So many colours of "black". The cow in the foreground is 446, daughter of 360 and Quadrille and her calf is the monster of the year. She's a fabulous little cow. When she was a calf, she was almost square across the back end and her sister, who now lives near Kawakawa, was much the same. This little cow is the main reason her skinny mother is still in the herd: I know what's in her genes, even though you can't see it from the outside!
Behind them is the newly-cleared hillside of the PWHS. Apparently some people comment that the native bush is nothing but green - but look at the greens! The white-ish flowers are those of the Kānuka trees (similar to Manuka, but smaller flowers and larger trees). Most of the rest of the trees are Totara, with a few small Kahikatea amongst them.
Checking the cattle mobs this afternoon, I was rather surprised to find bull 43 in bull 42's paddock! He'd obviously become bored with his own cows, so went off to see what entertainment he could find with the other bull's mob. Fortunately there didn't appear to have been any fighting and I was able to walk the errant bull very quietly out of the paddock and into the lane, where I left him for the night. It had occurred to me at one point that there might be some risk in having two mobs on either side of a very shaky fence, but I then forgot all about it. Another one for Stephan's list.
Late this afternoon I went up the road for a small (but perfectly formed) party with some lovely women of my acquaintance, where we played, as is our custom, Pétanque while drinking wine and had food cooked over a small fire. We had a thoroughly delightful time, including a late-night meditation, after which we all made our way home.
Stephan went off to work today, nobody wanting to see him tomorrow, since their shops will all be closed. I moved the cows which spent the night without their bull and put him back in with them and they promptly all disappeared into the scrub and I couldn't see a single one for the rest of the day!
This Christmas card arrived the other day in the mail and it is one of the nicest things I've ever received, partly because it was such a lovely surprise, from someone I've never met! It is hand-made by Polly from Pouto and features her lovely pet cow Maggie. I have intended sitting down and writing in reply, but have thus far failed dismally. Thank you, Polly!
At the party last evening I rashly promised chocolate éclairs to my hosts and their guests, if they called in this afternoon! I'd forgotten Stephan wouldn't be around during the day, so I had to whip some up myself and our guests came and sat on the deck in the late-afternoon sunshine and enjoyed them. We also had a visit from Erika and Graham (without their bus or children) whom we haven't seen for several months, while they've been busing around the South Island.
I've been walking up and down the hill over the road twice a day since the 13th and it must surely be doing me good! Every now and then there's something exciting going on which goes in my notebook, like this rather lively action between Mr 26 and Ms 120! He spent most of his time mounting her head because she wasn't quite ready for anything more and turned whenever he attempted a mount. There's nothing wrong with his libido, which is a good thing in a bull!
We had a quiet day otherwise, including lunch with Stephan's brother, Edwin, and Susan, who arrived at around 2pm. We had a simple sort of lunch with a lovely quiche and a bacon and egg pie, both made by Stephan yesterday and then went for a fairly long walk around the back of the farm. Susan and Edwin haven't been up for anything longer than a quick visit for ages, so it was nice to catch up with them and spend some relaxed time together.
For many years on Boxing Day, one of Stephan's sisters, usually Rachel, has hosted a family and friends get-together, but this year it was just us, one brother (who couldn't come), his cousin (who didn't come) and nephew Mathew and his family who remain in the area. We invited Mathew, Raewyn and the boys and Mike, Chantelle and their boys out for the afternoon and then realised we'd better provide some comfortably situated shade for everyone!
While I did things with cattle, Stephan found some Kānuka trees which had nice long straight trunks and cut them down, bringing back the poles and all the greenery from their tops, for the construction of a Pergola - we did the same thing last year and it was a lovely place to sit!
We designed it to provide shade on both the lawn and also over some of the deck, since it's so nice to sit there, but far too hot when the sun is out.
There are two steel standards holding the back two poles and the front two are dug into the ground next to the deck and the whole thing is lashed together with twine. At the moment the greenery on top is just sitting there, so if there's any wind, it'll all fly off.
The finished article, with Stephan sitting in the shade beneath.
The visitors arrived and some went off to the swimming hole for a dip and then we ate food and some of the boys went down onto the paddock and attempted to play Pétanque on a very uneven piece of newly-mown grass, which apparently didn't make for a very good game!
Mathew and Eric cooked a large number of sausages on the barbecue Stephan built earlier in the day and we had a lovely meal with a range of salads the others had brought with them and Raewyn's cheesecake for dessert.
Mike and Chantelle had to leave reasonably early to meet up with someone else, so while Raewyn stayed and relaxed with Stephan, Mathew, the boys and I went for a walk to check the cows. I like having cows which are reasonably safe around small children and people who are not familiar with them. Children seem to be very bouncy, jumping randomly in a way which alarms the cattle, so that's always the first and ongoing lesson when they're amongst the herd.
We're expecting a bit more rain, which is rather a good thing. I always find it quite strange when some of the hills disappear from the back of the farm. One gets so used to such physical surroundings that when they're suddenly apparently not there, it feels quite odd.
The new trough at the top of the Middle Back paddock which we installed almost a year ago was empty when I went up to check the cows early this morning. There is quite a lot of water in the paddock, but as is the case around most parts of this farm, water sources create deep gullies, which aren't really the safest places for cattle to be getting in to, so the provision of trough water is preferable to them having to search it out for themselves from the various springs. Cattle always make water sources dirty as they tread around in them and invariably defecate when their feet are in water!
I went home and collected some tools and a bit of hay-string and headed back out to see what I could do about the water situation. I thought that the water pressure had dropped so that it was no longer reaching the trough so high up the hill - it had seemed rather slow last time I was here. The next flat area was not very far away, but quite a bit lower down the hill, so I disconnected the pipe and pulled it and the trough down to my chosen spot.
The water was still very slow, so I went down the hill to check the pressure down the line, but on my way discovered a kink in the pipe where it crosses the swamp, which was almost stopping the water from flowing. Had I checked there first, I'd not have needed to move the trough! However, we've been talking of repositioning this trough and the one which sits on the other side of the fence in the PWHS paddock, so we'll just drag the lot back up the hill again sometime soon.
In the mean time, the newly-positioned trough is fed by a pipe which comes down the tree beside which it sits, looping across from the pipe running up the fenceline, which I've coiled to take up the excess length from up the hill. I couldn't leave it lying around because the cattle would end up dragging it all over the place and would no doubt end up breaking the trough fittings!
Yesterday morning, when Stephan and I were trying to convince these cattle (which had been grazing the hill over the road) to cross the very muddy culvert into the Middle Back paddock (this was in the middle of his tree-gathering exercise), a hen pheasant flew off her nest just beside me, startling me and causing all the cattle to turn and dash back in the wrong direction! In a fit of pique, I put all her eggs in my hat and brought them home! When I arrived back (with the eggs-in-hat carefully carried with the minimum vibration and bumping on the bike), I discovered that there wasn't a sitting bantam hen anywhere for the eggs to be set beneath! How could this happen? There's always a sitting bantam when you don't want one! My other discovery was that the chicks were actually beginning to hatch, several having pipped their shells (the tiny, first break in the shell as they begin breaking out).
I found a polystyrene box and used a plastic bag part-filled with 101°F water as a pseudo-hen to keep them warm and checked on them regularly. But by this afternoon, there was very little progress in any of them, so I decided I'd need to intervene or they would die in their shells. I've been a chick mid-wife a number of times over the years, with quite regular success and have learnt a few lessons about how quickly and how much one ought to intervene for a good outcome.
The first step was to very carefully remove the shell, starting with the tiny break each chick had already made, being extremely careful not to push any sharp-edged shell into the egg. Then I lifted a bit of the membrane (it usually only has a tiny hole through which the chick has been scratching at the egg with the "egg tooth" on the top of its beak) to allow the chick some more air - the later-assisted chicks also got a tiny bit of water on the end of my finger at this point too, since I figured they'd be getting a bit dehydrated by that time. Then I gently pulled the membrane away, back to where I'd unpicked the shell. The membrane bleeds a little, but that doesn't harm or hurt the chick.
Chicks are so exquisitely folded inside their space - the right wing is up over the head of the bird and the right leg and foot can be seen.
Once I'd exposed the chick enough, I put each one under a lamp for ongoing warmth, while it unfurled itself and completed the hatching process. If all the shell is removed too quickly, the chick's abdominal opening doesn't have a chance to close completely and the chick will usually die, so I have learnt to leave them to push themselves out on their own during this part of the hatching.
There were nine eggs and I lost only one chick, which is pretty good going, under the unusual circumstances through which I'd put them!
We had 12mm of rain to six o'clock this evening. In the middle of some of the wettest part late this afternoon, I brought #390 in to the yards and inseminated her; she's the first cow I've done this season.
The pheasant chicks were all alive and lively this morning, so they spent their first morning back under the angle-poise lamp with some chick starter crumbles and water and seem to be doing very well.
So what colour is a Pedigree Black Angus calf? This is getting ridiculously light.
This is Virago Fleur 52 AB and you can see her pedigree here.
On my way back from looking at the Insemination mob I met Stephan, on his way out to spray ragwort in the early morning. This photo is especially for Jasper, who asked to see more photos of Stephan on the tractor!
As I was about to cross the muddy culvert from the Back Barn to the Middle Back paddock to check bull #26's cows, a fly landed upon my arm, so I took its picture. I have an insect book out from the library presently and I think it may be a native Large Bristle Fly.
In the middle of the afternoon, Stephan came back from his travels with a load of fresh greenery for the Pergola.
He goes out with a full tank of spray, leaves the tractor running the spray pump in a convenient location and wanders up and down the hills with the long hose (wound on the yellow reel on the back) until he runs out, then comes back. As a result there's quite a bit of dying gorse around the farm, and a decreasing amount of flowering ragwort!
The Pheasant chicks in a box under a lamp for warmth.
Ragwort flowers are very pretty; it's a shame they belong to such a noxious and spreading weed! I was some distance away when I saw there was something brightly coloured sitting on the brighter flowers and it stayed still while I climbed a bit of a hill to take its picture - the butterfly is a Monarch.
This evening I spent a couple of hours in the Middle Back paddock cutting all the Ragwort flowers off their plants and this is the tiny spider which crawled out of my sack of flowers.
We've often cut the flowers off the plants to buy us a bit more time in our spraying programme. Once the flowers bloom, the plants will seed within a couple of weeks, so cutting off any flowers and buds gives us another three weeks before there's any chance of seeding. Some of the plants won't flower again and in the mean time, Stephan will go around on a spray run and I'll follow up with the granulated herbicide and we will by that method hope to avoid any plants seeding.
I moved the cows and bulls from the Middle Back paddock through to the PW next door, because they need to go to the yards this weekend for their calves to receive their second (booster) vaccination injections and their usual pattern when in that paddock is to move to the very bottom corner, where there is a gate into the lane.