Yesterday evening, being day 21 of the mating period and the end of the first three-week cycle, I drafted all the heifers and the commercial cows which were in the insemination mob out to go in with bull 106. The bull was still busily checking his new heifers this morning.
Heifers are tricky to inseminate and I'd prefer to give them any second chances they may need with a bull, whose technique is not as refined, but may well be more successful.
By noon the day was getting really hot and all the black cows were in the shade of the big trees. The only cows I could see out grazing were Curly in Flat 2 (still with the insemination mob) and one of the brown cows with the bull over in Flat 4.
We spent the afternoon in Clough Road at the home of the Holder family, who were celebrating 100 years of their family's ownership of their farm. The part which remains is not the whole of the original property, but I understand that Jack, who celebrated his 80th birthday last year, has lived in the same house, built by his father, for his whole life. It was great hearing some of the stories of people who came to share in the event and to meet some of the wider family. My family and theirs have had an association of many years, originating in the common pursuits of my mother's church-going and Father's sailing with the Mangonui County Yacht Club, when I was a child. My friend Cliff is one of Jack's sons.
Prompted by a great picture and explanation on the Sciblogs email list, when I found my own example of the same spider in front of the greenhouse this morning, I fetched the camera.
It is Leucauge dromedaria.
Stephan came in and told me I should take more care in disposing of the skins of my victims.
These are plastic examination gloves, as used for inseminating cows so my hand and arm don't get seriously stinky. They are supposed to be disposable gloves, but since I can't find the new box of gloves I know I bought, I have been washing and recycling these. They last pretty well, and as I'm in favour of recycling and don't do a huge number of inseminations, I think I'll make this my new practice anyway.
The morning was cloudy, so I'd put 106 and his mob into 5a, where the old truck canopy provides only enough shade for half a dozen animals. When the clouds started to clear and several cattle had gathered under the shade, I thought I'd better move them to somewhere they could all remain cool.
In the middle of Flat 5 there are gates between paddocks A and B, B and C, C and D, but not directly from A to D. A bit of care is required in setting up the tape gates around the end of the fence between A and D and then making sure nobody pushes anyone else through the wrong way.
None of our recent visitors have entered the pond in a genteel fashion.
Nearly all the Christmas crowd were back again today, with a few extras as well.
Some went off with Stephan to haul some firewood in from where it was cut last year, while others cut up a trailer-load of the wood already in the shed, for an elderly member of the family.
This is the time to do such work: hauling in firewood while the ground conditions are good, not leaving it until two weeks before the cold weather starts, when the tracks and ground are already wet and muddy!
Elizabeth and Sarah spotted this beautiful Sheet-web spider in the middle of the gazebo by the pond. She's the same sort of spider as the one which lived in our bathroom for several months.
Two days later I looked for her again and found her shrivelled-up dead body. I'm beginning to wonder if photography kills them!
Stephan has been modifying the top of the log on the edge of the pond and yesterday attached a board to provide a slightly larger platform for people to stand on and jump or dive from.
When everyone got out of the water in preparation for dinner, Storm got in.
She'd been wandering around quite happily amongst people's feet for much of the afternoon, watching the water fun and must have decided it was an alright place to swim. I haven't seen her in the big pond before, except for one occasion when I threw her in and she flapped out in a panic.
The little kids went with Stephan to feed the hens and to see the new chicks.
Stephan had shown the boys the stoat trap, so he pulled his frozen example stoat out of the freezer to show them what he catches in the traps.
While we went to bring Zella in for the evening, most of the party went picking blackberries along the Flat 1 fenceline.
Then they all came back so the small children could watch the calf having his dinner.
The rabbits around the farm are increasing in number again, after being almost wiped out a couple of years ago.
Stephan keeps driving around with a big grin on his face.
Such a brightly coloured machine is visible from any distance around the farm. It's probably visible from space!
The Putangitangi family are still moving around the farm, this photo taken across at the edge of Flat 4, where we used to live in the Bush House.
This was the last occasion on which I saw both ducklings.
In the afternoon, about six hours after the photo above, I was in the Windmill Paddock when these two ducks flew down, making quite a lot of noise. I thought they must be one of the usually-resident pairs returning from the moult, although it would be rather early still for that to be the case.
But they're not, they are the parents of the two chicks. I don't know where the chicks were at this point.
The female (white head) appears to have no long flight feathers at present, which may indicate that they are moulting while here, having missed the opportunity to go off to their usual communal moulting meeting, wherever that is.
I sent Zella, Dexie 101 and the three calves out to the lush grass in the Swamp paddock this morning, since there's not much at the front of the farm. It's quite a long walk back in from the far paddocks at the end of the day.
Bull 106 and his cows are now in the Mushroom 1 Paddock. Joe 90 was two paddocks away and walking the fenceline bellowing at his young relative. 106 was therefore trying to keep his cows and heifers away from the other bull (fences are not something they understand in this context). Young bulls in particular seem prone to this sort of herding behaviour, sometimes causing some real problems for the cows. I once observed a bull keeping his little mob corralled on a slope where they had nothing to eat for several hours.
The bull walks and runs up and down the line of cows, threatening them with the movement of his head, or running at them when they don't immediately respond to his more subtle threat. I find it interesting that even the senior cows take a young bull quite seriously. You'd think they might tell him to stop being so silly and leave them alone.
The last of "Aunty Ruth's DIY Farm" biscuits. I was supposed to decorate them with the supplied writing icing, but I rather liked the biscuits as they were and thought I'd save the icing for someone else to use later.
The farmer is apparently wearing a motorbike helmet.
Suzi, who won the Eva's Calving Date Competition last year, arrived today to spend a night with us as her prize.
We went out walking to the Bush Flat Reserve, since it's the most varied area of native bush on the farm. On our way we had a look at the patches of sun orchids, which have now mostly finished seeding.
As I was winding up the electric tape around the orchid plants in the Bush Flat paddock, Suzi spotted this Orb-web spider on one of the electric tape standards. Its body was about 1cm across.
Nikau in flower. Nikau palms are beautiful at all stages of their lives, from the time they are waist-high until one can hardly see them because they grow so very tall.
On most occasions when we take someone out walking in our bush areas, I find something I haven't seen before. This was a surprising discovery: a Miro growing closely with the Kahikatea and looking almost exactly the same because the bark markings are, to my eye, identical. The trunk in the centre, with the little sprig of leaves sprouting, is the Miro and the others are Kahikatea.
I will have to return with binoculars to examine the canopy more closely, on a day when either the ground is dry so I can lie down, or I do not have a sore neck already from looking up.
Through a gap in the trees as we were heading out to bring Zella and friends in from their day's grazing, I noticed the red flowers of this late-flowering Rata at the top of the big Puriri in the Frog Paddock. I think I last saw this one flower in 2008. That was a very good Rata season.
606 with evidence that she has recently ovulated. Cows often produce some post-oestrus blood, which can be a useful confirmation that ovulation has occurred. In this case I'm not entirely happy about it, since I inseminated her three weeks ago and that obviously didn't work.
Suzi and I walked back through the Windmill Paddock where we spotted the Putangitangi family. I could only see one duckling, although Suzi thought she saw two.
Something very bad has happened to the male duck. Between the two stems of those white Parsley Dropwort flowers is a flesh-coloured spot which is the end of the duck's leg bone, where his right foot and the lower leg bone have been torn away from the rest. It was hard to see clearly what might have happened, but his foot was swinging in the breeze as he flew to get away from us.
Another of my insemination failures. I'm beginning to wonder if the semen is alright, since I usually have a better conception rate than this? Bull 106 with heifer 107.
This morning I watched Joe 90 taking an obvious interest in white-faced 660, a heifer he mated three weeks ago. I'm not going to risk him for a second cycle, in case he has a fertility issue, which I'm beginning to suspect.
I went out and pulled bull 116 and a couple of cows out of the PW and brought them down the lane, got Joe 90 out of the paddock, even though he was quite keenly sticking with the hot cow and then gave him the two cows who'd come with the young bull. Once they were up the lane a little, with a rope across the lane to indicate a barrier, I let 116 in through the gate to join the mob Joe 90 had just left, where he promptly started following the hot cow.
It took a bit of thinking to figure out how to effect this swap without too much messing around. If one works with the natural inclinations of the cattle - how they move, their natural curiosity - things usually go quite smoothly. Doing it any other way always leads to frustration.
Joe 90 and his two cows and calves then went to the PW, where I popped them in through the gate at the bottom of the hill and he started clambering up and down the slope, checking his new cows. These are the cull cows, so whether they're pregnant or not doesn't matter too much.
This is sometimes all the indication I see of a mating. The bull will usually spend many hours paying particular attention to an on-heat cow, some of which will be spent quietly grazing near her, until the time is right for mating.
A couple of days later this cow had a lot of bloody mucous around her rear, signifying that ovulation had occurred. Another one I didn't get in calf by AI.
Meg 699 and Gem 698, the mirror identical twins. I know that to most people one black cow looks like any other, but in the case of these two, it's true.
They're still nervous around me, but a couple of days ago Meg 699 was standing amongst some others and I managed to scratch her tail without her getting too much of a fright. She obviously loved the feeling so much she nearly fell over! When I scratch down the back of the top of the tail, a small patch they can't reach easily with their tongues and where ticks consequently gather, they respond with all sorts of funny-looking tongue movements, as if they are licking where I'm scratching. 699's bodily movements were so violent that I kept losing contact with her tail. I haven't been able to get near her again, but that was a good sign that I may be able to tame them yet.
There is definitely only one duckling. The male is sitting around looking miserable. I'm contemplating what to do if I can catch him, because he's being harassed by a swarm of flies wherever he sits, attracted by his rotting detached foot. If he gets so sick that I can catch him, I'll look at cutting what is left of the skin holding the foot on and give him a shot of antibiotic to hopefully help him survive.
As I walked along the fenceline, I heard a Pukeko adult on the other side of the stream and then the answering squawk of a chick. I spoke to the adult bird, as I do, and the chick started moving toward me! In earlier times I might have seen this as a definite sign that I had been chosen by this chick as its preferred foster parent. I took it's picture, stopped talking to it and went on my way.
It is a very new chick, with the fully white bill and the "egg tooth" still on the end. That sharp little point is how the chick makes a hole in the inside of the egg when it is time to hatch. It falls off a couple of days after hatching.