The week beginning the 3rd of May 2014.
Saturday the 3rd
Female Puriri Moth

In the bathroom this morning, I discovered this moth.  On the floor beneath her was a collection of little light-cream spheres.  This is the first female Puriri Moth I have ever seen.

Later in the day I found she'd laid more eggs, confirming the identity of those little spheres - I thought they might otherwise be something Jude had dropped on the floor when she was here, some sort of extraordinary make-up product.

Female Puriri Moth

I've often wondered, when surrounded by flapping, dive-bombing, crazy Puriri Moths out in the paddocks with my torch, why it is only the males which seem to come to lights.  The moths which hurl themselves at the house windows are also all male.  I theorised that perhaps the males are inclined to fly around a lot looking for females, but that the females only fly around the trees from which they hatch, so that their eggs drop where they need to be for survival.  If a female moth drops all her eggs out in the open pasture where I see so many of the males, they would not find what they need to develop beyond the early phase of their lives.

If I am correct, this moth may have hatched from the big tree under which we live and somehow blundered in through the bathroom window during the night.

I went out into the bush with a container and collected some leaf litter from under the big trees and into that put the eggs.  By the end of the day they'd gone black.  I added a little water to the container, to ensure it was damp enough, sealed the lid and left it in a cool corner.

Angus cattle

I quietly moved the bull calves and their mothers to new grazing, after leaving them near the yards for a couple of days.  They'll be the last group to wean, to allow them some recovery time from their castrations.

castrated bull calf

This is the smallest bull, Damara 74's son, who proved to have very unevenly sized testes; I'd only noted that his scrotum had a slight twist, but it would have been the unevenness which gave that impression.  Breeding with animals like this only leads to later problems, so best they come off.  He looks rather smaller than he really is, in this picture.

a cow's fertile mucous

Athena 72 was on heat again (this is part of a long string of fertile mucous which dropped from her as she tried to jump others in her group), with the little bulls all attempting to have their way with her.  It is likely that if any of them were already fertile, she'd have got back in calf by now.  It's not a completely reliable test, but it is reassuring - I wouldn't have liked the bulls to be already producing viable sperm, when they've only recently been separated from the heifer calves.

Angus bull calf

This is Athena's son and despite his lovely appearance, he has a band around his scrotum: I'm not prepared to risk breeding with him, since his full sister, 117, died of her horrible seizure.

Angus cows and calves

The weaned cattle so far: 16 calves in the foreground and their mothers beyond them.

tractor mowing

Stephan's getting out and doing a few things, mostly to prevent the onset of madness.  Today he mowed the little paddock by the cow-shed, since the grass has grown long and patchy with only two animals in there at any time.

Sunday the 4th
Female Puriri Moth

I put the Puriri Moth outside, thinking it would quietly expire, but today it was still flapping and trembling.

Its colouration is quite different from the male moth and it is a larger insect.

Angus bull calf

This is bull 128, son of Ida 75.  He's the one which recently tested as a carrier of the AM gene, but I have decided to keep him for use over a few of the cows, in case he's my one chance to breed a clear heifer from the family.

I'll castrate any sons and test any daughters and will have to allow space to retain carrier heifers here, or sell them only for beef finishing.  Thus I'll calculate how many non-breeding heifers I might be prepared to keep, multiply by four and mate that many cows.  (Half the progeny will be male, half female and half of them, on average, should be carriers, i.e. one quarter of the calves.)

Taking a break from writing, which I did for most of the day, I went to check on Victoria 118.  She still seemed happy enough, but she's no better, now seems to spend even more time grazing on her front knees and as we approach the winter months, the prospect of keeping her fed and appropriately sheltered doesn't thrill me, since she'd continue to need a paddock to herself (and her two friends).

I stroked and talked to her for a while and then went home and asked Stephan if he'd please go and shoot her.  I've known this was the probable end for Victoria for ages, but just as I'd reached that point many weeks ago, Stephan hurt his toe and as Victoria didn't seem to be in any urgent sort of need of a change in circumstances, simply continued to ensure she had her needs met.

We cut off two of her feet, one front and one rear (somehow it seems horribly brutal to do such a thing in these circumstances, even though the same thing is done during butchery of an animal one will eat) and took them home to the vice, where we chopped one up to see how abnormal her hooves really were.  I think it is possible that we could have had her feet trimmed back into shape, but she was still demonstrating some of the odd neurological behaviour I'd noted throughout her ailment, so I'm not convinced there would have been any point.

I keep thinking of the day she was born, when she kept failing to feed from her mother, always pushing her head far too high, never quite getting the hang of life and what was required of her.  I do wonder if there was any indication of something not quite right or if this outcome is completely unconnected?  In any case, it's been sad and difficult and I'm sorry this was the end of her story.  She was a lovely animal.

Because Stephan is on "light duties" he didn't dig a big hole, but just moved her body in under the Puriri tree (where she'd been sitting), inside the reserve fencing.  Because she's well away from people, waterways and is unlikely to be bothered by pigs or dogs here, she can lie as she is and melt into the ground.

In retrospect I won't do that again.  When she started to smell, the animals all started sniffing the breeze and looking unsettled.  Bearing in mind my own feeling of anxiety when I encounter the sudden smell of mammalian decay, I suspect they feel significantly uneasy.  It's presumably a reaction to potential danger: here an animal died, this could be a hazardous place.  The reaction of the cattle was short-lived whenever the smell wafted around, but I prefer not to cause them anxiety.

Monday the 5th

I separated the last group of cows and heifer calves this evening.  They'll be quiet by the end of the week and then when I return from Auckland in the weekend, I'll wean the bull calves.

Tuesday the 6th
Angus cattle

Time for Victoria's two companions to go and join the others of their age and free up this paddock.

I had walked the eleven R2 heifers past earlier in the day and then let these two graze along the Bush Flat lane beside them for a while, so they'd hopefully get a little used to each other.  When I put these two in with the others, there was lots of running around and head-to-head pushing.  I choose to believe they were having a lot of fun, rather than a lot of upset.

The bull in the other paddock is 87, posturing and attempting to intimidate the two heifers.  We all ignored him.  He's pretty well behaved; there was only a bit of non-electric tape gate stopping him from stepping out with the heifers.

Angus calves

The weaners look lovely.  When I zoomed in to this picture, I saw that these are actually some of the heifers I'll be selling.  It's very satisfying to me that those I will sell look so nice, despite not making the cut to join the breeding herd.

Angus cow

This is 710, who always looked so nice as a yearling.  She's doing ok, much the same as the others of her age.  Her heifer calf is in the sale group- she was just over 220kg at weaning and 200 days.  She's nice enough, just not likely to make it to mating weight by the end of the year, which is one of the the benchmarks I now use for selection.

Angus bull

Grumpy 96.  I can still move him around easily enough but I don't like the way he looks at me.

I phoned to book him in to the works weeks ago and have heard nothing since.  I find I am very resistant to phoning to make such bookings.  When they don't happen as expected I continually put off following up to see what happened, especially when other aspects of my life are difficult.

I'll have to get onto that job again.

Wednesday the 7th
cow's foot

I looked at a few feet today, having seen the extremity of Victoria's malformation in close detail.

Her overgrowth prompted me to start taking more foot photos, so I could see how much growth is normal over periods of time.  I don't know enough about bovine feet.

I think this was a Demelza front foot.

Thursday the 8th
soft toy

This morning Stephan and Jane dropped me at the airport for a (very cheap) flight to Auckland.

This is nephew Louie's Sheepie, left behind when they went home last week.  I bound it to the outside of my small bag, which probably made me look like a slightly dotty individual, but if I'd put it inside, I'd not have been able to take any clean clothes!

In Auckland I caught the bus from the airport via Dominion Road, where I alighted (as instructed by Alison, one of the women who came here back in February), walked across the road and a very short distance along a side street, knocked on someone's door, was handed a car key for Alison's little car parked on the roadside, and off I drove to Jude's place.  It was a fabulously easy way to get in to town and on to where I wanted to go.

(That little car drove very well, felt good mechanically, is a little worn cosmetically, but is for sale for a very reasonable price.  If you know someone looking for a reliable vehicle, let me know and I'll pass your details on to Alison.)

Stephan, having waited for another hospital appointment for longer than he should, was booked in today after I'd booked my flight, so he had to go alone.

The surgeon was happy with his progress, said not to worry about the x-ray (which the radiologist had indicated still showed some distance between the bone fragments) and to get on with starting to do more.  Being told by an expert "don't worry" isn't altogether satisfactory when there's no supporting explanation.  Some medical specialists obviously still have a "god" attitude.

But as we had wondered if the next step might be amputation of part of Stephan's toe, this is far better news.

Friday the 9th

I spent the day doing things with Jude, sometimes with some of her friends.  I decided "doing nothing" was entirely appropriate, bearing in mind the last many weeks' upset.

In the evening Alison picked me up from Jude's place and we went in to town to the Gus Fisher Gallery, for the opening of its exhibition of feminist art and the launch of the new Women's Studies Association website, upon which I have spent many hours over the last couple of months.  The WSA organising group has been in Wellington for many years and that role has recently moved back to a group in Auckland.  It was lovely for me to catch up with a number of women I've known for many years as well as some new faces and names.

After the gallery event, a dozen of us went for dinner together and then on somewhere else for dessert and coffee.

When I arrived home, Jude and Roger told me they'd heard I'd lost a large amount of money in town.  At the Gallery I'd been given an envelope containing a cheque for the website work, which I'd folded and thrust into my jacket pocket without much thought - I'd gone out carrying nothing and had not anticipated being given anything else to keep safe.  Somewhere on the street the envelope had fallen out of my pocket and some American tourists picked it up, opened it to find the invoice attached which had my phone number and rang and spoke to Stephan.  They said they would put a stamp on the envelope and post it.

I spent the next week wondering if we should have the cheque cancelled and reissued, but it eventually arrived on the following Saturday, but without any indication of who'd sent it.  If that mystery couple reads this: thank you very much!  If you're coming this way, drop in for a few days fine hospitality on the farm.