Ida 145 and Spot (the Elephant) are booked to go to the works sometime soon. I'm not easy about either of them, since both represent dashed hopes, along with much invested affection. But Ida was unlucky in the 50/50 chance of inheriting the lethal gene defect her mother and grandfather carried, so she has had one strike against her name since birth; I forgave her a year without a calf when she turned three but when she calved for the second time at four years old, she was very rough with her calf, causing me some concern. Last season she had both of us out in the early hours of one morning, trying to get her to settle with her calf, after she'd shoved it across Flat 5d and through the fence, where it began feeding from yet-to-calve 142. I'm not willing to risk that sort of behaviour a third time!
Spot (the Elephant) was Demelza's last daughter, raised with Zella and daughter Zoom. She looked good enough to stay in the herd as a weaner but as she grew, her physique took on more and more of the appearance of the poorest aspects of Demelza's and I decided I would avoid breeding any more of that into the herd.
I hoped she would go through as a heifer, worth more than a cow, per kilogram, judged by the number of adult teeth now erupted in her lower front gum.
Ida has lost both her tags over the last couple of years and I wanted to get her in and apply a new NAIT tag so she's ready whenever we get the call for them to go.
Fortunately I had one spare tag left, from a pair I'd never applied to a calf. I will have to make sure I have replacements for all the other broken ones by next year.
The headbail again worked excellently, Ida standing completely quietly as soon as her neck was caught.
As Stephan approached her she started to throw her head up and down, so he untied the rope attached to the left side door, pulled it across over Ida's neck, looped it under the provided hook on the right and secured it in the cleat above. Then she couldn't then raise her neck and head above that restriction.
Then it was easy to hold her ear and apply the new tag, with the excellent new tagger the tag sales person left for us when he visited several months ago.
These are the adjustment options for varying neck sizes, four positions on each side and they can be unevenly set, as shown. There is a wind-in locking screw further down.
We adjusted one side on this occasion, while Ida waited, because it didn't look like she was going to get her head through when the doors were set open, back into the crush.
I am very impressed with this equipment. It's making these formerly tricky tasks so quietly easy to accomplish.
I left the two animals to walk down the track on their own but eventually Stephan went up to bring them, since they didn't seem very keen. They'll graze out the front for a couple of days, where there's ample feed.
These huge trucks have been thundering up and down the valley for weeks, carting road metal to somewhere further along. Presumably there is more development of the roads going in to the Pine plantations, ready for further harvesting.
I thought of how much I enjoyed the quiet of the Level 4 lock-down...
Over the Road and up the hill, in the bit of the reserve we call Spare Oom (on account of the redundant telephone pole there, reminding us of a lamp post at the end of a wardrobe somewhere), I noticed these light-coloured Puriri flowers. Such a pale pink is uncommon. The only other tree I have seen like this is very possibly related, having been transplanted from the garden of our neighbours at the bottom of the hill, many years ago.
Puriri flowers are usually darker pinks, this neighbouring tree showing the darkest of their variety.
I spent some time stroking Spot and she spent some time scratching her chin, head, neck, on the Oak tree's knobbly bark.
She's not in as great condition as I hoped, weighed 484kg, but if we wait too long, we'll lose more per kilogram in value than we could add in weight gain.
[She did go through as a heifer, P2 grade, which was a bit better than I'd expected, in better shape than I thought she looked.]
Most of the cows are in nice condition. The exception is 723 (not shown), who's always quite light but she was only weaned four weeks ago and I hope she'll pick up a bit of condition between now and calving.
Stephan went up to fix the water intake again, as it's been off since the flood and the high tank is now empty. He said he happened to see the alkathene pipe and new joiner with which he extended the intake pipe during the drought, sitting in the stream just before he left the back of our place to climb the hill, it having washed down during the flood. The chances of him finding it like that seem ridiculously small.
The cattle don't appear to be drinking much so this repair hasn't been urgent; all the troughs have remained over-filled by rain water whenever I've checked.
On my way back from moving some cattle, I noticed a flitting Tomtit, landing on one post and then the next, on either side of the track at the bottom of the Pines paddock. I don't recall ever seeing one this far forward; they usually stay amongst closer bush cover.
The New Zealand Birds Online website tells me that the Fantail, on the left, measures 16cm and weighs 8 grams and the Tomtit, 13cm and 11 grams. I was fascinated to see them so close together, their differences so much easier to note when next to each other.
Secretly tucked away behind some other plants, I noticed the lovely red of this Cyclamen and brought it out to sit in a more prominent position.
I remember when I discovered cyclamens, back in the early 80s, when my first boyfriend's mother was recovering at home from a surgery. She told me her favourite flower was the cyclamen and when I asked her what that was so we could buy her a plant she'd like, she said it was the upside-down flower.
I've liked them ever since and always think of Beverley Lange when I tend to them.
Tending to my plants and greenhouse has, obviously, been low on the priority list. I water regularly enough to keep most of the plants alive but I haven't spent much time in here for months and plants with floating or sprung seeds or spores have grown in every other pot.
The three mature hens were out this afternoon for a peck around. As long as they stay out of the gardens, we're happy for them to have time out and about but they cannot be trusted!
The black one is moulting, the other two are still laying.
A Kōtare on a fence standard in the House paddock, as I walked across to move the wire for Zella and Glia.
I quietly walked closer for another picture and just caught the bird flying away.
Ida and Spot are having a lovely time out the front. This area has not been grazed since the trucks came to pick up calves and cows and I therefore wanted to keep it quarantined; but these two, about to leave the farm, can enjoy it now.
This is the sort of repair Stephan wasn't able to achieve when he earlier replaced the culvert pipe here. (I'm sorry that page won't work well on all devices, it is one of a group I've missed renovating.)
Now with the digger, he can fetch extra soil to over-top the pipe, making the track much higher than the surrounding water level, which it was previously not.
And now the surrounding ground has dried a little since last week, he dropped the fence wires around the edge of this bit of the swamp and applied the digger's power to clearing the water-course below the culvert.
When I first arrived to see how he was going, he was in the process of gradually slipping into the swamp, having run over an unseen branch on the ground beneath the tree, over which the digger track could gain no traction and the machine was moving sideways whenever he tried to move forward.
But with a big arm and bucket on the front, a digger can pull itself out of all sorts of trouble.
As he dug toward the culvert, I heard the bucket scrape over something I was sure was concrete. There was another section of concrete culvert from the original set-up and fortunately Stephan was able to bring it out without damage. We know exactly where we'll use it!
Then we put the short posts in to hold the culvert edges.
I held the posts only until Stephan gently brought the bucket down to their tops, then I withdrew as he pushed them in to the soft ground.
This was a second attempt, the first one being way out of line with the fence posts that hold the wires across the edge of the culvert. We'd both neglected to think about how it all lined up with the rest of the infrastructure.
[Gaye gave me a nice new hat last month: it's warm and waterproof!]
I stood off to one side each time, watching and guiding the direction of downward push, so we could get them in as straight as possible.
Once the four posts were in, I left Stephan to finish installing the boards to form the culvert crossing edges.
I walked along the southern boundary through the Bush Flat reserve, then up to see if I could find any orchids in the Bush Block. I saw nothing of particular interest. Everything was so dry through the summer and now the season is weirdly warm and not as wet as usual, so who knows when things might grow this year?
Back over the fence into the Bush Flat and here was a colony of fungi growing on the base of a cut Kānuka.
Then I went around to check the mob in the Middle Back, finding this little group along the shaded southern track through the Spring paddock.
In the early evening the stock agent rang to ask if there was any possibility of having the two cattle ready for a truck at eight in the morning, as there'd be space to take them? I said indeed, they were grazing by the loading ramp, pink paint marks on their backs and Ida tagged and ready to go.
Stephan helped load Ida and Spot quietly onto a truck with a whole lot of other cattle this morning. I was pleased they were able to go on a fine day. It must be a cold trip on a wet day, with the wind whipping in and around inside the pens.
We now have 53 cattle on the farm.
Then Stephan went back to work on the digger out the back.
This was the near-finished state of the culvert in the Big Back South, needing yet to have the fences re-erected. The track over the culvert will need a lot more metal yet but that was all Stephan had brought out so far.
Now time to fix up the culvert at the gateway into the paddock.
Some four years ago a hole developed in the track over the culvert and I've been shoving long branches into it as markers for the cows ever since. I only saw 710 once step into it and stumble, but I feared it could easily hurt an animal if they were pushed into stepping into it by another.
Stephan bought the big culvert pipe on the right at a clearing sale and we thought it would be great here but since we found the extra concrete section in the other culvert and it will match what's already here, that will be a much better option than digging everything up and making the crossing horribly soft for the rest of winter.
Part of the problem here is that water from the large catchment of the big swamp, fed by water coming down off the surrounding hills, sometimes comes over the top of the crossing and had gradually washed away some of its covering. Stephan cleared back about two metres from the top side of the culvert (to the right), to ensure the entrance remains clear. The water coming down from the swamp has long been falling in an audible fall under the overgrown Kikuyu, on one side of a small Mānuka tree growing there and because he dug no further back than that, he should not have altered the water flow out of the swamp.
On the other side he cleared a bit of debris out of the way and the water takes a short course along to a corner in the stream.
Here are the non-pregnant mob coming up out of the crossing from the Frog, to the Swamp East Left. Jet 777 is in the lead.
I like photos like this one, through the trees, with interesting light. And cows, of course.
As I moved the 16 cows from Flat 3 to 2 this evening I could hear gulls, lots of gulls. They were wheeling around in a huge spiral high above me. I've never seen so many here.
We're only 15 kilometres from the sea, not far for a big bird, and in recent years I've seen more and more black-backed gulls appearing in the spring time but never before more than a few.
The entry to the Big Back now restored to its proper width.
And around the corner Stephan had re-sited the trough. It had been just to the left, where the soil is bare, but the cattle had gradually caused the soil around it to erode away, so now it sits on a flatter area on a bed of limerock, which will hopefully prevent that recurring.
A very sick rat, sitting on the driveway this morning. Stephan put it quickly out of its obvious misery.
We have poison permanently laid in and around our house in the autumn and winter, when rats from the surrounding bush come into the warm shelter of the house and get into the wall and ceiling cavities. They make a mess of the insulation, chew on the electric wiring insulation, can chew through plastic water pipes causing flooding and generally make messes of things we'd prefer left as we intended. Usually they die inside the house, in places we can't reach, and we have to put up with the horrible smell for a week or more.
In recent months one must have been dead above the fireplace, where the flue goes up through the ceiling and maggots fell down out of the hole, soon shrivelling on the hot top-plate. Unpleasant. The smell of cooked rat wasn't appealing either.
889, Over the Road with the rest of the priority growth mob.
On my way back down the driveway I saw a movement near the bridge. I thought it could have been a rabbit but watching as I walked, I saw a stoat run across the bridge and into the trees on the other bank. They are always around. Stephan set a trap.
This is the recently-dug drain in the Middle Back. Most of this disturbed soil is quite firm now, so we'll wait until grasses grow across it before doing further fencing to protect the drain and the area above it that will become reserve.
Looking back down the hill, this used to be a soggy slope but now, with the water being channelled away along the new drain, the ground has dried out.
The bulls and the six R3 heifers are between the trees down on the left. I opened the gate for them to go into the Spring.
The cows in Flat 2, tidying up the flats.
Later I walked out to check the mob in the Swamp East Left, going via the SE Right to see how the culverts were looking.
No cattle have had access to this one between the SE Right and Left since the fencing was completed and it's looking a lot better than it often did before.
With a well-shaped approach to the culvert pipe and no cattle treading around in the drain above it, much less debris has collected at the entrance to the pipe, so water is still flowing through.
The new drain between the two culverts in the Swamp East Left was interestingly dry along its lower half: the water runs down to about this point and disappears into a little hole in the clay.
A lot of silt and branches had collected at the top end of the pipe but water was still managing to filter through. I pulled and dug it all out, allowing the water to run more freely.
Even without the animals having access to the area above this drain, we'll probably always have to remove silt because the water comes underground from the base of the big slip that originates in the hill on the north side of the boundary. That bit of hill will eventually all drift out to sea, leaving a valley here instead.
Often I check the teeth of the cattle, make sure they have the ones I expect but in the case of the youngsters, I'm interested in how many of the permanent front incisors have erupted to replace their milk teeth.
Delight 190's teeth didn't look quite right, so I took some pictures to see what was happening there: she's missing two on her left side. The first deciduous teeth are the central pair, replaced by the adult teeth by the time the animal is two years old, so losing numbers two and three on one side must have been the result of an accident. Perhaps that might explain why her growth has not been as good as I had expected? She may have been handicapped by this gap, especially during the drought, when feed was short.
The darkness of her gum is her personal pigmentation pattern: they're pink and black inside their mouths... or so I have just written and then thought, hang on, is that true? Perhaps there's something wrong there? I think we might need to put her in the head bail and have a proper look.
183 is losing her teeth as I would expect.
There are lots of sad, separated, new-born calf calls from the nearby dairy farm. Calving there has begun.
The grass hasn't been stopped by frost this season, so the Kikuyu keeps on growing.
The cows are still working their way across the flats, then the younger stock will come through in the next rotation.
I still think of Endberly as a youngster but she was born in 2011 and she's produced seven calves. There won't be one this year but I didn't want to send her away just yet. She's a nice cow.
Whenever I look at her number tag I think of Stella, holding them before we put them in Endberly's ears.
An emerging Fly agaric, near the back boundary with the Pine plantation in the hills.