I went to see what Stephan was up to and couldn't find him at first - then discovered him in a little dip by the shed, replacing the underground cable which connects the earth pegs to the electric fence energizer unit and installing a couple of new pegs. The two-metre pegs have to be driven into the ground to complete the circuit for any creature touching any of the electric fence wires anywhere on the farm. The pegs have to be at least ten metres from the mains electricity earth (at the shed), three metres apart from each other, and there must be at least four of them. I think we now have six good ones and whatever is left of the original pegs and so our electric fencing will potentially be better now than for many years.
The way to test that the earth is working properly, is to short out the fence somewhere close to the energizer - by leaning a steel rod against it, for example - and then put an electric fence tester on the earth pegs and if there's any reading above a specific level at the last peg, then you don't have enough earthing and should add more pegs. Stephan says he got no reading at all!
Later, the day having been fine, Stephan checked on the sheep, intending to shear them if they were dry enough.
They were, so he did. The five hoggets had a full shear and he crutched the four pregnant ewes and cleaned up their bellies and udders. I also got him to give their feet a minor trim, wherever there was a bit of hoof overgrowth, as a preventative measure. Sore feet at this time of year can lead to metabolic disorder if a ewe's ability to feed is affected and they will sit down and not graze for as long as they need to if their feet hurt.
Time to get my main worker back into the kitchen! It's citrus fruit time and therefore time to make marmalade. Sometimes we pretend to calculate the actual cost of making marmalade by hand, but it's pretty hard to put a value on the absence of artificial additives. I don't think we've had any shop-bought jams or spreads for the last three or four years.
Finan went to the vet this morning, to have an alteration to the area under his tail! By the looks of him, that'll be a weight loss of a number of grams!
Listening to Radio NZ National this morning, I heard Catherine Ryan interviewing two women who had each lost a close member of their families as the result of drunk driving by someone else. They were agitating for changes in very lax laws around the punishment of recidivist drunk drivers. In both their cases, the people who had been the cause of their grief had had multiple convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, but had continued to repeat that behaviour. Sometimes I don't listen to this sort of thing because it just makes me feel upset and angry, but today I did.
I didn't write about the following at the time and I have some thoughts on why, but first the story.
A few weeks ago, on the night I was driving us home from dinner out to celebrate Stephan's 55th birthday, we came up our little unsealed valley road and there were the wet wheel marks of a vehicle which must have been the last one before us, weaving all over the road. I commented that whoever it was must have been playing the fool and that if the marks suddenly left the road, I would have to think hard about actually helping to get their vehicle unstuck and out of whatever they'd driven into. Around the last of the corners of the windiest part we suddenly saw lights which aren't usually there and there was a vehicle at a very odd angle, driven off the end of the bridge. Two nice young men from the next house up the road were there, presumably having heard the noise of the crash, and weaving about between them was the drunk driver of the vehicle, apparently uninjured, but almost incapable of standing.
My brother Bruce, who has been dead since he was 21, now 34 years ago, was killed by just such a person, driving in a vehicle on the wrong side of the road around a bend. I had been thinking about Bruce during the day because he and Stephan were born in the same year, as was my uncle, Peter, so I have two close male family members of the same age, reminding me every year of a birthday we no longer celebrate. I just happen to be the sort of person who thinks about anniversaries; I can't help it.
So there was this idiot, a 28-year-old, I discovered later from a newspaper report, a nice young man I'd earlier thought when I first met him, with an obvious drinking issue when I saw him again at the vet dinner under the influence to a socially doubtful degree and now here he was in this state, fortunately having only damaged his own property. We ought to have stopped for the sake of the two young men who had come to help, but I was too incensed to think very clearly about that and came home instead and phoned the police.
I have thought a lot about this event. Apart from my first reaction of anger toward him and making sure the authorities caught up with him, it was a difficult position to be put in: finding one of my neighbours in the act of something illegal and potentially deadly and my natural inclination being one of not wanting to cause difficulty or embarrassment. Then I thought that my neighbour, his nice young wife, and their extended family might well be annoyed by my action, but not anywhere near as upset as I or any one of my other neighbours would be had this man killed someone from any of our families! Any of us could so easily have been travelling out of the valley at that time to collect someone who had been out socialising, as their sober driver, and been killed or hurt by this idiot as he swerved his way up the valley.
Here is a wicked intruder! This is Hedge Mustard, sometimes known as Wireweed because of its appearance when mature and seeding. I spent quite some time last season pulling the plants out of this area, but knew I'd missed some which would have seeded and these new plants are the result. I am determined to eradicate it before it spreads further around the farm! The difficulty I had in getting them all last summer was that some of the plants were only a couple of inches high, but had still flowered and developed seed pods.
At about 3.30pm the rest of the Pig Paddock Puriri tree fell down, with the usual enormous crash. I'm rather glad it's finished, since it was the inevitable conclusion.
Stephan will now be able to do some more tidying up with the chainsaw without quite so much risk from other parts falling down. The high bits still on the tree are being held up by the "legs" formed by branches which have been driven into the earth.
And so the trunk, probably three or four hundred years in growing, is split in three. If we tidy it back, shoots may well grow again from the base and form the tree anew. Puriri will survive amazing amounts of damage which would kill other trees, and virtually rise from the dead in many cases.
Yet another showery day, during which I spent the morning writing webpages, then at around noon got the 21 little heifers in to the yards. They were quite oddly behaved, quiet when moving as a group, but very jumpy individually when touched or spooked! I weighed them all, then gave them another 7in1 vaccination, to bring them into line with my annual Leptospirosis programme. The weather actually remained fine and sunny for most of the time while I was doing them.
The heifers are now between 221 and 306kg, with which I'm pleased enough. The heaviest heifer needs only to gain another 14kg before reaching my desired mating weight minimum and the smallest needs another 100kg. Whether or not she can do that before the beginning of December will depend very much on the weather and how much grass I can grow for her to eat and her own metabolism and health to deal with it. That little heifer is 14kg heavier than her mother was at the same age and she just made it to mating weight as a yearling and this is the calf of that mating, so I'm not surprised she's fairly small. I'm actually quite pleased to discover she's doing better than her mother did at the same age.
A little later we brought the bulls in and all of a sudden the two R2 bulls started fighting! Stephan didn't move quickly enough out of the way and got shoved up against a post, fortunately without injury, being big enough to hold off 1.5T of bull, so he tells me. We eventually separated them, then as I was vaccinating #42, who'd been instigating the trouble, he decided he'd had enough of that and reared up, jumping over the rails and the hinges of the vet gate in front of him, forcing the gate off it's gudgeons and leaving him with a stripe of red where he'd grated some skin off his side. Animals who make that particular move sign their warrant for a truck trip!
I thought he'd settle down a bit after that bit of excitement, but as soon as the other bull was out of the race, they started fighting again. We ceased work for about fifteen minutes until we managed to get them out of the small yards area, where I was concerned they could do each other and my infrastructure some damage, and down into the Pig Paddock, where they'd have more clear space to sort out their argument. Once we'd got rid of them, we could carry on with the vaccinations for the smaller bulls, with the vet-gate now tied up with some rope, and later did the mob of cows from off the hill over the road.
The bulls were still fighting this morning, so I couldn't move them. They're making a hell of a mess of my nice Pig Paddock grass, but the little guys are having a wonderful time eating the Puriri tree.
My lovely friend Miryam, with her daughters Jessie and Annie (who is my godde-daughter) at their Uncle's house in Opua, where we went down to meet with them this afternoon, since they are in the country only for another couple of days. It was lovely to catch up with them, even though it was a very short visit.
We took a special item with us to show to Annie: yesterday afternoon Stephan arrived home with the Grace & Eric Carmans Challenge Tray from the North Hokianga A.& P. Association, awarded for Most Points in the Knitting Section! On the back my name is engraved, along with the number of points (all three of them) awarded for the hat I knitted for Annie and entered in the show in February. Miryam told me Annie took the hat and First Prize certificate to school for "show and tell", so I thought I'd better show her the silver tray as well. It's silver, about 14 inches across and has been awarded every year since 1968!
On our way to Opua, we went and visited Kim and Paul, who bought some of our heifers over a couple of years, as well as one of the bulls. It was a delight to go and see the cattle, all looking in very good order, coming up to their first calvings - both cattle and people are about to experience it all for the first time!
At the end of the afternoon with Miryam and the girls we went north and as we often do when travelling this way, stopped at the Mangonui Fish and Chip shop - the former award-winning one - for our dinner. Now I usually write glowingly about this place with its great food and surroundings, but now I'm going to whinge! There's no such thing as bad weather, I've heard say, only unsuitable clothing; but when I go to eat at a popular establishment and two enquiries about heating are brushed off or ignored despite this being mid-winter, then I get a little grumpy. The food was great as usual, but I was too busy shivering to really enjoy it. Just as we were about to leave, one of the staff came out and lit the heater. I would have thought that she'd missed the main dining busy period by then and had at least one very cold and disgruntled customer.
Looking down on the Pig Paddock from up on the road, the damage the bulls have done is visible. All the brown bits are chopped-up ground from their pushing each other around in tight circles, head-to-head. They've finally stopped, so I can move them out. #42, the agitator, but smaller of the two bulls, looks a little stiff today, like he's over-exerted himself and strained a few muscles!
I brought the "fat" cows in and gave them their Lepto vaccinations, in the middle of which the rain (and some hail, even though it wasn't very cold) fell out of the sky, so I had to put everything back in the chilly-bin and wait it out under the trees, before going home for a change of clothes and a bit of lunch while the cows' necks dried out as well - vaccinating wet cattle is not ideal.
See that stream of water coming across the road? That's what we went off to sort out later this afternoon. The water was trickling into our driveway through the other gate and down into a drain, but now it's just running down the main thoroughfare, so time to sort it out, since the council is unlikely to do anything about it for some time.
The light-yellow marker shows where the culvert is and it is numbered according to its distance along the road. All of the very sandy clay which is blocking the pipe has come down because a spring which emerges somewhere in the piece of bush up on our hill has undermined some of the surrounding area, brought down a couple of large trees and left a gaping hole. The problem is not of our making, and I cannot see that there is much to be done about it, other than fencing the whole area off so that cattle traffic through the area is eliminated. The cows are pretty careful to stay away from the slip, probably sensing the instability, so they're not contributing much to the problem, but keeping them away would probably be beneficial.
After about half an hour of digging around, with some hopeful bubbles and gurgles at this end and the occasional audible rush of water at the other, the whole mess finally started to drain. It's not a huge pipe, but it's on quite a slope, as far as I could tell, as I clambered around the steep bank at the other end. I've not been down there for a close look before.
A fresh-water crayfish or Koura - not that there's a lot of clear fresh water in its current location! I only spotted it because of the movement in the sandy mud. I wonder if it has crawled up from the river in the recent high water, or lives usually in this drain? They're mobile-enough little creatures to pick and choose, I guess.
This Koura was about the same size as the others I've seen, approximately three or four inches long.