The week beginning the 14th of March 2020.
Saturday the 14th
Harrier hawks

Stephan went with Cathie and Andrew to the Kaitāia market this morning, while I stayed home to continue writing last week's page.

When they were home and lunch was being prepared we noticed a young hawk repeatedly circling and swooping down over the fenceline in Flat 1. Then it was joined by another. They were both quite dark in colour, so youngsters, I think. Eventually they gave up on whatever had interested them and flew away.

scrub cutting

In the afternoon Andrew went with Stephan to clear more of the hillside in the Swamp East Left.

When I showed Stephan this picture, he was surprised by the apparent size of the trees: when amongst them, one has a different sense of their height.

There has been concern in some circles about the survival of Kānuka due to land clearance but they grow here like weeds, as do Tōtara, which here form most of the prickly undergrowth.

Had there been more money available thirty years ago, these trees would never have been here. As it was, Stephan left the farm much to itself, with time only to manage the animals, not the land, as he worked long hours off-farm to pay the mortgage.


Cathie had gone off for a snooze and as I prepared to go out to see the work in progress, Floss began shrieking, something she's been doing more frequently of late. I found the tiny cage we've used to transport her previously, accidentally broke its base as I pulled it down off the shelf but took her out in it anyway. Sometimes when I take her out on my shoulder she takes off, and out here she could end up somewhere higher than I could reach her. With bars and a perch to hang onto, she'd be less likely to attempt independent travel but still benefit from the excitement of the outing.


Jet 777's coat is looking faded in places. Everyone had a copper shot a while ago, so this shouldn't be a sign of copper deficiency. She has always been one of the lighter-coloured cows, as are many of the daughters of the grey cows, so this may simply be faded colour from a very sunny summer.

cow and calf

Eva is still cruising around her paddock, seeming comfortable enough. She always watches me when I approach, anticipating the presentation of a blue bin carrying molasses.


Cathie harvested some harakeke and spent some time doing a homework project for her raranga course. I think she's doing the same course Christina did last year.

I'd quite like to learn how, myself, but weaving words already occupies a lot of my creative time.

The COVID-19 situation continues developing, from midnight tonight anyone arriving in the country is obliged to "self isolate" for fourteen days.

Sunday the 15th

We all went around to Roz and Alan's place this morning because Cathie said she really likes figs and Roz had already invited us to come and pick some over-ripe fruit for the pigs.

Andrew photographed Emma and Charlotte having their breakfast before our outing.

Cathie and Andrew departed for Auckland after lunch, all of us wondering how the next few weeks might pan out in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The pasture in the Tank paddock is crispy and dry. Thankfully the cattle are quietly getting on with finding as much as they can to eat, despite the restrictions.

cow and calf

812 is in the 21 mob, now in the Spring paddock.

I had to walk some distance to find most of the cows (still missing Dushi and Ellie 171) and checked the spring for which we've recently named the paddock, as I passed. It is no longer flowing out from under the huge rock where we usually see it but there are puddles a couple of metres below there and the water is flowing through the culvert further down. This is reassuring.

In the evening I had an odd moment. I was just getting into the shower, with the radio on the bench broadcasting the 10pm news, including an item about parents complaining about having paid donations that weren't really donations, for their children to go on school trips, and I felt a moment of ordinariness that has not been part of the last few days. Here was something that had nothing to do with me, something about which I felt no concern, something I could let wash over me without particular interest or further thought. I wondered if we will ever return to that sort of comfort again? I suppose we will, one day. But the pandemic has become the primary news for the whole world and its implications will affect us all for a very long time. We'll get used to a new "normal" and might forget how things used to feel.

Monday the 16th

The grapes are ripening quickly and the whole area smells delicious!

These dark grapes grow across about a third of the gazebo and there are two heavily-fruiting green grape vines as well.

Fortunately they haven't ripened all at once, so we're eating a lot of them ourselves, taking them to others whenever we go out, sharing the delight far and wide.


The orchard fruit is also ready to pick. It's lovely having fresh fruit from our own trees.


Stephan preparing to cut more Puriri for the cows, who now know what he's going to do before he starts.


Here we also cater for private dining.

Ida 145 is always last anywhere and the others regularly push her around, so she never comes to feed with them when treats are offered. Today I noticed her standing behind these trees and took her a branch of her own, so she could eat it all undisturbed.


We had (may still have but I haven't noticed it lately) a lawn rabbit; today we had a lounge rabbit.

I was washing dishes and Floss suddenly made her awful predator warning screech (I've only heard it a couple of times before, once for a stray cat, another time when a small stray dog ran across our deck). I dashed out to see what was happening and watched this rabbit hopping across the living room and settling down between the fire-box and the wall.

It stayed there for a couple of hours and eventually I gently approached it and it ran for the door.

Goodness knows why it came in. Must have taken a wrong turn and the doors were wide open.


In the middle of this afternoon I noticed the bull, Glia and Zella tearing up and down their paddocks. There was a dog!


The odd-looking animal looked as panicked as my cows and seemed to be running in strange directions, so I presume it had received a belt from the electric fence and didn't want to risk another.

I'm fairly certain it would have come from the ten-acre neighbours, whose dogs have occasionally come here to kill our livestock. Fortunately not on this occasion. Dog control is, as I have often reported, extremely lax in this community. Dog control enforcement is almost as useless.


The Windmill paddock having greened up a bit, I let the 26 from the crispy Tank paddock into the bottom half for the night.

dry mud

In Mushroom 2 later in the day, I found these two hoof-claw moulds. The grass is so short, it's easy to spot such interesting things.

Tuesday the 17th

Stephan prepared to prune some Puriri branches in the area adjacent to the yards. As soon as he started the chainsaw, the cows began to move, then stood waiting along the fenceline.


We dragged the branches out so everyone could have some then let them in for their tasty treat.

There was much more than is visible in the picture, to the side and behind me, as well as down in the shadows beyond this lot.

Wednesday the 18th

I'm now shifting cattle as much for a change of scene as for any significant quantities of feed. Fortunately for us Kikuyu is most nutritious in its early phase of growth, unlike rye which needs a chance to grow a bit to avoid knocking it around too much. Therefore if there's a bit of rain, as there has been in recent days, the paddocks grow some green feed very quickly. It's not much but it's better than nothing.


Our trough-wrecker at it again. This time Stephan installed a better fitting and arranged the pipes so that they weren't so prone to being rubbed by that large head.

(Some of the black piping in the picture is over the electric wires so the cattle don't get nasty electric jolts when they're drinking.)


This is the bull's home for the time being, Flat 3. Sometime we'll be able to mow all the horribly prickly dead brown flower heads off and it'll look pretty and green again.


Turning the other way, the 26 mob are now in Flat 5b which is not as green.

The cows are being very tolerant. They eat what they find wherever I put them, even if it's not very much.

I took this photo and some others for a record of cow condition at this stage. Most of these are still in pretty good nick.


In Flat 2, the paddock next to the bull, Zella and Glia were grazing this morning. Zella is beginning to get a bit thin, so I gave the two of them Flats 1 & 2, which are still operating as one paddock because the drain fences are still wound up in a pile at one end.

The grass is growing quite well here, so I hope it will arrest Zella's slide into worrying angularity.

Glia is still fat, doing very nicely thank you, as companion to the cow who gets the best feed on the farm. The downside is being regularly beaten up by Zella. Zella might end up living on her own.

At around noon I answered a phone call from a Kaitāia freight depot to say a piece of machinery Stephan had bought on-line on Monday evening had already arrived, and could we come and pick it up, please? So we finished compiling our shopping list and went off to town.

After hearing about the panic shopping going on in other parts of the country, we checked the supermarket carpark for chaos before driving in and entering the building. It didn't seem too mad, although there was no flour available and little rice; but there was toilet paper! We didn't need any of that.

Peering at some small print on a shelf, I heard a familiar voice and turned to find my school friend Faye coming along the aisle. We had a great chat, having not bumped into each other for months. She seemed worried about the stupid conspiracy stories doing the rounds about COVID-19, so not waiting for her to tell me which ones she was worried about, I addressed the top three I've seen people posting on a local social media group page. As a naturally sceptical person, I find it unfathomable that so many people blindly believe the nonsense other people tell them. Why doesn't it occur to anyone, when told something enticing, to do a bit of research to see what else might be written about it?

We eventually parted (with pretend non-contact hugs and kisses) when I noticed Stephan leaving the check-out area and walking out of the building.

Thursday the 19th

Back to town again, this time for me to attend an appointment inside the Breast Screen bus that comes and parks in Kaitaia periodically to perform squeezy mammograms on those of us who've passed the age of 45 and are due for our biennial check. I was going to give this year a miss but a friend who's been through the breast cancer mill told me I should not do that.

And then, most dangerous of all it seemed, to the hospital for an appointment with my gynaecological surgeon, for yet another follow-up. Walking into the hospital, or any health-linked building at present, seems a risky proposition. Things were pretty quiet in there, everyone taking care to allow distance between themselves and others as they passed in the wide corridor.

We went back to the supermarket to see if we could find some rice, bread and flour today. I waited outside with the ute, with some valuable items stacked on the back, and had a lovely conversation with one of our last-year te reo classmates. It feels so strange to greet people at such a distance.


Another stressed Taraire, at the bottom of Flat 4.

Taraire have become one of my favourite trees. I hope they will not all die.


Stephan moved the pig trap this evening. It had been on the bush side of the Mushroom paddocks' back fence but never caught anything, despite a well-trodden pig track passing its doorway.

Pigs have been returning to the pasture regularly, even in the drought, so we thought we'd try it out in the paddock for a while.

New Zealand will be closed to visitors from midnight tonight. Many people are relieved, there having been reliable reports of tourists here for short holidays continuing with their own travel plans around the country, ignoring the requirement to isolate themselves from others for two weeks.

Friday the 20th

I think we might have five little hen chicks here. The far left chick is male, as is the obscured one with the orange feathers and both of the speckled grey birds. At this stage the difference in their wattle size (the little fleshy bit under their beaks) is becoming quite obvious.

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