I couldn't get this photo's colour right, taken in the early morning sunlight: Endberly and lovely daughter Harriet.
The little Pukeko are coming to feed on the back lawn most mornings and are now starting to grow their dark blue breast feathers. It's fun being able to observe them so closely in their family group.
There was a movement out across the flats and when I looked to see what was going on, Zella and Demelza had moved quickly up the length of Flat 2. The bulls seemed very interested, so I concluded that Demelza must be coming on heat a couple of days earlier than I expected. Her cycle length over the winter has been 23 days; this time only 21.
I went across there while the coffee brewed, to draft her out of the paddock she shares with Zella, to avoid the usual mounting activities and keep her hip joints from unnecessary pain.
We've been taking watercress from our garden waterfall to our te reo classes whenever there's been enough grown. This rather larger patch at the top end of the swamp in the Big Back would make even more people happy! I'm not sure how deep the water might be. Perhaps we'll find out.
The cows had eaten all the grass in the South part of the Big Back and it didn't look like they'd reached the bottom by the trough in the North, so I shut the gate between the two on my walk up and around the top of the swamp, assuming they'd all gone to the North part together.
I walked up the hill to the top ridge, then back down the hill and could very easily have missed seeing them at all, tucked away under some Totara trees on one of the lower slopes.
Zella is in lovely condition approaching calving. Although there didn't seem to be much grass where she and Demelza were grazing during the winter, there was a large area and no competition from other cattle, so she now has a good layer of flesh and fat over her bones. She's lovely and soft to stroke, as a result.
I stopped my bike as I rode up the lane, to take a picture of Endberly's daughter, sleeping. In this "lying in" stage, during the two or three days after birth, a calf will stay completely still unless it senses a serious threat, which would cause it to bolt in panic. We go to great effort to go very quietly past calves near the lanes, on the bike, ute or tractor, so that we don't startle them into fleeing. I prefer them to learn that our movements are of no concern to them.
Hangehange trees are flowering profusely in all the reserves, dropping their tiny flowers all over the ground.
The Tree Fuchsia in the stream reserve beside the Blackberry paddock is flowering, albeit only on one branch. They seem to be quite fragile plants during their juvenile stage, often dying where I've noted them growing by the streams. The seeds must be coming down during heavy rain, from the numerous trees up in the bush.
There's been no substantial rain for two weeks so the ground is drying quickly. Time for Stephan to start getting the garden and surrounds back under control before it all goes mad with spring growth.
Little Harriet has very fine features.
Now that the three in the House paddock (Eva, Endberly and 807), have calved, I moved them to the Windmill. I want to keep some grass in the House paddock for Zella, when she calves.
Raewyn came with the two small boys, Sean and Zandor, for a visit and a walk.
We very quietly approached Eva's calf, since I was confident she'd not mind some small humans in close proximity.
807 wanted a stoke too. Her calf is the other one in the picture.
William and Elizabeth's eldest, Mathew, and his family are in the process of moving back to Kaitaia from Hokitika, on the west coast of the South Island. Raewyn and the two boys are the advance party, now resident in the house they will all make their home from the end of this year.
I asked the boys if they liked tiny, interesting things and then I took them to see the orchids.
Raewyn is a keen photographer (inspired, she says, by me and this website project) but as she didn't have a macro lens with her this morning, I suspect she'll be back.
This is the regularly photographed plant, now with its twin blooms fully developed.
At 6pm I found 613 in labour. By 7pm there were two front feet visible and I watched for the next twenty minutes as she delivered a nice bull calf.
613 is a nice cow but I think she'll have to go after this calf is weaned, having had a nasty case of mastitis after last weaning - unless she somehow keeps that at bay this season. We shall see.
Their facial hair-whorl patterns are always so interesting. 613's hair goes straight up her face - clearly shown in a picture of her as a yearling.
Stephan wanted to mow the lawn, so carefully shifted the little cage in which our usual hen is sitting, incubating eight eggs.
When he finished, he discovered he'd dragged it over a mouse and her four well-grown babies, killing all but one outright. It would have been a nice place to nest until that moment. But a nest full of mice would not have been compatible with rearing chicks (here riskily counting them before they're hatched!), so I'm glad they were discovered.
We cannot fathom what the goose is up to. She is ranging far and wide, then returning to crap all over our deck at night.
She appears to have forgotten she's a sheep.
These rushes are growing in the drain along the track between Flat 5a and the Windmill. They're so colourful they draw my attention every time I ride up the lane.
In the Swamp paddock on the northern boundary, I noticed some tall Kanuka with bright green foliage growing up their trunks - this is where Stephan and the nephews cleared some firewood trees earlier in the year, so lots of light has been available.
The vines are the white-flowered Rātā, Akatorotoro. In front is a Lancewood, Horoeka, in adult growth-form.
Raewyn's two boys came back today, to spend a couple of nights with us while Raewyn is away for work. In the evening, Stephan took them out for a possum hunt: very exciting (although they didn't find any possums) and they went to bed rather later than they should have.
Stephan and Zandor, making a chocolate cake.
Jet 777 began her labour mid-morning. I'd noted the looseness and dips in her rump early in the morning and suspected this might be her day. (Jet is the standing cow.)
While I waited in the sunshine for Jet to do something interesting, I groomed the other cows, making them all tidy and presentable for meeting their new babies. Gina is off the right in this photo and she didn't get done, because there were other, higher-status cows who objected to me paying her any attention and insisted I brush them instead. Those objections involve violence to the recipient of the brushing and I don't like them shoving each other around when I'm potentially in the way.
Stephan had taken the two boys out to check and service some of the pest traps. I could hear their voices up the top of the Bush Hill reserve (off to the left of this picture), where they'd walked from the Bush Flat. I could hear them for a long time, as they chattered on their way back down and across the hill again.
Jet seemed quite happy about my presence as she went through the first stage of labour - the bit where I couldn't see anything happening. But as soon as she reached the more interesting stage, she looked anxious and wouldn't get on with it. I had to leave her to it and go away to watch through binoculars from afar.
From the house I watched and could see there were the white bits of two feet, then the nose and I am fairly certain the whole head came out - and then went back in again! While I have never seen that happen before, I am quite certain it did on this occasion and I think it possible because these calves are being born with such fine-boned heads that there's lots of room for them on their way out. Jet is also, as we know from the birth of last year's enormous calf, a capacious cow.
I rode back to the paddock to make sure all was well and watch the calf born. Jet was still determined to stay away from me. I've noticed this before: in the season following one where a cow has had to be assisted in the yards and the birth has been unpleasant, she'll not happy about my presence.
Her tiny, fine-boned baby, is probably half the weight of last year's monster. This calf was born on day 278, compared with last year's on day 288, which I suspect was the problem then: ten days of extra growth before being born.
This is another little heifer. Calling them all Harriet isn't going to work.
Everybody had a snooze in the warm afternoon, the boys being tired from their late night. I lay on the warm concrete floor in our lounge and dropped off to sleep in the sunshine. When I awoke, with no idea how long I'd been there, I realised my feet were in the sunshine and were looking worryingly pink. I took myself off down to the pond with a short deck-chair and sat on the jetty with my feet in the cold water for half an hour, hoping to reduce the burning damage I may have done. I can't afford not being able to walk comfortably at this time of year.
Perhaps I wasn't asleep as long as I feared, or the cold water treatment helped a lot, for my feet did not end up red and sore. I had some intriguing mottled marks on my thighs for the next couple of hours though, from the heat of the sun through my black jeans, so I must have been there in the sun for a while.
Is this why people have children?
Zandor is quite keen to do things on the farm, and when I came back from a check on the cows, Stephan and he were mowing the lawn together. He's only eight, so still learning.
I watched 613's calf for some time this evening. He had earlier seemed really stiff when getting up to walk, I'd never seen him defecate and his bum was oddly clean. I have been wondering if all is well with him, having also noted him hunching as if trying to poo and then seeing nothing emerge.
I was therefore relieved this evening, to see a very healthily firm yellow poo emerge from his little body, before he started having an evening run-around near his mother. Healthy, normal, just a bit slow to start.
Jet's tiny daughter.
Hopefully this will be a face I get to know for a long time.
Two boys and Stephan walking down to check on a live-capture trap they had seen was closed this morning. They were very keen to watch it being shot and then to pluck the fur. I think they've both seen some income-earning possibilities for themselves, although they'll need the assistance of a firearm-bearing adult for a few years yet.
The price for possum fur is currently quite good, so Stephan continues to pluck every possum he shoots and periodically takes it to town to the Regional Council office, from which a buyer takes it away and leaves him a cheque. With that money he buys more traps, most recently one of the automatic gas-operated possum traps: expensive, but potentially extremely useful in areas one doesn't want to have to go and check daily.
Just before lunch Stephan took the two boys with him to drop them in town and, later, returned with Ella, who'd come up for some of the school holiday on the bus.
My sister Rachel, and nephew Issa also arrived from Auckland this afternoon.
Rachel, Issa and I went for a walk out to the end of the Back Barn paddock, into the reserve for a look around. Issa was apparently taking photos to upload to his instagram account, to see how many 'likes' he could achieve.
Here's lovely Gina 142, her tail-head gradually rising above the rest of her spine as she gets closer to delivering her calf.
I wondered what 745 was doing, with her nose just above the ground, seemingly standing completely still: she had a Kikuyu stalk up her nostril and was moving almost imperceptibly as she used it to itch her nose.
I found this little patch of flowers in the Windmill paddock as I moved the electric wire for Eva, Endberly and 807 today.
I think it is Cardamine pratensis, cuckoo cress or lady's smock. I see a bit of it around in the spring, first noted in 2009 in Flat 1. I've never done anything about it. I wonder if we should have?
Rachel and Issa wanted to go for a walk up in the bush to the water intake. I suggested they all wait half an hour until the next big blue blob on the rain radar had gone past, but they didn't want to do that.
The big blue blob arrived and I hoped they'd found a thick Totara to shelter beneath. Then after a short period of clear sky, a multitude of heavier showers fell. They all arrived home very wet, but pleased with their walk.
Zella produced her calf while we all watched from the kitchen this afternoon.
She had started looking back at her tail at 12.40, then five minutes later walked around with her tail out for a while. At 2.35 she lay down for the first time; one foot appeared half an hour later and we could see both 15 minutes after that, as in this photo.
The calf was born easily another fifteen minutes later, at 3.38 and I walked over to see what sort it was: a bull, sired by lovely Mr 87.
When he was up on his feet I gave him a little assistance to find Zella's teats and have a good first feed. (I was there and it's more efficient for me to know he's feeding than to have to keep checking throughout the rest of the day.)
Ella and I went out to check the cows in Flat 2 at 9.30 this evening and found two in labour: Gina 142 mooing and turning to sniff the ground repeatedly under the trees and some distance away, 742 standing uncomfortably on her own. With two in labour at the same time, I decided it would be prudent to maintain their separation, so Ella and I put up a tape across the paddock and left 742 access through the gateway to Flat 3 and its water trough.
When I returned alone just after 10pm, there was a lot of bellowing from Gina, who'd just delivered her calf. I left them alone after noting that the calf was shaking its head, indicating all was well.
742 had taken herself up the length of Flat 3 and was regularly stalking around with her contractions. I checked her once more at 11.20 and there was still no obvious progression, so I set my alarm for 2.30am and went to sleep.
I awoke at 2.10, before the alarm, got dressed and rode up to the top of Flat 2, where I'd last seen 742. There she was, mooing, turning and sniffing the ground and quickly lay down and a bag with two feet was visible at her rear. The calf, a heifer, was born at 2.20, with membranes over her head and, because her mother dropped her from standing, her neck was also bent around awkwardly. I was glad I was there to fix both problems, then went home to bed again, happy in the knowledge that Mr 87 has one last daughter - and that 742 had been such a convenient cow and given birth just at the moment I was there to see it.
773, the second R3 second-calver, looking a little less well-covered than Gina but her mother was a large, bony sort of individual too.
According to my calculations, 773 is due to calve on or around the 14th, in two days' time.
Gina's calf is a bull. I'll have to get on with my pedigree charts for this year, he being the first of the potential future breeding bulls.
The calf had taken himself off into the long grass through the turned-off bottom wires of the electric fence and was fast asleep, while his mother stood waiting for him to come back out.
My six "later" cows had come down from the Big Back North and into the Bush Flat, so I went to shut the gate behind them.
While there, I walked across to have a look at the new automatic possum-killer in the reserve, finding the two dead possums Stephan had reported earlier. But there was a bulge in the belly of the one at the bottom of the photo, which I thought I'd better investigate: it was the shape of a large baby in the pouch of the mother. I gently took it out and carried it to where I could dispatch it quickly and humanely.
These traps are supposedly very humane in the speed with which they kill a possum but I haven't seen any comment on what happens to a baby a female may be carrying in her pouch, or just-weaned on her back. We will have to check these regularly.
If you shoot a possum, you always check for a pouch and any passenger, since it cannot survive for long without the warmth and succour of its mother.
Then around to the other side to check the other "later" mob and there were bright colours where I didn't expect to see them: Rachel and Ella had gone walking up through the Big Back and taken a turn in the wrong direction, coming down through the Pines paddock instead of further out the back of the farm.
The one really pink Mānuka I've found on the farm. Many trees have flowers with light pink in their mostly-white petals but you can't see the colour unless you get quite close.
The Mānuka grows on a mound (probably the fallen trunk of an ancient Puriri) in the middle of the second swamp area we put into reserve. These tall rushes populate much of the area. I will need to return for another inspection if I'm to identify them.
They're flowering at present, obviously different sexes on separate stems, but it would be hard to work out if they were separate plants. Time to find my grass and rushes book again.