Jill and Bruce came up from Whangarei yesterday and stayed overnight, so Stephan could entertain Jill in honour of her birthday, having missed out on the other parts of the family's celebration. Jill and I spent some of Friday evening and part of this rainy morning, playing violin together, which was most enjoyable. I've played since I was five and Jill learnt at around that time as well, I think.
Later, Stephan and I went out for dinner with some friends who live just over the hills to the south-west of us and listened with some concern to the occasionally heavy rain falling on their roof. After a downpour which continued for more than half an hour, we decided we'd have to excuse ourselves and get home, before we couldn't!
Because there had been Metservice heavy rain warnings issued during the day, I decided it would be prudent to move the sheep out of the pig paddock, which has been known to go under water. The rain absolutely bucketed down at one point when I was shutting the gates in preparation for the sheep to spend the night around the yards, on the high ground. I took a little container of maize to shake at them to encourage them out of the paddock - they get a bit confused by torch-light and too much water running across the gateway wasn't helping much either! On my way back to the house, I walked through the first of the water coming over the bridge and by the time another hour had passed, the bridge had disappeared and the water was beginning to come over the bank at the corner near the house.
The first thing we did this morning was have a look at the driveway, to see how much of the several truck-loads of metal had been washed away by the flooded river! Fortunately it appears that most of it is still where we put it.
Stephan lit the incinerator this morning to burn some rubbish and then I brought the heifers through from the House Paddock on their way to the paddock over the road. Cattle get really disturbed by smoke! They all went completely silly and dashed around the place. They'd been in their paddock for a little longer than ideal too, so they might have been a bit hungry, which I suspect contributes to temperamental disturbance.
This is the state of much of our pasture at present, after all the rain. The ground is so soft that every hoof leaves a depression and too many hooves make slurry, although that happens only in gateways, lanes and the yards. Roll on summer!
Walking out to see cattle this morning, I looked up to see a great wafting cloud of pine pollen drifting out of the plantation on the far hills (you might just detect a sort of smudgy cloud amongst the pines). It's happening all around the country, apparently, with people in the cities wondering what yellowish powder is sticking to their shiny expensive cars!
I gave all the adult cows a copper injection today, finishing the last of them in pouring rain! Injecting wet cattle is not ideal, but at least they'd started dry and were only just getting wet by the time I did them - it was either that or do only half of the second lot and get the whole mob back in again on another fine day! It gets pretty slippery around the yards when it's raining, so extra care is required.
Here's Ivy, now seventeen years old! About five weeks ago I started feeding her feed-nuts to build up her body condition again, after she weaned in such light condition. The picture on the left was taken on 10 June. Her coat is a bit fuller now, so it's hard to see very easily much difference, but walking behind her, she looks a vastly more solid animal!
She's also having Magnesium Oxide mixed into her molasses each evening, to see if we can avoid any metabolic collapse similar to last year's near-disaster.
The two bulls are Ace 38 (Ivy's son, sold and to leave the farm in the next few days) and Dateline 42 (who's to stay and become one of the herd sires). They're named for part of their sires' names, just for fun and to remind me who they are. The two of them seemed disinclined to immediately follow the others through the opened gate into the next paddock.
I went up to let the hens and ducks out of their enclosure this morning (and collect any eggs before the Pukeko (plural) cleaned them up first) and across the river in the Pig Paddock (no pigs for years), was Damian, and what looked like his shadow sheep behind him! My eyesight isn't quite as good as it was, so I really had to look hard to determine whether that was one sheep or two?
It's Isla's Birthday today, so I went for a long walk to find her and take her some especially picked Puriri leaves. Just as I reached her, atop a hill right at the back of the farm, it started to rain! So, I sang, in the rain, Happy Birthday.
It just so happens to be my youngest sister, Jude's, birthday as well, about which I was thinking as I walked. I had told Jude, in 1998, that she could name any calf born on her birthday and so it was Isla - except Jude really liked Eilish but as she had to have an I name, it became Isla instead, since it sounds almost the same. (The Is part of Isla, for those who aren't familiar with it, has the same sound as the beginning of Island.)
This is 360's back end. She has an odd little swelling, about which I am a little concerned. When I was pushing them up to the yards the other day for their copper injection, I noticed that she wasn't lifting her tail normally when defecating, just moving it from side to side, which was making her nether regions rather messy! I didn't think much more about that until I saw this today. It is in the skin to the side of the tail, the caudal fold, and she's still not moving her tail normally. I shall keep an eye on it.
Ivy looked a bit swollen under her jaw, then her brisket and later around her navel, over a few days during the week, so I tried to find her some extra roughage, in the form of Kohekohe tree leaves, as well as cutting back her feed-nut ration by a quarter. Stephan did a bit of Puriri trimming in the interest of a washing-line placement this afternoon and Ivy very willingly helped with the clean-up!
For many years we've kept an ear out for anyone who might reliably come here and cut Manuka for firewood, taking it away as their payment, rather than Stephan or hired labour having to do the job. Finally we have it all arranged and the trees are falling, the land is being cleared, the firewood stacked to dry, ready to be taken out when the ground is dry in the summer, and the tops of the trees all piled ready for burning. I'm delighted. Our man is doing a good, tidy, job and walks quietly in and out on most fine days to work a few hours in between the rest of his life.
The hillside faces north (to the sun) and is sheltered from the prevailing cold winds, so without the trees will make excellent grazing - as it did years back in the past.
From the top of the hill above the cut trees, I stopped to look down on the front of the farm, including the Flat 2 paddock. This is the one I sowed (very late) with winter rye and the one which currently appears on the Home page in its previous rushy state and also back in July 2004 before the rushes were killed and cut, then later mulched.
The paddock is still quite wet in the bottom left corner (from this view), where rushes are growing again, but the rest of it is relatively dry now.
It is much longer than it looks from this angle, being about three times as long as it is wide.
I went of to practise my violin with the other two violinists from the Kaitaia Orchestra this afternoon, leaving Stephan to do the pre-lambing crutch on the ewes - shearing them around their rear-ends and bellies, so their udders are clear for the lambs to feed and also so we can easily see what's going on as they approach the last part of their pregnancies. He also administered a 5in1 vaccine. None of the ewes was vaccinated last year, so this year they'll have to have two shots again, a sensitiser and a booster in three or four weeks time, which will cause the appropriate antibodies to form in the ewes, most particularly in their colostrum, which is how the lambs obtain their early protection from the clostridial diseases.
I watched one of the R2 heifers this morning, as she stood looking very disgruntled, under a Totara tree, half in the sunshine. As I watched, I saw that her calf was kicking around inside her, to the heifer's obvious consternation, until she suddenly couldn't stand it any longer and ran away!
You can run, but you can't escape!!!
On Tuesday, when we were selling the wool, I met a little dog. I don't like dogs very much, but have considered at various times, the possibility of having a quiet one to decrease my need to walk quite so far on those occasions the cows choose to ignore my calls. I spent the last couple of days thinking the idea over, and today we went to collect Jenny. She's a little heading dog (i.e. she'll go out and bring the animals back to me) and seems pretty quiet and well behaved. She has been trained as a trial dog, but is not quite up to the stress of such control, apparently, whatever that might mean!
Stephan spent the afternoon constructing a kennel for her to live in and here she is, just before dark, sitting on top of it.
These are the trees in the Flat 5d paddock, which we planted back in May 2004. The Cabbage Tree has obviously done very well, but the Puriri hasn't grown much at all. I might have to give it some fertilizer, having observed how quickly the tree planted over Imagen's twin (calf) grew!
I'm not sure why the Cabbage Tree has sent off an extra shoot from low down. It was certainly a single-trunked plant when it went in.
I took that tree photo as I went past, following the six bulls from the Mushroom paddock behind us, to the grassier Flat 5c.
I'd left Jenny at home with Stephan building her kennel, and watching the bulls behaving so beautifully and moving so easily, began to think I really don't need a dog at all, most of the time! However, on that odd occasion when one animal decides it's off up the other end of the paddock just for a lark, she may save me a number of miles' walking!
I drafted the yearling heifers (and the one not-pregnant R2 heifer) out of the larger young mob into the Flat 2 paddock (as seen in the view on Monday) which has been shut up since I over-sowed it in July. I don't think there's much new grass there, actually, but there's some lushly grown old rye and these heifers need to keep growing to be ready for mating this summer.
My other concern in separating them from the pregnant heifers, is that when they come on heat the older heifers spend a lot of time pursuing and mounting whichever of them is hot at the time, and I'm not convinced that's entirely good for a pregnant animal!
I phoned the council this morning and requested the road contractors be alerted to the parlous state of the road. This afternoon the grader was on the road! It must have been a coincidence and the grader responding to someone else's prior request. The FNDC just doesn't do anything that quickly.