The week beginning the 23rd of December 2017.
Saturday the 23rd

For about the last month we've been watching this interesting plant growing in the raised garden, wondering what it is, since it looked quite familiar.  This morning we looked again and realised it's that damned noxious weed, Beggar's Tick!

We ripped it out immediately.  Trying to work out how it got here, it occurs to me that it could potentially have come with the gravel Stephan brought from the Frog/Swamp East stream crossing, when constructing the garden.

I wonder where else it may be growing?


Two days before Christmas is an excellent time to decide the bathroom floor needs an upgrade.  It's just how we roll.

For us, a house needs to be warm, dry and fulfil a number of practical functions.  Stephan has huge, usually dirty feet and I can't walk barefoot on hard floors, so nice carpet has never been on our list of must-haves.  Most of the floors are painted concrete or wood.

One of the things we've never completed in the original part of our dwelling is the floor surfaces, which have remained increasingly grotty, unsealed concrete.  Sometimes I scrub them clean(ish); I've always wanted linoleum laid so we can clean the floors easily.  But there's always something more important to do ...

But with a few previously un-met guests on their way to us over the summer, Stephan thought he'd put down some flooring he picked up from someone else's house-renovation left-overs, to make the bathroom a bit more socially acceptable.

It looked really pretty when he finished.  I'm not sure how long it will last, since it's not designed for wet areas, but it's a fun sort of change for a while.  He coated it several times with polyurethane to give it some moisture protection.  It won't be too hard to replace with something more permanent if we get around to it.  We realise this approach is neither practical nor efficient but a pretty house has never been a priority, so we only end up doing things by necessity or for fun if so inclined.


I usually forget to plant sunflowers at the right time but here beside the aviary, one has grown from a seed tossed out onto the lawn.


The Back Barn paddock looks awful.  After the oh-so-wet winter, everything dried out very quickly, so that the pugged, lumpy ground set hard.  With so many exposed surfaces between the high and low bits, the plants are also very dry now and not growing well.

I intend having lime spread here as soon as possible, hoping it will address some of the issues with the soil health.  There are rushes growing across a lot of this area, indicating a need for lime to raise the pH of the soil.

Annual Beard Grass

Annual Beard Grass is still popping up on the tracks, but now only one or two plants, here and there.  If we pull and burn them, we will eventually eliminate it - until the next lot of seed comes in with the next lot of lime rock.  If there were another quarry, I'd use it.


This is the top (NW) corner of Flat 2, a long-term wet spot.  I perceive that it has changed, there is much better grass here, including a lot of clover, and much less moisture, despite the awful winter.  Friend Brian came and ran some mole plough lines through this corner two years ago, which have perhaps had some very good influence.

serious cleaning

Serious cleaning!

It was easier to take the toilet out than try and manipulate the flooring around its base, so while it was out...

Sunday the 24th

This spider's leg-span is about the width of my palm.  I fished it out of one of the troughs as I was sucking it clean - wouldn't want it to go up the pipe and be hurt.


When things are going to be busy (and it's also forecast to rain tomorrow), I try to set out the next feed break for the Flat 2 cows in advance, so I need only roll up one tape to shift them.

I did want to keep at least some of this paddock for mating but these four cows and three calves have nearly eaten it all.  Queenly 149, in particular, needed to be kept on good-quality feed for a while.


Industriousness in the kitchen: a ham, ready to go in the oven to cook for dinner tonight and shortbread cooling in the background.

We've been invited to join Elizabeth and her family for turkey tomorrow, so decided to do a ham tonight and invite Gaye and Brian to join us.  Have to have ham for Christmas!

It has only occurred to me recently that other people don't do this any more, they use oven bags.  Actually, I doubt many people cook hams at all, most buying them pre-cooked and requiring only glazing, if they even buy whole hams.

Dinner was delicious and we completed it with last year's steamed Christmas Pudding, a dessert always improved by time, served flamed in brandy, with fresh cream.

Monday the 25th
Christmas Day

Out for lunch at Elizabeth and William's family table; a lovely time.


At home the two younger bulls had been having their own Christmas feast, having pushed their way through the accidentally-turned-off reserve fence around the Mushroom 1 Puriri tree.

pig rooting

Feral pigs had also been having a good time in the Back Barn paddock, along the boundary fence.  We really could do without their help.

Tuesday the 26th
Boxing Day

Sometimes I get lost in the present moment and fail to take photographs.  I see that as a very good thing, despite the holes it leaves in my journal.  Great-nephew Dylan and Shayna arrived in the morning and pitched their tent on the lawn and the rest of the family from yesterday came in the afternoon, swam, ate, sat around the pond.  It rained a little for a while but not enough to dampen spirits much.  A fine time was had by all.

Wednesday the 27th

Stephan, Dylan and Shayna did a bit of tree pruning in the Back Barn this morning before the youngsters went out visiting.

In the afternoon, I took a bag and went Ragwort harvesting in the Spring paddock, where I found rather a lot of beautiful yellow flowers to pick and take away.

There were also a number of plants like this, with a deadened but healed-over central stump.  I'm suspicious that they were knocked back by the spray Stephan used before his knee operation but have managed to recover and regrow.  We have not seen that happen before.

Damselfly nymph skin

I leant over to peer into the pond and spotted a number of these nymph skins, discarded as Damsel and Dragonfly nymphs emerged from the water.  This one is the very small skin of a Damselfly.  Like butterflies, they obviously expand their bodies after hatching, to assume their adult, slender form.

This supports my eventual conclusion that the much larger skin I found out the back of the farm, belonged to an emerged Giant Dragonfly nymph.

Thursday the 28th
spreading lime

On this beautifully still morning, Ryan brought a couple of truck-loads of lime, for Flats 1 & 2.

By the time he arrived with a third load, the breeze had increased, so we took that out the back to the Back Barn and Swamp paddocks.


Stephan and William decided they'd rear some pigs again this season.  There's a lot of milk, we've made it through calving and recovery without losing any cows, so no calves require feeding and Stephan doesn't want to spend half of every day inside making cheese.

We've given a lot of the early milk to some neighbours down the road who have pigs, so we didn't waste any but it was time for a decision.  William organised the purchase and this morning Stephan went to collect these two very frightened little boars.

They will presumably settle down, just as all the others did in time.  They came from a large herd where it appears their only regular human contact was at feeding time, which will essentially be the case here too, but in a big herd, an individual animal can avoid close contact and thus find it very threatening if it becomes necessary later.


Dylan and Shayna packed up their tent and left and later, Simon, Karl and Kerehoma went out with Stephan to do some more pruning and clearing work in the Back Barn paddock.

woman and child

Anna and I went for a walk out to see how they were getting on.

When we reached the cows, I told Anna I'd stop there, because my back was hurting after such a fast walk and she looked at me and said she'd been walking so fast because she thought I was and would be very happy to slow down!  What a crazy thing to end up in an inadvertent race neither of us intended.  I was impressed she was going so fast with Evelyn on her back and thought I'd better keep up.


In the now lime-dusty Back Barn, Stephan was using the new pole chainsaw (until a bit of it broke down!), and Simon and Karl were carrying the prunings to the reserve areas to stack them out of the way.

This tree, under which we stood watching, has long provided a deeply cool place for the cattle.  But with low-growing and hanging branches, I couldn't use this paddock for my insemination cows, which I'd like the option to do.  The cows like rubbing their backs on such branches, but they'll now have to save that pleasure for other paddocks.

Friday the 29th
cow and bull

Early this morning after milking, Zella was obviously coming on heat.  She and the bull stood like this for several hours, occasionally attempting to mount each other, until presumably he did the job while we were out and by early afternoon it was all over.

She will therefore calve a bit later than I had hoped she would.  She has quite cryptic heats, difficult to detect without the bull being present and I must have missed the signs of her last one and mistimed my introduction of the bull.

We went to town, primarily to collect the semen bank from where it spends the rest of the year, into which had been delivered the semen straws I had ordered for this season.  We also picked up some 7in1 vaccine, it being time to redo the calves which had their sensitiser shot a month ago.

At home we began drafting the cattle for mating.  I've already made some decisions about cows who will go from the herd this year.  The damage we did over the long, wet winter, to the soil and pastures, will doubtless have an impact on pasture production throughout next winter, so I want to reduce cow numbers a little.

The first mob in the yards were the youngsters, so I could weigh them and see which of the yearlings were sufficiently well grown to be mated this season.  That job did not go altogether smoothly.  The first two yearlings weighed were under 340kg (my mating minimum is 360kg) and then 823 decided to jump up and attempt to escape over the rails; so while she may have been heavy enough, I disappointedly sent her back out to join the "rejects" without waiting for her to settle on the platform to record her weight, since she obviously didn't want to do that.  Lovely 813, daughter of 613, who I'd kept in the hope she'd turn out well, was only 350kg and she's still not calm enough for me to want her to stay.

Curly's daughter, 812, and Fancy's 166, were the only two to make mating weight, at 358 and 360kg respectively.  Grey 807 completely refused to go up the race, again, but stood entirely calmly while both of us got closer and closer and eventually stood with her, scratching her neck and ears and I decided that if she were that quiet, I certainly didn't want to get rid of her, despite the probability that her lack of cooperation will cause ongoing problems.  She is in better condition than 166 and 812, so presumably over 360kg and big enough for mating.  We will have to hope we can get her up the race come insemination time!  Or maybe she'll just stand still while Stephan tickles her ears.

The tireder/older I get, the easier it is to make decisions on culling cattle. Rail-jumping 823's loose-uddered mother, 743, has also gone on the cull list, since her latest calf is pretty mad as well.

Ten cows and their calves will end up in the cull mob, along with 742, who I want to keep and mate with bull 87, who will join them in the next day or two.

The others will all be combined in a large mob for insemination over the next few weeks and those selected from today's mobs came up through the race to have heat detector patches glued on their backs.

dry algae

On the old concrete around the yards, which gets very hot in the sun, there are many patches of dried out Weedy Nostoc which, when wet in the winter time, looks like this.


We took the young mob, now ten head, across to Flat 4 to cross the stream to the Road Flat paddock.  Stephan followed along in the ute and when they reached the paddock, they kicked up their heels, galloped and frolicked around for several minutes before settling down enough to follow me down through the gate.


Once across the stream, it was hard to see them all.

The grass isn't great here, with the overgrowth of the Parsley Dropwort, but there's enough feed to keep them happy for a few days and conveniently out of the way.


Then I walked three lots of cattle out, trying to keep some of them separated from each other until they reached the paddock.  It didn't really work but fortunately that didn't create any problems either.

I had the main group ahead of me, two cows from Flat 2 (Grey 607 and Ida 145) behind me and they were followed by the three yearling heifers, who I'd assumed would stay back out of the way of the bossier, older animals.  Not so.

Grey 807 overtook her mother and little sister and in the end they all went to the paddock together without too much pushing around in the lane, which was my primary concern.


Dreamliner 787 (after Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, we decided, because she's impossibly slow and dreamy), came back the wrong way.  Her calf was somewhere way up ahead, but she hadn't noticed.

Once they were in 5d for the night, I watched the three yearlings running around with the calves, playing.  Yearling 812 is now with sister Endberly, 807 with mother 607 and sisters 857, 777 and niece 855; Tomorrow 166 will meet up with her mother, Fancy and young brother 176.  It's fun reuniting family members and seeing how they then interact.

Tomorrow's first job will be to bring the other two cow mobs in and draft them for mating, too.

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