I adore Stella. I love watching what she does and how she interacts with her world as she discovers new things. I wouldn't want to have children, but I really enjoy them when I borrow them. (If you don't already know, Stella's my sister Jude's eldest daughter, now five years old.)
The turkeys, some of the ducks and the goose had streamed out of the open gate this morning and Stella decided they should be chased back to their proper place!
Having heard from the purchaser of the steer calves that transport will likely be arranged for the end of the coming week, I decided it would be wise to wean them today, rather than tomorrow, particularly since it wasn't raining today. We brought the 87-head mob in and weighed every animal. On our way to the yards we had explained to Stella that when working cattle, it was imperative that she obey any instruction immediately, because her physical safety might well depend upon it! Stella spent most of her time standing out in the middle of an open area through which the cattle passed after their release from the race, writing down every tag number in her notebook. Because I know most of the cattle even if I can't see their tags, I could tell her who they were if they wouldn't let her see properly - especially those with the invisible (lost) tags.
On the way in to the yards with the cattle, I'd noticed one of the calves limping, so when it was her turn through the race, we stopped and Stephan managed to get hold of her foot and find a nasty bit of rock wedged high up between her toes! The same thing happened to one of her sisters a couple of years ago.
After we'd finished the weighing, we drafted the cows and heifer calves out of the mob and sent them off to graze, then separated the remaining cows and steer calves. I put the cows in the House paddock and the calves in the Windmill paddock just beyond it, with Ivy and her calf and the grey heifer. I set up the gates so the animals could stand on either side of the steel gate and touch and smell each other without risk of electric shock from any fence.
This evening we escaped the weaning noise for a while by going to town for a concert. It wasn't my particular preference in music (a soprano singer) but the Community Arts Service committee members seemed keen that their treasurer turn up at such an event, so I decided we'd make it a special outing for Stella. We had dinner and got all dressed up to go to "the opera"! Stella appeared to enjoy herself very much, insisting on sitting right at the front of the audience and at the end of the first half of the concert, before we had supper, said to me "we have to stay for the rest!" We sat down for the second half and she promptly fell asleep!
Stephan's garden pond fountain has been entertaining us since Stella found all my marbles (I'd lost them some time ago) and we tried putting one on top of the largest rock. Stephan then turned the water up and the marble stayed on top! I'd wondered if it would, but thought that as the water stream wasn't vertical it would fall off.
When there's no wind, it'll stay at the top of the water at about a foot above the rock.
Stella and I went out for a walk this morning, to check the weaned cows and calves and go on to move some of the others. These are the cows, looking expectantly towards us as we entered the paddock, obviously thinking they've been separated from their calves by accident and that we're coming to rectify the situation! This happens every year and I feel a mixture of amusement and extreme guilt, as they follow me, hopefully, up the paddock to the gate, which I then leave closed between them and their calves.
As we walked, I spotted these interesting-looking fungi on a dried cow-pat in the grass. They may be Birdnest Fungi.
Just after lunch we packed Stella's things and set off for Kawakawa, an hour and a half south of here, to meet up with Jill and Bruce who were to take Stella back to their place to meet up with her parents. From there we decided to do a tiki-tour around the Bay of Islands, since we'd gone so far and had nothing else to do but go home again otherwise. I attempted to contact the people who bought several of our heifers and one of the bull calves a year and two ago, who live not far from Kawakawa, but unfortunately they weren't home. I was interested to know how they'd fared in the recent storm, with all extreme amounts of rainfall in this area. Driving towards Paihia, it was still obvious where all the slips had come down onto the road and there were strange objects still littering the river flats on either side of the road - an upturned outhouse and a bath, for instance.
We went for a short walk along the Paihia wharf, then went on up to Mangonui to have dinner at the famous fish shop. We ordered our favourite scallops and fish, then sat down with drinks and discovered, at the table next to us, two Eleanors, one the soprano from last night's concert and the other, her aunt, whom we'd also met last night. They allowed us to join them as they finished their meal and we began ours, for some very pleasant conversation.
We had thought we'd round off our meal at the Beachcomber in Kaitaia for dessert, but of course they're closed on a Sunday night. We went to the supermarket instead and bought a wicked cheesecake, which we ate by the fire and watched something we'd taped from the TV.
The cattle are still pretty noisy! I realised that if we'd had grass in the House paddock so the calves could have been there and the cows further out, things wouldn't have been quite so loud at night - the calves tend to stay and bellow at their mothers from the gate, whereas the cows will wander off into their paddock and call from anywhere, which means sometimes they're right outside the house and they can be very loud!
I heard today that they're to go on Wednesday, so I'm really very glad we didn't leave it until Sunday to wean them. Four nights usually quietens them down well, but three would be pushing it. I want them to go off with no yearning to go hunting for their mothers when they can no longer hear them.
I sowed the Flat 3 paddock with rye seed today and then let the cows and calves in to graze the grass and press the seed in to the soil. I was thinking I'd sow all the flats paddocks very quickly, but then thinking about grazing rounds, I'll have to have the paddocks shut up for six or so weeks after sowing before they can begin to be lightly grazed again. I don't really want to take all my flat paddocks out of the system all at once for that long!
The steers' truck ride was booked for early this morning. I didn't want to have any problems getting the calves in to the yards past their mothers, so I decided I'd take the cows to the yards first. The calves (along with Ivy, her calf and the grey heifer) were then pretty keen to head in the right direction as well. The cows had been quite quiet in the paddock, but were suddenly calling frantically again to their calves! When the truck drove off with the calves on board, I thought a couple of the cows were going to jump the gates and follow it!
While they were in the yards, I weighed Ivy and the other two and then the three of them went back to the Windmill paddock and the cows went back to the house paddock for a few hours, to work out their calves were no longer answering their calls and later I moved them on to some better feed.
A day on the computer, I think, writing a page from about four weeks ago! This website updating business takes a lot of time and thought, but I continue to do it because I enjoy the communication it brings from those of you who read it and write to me. The other major reason for continuing is that the weekly pages often prove extremely useful as a record and prompt for my memory about things which we've done around here. Even things which haven't been posted, have happened on the same days as things about which I've written and so one will prompt a memory of the other and enable me to find it in its timeframe.
Would you? Don't!
There are toadstools like this one all around the farm at the moment. I think they're of the variety some fool thought was edible a couple of years ago, putting himself and his young child in hospital in need of organ transplants!
I haven't found any edible mushrooms at all lately.
This is fatty 539 and her mother 371.
She is the noisiest feeder in the whole herd, slurping away for ages on her obviously very rich milk dinner, packing on loads of body fat at every feed. Her mother has maintained reasonable condition through her lactation, which is a wondrous feat, considering the size of her calf. The cow is a daughter of Bertrand, whose daughters are generally pretty bony cows on which it is hard to keep much condition, so she's a good little cow!
I'd taken the photos above on my last stop on my ride around the Big Back paddock on the bike (pretty tricky in places!) and had only one cow to find. I ought not to have been surprised to find #99 at the bottom of the hill, up to her belly in the swamp, as usual.
When I went out to get the mail this afternoon, I noticed the ram lamb very enthusiastically following the only ewe lamb left in his paddock. I don't want the ewe lambs in lamb this year, and particularly not to their half-brother before I know what size lambs he might sire. I managed to get the ewe lamb, with a couple of the adult ewes, out of the Pig paddock without the ram, into the little yard on the driveway, then drafted the ewes back in, leaving the lamb alone. The other three lambs had previously left the main mob when they were in the House paddock, by dashing through the electric fences and going off to graze the Windmill paddock, with Ivy. One day last week I moved the sheep away, but the three lambs were off grazing and didn't come with them and couldn't work out where the others had gone when they returned. They wandered about looking a bit lost for a couple of days, then just moved out to the good grass and stayed there.
Stephan and I went out to the yards with the ute to get the ewe and take her out to join the other three lambs. She took a bit of convincing, but since she could no longer see or hear the other little mob, she eventually just got on with grazing with her siblings.
I think I've removed the on-heat ewe in time for her not to be in lamb and hopefully the other isn't already. If we don't get around to eating them within the next four months, I'll have to watch them carefully for signs of pregnancy! It's quite possible they'd be fine for lambing, today's one weighing 45kg already, but I hadn't really intended that they should. Of course if I'd wanted to be really sure, I ought to have separated them a lot earlier than this!