The week beginning the 5th of March 2016.
Saturday the 5th

Last Thursday when we got into Jude's car to drive over to Kerikeri for a couple of appointments, it seemed to start rather sluggishly but we figured if it were a battery problem, it'd charge up nicely over the hour and a half's drive there.  We parted company for a while and when Stephan came back to meet me, he had the car still running, saying it had barely started that time.  We drove immediately around to a mechanic and asked if they'd have a look, only turning it off after they told us where to park; it wouldn't go again!

We left it there and walked along to the optometrist and there I received a cell-phone call to say it was the starter motor at fault and it couldn't be fixed today.

But in the optometrist's waiting area we had already met with two lots of people from Kaitaia and a third walked in as we were asking if someone could please give us a ride home?  It's obviously the place to go if you're stuck.

Alan, who we used to see regularly at the Community Centre in town and whose daughter was a school friend of Jude's, said he'd bring us home.  We had a lovely chat with him and his mother on the way and after they dropped us off, sent them away with fresh eggs and many thanks for making what could have been a stressful afternoon, very easy.

Early this morning I took Stephan down to the end of the road to catch a ride with Peter, who was off to the Kerikeri market to sell his fresh breads, saving us both making the trip there and back to collect the car.

While at the market, he looked around and found a lovely present for Ella's Birthday.  This year she'll be 14.  Stephan isn't terribly good at presents, but really liked a little pendant he found.  We hope it's Ella's sort of thing.

Cabbage Tree fruit

The berries on the Cabbage Trees are ripening (they start green and go white).  I've watched Kukupa eat them and they are presumably the primary vector by which these plants spread.  They certainly achieve spreading quite well, evidenced by all the trees we see coming up around the farm.

firewood frame

There are a few things missing in this photo: safety boots, ear muffs ... wood.

Stephan built this frame for cutting firewood.  The Kanuka firewood comes in the long lengths of the big trees and Stephan will stack many lengths in the top of this frame and cut down through them to create short bits which will fit in our fireplace.

Once finished, he rode it off down the driveway and around up to the firewood shed.  That's probably really why he put wheels on it.

Sunday the 6th

I spent most of the day catching up with writing my weekly pages and then doing things in the WordPress blog I set up for Jude and Roger, in which they intend to document their travels around the world.  They're currently in Bali, apparently having a lovely time.
I've meant to get to grips with the WordPress platform for ages and this was the push I needed.  I now understand enough to get by and to do the things they've wanted in its presentation.  Jude writes and uploads her photos and then I do some editing and rearranging and it's all published.  It's fun keeping in touch with them.  Every now and then I get a crackly phone call over the internet, so I know they're alive and safe and still all together.

William and Stephan spent the morning Over the Road collecting some firewood and I wasn't entirely sure they were safe and still together at one point, when I heard a loud noise from that direction.  Something went a bit awry and the trailer slipped and they had to change their plans.  I walked out to have a look and found them both walking home for lunch.  Later they went back and cut up all the firewood from the stuck trailer before dragging it out empty.

Angus cow and calf

In the warm late afternoon I went to move the mob of 70 from the Windmill Paddock to Mushroom 2.  I counted 68 and went looking to see who'd not come, betting it would be one of Demelza's daughters and her calf.  It was Demelza herself, with daughter 152.

Angus cows and calves

Zella and Imagen and their calves are still very content in Flat 1 in loads of grass.

At 8pm our expected guests, my friend Jorja and her Singaporean friend Jeannie, arrived.  Jorja really wanted to bring Jeannie here to experience some rural life, since she lives in an apartment in Singapore and works in the city.

Thinking she had come directly from the airport this afternoon, I asked Jeannie if there were any kind of foodstuffs she had carried in, had forgotten to mention to Customs, but about which I should know before she threw it in our pig bucket?  She commented that our Customs service seemed very strict and we embarked on an interesting conversation about biosecurity and why it is so important to this country.  I seemed to be failing to make my message very clear, so used the example of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak in Britain in 2001, something I'd read a great deal about at the time.  I told her that all it would take was a bit of infected meat someone carried in, threw in with the pig food (which in our case rarely contains meat and only that grown and cooked here if it does) and our pigs would become ill.  The disease would travel quickly on the prevailing wind, infecting either our cows or those of the dairying neighbour.  A lot of people in white overalls would then turn up and shoot all our cows and burn them.  Jeannie asked why that would be so bad because they'd presumably pay us compensation?

Monday the 7th

We began attempting to demonstrate why our animals are important to us.  Jeannie went with Stephan to milk the cows, having a go herself, doing quite well for someone who's never touched a cow in her life.

Everyone wears milking gloves now, for Zella's sake.  We recently tested her milk to check on her general state and found she currently has a mild mammary infection with a bacterium which has presumably come from her environment.  It's not the particular Staph. she's had trouble with before and it hasn't affected her production or general health, so it can stay there until we give her the "dry cow" end-of-milking intra-mammary antibiotic later in the year.  As usual we tell any visitors that if they drink our milk it is unpasteurised.

visitor and Angus cattle

Later I took Jeannie out for a walk to meet the rest of the herd, still trying to help her understand that cows are not just commodities on all farms.  I introduced her to the various individuals who like to come near, told her that I was present at most of their conceptions and nearly every birth of every animal here; that I know every one, knew their mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and beyond - indeed the great-great-great-great-grandmother of many of this year's calves.

This was all really interesting in terms of gauging the enormous cultural divide between us in our experiences and view of the world.

I think Jeannie liked the cows and was thrilled to have been able to be so close with them but her greatest concern seemed to be that we obviously worked far too hard for the amount of money we earn.  She is perhaps right in some ways but her calculations of the value we receive in doing the work we do took no account of the "office" in which we work, the fact that we work for ourselves, that we owe nobody money, that every day brings something different and even if much seems the same, we're part of a cycle from which we take great pleasure in living.

women on ute

Time was short so we all piled into and onto Roger's ute and drove out the back for a look at more of the farm.

ponga trunk fragment

Stephan found this bit of Ponga (tree fern) trunk washed up beside the stream.  The marks are where the fronds grew.

bracket fungus

The underside of this bracket fungus looked and felt like velvet.

stream pebbles

Amongst the stones in the stream are many different coloured clay pebbles.  I once took one with me to my pottery class and in the kiln it melted to create a beautiful aubergine glaze.  One day I hope I'll have the opportunity to experiment further with these clays.  In the mean time I just rub them on stones to see how they look.

woman and Galah

Jeannie loved Floss, carrying her all over the house.  I also took her into the aviary where she was delighted to be found calm enough for the quieter birds to perch on her head and shoulders.  I gather that life in Singapore affords few opportunities for close interactions with nature.


Stephan brought a bucketful of Quinces back from the tree in the sheep and pigs' paddock this morning.  He'll make them into jelly.

Tuesday the 8th
wood turning

Stephan demonstrating wood-turning to our guests.

wood turning

Spinning tops are small, fun, quick to make and easy for travellers to carry away as souvenirs.

And then they went home.

In the afternoon we went to town to collect my fixed computer.  At last.  We also took our faulty Sodastream back to the large chain store whose name we will never mention, nor step foot in again, except to go back for them to apologise.  Exchanging a faulty Sodastream is apparently a very complicated process involving a shop assistant without any sense of humour, who must be having a very bad day before you go there, attempting to prove that the machine is not faulty or that if it is, it's your fault.  After much accusatory questioning and some serious attempts to wreck it by crossing threads and operating it carelessly, she eventually caused it to explode brown liquid everywhere.  At that point she exclaimed that we'd obviously put flavour syrup up its spout!  Remaining decidedly calm I assured her that using the device correctly, one does not add syrup until after the water has been carbonated and in any case, we never put it into the bottle or near the machine, being inclined to make single glasses with our lemon cordial.  I suggested to her that if she sampled some of the liquid now covering her counter, she would probably find it tasted of rust, as that was its colour.  At that point she finally gave up and sullenly commenced the administrative process of exchange.

We were both hot and bothered and quite cross about the whole thing, so I wrote to the never-to-be-mentioned shop and the Sodastream dealers.  It took some days before a very pleasant young woman from the shop responded but Sodastream did not.

Wednesday the 9th

A sunflower has grown from a seed washed out through the floor drain hole in the aviary.  Fortunately by the time I noticed it, it had developed the characteristic flower head, so I didn't pull it out as some hideous weed.

rock melon plant

And this is a rock melon plant, grown from a seed from a melon I bought and ate.  I threw the seeds out the window into the garden just for fun and when they grew, transplanted one of the plants to my rose garden for some extra space.  Fortunately it hasn't taken over or climbed over the rose plants.

Thursday the 10th
Angus cattle

Woohoo, the gate's open!

Setting up a computer again after a rebuild is a painful procedure.  Fortunately I discovered some clever tricks in restoring my email programme so that even though my computer's failing disk had eaten a lot of my messages, at least I could restore things to their previous state from the just-about-in-time backup I had managed to create.

Friday the 11th

I have more birds.  The people from whom I sourced the majority of my budgies wanted to rehome these four Cockatiels and asked if I'd like to take them.  I had a plan involving Murphy - his behaviour when he sits on my hand of an evening is a little unsettling: I think he needs a mate.

The bald bird is female and is supposedly suffering from long-term over-grooming by her (probably bored) current partner.  I'll rehome him elsewhere with someone who has a lone female and let this female bird recover and see how she and Murphy get on.

We decided we'd keep them in the living room for a few days to help them settle down and get used to closer human interaction than they've had for the last few years.  I suspect they were once all tame birds.

monarch butterfly caterpillars

Several weeks ago Jane gave me a number of Swan plant seedlings which had grown in her garden and I planted them where I plant everything else, in the rose garden.  It looks like the wasps have not been as active as they often are at this time of year and many of the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars are reaching maturity and pupating.  I'm not sure if they're safe as chrysalises or if the wasps will still kill them then.

stacking firewood

Late in the afternoon William came over to go out with Stephan for another load of firewood, which they then loaded into the shed.