The week beginning the 27th of October 2018.
Saturday the 27th
cows and calves

I set my phone alarm to wake me with something fairly quiet (a nice little endangered bird), just before 6.30, so Stephan and I could rise, dress and roll up our bedding quietly before the morning karakia (first prayer, said at dawn, as people are beginning to wake).  Then we quietly left the Marae and headed home to perform our morning tasks.

We'd left Zella and 807 with their calves in the little area beside the milking shed, so they'd be easy and quick to get in this morning and while Stephan milked, I went out to check on the newest calves and their mothers.

There was still a bit of upset amongst them, with Fancy 166 still being aggressive with the other calves but once she was on the outside of the group (here on the right), she stopped chasing the others away.  I was most concerned to confirm that Ellie 119 had been successfully feeding her calf since yesterday, having not been around to observe it happening.  All was well and everyone was where they needed to be, although I had to hunt around a bit to find a calf in one of the Puriri tree reserves, where they like to snuggle down in the long grass.

Then we had some fast breakfast while we processed the milk, knowing we'd be a bit too rushed to make it back to the marae in time to eat there, and dashed off out again.

The day's learning was excellent.  We've met most of the students from the other classes at least once or twice at the day-long gatherings during the year.  Today the tutors ensured we were mixed into different groups so we spent time with some who were less familiar to us.

British people began settling here in the first half of the 1800s.  The colonists wanted to make this new place like home, as if nobody already lived here, bringing their trees, crops and garden plants, their livestock and pets, many of their familiar wild animals and birds and most importantly, their language, which they laid over all the land and its people.  Colonisation has been an ongoing process throughout the ensuing decades and many people we are studying with had older relatives who were denied the right to speak their own language when they entered into the education system, history that was long contradicted by the state.  Parents then could see that to succeed in this new cultural context, their children should concentrate on learning English well, so stopped engaging their children in ongoing linguistic advancement in te reo.  That generation therefore lost their early language, taught their own children none and so we are in classes with people who are the children of non-speakers, some whose parents were native speakers but whose life-long engagement in a pākehā-dominant society meant they ceased using it; and some who were raised by their grand-parents and were fluent in childhood but are no longer.

Politically I think it's vital for the survival of te reo that it is seen to be valued and respected by the whole community, or at least a strong contingent of society.  Denigration, ignorance and suppression of the language by the dominant, colonising population has led to its almost-demise; it won't be enough just to stop pushing it under: I believe we must actively support its resurgence.

On a personal level, learning te reo has been an intention for a long time, a growing desire over many years.  Mostly it's about being able to engage more with the community in which I live and have always been a part.  I've never been fully part of the pākehā community, with its patriarchal, macho, materialistic leanings.  This land holds me.  I want to understand how it holds tangata whenua, the first people of the land, and the language is intrinsic to that understanding.

Stephan has found the process much more challenging than I, with my linguistic aptitude.  Like many English speakers, he finds the formation of the diphthongs and digraphs challenging.  For instance the vowel combination au, sounding much like the vowels in toe, is tough for a reader of English.  The trickiest consonant is ng, primarily because in English it never appears at the beginning of a word, as it often does in te reo.  It's the same sound as at the end of sing (as long as you're not one of those who pronounce it with a hard g) and once you get to grips with it, is no more difficult than any other sound.

But even single-vowel sounds are endlessly mispronounced by English speakers, for example ko is said by many with the "o" as it appears in the English alphabet; the reo "o" is much more similar to "or" and does not vary in any context.  That one is really simple and it stuns me when I keep hearing radio announcers, who must have been taught how to pronounce the small phrases they now say, still getting it wrong.

But then at least it is on "mainstream" public radio more commonly now.  That's got to be a good start.

The noho marae was originally intended to be for two nights but too many people had work or family commitments that would have prevented them fully taking part for that long, so the gathering was concluded at the end of today, with a final meal together.

During the day and overnight we had rain, at last, 17.5mm, which isn't much but will get the grass going, especially if we get the forecast rain in the next couple of days.

Sunday the 28th
milking time

Training continues.  The cows and calves were up at the far end of the paddock this morning, so we both walked up to collect them: Stephan carried a bin with a little molasses in the bottom, to entice 807, since that's far easier than trying to push her along.


Some of the Kahikatea trees' colours are stunning.  The trees between them are Totara.

cow and calf

Emergency's calf finally has feeding sorted; thank goodness.  I watched her as she fed well from every teat.  There's a trick to getting a teat into the mouth and some calves work it out without any trouble at all but occasionally one won't.  I had hoped, and it has proved so, that if I supported this calf for a few days and ensured she had enough feed to keep her going, she would eventually come right.

Emergency's milk is no longer bloody.

Later in the day I moved the two of them in to the Windmill with Eva and Endberly, Emergency and calf having spent the last couple of days on their own while I ensured all was well.

hen and chicks

In the evening, when the greatest danger from hawks has passed, I let the hen and chicks out to roam the garden.  Mother hen obviously enjoys taking her chicks exploring.

budgerigar and chicks

Another couple of new arrivals: the larger of these two was hatched on Friday and I found it alone in the nest, fortunately not too cold by then, while mother bird had the other egg out on the floor of the cage, huddling over it to keep it warm.  I have no idea how it got there, unless it got stuck to her feathers when she went out to feed or something.  The chick inside, the smaller of this pair, obviously survived whatever happened and here it is too.  I feared this would be another unsuccessful breeding attempt, since I couldn't be here all day yesterday to put right anything that might go wrong.

The quick growth of the first chick is evidence the parents are looking after them well.


Eva's cute daughter continues being extremely friendly.  I'll have to think of a name ...


Endberly's daughter is still the prettiest but she won't let me stroke her now.


Two-day-old daughter of Ellie 119.

Monday the 29th

The training is beginning to work.  This morning I took a topmilk bin out and banged it with my hand and 807 looked up and came walking toward me.

Each morning I've groomed her with the curry comb as well, to reinforce the pleasures of coming in to the milking shed when called.  When 807 comes in, Zella is much easier to move and the calves generally follow.

cows and calves

I wander over and count calves from time to time, work out where some of them like to hide in the reserves, so I can find them if their mothers can't.  It's much easier when they curl up on the grass out in the open, with their mothers nearby.

Tuesday the 30th
native orchid

I was about to let the six uncalved cows come along the lane and decided I'd try and protect the lone sun orchid flower spike out in the open, with a few large rocks.  It would be a shame if anyone accidentally ate it on their way past.

drain fencing

Stephan had been out to do this nearly-last little bit of drain protection fencing, so now there's only a small section at the base of the PW left to do.

Those sharp-topped waratahs worry me a bit as I ride along the lanes but only because I'm always imagining the next disaster.  It's not very likely that I will impale my head on one.

calf and cow

Fancy 166's daughter has weird eyes.  They have a bit of baby blue in the centre still, which will presumably disappear in the next few days but make her look slightly demonic at present.

I was standing stroking 166 later in the day, approaching evening, when something happened further up the paddock.  I think one of the calves may have chased a Pukeko and frightened it, or there was an altercation between two birds which frightened a couple of calves, which alarmed their mothers and there was a sudden stampede down past me, collecting 166 and her calf and 126's calf went catapulting through the fence into Flat 2, breaking a wire!

I rang Stephan, since I wasn't carrying the radio, and he came with pliers and fence-tensioner tool to reinstate the wire.  It wasn't electric but the calf must have got quite a fright when it hit the wire that hard.  It seemed to be moving alright afterwards.


I stayed with the cows while Stephan was working, watching 166's heifer walk through the fence at the bottom of the paddock and disappear into the undergrowth.  I was trying to figure out how close we were to the stream but she soon came back around and out again.  (Her eye is in the centre of the picture.)

Wednesday the 31st
cow and calf

Fancy 126's persistent calls from across the flats this morning indicated assistance was required.  It looked like her calf hadn't tried to go back through the fence after yesterday's upset (the bottom wires are still switched off, so she could have) and so we walked the calf up and out the gate, into and along the lane, and back in with her tight-uddered mother.

Here Stephan was undoing some tape I'd left set up for a move from 5b on the right to Flat 4 at the end, so we could open the Flat 3 gate.

rabbit and chicks

Big soft rabbit has been around the House paddock for a while and regularly in the garden when we step outside.  There is apparently also a very small black rabbit around but I've only seen a flash of darkness on two occasions, not enough to see that it was really a rabbit, so no pictures yet.

The chicken cage is propped up with a brick at the other end, so the chicks and their mother could come out and also take themselves off to bed at the appropriate time, when I would then come out and put the cage end back down on the ground.


Hooked on molasses, 807 tries to get every last skerrick out of the bin.

It's funny how some of them are so keen on it, while others won't come near it.  There are only a handful of those who won't touch it - and I haven't given up on them yet.  They're harder to convert once there are bigger, keener cows in their mob because anyone who's not quick enough, doesn't get any.


My rose-pruning efforts are showing effect, with lovely blooms now appearing in the garden.

This is one I regularly cut and bring in, because it is both charming and beautifully fragrant.  I cannot remember where it came from, but it grows easily from cuttings so there are several of these plants in the garden now.

Thursday the 1st of November
Ko te Rāpare, tuatahi o Whiringa-ā-Rangi

The last couple of days have been quite blustery and today was worse!  The young cattle Over the Road were all sheltering at the bottom of the hill in the sunshine, out of the wind.

wild ginger

Wild Ginger is spreading around the local area and nobody who could facilitate any action to get rid of it is doing anything about it, despite our asking them to help organise something.  We may well already have lost the battle, since a plant like this, growing up in the cleft of a Totara tree, is proof positive that birds are spreading the seed.

Ginger gets into the bush and grows in thick, hard, spreading clumps, stopping anything else from germinating.

I'm feeling pretty hopeless about our natural world at present.  I think I would like to live back in the city, donate a bit of money to Greenpeace and pretend everything is rosy.  It really isn't.  Despite the work of some high-profile conservation organisations, our native birds are dying at a rate they'll soon not be able to recover from and the native forest is being threatened on every side, by disease, pest mammals and rampant invasive weed species.  I can only console myself with the knowledge that I will personally leave no children to witness the aftermath.


The urinating cow is Genie 150 and it wasn't the wind making her stream of urine go off to the side.  When I inseminated her last year, I felt something odd, internally.  I think she has some sort of scarring or adhesion in her reproductive tract, which might be causing this diversion.

She still looks pretty manky, thin and rough-haired.  I have been thinking I may have to quit her - get her back into good condition if possible, then send her to the works.  I think there's something not quite right and I might be buying a lot of trouble for her and me if I try and breed her again.  She was oddly stressed around the time of her first calving but there didn't seem to be anything wrong enough to call the vet then, and I don't know if anything would have been obvious.  It's hard when the patient can't tell you anything.

Angus bull

Yearling bull 176 is shaping up quite nicely, physically, but I'm not altogether happy with his temperament.  He may prove a little too aggressive for a long life - hopefully his, not mine.  If he proves to be a problem, I will have no hesitation in sending him off to the works, pronto!

Friday the 2nd
cow and calf

Fancy 126's calf was out in the lane this morning, again requiring assistance to get back to her mother.

She looked like she was going to be an idiot about it but I kept quietly moving to get her along and through the gate and she realised everything was safe and calmed down very quickly.  I'd started to think that 126 might have to go off to the works with her son, if this daughter was troublesome too.

cow and calf

Then, the calf having shown firm signs of not panicking about my proximity, I spent several minutes squatting beside her as she fed, rubbing her back, stroking around under her chin.  She ought to be quiet, being sired by the same bull as Eva's daughter.


As I returned home, I found 745's calf with her head stuck in this gap!  She wasn't here a few minutes ago.

I knew she'd be upset about my approach, so went toward her very slowly and calmly, seeing that she would probably get herself free before I got there, which she did.  Hopefully she'll have learnt not to do that again.

Stephan and I had a kitchen night: I made lots of butter from a lot of lovely cream and Stephan made Lemon Curd, which we haven't had for ages, from our own lemons, our own butter and eggs from our own hens.  We are growing some sugar cane ...

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