To regular readers on the update list: I am sorry there has been no email regarding the posting of this page. My address list has gone awry in transition from one computer to another and will require some checking before further use.
I rang Ryan (who usually does our Fertilizer spreading) and asked him what he had planned for the morning - he'd said, earlier in the week, that today would be my day! After a little pressing on my part, he agreed to come.
I immediately went out and moved the cows off the flats to the PW paddock and then Ivy and the calves into the Swamp/Frog adjacent to them. The order of these movements was important - if the calves had gone first, they'd have ducked under the spring gates and into the lane as their mothers had passed, and I'd have had another lot of drafting to do!
The day was almost perfect for the job: the dust only very slowly drifted off to the south and the ground conditions were firm, so the truck didn't leave nasty messes in my paddocks. I am relieved to have the fert on, since it's looked a bit touch and go at times, as the rain began and the little windows of potential opportunity in the weather forecasts got smaller and smaller.
It hasn't rained yet and the gates were all still open from the fertilizer spreading, so I suggested to Stephan that he put a new gate on the ute and drive across and replace the broken wooden one between Flat 2 & 3. I've had to put an electric tape across the gateway since one of the bulls broke the top of the gate over the summer. It hasn't been too much of a problem since then, since it's not a gateway I use very often, but better to do the job now while it's easy!
Last Tuesday I noticed 359 with bottle jaw and today she looks far better - the swelling's almost gone! I have no idea what might have caused such a marked but quickly-resolving symptom.
I keep being woken up very early in the mornings by an insistent knocking on the door! It's this idiot turkey, having a fight with his own reflection. He bangs the glass so hard that he wobbles his head around in stunned shock after each knock - lucky the glass hasn't broken!
From up the top of the PW hill, looking back over the flats, the wheel tracks of the fertilizer truck are visible, although only in one direction because of the way the grass has been flattened.
I was up here trying to get the cows to move from one side of the middle hill to the other - reasonably unsuccessfully!
Another walk to the highest hill on the farm this afternoon, to check on the cows again and see if I could get the rest of them to the paddock I really want them in.
From the top of the hill I could just make out the black shapes of the heifers in the big paddock over the road, but was never quite sure that I'd seen all seven, so took a couple of photographs for checking when I got home. The darker green/brown hill beyond them is a dairy farm about 800m down Diggers Valley Road and beyond that the hills go over towards Takahue Road. I don't know whose house that is, nor which road it is accessed from. It's generally only from these vantage points that we can see our neighbours at all.
I travelled three hours this morning to a Breeding Cow Focus Farm field day at Maungaturoto. I parked the ute outside the Mangamuka Bridge store and caught a ride with two others who then picked up another passenger on the way down. The day was reasonably informative, although as an avid reader, I sometimes feel I gain as much information at home via this machine and the rural specialist newspapers as I do by travelling long distances to hear it directly from others.
On our way north again I was startled by the odd ringing tone on my mobile telephone (which you might surmise is seldom called) when Stephan rang to ask what I thought he should do about a couple of vagrant teens who were looking pleadingly at him in town and asking for shelter and kindness. One is a member of my extended family and the other her young boyfriend and they'd arrived in the driveway a few days ago asking to stay, which we'd allowed them to do, but after a couple of nights they'd chosen to leave and we'd thought that was the end of the matter. However they'd obviously outstayed their welcome somewhere else and had found Stephan at Topmilk.
We got up very early this morning because a nurse at the hospital had told me on the phone last night that the Hospital Bus (running from Kaitaia to Whangarei and back, daily, free for patients) would leave town at 6.45am and the two children could pay a reasonably low fare to travel on it. It turned out that the nurse's advice was out by an hour, so we waited until 7.45 and waved the two young people on their way to Whangarei where they had an appointment to attend and a very generous offer of overnight accommodation.
The new grass in the Flat 1 paddock has had its six weeks from sowing, so today I let the little heifers and Ivy in. Naturally they tore down the paddock, with little regard for the fragile new plants I so carefully grew for them.
I thought I'd better clean out the trough since it was likely a bit of fertilizer could have ended up in there and it was looking pretty murky. As the water level fell, they all came over for a look at what I was doing.
The black pipes are short pieces of alkathene over the electric wires, which keep them out of the way of the cattle as they drink - wouldn't be much fun to get a jolt through your head in mid-swallow!
Topmilk will cease operating at the end of this month. I decided I'd go out on one of Stephan's last delivery trips as a Topmilk employee, so booked my seat for today (I thought it quite possible he might have had other keen passengers in these last few days).
Arriving at around 5am, Stephan finished dressing - doing up his shoe laces, before he breaks his neck falling over them! The truck is backed up to the chiller area ready for loading.
Kees, former chief factory operating person, until he was ridiculously demoted to ordinary factory worker by a management team who didn't know what they were doing and wanted to show him they were boss, even though it was he who knew how to run things, not they! Kees probably still runs it all anyway.
I think they both look like they're on happy pills - maybe it's just the time of 'day'.
Stephan then began loading the truck with stacks of 2 litre bottles of milk, various other milk products, juice, water and so on.
He organises the whole lot so that it's ready to unload at each stop - the shops to which he delivers have phoned in their orders to the office during the previous day, so he works from an order sheet as he goes.
Then it's a bit of socialising in the lunchroom with Kees and Rex before going over the road to meet the bread truck.
The bread these days all comes up from Auckland and Stephan meets it and transfers the bread for his shops from the big truck onto his little one before setting off on the trip south.
This meeting takes place around the back of Bell's vegetable depot, so Stephan also loads up all the vegetable orders for the shops from here.
Driving with a firm steady hand over the Mangamuka Gorge, so that none of the stacks of milk or bread topples over, the first stop is the shop at Mangamuka Bridge.
From there, we turned off onto the road to the Hokianga Harbour out to the west coast.  The road is lined with Kowhai trees, which are unnoticeable at this time of the year, but a brilliant blaze of gold when in flower.
The Kohukohu Store, down the hill from where Jill and Bruce used to live in their little cottage.
Deb works in the Kohukohu store and was very happy to have her photo taken with Stephan.
Writing this, I've only just noticed that small child in the photo. I have no idea who it is.
Amongst the community notices in such places, you might find almost anything! I threw this photo in because I imagine that in some places such community communication probably no longer happens - or maybe it still happens more widely than I imagine. You tell me.
For those from other places, Whanau is te reo Māori for family and a hikoi is a walk or march and James is or was the Postmaster at the Post Office next door.
It's a tough job ...
These huge trucks constantly thunder up and down the road - I would say share the road except that in many cases there's not much evidence of their willingness to do so.
On the way from Kohukohu to Broadwood, the sun was rising to flood over the valleys beside the road. Down by the water it was very misty, so that although I tried to get some nice pictures, it was often a little tricky, with the mist changing the view constantly as it drifted around.
Next stop, the Broadwood Store, owned and operated for almost three decades by John and Maureen Baine.
Not the best photo in the world, but they were keen: Sheryl (who works in the store), Stephan and John Baine.
The Broadwood Store is a fully-stocked general store, of the type I remember from my childhood when people didn't travel great distances to visit supermarkets and large shopping centres. It also serves as the local Post Office.
John and Maureen are lovely people, heavily involved in the annual A&P show in Broadwood and a number of other community projects.
Along the way Stephan does a few home deliveries. In this case the householder leaves a bucket at the gate with the money inside and Stephan leaves however-many sachets of milk have been paid for.
Many miles from anywhere else is Pangaru and Waireia Traders is the locals' source of general supplies, although it seems that many often travel up to Broadwood to John's better-stocked store in preference to this. There was not as much in this shop as I would have expected so far from anywhere else - but then holding unwanted stock costs money.
This made me laugh as we passed it: presumably the owners of this mailbox have deliberately, by some humorous whim, left this Ragwort plant growing here. I must remember to ask Stephan to check if they harvest it before it seeds. I think I'll grow one too.
The hills are huge here. The brown smudge is a quarry and the large machinery working in it is hardly visible. I thought there were sheep on the hills until I realised they were light-coloured cattle and just looked small because of the size of their surroundings. It must be hard work farming on such country.
Another home delivery, to the owner of the house in the distance.
A little further on we passed the other end of Diggers Valley Road. Nowhere here feels very far from anywhere else, even though one can travel for miles.
Neil and Raewyn of the Bayview Restaurant and Ahipara Bay Motel: you might notice that there's a "Business for Sale" notice on the window in the background and should you wish to live in a place with billion-dollar views, working in the tourism and entertainment industry, let me know and we'll put you in touch with them.
What a view for a working day! The view on our way back down to the main road, out across the bottom end of Te Oneroa-a-Tohe or 90-mile Beach at Ahipara, to Shipwreck Bay.
Not any more! Fairlawn Farms have apparently not been supplying Topmilk for some months, all their milk now going down to Waipu to Fresha Valley. Topmilk has been processing Fonterra milk, hence the noticed difference in taste, of late.
Back to where we started this morning, at the back of Bell's vegetable shop, returning the bins in which vegetables went out to the shops on the run. Stephan has an impressive bowling arm!
Margaret (who has actually appeared on this site previously, in the cab of the ute in which Graham was carting cut firewood from the back of the farm) and Stephan reconcile their various bits of paperwork.
At the end of the run, back at Topmilk, there's only a tiny bit of milk left over, probably just returns from one of the shops - milk which has not sold within an appropriate time-frame is returned and credited back to the shops, so patrons are not forced to buy out-of-date or short-dated milk!
Unloading the stack of sachet bins. These very useful bins will become redundant under Fonterra ownership since that company has its own environmentally-unsustainable plastic-bag-based system of sachet distribution.
The owner of Topmilk, a man who inherited the company from his father who created it many years ago, has offered it for sale to Fonterra, the milk-processing giant in this country. A handful of Topmilk workers may continue to be employed by the new owners, but in the short-term only. The factory will cease production and Fonterra Brands will operate a depot from the chiller. The Topmilk brand will be continued in the Blue Milk option only (i.e. pasteurised, homogenised, nearly-full-cream milk) in one litre sachets and two litre plastic bottles. The milk inside the Topmilk labelled containers will now come from Takanini, South Auckland.