The week beginning the 16th of March 2013.
Saturday the 16th
swamp swamp swamp

I went out to see how Stephan was getting on.

He was working in the middle of the picture - you may be able to detect the orange of the tractor in the trees.  (Hover your mouse over the correct area and a label will read "tractor".)

We're finding it really interesting getting to know this paddock.  It's quite hard to get to grips with something when you can't see most of it from anywhere else - and the satellite pictures we can get from Google Earth are only a little helpful because most of that face is covered, as you can see, by trees.  The GPS coordinates also don't quite line up.  I'm not sure why that error occurs, but everything's out by several metres, which matters when you're trying to decide where a fence should go.

This side of the tractor is a little "inlet" which has quite a slope on it, but is very wet (marked "wet tributary" if you hover your mouse in the right place).  I was surprised when I walked across it that there was so much water there - the origin appears to be a point only thirty metres back up the hill, where there's big hole.  Before doing this paddock familiarisation exercise, I'd never really noticed that that particular place was opposite the big fallen Puriri trunk in the swamp.  It fascinates me that we both walk around these areas time and again, but we've never quite got to grips with their relative geography.

scrub clearing

When I lived in Auckland, I was a student for the last couple of years before I moved up here.  When studying at home in the winters I wore a hat and scarf and several layers of clothing, because firewood was so expensive and often of such poor quality that I couldn't justify the expense.  (It wasn't that I didn't have money, but being of a frugal nature and not having an income, I refused to spend it frivolously when a hat would do the trick.)  Now I live near so much firewood, I may never need be cold again!


Compare this photo with this one and you may be able to see where Stephan has been clearing.  But the comparison more readily demonstrates how much work this sort of clearing and development takes before you see very much difference at all.

mature trees

We went for a walk together along the slopes and sat for a while in a big clearing under some very large trees.  There would be no point in trying to clear this area, because the trees are huge and the canopy very high.  There are several Puriri, which is the signature tree of the area and the ones most prone to damage.  We'll fence around this area which will exclude the cattle from the Puriri trees and an obvious (currently dry) water course down the hill.

There were a large number of Tui above us, singing, flying at great spead through the trees.  It's lovely to hear them in numbers together.

Together we went up to Brian's farm for our final caretaking visit this afternoon.  I've really enjoyed looking after it for him for the two weeks he and Gaye have been away.  It was fun being responsible for what felt like a real farm - home doesn't feel like a business farm because I love it and it's who I am now, rather than just what I do.  I was really interested to see how Brian does things, and to pick up ideas about how we might do things in different ways - and conversely, how we do things differently from Brian in ways that I like.

The official Drought declaration was extended to the whole North Island today.  This is the first time such a thing has happened.  For us it's still not much different from any dry summer.  The greatest concern is that other people won't have any grass, so the cattle market will be depressed when I need to sell the calves.  Hopefully before then there'll be rain.

Sunday the 17th

Each year on one Sunday, for most of the day (8 am - 5 pm), our power is turned off, so that the single feed line to the Kaitaia and Far North area can be serviced.  Today was that day and because the weather was gloriously wet, there wasn't much else we could be doing either.

We boiled water and filled thermos flasks before the power went off, but for a properly hot cup of tea at lunch time, Stephan found the Thermette he'd acquired from amongst Jill's belongings when we moved her last year and tried it out.

Most people apparently used to have one of these, although my own family did not.  Stephan says his parents had one and they'd stop during long car journeys and brew up on the side of the road, using small sticks for the fire, since it takes so little to heat the water in the jacket around the fire's flue.

There is a total fire ban in our area at present, but while the rain fell we assessed the risk of lighting a very small and contained fire as low.


There was enough rain to roll off a duck's back!  Fantastic.

We'd had 16mm to 9 am and by the time the rain finished, we'd received 43mm.  It's not a drought-breaking amount for most people, but will definitely get the Kikuyu moving again around here and that will tide us over for a while.

a clean world after the rain

With the big logging trucks going up and down the road every weekday, the roadsides had become coated in thick, grey dust; but now they're washed clean again.

Monday the 18th
feral pig footprint

The rain and softened soil brought the feral pigs out of the bush and onto the pasture again.  But from the evidence of some very shallow soil disturbance, I think they still found it too hard and dry for much rooting.

Angus cows

I don't know what their problem was (Stephan went and checked there was water in the trough) but the cows Over the Road were very noisy this afternoon.  We went out there together, planning to walk over and around the hillside, but Storm followed us and would potentially have ended up standing around on the road if one of us had not remained in the driveway.

hiding from a duck

Stephan walked home with her and then tried to get back to the road without her following him: it didn't work.

You think we pose these pictures?  Nope.  Stephan came running up the driveway and ducked (pardon the pun) behind the tree to hide.  He's very funny.

Tuesday the 19th
a cast ewe

It rained so her wool got too heavy?


She must have been down for a little while and all the other sheep had moved away to sit at the other end of the paddock.  She didn't know where they'd gone.

Kikuyu grass

Kikuyu colonising a bare area where Stephan added clay from the road corner to level the lawn.  Autumn is when Kikuyu really gets moving, puting out thick stolons, advancing into new areas or over the top of old growth.  The leaf grows really fast at this time of year too, as long as there's some rain.

Wednesday the 20th
Angus heifer calf

Queenly 23's daughter.  (Queenly has gloriously hairy ears too.)

Because I already have a Queenly daughter named after her mother (and grand, great-grand-mother, etc.) I think I need a new name for this lovely heifer.  If she's good, she'll become the head of a large family.  We already have a lot of cow names at the start of the alphabet, so something beginning with N or beyond would be good.  Any ideas?  Who does she look like?

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Thursday the 21st
preparing to fell a large tree near a house

Roger Gale, who felled our big Pine tree, came to do some work for Jane next door.  The tree was a Silky Oak, Grevillea robusta.

It was a beautiful tree, but Jane didn't want it there any more.  Stephan brought most of the trunk home and he and Roger will cut it into slabs later.

Angus cattle

My two cow-calf mobs are 41 and 44 in number.  It's a nice mob size.  In some years I've run them all together as one big mob, but I think this might be working slightly better while there's not very much grass around.

ewe and chickens

The little bantams' chicks have been ranging free around the garden and House Paddock.  These are most of the clutch of eight.  We don't think they'll grow much bigger, so we'll start eating the cockerels soon.

The ewe is Dotty.

post driver maintenance

The post thumper has been doing some hard work along the Big Back fenceline and things went wrong the other day, so Stephan brought it home for some maintenance.  He aquired a suitable pulley from Greg (who lends me the semen bank each year and has been a consistently helpful farming friend over the years) and took that to Kaitaia Engineering to have it fitted onto the bearings from the thumper.  With the addition of a couple of new belts, Stephan says it'll be as good as new - well, better than when he first did it up when he bought it second-hand.

Paradise Duck

I spotted a familiar-looking duck in Flat 5a as I went up the lane this afternoon; Storm is extending her range.

I suspect she has become better at flying with her slightly clipped wings.  This would otherwise be a fairly long way to walk just for fun, although she has followed me this far sometimes on foot.

Friday the 22nd
Angus cow and calf

571 and lovely daughter 719.

I have some very sound families in my herd, cows which will almost always produce daughters I'd like to keep.  Every year so far 571 has produced a stunning daughter.

571's mother, 456 was the one daughter I kept of Onix, the calf I gave to Issa.  I think 456's real name might be Pebbles, but Issa wasn't regularly involved in her life and so her name was rarely used.  Right from the start 456 has been a really good cow and her daughters continue to prove so as well.  I look forward to seeing, from this coming year, what the first of her grand-daughters will be like as mothers.

Angus bulls

As the cows came up from the crossing where 571 was still feeding her daughter, the bulls in the Windmill Paddock, Joe 90 and 106, came over to see what was going on.

Angus cattle

The cows were very relaxed, which was how I wanted them to be for a copper injection.  We all quietly wandered in to the yards.

I sustained a nasty nearly-injury when about to inject one of the cows.  During the TB test, two of the bulls went up the race together and one of the big posts in the side of the race made a horrible crack.  Things held together enough to carry on then; but today when a cow bumped into the side of the race as she tried to avoid her injection, the rails and the catwalk all lurched sideways!  The broken post nudged into my hip in a way which felt rather threatening to the pain-free integrity of my lower spine.  I had to slow things down and make sure nobody bounced around any more.

When I first started injecting copper, I bought the cheapest option.  As I understand it, that formulation stung when it went in, but was less risky in terms of toxicity in the cows as it was transported from the injection site to the liver over following hours.  The formulation I use now is supposed to be less uncomfortable as it is injected, but potentially slightly more risky in terms of its toxicity.  It's important to keep the animals in as stress-free a state as possible, so I generally send them to a reasonably close, flat paddock afterwards and have never seen any serious reactions in the herd.  There were a couple of animals in earlier years which lay down and looked a bit odd for a little while afterwards, but they didn't cause me great alarm.

The older cows still hate seeing me coming at them with a blue bladder of injectable liquid, presumably still anticipating the sting, but the younger ones are not nearly as reactive and as soon as I inject them, they're usually chewing their cud again and wander out of the race quite happily.

It's good to have one lot done.  They had three shots during last winter, so I didn't give them the usual pre-mating injection.  The time between the last injection and this one has consequently been quite extended.  Four lots of copper each year appears to be about the right amount (judging by the liver analyses I regularly have done on the cull cows), but I may need to get more organised about when they have it, so I spread it out over the year a bit more evenly.  There are still holes in my annual planning!