The week beginning the 2nd of May 2020.
Saturday the 2nd

Blueberry jam on my toast for breakfast, what a lovely treat.

In the photograph is the hand that provides all the deliciousness in my life.

(Except I did bottle the apples in the jars behind.)


Two unhappy calves. They're not quite as disconcerted by separation from their mothers as the others in the paddock, since they're used to spending their nights on their own.


Fast movement in the lane caught my eye and this stray cat streaked across the House paddock.

It must be kitten dumping season, when irresponsible idiots drop their unwanted cats out on rural roads.


Here is the corner to which I referred last week in reference to weaning the calves.

The tape, which suits the purpose for the short time the barrier is required, allows the two cows in the bottom corner of the Windmill paddock to the left, to come to the top corner of the House paddock on the right to check on their calves, without being in the way of the main track.

The other two cows, 162 and 166, are taped into a small and gradually expanding grazing area adjacent to the yards and have contact with their calves through the gate and over the shared trough.

I am thrilled that this has worked out so well.

I went on out to the Middle Back to see how Stephan was getting on.


He had completed the drain digging along what will become the fenceline between grazing area and reserve.

He had spread the soil from the drain as well as levelling out the area of bogged ground, where there were big holes and high mounds with grass, which will hopefully now settle as more level ground with grass.


In the bottom of the drain I spotted what looked like a round, orange rock.

It is a heavy thing and at home it sits out in the garden on a larger rock, still orange. I think the orange coating is clay over a different coloured rock but I thought I'd wait for the rain to show me what it really is.

I presume such rocks and boulders must once have been hurtled here by volcanic activity. It is not something I know much about but I wonder how a hard, rounded boulder, ended up in the middle of a lot of clay like this?

Turning around to look back up the slope, here is the fallen Puriri upon whose trunk grow some of the Sun Orchids I sometimes photograph (two photos joined).

It must have fallen many decades ago, long enough for its canopy to change direction and grow into the vertical trunks at right. They will be rooted in the ground where they are but like many of the still-standing Puriri around the farm, the roots of live parts of the trees often grow down through older dead sections.

fallen Puriri
fallen Puriri

Here in the middle of the original roots of the tree, we noticed this thick, live piece, a root to the ground for some part of the still living tree.

This and other roots we can't see underneath it, might feed the trunks that have grown up along the middle part of the old trunk.

Puriri are fascinating trees in the way they can recover from such a catastrophic event, to keep on living almost another life.

There is a charred area at the base of the trunk; I wonder whether a long-ago farmer attempted to kill the tree by setting fire to it?


At the bottom of the slope Stephan began carefully digging to retrieve the culvert pipe that has not been needed here since he first hand-dug the bit of drain further up.


He succeeded in getting it out of the ground without damage, so brought it down toward the Swamp East Left, where it will go into the new drain there, to create a crossing for the cattle and machinery.

Sunday the 3rd

It rained today, so I stayed in my office, writing.

When I let the chickens out for a bit of time in the open this afternoon, they gathered near my window when the rain had stopped, to preen their feathers.

Monday the 4th

We had no new Covid-19 cases today in this country, for the first time since this all kicked off. We listen to the 1pm press conference every day, hearing the calm, considered and reassuring delivery of our Director General of Health and the similarly considered and sensible comments of the PM or a senior government minister. It has been hugely reassuring having the people in charge behaving so sensibly, so that the rest of us don't need to be as worried as we'd need to be if we lived anywhere else in the world.


These trees have been in Flat 5d's corner since 2004.

I really enjoy watching the Tī Kōuka (Cabbage Trees) grow from tiny seedlings, into such striking and beautiful trees.


Stephan, picking up another pile of firewood.

This lot was cut on his birthday two years ago.


I carried on into the Spring paddock to check the animals there.

One of the bull calves was having a wonderful chin and neck scratch as I walked down through the spring gully looking to see whether it was still running. There's quite a bit of water here and I could see and hear it trickling through the culvert when I looked there.


Imogen 195 is as fat and soft looking as a fat cat.

Because she's Imogen's best calf so far, I thought I'd keep her, see how she turns out.


Evening crazy feeding time. I have to line the bins up on this side of the fence, then put them through as quickly as possible so everyone ends up with a bin each.

Generally it doesn't stay that way and someone thinks someone else has something better, so shoves their neighbour out of the way; or not if the neighbour is Eva, because size and seniority count. Mind you, as I've noted before, huge Andrew doesn't always respect that order.

They are Eva, Dushi, 200 and Andrew.

Eva's right rump is very bony now, since she's lost a lot of muscle mass there, not being able to walk properly on her right hind leg. In general she's in no lighter condition than she usually is at this time of year, having raised a big calf.

This evening just after dark, we went out to the little chicken's cage and Stephan quietly picked up the rooster with the red breast feathers and chopped off his head. The bird had started advancing on us in an aggressive manner, which is effectively self-selection for the dinner table. Stephan plucked him and hung him from the washing line in the cold air for the night.

Tuesday the 5th

A study morning for the two of us, in preparation for this afternoon's te reo class on-line. After class we both went out to do some farm work in the remaining daylight.


Glia's and Zella's calves, bringing up the rear of the group we moved from the House paddock, along the lane to join the rest of the weaned calves. I'd already brought the five from Mushroom 1.


I put this latest group in Flat 2, next to those in Flat 3 and then walked down and opened the gate between the two paddocks, so they can find their way to each other.

Delicious roast chicken for dinner tonight. We haven't had chicken for ages. We never buy commercially-reared poultry, mostly because of how they're produced but we also find them soft and tasteless compared with eating a home chicken. When I first ate one, I found the dark meat of the legs strange and a backyard bird doesn't have nearly as much meat as one of those weirdly plump birds from the supermarket but with vegetables from the garden and delicious gravy made without cheat additives, what a lovely meal.

Wednesday the 6th

Most of the calves were in Flat 3 this morning. We herded them out into the lane and kept them there behind a spring gate, to act as enticement for the few still in Flat 2.

Most of them moved out smoothly but Zella's daughter insisted on going back to the Flat 1 fenceline where her mother was standing on the other side of the drain. It took a bit of extra cleverness to get her out of the paddock, since every time we got her moving in the direction of the gate, she'd dart back around us again. I fetched a nearby electric tape reel and some standards to make a lane and she had no choice but to leave the paddock.

We took the calves along to the yards to weigh them again, since I've been caught out before by underestimating their sale weights when I haven't weighed them again between weaning and the time they leave here.

They nearly all behaved beautifully in the yards, despite the windy conditions.


We put them into Mushroom 2, so they'd be easy to get out again tomorrow afternoon.

Angus bull

Bulls are buggers for making holes in paddocks. Then they regularly return to them to do a bit more digging, more rubbing. But when I see one of them enjoying himself as much as this, it's hard to feel grumpy about it. That comes later when you step into a hole and hurt yourself.

In the evening I did the calf weight calculations. Jet's daughter, 888, had gained a whopping 19kg since we last weighed her, eleven days ago and the other very impressive gain was in Glia's son, gaining 21kg in the last ten days. Eleven of them gained more than a kilogram per day over the period, so there must have been lots of compensatory growth going on with the better grass of recent days.

Thursday the 7th

Zella appears to be quite fond of Glia, even though she has made Glia quite nervous of getting in her way.

I hope Zella never breaks Glia like she did Eva.

Angus bull

Really? Do you have to break every trough you have access to?

Shoving a 300 litre trough when it's full of water does it no good at all. This one is already cracked at the top and now the bull had bashed it again and moved it enough to break the fitting holding the water pipe. Nobody else gets water when its all leaking out here.

Stephan came over to fix it and we realised we'd need to move the bull to safely deal with the trough: he was being extremely 'playful'. I'd seen him standing here and bellowing during the morning and concluded he was excited by an on-heat heifer on the other side of the boundary and had exercised his frustration by pushing the trough through the fence.

If you think about your own weight in relation to the weight of a full trough (in excess of 300kg), you can see how bulls can easily damage people. They only need to push their big heads into you to squash you to death. They are extremely powerful animals and with so much testosterone in the mix, sometimes dangerously unpredictable.

I set the gates to let him across the lane into Flat 3 and we waited for him to move himself. I think he was just playful but there was a lot of head shaking, snorting and growling going on and a bull can move faster than a surprised human.


Then we drafted 613 and Dreamliner 787 out of the cow mob to come across and join him and I went home and emailed the stock agent to book the three of them in to the works.

I'm always sad about sending the cows. 613 was to have gone last year but I kept her because she was pregnant and her daughter, 729, was not. But as I commented last week, her udder is now no longer producing as much milk as it did and she also has a crack down the length of one of her front toes and I fear that could cause trouble in the winter. A cow needs good feet.

Dreamliner has been a favourite because of her appearance and because she's been so friendly but she's not particularly friendly to the others and she's always yelling and her calves have not been very impressive. That's one of the tough parts of this job, having favourites and having to let them go.

I had been going to keep the bull but once he took over trough destruction duty, I decided we need him to go. He only has access to a concrete trough at this end of Flat 3.

It took him a while to notice his paddock mates but eventually walked over to make their acquaintance again. Both are pregnant to him already. While I have some idea of who might be on the cull list each year, they go out with the bull anyway, in case other factors lead to a change of mind. They're also easier to send away because being pregnant means they won't be on heat on a truck, which would be potentially hazardous.


The sale calves will go on a truck tomorrow sometime, so we brought them out of Mushroom 2 and took them down to the front of the farm to graze around the little shed and the old yards for the night.

Friday the 8th

The calves all waiting by the gate this morning.

We pushed them up into the upper working pens then drafted the steers from the heifers, since they'll go to different places (same buyer, two different properties).


I usually stay well out of the way but the driver wasn't clear which lot he was dropping where, so I had to go and clarify directions from Heidi.

They all loaded very calmly. They're an exceptional lot this season; I'm very pleased with them.


I bottled more apples and Stephan went out the back to do some more digger work.

Here he was tidying up the culvert at the bottom of the Spring paddock's spring gully. Much easier with the digger than with the tractor.

The new track had slipped off once or twice until Stephan worked out how tight it needed to be. There are some Japanese instructions under the engine's cover but we can't read Japanese.

Angus cattle

Evening Eva treats ...


... watched by a lot of envious neighbours on the other side of the lane.

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