There being so many cows on the flats, I thought it wise to start shifting some further out. These four calves and their mothers have been grazing the Mushroom paddocks and this evening I herded them out and down to the stream, to go into the Bush Flat.
This was the moment before it stopped going well: little brown calf, whose mother is 714 in the picture, was too distracted by my proximity to watch and follow her mother across the scary stream and I had to go away, leaving the gates open for her mother to come back for her later.
The next morning, they were all there in the paddock as I wished.
Another day, another rose on my desk.
I have long forgotten this rose's name but it may be Westerland. I see it in other people's gardens, a climber, lovely fragrance, a fairly hardy plant, as all my roses have to be to survive my level of neglect.
Anna and Simon came out with Evelyn and we went walking.
This is Eva's daughter, happily engaging with us as we passed. Stephan and I were keeping a careful eye on Emergency, in the background, who is still displaying some nervous aggression in some circumstances and I was careful to keep the others away from her and her calf as we walked through the paddock.
The watercress has passed its best for harvest and eating and is now beginning again to clog up the waterfall. Simon helped Stephan pull it all out of the rocks, to let the water run freely. The watercress will return.
We popped in to town this morning and on the way home, as we came around the reshaped corner before our gateway, I peered at the bank, knowing there were orchids here last year that I missed. I thought I saw something like this!
And so after a quick cow check at home, we walked back around the road to have a closer look, having phoned neighbour Sandi to come and join us, since she'd expressed an interest in the native orchids she'd already found in her trees.
Beautiful! They are Maikuku, Thelymitra longifolia, a reportedly common species I've only ever seen in one place on the farm. It grows as small, single plants on one of the long-fallen Puriri trunks in a too-shady spot in the Middle Back, so I've only once ever seen it blooming.
We wandered back through Sandi's garden and she asked us if we knew what kind of tree this is?
Stephan said he thought Muriel may have planted it. It's a Tulip Tree, I discovered with help from my internet friends, Liriodendron tulipifera.
The Tī Kōuka on our boundary adjacent to the Swamp paddock, is definitely dying (compare seven weeks ago). The Sudden Decline seems to hit individual trees around here from time to time, rather than laying waste to them in swathes. It appears to affect trees of any age, killing them within a few weeks of the first obvious signs.
Eleven days after the birth of the last calf, just after nine this morning I saw 729 turning and sniffing the ground, her tail held out.
When I checked her three quarters of an hour later, there was some membrane in her vulva but she wasn't actively doing anything and continued not doing anything for the next hour. I came back to check her regularly during the morning where she had eventually tucked herself away in the low area of Mushroom 1. She looked like she might have got on with things again at one point but I suspected she wasn't happy about me watching. I set the camera to record video and balanced it on a fence batten to watch her while I went away. In the 16 minutes recorded, she lay down and got up many times, interestingly more on her left side than her right.
Here at noon she had some feet in a bag but they looked not quite around the right way. I think it had taken her some time to get the calf up into her pelvis ready to be born and she continued to lie more on her left side than her right (usually they alternate), with the calf's feet gradually appearing at a better angle. For a while I considered taking her to the yards but it's a long walk and I knew how long she'd been in labour and that the calf should, like all its siblings, be small and easily born, so thought I'd wait for a while and see if she could put things right on her own.
Eventually she did, although the calf's alignment made its birth a bit slower than usual.
The calf lay like this for a long time, its nostrils flaring and closing as it got used to breathing.
I went around and lifted the calf's tail to confirm its sex: another heifer. That was also soon obvious from the appearance of her teats as her mother licked her clean and moved her rear legs around.
Later on I came back to check on them and the calf was looking weirdly downcast, her ears hanging very low, in a way a new-to-the-world calf doesn't usually look. I wondered if she'd been receiving some rough treatment in a scuffle between her mother and 775, one of the other two cows, who seemed to be taking rather too much interest in her. I shifted the other cows into the paddock next door, leaving 729 alone with her calf. 775 continued to look longingly in the new calf's direction.
We have far fewer rushes than used to be the case but I've never worried about getting rid of them all because every year the calves find them and they become favoured sleeping spots. In a flat paddock, a little bit of cover must be quite comforting.
At last! Stephan thought we'd be best to replace the culvert pipe under this gateway and so had not done anything to repair the big hole that appeared last spring and then swallowed one of the calves. Today the three calves in Flat 1 were bouncing around in the gateway area and I worried that one of them would end up down the hole, so suggested that Stephan just go and fix it, which he did. It took him barely half an hour.
At this time of year I will wake to the sound of any mooing out in the fields. This morning at three there was some insistent calling from across the flats, the sort of call a mother makes when her calf is somewhere she can't reach. It was Gena 142 in Flat 2, her calf across the other side of Flat 3 and neither could work out how to fix their problem. Both were distressed by being too long apart and so their behaviour wasn't helpful to me as I tried to move them along the fenceline to the gate. Eventually, after I'd propped the bottom wires of the fence up with standards, the calf could see the gap to get to his mother's very tight udder and thankfully went through and peace was restored.
The morning had a strange feel, thickly overcast and very dim but when I turned to the hills, there was sunshine, coming over and through a gap in the low cloud.
The flower spikes of the Tī Kōuka are usually too high in the trees to see easily. I'll try and remember to come back and have a good look at this one as the flowers come out.
Ida 145 popped her daughter out very quickly this afternoon. I'd been checking regularly through the binoculars during the morning, saw her with a membrane bag at 12.25 and then at 12.32 there was the calf on the ground. Ida was very upset about this strange creature, having only had one of her own before, two years ago.
Every time her daughter tried to get to her feet, Ida shoved her over again.
To confuse everything, 729's calf came over to the fenceline in Mushroom 1 and 775 got all excited about her (I have no idea why she's fixated on this calf in particular) and for a moment I thought everything was going to get very confused; but fortunately the calf went along, not through the fence.
In the mean time Ida kept pushing hers onto and through the wires. Even with the bottom wires turned off, there's some induced current there which is strongly detectable if one is touching something wet, like a calf sitting across the wires. I radioed back to Stephan to request that he turn off the main switch!
729's daughter has a very distinctive facial hair pattern.
I was also very pleased to watch the appearance of a well-formed, very yellow poo beneath her tail, indicating that despite her strange appearance yesterday, she'd been feeding well.
Brian offered to bring his tractor and large back blade over to help Stephan get the yards site ready. He made fast work of a very good job.
Then I watched them both set off toward home, looking like there was about to be a race.
Big soft rabbit is male, I discovered this afternoon: he has surprisingly large testicles, those funny things hanging down between his legs. I hadn't given a great deal of thought to where a male rabbit might keep such glands but it surprised me that they were quite so large and visible.
Later I noticed the black rabbit sitting by the pond.
I hadn't seen all the cattle Over the Road for a few days so Stephan and I walked up the hill this evening.
This is Curly's daughter, 812, and before today I've never seen her on heat. I had the vet check her last summer, to make sure there was nothing obviously wrong with her, then continued to wait, in vain, for this to happen.
I also noted that Meg 699 now has no ear tags to identify her. If Gem loses hers too, I really will have to re-tag them. I'll be able to distinguish them by behaviour but not at all by appearance without tags, unless I refer back to old photos and remind myself whose hair-whorl turns which way.
I keep going to funerals. Another today of those I go to partly because I know my father would have done so had he been alive. John Crisp was one of the men my father sailed with at the Mangonui County Yacht Club when I was a child. He was also one of the teaching fraternity.
Funerals in a small town are such interesting gatherings, albeit awful for some of the attendees. We know a lot of really nice people we don't see very often and these events bring us together.
I was at school with the son of the deceased, the two of us being of the select group of 17 students in the seventh form at Kaitaia College in 1982. We would have walked past each other in the street without recognition now, having changed a bit in 36 years. Darrell said I'd crossed his mind recently, with thoughts of carefree youth and drinking wine on the beach. I have scant recollection of that but I'm glad the thought was had. There were many lovely young men amongst my acquaintance in my teens, the sort of kids you'd hope your daughters kept company with, if you knew they were out.
Ida eventually stopped battering her daughter.
I stood under the trees in light rain this evening, watching 775 in labour. She didn't have to work very hard to get her calf out, another slim-line heifer from the bull named Harry.
Seeing her front legs waving in the breeze, I strode over to help turn her over and could hear that she was breathing pretty well despite being all twisted around. I pulled her back legs over to straighten her out and immediately she sat up to begin getting up.
This is the third calf of the last six.
Stephan, walking Zella in for milking, told me he'd seen this sick-looking hen pheasant on the ground beside the track. I approached her slowly and, when she didn't move at all, gently picked her up to see what was wrong. Poor little bird; she'd received some sort of abdominal injury (shot? stoat?) several days ago, by the rotten smell of her flesh, and was crawling with maggots, writhing in and around the damaged area. Her suffering must have been awful and I was surprised by the brightness of her eyes, considering how many days this must have been progressing.
I found the sharp meat cleaver and, trying not to hurt the bird in holding her, parted her head from her body, which there was no possibility of fixing.
Stephan, out to check his traps first thing this morning, came back and said that Imogen had a calf!
I'd brought the last three pregnant cows out of the Big Back a couple of days ago and they were gradually moving forward through various paddocks and the lanes.
I hadn't expected Imogen to do anything for another week. Last year she calved on day 281 of her gestation; today is day 272 for this calf, another heifer from Harry the bull.
Here are the last two pregnant cows.
I poured some molasses and Magnesium Oxide into the bin while young 787 was watching and she'd had some before bossier 746 noticed and made her give it up.
So far all the 27 calves have been black. These two might have black or white-faced calves.