The cows are used to there being a trough at this end of the PW, so until we decide where this one will eventually end up, it can sit here by the track. We're fairly certain it will go on the other side of the track somewhere nearby, so cutting the pipe here to insert a t-joint seemed sensible.
This spider ran across the track when I stopped my bike to set up the gates into the PW for the cows. I'd never have noticed her if she'd not moved.
She is probably a Wolf spider, Anoteropsis hilaris, from her fast movement.
It's lovely having so much to feed the cattle again. Here they're going into the bottom of the PW.
The floods bring big mounds of gravel and silt to the crossings and it seemed sensible to use some of the silt for the base we need to form for the new tank. Stephan bent a bit of wire bird netting around a frame and we sieved this stuff through it, to screen out any larger stones and other debris. We filled the tractor bucket and Stephan trundled it up the hill to the tank site. That'll save a little bit on buying sand.
A traffic jam, Diggers Valley style, as we tried to go back out of the PW. Stephan had to wait while I gradually brought all the cows and calves along the track and sent them up the hill past the tractor. It would be impossible to turn them all on the track to go back the way they'd come, or try and drive through them. Why weren't they all up the slopes grazing? Goodness knows.
Once there's a fence on the upside of the track, this won't happen. But that's a job which has to wait for a fencer with two good knees and fewer other pressing things to do first.
I thought there was a dead pig or some other creature over in the Swamp East paddock, so went to check. It was a log.
The flood waters had been so high, they'd carried all sorts of debris into the paddocks, in unexpected places. It would not have been surprising to find bodies from up in the bush amongst it all.
"Look at my dinner" pictures on the net generally annoy me but when my partner produces such a pretty meal from a new recipe (and it was delicious), I will make an exception. This is a French Onion Tart. Only the onions and flour come from elsewhere.
With the left-over pastry, an apple pie, with Sebastian apples - a tree grown from seed by Sebastian and I when he used to come for his school holidays during 2003.
We've not seen Sebastian since that time. He must be about 20, now. Maybe one day he'll knock on the door.
In the process of organising to buy the new tank, someone I spoke with mentioned the need for an overflow and I realised we'd never put one in the big tank and probably should have. The lid has an air vent (which we must have known about and had forgotten), so presumably excess water could have escaped that way had it been necessary; but best not to have water running down the sides and eroding the sand from under the tank.
There's now a bit of alkathene from a new fitting just above the inlet, which will be tied to one of those fence posts to keep it in place outside the tank's base.
We tried to do this between rain showers but failed. There are heavy rain warnings in place today but so far, only damp.
The cows and calves were all (I presumed) standing around on this steep slope in the PW and so I opened the gate for them to come out. But then I only counted 90 as they came out into the lane. Mad 829 eventually appeared at the bottom of the hill but he's so stupidly scared of me that when I tried to gently urge him along toward the gate, he took off up the hill and around behind me again.
I had to leave him there and wait until he came out on his own. He appeared along the track on the flats a couple of hours later and we were able to reunite him with the rest of the mob and his mother.
When the cows walk anywhere, many of them walk the same path: here a wavering, muddy line along the middle of the track.
811's swollen, wasp-stung eyelid (of four days ago) has returned to normal, as I expected.
This is our original camp site in the Camp paddock, from an angle I rarely photograph. Stephan and I lived here for several weeks when I first moved to live on the farm in 1996, until it got a bit cold and we had to make other arrangements. The bright strip in the background is the sunshine on the Windmill and Flat 5 paddocks.
A few happy things occurred today. Firstly we had an email from the grand-daughter of the people who owned this farm until about 1951. I recognised her name from stories Stephan and his parents have told of meeting that elderly couple nearly 40 years ago, when they called in one day. She and her partner are going to come and stay with us in May for a couple of days, bringing old photos and other fascinating information.
The next was that we've organised an appointment for Stephan to have an MRI on his knee, in preparation for a visit to an orthopaedic surgeon at the end of next month. It's a relief for him to have some definite dates.
Then I decided to take my own health situation in hand and made another call, this time to a private surgeon in Auckland, to enquire how many millions of dollars it might cost to fix a hernia, to save me waiting some interminable period on the public health list. It just so happens that said surgeon is in discussions with Northland Health, hoping to organise some day surgery lists in Kaitaia in the near future. What a stroke of extreme good fortune! So the millions of dollars can remain in the reserve fencing and cattle yards fund and I might get the unusual rupture in my insides fixed within a very tolerable time-frame. I'm counting this as the best phone call I've made all year!
Our issues are not life threatening, just painful and work-limiting, which is no good at all for people with lots to do. Neither of us can stand for long periods and I'm not supposed to lift heavy weights any more, so I have to wait for Stephan to limp over to wherever I am to do whatever it is I can't. Ridiculous. Apparently inguinal hernias occur in women in about 5% of cases. Lucky me. I've often heard radio programmes about people waiting for years to have them repaired in the NZ health system with its over-loaded waiting lists, but never knew much about where such problems occurred, nor why they were problematic. It's really not comfortable when things don't stay where they should be!
I left the big mob of cows and calves in Flat 5a last night, not quite enough feed for them all, but I presumed they'd be asleep for some of the time. It's good to get the grass down low again. This morning I let them all through the gate into 5b for a few hours, before moving them on again after lunch.
I hadn't noticed this trough had been shoved sideways when the cattle were last in Flat 4 (on the left), when the water was off and the trough was drunk dry. Since then it's been running over, draining the tank and creating a big boggy patch all around.
I siphoned it out and replaced it back between the two fences and waited while it refilled to half-way, so the animals waiting to drink would be less likely to move it again.
Big mobs allow good pressure on the pastures. They were here in Flat 3 for 25 hours and the presence of all the dead dry stuff on the surface of the sward tells me they were eating it down well - Kikuyu pastures never get eaten down to quite the same level as other pastures. The green patch in the left corner will be growth over the top of a dung patch. The cattle will eat the very tops of such plants at some point, but won't take it down nor eat right up to its edges for some months, until the creatures in and on the soil have made it disappear.
Today on the internet, or perhaps more correctly in the workings behind the scenes, the option to reserve variants on New Zealand domain names ran out, so I had to make a decision: we've always been www.diggersvalley.co.nz but I haven't quite decided whether or not www.diggersvalley.nz is a potentially more useful address. In any case, if I didn't register it, someone else might have and then I'd be unlikely ever to get it back. So now we're also at that address, which makes no difference to anything immediately at all, except for my wallet. I'm suspicious that it's just another way to extract more funds from thousands of internet users.
I spent the rest of the morning applying to our social services system for Stephan's upcoming Superannuation, having been advised to apply early. There was a great deal of swearing. The system requires authentication via text message codes which often requires us to go out along the lanes to find a signal for the phone and by the time one returns to the house, the code has expired. I went out with the phone while I did something else and radioed back to Stephan to enter the code, so I could continue the process, as long as it didn't time out before I got home again. Fortunately at some point a passing cloud of reception floated over our house for a while and I could sign in without all that palaver.
What a lovely lot of sleek, healthy animals. They all look really lovely at this time of year, the smaller calves have usually caught up quite well with the others in growth, any yearling heifers whose coats had been a bit rough have moulted the old hair and look smooth and shiny and even young heifers like Jet 777, who has been looking a bit stressed, have come right.
The grasses growing in the lanes are different from those in the pastures and it looks like they're either delicious or just a very nice change from the normal diet; the cattle eat them enthusiastically, as if they've been starved wherever they've come from.
While Stephan was out working to smooth Route 356's new metal, our new tank was delivered. It seems a bit bigger in reality than we anticipated.
The orchard needs mowing!
There are quite a few fruit on the trees, the possums having been kept mostly under control while they've been growing.
The tank is exactly the right size for the back of the ute. We initially thought we'd carry it out with the tractor's front-end-loader but it's a bit big for that.
When we chose the colour for the big tank, I thought the dark green "Karaka" would be best but it ended up standing out against the surrounding trees. This one is "Olive Green" and looks like it will blend in with the Totara and other leaf colours very nicely.
What a great track. The rear wheels spun a bit getting up that steep bit but Stephan managed it well and got safely to the top.
Then we carefully rolled it off and up the hill.
Either one of us could hold it on our own, so it wasn't too hard to push it up the steep slope.
Once it was up where we needed it I left Stephan finishing off the sand pad and went up the hill to see why the water had stopped running again.
The piece of pipe I'd used to reconnect the filter in its temporary position had kinked, no doubt where it had done so earlier, before it was removed from the line and slung up on the bank where I'd found it. If I'd had a hacksaw blade with me the other day, I would have shortened it slightly, which might have prevented this problem because the pipe wouldn't have been pushed into such a bend.
Again I'd failed to bring any kind of cutting implement to shorten that pipe or any other I found, so set about working out whether or not I could re-site the filter in its usual position, a little further upstream. I found enough lengths of pipe and had enough joiners to do the job.
The big joiners are hard to get into the pipes ordinarily, let alone if they've been hanging around in the bush for a while and are slightly out-of-shape at the ends. I used my new ratchet system to pull a fitting into the end of this piece of pipe.
I came up with this idea a couple of weeks ago. It is possible to gently hit the end of a fitting to get it into a pipe but there's the risk of harming the end you hit. It's better to apply steady pressure and wriggle the pipe so it gradually goes onto the fitting and that's where the ratchet system works extremely well. With enough loops along the pipe, the straps hold firmly once they're under pressure, especially when wet. Fortunately the strapping was also easy enough to work undone again where I'd knotted it.
Once I'd pulled the fitting on to this bit of pipe, I pulled the other pipe on by looping the other bit of strap around the pipe to the right and jiggled the pipes and tightened the ratchet before tightening the big nuts on the joiner.
Then I untied the filter (the big aqua coloured thing with the holes) and heaved it up over the rocks to the pool where it had come from, about 20 metres upstream. Stephan and William once knocked a couple of steel standards into cracks in between the rocks there to hold it in place and one remains, with rope to tie to the filter.
I took longer to do everything than I'd thought, so will have to come back up again before it rains, to better secure the filter rope to its steel standard. I'd told Stephan I'd be no later than 5pm and feared he might try to come up looking for me if I didn't get back down the hill soon.
I still had time to look at interesting things on the way back down, these coral fungi growing from a fallen Totara branch.
When I went to see how he was getting on, Stephan had finished packing down the sand for the tank's base, so we tipped it gently into place and got the water running up the hill, leaving the pipe running into the top of the tank at the moment to get some weight in it. The float valve to control the incoming water wasn't delivered with the tank, so we'll do the plumbing when that arrives.