The fledgling Tui I have been watching occasionally goes to the flax flowers to experiment with gathering food at source, but it doesn't seem to be doing much more than playing around yet.
The Chicken's paddock where the pigs now live and the sheep and goose usually graze, has been gradually covered by Sedge plants. Over the last few months I've wiped them with herbicide on a couple of occasions, killing about a third of them and today Stephan came in here with the slasher and took everything down to the ground. As the live ones emerge again, I'll do some more wiping.
He couldn't easily mow along the edges beside the stream, but at least that leaves a lot less still to kill in the mean time.
Four hours in the Camp Paddock with the slasher removed nearly all the rushes and put some avenues through the middle of the blackberry patch, so it'll be easier to harvest the remaining fruit. There's a picture of part of this paddock from January this year.
I went out Ragwort hunting this afternoon, listening to the radio as I walked, enjoying having the time and freedom to wander quietly about.
In this picture I'd come up from the right edge down by the stream and walked up and down the slope wherever I spotted Ragwort plants growing. In the shade of the Kanuka trees, most of the plants in here were still quite young. Down by the stream in the sunshine, they're already flowering, although very few have yet started to seed, unless their stems have been broken.
We will eventually clear this slope in places where it is not too steep. The steepest parts will be incorporated into the riparian reserve and the rest will become part of the southern half of the Pines Paddocks. It's going to be really interesting making such changes to paddock layouts.
I don't remember seeing this spot before: a potential danger area for cattle, with its deeply grooved water-course and hard, clay sides. It is not unlike the area in which Steer 356 became stuck in the PW in 2004, although this little gully is at an earlier stage of development and does not have as deep a bottom.
Stephan has named these two Zellason and Brozella (brother of Zella). Every evening at about seven o'clock, they get separated from Zella and Imagen for the night, so we can have the cows' milk in the morning. Zella's milk comes in to the house for drinking, butter and cheesemaking and Imagen's goes to the two pigs. The pigs also get any left over from Zella if Stephan hasn't made cheese and they get the whey when he does.
I keep peering at the Rata tree, trying to see it turning red, but my wishes will not make it so.
548 and her companions are now in the Pig Paddock (where no pigs live), after I weighed their calves.
I put the tick treatment on all of these cows out in the paddock yesterday afternoon and on most of the other mob as well. Some of the heifers in the bigger mob won't let me near them, so I'll have to put them in the race to do them when they come in. I felt the bodies of several calves where I expect ticks to congregate, but discovered very few. I have yet to obtain reliable advice on whether or not the tickicide may be used on small animals whose mothers will potentially lick a lot of it off them.
The calves must have found it a thirsty process and all headed for the trough as soon as they were let into the paddock. Their mothers had access to water while they were waiting, but the calves probably didn't stop to drink when I let them out of the race, dashing off to find their mothers again first.
The larger mob were out in Flat 5c, so I had to push them out of there into 5d, then across to the gate. Fortunately the cows generally respond quite well when I move them, so that as soon as I walked across the paddock urging those lying to get up, they started walking down to the gate in the corner.
This second weighing is always the most interesting one for me, a chance to see how well each of the cows is doing with her calf. Most are doing very well; a couple of the heifers less so (slightly under 1kg/day) and 711 is doing as badly as her calf looks, at under 700g/day weight gain. He's a small and constantly hungry little calf, because his mother doesn't have sufficient milk. I don't know why she doesn't, having come from a very milky family. I guess that's the luck of the genetic draw and these two got a bad hand. I'll see if she picks up in production over the summer, but if not, I don't think I'll keep her for next year.
Yesterday Yvette had a lot of flies hanging around her. I applied various things to deter them and she seemed quite happy. Today though, I noticed a telltale grey wet patch on her wool and discovered a lot of squirming maggots underneath. I set about cutting her wool to expose them and remove them from her skin - and did a bit of general cutting across her back, to remove the fleece where it was long and matted. Her remaining time being short, we'd not intended to shear her again in the normal way, but I thought I might spend an hour with her each evening, gradually removing most of the length.
Stephan came up to find out where I was and spotted another damp patch where I'd not previously noticed it and so I sent him off to try and find the strike powder. I carried on cutting around from the struck spot on her right shoulder, but there were more and more maggots under her fleece and I came to the sad conclusion that perhaps this was the sign I've been waiting for. While Yvette was happy and comfortable still - and she had seemed to be, eating happily and moving around a bit more than she often does - I was happy for her to continue her existence. But we've reached the danger season for flystrike and Yvette is more prone than the others to attack, because she spends more time lying around. Any flystrike not caught as early as this, could cause her great distress.
When Stephan returned, I told him I'd changed my mind and that the better treatment would be fast and out of the end of a rifle. I said my good byes to Yvette and went back to the house to look up the Emergency Slaughter document I keep on the computer, to refresh Stephan's memory on the correct angles for humanely shooting a sheep. While he returned to Yvette with the rifle and a sharp knife, I waited by the pond and wept for the end of the life of my lovely ewe.
I'll always remember tiny Yvette running up to me when she'd never even seen a person before. She was born when we had gone to Auckland for a couple of days (back before I had any control over lambing dates and a less responsible feeling for the flock) and her mother had for some reason died not long afterwards. When we arrived home Yvette was inexplicably in the Pig Paddock with some of the other sheep and her brother was still with their dead mother back near the house. I called her to me with my best imitation of a mother ewe and she bounced over to me, obviously quite hungry. She's always been a beautiful-looking animal with her clear face and tightly kinked fleece. One of her sons tried to kill me, but I never held that against her. I'm going to miss her constant presence. Yvette was the longest-lived animal here, at this time.
With a little help from our friends and with some very strict frugality, we have managed our resources rather better than I hoped throughout this year, despite the considerable demand of the tractor payments. When we ran out of fence posts the other day, we were able to consider purchasing more.
The need is urgent because we've been rather let down by the Department of Conservation, who we understood were to supply all the materials for the boundary fence in the Big Back Paddock, but have now told us we have to wait in line along with everyone else. We would never have begun the project without assurance it could be finished. I have been assured that all materials will eventually be supplied, but in the mean time, we'll have to do the job ourselves, because we can't have an open boundary and an unusable paddock.
Despite somehow not receiving Mt Pokaka's annual sale flier, we've timed things well and were able to get our order in to take advantage of their slightly reduced prices. In other years they've offered free freight for a minimum order, but this year we paid $300+GST for them to deliver, so I loaded as much onto the order as I could. Last time we bought posts we got as many as we felt we would need and could afford, then used them all up rather more quickly than we thought we would. There's still a lot of riparian and reserve fencing to do, along with lots of subdivision of paddocks to allow for better pasture management.
Nigel, the truck driver, rolled over the bridge at 6.24 this morning and we showed him where we'd most like him to put them, if he could get around the corners on the track. He could.
In the Windmill Paddock the truck made some heavy wheel marks in the grass, but we had decided this was the best place for the delivery, away from the risk of flooding and in the middle of the farm, ready to be taken to any job.
We had everything off the trailer and the few bundles of posts from the back of the truck. Every time I catch sight of the mountain of posts, I'm shocked: we've never bought so many all at once!
I'm pleased though, because buying in small numbers from town, even if the per post price were the same, would involve quite a bit of travelling and handling of materials, all of which is taken care of with one freight fee to have this lot delivered. It cost us little time and no vehicle wear-and-tear nor fuel.
Stephan dug a hole for Yvette, next to where Damian is buried. Later he'll alter the railings to include her grave site with his and we'll plant another tree over Yvette.
We gave all the calves their first 7in1 vaccination today and inserted their NAIT tags. Usually we'd do the castrations too, but as I neglected to buy any new rubber rings, we've left that for another day.
I put the two cow/calf mobs next to each other for a couple of days, so they can see who's who again, because I'll be redrafting them in a couple of weeks for mating and many will meet others they've not seen for a while.
Imagen has been failing to hold her tail switch out of the way when releasing streams of loose matter and it gradually forms great daggy lumps in the long hair. Sometimes I will soak such tails in water and gradually pull the clumps apart, but I don't feel like doing that at present, so took some scissors to her tail this morning instead.
Imagen's udder will now stay cleaner for milking and Stephan, when milking, is less likely to get clobbered by a shitty lump around the side of his head, when Imagen swings her tail.
When we put the big tank up on the hill, Stephan buried the pipes which came down through the Camp Paddock, but has never completed the job in the House Paddock. Because we now want to mow the paddock, the pipes really need to be sorted out. The other problem, in the summer time, is that during the day we no longer have cold water. By late afternoon, with the hot sun falling on the black alkathene, the water is too hot to touch as it runs out of the cold tap. While that's great for doing things like washing, it's not great for drinking.
The back blade is surprisingly useful for trench digging. Stephan drove twice along the line to get it as deep as he wanted it, before laying the two water pipes. One comes to the house from the tank and the other is the pressure release run-off from the main gravity-fed system. We just divert the water a little; most of it ends up back in the stream, after flowing through Stephan's "water feature" and the swimming pond. That water used to flow along the drain along the edge of Flat 1, but this is a much better arrangement.
I had a "health day" in town: a blood test because I am sometimes anaemic, a regular check of a more intimate nature and then I got far too close to someone with a needle and scalpel again! My doctor, having told me I was "lumpy" and not to worry about a small thing on my leg a couple of years ago, last week noticed it again and said he should really chop it off - the thing, not my leg. I was quite pleased that he might make me symmetrical again, by making a cut to match the big Melanoma scar on my other leg, but inexplicably, he has cut the other way! Oh, but what of my modelling career?
I now have a horizontal cut with six stitches, a pressure bandage on my lower leg and instructions to rest it for a few days.