There's currently a break between February's last-written page and this one. I got tired of constantly writing in the past as I fought to catch up with time and consistently failed to make any headway. So here is the more recent news and I'll fill in that gap as I can.
I have a new boss, I call her my mean boss: my sister Jude wants help renovating her world trip website, the one I helped her set up and run during 2016. It's taking some time and she's very insistent that I get on with it! I have to impress upon her that I have other responsibilities.
Here are the cows and calves, all together now in a mob of 78 animals, walking along the lanes around to the Big Back North on the other side of the farm.
Stephan has begun work on the last of our boundary double-fencing jobs. For the past couple of years we've had electric tape slung down this boundary to ensure a little distance between our stock and any on the other side (apart from the small calf that found its way into our paddock under the fence where the contractors who built it had not put an adequate foot on the post in the dip! That problem will be addressed in the process of this job, by putting a proper foot on it and then pulling the wires down to where they should be).
I went up to help Stephan run the new wire, since it's a long, steep walk back to the wire dispenser if it jams.
The area to Stephan's left is owned by a new neighbour who intends planting trees on that slope; but we are familiar with the short-lived residence of many of our neighbours, so think it best to run our safety fence along the boundary's entire length. Besides, if she plants anything that might be harmful to our animals, or could be damaged by them, the extra barrier will be welcome.
Out the back the cows were disgruntled again, all gathered at the bottom of the paddock, waiting for me to move them.
There has been recent fencing in the Big Back North which allows me to approach this paddock without my former level of trepidation: most of the dangerous places are now within electric fenced reserves.
I rang the Regional Council to ask if their Magpie trap was available again and they told me there's currently a waiting list for it. I thought perhaps we'd buy an identical trap for our ongoing use but a price-tag of $355 prompted me to look on the internet for other ideas and here is the result of one, a simple design based on a Larsen trap.
But as I write and look things up, I've found the Trapworks instructions, telling me that NZ Magpies are not the same as those in the Larsen videos, keenly hopping up on top of a trap and dropping in to investigate whatever bait is on offer. Bother. We might have to spend the big money for a durable and useful trap.
The top-level Trapworks trap is the one we borrow from NRC and we were quite successful with it a few years ago but not the last time we had it. Perhaps we need to pay closer attention to how we bait it. The traps are very well made, so probably worth the investment.
I was about to let the cattle in to the Bush Flat when I remembered the missing flood gate in the stream crossing. Last time they were here, one of the bull calves walked up the stream and I found him sitting quietly under the Puriri tree, occasionally calling to his distressed mother, who obviously hadn't fed him for a while.
He found his own way out again and didn't appear to have done much damage but I really don't want cattle in there at any time.
The banks are just the right shape to stop anyone pushing upstream under or past the rails but the flood water will simply float them out of the way. The previous rails may have been caught by a very large log that now sits just downstream.
The water is that disturbing colour because of something someone upstream has done. It went cloudy all of a sudden one evening a couple of weeks ago. I took a sample, sent pictures to the Regional Council but they are unwilling to come out and investigate the cause, unless the disturbance is major and continuous, due to resource constraints.
Society's funding of environmental protection agencies in this country has long been poor, well beneath that warranted in an island nation of unique endemic creatures and plants. Environmental degradation like this often goes unchecked because it happens "out of sight" and the authorities can't be everywhere stopping or educating the offenders. NZ culture says "say nothing" but this is one of the streams we've worked really hard to protect and it's the "clean" stream in which I previously photographed the Torrentfish. This is not ok.
While Stephan was working on the floodgate, I went for a wander and noticed the lovely red flowers of a late-flowering Rātā Vine, Metrosideros fulgens, in one of the trees in the stream reserve.
It must be a very old vine, with its substantial and numerous stems.
A cicada laid its eggs in this small Kanono sapling, a burden too much for the small tree to bear.
The stream has continued to bore its way through this hole, deepening the flow through a very straight channel, with the appearance of a spade-dug course.
Back upstream in the photo below ...
... the water level has very obviously dropped. The stream gravel has been scoured out by the water, leaving bare clay.
Below, to the left of this photo ...
...is the point where it presently changes level. Presumably the deepening will continue to creep back upstream, as more gravel is washed away.
The stream's original course is around to the right in the first of these three pictures. That loop took the stream to the edge of our earliest Bush Hill Reserve and back to near the other side of the hole, gradually dropping in height by about a metre, which is why the level is dropping so noticeably upstream now.
The day began in sunshine but turned to rain by 11am. We had visitors from Hokitika and a lovely lunch together; in the later afternoon, Ella arrived with Lois, having driven part of the way here on her Learner's driving licence.
The cows and calves enthusiastically bounced into the Windmill Paddock at 4pm, since they have no idea what tomorrow holds for them: weaning time approaches.
Lois left before any of us woke, driving back to Auckland in time for a mid-day appointment. It always feels funny when someone has been present at bedtime but is gone in the morning.
I went out to start bringing the cattle in, while Stephan and Ella set up gates at the yards. Stephan then called the cows from the front, which always helps keep them moving, especially in the blustery winds today.
In increasingly windy conditions we weighed all the animals except grey 807, who simply refuses to go up the race and as it's not vital to know how heavy she is right now, we let her out again. Silly thing. Hopefully when we have new yards, she'll be more compliant. I can't fathom what stops her entering the present race.
The weights from today allow me to calculate weaning percentages, the size of each calf in relation to the size of its mother. Because they differ in age, I first standardise them to 180 or 200 days and then make my comparisons. At 180 days (six months or thereabouts) they average 44% and at 200 days, just under 48%. The current average cow weight (including all ages) is 556kg.
Then it was weaning time for the first group of seven, up at the top of the flats with the calves in Mushroom 1 and the cows next to them in Flat 5d, with a shared trough and non-electric nose-touching area out behind where I stood to take the picture.
The next group will be separated in a couple of days, so I drafted them into the Pig paddock.
That looks like a very accusatory stare! I reckon 714 knows what's coming.
After I took the reduced mob of 49 out the back to the Spring paddock, we got Zella, Demelza and their calves in for weighing too.
Zoom now weighs 310kg and Spot the Elephant, 264kg. Zella is a substantial 630kg and Demelza, who looked like she'd remain on the scales for the rest of the evening, 692kg. That well-conditioned state means her weaning percentage is the lowest in the herd at 35% (180 days) and 39% (200 days).
She struggled to fit through the gap in front of her to leave the race. We all thought she was going to get stuck. Cows can't easily back out of narrow spaces because while their ribs will compress a bit on the way in, their angles aren't right for going backwards and get caught: she had to go forwards. I don't think it was quite as hard as she made it look.
Fancy 126's udder lesion is now almost healed and I can better see that it is probably just a tiny extra teat. I think it got irritated by the calf's teeth, causing it to swell and then the skin to rupture but it looks entirely ordinary again now.
With the calves away up the top end of the flats, we didn't hear them much from inside the house during the night, although other people may well have: valleys carry noise in unexpected ways.
Stella came north with some surfing friends, with whom she spent the last couple of days at Ahipara. This afternoon the friends returned to Auckland and I met them all down at the main road as they went south, and brought Stella home.
Ella and Stephan were on the side of the hill fencing, so Stella and I went for a walk to check the cattle Over the Road, intending to go and find them when we'd done that.
But by the time we made our way across to that boundary fence, there was nobody there, the two workers having gone home for a rest.
These fungi are growing in a crevice in the base of a Totara and a Puriri tree in one of the gullies running down the hillside Over the Road. I have an earlier picture of them a couple of weeks ago, which will eventually appear when I write that page.
There is a spring in the gully, to which I'd taken Stella on our walk. Springs are fascinating: all that pure water continually welling up out of the ground.
Stella and I went walking through the reserve area at the end of the Back Barn, where she found multiple photographic subjects.
This is Nertera depressa. I have only ever noticed it when it has berries, where they seem so improbably placed all over the low-growing, ground-covering plants.
This white lichen is always striking. It is uncommon enough around the farm to be very noticeable when I find it, usually on smooth boulders, sometimes on clay banks.
When we'd finished exploring the reserve we walked down to the cows and, after checking they were all present, moved them across the stream to the Back Barn paddock.
Stella kept referring to 807 as Fringy, for her long hair flopping forward from her poll. I'm not sure if that will stick.
Later in the afternoon I brought the fourteen animals from the Pig Paddock to the top of the lane and Stella and Ella helped me draft the cows into the Windmill and the calves into the House paddock.
This was the last feed for 613 and 843. The calf weighs 272kg and is 180 days old today. His mother has done a lovely job as usual.
Stephan went to town for something this afternoon and came home with Emma, who wanted to visit Ella for the night. Now we have three young women in our house!