Ah, today was one of those days of ups and downs, and one of those days that I didn't cope with as well as I would have liked to for parts of it. To be fair, my body has never been one to love extremes at the high end of the temperature scale, but I also think I'm still recovering from the whammy the flu did on my system a few days ago.
Today Tom and Thibaud spent most of the morning digging up one of the garden paths in preparation for concreting it tomorrow; this entailed them shovelling up the bark mulch into a pile, and then the soil underneath (which was really more rocks than it was soil), resulting in very heavy loads of dirt being dumped in the garden until Rosemarie came and asked them to sort the larger stones into bins. Aside from a small mishap when the two Frenchmen struck the sewer pipe (it as well as the irrigation pipes for the garden run underneath the existing path), their morning was a consistent 4 1/2 hours of shovelling and carting in the oppressive summer heat.
For myself, I was given the (mostly) less strenuous job of hoeing and planting a section of garden. I say "mostly" because a good hour was spent breaking up and turning the rock-hard, bone-dry soil with a pitchfork, and then weeding (for lack of a better word) the patch of rocks. I think Howard and Rosemarie should consider growing rocks; they'd have a bumper crop every year. I was working on a patch of garden about 2.5m by 2m, and managed to take out 2 1/2 bucket loads of substantially-sized rocks. This was enough to once again induce the beginning stages of heat exhaustion in me by break time, and so after the break I was very careful to move slowly and methodically (so as not to expend any unnecessary energy) as I dug the little furrows for my seeds. I planted eight alternating rows of lettuces and radishes/carrots, and marked each row with a wooden stick at the ends. In all, I'm proud of my little garden; now I just need to remember to water it every day.
Just before lunch Tom and I helped Howard with his latest experiment: using the same silver tarp we use in the garden, we stapled pieces to the wooden frame of the garage wall, and then in behind it stuffed offcuts of fibreglass that Howard was able to pick up for $5 a bag. Considerably cheaper than buying it in whole sheets for $120, but also considerably messier; even with gloves, long sleeves, and a dust mask, the offcuts threw off substantial amounts of fibres and dust, and my eyes were sore and itchy when we came in for lunch.
After lunch Rosemarie had us plan out what we wanted to bring with us to eat at tonight's barbecue; Tom and Thibaud had to suggest things in English, and I en français, juste pour rire. However, the wind soon picked up violently, to the point where during our afternoon screening of Knight Rider we had to pause the recording several times to go upstairs and shut windows that kept repeatedly slamming open and shut in the wind. Rosemarie said unless the weather settled down we were unlikely to go to the beach, and I moped in my room for an hour or so... I had been pushing myself to work hard in the sun this morning, knowing that the beach was going to be a welcome reward later in the day, and I felt betrayed by the weather.
Thankfully, all's well that ends well; around 5:30pm, the wind had settled down, and we all piled into the car (with five of us plus a plastic bin full of food, it was starting to get a little crowded), and headed out to Rabbit Island, a 15-square-km island at the mouth of the Waimea River in Tasman Bay. Covered in pine tree plantations, it is also a public reserve, popular as a place for swimming, recreation, and barbecues. It's accessed over a tidal flat by a gated bridge, which closes every day at dusk; no overnight camping is allowed.
Having chosen with the group a suitable picnic table and barbecue pit, I promptly made a beeline for the windy beach; I hadn't been swimming since my dip in the Heaphy River mouth on the Heaphy Track on January 6th. Swimming in the Tasman Sea at Rabbit Island was like no ocean I've ever been in; the water was so warm, it was like bathwater to my Canadian-Ocean-seasoned toes. I ran right in and spent thirty minutes being relentlessly pummelled by the waves... great fun! While Rosemarie joined me, having a go at riding with the waves on a boogie board, Howard, Thibaud, and Tom refused to participate... I'm not sure of Howard's reasons, but Thibaud and Tom both claimed it was too cold. Pfft, I need to bring them up to Canada for a swim.
Our barbecue dinner of sausage, onion, eggplant, tomato, corn-on-the-cob, potato, and steak was delicious, if slightly interesting in the way it was cooked: the wood-fired barbecue itself was an interesting contraption, and seemed to lack the ability to heat things evenly; my corn was burned at one end and raw at the other! Still, it was wonderful of Howard and Rosemarie to take us out to Rabbit Island, and to buy steaks for dinner... I certainly have been lucky with my WWOOFing hosts being good people.
After arriving back at the house (and my having a shower to get all the salt off), I sat down in the living room with a cup of tea, and Howard and I talked for an hour about aliens, vegetarianism, politics, and lobbying, culminating with a forty-five minute discussion on computers. I think I impressed him by knowing what grep was, but it's obvious from talking to him that he has an extensive knowledge of operating systems and the details of how they are structured; I really should ask what his post-secondary training is in, because it sounds like it is something to do with programming. When we're not being ridiculously silly at the dinner table, it is good to have a serious conversation with Howard; he's a kindred spirit when it comes to technology.
Anyway, it is nearly 11pm, and I must be up tomorrow refreshed and ready to go to work in the garden, so I had best be off. Night!