The week beginning the 8th of November 2014.
Saturday the 8th

There's far too much gosling in this cage and not enough space.  I have been trying to think what to do with these little (getting bigger by the day) birds and then remembered the cage we put on the back of the ute to transport sheep and pigs.


Stephan went and got it on the back of the ute, rolled it over the fence onto the (deliberately unmown) back lawn and we transferred the goslings into a much bigger space.

They spent their day hopping in and out of the Topmilk bin bath, at one time both of them in it together, eating lots of grass and when it got dark, they both settled down inside the drum to sleep.

native orchids

The Sun Orchid colony is looking lovely, although it hasn't increased in size this year.  I think the substrate in which the plants are growing gets a bit too dry for them and some of the plants are not very securely rooted there.

native orchid

I love these flowers.

Kauri tree

On the other side of the big Puriri tree trunk grows the Kauri which came from Doubtless Bay as a tiny seedling.  It is now producing numerous cones on the ends of its upper branches.


Weed, weed, weed, who weed in our pond?


Finan is still not a happy cat.  He looks uncomfortable for some part of most days, but then has hours of looking quite normal again and being active and his usual purring self.

Each weekend I've watched him and thought about making an appointment to take him back to the vet to see if we can sort out his problems.  I didn't want to subject him to an unnecessary trip, since he hates the cage and travelling, but I think he's reached the point we should do that.

He has lost a lot of weight in the last couple of weeks and now has lumps in many places under his skin.  We know what the end will be, we just need to work out how long he has enough enjoyment of his life with us to continue living it.

heifer and calf

Little Julia appears to be doing well enough.  She feeds very well and feels (soft little body) and looks as though she's getting enough resources from her mother for growth and health.

She still wobbles around when she gets up and starts walking.  Her proper birth date is still over a week away.

Sunday the 9th
cow and new calf

714 had a bull calf this morning, after a relatively long labour.  I watched from the window until I saw something interesting at her rear, but from then on things got really slow.  There didn't seem to be anything wrong, she was just taking her time.

weedy pond

Elizabeth and William came over to help with some gardening around the pond, cutting grass and then when most of that was done, Stephan got in and did some pondweed extraction, diving in and emerging with great clumps of weed around his arms.

I carried on using the dried flax flower stems - gently immersing them next to the weed, then twisting until the weed was well wound around the stem, then gently pulling the whole lot out from the bottom.  But unless I got on the raft, which I wasn't willing to risk today, I could only reach in from the edges.

I took Elizabeth to see the lovely orchids and discovered nearly all the flowers and buds were eaten overnight, presumably by a possum!  I'd completely forgotten about covering them to protect them from those hideous destroyers.

Up the road, where we all went to check on the orchard, we discovered similar destruction, done overnight (Stephan was up there yesterday setting traps), probably by the one huge female possum caught in a trap.  Most of the trees have broken branches and nearly all the leaves have been nibbled.  There is no blossom left.
I suppose it will be good for the young trees not to produce any fruit while they're still small, but this signals a definite need for far more possum-killing vigilance on our part.

I'd meant to get some calf weighing and tagging done today, but with that visit, then Stephan's trip out to help someone move a piece of heavy musical equipment from Coopers Beach to Kaitaia, we didn't get any done until the early evening.  We tagged 607's lovely heifer calf with tag 777.  She, Curly and 657 are now in the House Paddock and we'll do the other calves in a couple of days.

Monday the 10th
Angus cows and calves

The cows and calves in the big mob were in the Camp Paddock for a couple of days and today I shifted them right out the back.  It went really well.  Every year they get easier to move along the lanes.  Only one calf went under a fence where it shouldn't have, but that was easily resolved.

They grow so fast!

At many times during the day I thought about the NCEA exams and the things I've usually done on this Monday in November for the previous seven years.  I felt quite odd and thought I'd better do something meaningful with my day, with all this "free" time I now have.  I sort of miss the job, or at least the fun challenge of the organisation of it all.  I'm not sorry to be able to be at home where I can better care for the animals during a period when close supervision is most necessary.

Tuesday the 11th

Finan has been sleeping on our bed at night for many weeks - except on some nights he was obviously feeling well and kept leaping on and off and we were too tired.  In the early hours of this morning he leapt off the bed and vomited on the floor a couple of times.  Later he was entirely silent as we stroked him and gave indications of being in some pain when picked up.  Normally we can hear him purring from another room, he's so loud.  I had made an appointment with the vet yesterday morning for 9.30 this morning and was glad now that I'd done so.

Stephan had intended to go to the gym while I took Finan to the vet, but I suggested it might be best if we went together.

While we waited for the vet, I sat with Finan on my lap and was suddenly aware of rather a lot more warmth than should have been there - he'd urinated on me.  He did something similar last time he was at the clinic.  Vet Fiona suggested that was symptomatic of his kidney issues, now producing more urine than normal.

We discussed his current state and recent developments with Fiona - the skin lumps, pain before vomiting on a couple of occasions and his general state of discomfort and asked her how he'd likely be from now on.  As I suspected, he wasn't going to have much more comfortable time and ultimately, now we're seeing change happening quite quickly, his life probably wouldn't continue for much more than a few weeks and things would only go downhill from here.

Stephan and I had talked about this early this morning.  Finan had a horrible start to life somewhere, was presumably terrorised by some cruel person/s before being dumped somewhere on our road.  We have loved him and nurtured him, trying to help him live more comfortably with thunder, rain, plastic bag noises and the visits of people he didn't know and he's been an affectionate and lovely companion in return - even though hardly anyone else ever sees him.  The one remaining thing we can do for him is ensure that the suffering he has now begun to experience doesn't continue.  We're not ready for this and no doubt he'd have a few more moments here and there when life could be happy, but those moments will be increasingly surrounded by pain and awfulness.

So we sadly agreed that this would be his last trip to town.  The vet nurse held him still and I held his head while Fiona injected the euthanising drug into his arm vein and he quietly expired.  Our lovely Finan.

Within the hour my vision began to blur with a migraine aura and I went and bought quite a lot of wine.  This is what we do.

The aura expanded and I paid close attention to it on the drive home: a fish-hook in basic shape, with jagged triangular shimmering shapes around its curve, in orange and black, yellow and black, green and orange, all the colours shimmering and trembling.  Eventually it cleared and when we arrived home, I took the very good drugs which make it possible for me to carry on, albeit a little slowly.  I won't be able to drink the wine for a couple of days.

Angus cows and calves

After some lunch and a bit of quiet time for my head, we went to bring the youngest calves and their mothers across the bottom of the flats, but it became obvious that the smallest of them weren't really ready for such disruption yet, so we just moved them to new grazing.

We need warm nights for more grass!

Angus cows and calves

This is the group which includes the three we tagged when I brought sick 719 in for a second antibiotic shot two weeks ago, along with Demelza and her calf and 726 and daughter who both had such an upset 11 days ago.  The latter pair has been a lot calmer since then.

We weighed and tagged Demelza's and 726's calves and put 719 over the scales as well, to ensure she's gaining weight again.  She looks a great deal better now than she did, although could still do with a lot of grass.  Her calf has gained 1.3kg/day, which is pretty astounding, considering her state.  (The scales have a fault, but I'm fairly sure it's only in displaying the numbers, not the weights they're recording.  I'm hoping they'll work well enough for long enough to get the rest of the calves weighed, then I'll send them off for repair.)


When I went to check and move the cows and calves I took my brush.  I didn't think to take a "before" photo, but started to work on 517's daggy tail.  She has very loose manure and it squirts out and inevitably hits her tail.  Once some has coated the long tail switch hairs, the tail becomes a little heavier and so the next time, although she holds it out, it hangs more in the way of another coating.  Eventually it becomes a mass of heavy, hard lumps as thick as fat fingers.  When they get really dry they're extremely hard to break up and remove and last year I cut them off with my knife, leaving her with a short and untidy switch.  But today I found that the lumps were still reasonably pliable so started breaking them apart, separating the hairs to split the lumps and brushing the still-soft muck out of them.

It's one of those completely time-wasting tasks which feels utterly satisfying when finished.

Air New Zealand announced today that it will no longer fly to Kaitaia from next April.  In my opinion they no longer have any right to the name under which they operate.  We're geographically isolated enough without another barrier in place.  While not everyone uses the service, it's been tremendously useful to me over several years, particularly since buying tickets online became so easy.  Travelling to Auckland on one's own is unjustifiable by road in our budget (and leaves the other of us without a vehicle) and so flights (particularly the "grabaseat" specials) have made quick trips to visit Jill, Jude and the children, convenient and possible.  Being involved in other work requiring travel is also facilitated by being able to fly out of an airport within 20 minutes' drive from home.  If I had to travel the hour and a half to Kerikeri, it would necessitate six hours' driving for each trip by Stephan.  I'm very cross, but trying not to worry about it today.

burying a cat

We'd decided to bury Finan this evening.

During the afternoon Stephan took the lawn mower up to the cat cemetery and mowed it in preparation.  I picked some lovely roses, still mostly unopened; roses in their youth, too young to die, like Finan.  Stephan dug a hole between Foxton and Spice and we laid him in it.

I'd like to plant the Kakabeak tree over him, but it's not quite big enough yet and the weather is still awfully windy, so we marked his grave and will plant a tree later.

Our house feels very empty.


Finan has been good for me.  I've always lacked patience with those who are timid and frightened of shadows, unreasonable punishment perhaps transferred for not being able to run away from some shadowy evil perpetrated on my own young life.  But something in Finan allowed me to nurture him, protect him from further damage and to try and help him cope with the things which frightened him.  We were good for each other, that little cat and I.

Wednesday the 12th


Thursday the 13th
a mouse

Oh little mouse, this was a bad choice!  I went to get some maize for the goose and something dark fell off the bag - leapt off actually, since it was this mouse.  Stephan took the feed sacks out and eventually caught the mouse (with a glove on, since mice are very scary animals) and ... then it got away!

sitting goose

Madam Goose will sit for several weeks in the hope her eggs will hatch.  She gets very thin if we don't take her some food from time to time.

roadside mirror

There's a new mirror on the side of the road, just up from our driveway, where the road is quite narrow.  It's a corner I don't like driving around because if one met another vehicle, there's nowhere to go, with the stream on one side and the steep bank on the other.  We asked the Council engineer whether they would widen it at some point, but the cost would be beyond them, apparently, the area being so steep.  They'd have to dig back such a long way to ensure the bank was stable above the road.

A local newspaper reporter called in, having telephoned earlier, doing a story about potential dust-suppression work on our road.  Apparently there's a proposal to seal some sections past the houses on the roadside.  I suppose that will be a good thing; I fear we'll end up with hooning young men driving their cars out to play on isolated wheelie strips.  Friends near other sealed roads report hideous disturbances late at night as a result of that activity.

Friday the 14th

Yesterday was too wet to take 721's stitches out, but today's weather was much better, in spite of strong winds.  I had obtained a stitch-cutter scalpel from the vet and we put 721 back in the head-bail (poor thing hates all this now) and while Stephan held her rear end so she'd stand still, I cut the large stitches and pulled them free - nearly lost one, having accidentally cut the knot completely off and had to find some pliers!  I sprayed a lot of iodine on the area and we let her out.  Hopefully that's the last interference she will need.  I was relieved that all her insides stayed in: the removal of stitches always alarms me.

We weighed daughter Julia who is now a surprising 47kg!  I'm sorry we didn't manage to weigh her when she was born, but she can't have been any heavier than 25kg, since I could lift her fairly easily.  She's growing like a weed.  I still think of her as tiny, but if I consider the size of a normal newborn, she's now bigger than that.  They obviously grow a great deal faster outside their mothers than within.

We put them in the Pig Paddock near the yards, because Julia is still quite wobbly when she walks and she could do with a rest before going back out to the farm again.  Then we brought the other mob we didn't do the other day and tagged all of them.  After I'd put the tag in Ida 75's daughter's ear (now she's Ida 145) and while Stephan still held her, I grabbed the pliers and pulled a couple of bunches of her tail hair out and folded them into some clean paper.  I'll send them away for testing with a similar sample from Imagen's son, both of which need to be checked for the AM gene.  Ida is a carrier and so is 139's sire.

Angus cows and calves

Here is Eva (being nudged by still-pregnant sister Emma 93) with her newly-tagged son, 144.

Angus cows

The cows in the Big Back North paddock were due for a move and when I got there, they were all at the bottom gate.  I walked up the track, calling, and after a while was very pleased and surprised to see significant movement in my direction.  This particular rotation from here to the Middle Back, with the gate at the top of the hill, has often been problematic.  If they'd not come up with me, I'd have opened the gate and left them to find there way up there later, but it's preferable to lead them there so they know it's available.

All 17 cows came up and went through the gate and I counted the 15 calves, a few of which hadn't quite managed to find the gateway.  The best option is generally to leave them to work out where their mothers are, once they're near the gate and I'll go up again tomorrow and close them in.


This is the sort of situation requiring a long lens and a great camera ... but if I owned one, I'd not have it right here, so a slightly fuzzy Rosella is your lot.

They're such startlingly brightly coloured birds (native to Australia).  Noisy too.  And smelly, really odorous, if you happen to stand where they've flown past and the wind is light, or pick up and sniff a feather.  It's not an unpleasant smell, just a very strange one, sort of sweet, almost.

Angus heifer

721 with no stitches holding her together.  They'd been in for 15 days and I was instructed to remove them yesterday.  Presumably, as in humans, the skin reacts to the presence of the stitches, which would account for some of the remaining mess along the bottom part of the scar.

I think I've had about enough of this year and its unpleasant surprises.  The Queen had an Annus Horribilis and wasn't that just because some of her children got divorced (and I think a bit of one of her palaces caught fire)?  I suspect this is ours.  Two dead cats, a chopped toe, two dead yearling heifers, dead calves, a caesarian...  At least the two of us have come this far in reasonable health, but sometimes I wonder, what next?

I tripped over a cat who wasn't there the other night - turned and stepped hurriedly sideways to avoid a shadow, because Finan so regularly sat just behind wherever I was, nearly causing me terrible accidents.  He liked being near me.  When we sit watching TV in the evening, I keep looking at Stephan's lap and not seeing a Finan.  That's where he spent most evenings with us.  We'll get used to this, but it's always hard at first, particularly because for the first time there is no other cat here to comfort us.