This is especially for Jude, my sister, who (very rudely, I thought) complained that my cliff-hanger of a few weeks ago, was poorly resolved. This is the black "hair" from the bottom of the hole in the Big Back Paddock. The trees and other plants around the hole were actually dry today, so Stephan climbed down to investigate the black mass, which was, as I eventually suspected, the fibre from a Ponga tree-fern, rather than the top of a mostly submerged dead beast!
We continued around the top of the paddock and down the other side, spotting and recording cows along the way, until we found a group of them alongside the swamp. They've not met Jenny before, so this was an interesting encounter - ending with us leaving this area reasonably quickly when it became apparent that Ranu and Abigail, in particular, were not in the mood for meeting a dog right now, thanks very much!
Jenny's still inclined to run off home (or who knows where?) if she gets a fright, so I didn't want to let her off to get out of the way on her own!
The little bulls, below the garden wall, having the last of the hay. After this, we'll just have to hope the weather warms and the grass grows!
A truck was due to come at 9am to pick up Virago Ace 38 AB and take him off to his new home in Otangaroa, between Kaeo and Mangamuka Bridge.
We walked the bulls from the house paddock to the yards and I penned them so I could pluck some tail hairs from the bull before he leaves - for any later genetic testing required. The bull's shoulder seems to have recovered from whatever injury he sustained a few weeks ago, so hopefully he'll be right from now on.
We waited, and waited, then waited for a bit longer and eventually I went home and phoned Mangonui Haulage to find out where the truck was!
In the mean time, Stephan had a moment with Bendy, who, with the other five sheep, is grazing part of the neighbour's property.
Jeff, the bull's new owner, reported later that despite travelling from here to the works at Moerewa (about an hour and a quarter away by car), then back up to Otangaroa, the bull walked off the truck in a very calm state and settled into his new home very quietly. Trucking animals out of here always makes me nervous, and that sort of report is most welcome!
Two of my favourite yearling heifers were having a full-on fight this morning! When I arrived on the scene, the others came over to the fence and these two just kept on pushing each other around. Then some of the others got in on the act and it nearly turned into a brawl!
The fighting probably started because 506 is coming on heat, quite possibly for the first time, and cattle can get quite bad tempered at that point in their oestrus cycles!
The little grey heifer's udder swelling can still be seen, but she continues in excellent health.
These are the pregnant R2 heifers, still looking in great condition, considering the winter we've had! I have been extremely careful to keep their feed on a reasonably level plain - no, that's not right, some of it was up some quite steep hills!
This is the only daughter I have of Crispin, the bull I bottle raised in 2001. Her mother was white-faced 302, who I had to send off to the works earlier this year because her udder was becoming troublesome. This heifer, 478, is proving quite tame, letting me stroke her in the paddock from time to time. She is the only daughter of her mother in the herd, but she has two maternal aunts, both of whose udders are fine, so there's hope that she'll turn out well.
Today we went visiting some of my "grand-children". I was invited by Greg, who bought Virago 25, and Lynn, who bought Crispin, to go and see their calves, so we went out this morning to do just that.
On Greg's dairy farm there were several bull calves with their Friesian brothers (the heifers have left the farm to be raised by someone else), but this one was still with his mother, having only been born the previous evening. He was curled up asleep when we came into the paddock, but leapt to his feet and ran off to find his mother when we approached. This calf was to stay with his mother for another day or so, then would be removed to join the other calves and his mother would enter the dairy herd, the next week or ten days of her milk going to feed the calves, since the colostrum milk doesn't get collected by the milk company.
Around our place the cows' afterbirth is sometimes cleaned up by the Harrier Hawks, but often just goes under the nearest Puriri tree as fertilizer; on Greg's place, much nearer the coast, it looks like the Black Backed Gulls make short work of it!
Then we travelled further north to visit Lynn's farm, where her earliest calves are around three weeks old.
The big red cow looming in the background has still to calve, I think.
Around the corner and over the hill were the R3 second-calving heifers, who were teaching the young bulls some manners. The bull at right is Virago Unlimited 41 AB, son of Isla and the one he's following is a son of Crispin from last year.
The hill looks out over the Rangaunu Harbour.
Ivy's looking really good! She's showing her age in a number of ways, suffering some amount of back, leg, or foot-related pain at times, but seems pretty content otherwise. Her coat is in lovely condition; she has none of the matted stickiness the cattle develop when they're in less-than-peak condition. I've been brushing her most days, which I'm sure she enjoys.
She's obviously not carrying a huge amount of spare body-mass, but bearing in mind how she looked a few weeks ago, I'm very pleased with her. Her hip bone is not nearly as sharp looking as it was earlier, and whilst her ribs are visible, they've some flesh over them, not just skin!
This is 418, one of my favourite cows, the "backwards baby" of 348 and Quadrille 07, and mother of 506.
418 is now nearly four years old and expecting her second calf, whose sire is Virago 26 AB.
It was 418's paternal half-sister, 410, who got stuck in the gully over the road last year, so I always look nervously for this heifer in her mob, to make sure she's safe. Quadrille's daughters are looking like really good cows, so I'm keen to keep them all standing!
418 has also been a very approachable animal since she was quite young, and I've spent many hours brushing her and standing quietly in the sunshine enjoying silent communion.
I feel very frustrated when I have to go out in the middle of a fine day to a meeting, so have been attempting some personal attitude adjustment - I'm not sure that it's working yet. I belong to, and am treasurer of, the Kaitaia Community Arts Service, which arranges concerts and exhibitions for the local community, often with artists travelling from afar. In early October, we're to hold a Variety Concert of local performers and Stephan, being quite familiar with the facilities in the Little Theatre (where the concert will be held), is to be Stage Manager. I'll be concentratedly watching cows' bottoms by then, so am volunteering for nothing more than the short spell as violinist in the Orchestra's part of the concert.
A new pig hunter came out for a hunt today and wouldn't you know it, he lost a dog! I've only heard good things about him from another farmer, so whilst I'm concerned about dogs wandering around in the bush and killing native creatures, I can't imagine that this is the only dog which might be lost at any time.
We went over to Kaeo this morning to visit a couple we met via the internet, who have a twenty-acre block of mature Manuka and Kanuka scrub-land with some lovely streams, and their own hydro-power generation system.
We are connected to the national grid, but have often toyed with the idea of disconnecting from it. When I first came here we lived for eighteen months in a house without power, heating our water via the wet-back on the wood stove and enjoying much battery-powered radio-listening in the evenings. I completed my Certificate in Women's Studies by candle-light, typing up the essays on my computer which I then kept at the house of Stephan's mother, Muriel, nearer town. It was interesting to be reminded again of how aware one becomes of power usage when powering anything is not just a matter of flicking a switch and having the power arrive from far away!
I took Jenny out walking this morning, planning to see all the pregnant cows at the back of the farm. As we were crossing the river, I suddenly realised we were being watched, by a hungry, lonely, orange dog! I knew his name, so he came to me willingly enough and I walked home again, now with two dogs! I put him in the chicken cage, since there was nowhere else secure and phoned his owner, who was very pleased to have him back.
The chicken cage was that in which the three white hens our neighbours gave us have been living. (The neighbours just arrived with them some weeks ago, having become sick of the hens wandering around at will and wrecking their garden. They're rather nice Leghorn-type hens, although I doubt they are purebred birds.) The hens have recently started laying for the first time and Stephan has been letting them out of the cage for a while each day, despite the risk they pose to the garden! One of them was completely disconcerted by not being able to get back into the cage to lay her egg because there was a great big dog in it! I propped open the lid at the back of the cage and the hen worked out that she could get into the nest that way and did so. Then the dog, hearing the noise, poked his nose into the nest box from the other part of the cage, the hen flapped up in alarm, knocking the prop out from under the lid, which slammed down on her neck, trapping her with her head only sticking out the side of the cage! I was watching all this from my office, so dashed outside to release the hen, which promptly hopped back into the nest, so I shut the lid and hoped for the best. The dog was collected within a few minutes of that commotion, so I left the cage open again for the hen to leave when she was ready, after laying her egg. Pretty good going, really, still laying an egg after being hung by the neck and cohabiting with a huge hungry dog!
After doing the GST tax return, I went hunting ragwort around the back of the farm. We are really very short of grass and it worries me to see the cows losing condition and looking hungry! They're not quite as bad as that probably sounds, in that there's still grass around for them to hunt out, but not enough for an easy life and the weather is still quite cold. Their dietary needs increase as they get closer to the ends of their pregnancies, so I will be glad when the weather warms and the grass grows faster than they can eat it!
On the first day of Birthday, my true love brought to me, a 17" computer monitor all wrapped up in a huge box, which had been couriered to Top Milk by my lovely friend Pip, who lives near Auckland and until recently made piñatas for parties! It's a recycled monitor from a business which has recently upgraded its equipment and presumably this would have gone directly into one of Auckland's huge land-fill dumps, had it not been diverted in my direction. I can now see what I'm doing again, can process photographs and write website updates! These weekly (or fortnightly, as they often are at this time of year) pages have slowed down in production quite markedly, as I was finding it horribly difficult to read what I was writing on my stand-in old monitor after the original one bust into smoke a few weeks ago!