Today we began planting the orchard. Stephan met Elizabeth and William in town to buy a few more trees to go with a number of apple trees they'd ordered from a local grower and this afternoon we all went up the road to peg out the spots, dig the holes and put the trees in. Nut came from up the road to join us, because she's interested in taking part and putting in a tree or two too.
The first tree goes in! William and Stephan dug most of the holes and we went around and planted all of the bare-rooted apples first, and then some Pears and Plums.
The last tree to go in was an English Walnut. It should grow to be a big tree, so we gave it a big space.
It looks like 112 and Surprise 115 are both on heat, both trying to mount each other in between grabbing the odd bite to eat.
Evidence of oestrus activity is pretty easy to see at this time of year, when there's mud everywhere and any on-heat animal ends up with tell-tale muddy sides.
I've been getting on with some glyphosate weed-wiping, targeting sedge, rat-tail and rushes. Today I was doing some work in the Swamp Paddock and spotted this little Rimu seedling just inside the reserve fence around the swamp. We're not doing much planting in these areas because we know things will plant themselves.
This sort of damage is why stream banks need to be fenced to exclude cattle. The cows tend to take the same paths across barriers like streams and they've gradually eroded this area by continually walking up and down into the stream to drink or to get to and from the other side. When we fence the stream, the two parts of this already-small paddock, will become separate areas, without any crossing to join them. We will of course need to install several more troughs, when the cattle can no longer drink directly from the stream.
We don't often get fog. It's always odd when the hills disappear.
I went for a look at the corner on my way back from checking the heifers Over the Road. There's still a very large crack behind most of that face. I think we should take bets on how long it'll stay up there.
I wiped rushes in Flat 1 this afternoon and spotted these pretty toadstools, with their frilly edges. I haven't tried to find out what they are. If you know, please tell me.
There are good reasons for not cleaning windows, but I got sick of the murk through which the sun was trying to shine into the living room this morning and cleaned one of the big ranch-slider panes. This afternoon I found this dead female Chaffinch lying on the deck and a feather stuck to the glass where she'd struck it.
Poor Lamb, she's had a funny ear for a few days. When I first noticed it flopping down, I checked it for any obvious injury and could find nothing other than a soft swelling between the two layers of skin forming the ear, so decided to leave her and see what happened next - she seemed quite happy and healthy, eating and behaving normally. Four days ago she had slightly bloody marks around her neck because the ear infection had ruptured somewhere and begun to drain and I thought that was probably a good thing. Then two days ago I saw her lying with her head tilted slightly and so we caught her and treated her with an injection of Penicillin. She's had another today and will have at least another two shots. It took only a couple of hours after the first injection for her to perk up and look a lot happier.
Stephan was going to make blueberry muffins, but didn't have enough blueberries; so he added some blackberries and made black-and-blue bruiseberry muffins! They look a bit gruesome, but they were very nice.
We were expecting a guy to arrive with a demonstration spray tank trailer early this morning, so he had a couple of these with his cup of tea, before heading back to Whangarei to pick up several drums of liquid manure, some for us and some for the person who would be the final recipient of the trailer. The whole day's programme got rather drawn out, as he took longer to get here than we expected, and longer to return again later.
I went out in the middle of the sunny day to check on the cows in the Back Barn Paddock, where they were all standing or lying around sleepily in the warmth. It took me about an hour to get around them all, stroking them and checking them over. When they're dozy, I get all lethargic and sleepy as well and don't feel like doing anything in a hurry.
I watched 606 moving her head carefully up and down so she could scratch her ear on this stiff little gorse bush. Earlier she was standing under a Totara tree moving her back from side to side to scratch under one of the low branches. She probably has lice, as they often do in winter.
The parasite which worries me more at the moment is the tick. They're already present in some numbers on many of the cows and I fear that the combination of the drought last summer, the drier-than-normal winter and the considerably warmer start to this month than is usual may give rise to greater tick numbers than usual for a longer period of time. I've considered investigating treating for ticks before; this year I intend to do so. There is a specific pour-on for ticks available.
We brought the heifers back over the road early this afternoon and sent them out to the Big Back South, because I don't want them on the flats for a couple of days after the spraying.
Dexie 101's daughter, 121, looks a bit peaky. Because she was earlier doing so well, I didn't drench her with the others, but I'm wondering now if I should have done. I'll bring them all back in when the next lot of rain has passed and weigh them and make a decision.
I brought the sheep out of the House Paddock and led them up to the Chickens (where no chickens now live) Paddock by tempting them with a bowl of maize. I went back to make sure Yvette and the Goose came along too. Goose seemed to be quite happy to stick with Yvette, rather than going with the others. There's lots of nice grass and shelter where they've gone to, but we must remember to go and check twice each day to ensure the fat no-tag ewe is on her feet and not upside-down.
The fert-selling man, Steve from Agrifert, finally reappeared at around 3.30pm and we were able to get underway with the spraying.
We decided we'd try out a mix called Nutraboost, "a powerful biological stimulant containing Fulvic, Humic, and Ulmic acids." Doing a bit of "upselling" Steve convinced us to throw some seaweed-based fertilizer in as well, while we were at it. Having not put as much of anything on the paddocks as I ought to for the last two or three years, I decided to see what difference this stuff makes.
We told Steve we'd not be buying his lovely spray trailer, but it was a really easy bit of equipment to use, with its independent pump operated by a remote control switch on a long lead which Stephan had on the tractor as he drove around (for turning on and off the spray as he needed to). In an ordinary year there's no way we could drive over the paddocks like this, but see how little the wheels marked the ground!
The only problem today was that we couldn't start until 4pm and we were supposed to be going out to dinner before six. Stephan finished, having travelled around most of the flats a little before six, washed down the spray trailer and cleaned its tyres as much as possible, helped Steve get it back onto his trailer and he left and we managed to get out the gate by 6.30.
We spent a very enjoyable evening with Gaye and Brian at their place.
I wiped this patch of sedge plants six days ago, so I'm eagerly awaiting evidence of their demise.
The cows were spread all over the hillside in the Back Barn and I decided it really was time for them to move - I like it when they're happy where they are, but don't need to push them too hard this winter, with the grass growing so well.
Pushing them to go down the hill is a slow job and doesn't work well, so I walked down ahead, calling, hoping they'd follow. Eventually there was movement and as a couple of them began to walk, others followed, until they were all galloping toward me down the hill.
I took this photo mostly for my own record of an odd thing: 607 holding her tail up in a strange manner for most of the way along the track. I think another of the cows was also doing it for a little while. I wonder if their calves had moved in an uncomfortable way as a result of their gallop down the hill and it was prompting that response?
As they all gathered where they were required to take a right turn out of the lane up into the PW, somebody must have pushed 602 so that her best option was to go under the spring gate into the Swamp Paddock. By the time I'd pushed the others through the PW gate, 602 had happily wandered away grazing and wasn't going back, thank you very much. 602 is the thinnest cow in the mob, so I decided to try and get the next-thinnest out to join her, and managed to turn 475 back to the gate and invite her out through it without anyone else coming with her. The big mob now comprises 18 cows.
Around the other side of the farm, the heifers in the Big Back South paddock had eaten most of the grass and this heifer, 710, was having a Department of Conservation snack over the fence. Loose old barbed wire is no deterrent to a determined animal.
I wasn't sure she wouldn't just keep on pushing, so called them down to the gateway at the top of the main part of the swamp reserve and let them through into the North paddock.