The week beginning the 18th of April 2020.
Saturday the 18th
bottled fruit

Evidence of my productivity last evening while Stephan was out not shooting pigs: seven bottles of Ballarat apples.

I enjoyed doing them, channelling my father, who would annually buy at least half a dozen "Kleensaks" (a brand I was surprised to find still for sale) of Ballarats, possibly more, bring them home all stacked up in the back of the Austin Maxi with the back seat down. Then he'd stand in the kitchen for days, peeling, cooking and bottling the fruit. We ate the contents of those bottles throughout the rest of the year, often for dessert with fresh cream and a finger of puff pastry just out of the oven.


I opened the gate at the bottom of the Blackberry paddock for the 26 mob to go across the stream to the Swamp East Left, with its nice new fences. (The Blackberry gate is to my right, the SEL gate on the other side of the stream behind me to the left.)

Most of them behaved sensibly, going to the crossing and over into the next paddock; 710 didn't - I think she does this every time she's here, stepping down into the stream so she can browse her way back around the bend.

She's easy enough to turn back although I'd not want to be in a screaming hurry with any of this. It's often these quirky habits that make this job interesting.


More feijoas.

The fruit processing is a wet job so I do it wearing nitrile gloves, to save my own skin from painful splits later.

I wear some clothes too.


The expensive magpie trap continues to prove its worth as an any-other-species trap.

Mynas are unwanted residents too, so this nervous bird's life was over quite quickly.

I watched 811 repeatedly kicking her calf away from her udder this evening. When he did manage to get to her teats, it looked like he was stripping them - pulling down to get the last drops, rather than suckling properly. Presumably he'd already had a good feed and she was sick of him messing around.

Aaron came out again late this evening and drove back past the house at 5am with a dead pig! Excellent.

Sunday the 19th

We let Zella and Glia in around the trees again today, now the grass there is refreshed.

bottled fruit

I spent most of the day processing feijoas and then Ballarats.

Here are the previous ones, washed clean of all stickiness, with dates written on their seals, ready to go out to the store room.

There's too much air in this front bottle, despite my careful attempts to release it before sealing. I'll have to keep practising until I get better at it.


Cooking feijoas is a lovely task. They change colour and create a lot of frothy bubbles and smell divine. The frothy bubbles are what makes it hard to get all the air out of the jars.


Outside, Stephan was beginning preparation on the long-awaited concrete path to the aviary.

The wooden boxing has been here for a couple of years now, serving only to catch rain and create a long foot-bath in wet weather.


Later when Stephan had gone away, the Quail family appeared. It's lovely to see them still all together, the four youngsters and their parents.


Another nice load of firewood. Ordinarily various people would come and help with the job of loading and unloading the trailer but when nobody is supposed to be going anywhere, it's Stephan's job on his own. We need enough wood for our winter warmth and that of various other family members and friends.

Monday the 20th

The small amounts of rain over the last two weeks (we've had just over 50mm in that period) has made no difference to the stream level. The biggest lot of rain in that time was 13.5mm, which would all have soaked into the parched earth. The rest came in little showers that were excellent for grass growth but essentially we're still in drought.

My last picture shows the low stream at a flow I didn't think could get much lower.


The digger in it's hospital isolation area, awaiting restorative treatment.

I wanted to bring some cattle to the Middle Back but I don't want to risk the calves chewing on bits of digger and creating problems for it or them, so I brought standards and the electric wire to keep them out.


The spider gorse mite never really got well established here but I am always pleased to find another little community of them.

Somehow they survive from year to year despite the gorse spraying Stephan does and the climatic conditions that obviously don't suit them well.


When I brought the cows and calves along Route 356 to the Middle Back, they couldn't pass the bit of drain Stephan had dug out without rubbing their heads and necks in the bare soil.


When he was out hunting pigs the other night, Stephan saw so many possums he decided to bring some of the live-capture traps out to see if he could catch some.

The doors of those two were made out of old road signs (when they replaced all the nicely visible signs with startlingly reflective ones that we can't bear to look at at night) and the yellow can be seen from quite some distance, so you can see if a trap is closed or not.

Here is Eva, having her evening treat.

The shift from the Covid-19 Level 4 to Level 3 next Monday was announced today. I've very much liked the quieter world.

Tuesday the 21st

When he went out trap checking, Stephan opened the gates for the 23-mob to shift themselves from Flats 4 and 5a&b to Flat 1.

As I worked in the kitchen I watched three calves on the far side of the 5a/b fence, wanting to join their mothers in this direction but being confused about how to get there. One of them, the calf walking out to the right, figured it out and walked up to the gateway. It took the other two several more minutes before they dared to walk in what must have felt like the wrong direction.

We could put a lot more gates in to avoid this sort of problem and in some really difficult corners I suspect we will but these instances certainly give the calves very useful training in working out how to get from one place to another without always going in a straight line. For those who will leave here when they're weaned and go on to an unfamiliar farm, being able to work these things out will be very useful. Those who stay end up being a lot easier to work with when they learn to be sensible about such problems.

Wednesday the 22nd

Stephan has begun concreting my aviary path!

He laid a couple of sections today and will do the other bits when these pieces are set.


The 26 mob in the Middle Back, who are mostly mature cows with their calves, looked expectantly at me as I walked among them this evening, so I called them up to the gate and let them through to the Big Back North.

Thursday the 23rd

Roz rang late this morning, asking if we'd like to come and pick up more of their feijoas. As there was heavy rain expected in the afternoon, I hailed Stephan and we went immediately to collect the fruit.

They were better this time than last, the fruit bigger after a bit of rain. We picked up nearly everything, since the pigs don't mind a bit of brown or a bird-pecked fruit and the good ones will go into bottles or our freezer.


We may have gone a bit far. That's a lot of fruit to sort through!

Stephan has in his hand a couple of mushrooms I'd found in the paddock on our way out. It started to rain a few minutes before we left.

While it rained for the next three hours, I bottled more Ballarats. When the rain cleared I went out to move some cattle around.

I had decided that Dushi, who could do with some extra feed, could go with her calf in with her mother, Eva, and Andrew. As her mob moved from Flat 1 along the lane on their way to the Bush Flat, I drafted Dushi and calf 200 into the Windmill and when the others had gone past, opened the gates so Eva and Andrew could join them from Mushroom 1.

Friday the 24th

Having collected so many feijoas from Roz and Alan's trees, we thought we'd better check our own. I had only seen a few small fruit on them recently, so gave them some water in the hope it might help the fruit put on some size. (The drought-related water restriction notices are no longer being published, there being nowhere to publish them during the Covid-19 Level 4 restrictions.)

Finding dropped fruit amongst the Kikuyu growing underneath and up through the trees proved difficult, so Stephan cleared beneath them this morning.


After lunch he continued the concreting work on my aviary pathway.

cows and calves

Eva, Dushi and the calves had come all the way down the Windmill paddock this afternoon (all the way not being a very great distance for a fit animal but suggesting that Eva is reasonably comfortable in spite of the problem causing her extreme limp).

I took three bins, presuming that Dushi would have one but being unsure if her calf would. It wasn't long before he pushed his head into his mother's bin for a share of the molasses.


I hear that people get depressed reading too many other people's social media posts, because many people only post their very best selves on-line and really nobody is quite so happy, nor so clever in every respect.

While I may keep some of my most shameful personal failures to myself, I've never seen the point of writing only half a story. So here are my inexpert early attempts at a return to fruit bottling. (The nice yellowy ones on the lower shelf are Stephan's bottles of pears.)

You can see where I've not quite got it right yet. However, I believe these will all be edible and delicious, even though they'd win no prizes at the A&P show.

I did some internet searching for assistance and came across a very disparaging piece about they way most people have always bottled fruit here, the "overflow" method. Apparently we'll all die of botulism and other terrible pathogens. If you don't hear from us again, you'll know they were right.

When we were sitting quietly this evening, watching a funny thing via the internet, our electric lights flickered several times. Whatever was causing the power fluctuation caused my UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply, keeping my computer safely powered despite frequent electricity outages) to repeatedly clunk and beep its alarm. Thinking that someone might have caused the problem during a four-hour maintenance power cut this morning, I phoned the Top Energy fault line and while I'd only meant to report a problem I thought they should be aware of, I ended up talking to someone at the Ngawha control room who insisted that someone should come and investigate. I said I didn't think it was that serious but then he asked if we had working smoke alarms, in case our house caught fire in the night. Nothing like a bit of expert reassurance; nothing like it at all!

So at 10pm I wandered out to the road to find lots of brightly flashing hazard lights and a technician checking the transformer on the power pole and its connections through to us. Then he came in to check our feeder cable and told me that he was not permitted to check anything beyond the connection to our house. The alarmist Ngawha man had insisted a technician should come to check the safety of the electricity in our dwelling but he'd obviously led me astray.

However, as this visit to our house was our first from any other human being in several weeks, it was an acceptably exciting interruption to the evening, even though it was a bit late by the time we went to bed.

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