We took Al for a walk in the bush reserve when we went looking for weed trees this morning.
I decided it would provide a good opportunity for some more leash training. I am not altogether sure he would reliably return to me if he ran off somewhere.
These shelf fungi can grow to significant size and if this one survives and does that, I'll want to come back to this picture of when it was small.
Stephan did most of the tree seedling pulling, cutting those that were too large to pull out by the roots and then painting them with some herbicide. The trees we have most trouble with are the Acmena, commonly known as Monkey Apple, which were planted as shelter belts where Jane now lives, long before anyone realised how invasive they would be when the Kukupa ate their berries and excreted the seeds where they normally live, in the midst of the native bush. Those trees really need to be felled to stop this ongoing invasion but we have no control over that.
Al had a great time dashing back and forth around me, sniffing everything, nosing into anything he found interesting. He tried darting off into the bush on a couple of occasions but he's small enough to restrain still, despite his speed and increasing weight. The training sessions are important if I'm to be able to exert influence on him when he's larger.
The Pukeko on the island is still on her nest - she's in the picture, her head visible between the flax leaves.
The Oak tree out the front is looking lovely this year, some still-reddish new sprigs catching my attention as I approached it today.
It has to be kept pruned on the driveway side for the passing of trucks and most particularly one must keep a clear path for the hopefully-never-required fire services.
The caterpillar I brought in to the house successfully pupated.
Stephan went "out to the pub". He went with Mathew and Christina to see Oscar Bentley playing with his forever-ago band, The Pitz, at the newly-reopened Awanui Hotel. They were playing together when Oscar was my Chemistry teacher in the sixth form at College. I decided not to go because I still had cattle to check, work to do. Apparently they had a great time.
I went out the back to check the 16 cow-calf mob, couldn't find all of them so drove up to the top of the hill and found the seven bulls all at the top of the Middle Back. I hadn't seen them for a few days so was pleased to check them and their feed levels.
I still hadn't seen four of the calves, so walked along the bottom of the swamp, then heard them calling from down at the bottom by the trough and the gate, their mothers still at the top of the hill. Goodness knows where they'd been. There are a lot of hiding places in the Big Back North.
We love the trees at the bottom of our garden. We always remember it as a bare bit of paddock and now it's full of beautiful trees, ferns, flax. And a pond, of course.
Alan Mitten gave me this Amaryllis a couple of years ago and now it's about to flower for the second time.
There's a lot wrong with Noz (as I've now taken to shortening Nostraminus). She seems like a premature baby. She's everywhere odd in shape. She's very strange.
Bad, bad hen, jumping up to pinch my yet-to-ripen Blueberries. Most of them are too high for her, fortunately.
A Kōtare on the bridge.
Al dashes around everywhere when he's out to play and we pushed this ball in his direction to see what he'd do with it. He sort of knocks it around a bit but he's not as interested in it as I'd hoped. Getting him to follow something around would be a great way to get him out playing.
Milking time, so the calves go in to the little pen where they wait while Zella is milked, then she leaves and they get let out into the whole concrete area, where they spend the night. They can lie on the rubber mat we got for Zella and there's some hay and fresh water for them. At some stage, when we know they have learnt about the electric fences, they can sleep out in the little grass area beside the shed.
I vaguely remember being told that there's some connection between a bull's scrotal retraction and wrinkling and the same appearance in his daughters' udders but it's a very vague little bell ringing a long time ago. I can see how they might have something to do with each other, being in the equivalent region but I can't imagine why it might matter for a cow. Maybe the mattering was the other way around, in that a bull needs to be able to contract his scrotum to maintain even semen temperatures. An internet search finds nothing relevant. Perhaps it was one of those only-rumoured associations.
Harriet 860's udder. She looks alright so far. I won't really be able to decide about the Harry daughters' udders until next season. If they're going to start breaking down too early, I'll begin to see that then. It's always a gamble using a new AI bull. They have less-than-perfect feet, so I'm watching them with some trepidation.
860's daughter, Gertrude 162's son and 874's son.
The flax plants are all in flower, to the delight of all the Tūī in the area, who come to drink their nectar.
Ice-cream with chocolate chibbles:
Separate five eggs, beat the whites, add a quarter cup of caster sugar, beat a bit more; beat the egg yolks with another quarter cup of caster sugar and a bit of vanilla essence, until they're pale; lightly whip 450mls of fresh cream; grate some chocolate - I actually use a big knife now to cut it on a wooden board, which I find much easier and safer than grating. I've been using about two lines of Whittaker's 72% chocolate and about half as much again of 100% cocoa chocolate. Throw the four things together in a big bowl and gently fold it all together until well-enough mixed.
(I usually find a few lumps of egg white or cream, but you don't want to knock all of the air out of the mixture by spending too long trying to get it completely smooth).
Then you put it in the freezer and in about six or eight hours it will be ready to eat. You don't have to get it out and re-beat it or anything; the air in the whipped mixtures ensures a "just like a bought one" texture.
Now three weeks old, I still have to help Noz get the feed bottle's teat into her mouth to feed.
Why am I carrying on with her? I ask myself every day. To stop I have to decide to do something to end her life and I don't want to yet. I'm curious to see what happens to her.
One of these calves is not like the others.
She's now getting three feeds a day so she should be able to grow as fast as everyone else. She doesn't appear to be doing that, so I don't know what she does with over seven litres of milk every day.
Ellie 119's calf has begun behaving in a difficult manner, looking alarmed by my presence whenever she sees me. She wasn't when she was first born and I hope she'll settle down again.
I wonder what affect being horribly startled by fireworks might have had on them all? But Ellie's calves have always had an element of mistrust in their natures.
I am still very annoyed about the damned fireworks and their possible ongoing effect.
This is a Kauri Roger and Jude gave us several years ago and after looking a bit weak for a few years, it's now strongly growing larger by the year.
Stephan has been out spraying the lanes, because with the quarry metal on them they're the worst places for weeds during the spring and summer. Killing whatever is here now will save us a great deal of time later. It's also necessary track maintenance to prevent the Kikuyu grass gradually burying the metal.
Nearly all the calves in the 16-pair mob, just after I moved them into the Small Hill from the Big Back North.
710's son is looking a bit slow and unwell, presumably due to the onset of coccidiosis that afflicts the calves every year.
This is the weird little teat thing on Fancy 126's udder that became inflamed last year when her calf then kept hurting it with his teeth while feeding. This year it is obviously being irritated again but not to the same extent yet.
Looking at Al this morning, I noted that all the injury scabs he'd had since I found him have gone. He must have had some deep punctures where they were, presumably close calls with the dogs that attacked his little family. The veterinary-inflicted cuts of his castration have healed far more quickly.
Before grey 607 gets too close to calving, I thought we should take her mob in to the yards to tag and weigh the five calves. Only one of them needed a castration ring, 874's son, who is now tagged 914.
Back out of the fantastic cattle yards afterwards, where everything went so easily again.
With the head bail set at its narrowest, little calves of this age can be caught and held for castration or, as we did with one of these, easy tagging. Either of us could manage most of these tasks on our own if necessary, with this fabulous set-up, which was our intention and hope.
Then they went to Flat 2, into the most delicious spring grass.
607 is now up to day 272 of her gestation, so I'm expecting her to calve at any time (Glia was born at day 270, so she can go quite early) but her udder isn't looking quite ready yet, so it'll be a few more days I think.
We bought some more rock salt yesterday and took some around to the cattle today. With the Kikuyu growing well in the warmth, they'll need some salt. (Kikuyu doesn't take up much Sodium from the soil, so the cattle need some from elsewhere.)
That's Ellie 119 at the trough.
We both went out to check and then move the cattle from the Small Hill. While I walked around ticking them off in my notebook, Stephan gave grey 812 a lovely scratch.
904 is still not looking happy but not worryingly unwell. The colour of his poo suggests my suspicion is correct and he'll feel better again in a couple of days.
I wasn't feeling particularly well so Stephan went up to check the bulls in the Middle Back and I sat on the slope at the bottom and looked at the grass flowers around me. There's exquisite beauty in some very ordinary-seeming places: this is a plantain flower head.
It was so breezy that most of my pictures were entirely unfocused.
Once they started moving, the bulls came thundering down the hill together. They still look pretty rough but they're picking up condition since being drenched and having their copper supplement.
Stephan pulled Ragwort as we walked back through the Spring paddock.
There seems to be less Ragwort around this season so far. We never know if it's because of the weather pattern or our own work to control it. In either case we need to remove every plant we find.
This view into the Tōtara tree trunks beside the now-removed sheep yards, struck me as particularly beautiful. The Waikawa Stream flows just beyond them, then under our bridge.
607, still a matron in waiting.
Noz sucks the teat on her right side because her palate is intact on that side and she can form an adequate seal around the teat with her tongue. It's not as strong as a full-mouthed calf would manage though, so a feed takes twenty minutes each time.
I spent my morning publishing the latest Women's Studies Journal on the WSA website, then doing some family research, carrying on with my explorations in the Papers Past website. I found my paternal Grandfather's mother's birth notice from March 1875, in the Christchurch Press.
775, now six years old, has finally achieved sufficient maturity to begin gaining body condition on good feed, at the same time as feeding her calf - noting that it should be reasonably easy in this particularly good spring.
As a younger cow she was always thin, like the rest of her family, but she has always produced a nice calf and I anticipated she would mature into a good cow.
Goodness knows what was so enticing in the garden by the deck but it kept Al entertained for some minutes. I figured it didn't matter much if he dug around, since most of what grows there is horrible buttercup.
Stephan went out to visit his late brother Richard's best friend, to reminisce together. When he returned we went out to the Bush Flat to check and then moved the cows and calves across the stream. They're quite good at it now, no longer frightened of the water.
Zella's daughter, nuzzling my hand as Stephan milked her mother.
Glia's calf won't let us touch him.
As I stood quietly against the gate, Glia came over and pressed her head against my leg, waiting for me to scratch her neck and ears.
I tuned in to 95bFM (Auckland University Student radio) this morning, on-line, to listen to nephew Jasper's band, who were playing in the Fancy New Band slot. The lead singer didn't introduce any of her companions, so it wasn't that exciting, but fun to hear what Jasper's drum playing sounds like in the context of his band.
Just after lunch I went to town to sit in the museum for a few hours, going through their records of Takahue and a bit of Diggers Valley, although they've mislaid the main Diggers Valley folder. I took a lot of pictures of pages to read later. I couldn't have gone through it all in the time available there.
The Akeake in the House paddock pet cemetery is flowering and while the colours aren't striking, I think it delicately beautiful.
Here's a closer view of the flowers.
Wrong: I looked the Akeake up in one of my books and apparently these are the fruits or seed pods and the flowers were much earlier and much less obvious. Interesting. I'll have to look more carefully and earlier next season.