Some of the nephews came out to do some birthday scrub-cutting with Stephan, much to his extreme pleasure. There were four small boys, too, who went out to explore the stream while their fathers and uncles worked.
A bit of hard physical work was what most of them felt like today.
We've planned to clear that slope for ages - the other side is partly done already, lots of it taken away as lovely firewood.
In the evening, a lovely roast dinner prepared by Stephan and everyone else, followed by a birthday cake made by Anna. (Any advice to the contrary will be happily received; my memory is all wonky over these days.)
William had been planning making Birthday Dinner for Stephan. They play age tag every year - William is always one numerical year older than Stephan for six months, so Stephen gets to refer to him as the old guy for a while, until he catches up.
In the picture, working clock-wise from the bottom left: Raewyn, Simon, Anna, Stephan and Sean, Liam, Ryan, Roy, Miriam, Mathew and Zandor. Floss was behind Stephan and Evelyn was asleep in the spare room.
Most of the family went for a walk on the beach this morning, a week since William, John and Elizabeth were here together. We stopped where William had died and John spoke of the lovely last conversation he'd been having with William, about his children, his plans, his happiness in his life.
We walked sometimes together, sometimes apart, some kicking a ball around the beach as we walked. It was cold and windy!
Then as William and John were in the habit of doing after a run, there was a swim. For some.
You have to go under twice, as William always said, to prove the first time wasn't an accident.
Who is this and where has she come from?
Stephan saw this extraordinary creature a couple of days ago up by the shed and it keeps appearing in different areas. It must have been dumped by someone who didn't want a rabbit any more. Poor thing - although every time I've seen it it seems to be having a good munch and if it is living where Stephan has mostly seen it, in his shed, it's warm and cosy enough. There are two dangers to its safety: it may catch whatever has lately killed most of the wild rabbits (unless it is vaccinated) or somebody might shoot it (not us because it's very beautiful and fun to see around).
When we went to Elizabeth's place today a small boy very excitedly asked if he could come and stay at the farm! Zandor is a new addition to Mathew and Raewyn's family and has heard so much about the farm that he really wanted to come and stay while they're up north.
So he came home with us, via the butcher just out of Awanui, from whom we collected the homekill meat, all nicely frozen, in several big boxes. Being offered the option of having it frozen for an extra per kilogramme cost, we gladly accepted, since last week it would have been too much to have had to remember to rotate the meat as it froze down in our chest freezer.
At home we went walking to move the cows, separating the ten who'll go to the works.
As we walked, I spotted extra animals in Mushroom 1, a black sow and her four large ginger offspring. Have to come out with the rifle again soon.
We walked back watching the moon rise and the last of the sunshine on the hills to the east.
Zella and the calves all ran around in great excitement as Stephan and Zandor moved them down to the gate. It's just that time of the evening.
Demelza's behaviour is far more mature. Actually she's slow partly because that's how she always is but she is obviously also now affected by arthritis in her rear legs or hips. When Spot is weaned, we will have to assess her condition.
Stephan and Zandor did some track patching today - places where there is not quite enough metal get spongy and wet at this time of year. Then they installed a long-wanted trough in the Bush Flat, since we can no longer rely on clean stream water for the cattle there. When we put another trough in on the other side of the stream, we'll start using it as two separate paddocks and stop their access to the stream except during a move between the two areas.
We're otherwise finding it hard to do anything much at all.
Zandor and I went to get the calves in while Stephan prepared dinner. Zandor had excellent stock sense - or no fear. He seemed to put himself in exactly the right place or was otherwise quick to see what I needed him to do. Zella bounced up to him in a rather alarming manner but as he didn't shy away, she backed off. (Yes, a dangerous moment I didn't anticipate and prevent!)
What a gorgeous day!
We thought that might be a Kiwi print just in front of Zandor. Since the young people moved in just down the road with their uncontrolled dogs, we've seen less of these around. When they're all extinct, who will care?
I pose these hopeless questions because out here in the country it feels like a losing, lonely battle against the slack attitudes of dog owners. Dog control is a national policy issue urban people can also influence, to support the work of those of us who have to face up to its failings on a daily basis. I have to tolerate hateful abuse by individuals I confront when their dogs wander around here. If there were stronger regulations and a louder public protest about the killing of native species by uncontrolled dogs, my battle would be a less lonely one and might even find some success. As it is, those who rarely restrain their dogs know they have the weight of common local practice and attitude on their side, others who will side with them in their condemnation of anyone who speaks out against their carelessness. People like me need the moral and vocal support of those multitudes who wish we were doing more to protect our dwindling native bird populations.
And then there are feral pigs. On the pastures their damage is costly and irritating. In the bush it is destructive and species-threatening.
The genetic diversity of our threatened species is shrinking every night with each individual death. If we don't act with decisiveness soon, it will be too late.
Stephan turned some miniature vessels for Sarah.
William hadn't pruned the grapes for us this year. Fortunately he'd provided good advice and instruction.
Here is the much clearer slope in the Swamp paddock, with lots of stacked wood for collection in the summer.
Elizabeth, Sarah, Miriam (and Samuel? I can't actually remember who was here!) came out for a walk. We all went out to the Spring paddock, sat for a while, then wandered home again.
I've been keeping the ten cull cows with bull 151 so I can see who comes on heat. I need to provide a few companions for Mr 87 when they go to the works, who definitely won't be on heat during the journey, so he's not tempted to jump anyone and potentially hurt his leg again.
725 is on heat today, so she won't be on for another three weeks, by which time they should be gone.