The week beginning the 10th of February 2018.
Saturday the 10th
Angus heifer

Checking cows late at night and then again early in the morning, shows me that many of them settle down to sleep and stay in that one spot.  They'll only get up to change the side upon which they're sitting, something they cannot do without standing up, or at least getting up onto their front knees; they can't just roll.

I walked beside Fancy 166 as she slept, only opening her eye when she heard me, to see if she needed to do anything else.

cow

710 had obviously been up to feed her calf (there are milk foam spots behind her) but must have sat down to continue her sleep-in when he'd finished.

In light, but wetting, rain, we went off to town to the Market, where we knew we could find about about, and I could enrol in, a Te Reo Māori course William had mentioned recently.  I was intending to enrol on the course William was to do but discovered he's done more than I was aware in the time since we formerly studied together, so Stephan decided he'd enrol with me and we could study together at the beginner level.  Stephan hasn't really ever been a studying kind of person before.

cows

In continuing rain I moved the cows from Flat 1 to Flat 2.  They were keen to go!

Angus cattle

By 6pm Imagen 155's indicator was red and she and Queenly 149 were actively mounting each other.  When I took this picture they'd stopped for a bit to feed their daughters.

Queenly is in the centre of the photo, looking vastly better than she did a few weeks ago.  She's now quite solidly filled out down her back legs, probably now in better condition than the other heifer mothers, although her calf is still obviously smaller.  Perhaps the calf will now start to catch up, presuming Queenly will be producing more milk.  (Imogen is the brownish one Queenly is watching.)

Just as it was getting dark I drafted Imogen, Queenly and a couple of other cows and their calves out of Flat 2 back into a lane I'd created across Flat 1, to facilitate getting them all in to the yards a couple of hours later.  (We were dining rather late, with Christina having come out to stay the night.)  At 11.30 we took them in and, just before midnight, I inseminated Imogen.

When she appeared to come back on heat three weeks ago, only ten days after I'd first inseminated her, I couldn't tell whether that was a hormonal glitch, a real heat, or the malfunction of a polycystic ovary (hoping not that) and just had to wait to see what would happen.  She showed no sign of activity ten days ago but today's heat was obvious and definite, so whatever went on last cycle has fortunately not repeated itself.

Sunday the 11th
cattle

I sloshed through Flat 2 in the rain during my first check this morning.  If there was a drought, we'd be glad of three days of continual rain but after 246mm in January and 70mm last week, we're really not.

udder

Some weeks ago (I can't find the note I must have made about it, nor a photo) I noted that Fancy 126 had a weird, grape-sized, tight little black bobble on her udder.  Now the skin appears to have split - possibly because of abrasion by the calf's teeth as he feeds.  I might have to get the vet to have a look at this.

Monday the 12th
cattle

The Fancy family: yearling 166, 126 and bull calf 176.

hen and chicks

Hen and chicks dust-bathing.

Our much-anticipated guest, Renée, arrived today on the bus from Auckland.  She has been well-travelled and done many lovely things on her way here, which you can read about on her WednesdayBusk Blog about the trip, parts one and two.

Renée and I have been corresponding for the last ten years, since Stephan and I appeared on RNZ's Country Life programme and she wrote to us in response.  I was utterly thrilled to receive that first email, having been a long-time reader of her books.  There is something very gratifying about holding the attention of another writer with one's own efforts.

We came home and in a lovely fine break from the rain, the three of us sat by the pond with afternoon tea.  Then we took Renée out for a quick look at some of the farm, while I checked on the cows.

Dinner was glazed ham with Crème Brûlée to follow, of course.  We talked, lots; it was fabulous.

Tuesday the 13th
flooding

We knew this was about to happen, after some torrential rain over a short period - on top of all the rain that had already fallen.

The paddock through the trees is Jane's and there's not usually water there.  The Pukeko in the stream looked like it might have been fishing, catching insects as they rushed past on the flood but weeks later I discovered a nest there, with a subsequent clutch of chicks.  I suspect that bird and the others only just visible in the trees to the left, lost a clutch of eggs or chicks in this flood.

We moved all the chairs from under the gazebo and pulled everything we could reach out of the pond and then watched the water rise.

flooding
flooding
flooding
flooding

When the water is really high, our pond becomes part of the Taheke stream and so does the driveway.  Fortunately the Waikawa stream, from up the valley, didn't come up as much as the Taheke this time.  If that had happened, there would have been a lot of water flowing from the right of the picture as well.

flooding

I became concerned about the hens, having seen one fly down to the floor and disappear into the nesting area.  Stephan and I waded through the waters and rescued a confused, wet hen and her dry companions from the upstairs area, taking them up to the spare aviary on the lawn.

The only reader who could have seen that entertaining process was Renée, but I don't think she was looking.  Lucky really - and that she didn't have a camera, since I'd forgotten I had my holey knickers on when I took off my jeans to get into the water.

We'd looked forward to showing Renée around the farm, driving to nice places for short strolls, but the rain and flooding put paid to that idea.  So we sat around and talked, about anything and everything and had a thoroughly lovely time.

three people

Later on in the day when the rain stopped and the streams had gone down enough to drive across the first one, we did go for a tour out toward the back, although the next crossing was too damaged to risk driving through the still-high water.

It's always fun having visitors who have long known this place from the website, who can then put everything together for themselves when physically here.

Since all the rain (although 'since' is hardly accurate, as it hasn't really stopped) the air has been extremely warm and the humidity very high.  Overnight temperatures have been in the high teens.  And so our other visitors, unwelcome ones, are flies, thousands of flies.  About half the size of the usual blow-fly, these little things hatch outside somewhere and come into the house and stay.  Their population explodes immediately after rain and warm nights and there have been days when their numbers have increased to plague proportions.  Any visitor to the house is immediately handed a fly swat to at least give the feeling of some control - at the very least, you can then wave them away from constantly landing on your legs.  When in the kitchen washing dishes or making butter, I've had to borrow one of Stephan's workshop electric fans to blow where I stand, since the flies don't particularly like a breeze.  Spraying them doesn't appeal, probably wouldn't work and might not do Floss any good and even though she's hopeless at catching flies, I quite like her.

Tonight Stephan got out the vacuum cleaner and sucked hundreds of them off the ceiling while they were in their dozy, night-time state.  That'll teach them.

Wednesday the 14th

I drove Renée to town to catch the eight o'clock bus south again this morning, to begin her long journey back to Ōtaki.

flystruck sheep

We have been carefully watching the sheep for any sign of flystrike and I am surprised it has taken this long but here's our first case.  The wether kept trying to run away from himself this afternoon, turning to try and catch whatever is itching his skin, which indicates maggots are already hatched and crawling beneath his wool.

flystruck sheep

Ten minutes later and the wether had stopped trying to run away, slumped down on the ground for a rest.

I called the sheep and shook a bowl of maize and Stephan went around behind them and we sent them up to the yards for a closer look.

flystruck sheep

The struck wether is at bottom right, his problem completely invisible.

flystruck sheep

It wasn't until we flicked his wool around a bit that we found rafts of fly eggs.

flystruck sheep

And down at skin level, if we looked quickly enough before they scurried away, tickly little maggots.

Because their wool was wet from the morning's rain, shearing was out of the question today, so Stephan applied the remainder of the nasty organophosphate flystrike powder we still had, hoping to kill the maggots and eggs and alleviate the wether's distress.

cows and calves

I went to check the cows in the Frog paddock and some movement in the PW attracted my attention (I'd checked those cows earlier in the day, so wasn't particularly looking to see them): 746 was on heat!  She's supposed to be six weeks pregnant but obviously isn't.

A six-week return to oestrus is potentially caused by the loss of the first embryo (several years ago I wrote somewhere that it was often around day 18, information I presume I'd gleaned from a reliable source), too late for the cow to ovulate again on day 21, so she comes on heat again in the following cycle.

Fortunately they were all there together, so I took them around to Mushroom 3, where I'd prepared a bull to meet them.

cows and bull

Yearling bull 160 was so excited he went off with the wrong cow for a while...

cows and bull

... but eventually discovered a very receptive 746 and did as required.

I could have inseminated her again but I've used up the last of the Harry semen she had the first time and I don't know what time she came on heat and I'd probably have to inseminate her late tonight and all in all, I couldn't be bothered!

flood debris

More clearing-up required after the last flood.  Thankfully the electric three-wire fences aren't as sieve-like as post and batten would be, so often most of the debris can be dislodged by shaking the wires.  But it all takes time and effort.

Thursday the 15th

Friend Miryam is home to see her mother, from England, and has come north to see us too; I went over to Kerikeri to collect her.  We had an afternoon snack at the Marsden Estate winery, which was very pleasant, apart from (for me) the presence of an enormous dog that was allowed to wander freely amongst the patrons, later joined by another two, equally large, canines.

A pre-wedding event was taking place in part of the restaurant and, watching those people gathering, I saw someone who looked very familiar and it took me a couple of minutes to work out why: Jenny and John, parents of the groom, were the couple who visited us with Stephan and Christina's second cousin John, in March last year.  We had a quick catch-up before they returned to their social duties.

shearing

When we arrived home, Stephan was in the shed, having cleared the shearing board to get the wool off the struck wether, who was obviously still being bothered by his passengers, despite the earlier treatment.

All of the sheep were still a bit damp.  The wether's wool has to be dumped because of the powder applied the other day and the rest is hardly worth bothering with for sale either.  When it dries out, we'll use it for something, somewhere, even if that's just mulch around some trees.  Wool, that most marvellous fibre, is worth so little these days, with people preferring the cheap (as far as they're concerned in the short-term) petro-chemically manufactured artificial alternatives.

I will never wear "polar fleece"!

woman and cows

Miryam and I drove out to see the cattle and move them to another paddock.

Grey 807 as usual made her presence felt.

woman and cows

Miryam bought a G16 camera like mine after her last visit, so both of us were photographing our activities.  Since I'm hardly ever in these pages, I suppose I should appear when there's the opportunity, even if I'm not overly keen on the image.

Photos of one's self are funny things and, leaving the "selfie" generation aside, for whom this might be quite different, I rarely meet anyone who likes a photo of themselves, even if others think it a good likeness.  We have our own appearance in mind, primarily from assessment in mirrors during carefully-controlled poses; but it is the entire range of momentary expressions that others know and recognise.  I discovered this in my mid-20s, when I appeared on television for an interview and then received the video-tape recording to take away with me.  When I watched it, I could see why photos of me often didn't look the way I expected, that I had a vast range of other expressions flitting across my countenance during normal animation.  I stopped worrying that funny photos like this one, which I don't consider at all flattering, were not a true representation of my being: this is me, despite the picture not being quite the one I hold in my own head!

The other important feature in this picture (apart from Madam 807, who thinks she's the most important feature anywhere) is the notebook in my pocket.  It is one decorated by one of the children, in this case Emma, at some time in the last couple of years.  I buy these booklets when they're annually on special before school starts for the year - they cost about 5c each then, so I buy a bundle of them.  I use about four each year, so there's now a stack of them waiting for use and when the children are here and there's nothing else to do, they decorate them for me.  Lately I've had them sign the ones they do, so I know who was responsible for the currently-in-use artistic endeavour.  The decorations make it a bit easier to distinguish one notebook from another when I have more than one sitting around on my desk.

Before their in-the-field use, I cover them with a clear self-adhesive book-covering film, so that when wet they still insulate me from the electric fences, when I use the book to hold the wires down as I climb over or through.  I painfully learnt that particular lesson a few years ago!

More on flies: when I ducked through the fence from the lane into the Windmill paddock at 10.15 tonight, flies swarmed up from the grass into my face, as it was suddenly lit by my torchlight.  Horrible.  They're weird, slow, buzzy flies that blunder around me as I walk and several of them end up down my boots and under my feet and they're unbearably sticky when squashed!  Others somehow get inside my shirt and buzz around until I shine the torch down my collar to encourage them out.  I've had to get used to the claustrophobic feeling I get from so many flies buzzing around and landing on my face and neck because on these warm summer nights, it's just part of the job.

Friday the 16th
spider webs

The air was full of mist this morning and all across the Windmill paddock were these tiny spiderweb tents.

cow and calf

Here's lucky little 853, being loved by her mother as usual.  If cattle are like people, she'll be a very well-adjusted calf.

sunrise

Through the foggy air, I watched the sun just coming up over the eastern hills.

Stephan and I zipped in to town.  While Stephan went off to pick up some farm supplies, I submitted to a biennial mammogram in the mobile clinic in a big bus parked in town.  They send me a couple of letters and a few texts (when I fail to phone and make an appointment in response) to tell me the time has come again and provide a quick and friendly service.  I find mammograms pretty unpleasant but the screening programme seems like a good idea.  Within a couple of weeks one gets a letter with "no evidence of breast cancer detected" or some such reassuring phrase.  Or not, I suppose, which would lead to a whole other sort of story!

I also, at last, dropped last year's accounts in to the accountant.  They start hassling me by letter at the end of the calendar year and I was trying to get them finalised then but summer is busy and for the second year in a row, I've not managed to get them finished until a couple of weeks before the final deadline, after the Inland Revenue Department have also started sending scary letters.  But while preparing this lot, I've been setting up a better system for next year, which will, I hope, make things quicker and easier.

pond

It was so hot late this afternoon that I convinced Miryam we needed to get into the water, despite its murky appearance.  Stephan went up and fixed the water intake yesterday but it will still take several days for the silt in the pond to flow out or settle.  It was absolutely lovely to cool down.

bananas

Stephan harvested a ready bunch of bananas and hung them on the deck, so we can pull them off and eat them as they ripen.  They're delicious.

chicks

Three of the four chicks, preening themselves.  It's nice seeing them out in the garden, although no doubt they'll become more troublesome as they grow bigger.  You can't plant anything new if you have free-ranging garden poultry: they either eat things or dig them up while hunting insects and worms, or destroy them when dust bathing.

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