The week beginning the 11th of August 2018.
Saturday the 11th

We brought the thin cow mob across the road, since I'd prefer they were out the back while we're not here.

When Elizabeth arrived soon after, we followed the cattle out along the lanes to the Route 356 gate and left them going on to the Spring paddock while we walked along Route 356 to the Middle Back.  (Stephan came back later on the bike and shut them into the Spring.)

people walking

We climbed the hill to the central ridge and opened the gate for the cows to come up and over from the Big Back during the next day or two while we're away.

The ground conditions were wet and boggy, as per earlier photos of this part of the farm and I realised it would have been helpful to offer Elizabeth a stick - walking in this sort of mud requires much practice to do it with any sort of ease.

cattle and people

Later in the afternoon and staying for dinner, we had Christina and Emma, who came out for a ride to feed the heifers some hay.

Sunday the 12th

Having saved the Windmill paddock for the heifers, I let them in this morning, and there should be enough feed for them until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Going away anywhere requires quite a lot of planning and preparation, which is why we don't very often go anywhere together.  But with sufficient feed provided to all cattle, hens, budgies and larger parrot for two or three days, we set off out the gate just before noon, headed for Auckland.

The roads were clear until we stopped at Kawakawa and made a cup of coffee, when it seemed the whole world was moving south by car, van, truck and bus.  It was a slower trip from there on but we still made it to Auckland by just after five.

people cooking

Jude's lovely friends Beccah and Mikaere were cooking up a storm for her delicious birthday dinner.

I've otherwise given up alcohol for the last year but was tempted out of abstention by some expensive Champagne: consequences be damned!

woman and birthday cake

Stephan had made Jude a cake, which we'd safely transported and then adorned with golden candles.

Sarah's chocolate cake recipe is a great hit wherever we go!

Monday the 13th

We spent the day at Jill's rest-home, packing boxes with many of the belongings she no longer knows are hers, de-cluttering a room it has been hard for the carers to care for her in, impossible for the cleaners to service appropriately when the resident is incontinent and the carpet needs cleaning, and so on.  Jude and I have differing thoughts on Jill's requirements and I have always capitulated to a greater emotional tie than my own.  But making Jill's room feel familiar isn't the greatest need any more and indeed the ability to do that has almost passed: she does not recognise most of her belongings.  The pictures on her wall are just pictures, no longer imbued with the deep and life-long meanings they once had.  Those understandings have long been fading but are now all but gone.

And so the ute was stacked with a large book-case, most of its books and knick-knacks, a beautiful antique oval Kauri table whose surface has been ruined by wet marks, an odd children's sticker and various other marks previous-Jill would never have allowed to happen.  That damage can probably be undone with some workshop expertise.

Jill came back to her room while we were still working and noticed none of the upheaval.  Her horizons seem to have contracted very suddenly, so that what happens around her is no longer her concern, although that now means everything is confused and frightening.  I have been wondering since whether there is any sort of medication she might be given to successfully reduce her anxiety.  She is not comfortable, nor content and it is intolerable that she should be left to continue in this state.

Tuesday the 14th

On our way home this morning we stopped at Warkworth to meet with a lawyer I first met many years ago at a Rural Women event, who expressed a particular interest in the construction of legal instruments for the use of people with farms who don't want to just sell them at the end of their own farming lives.  We had a wide-ranging discussion for an hour and came away with some ideas to discuss together and with the wider family.

We arrived at our gate as the 5pm pips sounded on the radio.  Time enough to spy some animals through the binoculars and to decide they were happy enough where they were until tomorrow.

Wednesday the 15th

I went walking amongst all the cattle today, ensuring all were content and in good health.

After I shut the gate at the top of the Middle Back, I climbed through the fence into the PW reserve to have a look for the various trees and saplings I've particularly noticed before.

The otherwise-epiphytic Pittosporum cornifolium, Tāwhiri karo, that was growing beneath this parent plant in the Puriri above, has died, leaving only bare twigs.  Seeing this plant in flower, I must go around to the Bush Flat reserve and see if the ground-growing plants there are flowering, for closer inspection.

I found none of the Tree Fuchsia plants still alive.  They seem to be very fragile.

Thursday the 16th

The rest of the family of this juvenile Pukeko are presumably off nesting again (a week later seen on the island with newly-hatched chicks) and so the rearing is being continued by only one adult bird.  I very quietly opened the bathroom window a crack, to get a clear photo of them.  When I tried opening it a bit more, they ran away.

Sarah and Wanairangi spent some of the day with us, Sarah having come up to stay for a few nights with Elizabeth again.

Friday the 17th

This is not acceptable behaviour!  Twenty-two-month-old 811 was coming on heat and in her overwrought state was fixated on Imogen 155's developing udder, sucking whatever might have been in there, out.  Imogen isn't due to calve for another two months, so there probably wasn't much going on in her udder yet but I had better separate the pregnant heifers at some stage before 811's next heat, in case this is something she will do again.

I see this happen occasionally, but only when a heifer is coming on heat.  Any animal who, as an adult, routinely suckled another, would have to leave the farm!  An adult could take all a cow's milk very quickly, leaving a hungry calf.  I've only had one like that, right back at the beginning of my farming career.

In the afternoon we went to town.  I had not planned to go until I received a worried call from the Switzer Residential Care staff member who takes care of the budgies in the secure dementia unit, who said one of the birds was sitting on the floor, behaving unusually.  I haven't been to check on the budgies for several weeks, since people there provide for them on a daily basis.  This time I found chips in the ceramic feed and water dishes and the sick bird looked very much like it may have sustained an injury from falling from its perch.  The white bird has never been able to fly and so I retired it to that small cage where it didn't really need to.  But I wonder if some of the residents have been violent to the cage recently?  The cage doors are all padlocked so they cannot open them but the dishes would not be cracked unless they had been caused to fall off the small shelves in the cage and while the bird's injury may have been a simple accident, it is possible it fell because of a sudden cage movement.

There was nothing to be done for the bird, except provide quick and permanent relief, which I quietly did out of sight of the residents and staff.  I had taken a replacement bird with me, the sire of our little dead pet bird, who I do not wish to breed from again.  His colouring is much darker than the white bird but nobody noticed.

We came home with more live birds than we took to town, having then gone out to Elizabeth's place to catch the two young roosters, grown to maturity since they spent a week here in their infancy, when Elizabeth and William were away from home.  Their father is a handsome Black Orpington William acquired from someone who'd advertised him on trademe, named Nigel - the rooster, not the guy he got him from.  We'll keep the most attractive of Nigel's sons to breed with our hens, since we failed so spectacularly with the last clutch of eggs we hatched (those four handsome roosters would never have laid eggs) and the other will become a lovely dinner.

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