The week beginning the 11th of March 2017.
Saturday the 11th

With continued heavy rain warnings from MetService, it was no surprise to be woken at 3am by the sound of torrential rain on the roof.  I lay for a while, thinking it might stop, but eventually got up, knowing there would be a flood and wanting to check if anything needed to be done.  The rain went on and on and every five minutes I looked outside with the torch to see if anything was happening.  Between one check and the next the river from the back of the farm was up and over the bank, across the bottom end of the House paddock, through the chickens' house and spilling into the pond.

As I watched, the level rose up to the bottom of the hens' nesting boxes and kept on coming.  Stephan said he had noticed that one or two of the hens may have been choosing to sleep down there, so I donned sandals and jersey and waded through thigh-high water to check on them, fortunately finding they'd all elected for higher perches in the upstairs area.  But with the water obviously continuing to rise, I began to wonder how high it might get and decided to open the side door to that area, so they'd have a chance to get out if the water kept on coming up.

Then like a Titanic steward I had to rearrange the deck chairs, now standing in rising, fast-flowing water.  Each one was easier to move than the last, the water was coming up so fast, causing partial floatation!  Stephan hobbled down to give me a hand.  While we figured they'd probably only end up in the pond, finding the light metal table and chairs which wouldn't float, could be tricky and dangerous later.

We pulled all the furniture up through the batten fence and around behind the greenhouse, where it some still ended up with water flowing around their legs.


For about half an hour the water continued rising.  It came up to just above the bottom of the dark green panel on the hen house.  In this picture the water had receded a little, so you might see the flood debris caught in the netting to the left.  I worried very much that the force of the water might topple the structure and the hens would probably not have been helped by having their door open.  But as it would have been foolhardy to return there again after my first visit, we just had to hope that wouldn't happen.  I think if it had been slightly further in this direction, it would have been in more current and might have been tipped.

I could see the shining eyes of the sheep with the torch, standing on the rise in the House paddock, able to move safely to higher ground without crossing any water.

The two house-cow calves' little paddock had fast-flowing water across it and so we moved them into the milking shed to get them out of most of it - there was still water over the concrete, flowing from the pond, but at least it was only very shallow.  Their mothers were nearby, having access from the House paddock overnight.  They were all obviously unsettled by all the water.

Then as the Taheke Stream's level dropped, the Waikawa Stream, which runs down Diggers Valley, began to rise.  Its main catchment is about twice as far away from us as the hills directly behind us and we knew it would be big with that much rain.

It took a while for the water to start coming over at the corner below the house on the driveway but once it did, it just kept coming.

Having thought the calves would be safe where they were, I began to be extremely concerned that if even more water arrived they'd be trapped with nowhere to get out.  I shooed the two cows up into the lane and into the House Paddock (with a panicked moment as Zella got confused and started walking into the flood) and then seeing what I was doing, Stephan came and let the calves out so they could follow up the lane and stay there on high ground for the rest of the night.


Then the water just kept rising.  We have never seen a flood so big and spent some time feeling quite frightened about what more might be coming!

The noise was tremendous with all the rushing water.  It was deep and fast and dangerous.


I've never seen it come over this corner so far on the upstream side - only a matter of a few metres along from the sharp bend where it often overflows in big floods but this indicates a significant extra rise in the river's level.


When it started coming around the gate post to the main lane, Stephan went off and started getting things off his workshop floor.

Fortunately this was the peak of the flood.  Any more and I was going to start moving things in the house!


This water looks a lot calmer than it really was, flowing at speed through the milking shed.

I worried very much about the pig, not being sure how high her enclosure is relative to where we were still on unflooded ground.  There was no way we could have got to her to check, with so much water rushing between us.  We deliberately housed her on the high point of the paddock, so had to hope that at the most she'd have had wet feet.


As soon as the water flow reduced enough for us to safely get there, we went to see the pig, finding her as happy as ever, although she must have had very altered surroundings - this picture, poor though it is in very low light, to show where the water was still rushing over the paddock, instead of being out of sight in the stream bed.


The whole of the paddock was presumably covered in water an hour and a half ago.

The sheep wouldn't have had much of a chance here, since they usually head for the trees around the edge of the paddock in the rain, which is how they got caught last year and Dotty drowned.


As the water receded, we could see how big the flood still was and how big it had therefore been when we couldn't see the extent of it in the dark.


Across the other side of the flood, things looked pretty messy and later, when it was a bit lighter and I could get a bit further down the drive, we could see more of the damage.  (Click on the photo for another view.)

Before bringing Zella in for milking, we put the two calves back in the little paddock, which upset Zella very much.  She was frantic to follow her calf as I walked him down to where the water had all rushed through and when she was let out of the paddock to come down, she dashed off down the driveway sniffing everything and mooing to her son.  For a mother who usually seems so blasé, her behaviour was extraordinary.


Not the usual sort of driveway traffic!  This little eel must have washed up onto the river bank and was following the direction of the remaining water, to get back to the stream.  I tried picking it up to help it but it wriggled so much and its skin was too slippery to hold.


When I looked at this trough I suddenly realised my major flood loss: just here a couple of days ago, I had dropped my trough-siphoning hose on the ground, ready to clean this trough and now it is gone.  It's just a piece of hose and I can easily cut one of the other longer bits to make another but somehow I found this very upsetting.  That hose and I have travelled together for a long time!

That's flood water in the trough, it having been completely under.  The pond is the same colour.


When the water had gone down a bit more, we went out to see what we could see.  I wasn't sure we'd still find this trough at the bottom of Flat 1.  We were going to move it when the little triangle area was rearranged and then it didn't happen; now it has been moved for us.  The broken t-junction is all that caught on the fence and stopped it from washing away.

stream crossing

The first crossing is a bit of a disaster, with gravel shifted everywhere and big rocks piled where they shouldn't be.  It'll take a bit of tractor work to straighten things out again.  And oh there's so much stuff to pull off the fence wires!

We couldn't safely cross with this much water, so went around to have a look at the Bush Flat crossing, where there is similar debris on all the fences but to our surprise, a live capture trap still sitting there.  It must have been in just the right place, far enough up out of the water.


After lunch we went back out and tried again, this time with the tractor, so Stephan could straighten out the first crossing a bit on the way.

Stephan was particularly nervous about what might have happened to the new track and all the metal we'd only just had spread.  Apart from one small slip onto the track where the earlier slip occurred, and a bit of metal washed off where water flowed down the hill, all looked pretty good ... except for that corner fence post this side of the big culvert.  The water streamed across the track as indicated by the yellow line and washed away the soil around the post, which Stephan had hoped would be solid enough until the soil around it consolidated, except it didn't have much chance with all that rain.  The top of the fallen post is indicated by the arrow.


I'd heard from beekeeper Jonny, during the morning, asking if his hives were ok? - he'd lost tens of hives nearer town, where they'd been on flat land which was now severely flooded.  I had assured him they'd be fine but then decided I'd really like to make sure.  Of course they were.

But the stream around where the hives are is rather untidy, with all sorts of debris jammed together in new dams, flooding water out of the stream around them.

We pulled as much of this out as we could and let the water clear what was left.

native orchid plant

Leaving the area I walked under this little plant, an orchid with ovaries much larger than the tiny flowers it bore earlier in the season.

Got to have a little normality in all this chaos.


Late in the afternoon Stephan began putting the driveway to rights.  There were big piles of gravel in weird places and scoured-out hard patches where it had been.  Now it's all soft and shifting under my bike wheels and will take a while to settle again.

There was a great mound of stones in the milking shed, which Stephan had to shovel out of the way before bringing the calves in this evening, ready for milking in the morning.

Sunday the 12th

Stephan continues maize-training the sheep.  The mother of the lambs and her son (sometimes) still stand off while the others go in to eat the maize as soon as it's thrown.

Monday the 13th
Tree Fuchsia

Looks like the lovely Fuchsia didn't like the flood!  Its leaves are all drooping and slightly wilted.  I've seen this happen before when a Fuchsia has been in flood waters, although I don't think they're overly sensitive to wet feet - there are some big ones growing up in the bush behind the farm, quite close to the stream.

Our water system didn't fare well either, which isn't particularly unusual; but with that much water coming down from the hills, we had no idea how much of it would even be there any more.

With a suspected meniscus tear in his knee, there was no way Stephan could go up to fix it, the terrain being extremely steep in places, not to mention slippery.  So I went.

I've done it before on my own but not for many years, especially since we installed the big tank, which allows us more time to fix it when it goes out and there's generally less urgency and we can wait until Stephan's free to do it.  Stephan usually goes because with big hands and bodily strength, he can, more easily than I, work with the pipe fittings, haul pipe around, move boulders and so on.


There are three high points on the climb up to the water source and this picture is looking back up to the first after I'd made my way carefully down the hill into the next little gully.  The water pipe is slung from a wire high up in the trees by bits of rope - here one is tied back to a tree, where we once had to drop the pipe to get some rocks out and then haul it back up as far as we could again.

This is regenerating bush of several decades' growth.  There are the ancient remains of a couple of fences somewhere in here, where once these hills were farmed.  On the other side of the stream (to the right) are the Pines behind our farm.


Up and over the next high point I came down to the part of the stream which had been full of the debris from the huge slip, now almost clear again.


There's still one large tree here.  Presumably everything else is now downstream, hopefully not all stuck on our place damming the streams.


I'm not sure what this one is, took the picture for later reference.  I'm not entirely sure I'll find it again, since I kept wandering off the usual track, such as it is.  Fortunately I'd taken the GPS with me, with a previous waterline walk marked for me to follow.  The tracks up and down the three rises are familiar but across the tops the plants all grow so quickly in the light that it's hard to remember where to go and easy to wander in the wrong direction.


Pipes still in the stream, even if they were sticking up at odd angles, was a good thing to see.

The filter was still there, just hanging on because it had been tied to a steel waratah bashed into a crack in the rock.  The pipe from the filter was gone, so I moved the filter down into a pool closer to the rest of the pipe, found a bit of about the right length to connect the filter to the rest (there are lots of spare short bits hanging above the stream on the right) and, thinking the water was flowing, headed downstream.


It's so pretty up here.  Not a bad place to work!

But it's hard work.  I'd nearly lost my balance when putting bits of pipe back up in the trees, a mistake which could have had very serious consequences: I'd have fallen back into the stream onto the boulders.  Something just stopped me but it gave me a fright.  I had taken off my boots and shorts and was walking around in bare feet, which was part of the problem; standing on something uncomfortable had made me miss my footing somehow.  I had taken my camera bag strap off to tie the PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) around my waist in case of an accident but that wouldn't have helped if I'd knocked myself out and been underwater.

As I made my way down, the pipes felt suspiciously empty and when I reached the big bleeder tap, there was no water.  I was too tired to go back and it was getting late in the afternoon.  I'll have to come back again soon.


This extraordinary nymph skin was on one of the fenceposts as I walked back along our back boundary.  (There's a spider nestled in beside it on the left.)  It's quite large, bigger than the big cicada skins, a bit over two inches or 5cm.

I used to send such pictures to a lovely woman at Landcare Research, but since her retirement, the entomologists there seem much less interested in helping to identify things.  Anyone recognise it?


With no water coming down the hill, the cows in the Frog had none left in their trough and needed to move.  I took them out the back (where there will also be no running water) with access to the Bush Flat, where they drink from the stream crossing between the two halves of the paddock.

The third cow from the left is Emergency, walking with daughter 150 beside her.


I was counting animals as they came around the corner and knew there were several to come; they all turned out to be calves, and every one of them came galloping at enormous speed around the last corner.


Walking back along the lane I noticed there was quite a bit of water flowing in the watercourse Stephan has recently redug alongside the track.  I walked back again to see where it was coming from and discovered two little places like this, where if I dug into the clay, the water welled out of a tiny hole at some speed.  A week or so later these two had stopped so it must be ground water gradually draining after the big rain.  This is where we need to keep draining the water, so it doesn't flow out across the Bush Flat paddock, which then gets terribly pugged where it is consequently so wet during the winter.

Tuesday the 14th

I heard Stephan's voice and stepped outside to see if he wanted something, but he was just chatting to the two calves as he waited for Zella to come in from the paddock for milking.  Imagen was already there for her morning Molasses treat.

I hurt my eye three weeks ago and wanted to have it examined last week when a slight visual disturbance seemed to have stopped improving but was then prevented from travelling by the weather.  Today we went over to Waipapa, near Kerikeri, to see lovely optometrist Chloe, and then on to Kerikeri to visit John, who used to run the Broadwood Store with his late wife Maureen.

Afterwards we did a bit of shopping, looking for some clever idea for me to use to reduce my struggle with the big water fittings.  I had in mind a couple of clamps for the pipes on either side of a fitting, with some way of pulling them together in the middle, some sort of winding, threaded system, perhaps.  We tried a plumbing shop then went to a hardware outlet and talked to an assistant there and he asked if a tie-down ratchet would be any good?  Throwing ideas around with other people is always helpful!  We bought a pack of four, since they're useful things anyway, with bright orange straps, which should show up even if they get carried off in the stream for some reason.

At home I cut off the two metal hooks, one attached to the ratchet and the other to the end of the long strap, checked how long I'd need my two bits of strap and found that half was a good length, then sewed one half to the ratchet in place of its hook and tried the whole contraption out on some pipe and the new fitting we'd bought.  I had figured that if I looped the strap along each bit of pipe in the manner of blanket stitch, when pulled in the middle, those points of contact would tighten and hold sufficiently to the pipe.  With the ratchet in the middle, I could pull both pipes inward over the ends of the joiner.  Naturally I forgot to take photos.

Wednesday the 15th

The Koekoea are still in numbers in the trees this morning.  They're fantastically noisy.


On light duties, Stephan decided he was up to some quiet work along the damaged fence-line.  One of the really annoying problems is the thousands of little bits of Tradescantia amongst the flood debris stuck in and around the fences here.  Since it was dumped upstream a few years ago, it grows everywhere it can along the streambanks downstream from that originating point.  We fight it back from coming up onto the pastures, so our animals can't pick it up and accidentally carry it into the other stream system or to other parts of the farm.  We'll have to pick it all up from here and keep a sharp eye out for it in the grass for a while.

Thursday the 16th
native bush

Early this afternoon I set off up the hill again, this time with my sandals in my bag for wearing in the stream, and the new ratchet system.

Again I got 'lost' up the top of the first rise and nearly blundered too close to a very active underground wasp nest.  I marked it on the GPS for later avoidance.

I ended up on a trail which took me a little higher up the first gully than usual; it's very pretty with the Parataniwha growing prolifically in this lovely damp shade.  I find a lot of Parataniwha bits downstream after heavy rains, because it is (rather like the awful Tradescantia) a fragile, juicy, soft-stemmed plant.

Up the top I used the ratchet to tighten a joint fitting I'd not been able to connect securely the other day, then undid a lower join where Stephan had said there's usually an airlock and once the water was running, came back home.

The walk from our back boundary to the water intake is, according to the GPS, only 375 metres, but clambering through the bush, sometimes up or down vertically, requires rather a lot of care and takes me about 30 to 40 minutes.  An uncontrolled slip could end on the boulders in the stream below or wrapped around a tree trunk if you didn't get that far, neither of which is good for the body.  I slipped over on my way back but fortunately in a relatively flat place down by the stream.


I need that fern book from the library again: don't know which species this is but as I walked over it I looked down into all that lovely hairiness and it required a picture.


Back within our boundaries again, a great mound of boulders has arrived with the flood.  There's also some exposed clay, which may be previously-dumped slip silt, now cleared of its surface stones.  That flood really changed things.


Turning immediately to the right, here are some of the trees from upstream.  They certainly weren't there before.


I'd moved the cattle out to the Spring paddock in anticipation of getting the water going for their trough but had only counted 90 animals through the gate.  Stephan, while waiting for me to come down from the bush, had been quietly walking about on the flat land, ticking numbers off my notebook list.  When I returned I walked around the higher parts of the paddock looking for numbers he'd not yet seen.

This slipping face must have moved with the big rain - it's dropped about a foot from its previous position.  I don't think there's much we can do about this, being caused by the movement of water coming out at the bottom of the hillside.  I might seek some knowledgeable advice.


It must be marijuana harvest season again, so the police are out with their slow spotter plane and spray-rig on the helicopter.  I've never seen them actually spraying but they always pay close attention to some of the bush around the edges of our farm.

Angus calf

This is 729's pretty son.  He's also the maddest calf this season, petrified of me unless he's standing with his mother, although fortunately surprisingly calm when in the race being weighed.


All is right with my world again: Stephan noticed the white curl of my siphoning hose in the stream below the bridge this morning and rescued it.  I'm very surprised it only went that far!


The flood came over the top of the old swimming hole and straight through the crossing to the Tank paddock, which was where I found this beautifully coloured lump of clay.  I wonder whether it was an original hard lump from the slip, or a piece compacted somewhere during the last six years since then, but broken away with the flood now?

Friday the 17th
Tree Fuchsia

The Tree Fuchsia is looking sicker by the day.

cows and calves

Checking the cows this evening I discovered two of the unmated heifers and Ida 145 on heat.  Ida is a disappointment, since I inseminated her twice and she is only 2½ years old.  But she's also the last of the known AMC cows and the longer I've had to deal with that issue, the less willing I am to carry on testing for it; so even though she's young, she will probably end up on the works list at weaning.  There are three other carrier possibilities still, daughters of Ida's brother, 128, a carrier bull I used lightly the previous year: Demelza's daughter 152, who was too light for yearling mating and whose temperament isn't good anyway, Gem's daughter 781, who was very well grown but mad as a meat-axe and Queenly 149, who may or may not be pregnant.  If 149 is in calf, I'll test her.  The other two will end up as beef, so I won't bother testing them.

I moved this disgruntled lot around to the Middle Back, behind me and down the other side of the hill from where I stood to take this picture.  When they've run out of food and want to move, they do so quite easily.

Bringing the house-cow calves in this evening, I could smell the wet faecal matter that coated Zob's rear, a nasty thin scour which I eventually concluded may have been caused by a change in the fat content (and overall quantity?) of his mother's milk, now that the grass is growing so well.  He's only a little depressed in attitude, so can't be feeling too unwell.

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