The week beginning the 16th of December 2006
Saturday the 16th
lazing on the lawn lazing on the lawn

We had a wonderfully relaxed day today with holidaying family all over the lawn - a new installation around here! It's still a bit lumpy, but we're rather enjoying having a bit of grass we can laze around on in the fine weather. I won the thing Rachel's lying in at the last Women in Ag day and put it up this morning to see if it's any use. I think a modification may be necessary - it's incredibly hot and really needs an air vent in the back wall, so there can be a through-draught!

going off to weigh the turkey

Around lunchtime we decided it was time to think about getting the turkey ready to cook for this evening's meal, which involved Stephan working out how much it weighed. We had a competition to see who could guess the closest weight, wrote everyone's guesses down and Stephan, Jill and Bruce carried the bird over to the yards and put it on the cattle scales, the kitchen ones not being able to weigh more than five kilograms.

Unfortunately I didn't think of a good prize before they came back, since I won with a guess of 5.3kg, and the bird weighed 5.2kg. I had suggested that the winner could cook the turkey but fortunately nobody held me to that!

Jill and Bruce took themselves home in the afternoon and later on William and Elizabeth, Stephan's sister, joined Rachel, Issa, Stephan and me for our second early Christmas dinner, with Crème Brûlée for dessert!

Sunday the 17th
Stephan watering an epiphyte

It's been so dry that the epiphyte in the fallen Puriri tree has begun looking rather yellow, so Stephan took the hose down and watered it. Such plants don't have a great deal of moisture-retaining

Tui on a flax flower spike

These are the flax flowers, now fully blooming, and the birds are Tui, the native bird with the extraordinary range of pitch and calls. They are nectar feeders, so flax is a real favourite for them. While there are hundreds of Tui in our area, they're generally in the trees which surround us near the rivers, but because of the flax flowers, several have been singing from the Puriri tree beside our house.

Tui on a flax flower spike
Monday the 18th
farm photo

This is a photograph taken in 1984, which has hung on Stephan's mother, Muriel's wall since it was taken and has now come to us.

The house in the foreground is the one the family lived in (Stephan built it after accidentally burning the original one down) until 1993, when it was sold with two acres of land around it. The building above and to the left of the house is the old shed and the cattle yards which are still there, although somewhat differently arranged now. The clear paddock on the right now belongs to Jane and has a house, a shed and far more trees. That piece was originally subdivided from the farm for Elizabeth and William in about 1986.

The hills at the back are the ones which are now covered in Pine trees - the photo was taken not long after the area was burned and cleared for planting. How lovely it would be had it been left in its original state.

If you move your mouse pointer onto the paddocks, you should see a label telling you what their names are, should you wish to gain some more insight into the odd labels I use in my descriptions of farm life. I have labelled House, Camp, Chickens, Pig, Flats 1-5, Windmill, Mushroom, Small Hill, Pines, and PWHS. The Big Back and Bush Flat paddocks are out to the left and the Back Barn and Swamp/Frog paddocks are out to the right. The Pines (ours, not the huge lot beyond the back boundary) are on the central hill, very much in the middle of the land on this side of the road. The Middle Back paddock is directly behind the Pines hill, in the middle, at the back, of course.

Tuesday the 19th

It rained! We've had 26mm all together, which is a useful amount and I feel vastly relieved - and I'm sure the grass will be feeling rather better about it as well!

Wednesday the 20th

My days at present involve an early morning walk around the insemination mob to check for signs of heat, then a wander around the three bull mobs to see which cows are of interest to the bulls. During the day I keep an eye on the insemination mob, with the occasional closer inspection out in the field, and in the evening I go around the bull mobs again. I'll usually do a late-night check on the insemination mob as well, before heading for bed.

There are occasions when I really don't feel like doing quite so many checks, but I will appreciate having done so come calving time! I could get away with a little less diligence except that the heat indicators are again not working well enough to tell me if there's been any activity in between checks.

Thursday the 21st

I had a telephone call this morning from the Bulling Beacon heat indicator company representative in Australia. Last week I emailed him and the NZ distributor to express my displeasure at having been sent an incomplete box of indicators as compensation for last year's faulty ones - not just because it seemed like a cheap thing to do, but because I now won't have as many as I calculated I will need for the whole mating season and may have to find more - not always a simple process outside the dairy mating season. During our conversation I mentioned that I seemed to be having the same problem as last year, with indicators falling to pieces at the seam between the plastic dye envelope and the fabric patch stuck to the cow.
The indicators on the cows are failing by the day: 20% of those on the cows with the bulls have fallen to pieces within ten days of applying them. It turns out that the box of indicators I was sent is of the same faulty batch as last year's ones. You would be right if you thought I'm not very happy about that! I hadn't even thought to check the batch number, it never occurring to me that they'd not have made sure I didn't end up with the same faulty product! It now being the Thursday before Christmas, I can't do much about it at this late stage. I don't really know what to do. I have four mobs of cattle with indicators on their backs and no surety that they'll be any use at all!

I was really impressed in February this year when I was visited by the Bulling Beacon representative from so far away and pleased that he was prepared to do his best to make things right with me. He has, I think, been let down by his local distributor but it is I who will have to continue my overly diligent checking of the mating mobs unless or until I can sort something else out. There seems little point in bringing the cows in to replace the broken indicators with more of the faulty ones, since half of them will doubtless fail again within a few days, probably before they yield any useful information.

Mallard duck and ducklings

Crossing the river this afternoon after looking at some of the cattle, I saw this little family. They are wild Mallard ducks and there were seven ducklings. They looked quite funny all huddled together and moving along the water as one. I think they must only be a day or two old.

When I walked up the hill over the road, the cattle were all lying in the sunshine, most of them partly asleep, including this calf. He was chewing his cud and was obviously almost asleep. If you've ever fallen asleep while sitting upright, or watched someone else do it, you may be able to imagine how this looked; his jaw was moving nearly all the time and his head was gradually falling over to his right until it reached the point when he woke enough to bring it back to a point of better balance.

sleeping calf sleeping calf
sleeping calf

The steer calf was not the only one - the heifer at left was doing exactly the same thing, until she succumbed, just let her head go and went to sleep.

I stood and watched for several minutes, laughing quietly while I took the pictures. They were too funny!

sleeping calf
Friday the 22nd
cows and calves

These are the insemination heifers, cows and their calves. I think I just took the photo because it was a lovely sunny summer's day and they all looked so relaxed.

This is the Flat 2 paddock, which used to grow more rushes than grass, but has now become one of the better paddocks, after we applied herbicide to the rushes and some lime to the soil and then chopped all the rushes to the ground. Most of them have not regrown. Looking in the old farm photo, I see that this paddock was in better condition, rush-wise, than Flat 1 next to it, so perhaps it has always had more potential hidden beneath its cover.