The week beginning the 26th of January 2013.
Saturday the 26th
milking a cow

Muriwai was really keen to milk Zella.  She was up before we were and came into the house saying she'd removed a huge tick from Zella's ear!  It's lovely to see a child so willing to interact with the animals and extremely gratifying to have such calm animals that it's safe and possible for that to happen.  I would not normally be very comfortable about any of the children being alone amongst the cows, but Muriwai appears to have a natural instinct for how they move, so is likely to be reasonably safe.  Perhaps they like her boots.

cow and calf in a stream

I keep posting these pictures of animals standing in the waterways.  But don't be fooled by their relative frequency: I photograph them nearly every time I see them standing in water, because I'm fascinated by why they choose to do so.

The time during which this can continue to occur is coming to an end - although the speed of the approach of that end depends upon various resource issues, like money for fencing materials, time, weather and ground conditions.

We are not yet legally obliged to prevent this, although we try to minimise such behaviour by not making the cows go so hungry they start wandering the stream beds grazing the banks.  There are water-troughs in most of the paddocks, including this one, but sometimes the cattle like to stand in the water.

tractor working on a track

Stephan, driving slowly down the Big Back Paddock track, smoothing out the lumps and bumps so I can ride up it on my bike.

Angus cow

I presume 528 had an itchy nose and that pressing it hard against a tree relieved the symptom.  I see the cows doing this from time to time in the summer, when they presumably suffer from allergic reactions to some of the things in the grasses.

Sunday the 27th
Angus cattle

Emergency 111 appears to be on heat.  I did what I believed to be a very good insemination three weeks ago, but obviously it didn't work.

Bull 116 is only 13 months old, so he still looks quite physically immature, although in the one area he needs to have advanced development he is very adequately grown!  He's a son of Schurrtop Reality, the sire of Joe 90 and bulls 87 and 89 and they all appeared to mature quite early in sexual development, although this bull is physically smaller than I remember the others being.  Calves born late in the season always seem slow to catch up with the others.

stick insects

I spent an hour cutting Ragwort flowers along the bottom of the Small Hill Paddock and at one point realised I had company.  Stick Insects are alarming things to have crawling on one's neck and I've become a little more measured in my reactions to the feeling of something else's feet on my skin, because I don't want to squash or damage whatever might be on me since it's probably not out to harm me in any way.

This very large female had a very much smaller male attached and hanging onto her back.  She would have measured nearly 15cm (six inches).

stick insect

Because he was so much smaller than she, he didn't have to look at her face while in the act.  But then beauty, in the eye of a male stick insect, is probably exactly this.

Monday the 28th
bracket fungus

I am pretty sure that somewhere in this website there's an earlier picture of this Bracket Fungus in the Middle Back Paddock.  It was some years ago when the fungus was much smaller.  If you can find it, I'll send you a nice magazine as a prize!

No, it is not this one in the Bush Flat Reserve.

scrub cutting

Stephan is clearing along the edge of the big Swamp in the Big Back Paddock and then up the side of one of the tributaries to it (which comes in from the neighbouring property where cattle regularly tromp around in a very boggy area in a small paddock).

scrub cutting

Deciding where to run a fenceline is always a tricky process when the ground is steep.  We need to allow enough margin for there not to be significant run-off of loose soil and cattle excrement, as well as leaving tracks for the cattle to negotiate their way safely along the top side of the fenceline.  Because the swamp acts as a nutrient filter, presumably we can be a little tighter with the riparian margin than we might be next to a stream.  The issue for us is always in balancing how much grazing land we lose, with the conservation aims.

A naughty last fling this evening, outside the bounds of the Tractor Austerity Drive: I have a google alert set up for news about Kaitaia and a few days ago one arrived with an announcement of a tour by an entertaining group of young men who were a very popular hit on the "New Zealand's Got Talent" television show - although there was some question about them being there, since they'd already been involved some professional commercial music production, which I'd seen a couple of years ago.  They call themselves JGeeks, obviously have a great deal of fun making music and dance videos, appear to have some talent and I'd found them very entertaining as a result.  I thought they would put on a pretty good live show.

But that was not the case.  I am quite sure a number of youngsters who attended the show and were sitting down the main aisle where the performers regularly pranced within touching distance probably had a memorable night, but for those further from the action, there was little in the way of real entertainment to be had.  It appeared we'd all paid $15 (or $20 at the door) to entertain JGeeks, who wanted to find out how much shouting and applause they could elicit primarily by asking for it, rather than showing us what they could do so we would spontaneously show them our appreciation.  I feel very strongly that the mostly young audience in Kaitaia was seriously short-changed!

I'm not a frequent concert-goer, but when I go out to see an advertised performance by someone with some talent, it is they I wish to see do their thing, not the audience.

One of the most entertaining moments of the whole evening came about before the show even started, because of the poor planning by the producers who had not provided sufficient seating for the audience.  At one point during the resulting half-hour delay, the seated audience was asked to shuffle forward, to make room for more chairs at the back.  We stood and watched a sea of people as they noisily shuffled their chairs toward the stage, creating quite an intimate feel to the event.

It seems that this is the end result of celebrity being something valued in itself, rather than a side-effect of talent and hard work.  These boys offered very little of value to their enthusiastic audience and the bursts of enthusiasm they elicited from the crowd were more a product of a good-natured gathering of the people than a response to anything they gave us on the night.  They'll hold some of their fan-base regardless, being such physically attractive young men, but I wouldn't be surprised if many don't bother watching much more of what they do.

Tuesday the 29th
milking a cow

Zella's production is remaining around eight litres each morning, some days a little more.  Stephan's convinced she's holding some back for her calf, so some mornings he tries the old trick he tried with Imagen: let the calf in at the end of milking, then see if Zella lets more milk down.  There really isn't much though.  I want four litres in the morning for the orphan calf and at least another 2.5 for his evening feed.  That's not leaving very much for us.  Sometimes I steal from the calf milk for my afternoon banana smoothie.

(The white circle isn't there to hide anything, it's the lid of the milking bucket which was a bit too bright for the rest of the picture.)

Angus heifers

Today was very hot and sunny and I was surprised to see many of the cows sitting or grazing in the full sunshine.  The breeze was constant, and maybe that makes it quite comfortable for them out in the heat.  I suppose that as a teen I'd have found sun-bathing in conditions like that quite delightful.

But out the back of the farm, my own "teens" were behaving much more sensibly, all lying in the shade of the trees keeping cool.

Wednesday the 30th
Angus heifers

Here we are right at the very end of the six-week mating period and Dexie 101 has finally come on heat!  She's a two-year-old and was in quite light condition when she calved, which is why I selected her to keep Zella company - Zella has to be constantly well-fed to ensure her milk production is as good as possible and so Dexie gets a better diet than she might out with one of the larger mobs.

I wanted to know whether she was still in "standing heat" this afternoon, and Zella, being pregnant already (I'm pretty sure) wasn't interested in her, so I brought the two young heifers from the Insemination mob down to the paddock.  They both immediately checked Dexie and demonstrated that she was indeed still standing.

The scrappy individual in the foreground is Squiggles' daughter 112 and the other is Demelza's 115.

Ragwort in flower

Despite the heat of the afternoon, I went across the river and around the completely overgrown Road Flat Paddock, looking for Ragwort, then over the road and up through the scrub to the top of the hill.  I have taken a few photos of this fenceline on the skyline, trying to determine the identity of a blob of light colour, which I eventually decided was yellow and needed attention.  Here it is, happily flowering on a windy ridge, all ready to set seed and let it float freely over the surrounding area.

seeded ragwort plants

It took me several minutes to notice, just in front of the flowering plant above, this evidence of a horribly un-neighbourly act: somebody, presumably some youngster who couldn't be bothered doing their job properly, has been sent up to the back of the neighbouring farm to pull ragwort plants.  They were either stupid, or not properly trained in doing the task properly.  You don't throw flowering Ragwort over the boundary fence into someone else's property, ever!  Plants with flowers instantly set lots of viable seed and in this case there was no doubt of the origin of the plants, their having dried-out roots attached (meaning they hadn't just fallen over on their own, they'd been pulled out).  I'd actually just been over the other side of the fence to cut the flowers from a plant on the other farm (at great risk, I thought, of electric shock, since I'd forgotten the boundary fence power wasn't turned on).

This sort of thing does neither property any good at all, because this time next year in this spot will grow a multitude of plants and if we weren't determined Ragwort controllers, those plants would then prolifically seed and spread the problem far further, including, when the wind conditions were right, back onto the property from which the parent plants came.  I began trying to collect as much of the seed as I could, but then noticed a lot of them blowing down our hill, so stopped.  It'll be better to kill them next year in one spot than to have to find them all over the place.

At home I politely phoned the neighbour concerned to alert them to the number of nearly-seeding plants further along their top paddock and to ask that they ensure their young workers are aware of the correct way of dealing with this weed.

We are all obliged to control Ragwort within 50 metres of our boundaries, but most people ignore that requirement and there is no enforcement by the Northland Regional Council whose rule it is.  Sometimes we just sneak over the fences and clear other people's Ragwort when we see it, because it'll save us more work in subsequent years.

Paradise Duck family

Down the other side of the hill I spotted a family of Putangitangi on the little (rather reduced and muddy) dam there.  This must be their second clutch of chicks for the season, like the unfortunate family on our place.

Thursday the 31st

I had the most awful headache all night and felt sick for most of today.  Eventually I got fed up with it all and went out to hunt for Ragwort in the Big Back Paddock.  I had to lie down for a couple of hours when I got home.

Feeling so ill, I didn't draft the bulls out of their mobs today, but as nobody's likely to come on heat anyway, I figured that job can wait for a day or two.

Friday the 1st of February
Pukeko nest

The first day I checked the cows in the Big Back, I noticed several of them looking at something intently in the Swampy area at the bottom of the paddock.  The following day I saw the Pukeko which must have attracted their attention and on a later occasion discovered the nest that bird was trying not to have me find.  It was in a lovely thick clump of Kikuyu out in the dry part of the paddock.  Two of the eggs had been partially crushed (perhaps by a nosey bovine?) and eventually disappeared.  Now there's very little cover left to camouflage the nest, but I was interested to see that the birds are still around and today the eggs were warm.

Spot the spots?

Angus cattle

I inseminated Squiggles on a day I wasn't completely sure she'd been on heat, but enough signs said she was.  But then she showed more signs a few days later.  Goodness knows which was the real heat, but she was definitely on this morning.  I decided that I wasn't willing to use a valuable semen straw on her again, since she has a slightly deformed cervix and is consequently really hard to inseminate and I may yet decide not to keep her anyway, since she's doing so poorly.

When Joe 90 was looking the other way, I let bull 106 out of 5a and into 5c and he immediately did what was required.

Angus bull

Joe 90 was not a happy chappy, seeing his paddock mate off with the cows!  He paced up and down the fence, looking very much like he could easily go up and over the fence or gate, but fortunately he understands electric fences and didn't try anything.

Squiggles' last heifer, 112, is a daughter of Joe 90 and that mix obviously isn't a good one, so even if this bull were still up to the job, I wouldn't have used him with Squiggles.

Angus cattle

At the end of each day, the cows come home.