The week beginning the 25th of February 2017.
Saturday the 25th

We've had a few conversations lately with various people, just met and longer-known, about Stephan's name and its pronunciation: until globalisation nobody thought anything about him having an a in the end rather than an e; it was just different and they called him Steven/Stephen like anyone else and generally spelt his name wrong.  (His father with some Welsh language influence liked to give the ph a slightly soft f effect, but if you weren't listening for it, you'd not really notice - and he always insisted that the a was deliberate, not a spelling mistake.)  Then people started meeting Europeans who pronounced their identically-spelt names entirely differently and people started calling Stephan Steffarn.  But he's always been Stephan without an f or a long a and hardly ever Steve, to anyone who knows him well.


A little rain overnight (4.7mm) made the track slippery this morning but it was soon drying and we could both drive along it with care.

Stephan began digging his way in to install a culvert for the cattle to get into and out of a grazing area between two gullies.


This is the next gully over from the big one which is about to be fenced.  There's water coming out of the ground up the top and it runs down through some steep areas and some flatter, so we'll include the steep bits in the reserve and leave the less sloping areas outside for grazing and later clearing.

It's interesting doing this work in the context of the wider societal discussion about water quality and farming.  This is the reality of the work which needs to be done: it's on private land, at private cost, done by individual people who are sometimes not earning great fortunes from their land and farming enterprises.

Those of us who choose to do it ahead of legislation which will no doubt come in future years, tend to be of a different mindset from those who complain that it will all cost too much and take too much work and they can't possibly be expected to change how they've always farmed their land.  It thrills me to think how much difference this will make to the waterways, having seen how much water accumulates along these fissures in the ground.

culvert installation

Having done some preparatory hand-digging yesterday to straighten the bed for the culvert pipe, Stephan laid it in place and began hand-filling to ensure it sat correctly as he'd intended, before he would then fill the rest with the tractor.

He said he'd found a couple of rather large Koura (crayfish - the native ones are about the size of a human hand at their largest) and had also come in contact with what was probably a mudfish.


Turning from the culvert to my left, I looked down on the last corner and culvert of Route 356.

steamy morning

Riding back home the sunshine was heating the clay and steam was rising all around me.  When conditions are warm and dry, it doesn't take long for the soil to dry again after a bit of rain.  That's not so good for grass in a drought but excellent when one is trying to work on bare clay to upgrade the infrastructure.

tractor working

Two and a half hours later I returned to inspect progress, finding Stephan bulldozing soil down onto the top of the new culvert.  It's for this part of the job that the tractor was needed in here, or it would have taken quite a bit of back-breaking digging to move sufficient soil in on top of the culvert pipe to cover it properly.  He'll also be able to thump the strainer for the fence, rather than digging it in by hand.

new culvert

The sides of course need to be tidily formed, to stop the fill all falling into the watercourse.


After lunch we went up to the orchard to see how the trees were looking.  These bright, shiny, very red fruit are from the Akane tree, an early-ripening variety.  I ate one and it was delicious!  A real Snow White apple, dark and shiny on the outside, with bright white, crisp flesh.


One of the pear trees has several fruits.

It's all looking quite satisfactory.  The possums haven't caused as much damage this year as last, because Stephan has been coming up more frequently with traps and toxin.  Our September pruning seems to have been good enough and we'll look forward to doing a bit more tree shape modification this year.

Angus bulls

I split yearling bull 151 from his mob this afternoon, his last two mated cows having shown no sign of coming back on heat.  I decided to put him straight in with the other two because the two youngsters would otherwise fight by pushing either side of the plastic trough between Mushroom 2 and 3.  They then spent over half an hour fighting and chasing each other around.  I just had to hope they'd not hurt each other.

Angus bull

Mr 87 spent his time running over to them and then running back to the lane fence to see the cows going past.  For such a big animal, he can really move!  I always think of a tall ship in full sail when I watch him run.

The eight cows and their calves from bull 151's mob went around the lanes and out to join the big mob in the Spring paddock.
Earlier when I'd gone out to set up the gates for them, I saw a feral sow and four piglets in the Back Barn paddock, so quickly went home and got my as-yet-unused 50th Birthday present .223 rifle out of the cupboard and hoped the pigs would still be there when I got back.  They were.  I managed to fumble everything, forgot there was a safety catch so missed the first possible shot and the pig then moved so a tree was between us and I didn't want to move, since I was possibly within her sight if I did.  I don't like killing things much and was trembling, heart pounding, head spinning, all that stupid nonsense, attempted to calm myself with lots of deep breathing as I waited for the sow to come back into view and then took my shot... and missed.  I went quietly up the rise over which she'd run but she must have heard me and they all ran off into the bush.  Oh well, next time.

Sunday the 26th
Angus cows

Bother: Ida 145 was back on heat this morning.  Last time she was on, 743 (who she's sniffing) came on a few hours later, so I watched carefully throughout the day to ensure she didn't this time.


Tiny moth larvae.  I still don't know what they are but am very suspicious about the coincidental appearance of several large, brown moths in the last week or so.  An insect laying this many eggs at once would presumably have a reasonably significant body size.  I brushed most of these into a plastic container but when I looked later, they'd all escaped since the plastic lid was not air tight and they're so tiny.

fencing a gully

Stephan is roaring ahead with the gully fencing; this piece up the western side of the gully, begun once he'd decided where the bottom strainer would have to be - he'd wondered if this fence could strain from where he put the new culvert, hence the order of jobs done, but with all the fill at the bottom culvert, decided to strain it separately.

This is about where 746 had to be rescued, just after she was born.

new fencing

At the top of the hill the gate is already installed.  To the right is the PW reserve.

clay colours

I like finding the different colours of clay stones in the stream.  There are yellows, whites, greys, pinks, lots of oranges and browns.  Sometimes even a blue or green, although those bits tend to be very small and often too crumbly to hold for long.

I feel I can excuse this frivolous colouring-in activity, since colouring books seem to be all the rage for stressed adults these days.  Here I'm not awfully stressed, just crouched in or beside the stream, picking through beautiful colours with nobody else around.

calve and cows

This year's shades of Hypotrichosis: 807 (607's daughter) on the left and 812 (Curly's daughter) on the right.  If I'd not seen her as a newborn, I would not now identify 807 as having the condition, since her hair appears quite straight.  One day maybe I'll find out more about the genetics of the condition and have the colour variation explained.  Nothing I've found so far tells me quite enough to answer the questions I have about the appearance of all of these animals, since some of them appear to differ significantly from the classic appearance.  Endberly's silver, straight-haired daughter, for instance, doesn't fit at all!

cows and calves

The insemination mob leaving the yards after the last insemination for the year.  It rained on us as we worked.

Monday the 27th
new track

Stephan took the thumper out this morning, hoping to get in and thump the strainer at the bottom of the left side of the gully, once the ground dried a bit.

In the mean time, there's the finished fence on the other side, with a new gate at the top of the lane, into the Middle Back.  This is all going to make life so much easier!

new fencing

Looking up the hill from the new gateway, with the old Middle Back fence still standing most of the way up but open at the top and down here.  It will require careful removal, with its rusty wire and ancient staples falling out of posts and battens and is a job for later on when ground conditions are less favourable for tractor work.

Tuesday the 28th
Angus heifer

When I started managing the farm in my first couple of years living here, I went to the Broadwood sale and bought eight heifers.  Not very long afterwards the stock agent offered to find me some more and offloaded 17 animals which were supposedly of the same age but whose ages ranged, at least, from one to two years and many of which were pregnant.  (I never used that agent again and whenever anyone subsequently asked, openly described him as the charlatan he obviously was!)

But while that experience was a sharp and expensive lesson in who to trust and how not to find uniformly good cattle, of the six families currently in the commercial herd, three descend from animals in that group.

813 is the stand-out heifer calf this year, great granddaughter of 37, one of those bought heifers.  Cow 37 had six beautiful steer calves before eventually producing heifer 488, who was equally lovely and I very deliberately kept her as her mother's replacement in the herd.  488's third calf was 613, mother of this lovely heifer.

She was the fastest-growing calf when we last weighed and her temperament is very calm and friendly.


The steepness of this side of the PW's first gully is such that Stephan is having to put the posts in by hand, with help from the very useful post-hole borer.

All was quiet in the insemination mob throughout the morning but at 2.30 this afternoon, I noticed 743 sniffing the other cows: typical coming-on behaviour.  Coming on heat this late in the day would require intense observation into the late evening and insemination late tonight or very early tomorrow morning and I'm tired of the whole thing now and I have already inseminated her twice.

Angus cattle

So I shut bulls 87 and 151 in the small area on the other side of the Mushroom lane and after bringing the cows from Mushroom 1 to 2, then drafted 743 on her own in with bull 154, who's not ended up mating any cows this season to date.

His first reaction was challenge and threat, although she was quite clear about her own intentions.  It took the bull a good minute to figure out what was required from him in this instance.

Angus cattle

He was then quite keen and mated her a number of times.

An hour later I went back and observed that she was by then more interested in grazing and was rejecting his ongoing advances, so drafted her back in with the cows.

I really hope she will conceive this time!  She's a nice little cow and it's not really very satisfactory if they miss a year's production.

Wednesday the 1st of March
dewy paddock

I thought I'd immediately combine the insemination cows and the big mob but had second thoughts this morning and so put them into adjacent paddocks first, to enable them some time to discuss any social issues across the fence, rather than have to confront each other physically straight away.

It was early and the dew was heavy on the grass.  In both paddocks there were the clear tracks of the animals walking in to graze.

Stephan and I went out to a Rural Women morning tea at Winston Matthew's Museum at Aurere near Taipa.  I've been past it numerous times but never in to have a look, so it seemed like a fun sort of outing.  Stephan has a sore knee, so could do with a day off anyway.

It's always fascinating to find all the stuff one can remember from childhood, now in museums.  I introduced myself to Winston, since our families have known each other for decades, although of course my parents have been gone from the area for a long time.  Win's sister, Ruth, was helping for the morning, a relationship I must have known about but had forgotten.  I haven't seen her for longer than is reasonable and it was lovely catching up with them both.  Ruth and her family were also members of the MCYC, the Mangonui County Yacht Club, where we all spent every Sunday during the summer when I was a child.

Afterwards we headed north to go and see a set of cattle yards Stephan had been in recently when helping Lynn and Kees with their animals, whose design he thought might suit us well.  He's been trying to drag me out to look at yards for months but I've always had too many other things to do first.  We walked all around, took photos and discussed our own numbers and yard practices.  It was a worthwhile trip.  We also, while waiting for the yard's owner to turn up and unlock a gate, spent half an hour in very pleasant conversation with his aunt Elsie, with whom I used to work at the College, when doing the exams - and who had been Assistant Principal for her entire working life and with whom every now-adult who attended Kaitaia College, is familiar.

When we arrived home there was a very large truck in the driveway, with a load of AP100 (All Passing 100mm) lime rock which we had booked to have spread along Route 356.  Stephan went out with him to get that started and I met with our next visitor, a woman from the St John Cadet group, who came to inspect possible camping sites for their group to come and stay to complete a camping badge for their young members.


Zob on the run as we were quietly bringing them in this evening.  It can be frustrating when he dashes off in all directions but he generally ends up heading for the gate once the others have reached it and are leaving the paddock.

I love watching them run, kicking up their heels and taking off at great speed.  Animals doing that are obviously having so much fun!

Thursday the 2nd
newly-metalled track

Out to check the live-capture traps this morning, I passed Route 356.  The truck driver wasn't altogether complimentary about the track, so Stephan will widen the first corner a bit more ...

tidying a felled tree

... and cut down the big Totara he'd left up the other end, which really was in the way of a useful turning area.

stick insect

One of the tree's residents had obviously been rudely displaced.  These huge stick insects (female, I'm fairly sure) are quite soft and floppy, with their large abdomens.  I picked her up very gently and found her another tree to inhabit.

Friday the 3rd
Angus cows and calves

Yesterday I combined the mobs of 67 and 24, creating this large mob of 91.  This is two pictures combined - the colours were slightly different in the late-afternoon light; I wanted to record their recombination.

I went to see our accountant this morning, having received an urgent call from her since we will apparently have to pay tax for the 2015/16 year and it's due next week.  She and I had an interesting conversation about rural attitudes to paying tax.  Farmers are rarely tax payers, because in general income is ploughed back into the system as general expenses.  I guess that applies to most business owners.  I've always found it slightly shocking, compounded by farmer complaints when they do have to pay tax: why do they think they should not be contributing to the provision of education, health, infrastructure, etc.?

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