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The week beginning the 29th of January 2011.


Saturday the 29th

I am so very glad I rescued the chickens last night!  The cage was pushed up against this Cabbage Tree by the flood waters.

The flood debris hangs in the wire, half-way up the cage, and you can see the tide mark at this end on the nesting box.

flood debris caught in the hen cage
flood tide mark

Sometime in the middle of it all last night, I remembered these two eggs and wondered if they'd still be in the nest by the morning.

The chickens might have survived in here, if they'd been up on the ledges of the nesting shelves, but they'd not have been at all comfortable.

The little bantams' cage is lower and I doubt they'd have made it through the night where they were.  I shovelled all the silt out of the nesting boxes, replaced the hay and brought the chickens down from their cat cages in the shed.

This is the area at the bottom end of Flat 1, where the water floods up from the river into the drain.  It went right over the top of that trough, moving it so that it broke the fitting on the waterline (as we discovered some time later).  I was glad to see it still there at all!

flood aftermath
548's hoof

Not forgetting the cattle ...

This is one of 548's feet and explains her limp a couple of weeks ago.  I presume this is another foot injury caused by the hard metal on the tracks.  She hasn't been limping for a while and presumably this will grow out.  It's hard to tell what's happened to a foot like this without a lot of interference, so since the cow can walk comfortably again, I'll just watch and see what happens next.

The pond is full of mud.  It might also be full of other things too, like big bits of flood debris, so before anyone goes swimming again, we (Stephan) will have to do a careful wander around in the water to check for underwater hazards.

muddy water
scoured driveway

It is hard to tell how much metal has been washed away.  There is some major scouring, leaving interesting "speed humps" in the driveway.

This was high water, if you look to the level of the track up through the gateway, which is the level of the flats, our house...

The water would need to be considerably higher again to reach there, but if we had a really big, slow-moving storm, it's not at all beyond possibility.

There's a great bank of metal down by the gate to the bridge.  Note the piece of driftwood stuck half-way up the gate.  Fortunately Stephan had the good sense to move the remaining fence posts from this area before last weekend's flood, so I didn't have to worry about them in his absence during this one.

flood aftermath
flood aftermath

There is a very large and heavy log washed up against the fence on the other side of the bridge on the way to the yards, along with a lot of driftwood which will probably make good kindling for the winter.


Sunday the 30th

With no water flowing through our system, I've had to move the cattle several times, as they've drunk all the water in their troughs.  The best place for them to go without messing up my grazing plan too much, was back out to the Back Barn paddock for a day or two, where the stream has several crossings from which they can drink.
Before they could come out though, I needed to check the flood gate where the stream comes through the boundary fence at the back.  There's a huge amount of silt at every river crossing and as I crossed the last one, in the sunshine there were large numbers of bees with their proboscises probing into the silt.  I wonder why?

honey bee

A few days later during a walk with Stephan to check some traps on the forestry land next door, we discovered the source of the bees: a number of hives have been placed in a clearing there.  I'll have to ask a beekeeper what the bees might have been attracted to in the silt.

deep silt

The silt is about six or eight inches deep anywhere it has settled.

Bull 87 appears to be maintaining a good level of body condition, despite his extra responsibilities.

On the right is 572, the young cow who slipped her calf early in her pregnancy last season, and has consequently become quite fat.

bull and cow

Monday the 31st

heifer calf 667

The youngest calf.  She looked really puny for a while, as if she wasn't getting enough milk.  She also had scours; but now she's started filling out, I suspect she'll turn into a nice animal.  She's from a very good family, after all.  She comes from the other branch of the family of grey cows.

This is Irene's rear left foot, upon which Nathan operated a few weeks ago and which has since been troublesome.  Directly above the half-blade of grass is the cut-away area which Nathan opened up to uncover the infection which initially made her lame and through which more recently bulged an overgrowth of "proud" flesh, which caused yet more lameness.  It's very good to see that it looks relatively normal again.

Irene 35's hoof
517's front feet

And another probable hard-metal injury, although this one isn't helped by 517 having always had long toes.  She was lame for a few days and is still a little tender, but looking better quite quickly.  It's another case of "watch and see".  I don't know how this sort of hoof disruption will resolve itself.

The trough near the gate into the Back Barn Paddock is now empty.  They really like drinking from the troughs, even where there are lovely streams flowing in the paddocks.

empty water trough

Stephan and Elizabeth flew home from the Gisborne school reunion this evening.  Mike and Chantelle said they'd like to come for a visit, so I suggested they come and join us on our walk up to fix the water when Stephan came home.  They collected Stephan from the airport and the seven of us headed up into the bush to see what had happened to the water this time.

huge slip

It turned out to be something far more serious than ever before!

There used to be a little gully here.  And the first Tree Fuchsia I ever found in the area.

There was also a whole hillside of large trees and there wasn't any of that big bright sky at all!

All the soil, rocks, and trees had flowed down the hill and around the corner into the main streambed, damming the stream from the waterfall and filling the water with all that silt I've been finding downstream and in our pond.

Where Stephan is standing in the picture would have been mid-air before.

huge slip
huge slip

I climbed up the hill to have a look at the start of the slip.  It's about 70 metres in length from the top to the bottom, plus another 30m from where it turned the corner and carried on down in the direction of the main stream.  (We have occasional access to a GPS unit at the moment, which helped with measurements.)

I felt very unsettled the whole time we were up there, wondering how it would feel if the rest of the hill started to move.

Imagine being engulfed by the earth.


Tuesday the 1st of February

Back up into the bush again today, this time with rope, wire, pipe and fittings to join bits of pipe together.

These are some of the trees on top of the slip.  The running water is a bit of the main stream, making its way over the barrier.

huge slip
fixing the water line

Stuart (Chantelle and Mike's middle son) came out for the day to give us a hand.

Here he and Stephan were tying the pipe up to a new bit of wire we'd strung across the slip.  Goodness knows how long it will all last.  The whole mountain might yet slump onto the flats!

Hook grass is fascinating stuff (I realise I've photographed and mentioned it several times lately).  It's a feature of most walks this summer, since the weather is so warm and we're all in shorts all of the time.  That's my mottled, mud-streaked shin.

It really hurts when you walk through it, having multiple leg hairs sharply pulled at once, but it's sort of entertaining in the brutal way it ensures its own survival.

Hook grass seeds

Wednesday the 2nd

The water went off again overnight, this time a simple matter of replacing a broken fitting.  It is possible one of us trod on it over the last couple of days, or it may have been trampled by a cattle beast - there should not be any such animals up in that block of bush, but we found foot-prints and cow pats in many places.  There haven't been cattle out there for a long time and I have been assuming there wouldn't be when putting the bull and cows out in our Back Barn Paddock.  We will have to try and find out where they've come from and where they are now.  Fortunately I can be entirely sure they were none of ours.


Thursday the 3rd

You may recall I wrote of our thoughts of cutting down the great big pine tree which stands in an area of mature native forest between the flats and the road.  Stephan phoned Roger Gale back in August, to see if he'd come and remove it for us - Stephan's always been keen on such jobs himself, but I'm keener on him staying safely on the ground in one useful piece!

putting up warning signs

A few days ago I phoned an elderly neighbour to ask if she knew anything about the tree, but as she said, it's just a Pine.  It's not very likely to have been significant, but you never know, it might have been planted over somebody's pet something.

Roger arrived early this morning and we put signs at either end of the narrow windy piece of road where he needed to park his ute.  It was unlikely any tree bits would reach the road, but best to warn people of unusual activity.

The top of the pine is visible in the picture.

After throwing his string-line up into the tree and pulling a climbing rope up and over a solid branch, Roger donned his tree-climbing and safety gear...

Roger strapping on his tree-climbing leg gear
climbing the tree

...and up he went.  He made it look easy, but it sounded like hard work!

Stephan stayed there to refuel saws, tie things on to be pulled up by Roger and play general dog's-body.

I buzzed off on the bike and took pictures from wherever I could see the tree - and moved cows, checked on what the bull was up to, all the usual jobs.

up the pine tree
up the pine tree

It took a fair while to cut the branches off - and each one was cut so it would drop with as little damage as possible to the trees and plants around the base of the Pine.  Most of them fell with enormous crashes when they hit the ground.

But although it was slow and careful work, it took a lot less time than I had imagined.  Roger went up the tree just after nine o'clock and the last branch fell two and a half hours later.

It wasn't really a fair fight.

I felt quite sad, watching that huge great tree being demolished, one branch at a time.  It was only a Pine tree, but it was a magnificent specimen!

That was Stephan's view of Roger just after the last branch fell...

branches all gone
cutting from the top

...and this was mine, from the hillside over the road.

If I hadn't been determined to keep taking photos, I would have sat down with my head between my knees at this point.  I don't like heights much and seeing Roger at the top of the tallest structure, high above everything else nearby, made me feel really woozy.

I called to Stephan to tie his camera to Roger's rope, so he could pull it up and take a few shots from that great viewpoint.  It is unlikely we'll see parts of the farm from exactly that angle at any other time.

Looking straight down from the top, the lack of obvious damage to the surrounding trees is good to see.

Roger cut three or four sections from the top of the tree, to shorten the trunk a bit, then descended for lunch.

view from the top

Here are two pictures, before and after.

The pine tree
The pine tree, almost gone

Our view will be quite changed.

cutting a scarf

Tree fellers are usually astonishingly skilled at dropping trees exactly where they mean to.  Watching Roger set up the cuts to ensure things went to his plan, I see it is the same as any other job: plan well, prepare well, and things go as you expect.  After clearing away all the fallen branches around the base of the tree, and leaving a couple where they'd create a flatter landing area, Roger lined up his saw with the exact angle he wanted the tree to fall, and cut the scarf.
(This is another of Stephan's pictures; I was up on the hill ready to take pictures from the outside.)

When the tree began to fall, I had my camera pointed off in another direction, playing with my polarising lens, so had to do some fast refocusing as I realised things were progressing more quickly than I'd expected!  I did get pictures of the fall of the tree, and this is the last one, as it fell in this direction and disappeared in a cloud of sawdust, through the other trees.

The tree whumped to the ground with an impact I felt up on the hill.

gone in a puff of dust
prize-winning photos

Months ago I entered the photographic Far North Exposure Competition.  The rules stated that photos had to be taken during June and July last year and on the closing day of the competition, I realised I'd forgotten to specifically take any pictures which might fit the theme "Out Water, Our Future".  I had a quick look through my photo folders for the appropriate dates and found one like this, and emailed it in.

These were the winners of the senior (41 years and over) section, announced this evening.

The few people who attended crowded into the little room in the gallery where the pictures were hung - mine looked fabulous printed, and I hoped they were going to give us the printed pictures as our prize!  Prizes (a waterproof camera and a week's camping for the first-prize winners) and certificates were awarded.  Each prize-winner also received a couple of Nikau palms in a pot.

I don't know who the other two are in the picture, but that's me at the back.

Ruth and two other photographic prize winners

Friday the 4th

cows seeking shade

The provision of shade at this time of year is essential, and it'll be used, no matter how aesthetically unattractive the shelter might be.  These are 517 with her split front hoof, Irene 35 with her recovering back one and Imagen, who needs to be kept reasonably close to home for milking; and their three calves.  I couldn't put a whole mob in this paddock because they wouldn't all fit under the shade.

One more victim of the flood: a Towai which was rooted in the opposite river bank, has lost its firm footing and toppled across the stream.  The cows found it and had a bit of a snack.  Towai doesn't seem to be a tree they find particularly palatable - which is probably why it survives around the farm along the river banks where the cattle do still have access.

cow munching a fallen tree
gates old and new

Stephan spent a while working on this old wooden gate which he'd removed from Flat 1.  Bull 87 had probably been rubbing his head on it when he was in the paddock at the start of mating, and I had to use some electric tape to ensure he didn't break it altogether.

At some point Stephan gave up on fixing the wooden gate and remembered he had a steel one to fit the gateway.


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© All Content Copyright Ruth Renner, 2011