The week beginning the 21st of May 2011.
Saturday the 21st
trapped rat

Another rat from down near the chickens, this time in a DOC200 trap.  (The trap was set up in a box like the ones shown here and here.)

There appears to be a rat population explosion around the district.  Stephan and Terry have been catching lots in their traps and other people have reported trouble with rat infestations around and in their houses!  Presumably the long dry period in spring had something to do with it.

We have had our own rat infestation, in the ceiling of the curved-roof part of our house, a space we can't access.  We were hearing scuttling, scratching and squealing at night, often waking us up!  Stephan has put four different sorts of poison around where the rats are likely to come out looking for food.  Goodness knows what sort of mess they've been making of the insulation material and the wiring!  No wonder houses burn down.

cows and calves

I brought the cows, calves and heifers in to the yards today and weighed and drenched all the youngsters.  This is also weaning day for the last of the calves.

Afterwards I put the five cows and Eva into the Windmill Paddock and the six calves (the twins are in this group) and the rest of the calves and heifers went into the House Paddock.

Bella 616 looked like she was coming on heat, and she's currently keeping Imagen and the little bulls company, so I brought her out of the paddock with Imagen tonight.  I didn't want three little bulls scrapping over who was going to play with the hot heifer, because they might very well hurt each other in the process - bulls pushing each other off in mid-mount can break legs or penises!  I think the bulls are still a little young for the latter to be a problem yet (they can't extend anything pink until they're more sexually mature) but why risk it?

Just before dark I saw an animal walking down the lane and realised it was the two-year-old heifer 604, mother of troublesome 645, the calf I regularly find out in the lanes where he isn't supposed to be.  Now I know where he gets it from.

I put her back where she was supposed to be.  I doubt she stayed there long.

Sunday the 22nd
weaning cows and calves

604 was sitting in the lane with her calf this morning.  He must have squeezed out through the electric fence wires, something he's been practicing all his life.

I set up more of a barrier to cow and calf - there's the white spring gate in the picture, and below it a three-strand arrangement of electric tape.

Then I remembered I actually wanted to bring the cows in from out the back, and had to take it all down again and push the cows back into the Windmill paddock for the day.  I planned to string the tape back up in the evening, by which time the cows would be getting anxious about sniffing their calves up close again through the railings.

steer calf

This is one of the steer calves this morning, with a lovely thick look about him.  (It's the same calf in both parts of the picture.)  He's the son of my "monitor" cow, 475.  She always has a fabulous calf and this one, younger than most of the others, is no exception.  He's 5½ months old and weighs 247kg already.  He'll be off to his new home in just over a week.

cows walking in a lane

The weather forecast had promised a fine day (and another to follow) with the chance of some showers this morning, so I waited until noon to bring the cows in from the Big Back paddock, to give them their annual worm and liver fluke pour-on drench.

While I was waiting for them all to come to the paddock's gate, I managed to scratch and stroke 606!  She's one of 475's daughters and has never let me touch her before.  I'm determined they will all accept my touch eventually.  If they don't, I take it personally!

using a drench hook to catch a cow's mouth

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that 561 appeared to have a stiff piece of grass, or a small hard plant stem stuck in her gum behind her front teeth.  She didn't seem to be having any difficulty eating, but I made a note to check her mouth next time she was in the yards.  The least stressful way to do that was to use the old drench hook in her mouth, rather than pushing her up into the head bail and then opening her mouth while she was restrained.

The cows never like being interfered with at all, but we weren't going to hurt her, just get her to open her mouth while her head was up where I could have a good look.  There was fortunately nothing wrong in her mouth, although there was a small mark where there may have been a puncture wound previously.

I weighed and drenched all of the cows, and walked them out of the yards at 3.50pm.  As they wandered out to the paddock, light rain began to fall.  I shook my fist at the suddenly gathering clouds, thinking it couldn't last long, because the forecasts were entirely free of any hint of showers.  But the sky was worryingly grey.

At 5.50pm the rain was steady and wetting.  I'd put about $265 worth of drench on the cows, and now it was all being washed off, or deactivated by the rain.  This is the first time I've been caught out in 15 years, so I suppose I've not too much to grumble about, but it's damned irritating.

Fortunately on this occasion I'd written the cows' numbers down as I weighed and drenched them, rather than working to a pre-written list, so I was able to determine which of them would have had at least two hours between drenching and the rain falling.  The Genesis Ultra I used, has a rain-fast requirement of "at least two hours".

bad heifer 604

604 continued to cause problems, including walking straight through my fancy tape gate construction in the lane, after jumping out of her paddock again.  She's very determined to get back with her calf.

I tried locking her into Imagen's little patch next to the milking shed, but she was soon out of there over a gate.  She sounded quite frantic and I wondered to what extremes she might go to get from where she was to where she wanted to be.  It was dark, wet and getting late and I decided to let her spend the night in the lane next to the calves and I'd deal with it all tomorrow.

Monday the 23rd

This morning in the lane I found 604 and her calf; no surprise there.  And in the Windmill paddock, sitting quietly out of the way were 456 and her daughter 666 - I always thought that calf would cause problems with a number like that!  I separated them again.

Cabbage Tree seedlings

I've been growing Cabbage Tree seeds harvested from one of the trees I grew from seed and planted in our garden.  I haven't grown any for a while, so I'm looking forward to watching these grow, and have a number of planned locations for them when they're ready to be planted out.

Kauri seedlings

These are the Kauri seedlings, as shown beginning to germinate three weeks ago.

I'm always tempted to help them by pulling the seed cases off the leaves, but I've done that before, and it doesn't help at all; in fact they often end up dying if I pull them about like that.

Tuesday the 24th

645 and 666 were in with the cows, again, this morning, and again I put them back in with the other calves.

Stephan and the young cattle

This afternoon I moved Eva and the five weaning cows to the 5d paddock and these are the youngsters going along to Flat 2, which will mean there are three five-wire electric fences between the calves and their mothers.  Those who have obeyed the rules will be content enough at the greater distance, and those who have cheated will feel the separation more keenly.

cows with drench residue on their backs

To confuse the calves further and hopefully discourage them from trying anything tricky, I brought the already weaned mob of 31 cows into the 5a paddock between the cows and calves.

The white stuff on the backs of the cows in 5d is the residue from the drench they had the day before those in 5a in the foreground, who then got rained on.  That's Athena 72 on this side, Isla's last daughter.

Wednesday the 25th
Bella, Quanda and 443

Good bye Bella, Quanda and grey 443.

I booked these three in for the works yesterday and very soon after had a phonecall from Anthony to say they could go today.  Fortunately I'd put them in the Pig paddock when I had the rest of the cattle in for drenching the other day, so they were handy to the yards.

Bella has long been on the homekill or works list, despite being bottle-fed, named, tame and a lovely friendly individual.  Her mother was two-year-old 530 who tried to kill her as soon as she was born, and because Bella was then partly reared on Imagen in her first house-milk year, we thought Bella might take over as a housecow later.  But considering her heritage and because she's just not right in skeletal conformation, I decided some time ago that I did not wish to keep her in the herd for breeding.

Virago Quanda 09 AB is Abigail's half-sister, daughter of Queenly 486 of Taurikura and full sister to our bull Quadrille, some of whose daughters and grand-daughters are still in the herd.  Quanda produced only one daughter, at last, last year, and she (102) was a mad thing and I've sold her to be grown for beef.  Looking back, I realised that the madness of that heifer was foreshadowed by the temperament of her older brother, #42, who broke the vet gate in the yards one day when I was trying to administer a vaccination to him.  Fortunately he didn't sire any daughters, and looking back through my records, I realise he was the sire of the mad steer we called Stupid and which we are still eating from our freezer.  All that madness came from somewhere and it was evidently strong in the genetic package Quanda passed on to her progeny, even though she, herself, was quite tame.

443, born in 2003, has been a fairly good cow, although quite a nervous animal; not one of my tame cows.  Her last daughter, the grey 652, was quite mad and this year having a mad calf is a "strike" offence: three strikes and you're out!  443 hasn't really caused much bother, except her temperament has come out in her daughters and she's getting old and grumpy and shoving the others around and it's time for her to go.

Thursday the 26th
old and new technology

I gave Stephan this small black MP3 player for his birthday.  His radio ear-muffs didn't last particularly long, their wiring catching in trees when he was chainsawing.  I spent most of last evening, after I'd fetched the device from the mail box, secretly transferring most of his CD collection to the new player.  Apparently he didn't notice a thing.

I remembered the Walkbod I bought back in 1988 from Jim before he went overseas: the very flash Sports model, waterproof and all, which he sold me for, I think, $500.  I spent hours taping music from LPs so I could carry my preferred sounds around with me, and it had AM/FM radio as well.  I wore it everywhere and remember carrying it particularly around the UK when I was travelling.  It also went for miles with me when my main form of transport was my 10-speed bike, in Auckland.  Now I've bought Stephan a tiny little thing which will hold something like 450 pieces of music and run for 15 hours before it needs to be recharged, simply by plugging it into the computer.

I remember, in a Social Studies class in Form 4 (Year 10), studying a module called "Social Change" in which we were shown an exponential graph to demonstrate technological advancement throughout the lifetimes of our grandparents - anyone born around the beginning of the 20th century.  We thought of their astonishment at things like motorisation and telecommunications.  But it seems to me that the pace of technological change has increased far more than it did for our grandparents, although we're perhaps more accepting of some of it than they were able to be.  Stephan sometimes recalls his Grandmother, who couldn't imagine how anyone could drive home after dark, having failed to grasp the concept of headlights.  I'm now beginning to feel a bit like I imagined my grandparents feeling about that rate of change, when I remember that I grew up in a house where we turned the handle on the phone to summon the operator at the exchange, and it was not until the late 1980s that this area changed from a manual exchange and multi-subscriber party lines to automatic subscriber dialling.  Now we carry tiny devices which can connect us by voice, and presumably in some cases by video, with almost anyone we know, in seconds.  That one could carry an entire record collection in one's pocket, would have been the stuff of fantasy.

Stephan's delighted with his present and spent most of the day with wires hanging out of his ears.


From the early hours and for much of the day, it rained, and rained, and rained.  The river was over the bridge for around 12 hours, which is a long flood time here.


This is high for this part of the stream, but it must be lower than the corner where the other stream came over last time, or that area would back up and flood more too.

muddy paddocks

I suspect I left the cows a little long in here, but they were also against the fence where the last of the weaned cows were grazing, so they paced the fencelines with each other, making a bit of a mess.

It's good for the paddock getting the grass this low, but not so good for the cows - although because this is a small paddock, they've not been long without food.  A large paddock grazed this hard would imply some hungry cows!

two spiders

Our spider had a visitor.  Seeing this companion, with some obvious physical differences, leads me to believe I have made an incorrect assumption about the sex of our resident spider: it turns out she's she, not he!

The visiting male is on the right here, with the obvious swollen areas on his palps, those small "arms" beside his impressive jaws.

female Sheetweb Spider

The female spider.

The male's legs are noticeably longer than hers.  It is only in comparison with him that I now see her legs are the shorter of the two spiders.

male Sheetweb Spider

The male.

Friday the 27th
copper brake-line

The issues we've been having with the electric fencing continue, so Stephan set out to work from the unit out, checking connections and clearing any shorts.

Right at the front of the farm, hanging on the Pig Paddock's roadside fence, was a discarded piece of what was probably a copper brake line.  It was hanging on the ordinary fence wires, but touching the electric out-rigger, cracking with each electric pulse.  Its removal immediately lifted the measured voltage in the rest of the system.

clearing grass from electric fencing

After a warm autumn some of the power loss will have been caused by fencelines whose bottom wires have been overgrown by Kikuyu grass.  Stephan spent a few hours cutting along areas like this, gradually improving the working of the system as he did so.

If we didn't wish to attempt to keep sheep in some of the paddocks, it would be sensible for fences like this one to be three-wire instead of four, so that the cattle could graze along under the fence, and stop the grass from over-growing the wires.