The week beginning the 18th of July 2020.

I think it's about time I got back to this. Since Jill (my mother) died in June, I have experienced some kind of creative muteness. I do not grieve any real relationship with her, having had none for many years and a complicated one before she disappeared progressively into Alzheimer's Disease but, as lovely friend Cathie wrote to me, we grieve our mother with our child's heart, not our adult mind. I have been affected, in a way that took me by surprise.

As a distraction I spent quite a lot of time climbing my family tree. Perhaps something of being without parents has sparked this odd desire to find older family? My father did some work on the family tree when I was in my late teens and early twenties but I was never particularly interested. Thirty years ago such investigations required visits to look at records, or finding out where to write to enquire about one's forebears. Now so much is on-line and I've found piecing things together fascinating. I'm currently on the trail of one of my Great-great-grandmothers, a woman whose name I've just found in a book written about the thousands of young women who made their way to this country in the 1850s and 60s. Frances Padwick, widow, came as the matron to the single women on the Mermaid's sixth voyage to New Zealand, arriving in early January 1869. Investigations continue...

Saturday the 18th

I first saw this little ginger rabbit yesterday and initially thought it was a kitten. It would appear that its parents may both share ancestry with the big soft rabbit: this is not a naturally-occurring colour in the wild rabbit population.

I worry that its ears held down might mean it is not very well; but there's nothing I can do about that.

The three little rabbits are probably living under the shed adjacent to the pond.


I couldn't get out here yesterday to move the twenty cows because the streams were too high. Having not quite enough to eat, they ate everything they could and have done a nice job of cleaning up the Blackberry paddock.

The new drain is running beautifully, taking the water quickly away.

There was a lot of water: we had just over 155mm over the last three days.


The cows looked like they'd be much happier here on the green and sunny side of the farm.

On the whole I think they're looking pretty good, considering the kind of season they've had. I particularly noticed 792, Endberly's daughter, who was looking quite light but now appears smoother and better nourished; that is partly due to her nearing maturity at nearly five years old, so some of her energy goes to fat storage now, not just growth.

flood debris

This was the first flood since Stephan put the single wire up to deter the animals from going in to the corners on the riverbank on their way to cross the bridge. The water went over it and it caught anything going past; that's why there's only one wire.

The water flooded over most of the driveway and grass but wasn't quite high enough to flood the troughs. The stream from the back of the farm just started to come across through the pond but then went down again. It was therefore only a moderate flood from our perspective.

Reports from around Northland indicate vastly more damage and we will be cut off from the South for some time via the Mangamuka Gorge because of several large slips.

Big Back South

It would have been far better had we been out to fix this crossing before the rains came but there were more pressing jobs to complete then. Now it's urgent: the culvert pipe is blocked and the water is flowing over the top. The water comes out of the Buselich Reserve off to the left and at the moment there's a great deal more of it than usual.

Big Back South

Stephan was pretty sure he knew where the end would be but despite digging around with the shovel and then getting wet and dirty, he couldn't find it to attempt to unblock it.

Finding a lump of wood he couldn't move, he resolved to come back with the digger to put a little more power into his search.


The New Zealand Blackfly, commonly known as the sandfly, an insect we're used to slapping away constantly during the summer. In recent years they seem to have been present for many more months than they used: I recall my earliest noted seasonal experience of them was the twelfth of August in one year a decade or so ago. They've not gone away at all this winter.

They bury their biting parts in one's skin and suck and it stings! I usually wear some insect-repelling spray on my legs when they're at their worst but during the cooler months they're not usually so problematic. I've also found, over the years, that while the bite still stings a bit, I don't get itchy welts on my skin as a result of the bites, as I used to, so now they're just a nuisance at the time, not all night and for days afterwards as well. People used to tell me I'd become accustomed to them; turns out they were right.

cartridge shells

I was once a mathematician, achieving A and A+ grades in all my stage II university exams in the year before I came up here, but I seem to have mislaid my algebraic ability.

I needed to work out how to split my mother's remaining funds three ways, while taking into account some sums already taken out as loans by my sisters but until I sat down at the table and moved a pile of ·22 shells around, I just couldn't figure out how to do it! Stephan pointed out my error. Funny how our minds work, how doing it this way gave him the answer before I got it.

Sunday the 19th

This is the last of our sheep - except for the meat in the freezer - and I was determined to attempt to cure the skin of the last ewe lamb. I looked up a recipe I hoped might make it a bit easier than earlier attempts in long-past years but in the end had to abandon the project. My joints are not up to the repetitive scraping, nor the heaving around necessary to cure, wash, and process the skin to any sort of attractive final state.

Angus heifers

These 13 are the five weaned heifer calves (rising one year, R1), the five R2 pregnant heifers, and the three R3 pregnant heifers, Zoom, Ellie 171 and Dushi 170, gestating their second calves.

They are a pleasure to see. It's also a great relief to have grass to feed them after the long drought. The temperatures are weirdly warm for July and we've had no frosts yet this winter, so the grass has kept on growing.

Monday the 20th

More flood debris. The other crossings seem not to have suffered much change but the gravel in this one has shifted and will require the application of the tractor's back-blade to smooth it out again.

When I was a child it never occurred to me where all the driftwood on the beaches came from. I know now.


Stephan was obviously in for a happy day, on the digger and away to the back of the farm.

Look at that beautiful House paddock grass! Stephan sowed some grass seed we'd forgotten was still in a bag in the back room, then mowed it low. Six weeks later I weaned the five little heifers in this paddock, so they had the first feed and it's grown back beautifully again since.

Big Back South

After some cautious digger-ing, not wanting to find the culvert pipe by accident and break it, Stephan continued digging around with the shovel, still trying to find the end of the pipe.

Big Back South

Once he'd located it, I stood on the opposite side and guided his control of the digger bucket to pick up and move the big lump of wood that had somehow ended up in the way of the flow.

Then using a long Kānuka pole cut from the bush over the fence, Stephan pushed the mud and stones that were presumably in the pipe, along and out the other end, to allow the water to flow again.

Of course he got in and got wetter and dirtier than this before he'd finished.

Big Back South

All this Raupo has grown since we excluded the cattle from the big swamp. It's now blocking the flow of the extra water coming through the culvert, so Stephan went tramping, treading a channel through it for the water.

Big Back South

Part of the problem is the thick mats of grasses that grow there too, so the handsaw was very useful in places.

Why didn't we use the digger? We're not sure now but I think we were concerned about making too much mess with the ground now soft. Later, after a few fine days and some drying time, he did apply the digger to the problem.

raupo seed

There is Raupo seed fluff all over the place, on the ground, floating through the air whenever there's a gust of wind.

You might see some of the seed heads in the photo before last, above.

I went back to te reo class this week, the first one since before the Level 4 Covid lock-down. (Stephan had been poked in the eye when cutting the long pole from the bush and was feeling very uncomfortable, so stayed home.) I sat across from someone who probably should not have been there, although he said his cough was the only hanging-on symptom of a sickness he was mostly over. But in this return to almost-normal, I've been thinking a lot about how exceptionally fortunate we feel to live here with a sensibly decisive government, who've essentially kept us safe from the nightmarish chaos currently going on everywhere else in the world. While I felt alarmed by the coughing of my classmate, I could be almost certain that he wasn't spreading Covid-19 because it isn't here in the community.

While some crass individuals have suggested that those who would succumb to Covid are dispensable, so we should get on and prioritise the economy over the people (as if they're not the same thing), I've read far too many reports of people who were otherwise quite healthy, having an awful time with this novel illness, and others of people suffering long-term ongoing consequences after initial recovery. None of us knows which group we might fall into and I'm thankful we don't have to find out. I know a lot of people in the at-risk groups who are vital to the ongoing social change so necessary to and happening in our society at the moment and their ongoing health and well-being has, if anything, been enhanced this winter by the decline in circulation of other respiratory illnesses.

This community would be hit hard if Covid were allowed to run free. Socio-economic deprivation is widespread, as are housing and health deficits. Anyone desperately ill would presumably be taken two hours south (from here, potentially four hours from home for those furthest north) for treatment or to die and currently a lot of us have to travel much further than usual to make that journey, since our main road will remain shut for some time to come.

Daily I am grateful we are in a non-Covid state!

Potentially that could change but the longer it goes on getting worse in the rest of the world, the less anyone here is likely to want to risk following suit. I hope. I think few of us realised how precious was the freedom to go about our business without worrying about getting sick and, miraculously, now we have it back.

Wednesday the 22nd
jelly bag

The freezers are too full of food of various types. When it is frozen fruit that can be processed into something that can be better stored in jars, it has to come out. Today Stephan made some more Guava jelly.

The weather was foul, so we both spent most of the day inside. In the early evening when the rain squalls had reduced in frequency, I went out and moved some cattle. I drafted the non-pregnant animals out of the 20-cow mob, three going in with the non-pregnant heifers and Ida 145 coming out to join Spot. Those two are now booked to go on a truck to the works.

I decided I would not breed Spot and was hoping she'd gain a bit of condition before I sent her but she'll have to go now regardless. Ida 145 gave us so much trouble last calving (and it wasn't the first time) that I swore I'd not go through that again. She's a nice cow the rest of the time but what they do at calving is important.

Thursday the 23rd

A fine day at last!

We walked up around the boundary fences Over the Road in preparation for putting the young heifers over there. There were strong winds associated with part of the flood storm so we needed to check that no trees had come down on any of the fences.


It's lovely seeing green paddocks at this time of year. The two cows on the left are Ida 145 and Spot, hanging around near the cow mob because despite being at the very bottom of the pecking order in that group, Ida hasn't liked being separated from them. Spot is very unsettled about being separated from the younger heifers (and steer), in which group she was top cow.


I think this little seedling is probably a Puka, Griselinia lucida, although this very small plant's leaves don't have obvious uneven halves at the base of the leaves. It'll be one to revisit later, see how it grows. It is growing in moss on a Puriri branch, part-way down (or up) the track on the face of the hillside opposite our front gate.


This Tōtara has been growing bigger, as they do, and because of its odd angle, will become a problem. Either it will grow straighter from where it is now cut, or it will have to be removed. The hillside is steep, so a few trees on its slope may help keep it stable.


The streambank just up from the bridge is covered in Tradescantia but it's looking decidedly unwell these days. Late last year I took pictures of similar damage in another patch upstream and Jenny Dymock, entomologist, who brought us some Tradescantia beetles three years ago, confirmed it looked like the stem borer beetle had been doing its job there, and would appear to be spreading. Excellent.

We went to town for a few jobs, first stop to drop off a couch we decided we should have re-covered instead of abandoning it to a land-fill. It is structurally well made but was covered in a fabric that had gradually disintegrated in the sunshine, helped along earlier by the work of some cats. I thought it would be more valuable to recover it than to look to buy something else. Choosing a fabric colour took ages, since we don't have a neutrally-coloured house.

Then to have a word with our tutor at Te Wānanga. Stephan has now officially withdrawn from our third-year course. This year has proven to be structured around preparing people for further tertiary study, which is not Stephan's thing. He will join another course that has just begun this week, centred around kōrero, spoken communication.

My next task was to submit the forms and have my photograph taken for my replacement driving license, my third in the years since the "lifetime" license was superseded by the ten-year license - in 1999, apparently.


The seven little bulls are now with the R3 pregnant heifers, currently grazing the Big Back North. I had to go all the way to the top of the hill at the back to find them this evening. Four of the bulls weren't there but I opened the gate to the Middle Back on the right, and left them to find their way there from wherever they're currently hiding. They could easily have been just down in the trees and in the fading light, I wouldn't have seen them.

Friday the 24th

Zella is very sensitive to stress. When we stopped milking her at night a week or two ago, the straining cloth from the morning's milk became extremely slimy when I added detergent to wash it, indicating a high number of somatic cells - the udder's immune response to infection or injury. I have, over the years, concluded that a lot of that response is stress-related, to changes in routine, most commonly. This morning's cloth was almost back to normal. The only thing that changed yesterday and today was Stephan's stress level, after deciding on Wednesday night that he would withdraw from our shared study. I think Zella was feeling it too!

Stephan and I talked about it a bit during the morning, comparing other observations of cattle behaviour, the manner in which communication obviously passes through a mob when some new thing happens. Whether they are exceptionally empathic (which I have long theorised) or keenly observant (which might in many ways be almost the same), they often know when something's going on that they've not yet been able to see. It is the primary reason I take myself away from the yards when cattle are being loaded onto trucks, since I sometimes find my own anxiety difficult to control and I sense that they are more upset when I'm there, even though I may be acting quite calmly on the outside.

While I worked on my second te reo assessment, Stephan went down the road to help neighbour Aaron kill a pig - one of the feral pigs that we and others had seen wandering near the road of late. It had been living with his sows for a while and had become quite quiet but he didn't want it there, so it'll soon be bacon.


We're still milking Zella, once a day only but for a little longer than usual this season, because our pigs are still living and need the milk. Zella has been a bit thinner than this but she's enjoying some feed nuts and is extremely keen on the lovely hay we had from Heidi and Dave earlier in the year.

Glia is fat. I find it interesting in the photos to see how much of a cow's skeletal structure is visible even when they're actually quite well covered. There is a fair amount of fat under that brown, fuzzy coat.


Another beautiful screen-saver image? Or is it called wallpaper or something now?

The ferns are growing in the reserve at the top of the PW, next to the Middle Back.


I wonder if this leaf fell onto the Nikau frond when it was sharp and a single point? It's a Taraire leaf and they're quite tough.

Not so the tree whence it came, another mature specimen looking close to death. Some in some locations are still looking good, others had brown patches that turned to grey but the rest of the tree remained green. I've still discovered little about this ailment from anywhere else. I've read a couple of suggestions but nothing with any scientific reference or argument. Asserting that the trees have died because of the drought seems too simple an explanation when they must surely have been through droughts before in their long lives. It seems improbable that huge trees should suddenly die in numbers without the presence of some challenge beyond a lack of water, when so many are close to water courses and the soil's moisture must be maintained to some degree.

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