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The week beginning the 30th of June 2007.


In the early hours of one morning during the days of writing this page, I suddenly realised I'd missed a very important bit at the end of May!


Saturday the 30th

Stephan and the sheep

Ivy is out in the Mushroom paddock, so we went for a walk to take her feed-nuts to her and I forgot that of course we'd be mobbed by the sheep when they saw a bucket!  I gave it to Stephan to carry: being bigger he can withstand their pushiness better than I.

Ivy was fast asleep when we walked past her and the heifers.  I looked at her and thought that this is how I would choose her end, if I could - to find her curled up as if asleep (she'd woken by the time I took the photo) would be the best way for her to end her life, having slipped quietly away during sleep.  She took ages to wake up and I wondered if she was going to, until I saw a tell-tale ear-flick and she eventually raised her head.

R1 heifers

We carried on out to the Back Barn paddock to check the young/thin mob and on the way back stopped and looked at the other cows.  While stroking Isla it occurred to me that she's almost exactly the same age now as Ivy was when I bought her and she arrived here.  I have always thought of Ivy as an old cow, even when she was Isla's age, but Isla still seems like such a youthful animal as she approaches her ninth birthday.

wart on a young bull's nose

A fabulous pedigree doesn't stop you getting warts on your nose!  This is a little bit of Virago Direction 49 AB.

It's bumbling bumble bee time again.  In the cooler weather, with fewer flowers about, the bees lack energy and I find them drowned in any water-filled blue container around the place and buzzing weakly at the windows in the house.  They get stuck into a bit of honey as soon as its offered and then go on their way.

The blue containers are significant because it is that colour to which bumble bees are most attracted.  It is just unfortunate for them that there are many around here (for feeding cows nuts and the like) and that they get filled with rain water and so the bees often drown.  If it would stop raining for a few days, I'd put some molasses out in the containers in the paddocks for the bumble bees.

a bumblebee feed
frost-damaged Puriri

This is the Puriri tree which I planted over dear Cattin when he died.  The leaves have all gone black after the frost the other morning.  Most of the young trees we've planted have been seriously affected by that particular frost.  Their black leaves will fall off over the next few days, leaving the tiny budding leaves dangerously exposed.  I fear we may have lost one or two of the less robust ones.

The grass growing through the tree is Kikuyu, demonstrating one of its really troublesome habits.  I've kept meaning to come out and clear the grass out of the tree, but perhaps it has partially protected it from the frost.  The problem with the grass is that it doesn't just grow all over the tops of small trees, its root system will be entwined in that of the tree, which can be dangerous until the tree gets big enough to out-compete the grass.  Kikuyu roots can go down six feet into the soil.


Sunday the 1st of July

Dress rehearsal day for the play.
The play is Sex, Footy and Lies and was written by Judy O'Connor who lives somewhere around Paihia in the Bay of Islands.  It is the story of a family: the elder daughter of George (Stephan) and Martha is marrying a "metrosexual" city man and the blokes (George, his mate John, Craig the groom and best man, Mark) get together for an evening of rugby on television, while drinking a great deal of beer and other things, on the night before the wedding.  Meanwhile bride Briar and her sister Debbie join their mother, aunt and Grandmother at home and the lies within which they've lived their lives until now are exposed by Gran as she spends what proves to be her last evening with them.

It's a one-act play in three scenes over the twelve hours of one evening and takes place on separate halves of the stage: one half is John's place (George's bachelor mate) and the other is Martha's dining room/lounge.  The lighting switches from one side of the stage to the other as the action occurs and there are some very funny word-plays between the two quite separate halves.

Because of my problems with one unreliable cast member, I spent a couple of hours learning his lines - not too difficult, since I know much of the play as well as any of them - applied a bit of material strapping to some parts of my anatomy, a fake moustache to another and played Craig, the groom, for a couple of runs through the play.  I had a great deal of fun and very nearly got the lines entirely right, giving the others only a couple of opportunities to practice rescuing themselves from things being said in the wrong place!  We had a small audience in attendance.

dress rehearsal

We took some photos after the rehearsal so I'd have some to send to the Northland Age with some information and ongoing advertising.  Stephan isn't really supposed to be asleep and I bet you can't spot the ring-in for the usual character!


Monday the 2nd

I spent the day organising advertising for the play: newspaper, posters, radio and television appearances ...  Every now and then I get a bit of farming done too, but not a great deal!

One of the cast has had a family member in hospital for a previously-scheduled operation, so we had to have a couple of nights off before a last dress rehearsal on Wednesday night and then the opening night on Thursday.  However, that didn't mean we weren't at the theatre just the same: to fill out a bit more of the evening, since Sex, Footy and Lies only runs for an hour, I asked Nicky if she'd learn a quirky little play called Tuesday's Stranger, by Mark Casson, another New Zealand playwright, and perform it with me.  We had our first rehearsal yesterday.  It's only a twenty-minute play, and we're both very able line-learners, fortunately.  Stephan is directing us.


Tuesday the 3rd

bird nest
bird nest

I went for a walk to the Back Barn paddock to move the cows and as I walked through a treed section of the paddock, a Thrush flew out of her nest in alarm.  It's the beginning of July, for goodness' sake: don't they know it's mid-winter?
I couldn't actually see into the nest, so poked the camera in to see what was there - and I only know it was a thrush because I looked up thrush and blackbird egg colours.

 

The time has come for Ivy and her daughter to be weaned.  I've been waiting until both grass availability and cow organisation are just right and today is the day!
I drafted Ivy senior out of the mob of weaner heifers and then put a couple of the animals from the young/thin mob in with her - one is the heifer which came from the other mob over the road when she was hot and spent the night with a couple of bulls and the other is the white-faced 470, who didn't go directly to the works because if I can get enough condition back on her, she can go to the same place as the younger heifer, since she's not yet three years old.

All of them, calves, Ivy and her two companions and the rest of the young/thin mob spent the night in adjoining paddocks to cut down any distress any of them might have felt at being parted from any of the others.

Ivy 556 and Ivy 57

Wednesday the 4th

I was hoping for a bit of a sleep-in this morning, but that was not to be - I had a call last night to say the four remaining cull cows would be picked up early this morning.

Today's four are:

  • 99, nine years old, my favourite swamp-cow, often found down in the valley bottoms, up to her belly in water and rushes.  She's had some really nice-looking calves, one of which is her daughter 421, below, which explains one reason for her departure now: there's just not enough growth in her genetics to keep her on, although I'm taking one last chance on her last daughter, 525.  99 has been a trouble-free cow and she's a hard one to send away.
  • 341, only coming up to seven years old, has had some really great steer calves, but she also has a short-looking lower jaw, which is apparent in some of her calves as well, although their teeth seem to line up where they should.  When looking for reasons to cull cows, jaw problems rank fairly highly!
  • 421, four-year-old daughter of 99, a lovely-looking animal, but has had two less-than-satisfactory calves, so she's out.
  • 452, another four-year-old and it's her dad's fault she's going: the calves of Minerts Fortune 2000 I've had in my herd have all been flighty and problematic and 452's calves haven't been very fast-growing either, for all that her sire's EBVs for growth were very good.
The four of them are going with the usual Animal Status Declaration form and attached at the back, as well as faxed to the works yesterday, is the request for liver sampling for both Copper and Selenium.

cattle crossing the river

After the cull cows had gone on their way, I shifted the young/thin mob across the river to the Road Flat paddock.  This is the awful crossing which I still use in preference to taking the animals along the road, with the youthful cattle, at least.  Most of them are pretty good at seeing where they need to go and then picking their way down through the steep, deep muddy bits where the flood waters have made the river bank rather boggy.

When in flood, the water level would generally be up to the base of the big tree to the right of the shoulder of the third animal from the left.

 

This evening, the last rehearsal before opening night tomorrow night.  Pictured below is the women's part of the cast: Gran (Karen Galley), Martha (Libby Nunn), Alice (Cheryl Rapira), Debbie (Candice Henry) and Briar (Semira Davis).

Sex, Footy and Lies

Thursday the 5th

I had a bit of a long day!  It started off with an appearance on Te Hiku TV with Bryce Quarrie just after 8am, then I had a spot of physiotherapy down the street, then back to Sunshine FM for an interview, then a quick chat on Te Hiku radio.  Stephan and I have done most of the advertising for the plays' opening night tonight - along the lines of if you want something done, you just get on and do it.  (If you think you might have read this paragraph before, you'd be right - I suddenly realised that was today, not last Thursday!  It's all been such a blur.)

In today's Northland Age was the following:

dress rehearsal

SEX, FOOTY and Lies certainly has the look of a New Zealand play. From the left are Stephan Mathew, Mike Bryan, an animated Peter Smith and (the name of my troublesome cast member).  Photo supplied by Anna Dunford.

A Paihia play for a Kaitaia audience

The Kaitaia Dramatic Society has been entertaining for generations, but the short season of two short plays that opens at the Far North Community Centre's Little Theatre tonight represents a couple of significant firsts.
It's the first time Ruth Renner has found herself in the director's chair, and the feature play, 'Sex, Footy and Lies', was written by Judy O'Connor, all the way from Paihia.
"I'm delighted to be directing a locally-written play, even though it has no specific local reference," Ruth said, adding that she had every reason to have confidence in it.  Judy had work-shopped
the script with the Paihia Players and a public reading/performance in December 2005 was well received by a full house audience, followed by complimentary reviews.
And it placed second in the Playwrights' Association of New Zealand's first play competition last year.
Ruth had not intended directing but took over from Stephan Mathew, who ended up having to take one of the roles thanks to a continued scarcity of men who, in Ruth's words, are "willing to risk the excitement and horror of stage acting."
Sex, Footy and Lies ran for little over an hour, while the evening would begin
with a "quirky bit of fun" in the form of Tuesday's Stranger, written by another New Zealander, Mark Casson, she added.
With nine actors in one cast and two in the other, everyone had had a busy few months preparing for tonight's first performance, which will be repeated on Friday and Saturday evenings, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets ($10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students) will be available at the door.  Out of towners are welcome to reserve tickets for the evening performances by calling 408-xxxx, but will be asked to be in their seats by 7.15 p.m.

I had a great deal of fun with the people I met at Te Hiku Media this morning, as they tried to work out who the mystery "man" was in the paper's photograph.  If I haven't dropped enough hints, you may ask.

Opening night went very well, with an audience of around 30 people, not bad for a Kaitaia Thursday night.

It was good fun to be acting in a play as well as having directed the other one - the direction has been such a full-on job and I'm suddenly left feeling like I have little to do any more, since it's now all up to the cast.  Nicky and I did very well in our odd little play, both so nervous we could have seen each other shaking, if we'd not been too nervous to notice!


Friday the 6th

It was a hard secret to keep, but after the end of tonight's performance, I introduced the play's author, Judy O'Connor, to the cast.  I had known she was coming tonight for some days, but couldn't let on to Stephan, who'd said he really didn't want to know if she was out there if she came!

I was thrilled that Judy was able to come over and see the play and I think she was equally pleased, having not seen it produced with the lights and all as she'd written it.

She signed a copy of the play: I felt like a groupie.

Judy O'Connor and two of the cast

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