG_0111IMG_0112

We saw snow on the high peaks as we drove toward the mountains, and then as we got closer could see that it was snowing at that moment, up high! When we reached the top of the pass, there was actually snow on the ground! We haven’t seen snow up close for over two years, so we stopped a few minutes to let the boys check it out. Our youngest had never touched snow, and he was thrilled. His biggest brother was very happy to help him investigate this new stuff.IMG_0115IMG_0117

The terrain changed as we went down the west side of the pass.IMG_0119IMG_0120

We had to laugh at the snowplow we saw—rather a contrast to the ones in Michigan! It had come over the pass behind us.IMG_0122

When we reached Reefton, we could tell something was different from home—we smelled coal smoke in the air! Apparently, that’s what people heat with there. We saw a coal mine near the township (village), and a train of coal cars on a siding.IMG_0123

Soon, we were driving along the Buller River. There is a pretty wild gorge that the river, and the road, go through. One place, a road had to be carved out of the cliff. As you can see, there is only one lane! Quite the engineering feat.SANY2467

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To Kaikoura With Grandma!

We are really enjoying having my mother with us for the month. All our adventures are more fun with a visitor! The first Sunday she was here, we went to Kaikoura for church, as usual.IMG_0076

The hills between here and Kaikoura are covered with broom, and it is in bloom right now.


We got to see a train when we were along the coast. Not much time to take that kind of picture—that’s why you see the reflection on the window!

After church we went to the Kaikoura Peninsula—lots to see there!


Gayle turned over some rocks to find critters. Here were two starfish together—see the dark one?


The crab was hard to photograph, as it scuttled away quickly.


The sea was a gorgeous blue that day. The big plants are bull kelp; it grows in enormous beds all along our coastline.

After we left the Peninsula, we drove up the coast and stopped near the Oaro River. You can walk along the railroad tracks and enjoy a beautiful stretch of coastline. The big attraction for our boys is the wrecked train cars that were dumped along the sea at one point to prevent erosion! We ladies didn’t walk that far, though.


Our fourth boy, posing behind sweet peas with yellow lupines around.


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Dead Boring Concert

Our annual homeschool group concert was this past Saturday evening. The group is called Dead Boring—but it’s anything but what its name sounds like! There was a wide variety of musical talent displayed; quite a number of piano pieces were played, but also several recorder and flute presentations, as well as violin and even accordian! A few people sang; Esther helped another family do a shadow play about a little boy whose mother said he didn’t even have the common sense he was born with—but she ended by saying she loved him anyway and always would! Several families collaborated to present a play from Winnie-the-Pooh of the story of Pooh-sticks. Our children recited a poem and sang a song. I hope you’ll be able to hear the poem. They didn’t use the microphone this time, as everyone in the hall was able to hear, but the camera didn’t pick it up very loudly.

If, by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


After the poem, they sang a song called “Grumblers”.


In country, town or city some people can be found
Who spend their lives in grumbling at ev-‘ry-thing around;
O yes, they always grumble, no matter what we say,
For these are chronic grumblers and they grumble night and day.

O they grumble on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Grumble on Thursday too,
Grumble on Friday, Saturday, Sunday,
Grumble the whole week thru.

If you don’t quit your grumbling and stop it now and here,
You’ll never get to heaven, no grumblers enter there.
Repent and be converted, be saved from all your sin;
You know that grumbling Christians find it hard a crown to win.

And one more picture: Our youngest was enthralled with the accordion music that was played! A young man and his teacher played a duet on their accordions, and it was very beautiful.


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Early October pictures


One of the smallest praying mantises I’ve ever seen (that’s Esther’s hand). It was incredibly hard to get the picture because the camera didn’t want to focus there, and it kept moving (jumped onto the lens once!).


And this is something I was glad to have not known about until I found the pictures on the memory card later! This is my daredevil second boy, way up high in a gum tree. He hauled the ladder up after him to bridge the gap between branches. He did make it back down safely!


The second and fourth boys have been diligently working at lining their sleepout walls with cardboard, and then painting it.


This little boy (our youngest) is so cute! I love the way he walks so purposefully across the yard. His favorite place in the kitchen is up on the countertop, where he can see what’s going on.



One evening our silly boys had a contest to see who could put the most different items on their bread. It started when one put plum jam, grapefruit marmalade, and pumpkin butter on his bread, in separate stripes—that one was actually sensible, in Mom’s opinion. This boy, #2, was the ultimate winner (in his opinion)—he found 15 things to put on his bread! Yes, I made him eat it.


Ryan Craig, from Twizel, is walking the length of New Zealand for the fourth time pulling a cross, carrying the message of forgiveness. He stayed with us for a night, and our boys really enjoyed him. To learn more about him, visit



Last Sunday on our way home from church we stopped for a little while along the coast, which we haven’t done in a long time. The boys sure enjoyed climbing around on the rocks! Top picture is our 4th boy; next is the 5th. Beyond them was a huge flock of birds on the water. Next picture is the 4th, then 3rd, then 2nd boy. The next two include our oldest and 5th boys with us.


A beautiful spiderweb I noticed while milking one morning.


The calf we were given a few weeks ago. She was born in the yards where Gayle works, just before her mother was butchered. She was initially given to a friend of ours who works there also, who got her started eating but then decided she couldn’t afford to keep her cattle and gave her to us! This calf is very healthy and frisky, and absolutely loves her foster “mother”—our first boy!


We got our potatoes planted last week, and then I assigned the boys to mulch them with a bale of straw we had. They did a great job!

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