We try to get away from the farm for a couple of days at the end of every August, it being the most depressing time of year. Often we'll book accommodation somewhere relatively salubrious as a treat, since we're not spending a great deal on travel to get there but this year we decided to do something different. Part of the consideration was having almost no income; the other important factor was that we live together without others and if we go away and stay somewhere on our own, we're just changing our surroundings. We decided it would be much better to go and visit someone nice, friendly, politically sound, with a similar outlook on life, and also living in fabulous surroundings. Kate and Geoff were the natural choice, although we were a bit disorganised about telling them exactly how important a get-away this was in our annual calendar. Kate runs lifestyleblock.co.nz, where I regularly participate in the discussion forum, make friends, feel like I'm part of some kind of community ...
Kate had asked for instructions on making a live capture trap for cats and so Stephan had made one, I'd taken photos and we'd sent that all to her previously. Stephan brought that new trap and the bits to construct another with him, for further clarification of the process.
Then we talked about how you dispatch any trapped animal if you don't have a firearms licence. (Drowning is a hideous death and no trapped animal should ever be disposed of that way, although it's commonly thought to be a good option.) We didn't come to a satisfactory conclusion and I need to go and do some research on how much killing power one can wield without needing a firearms licence.
The goats are fed supplements every day, so they're quite tame and always come running whenever their owners appear.
After Kate had fed the does, I walked back to the house via a reserve-fenced gully, where Stephan and Geoff were also checking and resetting traps. I found half a dozen Tree Fuchsias alongside the small stream. This is a much more highly coloured flower than the ones I found at our place. I wonder if it's a genetic variation or caused by different light levels or location?
In the afternoon Stephan and I took ourselves off for a walk in the bush. We started too late in the day to go right down to the lowest, wildest area, so we caught a lift with Geoff to the other mob of goats and then clambered down into the bush and made our way slowly back along a very steep slope. Where the trees were mature, it was very much like home.
The only plant I found there which we don't yet see growing here was Kawakawa. It's absence from our bush is presumably because it tastes good to cattle and so has been locally eliminated. It grows along the roadside down Diggers Valley so surely plants will eventually appear again in our bush areas.
I found some orchids, of course, but they weren't flowering yet and I couldn't definitely identify which ones they were.
There was a stand of several large Rimu, always a pleasure to find. The timber was (is) sought-after so the largest trees are often absent from bush anywhere access isn't very very difficult.
Geoff and Kate took us out to breakfast at the almost-neighbouring Helena Bay Hill Gallery & Café. I didn't like the dogs (but was protected from close encounters by my companions), breakfast was lovely and the gallery was somewhere I'd like to return to if ever I have a great deal of disposable cash.
We drove ourselves home again in time to do a few things in the afternoon.
These Herons stand around on the paddocks and sometimes the edges of troughs, but take to the sky and trees when we appear. They're such graceful fliers with their large wing-to-body ratio and made to look more so, probably, by the length of their necks and legs.
Stephan has been regularly visiting and feeding the sheep since they returned home. Madam Goose became accustomed to daily feeds in their absence and now they all come increasingly closer for maize when Stephan calls them. We want to be able to entice them into the yards when necessary before and during lambing.
Rabbits are supposed to be trap bait, not the target. Presumably little rabbits go in to the DOC 200 trap boxes for shelter, since the bait is usually some kind of meat. They're not a regular catch in these traps but there have been a few in the last few weeks.
This one's companion had been caught only by one paw, so had a nastier time of it and had to be dispatched as soon as Stephan found them this afternoon. Normally one would not necessarily check kill traps every day but fortunately these two were down near the chickens (trying to catch rats and stoats) and so the unfortunate rabbit's plight was noticed. They will end up in other traps, as bait, to lure the real nasties we actually want to catch.
For the last couple of months Stephan has been experiencing a distressing abdominal pain (there is no horrible end to this story at time of writing), and today we saw a surgical consultant at the local hospital. She commented that if we lived closer to Whangarei, they'd already have seen us at the A&E Department and Stephan would have been scanned to eliminate anything sinister. She gave us a referral letter and said we could go tomorrow. I asked if we could put it off until next Tuesday and she thought that would be ok. Life and other plans will be happening in the mean time!
But tonight in the dark as we talked about it some more, Stephan said he really would like to go and get checked out, just in case something awful is extending its tentacles through his innards and possibly killing him before next week. So we came up with a plan which involved setting the alarms for very early in the morning.
Up well before dawn this morning to pack up ready to go (presuming this to be a day trip, we wouldn't need much, but just in case we were delayed, I have a plane to catch tomorrow morning and had better be prepared for that trip too).
The cows needed to be moved today and so we woke up those still sleeping and propelled them along the lane and then over the road. (Stephan commented that this picture looks like he's about to strike someone with his stick, which of course he wasn't, was just waving it in the air to keep the cows moving.) Everyone else was ok.
We drove out the gate at 7.52am, which isn't bad going for all we had needed to do.
At the hospital Stephan was taken into the observation area, had body fluids extracted for testing and sometime around noon a very nice young doctor came to discuss the situation, which was that they could find no issues with the tests so next on their differential list was a malignancy. Nice, thanks for that bit of uplifting news!
Fortunately the next bit happened in what seemed like quite quite a short period, although our awareness of time went a bit awry for a while. A CT scan was done at 3.30 and reassuring news that nothing obvious had been seen was immediately given to Stephan, as he left to return to the ward.
I waited with him until after 5pm, hoping someone would come to discuss and confirm that finding but in the end thought I'd better go and find a bed and dinner. Lovely Sheila, who used to be Jill's Vicar's Warden when Jill was still of relatively able mind and Vicar of Christ's (Anglican) Church in Whangarei, is someone we visit whenever we're able and I sent her a text begging a meal and a bed for the night.
The young doctor came back to see Stephan around 8.30pm and confirmed that they couldn't see any awful reason for his pain and said "here, have some more morphine".
Back to the hospital before seven this morning, I snuck in and sat beside sleeping Stephan with my cup of coffee and ipad (great that the Northland hospitals now have free WiFi!) and waited for him to wake up, or the early doctors' round to appear. Eventually both happened, a huge crowd of people gathered around the end of the bed and discussed possibilities, which were inconclusive but also not horribly alarming. Then they said they'd keep him for further observation. That was not part of our plan for these few days! The surgeon was insistent about having Stephan there while they further examined the scan and experimented with pain relief, which might have been giving them some other information about what was going on.
The difficulty was that while I could cancel all my plans for the weekend if something serious happened, I really didn't want to have to if things were actually going to work out alright. Tricky.
We made a plan: I would go to Auckland and then Wellington as planned, and phone and email to arrange people to go and move the animals who'd need more grass and budgies which were due to be fed again today and I'd fly back on Friday night if necessary. Then Sheila picked me up from the front of the Hospital, left Stephan an excellent book and the Herald and dropped me at Whangarei Airport and off I flew, with quite some trepidation, not being terribly sure it was a good idea.
Auckland was quite fun: I found WiFi hotspots to make the arrangements at home, other people's phones to make follow-up calls (the one thing I'd neglected to bring was the usual spare phone batteries or charger) and even bought a HOP card for the Auckland Transport system, after paying too many expensive cash fares. I've taken to using the "Journey Planner" on the AT website before I go there, to figure out how to get around. A smart-phone user would of course be able to do it on the move.
At 5pm I made my way to Old Government House in the grounds of the University of Auckland, for the Annual General Meeting of the Women's Studies Association. There was a great turnout, something like 25 of us there, since many women had already arrived for the Conference beginning early tomorrow morning (a day which I, sadly, have to miss).
During the meeting Brian sent me a text saying he couldn't find my pregnant heifers, which was very alarming! They were in Flat 4, mostly flat, difficult to get lost in but he'd misread my hurried instructions.
Alison, whose couch I had inhabited for the night, kindly took me out to the airport and I flew to Wellington for the annual training day/meeting of the members of the Vet Council complaints committees. It's always lovely catching up in person with people with whom I communicate for the rest of the year only by email and teleconference.
By the end of the day I knew Stephan had finally been released from the Hospital, had got the car out of the (we feared expensive-enough to require a mortgage) carpark for free as an in-patient and was on his way home, so cancelled the ticket I'd bought in case I needed to get back to Whangarei tonight and returned only to Auckland instead, with a great sense of relief.
I joined the rest of the Conference women at the evening's event, a poetry presentation by a young woman whose primary income is derived from working in the sex industry. Her poetry was brilliant but confronting at times, although I missed the majority of it. Much lively conversation ensued in the car on the way home afterwards, about whether one can be a feminist and a sex worker. In this individualist world of the feminist third wave, it appears one might but for those of us who fought through earlier times with a strong belief in the need for wide societal change, no.
Alison and I sat and talked far later into the night than we should have, before the early start to return to the Conference again in the morning.
For a bit of extra entertainment, let us have a twins guessing competition too. This year they both got in calf on the same day, Saturday 2nd January.