The week beginning the 6th of February 2016.
Saturday the 6th
Waitangi Day

It rained for most of today, starting not long after Stephan went out to get on with fencing.  But it was so warm and, as he was on flat ground, he just kept on working.


Later on, when it wasn't raining any more, I ventured out for an inspection.

It's good to be changing this bit of fencing, since the little triangle between the big drain to the left of the photo and the fence where it ran down the centre of the picture was inaccessible except on foot.  The access was so narrow that cows had to walk in single-file, which sometimes made things a bit tricky when there were small calves with them; I was always afraid some small animal would end up in the drain.

seedling epiphyte

Over the Road I checked on everyone and on my way past the reserve, noticed this pretty, shiny Puka seedling (Griselinia lucida), growing in the cleft of a Totara tree.  Puka grows into a huge epiphytic plant with grooved, leg-thick descending roots.  I haven't seen many plants this early on in their lives.

... Later ...

Sunday the 7th

Big, ripe Karaka berries, across the stream from Stephan's fencing work.  These types of fruits are why we need the native wood pigeon (Kukupa or Kereru, depending where you live) to survive: nothing else is big enough to eat them and carry the seeds to new locations.

We were discussing how to manage the fence at the bottom end of the little triangle and decided to make an 'island' reserve around the fallen-down Puriri there (healthy and thriving, just not upright), so the cattle can get right around it for shade and also don't get caught in corners when I'm trying to get them out of the area.


It was a very hot day and the cows had been moaning Over the Road.  That was probably partly because of the heat, but also because they'd pretty much finished the grass - lots of feed left if there was a drought and we were pushed, but pastures in the heat get crispy and less palatable than fresher offerings, of which there are now plenty.

cattle in yards

We left them grazing the driveway for an hour or so until the temperatures had dropped a little, then yarded them and weighed the 22 calves.

Monday the 8th
dead Pukeko

Riding up the lane this morning I stopped quickly when I registered what I'd just seen: the remains of a Pukeko hanging over the electric fence, presumably dropped by a hawk as it tried to carry it away.

dead Pukeko

I suspect it was dead before the hawk found it, having succumbed to infection or stress and hunger due to this nasty break in its leg.  The grass seeds inside the break tell me the bird was alive and moving around through the grass for some time after its leg was broken.

Pukeko are very alert and when startled will run or fly to escape a perceived threat and quite often they run straight through fences, which can cause this sort of injury.  I noticed a limping bird a few days ago and presumably this is that one.

Out the front by the yards I try to talk to the birds whenever I ride or walk on the driveway, in an attempt to accustom them to my presence and it has worked to some extent, but every year one or more go hurtling through the fences and then spend days limping with injuries which are presumably never this bad.

Angus cow and calf

I had been on my way out to shift the cows from one of the Flat 5 paddocks where they'd spent the night, to one with trees and shade.

Demelza looks as though she's beginning to feel her age.  She's only 12½ years old but something is mildly bothering her.  She looks a bit stiff and sore when she starts moving but then seems ok once she's going.

Because she's always been quite disinclined to move when called, it's difficult to discern how much is due to a possible age-related increase in that behaviour and how much could be discomfort.

grassy paddock

With all the rain this summer, we've more grass than I can remember at this time of year.

drought pasture

This is what the pasture above (Flat 4) often looks like by this stage in a dry summer.

Angus heifers

The heifers appear to be doing alright too, as everyone should with this much feed around.  I'm keen to keep them moving with as much feed as possible so they go into winter in the best-grown state I can manage.

Bull 134 had come along the lane before the heifers, so I diverted him into the Windmill Paddock because its time they were separated.  Grumpy bulls are best handled so they can't tell you're handling them.

As I was following the heifers in to Flat 5, I was stung by something down the leg of my boot!  I pulled my foot out and, presuming the insect to be a wasp, stamped my alkathene stick down into my boot repeatedly to kill it.  It was only when I was able to tip it on to the grass and gingerly pick it up by a dead wing that I realised it wasn't a wasp but a bee, so the sting was still in my leg, continuing to pump its venom into me (bee stings pump like a tiny heart when out of the bee, and smell like honey).  I wish I could see properly!  I then spotted the sting in my skin and scraped it off.
I carry antihistamine tablets in my camera bag, so promptly took one.  My thigh is still marked from the wasp sting last week.

Angus bulls

I then set the gates so that when 134 had finished exploring the Windmill Paddock, looking for someone to fight, he would go in to Mushroom 1 next to the young bulls.

Once he'd moved himself, I shut him in.  He can stay there for 24 hours or so and they can growl and threaten each other through the fence, before I put them back together.

wheel tracks in grass

Stephan has made an impression on the grass with his frequent trips across Flat 1.  Kikuyu is quite sensitive to pressure, for all that it is a pesky invader where it's not wanted.  When he's finished, the tracks will disappear as the grass will recover very quickly under current conditions.

Tuesday the 9th

We bounced out of bed at 4.30 this morning.  Stephan milked Zella and Imagen and fed the pigs and we phoned Jane to wake her at five and she took us up to the airport for the 6.20am flight to Auckland.

The purpose of the trip was to pick up Jude's and Roger's vehicles, to bring them back here for the time they're overseas.

Stephan spent a lot of the day hanging out with the children watching films, so had a bit of a rest and I went with Jude as she did rather a lot of last-minute jobs in preparation for their departure tomorrow.

We had intended to leave Auckland by four but with so much still going on, decided to delay until 7pm, when hopefully the rush of traffic would have subsided.  We eventually drove onto the motorway at 8pm, Stephan driving Roger's big ute towing an enormous tandem trailer and I in Jude's car, with Murphy the Cockatiel beside me.

It was a tough trip, both of us being tired from the early start.  The long trailer didn't have enough side lights and its indicator and brake lights had an intermittent fault, so I had to try and stay behind Stephan as his pilot vehicle, except inevitably other people passed me and got between us from time to time.

Night driving for me is currently really trying.  I can't remember what it was like to see normally, whether lights had ray-lines emanating from them or not.  It's quite pretty but can be very confusing when there is lots of traffic and reflective signs all around.  Fortunately driving north means there's less traffic the further we go and from the turn-off to the Bay of Islands, often we see no more than half a dozen other vehicles.  We drove in to our gateway at two minutes to one.

The house-cows' calves probably thought they'd been forgotten.  Fortunately they're not hard to get in late at night.

I performed a historic act today, in taking a box full of Broadsheet magazines to Auckland, for delivery to a woman who is organising the digitisation of the entire collection (if she can find a copy of every issue).  I still had all those I'd bought as they were published in my early feminist years and had also acquired a lot of really old issues and held on to them knowing they'd be of value to someone at some time; that time has come!

Wednesday the 10th

Murphy, Jill's cockatiel.

My sister Jude bought Murphy for our mother, Jill, when she went to live at Selwyn Village in an independent apartment in 2012.  He was moved with Jill into her rest-home room in February last year but Jill cannot now be relied upon to remember to feed or water him; without family in Auckland to oversee his welfare, he cannot stay there.

So Murphy has come to live here, possibly only temporarily but hopefully on a permanent basis - it depends whether or not it is practicable for Jill to have him back in her small room at the end of this year and whether or not she still remembers that she misses him.

Thursday the 11th
orchid flowers

While watering the beautiful orchid plant Jude and Roger gave me for my birthday, I realised it has a whole lot of new flowers, on branches which have grown out from the original flower spikes.  There are not as many flowers this time but they're very beautiful.  One or two of the first flowers are still on the plant, although they're now fading fast.

I separated bull 138 from his mob of twelve cows today, also when he wasn't looking.  They'd all come along the lane past the other bulls and 138 had gone back to growl at his mates, so I shut the gate to the cows and sent him to join the bulls.

I was going to remove 87 from the other mob too, until I saw that he was following Emergency around again.  This is her third try; I wonder what's going on?

Friday the 12th

Grumpiest yearling bull 137 had a sore foot or leg today, probably from fighting.  I'd wondered why he hadn't come out to defend his joint territory when 138 went in to the paddock.  Later I went to investigate and he'd moved some distance to lie down somewhere else and another check later still showed that he limped a bit when first up from sitting, but that he was getting around almost normally otherwise.