Back-to-Landers Can't Deal With Real Farmers

Stressed urbanites are fleeing New Zealand cities for the countryside, only to find they can't cope with the noise, schedule and smells of rural life, reports the New Zealand Herald.

New Zealanders have in recent years gone crazy for what they call "lifestyle blocking" (search), in which well-to-do people go back to the land and set themselves up as genteel part-time farmers.

But the long-established commercial farmers in the Franklin District (search) just south of Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, find their new neighbors amusing at best, and sometimes downright annoying.

"There was a woman who [called] a farmer about being woken early," Franklin farmers' leader Wendy Clark recounted. "She had a responsible position in the city, she said. 'Couldn't you milk your cows a bit later?'"

Another commercial farmer couldn't find his cows one morning. It turned out the "lifestyler" next door had led them to a different enclosure so their smell wouldn't ruin the ambience at his barbecue.

"People on lifestyle blocks don't understand noise in the country," explained Franklin District Mayor Heather Maloney. "They cannot understand why someone should need to start a tractor at 5:30 in the morning."

Maloney said some "lifestylers" had asked for shallower roadside embankments, which wouldn't be as good as the current high ones at preventing flooding — but which would make it so much easier to walk the dogs.

Other complaints have come in about stinky dairy sheds, drying onions and noisy bird-scaring devices.

The local government is trying to zone the area so that new "lifestyle blocks" are kept away from established commercial farms.

Cell Phone Takes Bullet for Owner

Luckily for South African businessman Andre Steyn, his country doesn't have rules against talking on the phone while driving.

While driving a tractor-trailer truck near Johannesburg in early May, Steyn and his colleagues were nearly hijacked, reports the Finnish mobile-phone site

"I heard a 'doof-doof' sound and one of my colleagues shouted 'They are shooting at us!'" Steyn told the Daily Dispatch newspaper. "I saw a flash, and after the second shot I felt a pain in my hand."

A bullet went through Steyn's right hand, which was pressed up against his head — but his cell-phone stopped the projectile from entering his right temple.

Steyn swerved the truck and forced the attackers off the road, but in the confusion the gunmen managed to escape.

Steyn's hand has been operated on twice. But a local phone dealership has given him a new handset.

"At least I know who my angel is: It must be Nokia," Steyn said.

Cell-Phone User Refuses to Hang Up, Goes Ballistic

MIAMI (AP) — A plane passenger slapped a federal air marshal after refusing to sit down and ignoring instructions to end her cellular phone call, which she said would have been "rude," prosecutors said Tuesday.

Lilia Belkova has been jailed since being charged with assaulting a federal officer and interfering with a flight crew last Wednesday as a US Airways (search) flight prepared to take off from Miami to Philadelphia.

A bail hearing was set for Thursday. It was unclear late Tuesday if Belkova, 38, had yet been assigned an attorney.

According to prosecutors, Belkova refused flight attendants' instructions to turn off her cell phone as Flight 26 taxied for takeoff, saying: "It is rude to hang up on people. I don't have to turn my phone off."

After ignoring more flight crew instructions, one of two air marshals ordered Belkova to be seated and put a hand on her shoulder to show her where to sit.

Belkova reached back and slapped the marshal across the face, causing "minor swelling," according to court papers. She was handcuffed and taken off the plane.

Man Kicks Out 700,000 Unwanted Guests

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Lake Worth resident Norm Gitzen didn't mind the more than half-million bees living in the roof of his house until recently. But when the bees started coming into the house, stinging him and his nephew, his love of that cohabitation changed.

Local beekeepers started removing at least 700,000 bees from a tower above his breakfast nook on Tuesday, filling four buckets with honey weighing close to 65 pounds.

"This will become a fantastic nuisance ... because they will grow and grow," said Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association (search) President Ute Hartmann.

The weight of the hives could collapse Gitzen's roof, while the honey could attract ants and rodents, Hartmann said.

Gitzen said at first the bees were "kind of mesmerizing," and he often sweetened his morning coffee with honey dripping from the hives.

Valentine Toncz, who helped remove the bees, will keep half of them, Gitzen said, while the rest will be returned to his house — in bee boxes.

State law requires bees to be kept in boxes with movable frames, inspected annually for mites and other honeybee pests.

Land Mines in the Attic

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A land mine — 20 years old but fully operational — was discovered Monday beneath the wooden floor boards of an attic.

John Jamieson said the mine — a rusty brown container about the size and shape of a glass milk bottle — popped out when he jostled the floorboards in his 1920s house.

The container rolled toward the opening in the attic staircase, but Jamieson grabbed it before it fell to the second floor, set it outside, and called police.

Neighboring homes were evacuated.

An examination of the mine found that it was active and that the pin, which must be removed for the device to detonate, was still in place.

Richmond police Maj. David M. McCoy said the bomb was not issued by the U.S. military and speculated that it may have been Asian or Russian. Police estimated the mine to be 20 years old.

No other explosives were found in the attic.

The Jamiesons, who have lived in the home nearly eight years, said they have no idea how the land mine ended up in their attic.

Lost Engagement Ring Surfaces After 45 Years

PECULIAR, Mo. (AP) — Ann Cummings got a surprise gift for her 50th wedding anniversary: the engagement ring she lost 45 years ago. But exactly how it resurfaced remained a mystery.

"I never thought I'd see that ring again," said the 69-year-old Peculiar woman.

When she lost the ring, she scoured her home and even consulted a radio psychic, who told her it was under a tree in the yard.

"I made my husband buy me a metal detector," said Cummings, who dug holes all over the yard in a search of the ring, featuring a square-cut diamond with a smaller diamond on either side set in platinum on a band of gold.

Cummings said she often thought about the lost ring, especially as she prepared for her anniversary party.

As the couple's daughter, Theresa Earhart, opened greeting cards left at Saturday's party, she "came across a plain white envelope, folded."

"I could tell there was no card inside," Earhart said.

But she found a ring. Her mother doesn't know who left it, and she says she doesn't care.

"It never entered my mind that someone had picked up the ring," she said. "I just thought it was lost. ... We have decided that whoever returned it is an angel."

Best Little Real Estate Bargain in Nevada

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Chicken Ranch (search), one of the best-known brothels in the business, is for sale for just under $7 million.

"I'm going to be 63 this summer," said Ken Green, who has run the business for 22 years. "I'm just working a little more at it than I want to."

Green said he bought the brothel in 1982 for $1.25 million from Walter Plankinton, who named it after the Texas establishment that closed in the 1970s and was made famous on stage and screen as "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

Green said he developed the property from two double-wide trailers into a 40-acre spread with a bar, parlor, swimming pool and three bungalows with Wild West, jungle and Victorian themes. The brothel is about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.

"You mention the name 'Chicken Ranch' everyone gets a little smile on their face and knows what you're talking about," Green said Monday. "We're not raising poultry out there."

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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