A crowd of Elizabeth's family arrived for lunch and swimming. Kerehoma and Maihi are always on or into the water as soon as they're allowed.
After lunch, Karl and Roy went off to help Stephan hang some of the big gates he's made for the yards. They're heavy now but will become lighter as the wood dries and weathers.
Stephan is a very able hanger of gates.
This one leads out of one of the pens to the surrounding area, under the shady trees.
The race is all railed.
The right side, from which I'll work, is 100mm (4 inches) lower than the other side. The measurements are the same as our old yards and similar to others we've visited and measured lately.
We need to figure something out for the steel gate at this end, because it hangs slightly into the race when fully open.
Before leaving the farm for the day, the children wanted to visit the pigs and feed them some household food scraps they'd brought with them.
The tree along the top of the picture is a peach, grown from a stone once dropped there. It produced some delicious fruit last season and looks to be doing so again this year, if we can keep the possums under control. It also provides nice shade for the pigs.
The Kōtare (Kingfishers) have been coming and going from the hole in the Puriri tree near our back door. Sometimes I've seen the bird on her nest and other times she's not visible but presumably in there if incubating the eggs. I thought the nest must be around a corner in the hole but it looks like it's just right there and I'd see it easily if taller.
They must not mind entirely that I am nearby, since I visit the tree daily to check the max/min thermometer affixed to the trunk.
The light never seemed to be quite right to photograph this Rātā-Pōhutukawa hybrid in crimson bloom, but for the record, this will do.
The two bulls, keenly awaiting the call to duty...
After vaccinating Zella's and Eva's calves this morning (7in1), we brought the 15/14 mob in from the Back Barn for those calves' vaccinations too. The cows all had a copper injection.
In this photo you may note Glia's son on the right at the back of the mob but his mother far further on, about the third cow from the right. The brown/grey cow at the back here is 812.
One of our (definitely not) health and safety features in the old yards. The ground would once have been level between the yard area and the concrete leading into the forcing pen but has worn away over years of use, leaving a significant step.
When an animal steps up there, she's at exactly the right level to kick a following person in the face. Fortunately I don't generally have kicking cows, a trait I've determinedly eliminated from the herd, but a startled animal will sometimes still lash out. The youngsters can be kicky too, when they're not yet settled and used to how life works here.
Now that the new yards are nearly finished, I think we can safely say this will be the last lot of vaccinations we do here.
(We were wrong but at least we were hopeful.)
Eva has proven an unsatisfactory house-cow companion. I thought her addiction to molasses would see her happily coming in from grazing every evening for her next shot but her laziness appears to trump her molasses craving and she's a real bother to get moving.
Zella must have thumped her sometime and her right hip or stifle is sore and as I intend putting a bull with Zella, I'll pull Eva back out into the insemination mob, where I hope she'll be a bit safer as she continues to recover from whatever happened. While the other cows will mount her when she's on heat, she can see them off in a way she wouldn't be able to with the bull.
And so star companion Glia has come back to graze with Zella and today she wasn't at all happy about it. Cows get very upset about being socially disrupted and I dislike having to do it to them. I left Zella, Glia and Eva grazing the little triangle right next to the rest of the mob in Flat 2, so she's not immediately completely removed from them. I hope Eva will reacquaint herself with the other mob too, since she'll soon have to rejoin some of them.
Several young Tōwai have grown up in the drain area between the triangle and Flat 1 and look delightful in the sunshine with their new red leaves.
We brought the young mob down off the hill Over the Road and they all had a copper shot. I didn't weigh them because I'm hoping to do that next in the new yards. I have a good idea who'll be up to mating weight, having last weighed them in November.
The daughters of Chisum, the big US bull I used, who looked so fabulous at weaning, really fell apart during the winter - by which I mean they lost their glowing good looks and got sort of hairy and thin at times, while the others, daughters of Harry and Mr Big 87, all looked glossy and round in their hind quarters. I've seen that happen several times with a new AI bull: he may have nice figures from the North American system in which he's raised but he doesn't work as well here. We'll see how the bull calves do this year, there being five of them and only one heifer. Sometimes a bull sires better sons than daughters. The heifers will probably come right as they mature but I doubt I'll mate any of them as yearlings.
There isn't much grass in the newly-mown House paddock but I wanted somewhere close to keep the heifers for a couple of days before we sort and re-draft the mobs into their mating groups.
The other 15 calves will be vaccinated on Wednesday and so I decided to keep everyone (except Glia) in their groups until then.
The heifers, on entering this smooth and open paddock, ran, threw up their heels, snorted their way around the cut grass and into the bit of bare soil bank where they're gathered in the picture. The heifer on the right has only one foot touching the ground, as she gallops away.
This Thrush is a frequent visitor to the garden, here standing on the edge of the yet-to-be-concreted path to the aviary.
I watched it dash in under the plants that have grown up from seeds in the aviary sweepings that we've left to seed. They provide shady cover for insects and a population of snails ...
... that are the target of the Thrush.
The bird then cracked the snail's shell by repeatedly bashing it on the top of the wooden trap cover by the aviary, before swallowing it (I think) or carrying it away to its nest of chicks.
It repeated the process several times while I stood doing dishes and watching out the kitchen window.
Friends Cathie and Andrew arrived for another visit this evening.
After some food, drink and conversation, Stephan and Andrew went off around to Pukepoto to collect the semen bank, in the cool of the evening, ready for whenever a cow needs any of its contents.
When we began separating Zella and Eva from their calves a week ago, they made surprisingly little noise during the night. Glia, suddenly being subjected to that same disturbing process, was just as quiet last night.
She must remember, from last year, that her calf would be returned in the morning. Clever cow.
The only upset early last evening resulted from my having left Eva and Andrew (as Eva's son has been called since friends Cathie and Andrew were last here) in the paddock near the other mob and Zella's calf ran around in great distress until I went and got him. I had thought she'd be happy with her new friend.
Ticks are horrible things. I've been hesitating in making a disclosure regarding my use of a homœopathic anti-tick remedy, since in the view of my scientific friends (and I count myself amongst the scientific-minded, except that I entertain this particular kind of magic where it sometimes appears to have an effect), I lose significant credibility whenever I mention it and credibility is a non-renewable resource!
Three or four years ago I went all out and purchased the appropriate insecticidal pour-on for ticks. Its label said it would be good for about six weeks' cover. After three weeks the cows had ticks again and so we treated them three-weekly to keep them more comfortable. Where there's science that works, I'll use it. But the scientifically produced tick product doesn't work well enough to bother spending the money again, so I am this year experimenting with a remedy that is supposed to make the cattle "less bothered" by ticks. I sought clarification on that: does it mean less bothered because there will be fewer ticks on them or less bothered by the same number of ticks? The answer was not overly clear. Either would be good. A few of the treated animals have shown a reaction to tick bites I've not noticed before and have far fewer ticks. Some of them seem to have just as many. I can't ask them if they're less itchy.
I picked each of these off 812's tail and practised my aim in tick popping. I'm sure I'll require that skill sometime.
I brought the 15-pair mob in this morning so I could give the cows a copper injection before mating begins. As we passed the bulls they began brawling. I wonder if they're trying to demonstrate their prowess or each attempting to eliminate the other? I think I'll separate them. I'm about to need two bulls and could do without one or other being injured.
After a long, catch-up sleep-in, Andrew joined Stephan up at the yards and ended up spending every hour Stephan worked there with him, during their week-long "holiday".
On some days they worked rather long hours, Cathie suggesting that Andrew's a tough boss at work too and may have forgotten his place, while being the yard-builder's apprentice! Stephan very much enjoyed Andrew's company and greatly appreciated his help.
Here Stephan was carefully working out and cutting the required angles to fit the boards of the cat-walk neatly together.
When the bulls stopped fighting, I separated them, bringing 176 into 5a, leaving 178 in 5d, because that would allow me the flexibility to fetch either one for one-off matings should that be required before Wednesday.
During the afternoon one of the two-year-old heifers, 856, came on heat and as she's too flighty to inseminate (her future is not at all certain at this stage), I drafted her out of the mob and sent her along the lane toward bull 176.
When she was in his part of the lane, I opened his gate but the bull was too busy displaying his fierce masculinity to get out and do his job!
Eventually he noticed the opportunity I'd created and came out into the lane to court young 856, who promptly ran away from him. It took some time and a couple of shared drinks at the trough before anything more intimate was permitted.
Once they'd done the deed a few times, we went and separated them again, sending the bull back to his paddock and the heifer to her mob, where no doubt she skited about her new boyfriend. [NZ skite = US brag.]
Brian and Gaye came to visit with some friends who've been staying with them for a few days, to have a look at yard progress. There is significant excitement in several quarters about this project.
What a ridiculous number of ticks. This is the back end of 613.
The ticks must consume quite a bit of blood but a healthy animal seems able to cope with it. The cows appear most irritated by ticks in their ears, most annoyingly in behind the plastic tags, prompting the cows to itch them against anything they can, thus the tags are broken. The ticks still lodge in their ears, whether or not they retain their ear tags.
The Thrush again.
The rose garden has reappeared out of an overgrown mass of weeds, thanks to some wonderful "Christmas present" gardening by Elizabeth.
When preparing to build the yards, I calculated the quantities of timber and posts required very carefully and left the "hardware" to Stephan - all the screws, bolts, nails, hinges, latches, etc. There was no specific budget, just care to buy everything sensibly and not run out of money in the process. The wood quantities are working out very satisfactorily so far; some of the other stuff has run out so Stephan and Andrew went off to town this morning to buy more screws (for attaching the rails to the posts) and apparently beer was a necessity too, New Year's Eve being the stated excuse.
Cathie and I conversed over coffee, catching up and musing on things, much as we once did over coffee and cigarettes in the dim rear of the Star Bar in town, in our teens, during seventh form (year 13) "study" periods.
Justine and her family came to see us today. She says they haven't been for three years, although it doesn't feel that long for me: they were last here in April 2017.
This is a picture of a very bad man forcing a woman to jump into the water!
Sitting in the shade with us were Cathie and Andrew (when he allowed Stephan to come back for a break), and Sue and Russ, Sue's recent, very nice partner we met for the first time today. Sue has been part of Justine's family for several years since she was earlier married to Justine's uncle. My connection with Sue goes much further back, to our shared days of bell-ringing at St Matthew-in-the-City in Hobson Street, Auckland. Sue used to drive a Morris Minor and she'd often give me a lift home when I'd gone to bell-ringing on the bus or straight from work. I generally cycled around town then but in cold weather didn't always do so at night.
It would appear that Sue probably still returns to St Matthew's to ring, being pictured, third from the left, in the picture at the bottom of the St Matthew's web page, titled Bishop Selwyn's Bells.
I found this poor creature on the floor during a quiet moment, a fairly large orb-web spider. It was alive but completely paralysed, dropped by a careless Mason wasp as it carried its unlucky prey to a nest being built in a crevice somewhere in our living room. The wasp would have stashed it in a mud cell, laid an egg, then sealed the cell and the spider's fate. Horrible!
Stephan and Andrew completed the last three gates and took them up to the yards.
Mathew, Karl, Roy and four boys arrived for a swim late this afternoon.
The slide continues providing enormous fun.
There's that bad man again, forcing some poor, defenceless child into the water.
But you can't go bashing your uncle in the head with a paddle even if he did throw pond weed at you!
(Oh alright: Maihi was actually swinging to splash water, rather than trying to inflict personal injury on his esteemed Uncle Mathew. Pictures can lie.)
Calves lie too, out in the full sunshine; but with cold southerly winds being an unwelcome feature this week, the air was cool enough to keep them comfortable.
I'd like to mow this paddock to knock down the white flowers, now stiff and inedible; but without any rain on the horizon, it may be better not to cut anything. The flowers might even shade the pasture a little.
710 came on heat this afternoon so I drafted her and her calf into 5a, then let bull 178 in to join her for the night.
Bull 176 stood frustratedly looking on from the other side of the electric fence.
Cathie and Andrew had come out for a walk with us while we worked the cattle and so I explained that this one-by-one mating process is not normal practice, that after the rest of the calves are vaccinated tomorrow, the cattle will be sorted into the planned mobs and the bulls will be with their cows for the next few weeks.
Nobody stayed up late because we're all far too sensible and some of us would be very grumpy without enough sleep and besides, only the determined would still be awake, even if that was our intention.