The week beginning the 24th of January 2015.
Saturday the 24th

I had an exciting night, but not in a good way.  I'd asked if I could camp on the floor at Kingston House, where the Summer School was being held and that being approved, I settled down for the night in a corner of the enormous room.  (I'm ridiculously frugal, couldn't see the point of a motel room when most of each day was to be spent here, etc.)  A noise woke me in the very early hours but I presumed it was my near-neighbour, another attendee who was sleeping in her campervan outside and had the key to come in to use the facilities.  There was an orchestra of mosquitoes and it seemed that they were all congregating above me in my corner.  I could cover all but my nose with the sheet so they couldn't eat me, but their predatory, whining flight kept waking me, so eventually I got up to find some ear plugs.  Half-way across the room the klaxons of hell went off: the noise I'd earlier heard had been a security guard setting the alarms we had left unset because I was in residence and my movement had activated them!  Fortunately I knew the code to stop them, but my ears rang all through the following day.

path through the bush

This morning we heard from Professors Kuni Jenkins and Alison Jones, the authors of Words Between Us: He Korero - First Māori-Pākehā Conversations on Paper, a book exploring the first writings in, to and from this country.  The earliest documents were associated with Reverend Samuel Marsden's contact with the residents of Rangihoua at Hohi Bay, where the Marsden Cross memorial stands in the Bay of Islands.

The history of those first few years of Māori and Pākehā interaction is something Northlanders in particular ought to know well, but our own country's history wasn't well taught in schools when I was a child - and for many years after that.

In the afternoon several Ngāpuhi women spoke with us about the current Waitangi Tribunal process, the recent finding by the Tribunal that Ngāpuhi did not cede sovereignty in signing Te Tiriti (The Treaty of Waitangi, under which European settlement of the country was agreed), and the earlier Declaration of Independence.

I always feel very fortunate when taking part in such events, in which those who bring their stories know that they are being heard by open minds and hearts.  There's so much negativity and selfishness in much local Pākehā reaction to Māori issues, as if making things right with tangata whenua will take something away from those who have always had more, often because they were able to exploit resources to which they had disputed rights.

Later we walked down the Hongi Hika track to the Stone Store.  Kerikeri is populated by Gum trees; I'm not sure why they're so popular here but they make the bush seem quite strange.  Down this track there was a lot of quite advanced native regeneration beneath those tall trees.

crowd of people outside Kerikeri Stone Store

Outside the Stone Store we were greeted by the woman in the long pink dress (and grubby, crumpled apron - as if!), who was our guide on a new heritage tour named "Hymns and Hers", about the lives of the early Pakeha settlers who lived in and around Kemp House, next to the store.

We were not the most receptive audience for some of the material presented, a group of staunch feminists who'd spent the day discussing the area's history from the other side of the bicultural exchange.

Kerikeri basin

Afterwards most of us walked up to Kororipo Pā and looked back across the basin.

My family came in here many times in the boat when I was a child, visiting my great uncle and aunt further downstream, then motoring the long distance up the inlet to the Kerikeri basin - at least it seemed a very long way then.  It was not possible to sail up the narrow inlet, so that memory is tinged with diesel fumes and noise.

Sunday the 25th
view from a lookout

This morning we all went on a field trip to Hohi Bay to see Rangihoua and the setting of yesterday's history lesson.

The area has recently received a lot of attention to mark the two hundredth anniversary of first contact - or more particularly by the Anglican Church to celebrate the anniversary of the first Christmas service held in this country.

This lookout provided a great view over the whole Bay of Islands, here looking south over Te Puna.  The track down to Hohi Bay was behind me and to the left.

Hohi Bay

Having an Anglican mother and having spent much time sailing in the Bay with my parents in the 70s and early 80s, I have seen and visited this place before.

My father had many ties with Māori, locally and with Ngāi Tūhoe, but for some reason he didn't share those experiences with us and I didn't know the extent of some of it until after his death.  I cannot fathom that omission.

an explanatory sign

Because I was distracted by lots of lovely conversations, I wasn't really taking proper pictures!  I was primarily aware that some of our group could not walk down the hill and therefore concentrated on recording the various historical explanations along the track and down here in the bay.  I did not look up enough to record my own view of the Pā, the base of which is visible in this picture.

The notices were quite well presented, here a pictorial representation of how the area was laid out 200 years ago.

Weirdly for us, having examined the political and historical possibilities of the occasion of that Christmas service here and having firmly in mind the various mismatches in intent and understanding of what was going on on both sides, there was also some sort of Christian pilgrimage in progress on this day and those people were all holding a service around the Marsden Cross.

nesting bird

Wanting to put some distance between ourselves and the pilgrims, a few of us walked along the shingled beach to eat our lunch.

The tide was high, so we had to pass closer to this nesting Dotterel than we would have liked - outside its human-erected ribbon barrier, but too close for the sitting bird's partner's liking and he fluttered and strutted around us as we walked by.

The bird had one or two hatched chicks and was still incubating an egg - the chick on the bird's right and the egg to her left.

Monday the 26th

The Summer School wrapped up late this morning and I made my way home across to Okaihau and then north through the gorge.  I am so very pleased I went.

gorse spider mite webbing

First job this afternoon was to check all the cows for signs of heat or mating.  That done, it was on to the Ragwort: I have two days in which to do as much Ragwort control as I possibly can, before I have a couple of (benign) lumpy things chopped out of my back, which will slow me down for a couple of weeks, I suspect.

Every now and then I come across evidence that the gorse spider mite is still around but it has only ever colonised single plants, which does nothing in the way of overall control of the gorse.

spider web over a small tree

Great big webs like this one are to be avoided when walking because they feel horrible if you accidentally go through them!  I presume this was made by a sheet-web spider.  The base would have been about two feet across.

This is down in one of the gullies in the PW, where Ragwort grows hidden amongst the undergrowth, so it is always necessary to walk all around here looking for it.

Pheasant nest

As I climbed the next slope, a startled hen Pheasant flew, cackling, straight up off her nest.  I would never have noticed it had she stayed silent.  They always give me such a fright, both hens and cock birds making a huge racket of alarm at the same time as flying noisily up from wherever they've been hiding.

young Angus cross cow

Endberly is suddenly looking really pretty.  In summer the cows' hair gets really sleek, even on these Hypotrichosis animals.

Angus heifer calf

This heifer is my stand-out favourite this year: grey 607's long-awaited daughter.  She is calm and growing well and definitely on the list of heifers to be kept.

two cows

Dexie 101 and grey 607 having another mutual licking session.

two cows

607 signalled that it was her turn by putting her head down to the ground and waiting, but Dexie maintained the same position.  There was a stand-off, until 607 tried licking Dexie's nose to encourage her to get on with it, but then I think she gave in and carried on being the licker.

Tuesday the 27th
calves in cattle yard

We brought all the cattle in today to give the calves their booster vaccination and I decided it would be a good idea to put the tick pour-on on all the animals.

We weighed everyone to determine how much they'd get.  The dosage instructions indicate that any animal over 400kg should have 50mls, which works up to a 500kg weight as at least 1ml/10kg.  A drench company representative visited the vet clinic a couple of weeks ago and I sent a question regarding the dosage for larger animals and had it confirmed that the instruction should really say that one should increase the dose at that rate for heavier animals.  My heaviest cow today (Imagen) was 720kg, so she required at least an extra 20mls than she would have received by following the label's directions.

cow tail hair caught in fence

Bringing one of the mobs in, I noticed this evidence of someone swishing her tail a bit close to the fence where there's a knot in the fencewire.  I wonder if it caught her at the wrong moment and she got an electric shock as well?

Stephan has stopped using these "number 8" knots in the new fencing and now applies a metal crimp and then wraps the ends back around the straight wire.

The other job for today is to draft the mobs so I can put most of the cattle over the road with one bull and leave the other three bulls with a reduced number of cows: only those who must have those sires.  There's not enough grass around to continue feeding four sizeable mobs on this side of the road and Over the Road should keep most of them going for more than a week.

Heavy grey clouds often gather on summer afternoons and mean nothing at all, so as the sky to our east became increasingly dark, I thought little of it.  A tiny spit of very light drizzle started and I still assumed that would be it; then the rain pelted down on us!  Thankfully the tick treatment is supposedly rain-proof and only enough rain fell to wet the animal's coats, rather than run off in rivulets, but it was too much to continue vaccinating the calves, so we made a note of which ones were left and packed it in for the day.

Wednesday the 28th
cow excited by bare earth

We brought the cattle back to finish off the vaccinations and tick drenching, then sent the mob of 52 cattle (including bull 134) Over the Road.

Curly was really excited by the bare soil, rubbing her head and neck in it, pawing great clods up and flinging them up behind her.

geese in heavy rain

This afternoon another heavy downpour.  The geese held their bills up to it: were they confused by the sensation of rain falling on them, or enjoying it?

Between the two lots we had just over 15mm, which is very helpful at this time of year.  For the whole month we had just under 57mm.  The long-term average for the month is 99mm, so things are a bit dry, with not a lot of grass growth.

My "under the knife" appointment lasted for an hour and a half, during which my doctor and I engaged in a great variety of conversation.  He's a man of very serious appearance, but has the most hilariously dry wit.  Having discovered that a few years ago, I always enjoy his company, even if he's doing terrible things to me.  I now have a number of stitches in my left shoulder and the middle of my back and am rather uncomfortable.  No doubt I will remain so for some time.

Thursday the 29th
dead vacuum cleaner

My vacuum cleaner is dead.  Stephan was using it and there was a nasty noise and a puff of poisonous smoke and he quickly unplugged it and put it outside in case there was worse to come.

I have had this machine since I was 18, when I bought it to make the sales man go away so I could carry on getting ready to out on the town.  I remember him vacuuming the curtains, of all things, with a white cloth inside the hose to show me how filthy my surroundings were without the use of such a machine.  I can't say I've ever vacuumed my curtains with that machine or any other and have no doubt lived in complete squalor.

Fortunately it turned out to be one of the best appliance purchases of my life to date, having lasted more than 31 years.  I've had it so long I almost feel as though I should give it a decent and proper burial!

Friday the 30th
weed control in a bush reserve

We went for a walk together Over the Road so I could check on the cows and on the way back came through the lovely bush reserve.  Without the cattle in there now for over five years (the fence was begun in March 2009), there are seedlings and saplings everywhere.  It's looking lovely.

Unfortunately there are also weed tree seedlings, which we regularly pull out whenever we see them.  Primarily they are Acmena, commonly known as Monkey Apple, which were planted as shelter belts where Jane now lives, long before anyone realised how invasive they would be when the Kukupa ate their berries and excreted the seeds where they normally live, in the midst of the native bush.

native bush

This photo looking back up through the bush.  The ferns have all grown up since the cattle were excluded.  We're so pleased we fenced them out.