The week beginning the 4th of May 2019.
Saturday the 4th
boundary fence

At just after 2.30pm, a "final stretch" photo from Stephan's camera: only a few posts to go.

Kikuyu paddock

Good cows, chewing the pasture right down for every bit of green.  This is how you keep Kikuyu under control, if you have enough animals to do it and how we used to do it before we had a mower for the tractor.


You can't do it for too long though, without the cows losing condition on not-enough feed.

Conventional "wisdom" says cows can lose 10% of their body-weight from this point into or through the winter, while they eat poor pastures for the good of other stock classes.  I have long questioned putting pregnant cows under nutritional stress.  Recent science says it has a negative effect on the babies they carry.  The cows inevitably suffer some feed pinches through the winter, so it seems ridiculous to subject them to such stressors deliberately.


I have been told that cows can starve on Kikuyu because of this tough, dry stuff that ends up in a big ball in the rumen if it's eaten.  It contains very little nutrition and takes up room in the animal's gut that should be digesting better feed.

But presumably it's only animals from outside the Kikuyu-growing districts who would suffer such a fate - or animals who were starving already and ate anything from desperation.

My cows spit this stuff out as they chew their way through the green bits.  Clever things.  The calves presumably learn from their mothers.

The mower doesn't care if it has to deal with this rubbish.

Angus heifer calf

This and the next picture are of two of the heifers I mentioned last Friday, animals I'd hoped would be ones I'd want to keep.

This is 723's daughter, lovely but just slightly too nervous.

Angus heifer calf

773's daughter is much the same and her growth rates were a little lower than I'd like.

773 is the younger full sister of 728, who had a couple of less-than-impressive and also-nervous daughters before I sent her to the works.  I was hoping 773 would turn out a bit better.  Her son last year was very nice.  She's doing better than her elder sister, so she keeps her place here for the time being.


Stephan's second-ever "selfie", at 4.13pm, to mark the installation of the last post in the Tank paddock section of the new boundary fence.

Excellent work!


At about the same time I was around in Mushroom 3, setting up the gates across the lane so the big mob could graze the area we call the Mushroom 3 Riverbank.  Everyone else moved, except these three and of course they're all related to Demelza: (from left to right) Emergency 111, Ellie 119 and Eva, feeding Delight.


Mushroom 3 Riverbank used to be part of the Small Hill paddock, but since we fenced all the streams, it's a little orphaned bit of paddock that we graze either with Mushroom 3 or the Bush Flat.

If we get around to putting a trough in, it can be used as a separate paddock, which would be better.

Sunday the 5th
wire ropes

These are the wire ropes Stephan borrowed from friend Brian to drag several big logs down the hill from where they were felled along the boundary.  Stephan took them back there this morning and picked up Brian's spare wire strainers, to use with his own for the six wires he wants to strain at once.


This is one move I often have trouble with: getting the cattle out of Mushroom 3 (here on the right) and back along the lane.  The cattle do not move out of this paddock's gateway nearly as well as some of the others where they similarly double back along the lane.  There's a different sort of corner in the paddock because of the protection around the huge Puriri tree behind me.  That little Puriri reserve at right also messes things up, dividing the gathered animals so I can't control them on my own to push them out the corner gate.

I could only get a few to go out at a time, before those left in the paddock turned to walk back in the same direction as those out in the lane.

Sometimes I anticipate this problem and if they've already grazed Mushroom 2, we'll go back through that paddock to the gateway there.  But Mushroom 2 is currently knee-deep in grass intended for the newly-weaned calves so I did not want to take them through there.

heifer calf

I gave up for a while, to wait while the other cows left the lane where these cattle could see them.

It was lovely in the sunshine and the calves are looking great.  I took this picture of Ellie 186 to compare with the one I took just after her birth, along with some of Fancy 191.  I wanted to make absolutely sure, before I wean them, that I really did muddle the calves when I numbered them, rather that the calves had muddled themselves and somehow ended up with the wrong mothers.  186 has often hung around with Fancy 126, which was why I confused them in the first place, I suspect.


This is where that left-side-of-the-nose line comes from.

Fancy and her daughter, 191, have nose hair-whorls right-of-centre.

I should obviously have paid more attention before tagging the calves.  It would have been easier to remember that 191 belonged to 119 and 186 to 126.  Now I have to remember that they're the other way around.  I'm sure I'll end up confusing them within a couple of years.


When Stephan returned from Brian's and we'd had a bit of lunch, we went out together to move the rest of the mob.  Even though it had only been a couple of hours, there was a lot of calling from the paddock to which I'd moved the others earlier, there being several spare calves down here still.


Lots of mothers were waiting at the gate I'd closed earlier, to prevent them all going back to where they'd been.

Then we had another te reo session with one of our class-mates.  This week we have an assessment, to show that we've grasped some crucial sentence structures: simple sentences in different tenses and their negations.

The three of us spent some time playing around with some of that.  We are to send or hand in our written material and then present it verbally to our class, which we are encouraged to do with the help of a friend, so I have asked Stephan do it with me.

My text is here.  Feel free to offer corrections, bearing in mind we're "very young" in our student life.

Monday the 6th

I'm so impressed by Glia, with her stonking great calf.  That's over 300kg of calf (we weighed them on 13 May).  Glia weighs 520kg, so her son is nearly ⅔ her size.

She's one of those lovely two-year-old heifer success stories.  Often heifers don't have quite enough milk for their first calf and they also often struggle to produce milk and keep growing, themselves, but Glia has done both, and got back in calf in good time.


A single female Putangitangi flew over the flats as I walked out to see the cattle.

The whole mob were waiting down near the gate, so after checking that everyone was there, I opened the gate and led them out and around to the Blackberry paddock.

Tuesday the 7th

Down south it's apparently one of the mast years, a season when the trees fruit heavily, leading to population explosions in mammalian predator species.  Here though the Kahikatea trees, usually brightly coloured by millions of seed-carrying fruit, are barely fruiting at all.


I mixed some cattle today, the four latest-weaned calves in with the other six and their mothers came to join the first-weaned seven.

Their skirmishes always look alarming but bearing in mind they've only been apart for about a week, I decided I didn't have to take this lot very seriously, particularly since half of it looked like they were just tearing around for the fun of it.

boundary fence

Stephan went out to start wiring up the fence this morning and by 11.30 he'd run four wires to go with the guide-wires already run and was stapling them to the posts.

He had strained the wires from the middle of the fence and here was checking his tensions.

Wednesday the 8th

It won't be long before we don't see the two big house-cow calves every morning.  Born in October, they're now seven months old, which is later than I usually wean the sale calves but Heidi hasn't wanted them earlier and I hadn't been quite ready to get back to work, so we suited each other's timeframes.

Last week after we got home from our te reo class, the phone rang.  It was our tutor asking if I would be a speaker at this week's graduation evening.  I imagined I was to be one of many.

Last evening the programme arrived by email and there aren't a whole lot of speakers and the Graduation ceremony is for the entire student body of Te Wānanga, something that has only slowly dawned on me over the last couple of days.  My name is on the programme as the student speaker.

I've been making notes each night as things have occurred to me and constantly thinking about what I want to say.  I have learnt, from many years of writing things, that if an idea occurs to me in the early hours, I need to write it down immediately, because I'll have no idea what it was by the morning.  I sleep with a notebook when I'm in the middle of any project.

But putting it together took me most of the day, writing, rewriting, adjusting, trying things out.  I was not required to give an entire speech in te reo and under the circumstances, a short mihi (greeting) at the start would be appropriate.

Here is what I said.  At the end I have explained the parts in te reo.

Tēnā koutou e te whānau o Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.  E tino harikoa ana ahau ki te kite ō koutou kanohi i tēnei pō.

I te taha o tōku matua,
Ko Tyne te awa,
Ko Te Tai Raki te moana,
Ko Pareora te waka,
Ko Ngāti Pākehā te iwi,
Ko Brian Renner tōku matua.

I te taha o tōku whaea,
Ko Betsom's Hill te maunga,
Ko Thames te awa,
Ko ngai Ingarihi te iwi,
Ko Wonosobo te waka,
Ko Jill Swanne tōku whaea.

I whanau mai ahau ki Kaitāia.
Kei Takahue e noho ana ahau.
Ko Stephan Mathew tōku hoa tāne.

Tēnā koutou katoa.

I am honoured to stand here tonight.  Early last year my whanaunga, William Tailby, said, come and do this reo class with me.  After a few days of thinking about time and energy and other commitments, Stephan and I went off in a rain storm to the Kaitāia market to sign me up with Te Wānanga.  I discovered I wasn't eligible for the same class as William, who had forgotten it wasn't the level 1 & 2 course we had previously done together years before.  But because it was so wet and we'd only gone to town for that purpose, Stephan and I both enrolled for our first year together and now here we are.  We continue to carry William with us as we are about to pass the point he reached in this second year.

My decision to commit to learning te reo is both political and personal.

My forebears were no doubt involved in the suppression of te reo in those early years of Pākehā mass migration to this land and subsequently, in the roles of many of them as English-speaking teachers.  I feel a responsibility to actively support the resurgence of te reo, not just as something to learn but as a living language to use in my life, with others in my home and my community.  Some younger members of our whānau are fluent and I want to be able to support and encourage them.

But being involved in learning at this early stage also has a deep personal importance.
When I was 11, my mother contrived to send me to England to meet her parents and other relatives.  It was on that trip and another in my early adulthood, that I discovered how not-English I am.  So while I understood Pākehā as not-Māori in this country, I then understood it as not-English either.
It is only in the context of the Māori world that Pākehā exists as an identity and so my own identity as Pākehā is being progressively deepened by my growing understanding of te ao Māori.  My place in the world has become clearer to me.

Taking part in this course of study has brought me into open contact with a community of people I might not otherwise have met.  We have become whānau and I feel a sense of belonging and welcome that I rarely feel in the Pākehā world.

I will always be grateful to our endlessly generous kaiako and kaiāwhina, Sipi, Ollie, Mei Meri and Rosina.  Thank you also to so many of our fellow students, who regularly share their long and deep experience, that colours and intensifies what we are learning.  Tēna koutou.

If learning or expanding your reo is of interest to you, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa provides a wonderful opportunity.
Learning language is something we're all designed to do.  This is what human brains are good at.  I had no idea how much I would enjoy it.  It's tough work sometimes, when the rest of life is busy and some of us struggle with various barriers to learning but our classes have been communal support systems, where we work together to help each other along.  As our group began our study in this second year, it was so good to see that so many of us from the first year had continued on.  Those who have had to drop out because other life events demanded their energy are missed.

Kia kaha ngā ākonga!
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. 

To translate: "Tēnā koutou e te whānau o Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.  E tino harikoa ana ahau ki te kite ō koutou kanohi i tēnei pō."  Greetings, I'm very glad to see you all.

"I te taha o tōku matua, ..." On my father's side our family came from the River Tyne, near the North Sea and came to this country on the Pareora (in 1877), we are Pākehā people, Brian Renner is my father.

"I te taha o tōku whaea, ..." My mother's family came from the area near Betsom's Hill (in London), on the River Thames and they're English.  Jill came here on a ship named the Wonosobo (in 1963) and her name was Jill Swanne.

"I whanau mai ahau ki Kaitāia, kei Takahue e noho ana ahau, ko Stephan Mathew tōku hoa tāne."  I was born in Kaitāia, live in Takahue now and Stephan is my partner.

Kaiako and kaiāwhina are our teachers and their assistants, ākonga a word for students.

In the late afternoon we set off for town.  For the first time since my surgery I managed to wear a pair of trousers.  It would not do to appear in a wider public context in a skirt!  I have my limits.

The graduation was held in the atrium at Te Ahu and the decorations made it seem quite a different space from the public area we walk through to get to the library, the museum or the Council service desk.  The graduands all sat on one side of the area and whānau and friends on the other.  Mathew came to support us and sat, I think, with Christina's daughter, Emma.

And so we all received our first-year certificates and there was a good number of higher-level te reo students there to receive theirs too.  It was a night of great celebration.

My speaking spot was moved from the middle of proceedings to the end, by which time I was getting very tired and decided I'd have to rely much more on my written speech than I'd intended.  But it was received very well, nonetheless.

There were some pictures taken by friends and family but as nobody has sent any of them to me, they are not here!

Thursday the 9th
brown quail

The quail family were running around the garden this morning and I managed to get a few photos of them before they noticed me, including a bit of video on the trail camera, with their peeping calls to each other as they came and went.


The big mob coming along from the Frog paddock, on their way to the Tank paddock, now that the boundary is stock-proof.  It doesn't yet have battens but is far more secure than it's been in the last two decades.


The cows came along the new yards lane segment, with the ten weaned calves on the other side of this tape and none of the calves came under the tape.  I am impressed and pleased that they have learned well about electric fencing, and don't push it even when the temptation is great.


The wind was blowing quite strongly and in the lee of every tree along the lane, hoards of wasps were hovering.  Presumably they're harvesting wood pulp from the trees, to take back to their autumn nest-building projects.

Friday the 10th

The Tank paddock is a problematic one, with some serious water flow issues.

The light-coloured strip in the middle of the photo has water running under it throughout the wet months and is becoming increasingly difficult to manage.  There are several holes in the ground where the underground water has eroded the soil.  At least that makes the primary water courses visible to us now, but I worry for the safety of the stock.


This is the bank on the other side of that area.  The electric tape in this picture surrounds a nasty hole and there's another series of drop-ins along the base of the slope too.  One looked very much like someone had fallen in and got themselves back out, so they're not all death-traps.

I watched Delight having an enthusiastic head-rub in the clay at the bottom of the slope, before going up to greet her mother and stand for some grooming attention.

calf foot

This is 861's injured foot, now looking a bit more hopeful than last time I checked him: there's a band of unbroken regrowth beneath the hair-line now.

He's going to have to stay on the farm instead of going off with the other weaner steers because his hoof fault will take some months to grow all the way down and in the mean time may cause complications for him.


The two bulls are looking lovely.  I think I have remained reasonably objective in my view of the animals and am not fooling myself when I look at and appreciate these fine fellows.

Often, when I read US discussion boards and look at bulls there, people comment on how straight a bull's "top line" is.  This bull's slightly knobbly spine would no doubt be criticised.  But if he were as fat as most of the over-fed North American bulls I see, he'd be smooth too.


The browning of this Kahikatea foliage is unusual.  I wonder if the long dry summer has contributed to the lack of fruit on the trees and this colouration?


A bucket full of Persimmons from Nut's tree up at the orchard.  They looked beautiful on the tree before Stephan picked them all but I'm obviously losing my documentary mind and didn't even think about taking a picture until he'd picked every one.

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