The week beginning the 19th of September 2020.
Saturday the 19th
Angora goats

We went over to the goat shed for the breakfast check and I was instructed to watch the movements and progress of a doe who was obviously in labour and who wanted to find a place of seclusion outside to give birth. She walked stiffly down the steep hill to some trees and then further down to another where she settled down and got on with her job.

When Kate was free she walked down to make sure all was well, before carrying the kid back up to the shed, with his mother following.

Then we set off for home, parting ways at the end of Kate and Geoff's road, Stephan going north along the Old Russell Road to visit brother Edwin in Jack's Bay near Russell, and I went south to the main road and then north home again, to check on the animals, make sure everything was alright.


And this was my chariot!

It was a joy to drive. At Waipapa I stopped and looked at the manual to discover how to use the cruise control, a marvellous invention for keeping to speed limits in restricted areas. Few of Northland's roads are suited to long periods of constant high speeds but staying under limits of 50-80 kilometres in areas where such restrictions apply is a breeze when the vehicle is ensuring the maximum is not exceeded.

I feel oddly uncomfortable about owning a brand new vehicle and am trying to work out why. Habitual frugality is part of it but it is those habits that enable us to make such a purchase from time to time. Both of us well recall the relief in having continually reliable transport when we bought the last ute 21 years ago and as it became less reliable in the last months, the old familiar anxieties returned.


Fancy 126 has been much on my mind in the last week, recalling the sadness of last year. She seems to be in fine condition now, after the year's rest from calf rearing.

rock salt

When I shifted the cows I picked up their muddy salt block and gave it a quick rinse as I crossed the stream. I caught one finger on a sharp spike on the salt and later discovered several painful cuts across my fingers and hands. The cows lick the salt and where it is thin, it is razor sharp.


An easy check on the 14 cattle Over the Road.

Grey Endberly and white-faced 889 are the only two I can distinguish from this distance.

Sunday the 20th

The pregnant heifers and thin cows, before we herded them in to the yards and gave them a copper injection. I hope they've had enough for their calves. I've only been managing three shots a year in the last couple of years and four is better, so I upped the dose a bit (which the leaflet says is ok when there's deficiency) so instead of 2ml per shot they're getting a bit over 2.5ml. With three shots they get near my old four-shot annual supplementation. But at 8mls per year their liver levels were still marginal, so I'll have to fit another in before mating this year and try to get back to four per year again.


After the heifers we did the cows, then I led and Stephan followed out to the Middle Back via Route 356 in the picture.

They were very 'low energy' this afternoon, moving slowly everywhere. We were careful to keep them from bashing each other in close quarters in the yards and were pleased to find that most of them went into the race much more easily than last time.


While I was waiting for the cows to catch up with me I climbed into the stream reserve and had a look at the Tree Fuchsia plant. Possums must have been clambering around in the fragile tree and this branch was broken down, so I pulled it off and will take it home to try and start some cuttings. They grow from cuttings quite easily but as I've given all those I grew away, I've not yet planted any out around the farm.


Zella and Glia are still difficult in the yards, Zella primarily because she's a head-strong individualist with her own ideas and Glia because she's never wanted to go into a race. Zella eventually went into the concrete pen and then easily up the race...


... but we had to play clever tricks with Glia.

We'd already done this earlier with grey 812, who wouldn't go up the race and I couldn't get reliably close enough to her to inject her in the open pen, so Stephan fetched this gate and closed it in on her until the area she stood in was the same width as the race ahead and she walked forward. The same trick worked with Glia.


I injected them both, something everyone hates, then kept them standing there for a while as we both scratched their backs and necks in ways they find extremely pleasant.

Glia looks wild-eyed and slightly deranged in the picture because the scratching is almost unbearably good.

Monday the 21st

I wandered around amongst the heifers with brush in hand, grooming tails and shitty rears.

This is 874, lovely yearling daughter of white-faced 714.


Dushi is looking rather better than she did earlier in the year.

She also still has a lovely tail.


Stephan is now adding some finishing touches to the areas I will use most in the yards, here the start of a small shelf/table for my notebook and other things. It will stop anyone accidentally walking off the end of the cat-walk but allow enough room to step down beside the crush.

Tuesday the 22nd

When we designed the yards we imagined that we might have a slide-out platform made to come alongside the crush but Stephan has constructed this wooden one as a trial and I think it will work very well.


The bulls are looking thin and will benefit from a drench to remove the burden of some of their internal parasites, so we brought them in and I weighed them, then walked along my new wooden platform to apply the pour-on drench to their backs as they stood in the crush. It all worked easily and well.

Exactly two hours after I'd finished, there was light rain. The instructions used to be that at least two hours must pass for the drench to be "rain fast" (I didn't have my glasses at the yards to read the current instruction) but I think they'll be fine. On the rain radar the sky was clear except for a blue spot directly over our farm. A typical Diggers Valley rain event.

Wednesday the 23rd

Up the hill today to check the youngsters.

Then we went to Waipapa to see the lovely optometrist. My vision has been disappointing since spending thousands on cataract surgery and being promised perfect sight afterwards. It's not nearly as perfect as it used to be and convincing the optometrist that 'as good as anyone's' was not good enough has taken some time. Being measured with acceptable 20/20 vision is not sufficient when you're used to 20/10. I cannot help but squint constantly in the attempt to see things as clearly as I was used to doing for most of my life. So now I will have some glasses to help with distance vision and driving, and taking part in events when reading information on a board is necessary will be far more comfortable again.


As I walked out across the House paddock this evening these two hens moved as if to curtsy to me. They've been doing this for some time, squatting down whenever we walk near them but it was funny that these two did it in unison before I was quite near them.

Thursday the 24th

I've been watching udder development and today decided it is time to bring white-faced 746 out of the main cow mob. She has a difficult udder to monitor because it's very hairy but I think it's developing quite quickly.

According to my calving dates chart, she should be amongst the first to calve.


Fortunately the cows are usually really easy to work in these situations and the one I want will often cooperate readily.

We took her as far as the top of the Windmill lane and left her grazing there. Later in the afternoon I went back and drafted 710 and 745 out of the heifer/thin cow mob and put the three of them into Flat 5d.

710 is the longest-pregnant and should calve earliest but I'm a bit suspicious about 746 and in 745's case, I am even more so: her udder is much more advanced than I'd expect for a calving yet two weeks away. Twins! But then I always think that and only twice in all these years have I been right.

vehicle license plate

Whenever we've talked of buying a new ute, people have asked what we'll do with the old new ute and have said we'd be surprised how much we could sell it for privately - a dealer would only offer $500 as a trade-in.

My investigations reveal that utes of its age and type are listed for around $4000; but bearing in mind it will require some significant work very soon to keep it going and that a long-term fault in the dash and the odometer will require work for it to continue being legally registered, I doubt we'd get that. There will be around $700 refunded for its unused registration and Road User Charges, so in the end our nett received would be pretty pointless compared with the ongoing use Stephan will get from it as a farm vehicle, as he's recently been doing while finishing the yards. And if someone took it for a test drive and it broke down because they drove it differently from us, we'd just have a wreck to deal with and no money.

So today we took the plates off front and back and took them and the registration label to town, filled in a form, paid a small fee and deregistered it. We always said we'd run it until it stopped and so feel very comfortable with our decision.

We went on to Elizabeth's for an early dinner, then back to town for a "meet the candidates" meeting at the Little Theatre (the building the Council confiscated from the Dramatic Society for use as a cinema). There were a surprising number of people there, it was very hot and stuffy and the Covid-19 QR code at the door didn't work. (I rang the Council the following day to alert them to the situation, surprised that they didn't already know: obviously many Kaitāia people are not taking Covid terribly seriously.)

At home as I was preparing to go out to check the cows, Stephan went to shut the chickens in and on his return saw something flutter past him in his torch beam and a Ruru swooped silently in and caught it; as it did so the creature squealed. Until that noise Stephan had thought it was a large Puriri moth but we suspect it may have been a bat. Presumably there are bats around but they're not creatures we'd necessarily see. I was once wandering around at dusk in the area where the sheep usually lived and something was fluttering around in the big trees on the other side of the stream, with a few odd squeaks and I wondered about bats then. I found a New Zealand Geographic article that describes them squeaking audibly in various situations.

Friday the 25th

Stephan spent some hours around the flats this morning turning off or disconnecting the bottom wires of all the electric fences, so they'll be safer for the newborn calves. As he did last year, he also shorted the wires to the ground with some bits of No.8 wire to stop the induced tingles as well. I've often felt uncomfortably strong tingles when holding a wet calf, on my knees or with one hand on the ground and trying to get through a fence. Even an induced voltage causes a jolt when you're nicely wet on the ground.


746 and 710 in the foreground, 745 behind, having their Magnesium oxide in molasses. The pecking order here is very much according to age: 710 on the right is the boss, although she's not as hefty a cow as 746.

The cows got their molasses a bit earlier than usual today, since I'm off to a Wānanga weekend again, starting with a four hour gathering this evening.


Back on the digger now the yards work is mostly complete, about to put a culvert pipe in under the Windmill paddock gateway.


When I arrived home from town I went out for a cow check. I looked into the roof of the canopy in Flat 5a to see if the Swallows are nesting there again and found a roosting bird.

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