We were so tired this evening when we returned home to take care of the usual tasks that we stayed and went to bed, instead of going back to the marae, something I felt some regret about later, although neither of us was much good for anything anyway. Many people do not or can not attend the noho marae, when work or family commitments make it too difficult. We were lucky it was delayed by a couple of weeks beyond the original plan, allowing us to attend at all. Otherwise it would have been in the middle of calving and I could not have gone.
There are three class groups this year, one in Taipa (in which we are officially but erroneously enrolled), ours in Kaitāia, and the third in Kaikohekohe (Kaikohe). Members of all three classes attended this noho and so we met many for the first time.
One of the things I often ask people I meet in the Far North, after they say they were born or grew up here is, who were your parents? How else does one connect people? Small-town funerals are intensely interesting because you discover connections between people that were previously unknown - the older generation know who the people were before names were changed but younger people often do not. I know a whole group of people from school by their birth surnames and have only gradually learnt their new identities since I returned home. But in te Ao Māori, the Māori world, introductions always include whakapapa, the layers of descent and Pākehā participants recite ours accordingly.
When one of the Kaikohekohe class members stood and said the names of her parents, I recognised them, when in any other gathering I would likely not have discovered any connection with her. Her mother and mine were deeply involved in the Girl Guide movement in the 1970s, Shirley Crawford being the Deputy Commissioner (I think, I can find no reference at present for confirmation), and my mother a Guide company leader and I believe they were friends. At least one of the Guide camps I participated in was held on Shirley's family's farm.
Yearling steer 861 was sitting down with his damaged hoof nicely in view, so I took some pictures for later examination.
The arrow indicates the top of the damaged area, above which the hoof is now growing normally. I feared that the split part of the hoof would cause problems when it reached ground level but so far it seems not to have bothered the steer.
It's funny watching Zoom do this: it's the threat pose as I'm approaching her, something Zella and many other members of her family do too (any of Ivy's descendants). If I didn't know these animals I might think twice about approaching them when they do this but my lot are all bluster and noise - they sometimes make quite alarming, snorty growls as they arch their necks and turn side-on.
The weather was gorgeously warm and summery today.
Eva's calf is extraordinary: he wanders off (or in some cases runs) quite independently and sometimes it's extremely helpful. Here he ran out the gate in front of the other calf and the two cows, who were on their way in for Zella's morning milking.
Putting some washing out early this afternoon, I could hear buzzing, then realised it was a louder hum than I should have heard from bees in the Puriri above my head.
A large swarm of bees was coming past, thousands of honey-filled bees, who'd perhaps left their home hive because of the extreme heat over the last couple of days.
We watched them pass, then walked over into Flat 1, where they appeared to be congregating and found them around the base of one of the scrubby Tōtara saplings growing up through the fence, and a nearby fencepost. You can go quite close to a gathering swarm of bees. Apparently they gorge themselves on honey from the hive they're leaving, and are therefore quite placid when swarming.
Over the next few minutes one group joined the other and we went off to find someone who wanted to come and collect some bees.
Here are some of the swarm pictures I've taken over the years:
The first picture is Roz collecting an early swarm for their hives and it was she and Alan we telephoned today, to ask if they wanted this swarm. The second picture is one of my favourites, especially because I remember so well reaching for one of the gate handles before I noticed the post was covered in bees! The third swarm gathered in the Puriri outside the house and was collected by William for the hives he kept in their garden. The last swarm hung in a Tōtara tree in a gully Over the Road for nearly three days, too high for anyone to easily collect.
When he couldn't get hold of Alan on a faulty phone connection, Stephan went to visit. Alan said he didn't want any more bees but here, have some spare bee gear and collect the swarm yourself!
Unfortunately today's swarm only stayed put for a short time before they were gone and we missed our chance.
The calves are getting adventurous and independent now, here setting off in a group to explore the new paddock ahead of their grazing mothers.
Yesterday, after combining two groups of cows and calves to create a 15 cow/calf mob, I'd then attempted to move them from the Windmill to the Tank paddock, a simple matter of getting them all to go quietly to the crossing and across the stream.
But the youngest calves have not yet had stream-crossing experience and the cows were so pleased to see the grass, they'd all dashed off, leaving a group of five calves on the wrong side of the stream and I couldn't get them to cross. They stop, dig their front feet in - if I'm able to get close enough to push them - or if they're less comfortable with my proximity, they dart off in any other direction as soon as they see a gap.
I quietly withdrew, hoping they'd go on their own when their mothers called, or that their mothers might come back for them.
Later I went back to do a "roll call", a slightly difficult task bearing in mind none of the calves yet carry ear tags, so had to be counted. That presents a number of difficulties: calves move, a lot sometimes, quite quickly; calves can be hidden behind cows, bushes, trees, each other; so getting a good count of 15 calves in a lumpy paddock with trees, rushes and large blackberry bushes can be tricky. I thought all the mothers seemed content, saw most of them with their calves. 745 seemed a little anxious, but the next time I looked, she was grazing quietly. When she continued calling, I let her go back to the Windmill paddock to find her calf if he was there but there being no sign of him, I presumed she was mistaken and returned her to the Tank.
Stephan came in from milking early this morning and said he could hear a cow calling from the Tank paddock.
We both went out to check, I found 745 looking perturbed, her udder tight. I followed her to the fenceline alongside the stream, couldn't hear a calf's responding call from anywhere and feared the worst. I climbed over the fence and walked all along the stream on the Tank side, before crossing over and beginning my search along the other side - you can't see down on the side you're walking, can only see the whole bank and where it meets the water from the opposite side.
At some stage I walked back up into the Windmill and there, away across the flats in Flat 5, was a silent little black animal. It took me a moment to realise it was a calf, not a stray dog or feral pig! I was so relieved.
745 had been right about him being somewhere over here but goodness knows where he was quietly concealed yesterday evening.
I went back to the Tank paddock and easily prompted 745 to walk around to the open gate and across the stream, so the two could be reunited at the top of the Windmill paddock.
Both animals were so stressed by their separation, that they couldn't settle to feed and there was no point in trying to get them to go across to the Tank paddock until their anxiety levels had come down. I left them and a couple of hours later, found them in the Tank paddock with everyone else.
Late-morning we saw the bee swarm on the move again. They seemed to be concentrating on the big Puriri in the stream-bank reserve at the bottom of Flat 1 and when we went to check, we could see bees all around a hole in the trunk of the tree. They were too high to do anything about them so Stephan hopefully put his beehive box on the ground nearby; but the bees were obviously very happy about their newly discovered home, all moved in and commenced business.
This area was part of the Small Hill paddock before we fenced off the stream. The little patch of grass became impractical to graze and so now it grows whatever it wishes (except we control any weeds) and the tree ferns have begun looking really lovely around the edge.
I have long thought I might plant some particular trees in here but as yet have not done so. I'd thought about Tree Fuchsia, perhaps. It might also be a very good area for harakeke/flax and Tī Kōuka/Cabbage Trees.
Looking to the stream below where I stood, the water is barely visible through all of the foliage growing on the bank. Streams like it like this, the water kept cool by the shade of overhanging vegetation.
Up on the west-facing slope in Swamp East Right, Glia was looking lovely in the late-afternoon sunshine. I think she likes being out with the other cows, rather than only with Zella for company but I can't decide whether she equally misses her twice-daily contact with us.
Turning back down the slope I could hear a strange, intermittent rumbling noise that I eventually figured out was coming from the flat-out, sleeping calf. Calves snore, surprisingly loudly.
The steel pipe-posts are now concreted into place on the working side of the race and Stephan has been preparing to set the posts for the other side in concrete too.
We'd earlier discussed the possibility of him thumping these posts in but he chose to dig and concrete them because then he can ensure they're as straight as can be. A thumped post may go out of line if it hits something hard underground and he doesn't want any of this area to be at all uneven.
The cows seem always to like the scrubby, holey, boggy, Tank paddock. I feel anxious about them whenever they're here, there being dreadful holes where the water has undermined the ground, and the main gully down from the boundary has some deep and dangerous areas. I hope that during the coming summer we'll be able to work out how to rearrange things, so that the cattle are excluded from the dangerous places and the waterways (which are generally the same bits).
The big tank is behind the Tōtara tree on the right. The fence posts at centre right mark the grave of Iona, who so traumatically died in 2002, changing many things about farm management here.
Zella's and Eva's calves, fast asleep in the warm, morning sunshine.
Zandor spent the day with us today. He and Stephan walked across to see if they could see how the bees were getting on in their new tree-trunk home.
Blackberries are just beginning to form on all the bushes.
I carry a grooming brush with me quite often, when visiting the cows. This afternoon I attended to Mademoiselle Dushi, whose tail is thick, long and very beautiful when all brushed out.
Death in the Wilderness long ago: a cow, decades ago, before I came here but weirdly I've never come across this skull before, beneath a tree I regularly pass in the Tank paddock. I could see no other bones, so perhaps it has been exposed by the activities of small animals and the rest of the skeleton remains under the leaf litter and soil nearby.
A white spot is not quite the thing for a pedigree bull but at least I can identify him easily: Henrietta's son.
Stephan, with some very useful assistance from Zandor, got the wooden race posts all concreted in today.
Death in the Wilderness: bird on the edge of the big swamp, possibly a young pheasant?
The big fallen Puriri log in the swamp is covered in Sun Orchids with flower buds again but I still didn't manage to see any of them open today or on any of the following days I came out to check. They're very sensitive to a bit of wind or just a little too much cloud. The sun needs to shine, uninterrupted, for a few hours in the middle of a warm, still day, for them to open and even then, they'll only bloom for a couple of hours before shutting again.
I had come out to the big swamp to see if there was any decent watercress available, having promised some to Kieta, one of our te reo class friends. I knew it was already flowering but hoped I might find enough sufficiently-lush leaves for her cuisine. The plants in the sunshine were in full flower and beginning to harden and brown, but many in the shade were still soft and green and not quite blooming.
Just beyond the top of the swamp I found some of the seven cows and calves, then the rest hidden away in the cool shade under the big trees.
They like these places.
Eva's calf is ridiculously tame. While it is lovely to be able to have very close contact with some of the calves, this one could well grow into an enormous bull and bulls are not the best animals to tame, because they're subject to the often-unpredictable influences of testosterone.
We will have to stop rubbing his head, so he does not approach us for similar rubs when his head alone is as heavy as my entire body.
While going about my business, I heard the call of a calf but it was coming from out by the front gates; the yearlings are in that direction, across the road, but none of the cows and calves. I went to investigate and found a number of skinny, hungry, bewildered dairy calves wandering down the road. They appeared quite purposeful in their direction so I left them to it and went home to phone their likely owner.
We'd seen the group of animals being pushed up the road three mornings ago but I hadn't seen how small, nor how many of them there were.
Those "proper farmers", by their own description to a lifestyle-block neighbour, don't seem very proper about stock control, despite having a large number of animals, so we now often keep our front gate locked, to prevent any well-meaning passer-by putting stray animals in to our place to get them off the road. It's bad enough that we have to deal with the shit on the road!
I saw a black shape on the bridge across the pond and through binoculars, identified a black cat.
Ridiculously, with an audience in mind, I took the camera with me for a closer inspection, rather than the ·22 rifle. I had this excellent opportunity to shoot the animal and yet it still didn't occur to me to do so with more than the camera.
Stray or feral cats are difficult to catch or kill and one should never let such an opportunity go by.
But I did and off it went and while we've seen it on many occasions since and have set many different types of traps all around the place, we've still not caught it. But its time will come.
The delicious strawberries now ripening in the garden, have an astonishing gloss on their skins.
813's calf is a real character. I think she might have a long life here, all going well. She bounces up to me from all directions, although she's much too shy to let me very near and will just as quickly bounce away again if I approach her. But calves who willingly make such approaches, usually end up being tamed to touch over time.