Looking up the hill over the road, from the driveway. There's still enough green for the cows to stay where they are.
I walked along the road to the secret location of the newest orchid I've discovered, Anzybas rotundifolius, and took a few more pictures.
The leaf is only about 2cm long, i.e. less than an inch.
Here you may easily see, as described in the Native Orchids site linked above, it "has pink or white inward facing calli along the raised labellum midline, which are short near the apex, but much longer nearer the column."
I went for a walk after an early lunch, out to see the cows and climbed up the PW hill looking for the ten heifers grazing there.
I find it really fascinating (can you tell?) to look from a distance at a piece of the environment over which I'm exerting some control. It is only grass, but it's way over there!
Tomtits (Miromiro) are lovely little birds and really hard to keep track of in the bush, as they flit around alighting on any surface, at any angle. They often land on the vertical trunks of trees, watching all around for the next unwary insect meal.
This is the male; I haven't seen a female for a while, but no doubt they're there too.
These vertical stems are Taraire seedlings, which are germinating everywhere under the trees at the moment. The Taraire tree is one of those with a large drupe (fruit with one large seed) which, because if its size, is only spread by the native woodpigeon, Kukupa. If they're not eaten and dropped somewhere else, large numbers germinate under the parent tree. I am unsure of the process, but I regularly find the seeds on the ground, coated in a gelatinous goo. Where the seeds are on a slope, the sticky stuff seems to anchor the seed to the ground while it germinates.
In the middle of every ninth of July for the last 21 years, I've done something quietly contemplative, remembering my lovely Father, who died in 1989. I still find it odd to put, in my mind, the sense of the length of that time beside the feeling of it being only a short time ago. Odd to realise that he's been dead for nearly half of my life, but my sense of him is current in so many ways. He was a dry old fruit - no, that's a currant.
As I wandered around looking for orchids in lots of places, again, I thought a lot about his enduring love of nature and fascination with the things he saw around him. I'm glad he passed that on.
As I walked along the track at the bottom of the PW, some of the heifers followed me along the fence, as did the older group on the other side of the lane in the Frog Paddock. I'd mix them to form one mob, except that yearling 657 is the calf of R3 605 and I'd rather not put the two of them back together in case they suddenly try to rekindle their first relationship. Weaned calves will often go back to suckling their mothers, even many months after separation and that wouldn't do at all! These are the R2 heifers, 628, 639, 634 and Zella.
The cows were looking at me as if they wanted a shift. I'm a bit of a sucker for that sort of pleading, and I also want to keep them going to chew down the rest of the big paddock. The last third of it now includes the land they've never grazed before, that 0.7 hectares which used to be on the neighbour's side of the old boundary fence.
I rolled up the end of the electric tape and 26 cows galloped through the gap and off up the hill in the new break, voraciously eating all the way.
An hour later, I went down the road to look back up at the new piece of land, but none of them had dared to try it out yet. I didn't see them there all day!
I went for a wider exploration around the area where the newly discovered orchid plants are, to see if there were any more. They seem to grow in quite distinctive environments.
Amongst the leaf and twig litter on the ground, are these tiny, delicate little fungi, only about 3mm across the top. This one was growing on a steep slope, so I didn't need to bend too far to photograph it.
I've suggested to Stephan that it would be helpful if he could develop a passionate interest in fungi, so I could simply ask him what they are as I find them. I'd like to tell you what this is, but I have not yet identified it.
There's a huge westerly storm across the Tasman Sea and all day today the huge roar of waves crashing onto Te Oneroa a Tohe (90-Mile Beach) has disturbed the peace. By this afternoon the air was thick with what I presume was a fine mist of sea spray. As I walked around the hill over the road in the wind, I kept tentatively licking the back of my hand (I really must look like a mad person sometimes) to discover if I could taste the salt.
What a strange joy to see black cattle on that slope. It's taken ages to get used to that bit of land being ours, probably partly because I didn't immediately start using it for the cattle when the new fence was built.
This is typical Kikuyu behaviour. Lots of old Puriri fenceposts end up with Kikuyu growing up through their centres as they age. This fencepost obviously needed more grazing, but the cattle have been kept away from it by an electric tape I had strung along the old fenceline, to stop them going through the loose wires to the new section.
So much grass. It was hard to walk through this lot, with its steep places hidden beneath such long grass. As the cows moved along the hillside grazing, they left wakes behind them.
Abigail has obviously been taking full advantage of the amount of feed on offer.
She's standing up, but downhill from where I was with my camera. The huge roundness of her left side in particular is caused by the fullness of her rumen, where the grass first goes. From there it is regurgitated for further mastication as she "chews her cud" and the fine fluids are fermented and digested by the rumen's micro-organisms. Kikuyu is more fibrous than many grasses, taking longer to process, so the cows' rumens carry more bulk for longer than with other feeds.
Early this morning Stephan drove me to town and I caught the Hospital Bus, a service which runs daily between Kaitaia and Whangarei Hospitals, to transport people who have appointments with specialists or clinics not available up here. My bus ticket was my appointment letter and the bus was absolutely freezing! I had wrongly presumed that a service which carries passengers who are possibly feeling off-colour, would have heating on this very cold day. Fortunately I wasn't entirely underdressed, but I was damned cold by the time I arrived at my destination after three hours of refrigeration!
My appointment was a formality, but with a very nice doctor who wanted to see me in person, and it was interesting to sample the transport service. My only annoyance, entirely with myself, was that having spent some time thinking about Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week, last week) and what a good idea it would be if those who wish to expand their experience of conversing in te reo could, in their workplaces and so on, display some sign encouraging others to do so with them, I bounced onto the bus and said a cheery good morning. As I sat down I noticed a sign pegged to the sun visor above the driver which read, "Tena koe, ko Jimmy ahau, nau mai, haere mai."
A year or two ago I found somewhere someone was producing small badges for people to wear which would indicate exactly that willingness to communicate in te reo and the badges were coded according to the level of linguistic competence of the wearer. Jimmy could have been wearing one and I'd not even have seen it today.
All through last week TVNZ ran an item during their main news hour entirely in te reo, with English sub-titles, on various issues to do with Māori language, its survival, teaching, uptake by young people and so on. They were really interesting short pieces containing information not normally discussed in that forum. Last year, or perhaps even the year before, Radio New Zealand paid its usual attention to Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, by having all of its early morning news greetings in te reo and then at the end of the week they just kept on doing it and haven't stopped since. Absolutely fabulous. It is even small changes like that which move populations away from some of their fears and prejudices. (Presumably there have been people who disliked the change as much as I applauded it, but too bad for them; where do they think they live?) This week I wrote to TVNZ and congratulated them on their series and suggested they make it a weekly event, at least to start with. There is so much racism in this country and some of it is due only to ignorance. For those who don't know what they don't know, putting it in front of them regularly might, like training children to eat new foods, eventually tempt them to look and learn and lose some of the fear and prejudice.
When I had finished at the clinic, had another warming cup of tea and eaten a lovely piece of fruit loaf I'd thought to bring with me, I walked down the road to the Whangarei by-pass, because I calculated that Rachel, my sister, would be about to drive along it on her way up to visit us for a few days. We came up with this plan when she said she'd like to come up. Fortunately she appeared just before it started to rain.
The three stages of grazing over the road: at the top of the hill to the left, is the nice grassy corner nobody's discovered yet, then the recently grazed area, and at right is the first section the cows grazed, now greening up again. This is where break feeding at this time of year is so useful: if I was able to break feed the cows over a 100-day period, at a minimum growing rate of 8kg of dry matter per hectare per day, by the time they got to the end of the round, the beginning would be ready to be grazed again. If I'd left the cows to roam the whole paddock instead of "back breaking" behind them, the cows would return to the first area as soon as they tired of their current grass, and instead of having nearly two weeks of growth begun again, the whole paddock would need to be left for longer.
Rachel and I spent a quiet day, she mostly reading, I mostly writing. I took her for a walk to check on the orchids, of course.
This is Camembert-style cheese curds, just ladled into the forming rings. All of that mass compresses down as the whey drains out, to form cheeses of the same size as those you see sold commercially.
There won't be much more cheesemaking after this, because Saturday is Imagen's last milking day. This morning, after milking, she didn't go back into the paddock with her calf, because we want her to have a chance to reduce her milk production over the next few days. Stephan will milk her only in the mornings still, until she's left to dry off.
Stephan and I brought the four bulls to the yards and took blood from each of them - I probably ought to have done this earlier, when they were a bit smaller, although when they're smaller they can actually move around more in the race. Afterwards Rachel and I took the blood tubes to town to go to the lab for testing for BVD and EBL, the normal tests to be done on prospective breeding bulls.
I am worried about this: Demelza, who has had a history of a swelling inside her vagina, something which I'd formerly assumed (from a comment by a reliable and learned source) was a Bartholin's gland. This does not look the same. I'm thinking about having a vet inspect her, but also thinking she's going to have to go anyway, before this gets any more serious.
One of the obvious problems here is that that the exposed vaginal tissue picks up all manner of outside muck, which then gets taken back inside Demelza whenever she stands up. The drying of the tissue also causes an inflammatory reaction which gradually makes it all worse. Whether or not this is a simple development of the earlier problem, caused by the effects of drying and picking up muck, I'm not sure, but that is what I suspect. I shall seek advice.
Today, after Rachel had left to return home, we went for an exploratory bush walk, up the other side of our bush block from where we tracked a couple of years ago. Stephan had already installed a few bait stations up there, but wanted to take more up and I figured I'd better go and see what else might grow there.
I walked watching the ground, looking out for small one-leafed plants and after a short while, just before I stepped forward after passing Stephan where he was screwing a bait station to a tree, I spotted this tiny plant and flower.
They are Corybas cheesemanii, which I've not seen before. The two colours are only an indication of age, it appeared, the white turning to pink before the flower shrivels away. I found a little group of several plants in flower, although my macro photography in this situation proved far better than my attempts at a wide view.
They are so tiny and I think they're beautiful.
This is an indication of what we were walking through: relatively young regenerating bush. Some of this area had been in grass and/or accessible by cattle until about 15 years ago, when I came here. Even before then, it was generally closed off, but the fences weren't really sufficient to exclude cattle, which took advantage whenever they could. There are fairly large trees of many species, including Totara, Puriri, Rewarewa, Kanuka and Lancewood. The younger plants and trees are Manuka, Kanuka, Hangehange, Puriri, and something which looked awfully like Tanekaha seedlings, but might be the juvenile form of something else. I'll have to investigate, or go and grab one to grow on in a pot until I can tell what it is.
Another fungus I've seen around the place in the last couple of weeks, and again I don't know what it is. Please do tell me if you happen to know. This one is quite small - there are twigs and Totara leaves (<2cm) around it.
This is where dolphins really come from.
Stephan spotted this Morepork, or Ruru, in the trees just beyond our path. It flew away before I managed to get really close, so this was the best photo I managed. I've only seen them at night before. In the daylight, muted though it was in the bush, I had a much clearer sense of the small size of this little owl. My book says Moreporks measure 29 cm in length. They're quite common and, like other owls, completely silent as they fly.
The bush is so pretty at this time of year. The mosses and fungi are at their absolute best.
With extraordinary colour in some.
Although some are so small you'd easily miss them.
These are the two little toadstools of the picture above.
I will return in a couple of weeks to check on this little patch of orchid plants. Because they're not flowering at present, I wonder if they are a species I've not yet discovered. Otherwise I think they're a later-flowering colony of Acianthus sinclairii, the Pixie Cap orchid I've photographed many times now.