The week beginning the 11th of April 2020.
Saturday the 11th

Six jars of Granny Smith apples I bottled two days ago. I gently washed all the stickiness off them today, after unscrewing the seal-tightening bands and they will join Stephan's similar efforts in the store room.

They're not perfect but they'll do for a return to bottling after many years.


Up the hill this afternoon to make sure the tank was filling. We'd both done funny things with taps so that the water, now coming down from the high intake in the bush again, had not been getting up here. If the water levels drop further, we'll need the tank full to keep us going while we figure out what else to do.

cow and calf

Imogen 155 has previously produced two unimpressive daughters, so I've been delighted to watch this heifer do rather better than her elder sisters. She's "soggy", having obvious fat under her skin, indicating that her mother is now producing sufficient milk to meet the growth needs of the calf. Or it's just the genetics of this calf's sire being a better match for Imogen. It's hard to know, but the outcome is very pleasing.

straining fruit pulp

I quickly sewed up the bottom of another length of mutton cloth for Stephan to strain a large pot of blackberry and apple pulp, in preparation for making blackberry jelly.

None of the existing bags were quite big enough for this lot.

I did as I believe many other people have done during the Covid-19 restrictions, and attended an online meeting with the Women's Studies organising committee. It was lovely to see and hear a gathering of feminists in this strange time of isolation.

We planned to do some writing for the WSA website but nothing subsequently happened. People are probably busier than they thought; I certainly have been.


Sunshine under heavy grey clouds is strangely beautiful.


Tī Kōuka look good against any colour. They're equally lovely with a blue sky but these colours drew my attention this afternoon.

I discovered, when I went to move the small mob of heifers and the steer, that the bull had again knocked his trough's pipe off and the heifers had an empty trough. They all stopped and drank at his full trough for several minutes, before following me down the lane to new grazing.

Sunday the 12th

We drove seven kilometres around the roads to collect feijoas from under Roz and Alan's trees near Takahue. In a straight line they're only 2.5km away from us.

Most of the fruit were quite small because of the drought but they will all, big, small and bird-pecked, make excellent feed for the pigs. There will be many we can preserve for our own eating too.

epiphytic plants

This is one of the big Puriri trees at the bottom of Flat 1.

Many of the epiphytic plants around the farm have died during the drought but some must have been able to collect sufficient water from the dew and occasional sprinkles of rain, to hold on to life.


The 26-mob have been in Flats 1 & 2 for the last six days, so they were pleased to come to my call from the gateway.


They all ran about like mad things as soon as they got into the House paddock. They're great fun to watch.

feral pig rooting

When I went out to give Eva and Andrew their evening bins of molasses and feed, I found all this pig damage along under the fence.

The feral pigs have been rooting around many of the posts as well. I wonder what attracts them to these places in particular?


Stephan with a load of firewood, coming back from the Swamp East Left where he had piled lots of trees when cutting and clearing along the boundary, before he built the new fence.

Monday the 13th

It's always lovely having the cattle near the house, so I can gaze at them out the window as I work.

jelly in jars

Jelly made from 30 cups of blackberry and apple juice which required all of a 5kg bag of sugar!

We managed to remember most things we needed before the Level 5 Covid-19 lock-down started but Stephan didn't think about how much jelly-making and fruit preserving there would be to do during this time. We'll need some more sugar to process the rest of the frozen berries.


The chewed Tōwai sapling in the Windmill drain reserve area where I have been letting the cattle graze, isn't dead after all. It is now growing some tiny green leaves. I'm glad it has survived our mistreatment.

feral pig rooting

The feral pigs have been in with Eva and Andrew!

I'll have to see if we can adopt a wolf.


We went out the front to turn the water on or off (days have blended, can't remember things if I didn't write them down!) for next door and here was an unexpected visitor at the front gate.


He belongs next door, so Stephan walked him back around the corner - had to grab and hold him at one point as some idiot came roaring around the corner in a fast vehicle.

The front house that Stephan and his parents lived in, was naturally connected to the farm water system. The first subsequent owners of the property shared the responsibility of maintaining the system when it occasionally stopped running. But the next resident took to altering things because he didn't understand how it was all put together. He had to be asked to leave it all alone and when they sold the property, we made it clear that water would no longer be supplied and the next people installed a large tank to collect rain water from the roof.

But during the summers when Sandi and Gary have got a bit short of water, they've poked a hose into their guttering and brought the other end to us and we've connected it to the tap in the shed for a couple of days at a time to refill their tank. It costs us nothing, as long as there are no cattle Over the Road needing their troughs filled, and helps them a great deal, since buying water by tanker is expensive in any year and in this drought, problematic. People have had to wait for weeks to have tanks filled by the tanker trucks as everyone ran short.

I suggested to Sandi that if they were anywhere near needing water, they should have it while our system is still running, since it's looking increasingly unreliable as the stream level continues to drop. It takes about two and a half days to fill their tank.

Tuesday the 14th

There are only a few things I regularly do in our kitchen; I do all the dishes, since Stephan does all the cooking and I've been making the butter for a few years since Stephan got too busy one summer, fencing or spraying gorse or something. I took over that task and quite enjoyed it, so carried on.

Stephan usually does the fruit preserving in its various forms but he's working hard on the clearing and fencing projects that will make my life easier, so I spent this morning in the kitchen experimenting with bottling feijoas. Usually we scoop them out of their skins and freeze them for later but I discovered that they can also be bottled like other fruit and they take up about half the space when cooked.

Then I made some butter.

cleared slope

Here's the most recent fence-line Stephan has cleared, above the big deep gully to the left. The water must come from somewhere deep underground up in the next-door bush block, causing a huge, slow-moving slip.

The water comes out of the ground down-hill from the slip and has formed the biggest gully in this paddock, in which grow a lot of really lovely big trees. We've never had any cattle in trouble here but there are some scarily deep and steep places I wouldn't like to have to rescue them from. There are a number of Puriri in there too, which require protection to remain healthy.


Leaving Stephan on his hillside, I went around to the other side of the farm to check the 23-mob in the Big Back North and South paddocks.

I found these four calves down near the swamp fence on the north side, their mothers calling to them from the slope on the other side. When they heard me, the animals on the other side all began moving down toward the gates at the bottom. I propelled these four up and around the fenceline to go and meet their mothers.


Skinny Zoom with her impressive son. The three two-year-old heifer mothers have done exceptionally well this year, especially Zoom and Dushi, both of whom are now showing the physical strain of feeding their sons so well.

I emailed the stock agent this afternoon, asking if he had perhaps forgotten my bull, who is now threatening our water system more seriously as the main supply is becoming less reliable. He replied in the evening that the bull can go on Thursday.

Wednesday the 15th

Endberly is on heat again, here with a retinue of young males, some bulls, the others steers who obviously still have sufficient circulating testosterone to keep them interested in such matters.


Up near the recently-built boundary fence is a group of three Puriri trees. This photo looks downhill, the other tree is just behind me to the right.

We've long been familiar with this little area because for several years it was a Ragwort hot-spot.

A week or so ago we walked along this slope discussing where Stephan will build the fences to protect these trees and the other water courses down the slope. Then he had second thoughts and so I came up today to have another look with him.

If I could time-travel, it would be back to look at trees and what had happened to them over time. What could have happened here?


We decided on a revised course of action and I left Stephan shifting part of a pile of prunings ready to back the tractor up and thump in the strainer for the gully fence.


Stephan says he likes this: two cleared strips making a triangle of trees to clear later. If he starts at the bottom, progress will be faster and faster as he works up the hill.

Angus bull

Bull 178 watching the 26-mob go past, on their way from the House paddock to the Spring.

Golden Spider Wasp

Walking along the track after the cows and calves, I noticed this barely-alive wasp. Perhaps it had been trodden on or was dying anyway. It's a Golden Spider Wasp, an introduced species.

I see them most often on the ground, moving very quickly, presumably in search of their prey. Their orange wings and abdomen are striking. I rarely notice them flying.

I carefully picked this one up and placed it on top of a fence post for my photograph.


The mob of seven, six heifers and the steer, are in the PW and had come along the bottom of the paddock, keeping pace with the passing cows, before gathering at the Route 356 gateway to greet them.

On my way I kept looking at the calf who seemed to be always at the back of the moving mob, 893, 723's daughter. 723's three sons were all quiet and slow-moving like this but her first two daughters were not nearly so calm. This third daughter's temperament seems more like her brothers' and I would very much like to keep a 723 daughter, so I think this one will do.


Stephan had finished putting in posts and was now running the wires up the new fence.

That strange-looking tree on the left is actually the tops of a felled Kānuka, jammed between the upright branches of another standing tree.

Angus bull

On my way back home from shifting those cows, I went and got 176 out of his paddock but left him in the lanes to make his own way down toward the yards. When he reached the House lane and looked like he was about to go back, I got ahead of him and turned him round again.

He's a bit argumentative and I always know he could move a lot faster than me. He's reasonably biddable if you're assertive enough, which sometimes I'm not, for fear of getting into a dangerous position.

cow and calf

Eva and Andrew, having swapped bins but not position.

Thursday the 16th

I had to phone the trucking company this morning, since I'd not heard from them yet. In this odd time, the guy had forgotten to phone me last night. It didn't matter, since I'd been told the bull would go today, so he was in and ready at the yards.


We put him up into the race so I could paint some easily-seen marks on his back and take some of his tail hairs in case I need ever to have his genetics screened for something his forebears are found to carry.

I had a plan of attack that took care of these things without locking the bull in the race because I knew that might prompt him to attempt an escape over the rails or gates. I painted three spots (a bit elongated, since he was moving so fast) and then grabbed hold of some tail hairs and didn't let go as I waved the other hand at his face to stop him rearing up to jump and eventually managed to pull them out.

Stephan had some other idea about how this was all to be done, walking up the race behind the bull at about the time the bull went backwards in a hurry and Stephan nearly got caught! There was some anxious shouting. I forgot Stephan can't read my thoughts and he hadn't told me how he'd seen this happening either.

Angus bull

Many days after Jane's new septic tank was installed, we discovered that the digger that had been here had driven into and brought down our overhead electric fence feed wire. Someone had then propped its pole up in the loading ramp but nobody had said anything to us. That's extremely shoddy behaviour.

Stephan re-fixed the pole in its proper position this morning, so the loading ramp was clear for the bull to go on the truck when it arrived.

176 sat waiting quietly in the yards.

stock truck

The truck was two and a half hours later than the time we'd been advised. Stephan went over to the yards when we heard it arrive and I watched from my preferred distance as the driver shut the back door and drove out the gateway. Good bye and thank you, nice bull.

I always feel sad in these moments, having facilitated his conception then watched his birth and seen him nearly every day of his life thereafter.

He will leave one daughter from this year's calves (white-faced 889) and there are four of his progeny expected later this year.

feral pig damage

I don't know what to say about this. It looks more like ploughing than rooting. I despair.

cow and calf

Eva goes on looking relatively alright. Her limp is awful to watch but I think she doesn't clunk so often in her stifle joint. She still appears to be enjoying her existence well enough.

Andrew's behaviour is occasionally alarming: he is getting big and likes to bounce up to me in the paddock when I go there to collect the blue bins.

I think it was this afternoon when I took shelter in the aviary when a sudden heavy shower started. While I changed the birds' seed and water, I could see Stephan across Flat 1, reinstating the fences on either side of the drain. I thought he'd surely stop and come home but he kept working. He probably couldn't put the coils of wire down without risk of them becoming tangled, so he carried on.

It was fine enough in the evening for me to go out looking for pigs again; didn't see any.

Friday the 17th

Feijoa processing has become a daily task. Cutting them in half then scooping out the insides seems to be the easiest way to deal with them. I have heard some people talk of peeling them but that must be an exceptionally fiddly task.

This lot went into zip-lock plastic bags (reusing washed ones from the supermarket bulk bin supplies) and then into the freezer. We'll use them during the winter for delicious desserts.


The heifer mob didn't look terribly happy about being in the PW. They had a bored, disgruntled look.

When I came back from out the back, I moved them into the Pines paddock.


Stephan was off and away on the digger. I followed the digger tracks and found a reshaped drain, where the water had previously been running out onto the track.

Things get better all the time.


I walked into the Middle Back and was watching and photographing Stephan on the digger, just at the moment something bad happened. I couldn't see what was wrong from where I was but Stephan had got off and was doing a bit of swearing, so I went to find out.


The left side track had broken!

The ground is pretty rough and had obviously been a bit too much for the old track. This side was in poorer condition than the other side (that one we had to put back on last week) and so this wasn't unexpected at some time - or at least the need to replace it wasn't unexpected. We hadn't thought about having to replace it in such a difficult location.

We went home to do some research on where and how to buy replacement tracks.


Today we'd left Zella, Glia and their calves wandering along the lanes, and I'd opened the little square area for them, just beyond the Mushroom lane.

For the last couple of years I'd not have let Zella wander so far because her mis-shapen feet were making her lame. But now the long toes have broken off, her feet look very near normal. I am very pleased for her and us.

Stephan went out to look for pigs this evening while I peeled and cooked seven jars of Ballarat apples. He saw a smallish one but my rifle's scope adjustment was not as it should have been and he couldn't see through it to shoot the animal.

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