The week beginning the 7th of March 2015.
Saturday the 7th
cows and Puriri

By the end of this morning the cows had hoovered up all the leaves on the ground and eaten everything they could reach on the felled Puriri.

They need to move for more grass but I'll get them back in here within a couple of days, after Stephan cuts down the rest of the leafy branches.

cow in a tree

710 looked like she was wedged into a fork in the branches and I worried that she was stuck; but she seemed quite content where she was and eventually moved back and out.

Sunday the 8th
caterpillar eating gerbera flower

This was an outrageous assault!  My beautiful, pink Gerbera flower was half eaten today.  I found and squashed a number of fat green caterpillars on the rest of the plant.

There seem to be far fewer wasps around this season and so many more white butterflies (parents of this munching monster).  After last year, I imagined we'd be plagued by wasps for ever, but for some reason they're just not here this year.

Budgerigar

Loofah Equilibrium has changed sex!

No, don't email me telling me it's impossible - I said this to someone recently and she said, quite seriously, "she won't actually have changed sex, you know."

I didn't know, but now do, that young Budgerigars are generally born with blue colouring in their ceres (the fleshy bit above the bill) and also have dark bars of colour over their heads - as shown on Loofah when I brought her home in December.

I thought at the time that she could be a very young bird and in retrospect I now understand that her inability to fly well, allowing the children who found her to pick her up, was probably due to not yet being able to fly properly.  That she was injured by the dog in Jude's house complicated things later.

Angus cattle

A lot of black cattle.  For years we've been watching the herd become blacker, as the coloured cows had black calves and the reds got old and went.  I like my black cows, but I like there being a few odd colours in there too, with the grey families and the remaining white-faced cattle.

The greys remain, as do the white faces, because both factors are dominant if they are present, whereas the red colour is recessive to the dominant black gene.

Stephan and I moved the cows and calves out to the Back Barn paddock and as I was about to get in to the ute, I noticed something odd on the ground, pressed into the mud, which turned out to be the little torch I lost several weeks ago.  It was a LED Lenser P3, with one AAA battery inside.  It was hooked onto my camera bag with the connector it came with, which had broken and let the torch go.  I tie everything to my camera bag because I know how easy it is for things to be dropped when one is busy doing other things.  I felt annoyed that the torch had come with such a flimsy attachment and that I'd not checked it more carefully.  After a week in the hot-water cupboard and a bit of a clean, the torch worked perfectly again.

Monday the 9th
new gateway

The Windmill fence is now all finished, with only some railing required between the fence and the lane gate post.  When that was completed, I went out to get the cows in.

lost cow

I followed the cows and calves out of the Back Barn paddock and along the lane and when I came up out of the first river crossing, saw several calves in the Swamp paddock, with one of the two-year-old mums: they'd walked under the spring gate.  I think we'll have to put something more substantial there, since this is not the first time it has been ignored!

I managed to chase the calves back out through the gateway, but 718 wouldn't cooperate.  I thought I'd leave her to find her own way, now I had all the calves, which were the ones I wanted to weigh.  She kept heading toward the pathways which used to be available to get out of the paddock alongside or over the stream, but was confused by the new fencing.

I carried on and asked Stephan to go back and make sure she found her way out, so she didn't get too distressed and do something dangerous.  By the time the calves had gone down to the bridge past the house, 718 came running down the lane.

white-faced heifer

I weighed the yearling heifers as well as the calves and they're all now around 390kg.  This is 746, trying to relieve an itchy nostril.

The calves are doing nicely, with an average weight just over 200kg at an average 135 days (about four and a half months).  I'm always impressed by their weights at this stage, being the same as those we used to achieve at least six weeks later, back in the early days of the herd.

There are a couple of little calves because they're still younger than the others and a couple of small ones because they're not growing very well.  They should have the genetics to grow, but have mothers who aren't producing quite enough milk in their first lactation.

felled Puriri

While I stopped for some afternoon tea, Stephan went out with the chainsaw and cut the higher branches down from the fallen Puriri and when he radioed to say he'd finished, I let the cattle go along the lanes to finish that lovely treat.

The "today's photo" is different from this one.  Click on the photo to see it.

tree stump

The Puriri stump is pumping out a lot of sap.  I have high hopes that this tree will sprout again from the stump.

native orchid

On my way home I checked an orchid plant in one of the Puriri beside the track, an Earina autumnalis I've never seen flower and look, I've already missed it!

Tuesday the 10th
cows in yard

This morning we weighed the house-cow calves and here are Zella and Imagen looking worried.  I was about to put them up the race to give them their tick pour-on, but they didn't know it was to be something painless.

calf in yards

Orphan calf is a bit too tame to respond properly to being urged up the race, so had to be pushed.  This was Stephan unsuccessfully trying to get him to go up.  I had to get down there and push from behind as well before he'd go.  Once they're in the narrow race, they're much more cooperative, there only being one way to go.

Zella's and Imagen's calves are the best-growing in the whole herd, probably because they have less feed-supply interruption when the weather's dry - Zella being the milking cow can't be allowed to go hungry.  So even though the calves have restricted access to their mothers, they have still been growing at over 1.3 and 1.4 kg/day respectively.  Orphan 765 has been putting on just under a kilogram each day, which is acceptable under the circumstances.  He's keeping up with his contemporaries well enough to join them at weaning without looking like the runt of the litter.

fencing preparation

The new Windmill Paddock arrangement effectively fenced the other side of the stream below this area.  Today Stephan cleared and pruned up this side of a steep, forested slope, ready to construct a fence.

native bush

I don't know how often the cattle go down into this area, but I have sometimes seen them from the other side of the stream at the bottom of the slope.  While they enjoy browsing on the plants and trees in such places, they get very little bulk feed value from it and do a lot of damage to the trees and the ground.  Because the bush is already quite advanced here, it will fill in beautifully once the animals are excluded.

jumping hen

There are some delicious and gradually ripening grapes under the gazebo, but we're not the only ones who know about them.  This one hen has been jumping higher every day to get more of them as they ripen and she won't be deterred.

Wednesday the 11th
Rimu trunks

I'm always delighted to find mature Rimu trees.  I knew there was one in this area beside the stream in the Frog Paddock, but it turns out there are actually three here.  Funny what you see for the first time when you really look.

Kanuka trees

These Kanuka trees are enormous.  Most of their species around the farm are fairly young, growing as scrub on hillsides which were once grass pastures - and will be again, if Stephan can work for enough years.  These three are seriously large trees with huge canopies.

man in paddock

Steve Polglase from Agrifert came up this afternoon and we went across to Flat 4, on which I want to do some analysis to figure out why it is so varied in its ability to grow pasture.  Half of it is pretty good and the rest is pretty bad.  I'm assuming it's a soil fertility issue, even though I've been getting Ryan to spread fert and lime more heavily on the poor side for some time.

Stephan had rung the neighbours to ask if I could hop over the fence and take some samples from their side too, where there's been no fert for decades and which will therefore serve as a useful base-line comparison.  It was interesting to have a close look at the plants which form the pasture on that side.  They were like those in the poor area of Flat 4, but smaller and weaker-looking.

We took three lots of soil samples and one pasture sample and Steve will send them off to the lab and we'll talk about the results when they come in.  I'll write about the process for my magazine column.

Thursday the 12th
cow and calf

Curly and her son.

Remember this?  It's nice, at the end of a pretty tough season, to look back at the early lives of those who've done well.

Rimu

The little Rimu sapling in the small Swamp reserve is doing well.  The last picture I can find was from 18 months ago.

Just as on that earlier occasion, I was in the paddock with the weed wiper killing Sedge plants, Rat-tail and rushes.

Stephan was around in the paddock we think will now be referred to as the Swamp East (since it's on the same side of the stream and adjacent to this, the Swamp Paddock.  The other side of the swamp itself is on the western boundary of that paddock, which was part of the Frog.

Then again, maybe we'll get so confused we'll just have to put numbers on the gateways.

bagging hay

I've been turning the long cut grass on the lawn to make some hay for hen nest boxes and today, when it was at last dry between showers of rain, we bagged it up.

Stephan doesn't really do everything; I asked him to do the last bag, so he could get as much in as possible with more pressure than I could exert.

Friday the 13th

It's by-election time in our Northland Electorate, the incumbent Member of Parliament having suddenly resigned under a long-rumbling cloud of unsavoury rumour about a police investigation into some personal misdemeanour.  The whole affair has been so poorly handled by the Prime Minister, that those of us who are always appalled by everything else he does are enjoying some entertaining lighter moments of hope for change.

The Northland general electorate is populated primarily by well-off Pākehā who have for decades voted for the conservative National Party candidate*, whomever he (yes, always) has been.  That party has obviously concluded that they might safely put up a blue-collared sheep, if they so chose, and it would receive the majority vote.  As it is they've selected a candidate few have heard of, whose charisma appears not to have joined him on the campaign trail - indeed even he didn't show up at the Candidates' Meeting we attended early this afternoon in town.

But then neither did the other, far more charismatic and entertaining candidate, Winston Peters.  He's been in and out of Parliament for decades and his candidacy in this by-election (he's currently a "list" MP and leader of his party, New Zealand First in Parliament) has suddenly made it a very interesting contest and something to which the rest of the country is paying attention.

Despite the absence of the primary candidates (because even the excellent Labour candidate, Willow-Jean Prime couldn't hope to win it with Peters in the mix) it was an entertaining meeting, with most of the candidates saying "don't vote for me, vote for a change, send the Government a message ... you know who I mean."

* The Māori roll for Te Tai Tokerau Electorate is a completely different story in terms of socio-economic resources.  It has been commented upon several times during the lead-up to the by-election that Northland is an economically deprived area, but the majority of those who are living that life are not on the general roll, so not voting in this by-election.  (See www.parliament.nz and www.elections.org.nz for explanations of the Māori seats.)

We had to leave before the meeting ended - it went on for a while with questions and responses - because I have been a bad columnist and forgotten all about deadlines and having thereby really annoyed my editor, needed to get home and submit my overdue column before being fired.  It has not only been these pages which have suffered neglect during this busy summer.

grazed paddock

I have been taking a series of photographs of Flat 4, this one just after the cows had grazed it, to include with my column on the paddock investigation.  The brown haze is the now-hard stalks of the Dropwort Parsley flowers.  I will ask Stephan to come in and mow it down to a uniform level.