The week beginning the 1st of June 2013.
Saturday the 1st
dying pampas

I'm not entirely convinced these pampas plants have had enough herbicide.  Maybe they're just dying very, very slowly.  I hope so.

Angus yearling heifer

Emergency 111, Eva's daughter, looking quite nicely covered (with enough fat).  It's funny to think that she'll be a mum in less than five months; she seems so little still.


These two bulls - they're at either edge of the photo - are where they should not be!  Somehow they've got out of the Camp paddock on the other side of the stream and are now in the riparian reserve.  I'm not sure how long they've been there, having been making sure I see them in the paddock every couple of days.

I called Stephan on the radio and asked him to bring the fence-strainer tool to loosen the two wires so we could prop them up and let the bulls out into the Windmill Paddock.  Then I called them across and put them into 5d, so all the bulls would be near each other again.

Sunday the 2nd
Angus cow

628, the initially fabulous daughter of 572.  I had great expectations of this cow, but both of her calves have been disappointing.  On my two-strikes rule here, that means she's out.  She may have developed, eventually, into a good cow and initially I intended to retain her this year, but I become more resolute as we get closer to winter and have decided she can go off to the works.

For some time I've felt as though I've lost some of the joy in what I do, probably since Isla died.  Having loved and lost, I have distanced myself from my animals.  Decisions about who stays and who goes have consequently been a little easier for me, but I don't know that that's a good thing.  I must enjoy these creatures, otherwise what is the point?  Maybe I can find a way back to that enjoyment by telling myself the stories of my cows so that I remember who they are, why I kept them and why they're important to me.

I know the number of people who like actual cow stories is probably pretty small, but that's alright: these stories are mostly for me, and they're for you if you like them.

Angus cow

548 was born in 2006 (and I note she's the only remaining animal from that year).  Her mother, 360, was a lovely cow quite like her daughter.  She was always a bit too thin, thanks to her sire's influence, and nearly always covered in the muck she threw onto her sides with her tail.  She was slightly inclined to kick if you startled her and her grand-daughters have the same tendency when they're young.

There's another picture of 360 as a R3 heifer here, in the middle of the bottom row.  (Of that array of twelve animals, four have relatives still in the herd.)

I thought of culling 548 from the herd when I was looking for candidates to go, but actually have no good reason to do so.  She has a fabulous calf each year, a great udder, calves without any issue, maintains her condition and has a fairly nice temperament.  When I first tamed her to my touch, we unusually started from the head end, because she regularly approached and sniffed me.  Most cattle don't like people approaching them front-on.  That habit makes her a little worrying to visitors, as she fearlessly walks up to us in the paddock, but she's a fairly reliable cow, without harmful intent.

I unwisely sold her first daughter, so this year I'm keeping her second one, 728.  548 is in calf this year to bull 96, Damara 74's son.  He's a bulky individual, so it'll be interesting to see what that combination produces.

Angus heifers

These two looked so cosy, I couldn't resist taking a picture.  728 is daughter of 548 (pictured above) and 726 is the daughter of 546, a cow I very much like in personality, but who will go off on the works truck this year.

Angus heifers

They were sitting beneath the clay bank at the base of the Over the Road paddock, near the trough.  The cattle often gather in places like this quite contentedly, sitting or standing around, chewing their cud.

new fencing

Stephan took advantage of the dry weather and ongoing firm ground conditions, to continue fencing in the Bush Flat Paddock.  This fence which runs from the new culvert entrance to the paddock, around the drainage sump and along the side of the stream, is now completed.

clearing before fencing

If you kept walking along the line of the fence as is visible in the photo above, hopped through it and jumped across the stream, this is where you'd end up.

This is one of those poky little areas of grass we need to keep, even though it means some fiddly fencing.  The soil is responding well to fertilizer and lime applications and it's a nice, sheltered, north-facing little pocket for the animals.

We will have to lose a bit over the other side of the stream (to the left), because it really would take more fencing than the grass area justifies.

Tree Fuchsia

The first Tree Fuchsia I ever found on the farm has gone through a difficult period, looking as though it was dying during the drought.  I wasn't entirely convinced it was the lack of water which ailed it, it having survived quite happily through the 2010 drought, which was longer and drier here.

It lost all its leaves and the ends of the branches were dead.  But here it is, with healthy new foliage again.  Maybe some year it will flower!

Monday the 3rd
Angus cattle

The second and last group of works cows for this year.

I trickily drafted bull 113 away from big 87 and left him waiting where he would naturally come to the gateway as the cows came past.  I drafted the cows out of the larger cow mob and brought them down the lane, put them all together and took them down to the yards.  We had to put NAIT tags in the cows' ears.    You may just see a white tag in the bull's right ear (he's on the left at the rear), which he's worn since he was a little calf.

At the moment the cows are still legally without their NAIT tags, until they need to leave the farm.  By 1 July 2015, all cattle will be required to be tagged, so those cows which haven't already gone in the next two years' cull groups, will have to have them carefully inserted for permanent wear.

Our 2010-born animals have tags, because we started using them for the calves as soon as the NAIT scheme was initiated, although its start date was then delayed so many of those calves would have grown up and gone to the works before they needed the tags.

As my herd improves, cows get culled for less serious reasons every year, because there's pressure on numbers from the younger end of the spectrum and this year, because of my recalculated feed budget, fewer places in the winter herd.

These animals are:

R2 heifers

I sat at the top of the hill Over the Road for a while this evening, enjoying the peace and the view.  Beside me, these two heifers stood licking each other's faces in an affectionate sort of way.  They are Endberly 700 and 701.

Tuesday the 4th

The works cattle went off on a truck at eight o'clock this morning.  I let Stephan do the loading again; it's easier that way.  Burly, sexist truckies listen to him when he tells them to put their electric prodders away, whereas if I give the same order, I'm often ignored, to the detriment of my cattle.

Angus bull

Bull 87 was looking a bit lonely, now in a paddock all alone, so I moved him to be immediately next to the other two bulls and closer to the cows which were grazing their way down the Windmill Paddock, across the lane.

He still seems to be a fairly quiet bull to handle.  He has seen little of us over the last year, having spent most of the time keeping Jane's grass down and staying out of the way.

He's the last of my bulls sired by Schurrtop Reality X723 and his daughters are looking really nice - I've kept eleven daughters so far in the herd.  The other two X723 bulls, 89 and Joe 90 have six and twelve daughters, respectively.

making cheese

One of Stephan's cheeses required pressing under whey.  Fortunately he has a press which will fit the pot and mould he was using.

Wednesday the 5th

Looking down on the flats, the difference in colour indicating the cows' progress down the Windmill Paddock is just visible (on the right).

To the left the three animals are the two younger bulls in 5c and bull 87 on his own in 5a.

So far, we're having an exceptionally easy season, with grass growth continuing nicely.  The temperatures are cool, but there have been no nasty very cold shocks.  Our lowest overnight temperature so far has been around 4.5°C.


My first socks: finished!

Socks are fantastic fun to knit.  I'm getting faster and better at holding everything together while I do it, too.  The pattern I have (free from the knitting shop) has an error in the toe shaping instructions, so my first sock seemed doomed for a while as I knitted the toe about six times before I figured out how it ought to be done and then worked out how long the sock needed to be for my foot.  I made them short because I generally wear socks folded around my ankles anyway - and I can get more socks out of the wool if they're short.  They're nice to wear.

Thursday the 6th
Magpie in a trap

We borrowed this Magpie trap from the Regional Council last week and set it out on the flats.  The birds didn't go near it where it was in Flat 1, so I moved it across to Flat 2 the night before last.  Yesterday we watched with some amusement as a Magpie strutted around the trap, then with increasing surprise as it walked into the trap at one end, looked at its reflection in the mirror and walked out again!  It did the same at the other end and as far as I could see through my binoculars, it was standing on the trip bar.

Last night in the dark, we went across and I set the trap much more finely.  This morning, when I looked out the window, we'd already caught this bird.

Three others came to investigate, but the caught bird was not happy and the others soon left, so I went and brought it back to the house for Stephan to deal with - big claws and beak: I wasn't going to put my hand in there!

Stephan was out helping move a Piano.  There are a few of the original valley residents still here, although their number was reduced by one more today, with the departure of the Watts family from a kilometre down the road.  They sold most of the dairy farm years ago, none of their children having an interest in taking over, but had retained a few acres and their house.  After two or three years of advertising, they have sold their house and moved to town.


Stephan's sister, Rachel, and husband Murray are up on holiday from Christchurch and came out today for lunch and a walk.  When they arrived I was making butter.  Because I wasn't wearing my usual battered and smeared clothing, I had donned an apron - a pretty little thing with coloured edging - so I did a pretty little twirl for them when they arrived and repeated it for Stephan when he came home, so that he nearly fell over in shocked hilarity.

We ate the butter with lunch and Rachel and Murray took some away with them for the friends with whom they're staying, who apparently liked it very much.

I started serious butter-making again last week, when I could see that Stephan wasn't going to get around to using the cream as well as all the milk!  There are only so many hours in a day, after all.  I use the kitchen whizz machine to beat the cream, add a little cold water when the butter separates, pour out the butter-milk and then continue to add cooled water, mix again, then pour that off, until it comes clear.  Then I work the butter with wooden butter pats until I can see no more water in it.  The butter is delicious and lasts well in the fridge or freezer.  I'm getting about 450mls of cream each day, so it's a daily task at present.

We all went out for a walk afterwards to have a look at the swamp reserve fencing.  Rachel commented that their parents, Muriel and Patrick, would have been so pleased to see what we've continued to do here, it being exactly in line with their intentions when they and Stephan first bought the farm.


Stephan needed to put this cheese back to soak in its whey for a while, but the pot was a bit too big and the cheese was only half covered.  The solution was a bit of displacement of the whey: we filled several clean glass bottles with water and put them in the pot, thereby covering the cheese with the whey.

Friday the 7th
swimming hole

I put the cows into the Camp Paddock to do a bit of a clean-up after it had had only the two bulls in there for a while, but then realised I'd better check the fenceline along the stream and find out how the bulls got out.

The fence was all in order so I looked around the swimming hole area of the stream and found these marks in the clay bank.  I would not have thought they'd do such a thing, but it is apparent that the bulls have slid down the steep bank into the water to get across to the other side.  It would have been a fabulous thing to watch!  The deep channel of water isn't very wide and they'd have touched the bottom without going right under, but I'd never have thought they'd want to negotiate such a crossing, which is why it had not been fenced.

For the last couple of days, my computer monitor's adjustment menu has been appearing in the middle of my screen, getting in the way of the things I'm trying to do.  Its buttons have stopped working reliably as well.  I've had it for six years.

Fortunately for me the Tractor Austerity Budget, which prohibits personal purchases of things like wine and cheese and anything beyond absolute household necessity, does not apply to the farm working budget, which encompasses all my computer-based work.  After reading a number of reviews on monitor types for photographic work, in particular, I selected one and bought it this morning, on-line.

I like the ability to shop on-line, living far from the main centres.  If I went to town to seek advice from the local electronics stores (both of which are owned by the same people, with whom I choose not to do business in any case) it is unlikely I would be advised as well as by the range of on-line reviews I was able to find for myself.  In my experience, the young men (primarily) who work in such places tend to have gaming as their main interest and I suspect that what they would sell me would not necessarily suit my purposes.  Staff in small-town shops are also very keen to sell the model they have in stock, whether it really suits the buyer's intentions or not.

The only thing which counters this shift to buying from afar, is the provision of service by local business owners.  Retail service in New Zealand is generally very poor; but there are some businesses from which I will buy in preference to hunting out the cheapest option on-line, because I know they'll continue to offer support for whatever they sell, will ensure I buy what I need and will communicate well throughout our transactions.