The weeks beginning the 22nd & 29th of April 2006.
Saturday the 22nd

The grass has really taken off in the last week or so, to the extent that I felt I'd better get the cows onto the driveway and the yards area before things got out of hand! When they'd mostly done their job there, I decided I might as well get them to chew out this area (below) too. It will be fenced off to form a small holding paddock, when we get around to it. In the mean time I tend not to put cattle in here - at least I've been wary of grazing cows and calves here over the summer - because beyond the tape is the area I'm gradually planting with native trees, some of which are great favourites of the cattle and would disappear very quickly, should the cows break through!

cows in long Kikuyu cows in shorter Kikuyu

Cows are very good at tidying up such grass, although I only get them to do it in bursts, so they don't have to eat too much of the least nutritious matter all at once. I'll put them back in here for a couple of hours in another couple of weeks, when the tops have greened up again, to chomp it all down a bit more.

This is what Kikuyu does when left to grow without control: forms long stolons, which tend to lie as a great mat, gradually becoming less and less palatable and steadily losing nutritional value. Kikuyu is a great feed when it's short and growing; when it gets long and rank, it's not a high-value feed, although the cows will still eat it with great enthusiasm.

Sunday the 23rd
Stephan and cows in the lane

There's no particular reason for this picture, other than that I rather like it and while I was looking at it I realised that despite the fact that there are no ear-tags showing, I could probably reasonably accurately tell who's who. Stephan's the one in blue, for a start. 341 is at the right, which is obvious because of the white hair under her right eye (just a birth-mark sort of patch she's always had). 307 doesn't have tags, but is the white-faced cow. To the left of her in the picture is probably 112, partly because of her face, but also her body shape and the line of her backbone. I'd have to guess at the others in the picture, but there would only be a couple of number choices for each. For all that most of them are black, they all have their distinguishing features, whether it be the way their hair grows, the shape of face or body, bits of white hair or length of tail. Even the placement of an ear-tag provides a clue, when the number on the tag is not visible for some reason. Unfortunately I sometimes forget that Abigail, 307, 479 and a couple of others, don't actually have those numbers in their ears any more, so when I ask Stephan to look out for them, he's rather at a loss!

Tuesday the 25th
515 and Queenly 23

At this time of the year, I'm sometimes surprised by the appearance of the calves, in that they suddenly seem so much matured in a very short time. This is 515, daughter of 323 and behind her is Queenly 23, who's a year her senior.

515 and five of the other heifers are to go and live near Kawakawa when the youngest of them reaches weaning age.

Wednesday the 26th
Whangarei Falls

A year ago I went to a clinic in Whangarei for a Mole Map (some very expensive close-up photography of anything vaguely suspicious on my skin). As part of my now necessary Melanoma vigilance, I booked to have another today, to see if any changes were apparent in any of the bits of skin they'd photographed last year.

Afterwards we went and had lunch with Jill and Bruce, then travelled a short distance down the road to have a look at the Whangarei Falls, which I don't remember ever seeing before. With all the recent rain (very heavy yesterday afternoon and evening) the water was a little dirty, but that also meant there was more of it to fall.

Friday the 28th

The Pukeko's shield and bill have been gradually changing colour over the last couple of weeks and now it's suddenly quite obvious. She has been limping for a couple of days, but I couldn't work out why; it turns out she must have caught her outer left toe in something and wrenched it somehow, possibly between the slats of the deck. The joint is quite swollen, although she is fortunately still able to hold food with that foot.

We have visitors joining us this evening: my old friend Jorja, her partner and two friends, the three of whom I've not previously met. They are making their way up through the Waipoua Forest, will cross the Hokianga on the ferry and have said they will make us dinner when they get here!

Saturday the 29th & Sunday the 30th
four visitors

Joey, Tammy, Jorja and Andrea were very keen to get out and meet the cows, so before they left for a half-day trip up to Cape Reinga, I took them out for a walk.

Joey and Ranu 31

The following morning, before they left to go home again, we went walking with the other cattle (which I'd snuck into the house-paddock before they came home yesterday evening). I picked some Puriri leaves for them to feed to the cows, since a number of them will come to be hand-fed, even by people they don't know!

After the cow experience, we took them up to visit the sheep - and all the various poultry, including the now rather imposing turkeys. The sheep are pretty full-on for visitors, especially once they realise that everyone is holding maize in their hands. Yvette, great lump that she is, jumped up on me in an attempt to get at the bowl I was holding! A full-grown sheep lurching at me then raking her hoof down my leg is rather painful!

My friend Libby rang me this morning to convince me to go with her to the Annual General Meeting of the Community Arts Service (CAS). I've been a financial member on and off over the last few years, as well as an almost-committee member a while ago. The CAS exists to bring musical concert performers (of the classical kind) to the area and is not particularly well supported, but is something I'm interested in having continue. I was very disinclined to go to the meeting, having a great number of other things I needed to do, but having recently been one of only four people to attend another AGM, which was consequently unable to proceed, I felt I ought to go; so I did.

I've heard people say that they don't go to AGMs because they don't want to end up with a job, which I think is a damned silly excuse: if you don't want a job, don't take it. If you say yes to something, be prepared to get on and do it and if you don't know how to do what you've volunteered for, find out fast, or be very definite in saying NO!

I'm now the Treasurer of the CAS. So there you are, maybe all those other people are right and one ought just to stay home. But since I'm the Secretary/Treasurer of the Kaitaia Dramatic Society as well, I figured doing two lots of that sort of job might just make me get a bit more organised about it all. At least both organisations have accounts at the same bank.

The Pukeko can fly! I don't know where she had taken off from, but she came down from my head-height to the ground this afternoon.

Monday the 1st of May
Sybil's entourage

Yesterday afternoon I drafted Sybil and her bull calf out of the heifer-calf mob, and put them in a paddock next to the other cows with bull calves, so they'd hopefully do a bit of chatting overnight before being put together today. They all went silly anyway, when I mixed them, Isis taking a real dislike to Sybil and then poor Sybil being followed around the paddock by half a dozen little bulls, all determined to have their way with her. She's not on heat, but perhaps she just smelt really good to them.

Sybil was not part of the cows-with-bull-calves mob because she's leaving the farm this year and had therefore been part of the small "cull mob" and mostly out the back of the farm during the mating period. As I joined mobs of cattle back together again at the end of mating, Sybil just ended up with the other cows with steer and heifer calves. Her bull calf is one of the youngest calves, so there wasn't too much risk in leaving him with that mob in the mean time, but the bull calf mob is where he belongs.

Wednesday the 3rd
four steers

Weeks and weeks ago I advertised my calves for sale by word of mouth and on the internet and sold all but the four steers I sent to Kaikohe two weeks ago. Today the four steers which have been grazing the flats while waiting for a truck to take them to Whangarei, are finally on their way!

Friday the 5th

I've noticed that the cows have suddenly very mucky back ends and they smell different from usual. I suspect that after the very fast grass-growth period during all the warm weather of the last few weeks, the sudden cold change has caused some changes in the grass and it has affected the digestion of the cows. It doesn't pay to stand behind a cow when she's mooing at the moment, as even that small bodily strain, may well cause a projected stream of liquid green to rocket out the other end!

Dotty and the ram were today's couple: five months and counting ...