The week beginning the 6th of January 2018.
Saturday the 6th

Our NZPost contractor no longer delivers all our mail.  I have complained that he keeps losing/mis-delivering mail items and he is now retaliating by refusing to deliver parcels of any kind.  I don't quite understand the mentality of his approach, nor how someone can keep his job while carrying out such pettiness, but it seems he is managing very well, since further complaints to NZPost have been ignored.  Great service!

One day in the middle of all the public holidays, a card was left telling us there was a parcel in town (these parcels have all been subject to a rural delivery surcharge for delivery to our rural address) for us to pick up.  We weren't expecting anything so it became a fun bit of occasional speculation: what is it?

Stephan went to town today to the market and brought it home: a long box containing a new umbrella!

A few weeks ago I wrote to FMG Insurance and sent them this picture, and asked for a new one.  I wrote that "the old one looks really crappy now when it appears on my website and everyone knows it's FMG. It used to be very smart. Now it looks like something from a disaster."  (I may not be as funny as I think I am, but still find the whole thing very amusing.)

cattle race

7in1 vaccine booster time.  We did the insemination mob then bull 87's mob (he wasn't with them, so we'll have to go out and look for him later) and in the evening, the two house-cow calves.

Zoom and Spot already have their NAIT tags and we decided it would be a good opportunity to do the rest of the calves, before they get any bigger.  I loaded the taggers and Blue shoved the rail in behind the calves and helped Stephan when he went out to herd more calves up to the race.  It's handy having a helper.

The tagging was a tricky business because since the Animal Tracing systems have changed, the herd number printed on the tags has also changed from an Animal Health Board 7-digit number to our new NAIT number, which, because I registered quite early, has only three digits.  So does each animal number.  With a long number and a short number on a tag, it's easy to see which one to read; when they're both short, it's a confusing pain in the head when you're trying to work quickly.

Angus bull

Blue and I walked out to look for the bull in the afternoon and found he'd not even left the Middle Back paddock.  I could see him sitting over by the gateway to the Spring and walked over to see how he was.  (The gateway by which everyone else had left the paddock and through which we had entered is in line with just in front of his head, through the trees.)

I quietly got the bull to get up, to see how lame he was and whether urgent veterinary attention was warranted.  He was very sore but could move and I decided he really had to, since there was no water within easy reach - nor much feed left.

Blue and I quietly walked him through the Spring paddock, after first carrying some water to him in a Topmilk bin to relieve his probable thirst.  I wanted him to be down by the gate to the Back Barn, where there was long grass, a trough and the option of getting out to the main track with relative ease.  We filled the bin with water again and left it near where he'd chosen to graze, a little way from the trough.

I'm not sure if his problem is in his foot, or one of the leg joints.  He is worse than when I first noticed his mild lameness the other day so it is possible he's hurt a joint while mating the cows.

Being 900kg, he's a tough animal to provide help to.  The first reasonable step is to rest him, to see if he improves.  He could not be head-bailed to look at his foot, because his neck is bigger than his head and the bail mechanism counts on being able to close around the neck of the animal so that it can't pull its head through the gap to escape.  The other problem is that, being a bull, he's incredibly strong and if upset, breaks things just by moving violently around.  There are three options: wait and hope he recovers, have him sedated and hope a vet could treat the problem successfully, shoot him.  For the time being, we'll try the first.


When we were in at the yards vaccinating Zoom and Spot, Christina, Emma and her friend Abi arrived.  They all saw Spot get stung by something, probably a wasp, after which she repeatedly lifted her foot with an appearance of great irritation.  She kept doing it for the next 24 hours.  A large insect was observed flying up from where she'd stepped and we could find no other reason for her annoyance.

The girls had a great time, as usual, trying new tricks in the pond.


It rained a little as Stephan was cooking dinner, so he tested the new umbrella.  Thanks, FMG!

I'm highly amused that they responded positively to my cheeky request for a new one.

Sunday the 7th

I'm being quite careful about ensuring the cows don't get too hot this summer, the temperatures being higher than usual.  This afternoon they were all quite happy to come out into the full sunshine to take advantage of fresh grass, with a brisk SW breeze blowing.

woman and parrot

Blue went off on a trip up to the Cape for a couple of days and this afternoon friend Liz and her eleven-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, arrived for a couple of nights.

Floss was an obvious hit.  She always is until she bites someone.

girls swimming

Their arrival coincided with the arrival of a number of guests for a party hosted by niece Amanda.  Amanda is in the country for a couple of weeks holiday from her current life in London, and arranged to have a gathering here, to catch up with a number of her friends, most of whom are also known to us.

There were three girls amongst the party visitors and Kaitlyn soon donned her togs and joined them in the pond.


It was a small and pleasant gathering.

woman and cake

Stephan baked Amanda a birthday cake, since that's part of the reason for the party.  This is known to us as Sarah's Chocolate Cake, a fail-safe recipe for a moist, high-rising, deliciously rich cake.

Everyone had a lovely time.  When the other guests had gone, I took Kaitlyn out with me for my late cow check.

Monday the 8th
Pittosporum cornifolium

We took Liz and Kaitlyn for a walk in the Bush Flat reserve, where there is such a variety of plants and the beautiful stream flowing through.

There are several Pittosporum cornifolium plants, Perching Kohukohu, growing on the ground near where we usually enter this reserve.  They grow on the ground in at least two places on the farm, below larger, epiphytic specimens.


This was a surprise: Asplenium bulbiferum, the Hen and Chickens Fern.  I didn't know it was growing here, despite walking through here regularly.

I used to have a Hen and Chickens Fern amongst my pot plants when I flatted in Auckland but it may not have been the native species.


We were being quietly watched from above, by a pair of beautiful Kukupa.


Kaitlyn and I both aimed our cameras up the inside of one of the big, hollow, Northern Rata trunks, to find out who might be living in there: long-legged cave weta.

people in stream

We walked along the stream for a while until we found a dam requiring some attention, so undammed the river.

a Harvestman in the bush

When Stephan picked up a long bit of party-submerged wood, this fantastic creature very quickly ran along it.  Fortunately I saw where it went, so I could take some pictures.  I've never seen anything like it.

It is a Harvestman of some sort.  Kaitlyn named it Bobby Jim.


When processing the pictures later, I could see what the huge front thing was: two enormous, folded pincers.

I have also realised, in reading more about these creatures and in recognising the body shape, that I see Harvestmen nearly every day or night when out in the fields.  There is one very common species I find walking around on the cows, or dashing across the grass.  At some stage I must have seen it eating something because I have long had the impression it was a carnivorous predator.


We have reached that time of year when the sun has moved far enough south that, in the hottest part of the afternoon, there is good shade along the bush fence in Flats 5c and 5b.


As I walked 773 in for insemination, I noticed her rather nicely formed udder.  Admittedly it has supernumerary teats, which would make it unacceptable to some but they're on nearly all my cows.  The good things about it, from my observation, are the teat placement and the way it is anchored to her body.  At the front it is very wide, with the teats right out to the sides.  It looks like a small udder but its milk production is obviously very good, evidenced by the growth of her enormous calf.

When I was first breeding, I had lots of trouble with cows with huge back quarters, so formed a preference for udders with better fronts.  I'll be interested to see how this udder develops in time.

Kaitlyn, Liz and Blue all attended the insemination.


Afterwards Liz, Kaitlyn and I went for a wander in the big trees alongside the House paddock.

Damp, warm weather brings all sorts of beautiful fungi out on the dead logs in the bush.

The big bull is slightly better, seems reasonably comfortable with no competition for the feed where he is.

Tuesday the 9th

The early morning check on the cows.

A couple had lost their indicators, which is always concerning, since unless I find them to see whether or not they've been activated, I can't know if they've just fallen off or been dislodged during mounting activity during the night because the cow has been on heat.

girl and Galah

Floss and Kaitlyn, before Kaitlyn and Liz set off for home this morning.


Stephan and Blue went out to erect a fence around the small wetland in the Frog paddock.  Blue was keen to experience some real farming work and was of significant help doing this rather fiddly job.


Cucumber surprise!  There are plants in the garden the gardener didn't realise he'd planted.  Sometimes other people give us seedlings and it's easy to forget what they were.  The doubled-over cucumber had curled itself up under the garden wall.

Wednesday the 10th

Ida 145, now three and a half and without a calf this year, sits around a lot more than any of her herdmates who have to keep eating because they're producing milk for their calves.  Ida just keeps getting fatter.

castration scar

Most of the shrivelled scrota from the castrated bull calves have fallen off now, leaving these healing scars.

Kotare chicks

The Kotare chicks are growing at an astonishing rate.  Their parents share the feeding, coming in turn to the nest with insects and worms and whatever else they catch for them.  If I appear at the back door, the approaching parent will fly on past the Puriri and over to some Totara on the other side of the track, to wait until I've gone away again.


All the posts are in for the new Frog paddock fence.  Because it's a short fence in a small area, Stephan has decided to recycle some wire taken from other fences, which is a bit of a fiddle if it gets tangled.  Blue (in the distance, at right) had been charged with hammering on the three insulators each post requires.


In the morning there is no shade in Flat 5b and today the heat was building quickly.

Some of the cows happily grazed out in the sunshine but a number went straight into the shade, some breathing rather quickly, having got a bit too hot.  Cows will apparently pant and drool with their mouths open if severely heat stressed but before that stage it's possible to see lesser evidence of overheating: usually an ordinarily breathing cow stands quite still but when too hot and breathing quickly, her head will move out and in, in line with her body.  The shade under the big trees is quite cool, fortunately, although with a breeze across the flats, the air was still pretty warm.

Bull 87 is looking much better today, albeit still lame.

Thursday the 11th

Blue left us this morning, heading back to Palmerston North for work next week.  He was just becoming really useful!

We had a lot of conversation about animal biology and the things Thai veterinary students are taught about ruminants in that country, where it seems cows don't eat grass but "concentrates", grain-based feeds prepared to whatever formula is judged best for their growth and development.  Blue was surprised that our cows only eat grass and that grass is a full and sufficient diet.  I said they're ruminants; that's what ruminants do.


"Come for a drink with me?"

I wish 812 (left) would hurry up and come on heat.

807 is now 11 days pregnant.


Imogen 155 looked very much like she was having one of those weird low-evidence heats yesterday: lots of mucous, trying to mount everyone else but not quite standing for anyone herself.  I took her in and inseminated her at what I judged to be a good time.

This morning her indicator had gone red and she was firmly standing for others mounting her.  Yesterday was a false alarm.

I brought them all to the Pig paddock to continue watching them throughout the afternoon, inseminated Grey 607 just before 5pm and Imogen at nine.  She's a nice little cow.


Ella came up on the bus this afternoon for a week or so.

Here they are playing a very slow game of Pooh Sticks.


Time for the sheep to go back where they belong, now there are no heavy rains forecast for the next few days.


In this beautifully hot summer, we sit down by the pond for a time each evening, if we possibly can.  Ella spotted this spider and its web, highlighted by the setting sun's rays.

The flax has grown thick behind the gazebo and provides lovely shelter from the winds across the flats, although on these hot evenings, a bit of breeze could be a good thing!

Out for my late check on the cows in the Windmill paddock, I heard a Kiwi call somewhere on the farm, probably in the Bush Flat.  It's so heartening to hear them, to know there are still a few survivors hanging on.

I have been feeling pretty hopeless lately about the survival of the creatures of our natural environment.  All around us are neighbours with dogs and except for one, they allow those dogs to wander, if not all the time, at least at some part of the day or night.  Why do people not care that they are pushing the extinction of that wondrous bird?  Is it because they never see it?  I've never seen one in the wild either, but I'm always pleased to know they're out there.  "My dog doesn't kill Kiwi."  "My dog is always on the back porch and doesn't go away on its own."  Neither is true.  All dogs will kill Kiwi, they can't help themselves, because Kiwi smell so peculiar and are so physically fragile if bitten.  All dogs wander if they're not restrained, they can't help themselves.

Friday the 12th

Heifer calf 856 has an enormous vaccination lump on the side of her neck.  Vaccination of cattle is done without attending to the cleanliness of the surrounding skin and with the same needle for the whole group, so infection is possible, although never a significant problem.  This lump will presumably resolve itself in time.


Lovely, lovely blackberries.

835 is the son of 710, one of the six Reality 89 daughters, who has turned into a reliably good cow.  She had a couple of incidents along the way, her second calf being born dead (probably the result of being bashed by one of the other cows when in a cramped area) and her third came out backwards, the first backwards delivery Stephan and I managed on our own, without veterinary assistance.

But now, as a mature cow, she stays in excellent condition, rears a good calf and lets me scratch her tail, which is always a winning move.


A crowd of children arrived for swimming this afternoon, I think about nine of them.

two men

After inseminating a couple of cows, Stephan and I joined the adult visitors in the shade; Stephan here with Jonny.

Stephan looks weirdly small.  He's down a level from Jonny.

children and Galah

Floss has no trouble making new friends, just keeping them.  She's unforgiving of anything she considers a transgression and there's often blood and tears.

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