The week beginning the 5th of July 2014.
Saturday the 5th

Eco the budgie finally started singing again this afternoon.  I'm relieved, I thought he was going to fade away and die.

I brought the 16 cows to the yards and gave them their annual 7in1 vaccine.  I've been considering the timing of this shot, in recent years having let it drift out into July because that's a quiet time of year and when I get around to it.  I discussed it all with the vet the other day, but giving it some more thought, I think I'd be best to pull it forward again to April.  The best time to vaccinate is before the wet begins, because Leptospirosis is picked up in ground water contaminated by other animals and with the rains, out come the feral pigs onto our pastures.  Rats and hedgehogs are also potential carriers of the disease.  I brought the pregnant heifers in after the cows, but it rained just as I went back to do them, so they spent the night in the Pig Paddock instead and I'll do them if it's dry tomorrow.

Sunday the 6th
Angus-cross heifer

Today I did all the rest of the cattle vaccinations.  The most urgent were the pregnant heifers, because I want them to have the vaccine and then a copper injection before I put them Over the Road for a while.  (They can't have a copper shot at the same time as any other treatment.)

As soon as I pushed the heifers out of the Pig Paddock and across into the yards, Endberly headed up to the top pen.  If they'd all followed her, it would have been great.

The cattle move really well through the yards these days, partly, I think, because of changes I've made to how I move them around.  I work with them, rather than trying to fight against them too much and it makes things quiet and easy.

For instance, if I let them out of the race to the right after treatment, the others are easier to get up into the crush pen, because they can see their mates beyond.  Moving cattle in the direction they actually want to go is far easier than trying to force them in a direction they don't.

R1 Angus heifers

The "easiness" of the cattle is improving overall.  I've been impressed by the young heifers this year and their willingness to stick together as a mob so that they move through gateways well.

R1 Angus bulls

By the time I got to the little bulls in the afternoon, the weather looked quite promisingly clear, so I put pour-on drench on them as well.  Two of them have very mucky bums.  By weight though, those two have grown better than the other two.

A little while after I put them back out on the flats, it started to rain; but only very lightly and it was more than an hour after the drench went on, so I hope it had dribbled down onto their skin, so a bit of misty rain on their hair would not have affected it.

Angus cattle

When the rain stopped we got the house cows and the bull in to the yards and did them as well.

That's that job done for the year.  Over the next few days, weather permitting, I'll give them all a copper injection.

Monday the 7th
processing a dead pig

Last morning for our two pigs.  It's sad because they've been really nice little animals, but a relief because we can't keep them in one place any more and there's the constant risk they'll get into somewhere they shouldn't, or disappear all together.

Raising these two has been a joint effort with William and Elizabeth, so doing them now the school holidays have begun, meant William could get away from work with a bit more flexibility for most of today, to help Stephan prepare them for the butcher.

While they did the sow, I coppered my heifers and then William and I put them over the road while Stephan cleaned himself up in preparation for the drive to the butcher, who will process the meat into bacon, hams and a couple of shoulder roasts.

cattle grazing

Mike and his elder two sons came over in the early afternoon for a visit and a walk around and hearing we had some "by-products" of the pig killing freshly available, salvaged some prime bits and put them in the fridge for when they went home.

While they went walking, I went out and moved the cows.  Coming home, the paddock Over the Road looked lovely with the heifers back there again.

Tuesday the 8th

This morning as I sat working in my office, I became aware of an odd, rasping noise from the budgerigars' cage.  Citronella was making a terrible racket when breathing, so I moved them over to sit near the fire and lit it so they'd be warmer.  Over the next eight minutes I watched her becoming more and more distressed - in her breathing, rather than that she was flapping about - until she dropped her wings and then dropped off the perch to the floor of the cage and, coughing up an astonishing amount of blood, died.

I felt really sad!  She was such a lovely little bird - apart from the ongoing memory of her protest at the vet the other day, in the form of a sore lump on my index finger as the blood blister and underlying bruising gradually resolve themselves.  She'd been looking and sounding really good since our visit to the vet.

Poor Eco; all alone again.  They were such a cheerful pair, singing away to each other for long periods each day.

trees and wind

Heavy weather warnings aplenty prepared us for the onslaught of a big North-easterly blow, with gale-force winds and lots of rain.  As usual we were generally quite protected - the hill over the road and the big trees along the stream provide a lot of wind filtering.  Out on the flats it was pretty blustery though.

While parts of the region had very heavy and sustained rain, we got less of it here, so that our stream came over only half of the bridge, washing away the piles of Totara debris which was blown down out of the surrounding trees.  There is Totara foliage and branches all around the place, and I've found one large Puriri branch on the ground.

The power went off just before 2.30pm, so we cranked up the fire to cook dinner and lit an extravagant number of candles.

Wednesday the 9th

Today marks 25 years since my father, Brian, died.  I thought about the fact that he's now been dead for more of my life than he was alive and that as a 24-year-old when he died, I'd hardly had a chance to know him as an adult.  Speaking to Jude later in the day, she pointed out she'd passed that half-way point several years ago, before she was 30.  He was a lovely parent.

Just as I was wondering what to do with nine litres of milk Stephan had brought in to the house, the power came back on.  The fridge had warmed to about room temperature, so I knew without electricity we had no hope of cooling the warm milk quickly enough to maintain its quality.  I'd been about to measure it out for Stephan to make it into cheese.

We went Over the Road to check around the boundaries and ensure no trees had fallen over the fences.  All was well and all the heifers were safely and happily sitting around in a sheltered spot.

heifer in a reserve area

While the power was off overnight, 749 had discovered she could push through the fence into the reserve under this big Puriri.  She must have had a couple of shocks when trying to get back out and was unwilling to walk through the wires again even when I turned off the power to the fence.  I found a solid branch and propped the wires up so she could walk underneath without touching them.

two herons

Two white-fronted herons sitting in a Puriri Tree.

two herons

They flew away as I walked across the paddock toward them.

broken tree

Oh.  Having a twist in your middle isn't a strong point then.  We deliberately didn't cut this Totara down when the rest of the scrubby hillside was cleared, but the wind got it instead.


Pretty fungi growing on a dead branch.  I thought this warm winter would mean there would be more fungi around, but I haven't particularly noticed that.  It's certainly wet enough.

Thursday the 10th

The storm continues.  Some friends are still without power, after their third night in the dark.  For farmers who usually have freezers full of produce including high-quality beef, that's a significant stress.  Insurance would never cover the real value of one's own home-killed beef and garden harvest.

Angus heifers

I walked out with my umbrella to check on some of the cattle, moving the little heifers to some new grass.  There's not a lot of overhead shelter in the Flat 5 paddocks, but along the Bush Block fence on the South side, the Kanuka are now quite large and provide a relatively warm place to huddle even in a North-easterly storm, because the wind is blocked by them.

The heifers, having watched me walk down the paddock under my very scary umbrella, eventually responded to my calls and came to the gateway from 5d to 5c.

Angus heifers

What a lovely lot.

Friday the 11th

More rain and the stream was up over the bridge this morning.  There has been talk on the radio of flooding problems for Kaitaia if there's much more rain.  All the rivers from around the area converge down there, before going out to the sea through Awanui.  There's lots of ex-swampland surrounding the town and many houses have been built where they would not have been 100 years ago, when people made more responsible decisions regarding what nature might throw their way over time!

fallen Totara branches

Two days ago, when the winds were at their strongest, I walked carefully around this area, rather than through it and under the big trees.  They were being whipped about so wildly and lots of small and large branches had come down already.

This afternoon I walked out (as I've tried to do most days, lately) and Stephan came on the bike since he still can't comfortably walk huge distances.  I needed to go and shift the cow mob and Stephan came with the small chainsaw to cut the trees I'd found had fallen over a couple of fences, shorting out the electric fence system.

flooded stream

I'd worn sandals instead of boots, in preparation for this crossing, but when we got here we decided it was far too high to attempt.  In the deep middle it would have been half-way up my thighs and getting horribly wet would only have been half the problem, the strength of the water potentially being strong enough to knock me off my feet.  I'm very cautious about flood waters.  There are always reports of people having to be rescued from flooding because they underestimate the overpowering strength of fast-flowing water in bulk.  (One woman subsequently died during this flooding event and several others were in peril while trying to rescue her.)  There are always so many bits of tree in streams that if one were to be knocked down and then pulled under, the risk of getting tangled and caught under the water is extremely high.

makeshift bridge

There's a narrow place where the stream cuts deeply through the ground so Stephan jumped over and then we assessed it was probably a bit too much of a leap for me - I can do it a little further along the bank, but that was all under water.  [We've measured ourselves against each other and Stephan's hips are at the level of the bottom of my ribs.  That gives him a potential extra leap length of about two feet or 0.6m, which makes a big difference when not getting far enough across something would mean getting very wet!]

So Stephan came back over again to cut a long length of Kanuka from one of the trees on this side, chopped it in two and the thick bit became a walking bridge and the other, in the trees, a hand-rail.  It worked perfectly.  When we returned, we stood the bridge bit up in the trees, hoping that would prevent it being washed away if the water came up higher again later.

muddy feet

Stephan walked up along the Swamp fence and I climbed the hill to check the top fence (up near the Pines in particular) and we met again later.

Walking in sandals wasn't quite as easy as boots, because the mud between feet and sandal was slippery, so I continually stepped in puddles to keep things relatively "clean".  I found it surprisingly warm, considering it's July.  The temperature got up to 14°C today.

clearing a fallen tree

Where Stephan had cut into a bank on the boundary when installing the new fence, a large Kanuka had fallen over.  It broke the top staple, but did no serious damage to the fence - which still needs to be battened next summer, if the fencer has returned to full health!