The week beginning the 13th of April 2013.
Saturday the 13th

The naming voting results are as follows: Victoria was the outright winner, being voted most often and as the highest choice of most people who chose it, most often.  The other favourites were Niahm, Nella, Gypsy-Rose, Nova, Nyssa, Regina, Naveen, Nalah, Ngaere, Ngaire and Rosie.  I quite like Victoria and I think it suits her too.

The only downside is a personal one: whenever I checked cows in senior Irene's time I'd end up singing "Come on Irene" (Eileen in the Dexy's Midnight Runners' song of 1982, a tune firmly woven in my memory, it having come out when I was 16).  Now I shall be stuck with singing "Victoria, what do you want from (me)?" à la the Dance Exponents, also 1982.  I'm pretty sure I danced my high-heeled feet off to that one at the Lady Hamilton Nightclub when there for a Telecom block course in 1985 and the Exponents played live.  (That memory is indistinct, so may not be entirely accurate.  It was an alcohol-bathed period.)

cows and calves

We weighed the house-cow mob calves this morning before they went off out to their day paddock.  Interestingly, despite being offered more consistent and slightly better feed than the rest of the herd, these calves haven't grown much faster.  I'm pleased that 684 has stayed in the middle of the calves in terms of his weight gains, despite having no mother, although I thought that with the unchanging amount of milk he gets each day, he might even have done better than the others.  The average growth-rate for the steers over the last nine or ten weeks has been only 858g/day; in most years they gain over 1100g/day throughout their first six months.

weaning Angus cows and calves

The just-weaned calves did get noisier in the hours before dawn.  From our perspective this (the gateway to the Mushroom 1 Paddock) is a great area for weaning, being far enough away from the house that they don't keep us awake.  I'm happy that they can come to little harm here.

I like having the cows and calves sharing a trough, because then they're bound to remember to drink, despite the upset of separation.

new fencing

Stephan is making good progress with the swamp fence.  The posts are in as far as the second culvert now.

Sunday the 14th
planning for a culvert

Rain is forecast for late tonight, in quantities which will probably put a stop to the fencing, so I went out and helped for a while today.  I did some scrub tidying work where Stephan had cut and later in the day, when some of the bushy stuff was out of the way, we had to decide on the route for the rest of the fence.  We thought we had it sorted the other day, but further clearing and thought caused us to change our plan.

The little clay track behind Stephan in the photo, is a natural bridge over a deep water course and because that's the best place to put the fence through, we'll put a culvert in there, as demonstrated by the planning department in the photo.

cleared area

The cows won't know where they are when they come here next time; I hardly do now.

I looked at the cut bases of several trees of about five inches in diameter with 16 or 17 growth rings and wondered how this area looked when I arrived on the farm and those trees were only tiny seedlings.  Everything must have been much clearer than it is now.  But that's the story of the whole farm, because scrub-regrowth management is a constant task and if it is left, as it was for several years when Stephan had to work full-time off the property, the grass disappears under the trees.


I went for a wander up the hill while Stephan did some more cutting, in preparation for pulling out a guide-wire for the fence, for which he required my help.  It's hard to tell where the water sources are further up the hill, but where this moss is would appear to be a fairly wet place.  Those "fingers" are all completely sodden, holding water in every one.  Bearing in mind that we're still in the midst of drought, that's quite remarkable, so the water must be coming from the ground.

Puriri Tree

It's hard to convey the majesty of the Puriri trees in photos.  I hoped this picture might capture a sense of the size as I looked up through the big branches to the epiphytes and foliage in the top of this tree.  The vine snaking upwards is Northern Rata and there are Perching Lilies visible as well.

This is one of the trees we'll have to protect in its own island reserve.  We've decided that the priority at the moment is to get the fence finished around the swamp and then we'll deal with the rest of the hillside where the reserve areas need to be.

I wandered back down the hill and when Stephan was ready, we pulled a wire out around the proposed fence-line.  It was jolly hard work!

tractor driving up hill

That done, he took the tractor out, up the hill, around the bottom and in from the other side of the swamp and through the tape gate in the other side's fence, which was the easiest way to get to the cutting into which the third culvert needs to go.

At the bottom of the hill in this picture is the first culvert.

creating a culvert

While Stephan dug by hand (the cutting was too deep to use the tractor), I trundled back down the hill and up again with the other sections of the concrete culvert pipe.  These concrete pipes used to form the culvert at the bottom of the paddock, which has been replaced with a long plastic pipe instead.  The concrete sections will do a good job in this situation.

Monday the 15th
cat stealing milk

I tipped 6mm of rain out of the gauge this morning, just before it started raining again.

Foxton has taken to licking out the calf's feeder when it comes in to the house - I was thinking perhaps I should pretend this is not our kitchen floor.  One day we'll put lino down, but it's still just concrete with its own special sealant of fifteen years of dropped stuff - and a potato!  I didn't even notice the potato until Stephan pointed it out.  As I've written and said before, this house really needs a wife.

Despite the slovenly appearance of our facilities, nobody ever suffers food-related illness from this kitchen.  We don't eat off the floor.

a bucket of slaughtered chickens

There is now only one rooster living here.  Stephan dealt to all the youngsters today and when he'd plucked and cleaned them, brought them to the kitchen for final processing, so we can eat the best bits and the rest will go into his salted bait bucket for trapping.

Their sisters have grown into pretty, reasonable-sized birds, so we'll probably keep them as replacements for some of the older hens.

There were showers and rain on and off all day, but it cleared enough in the afternoon that I walked up the hill Over the Road to check on the cows and calves.  It's quite nice walking up a big hill on a blustery but not cold day, even if it is a bit damp.

Tuesday the 16th
sorting recipes

58mm in the rain gauge this morning, so that would do us for a while, should there be no more.  But there is more to come in the present weather system.

Stephan spent the day cooking chicken casseroles, and some biscuits, while sorting out his recipe collection, which includes lots of old stuff from his mother, Muriel.

We had chicken and peaches casserole for dinner: splendid!

Wednesday the 17th
Bantam hen and chicks

Little hen is an excellent mother.  We've left her to range free with her two chicks, since they're presumably easier for her to keep track of than the last clutch of eight, which we caged.

Angus cow and calf

Athena 72 (Isla's daughter ) and her daughter 117 (who probably also needs a name I'll have to find), having one of their last feeds together.

weaned steer calves

The weaned male calves wouldn't voluntarily move further away from their mothers, so I took them via the lane from Mushroom 1 to 2, so I could wean the next lot of calves into Mushroom 1.

It's lovely having fresh green grass growing everywhere again, after the rain.

Angus cows, heifers and calves

I walked the remaining cow/calf/heifer mob to the yards, where it's easiest to draft them and brought this much-reduced group back to the Camp paddock, now comprising only 13 animals: five R2 heifers and four cows and their calves.

separated cows and calves

The other fourteen, about to be weaned, walked up to the end of the flats lanes where I opened either the 5d gate (open on the left) or the Mushroom 1 gate (closed with tape slung above it) for cows and calves respectively.  When they were drafted, I opened the gate for the cows again, so they could come out and have non-electric-fenced nose-to-nose contact with their daughters through the gate or across the water trough.

Young white-faced 660, being weaned for the first time, looked back at me as if she was sure I'd made a mistake and would come back to open the right gates again.

Drafting cows and calves in this situation is a piece of cake.  The cows know that if I open a gate for them, they should go through, so they walk forward more readily than the calves do, effectively drafting themselves.  Once the cows are out of the way, I simply open the other gate for the calves and the job is done.

Tonight we watched Parliament on television, as the House debated and then passed the Marriage Equality Bill into law.  Aotearoa is the thirteenth country to remove gender discrimination from its marriage laws.  We opened the last bottle of wine in the house and toasted the occasion.

I found my own feelings about the passage of the legislation interesting; I felt surprisingly personally involved in the outcome.  When Stephan and I got together I said I couldn't possibly marry him because most of my friends were excluded from marrying their partners of choice.  That that was about to change caused me to question my position again.

But I find my views on marriage as an institution have not changed, even though it is now available to all.  I still feel very uncomfortable with its archaic baggage.  I realise most people don't think of it that way and I don't have any direct family experience upon which to base my dislike, my parents having been in what appeared to be a marriage of absolute equality.  But for me there is too much in the history of marriage being used to stamp ownership on a wife and her property, in its being used to curtail the freedom and activities of women.  While the history is long past in some sectors of society, it is all too present in the attitudes and practices of others.  I could not personally become a "wife" without feeling the weight of some of those assumptions.  I cannot use "wife" in the place of "partner" and have it mean the same thing.

However, I am pleased that for those who wish to be part of a widely accepted social institution, the opportunity is now open.  What I'd really like to see is that the Civil Union legislation which was passed a few years ago, is altered so that marriage and civil unions have the same status under the law.  I could Civilly Unite without discomfort, were there a need.

In this country there's no particular pressure on couples to formalise their unions, although that may differ in some circles.  Stephan and I are treated no differently in any part of our lives because we have chosen not to be married.  We have a long-standing legal agreement which we drew up back when the only other option was marriage.  If we were inclined to make a public statement now, it would be with a Civil Union.  The only particular reason for doing so would be the onset of serious illness, when either of us being able to clearly state unchallengeable next-of-kin status might be useful.  And maybe presents.

Thursday the 18th
hen and chicks from two hatchings

Weaned chickens: the little hen's grown-up daughters responded to the hen's clucking calls to come to a feed, calls no longer meant for them.  The hen promptly flew at them, chasing them away from her new babies and their breakfast.

dying weeds

Up the hill Over the Road, some of the sedge and rushes are yellowing, but it's hard to detect much change in the pampas.  I think it looks less healthy; I hope it's dying.

Angus cows and heifers

I'd checked the rest of the mob and discovered Demelza with her own family group further down the main hill face.  They are Surprise 115 (Demelza's daughter of 2011), Emma 93 (daughter of 2009), Eva 81 (daughter of 2008), Dinky 94 (her sister, born in 2009) and Demelza herself.

Friday the 19th
Angus heifer calf

I looked all around the Mushroom 1 paddock for the seventh heifer, before I discovered some footprints in the drain where there's still too much of a gap under the Bush Block's fence.  Although she should not have been here, I was very glad to discover this lovely heifer safe and sound and she walked very quietly back along the fenceline and under the fence where she'd escaped the paddock.  I brought some fence battens across from the big pile to attempt to block the hole, but a more permanent solution is necessary.

Pukeko on top

Not quite a Pukeko in a Punga Tree.  Pukeko are so beautifully bright, with their brilliant red bills and blue breasts.  I have no idea what this bird was doing on top of our Gazebo; probably just being nosey.  It's a little late in the season to be nesting.

Angus cows and calves

The weaned cows had run out of grass and with the hole under the Mushroom 1 paddock's fence not fixed, I didn't want to risk leaving the little heifers there as their mothers moved away from them.  I brought the calves around to Flat 3, where they'd still be quite near their mothers in 5b.

Over the Road the cows and calves were scattered across the main face.  I like being able to see them there.

I did something astonishing today: met a magazine column deadline!  I'm getting better about not procrastinating ... It's obviously a life's work.