Pip the farm dog is well and truly over this motherhood thing — it's been nine weeks now and her patience, never vast, is wearing thin.

Her five pups ambush her whenever they can and latch on, sucking furiously while Pip stands with a resigned (or "haunted" as one of my friends describes it) look on her face. When she's had enough, she's off, with the pups bumbling in her wake.

One goes to a new home this week, but we still have two black-and-white girls looking for homes if you're keen. They're working dogs so will need maximum amounts of exercise to stay happy (and sane).

We escaped to Rarotonga for Bruce's 50th birthday but couldn't get away from dogs.


Dogs roam everywhere there, mostly with collars and none looking starved or neglected — I'm not sure where they come from. They are also exceptionally friendly, not territorial or aggressive. So many dogs lived on our road that I didn't even get to know them all, apart from two floppy-eared puppies who always followed us home with hopeful eyes.

'We escaped to Rarotonga for Bruce's 50th birthday but couldn't get away from dogs.'

However, the barking of all these dogs simply couldn't compete with the vociferous crowing of hundreds of roosters. Roosters and chickens also wander everywhere.

Apparently, they used to be killed for eating but now cheap imported chicken has ended the messy business of killing your own meals, so the birds run rampant.

It's not unusual to see signs in restaurants admonishing you not to feed the chickens, while a recalcitrant chicken stomps about the tables, not so much begging for food as demanding it. Even when we climbed to one of the highest points on the island, the Needle, a lurking rooster popped up from behind a rock.

Bruce was nearing the end of his tether with the continuous cock-a-doodle-doing. He discovered yelling at them relieved his feelings but didn't stop the crowing and alarmed other tourists. On our last day I bought a little painting of a rooster and placed it on his pillow when we got home. I'm sure he liked it, really.

The one animal we did grow truly fond of was the giant pig in its roadside sty near where we stayed. Forget waste masters or compost heaps, this animal was wondrous in its ability to devour food scraps and appreciative, grunting at us happily whenever we called in to say hi. I do miss that pig. I think we should get one.

We do have some new beasts on the farm — bees. We bought some hives earlier this year, then added more, as we're blessed with an abundance of manuka at the back of the farm.

Unfortunately, the manuka isn't flowering now — nor is anything else, so the poor bees have eaten all their stored honey and are subsisting on sugar until the weather warms up and flowers bloom. Bruce is allergic to beestings, so I'm a little apprehensive about him mingling with bees. Our son Jack has no allergies so I'm less concerned about him.


But just before we left on holiday Jack drove out to check on his babies and their sugar supplies and came home with his eyes squeezed shut. A bee had stung him right on the nose and the pain was so excruciating he couldn't open his eyes.

He'd driven back from the hives with his eyes shut most of the way so it's lucky he hadn't driven off a bridge. I suggested next time he stays put and phones for help. His nose stayed swollen for a couple of days, giving us much amusement.

He was less amusing further into our holiday when he caught a bad cold from his father. We set off early on a bus for a day trip and within a few minutes Jack complained he felt ill. I told him to open the window, but he said the fumes made him feel sicker. As he sat there getting paler and greener, I insisted he opened it.A couple of minutes later he had his head right out it, throwing up.

He felt much better straight away but I'm not sure the same could be said of our fellow bus passengers who looked universally horror-struck. It's great holiday memories like these that will sustain us through the next few cold and muddy weeks of calving.¦