The week beginning the 4th of April 2020.
Saturday the 4th
trapped possum

The magpie trap works but this is not a magpie.

I took it home, set up a wooden live-capture trap for it to run into, sat it under a tree for Stephan to shoot and pluck a little later. Shooting a possum inside this trap would likely damage the trap.

bees on grapes

The grapes were too many for us to eat and giving them away during the Level 4 restrictions was not possible, so the bees and some wasps have been having a lovely feed.

There are still some nice grapes amongst them, so we still pick and eat when we remember to come down and get some from beside the pond. They taste a bit funny on the outside if not washed, due to so many insects crawling over and tasting them. Many grapes have holes in now where the bees have been drinking the sweet juice.


Zella and Glia are back in the native tree reserve.

Zella now also enjoys some feed we bought, a bag named "summer dry nuts". We saw a chap buying some at the farm supplies store a few weeks ago and investigated further. We're trying to stop Zella losing too much weight while we continue to milk her for our household use and to feed the pigs. Her daughter is as fat as butter, so she's getting more than she needs from Zella's daytime production. When there's little feed, Zella produces around seven litres of milk in the morning; when she's had a good day, it's around nine litres.


I went to check on Stephan, followed this wire up the hill. I wondered why he'd gone straight up, rather than around the trees he'd pruned to the left.


Stephan was busy pounding soil in around a fence post.

When I asked about the wire, he realised what he'd done. He had been thinking about something else as he'd pulled it up the hill.


To keep the wire from coiling back on itself, I walked half-way down the hill and took the wire out across the slope as Stephan walked down holding the end until he could go around the trees he'd missed, then back to the strainer up the hill.

About 3.5mm of rain fell during the afternoon.

Sunday the 5th

Judging when to move the cows is difficult when there's barely any grass anywhere anyway. But the 23 mob had been on the larger section of Over the Road for four days and I don't want to restrict them too much. They enthusiastically went through the gate to the other section.

Puriri trees

Stephan is in the background, still working on yesterday's fence section. When he pruned the big Tōtara here on the left, I realised that what we'd thought was one Puriri tree was actually two, on the right.

I often find very close, or even melded together, trees that very likely germinated from the same seed capsule. The little hard nut-like thing in the middle of a Puriri berry (or drupe) holds three seeds and often all three will germinate together. Sometimes more than one of them will survive, which I think explains trees like these.

apple trees

When I went over the stream to check the seven cattle in the Road Flat, I went for a wander around the orchard. There are still many more Ballarat apples to be picked. Excellent!

water cress

Now the sun is no longer baking everything, the watercress in the garden water course has refreshed itself.

It makes a marvellously tasty soup.


Back out to see Stephan and the third wire was run up the hill...


... tied off at the top...


... and then Stephan went back down, placing that wire in all the post insulators before tensioning it at the bottom strainer.


This is the gully. There's no water here at present but when the underground water levels rise again, the spring at the top will flow and when it rains, the ground water will run down from the hillsides.

stick insect

Some frantic movement caught my attention: this lovely big stick insect was being attacked by a wasp (Vespula germanica or V. vulgaris). I managed to chase the wasp away but the stick insect was quite flaccid when I placed it gently on a nearby branch.

There are far too many wasps around and they're doing a lot of damage to the native fauna, if this is any indication.

Monday the 6th

Our water system stopped. Yesterday there was some air coming through the little rock fountain in the garden and by this morning the water had stopped flowing altogether.

Stephan went up to the intake to investigate the problem.

water trough

Over the Road the cattle had drunk their trough dry and some of the calves had obviously climbed in for the last drops. They wouldn't die of thirst in the next couple of hours so I waited to see Stephan come back from up the hill before doing anything more about it.

When Stephan came back he reported that the stream flow has dropped so far that our intake pool was not filling fast enough and the pipe kept sucking air, causing an airlock in the pipe and so the water had stopped. While this wasn't unexpected as a result of the extended drought, it is a concerning development.

He could not get it going and will have to go back up in a couple of days with some extra pipe and try and get the system running from the higher, deeper pool we used to use but where the intake was more prone to being washed out in floods.

We turned on the tanks, the 5,000 litre tank for the cattle out the back and the big 30,000 for the rest of them.

I have previously calculated that the big tank should last us six or seven days, so Stephan can go back to finishing the fencing as a priority job, while the ground remains dry.

Paradise drake

The Putangitangi population was severely reduced by deaths on the poisonous sewage oxidation ponds last summer and I wonder if more of them have been affected this year? This lone male is the first one I've seen for several weeks.

Normally there would be several pairs around the farm by this time of year.


Stephan is now altering things at the bottom of the slope he finished fencing yesterday.

The fence post on the right has been moved. The riparian reserve fence was originally to the right of the pile of prunings but we subsequently observed how wet the ground was there, so decided to realign the fence.

I'm glad the fencing expert is inside my Covid-19 bubble!


I went for a lovely wander in the Bush Flat reserve, then walking up the stream, went under the boundary fence and on into the Marko Buselich Reserve for a short distance. It's so pretty here.

This stream, originating in the Herekino Range somewhere to the south of our own water supply, is of greater volume than ours. But it also flows through the farm property of the people who graze their cattle in the swamps and drains, so we've never wanted to use it as a water supply. But if the drought goes on for very much longer, we may yet need to.

Paradise drake

I wondered if this was the same Putangitangi as the one on the Windmill paddock earlier in the day?

I do hope there is more than one!

Tuesday the 7th

Having a digger, even one that's stuck in a disabled state at the moment, makes all the difference.


We decided, when the digger made it so easy, that if we could successfully upgrade the track through here, it really would be useful to return to our original plan of a few years ago, whereby the little track would link the two sides of the Swamp East paddock.

What we will find out this winter, is whether or not Stephan's extra shaping of the gully's approach to the culvert, as well as the exclusion of the cattle from the whole gully, will have the desired effect. The water from the gully needs to go through the culvert, not over the track. When the cattle could graze in the gully, far too much silt came down and kept clogging up the culvert.

Together we made this gate and the one at the other end, when I came out to inspect works in progress.


Stephan made this one all by himself.

This gateway also opens between the two paddocks but I don't know whether it will be useful for moving the cattle. They are generally more inclined to gather at the bottom of hillsides. But it's part-way up a slope the tractor can easily negotiate, so we thought a gate would be useful here.


This Nikau grows under the big tree by the first stream crossing on the main track. The new frond is quite striking.

I thought I'd better check the water tanks today, ensure everything was as expected. It wasn't quite, the 5,000 litre tank already being nearly empty. There must be a leak somewhere. I thought we'd found the problem when we discovered a cracked trough out in the Big Back North paddock earlier in the summer (I think that happened in one of the missing weeks).

There have been no surprise wet patches anywhere during the drought, so I have no idea where to look for a problem. My calculations suggest that we should use about 4,000 litres each day for the whole herd and at present the whole herd are not using the troughs the small tank supplies, so it should still be at least half full.

The 30,000 litre tank was reassuringly only about 350mm from the top, and continued to drop by about the same each day, which I later calculated to be just under 4,000 litres per day.

Aaron came out again tonight for a hunt while the moon is bright. He saw three pigs but failed to kill any when he had a scope malfunction. He also reported a large bounding animal out the back. I've never seen any sign of deer but he's suspicious there could be one or some in the forest.

Wednesday the 8th

Standing out on the driveway this morning, ten birds flew overhead and I'm almost certain they were Kukupa, the native wood pigeon. I haven't seen as many together for several years.


Another ailing Taraire tree (in the centre, brown leaves), this time very near the stream, so surely it can't be a lack of water that's sickening them?

dead rabbit

That was one seriously unlucky rabbit. There's hardly any traffic on the road but it was there just when someone drove along and carelessly knocked the life out of it. I took it away and dropped it in the pig trap. I later saw a hawk leaving the trap, so it fed someone who needed it.

potatoes and grapes

Stephan dug up a potato plant I had transplanted from amongst my strawberry plants at the beginning of summer and brought in these delicious little purple potatoes. I'm glad it did so well despite my having shifted it.

I brought a couple of bunches of grapes in, washed all the bee saliva off them and plucked the still-nice ones to eat.


During the Level 4 lock-down hunting is generally not allowed because if you get into trouble and need rescue, you endanger other people.

But the greatest danger in the sort of hunting Aaron has been doing would probably occur if he went to sleep and fell off the folding chair, while waiting for pigs.


I collected a bundle of the dry bits of Kikuyu the cows spit out as they're grazing and carried it up the slope where Stephan is currently working. I left several small piles of it, trodden into the leaf litter and held down with bits of stick, in the hope it will take root and colonise these areas whenever there's sufficient moisture.

This section of fence comes down from the gate on the slope, fencing off the eastern side of the big gully in this paddock. There are some fabulous trees in here that will now be permanently protected from the cattle.

Our lovely neighbour, Sandi, has an essential services job in town and asked if we needed anything brought home. I felt a bit fraudulent asking for bananas, something I'd assumed I'd have to do without for a few weeks, but as she was there ... We needed a few bags of animal feed we'd forgotten to think about too.

Thursday the 9th

I forgot to get more food for the little chicks! Fortunately I remembered that today is the last day before the Easter weekend, so phoned and organised the purchase and Christina agreed to go and pick up our requirements from the farm store at the arranged time (you have to book a time to pick things up) and keep them until Sandi goes to town again on Sunday. I quite like this way of doing things.


As I walked into the Tank paddock to go and inspect the water level again, I watched a couple of magpies over by the fence. They didn't seem disturbed enough to fly very far away. I wonder what would happen if I brought a rifle with me? (The answer might be that it would make no difference at all because I'd probably miss them.)

I spent some of the afternoon preparing Granny Smith apples again and this time bottled them myself.

Friday the 10th
Good Friday

We tried levering the digger's jumped track back into place on the day it came off and failed. But after watching a bit of youtube video of other people putting tracks on and giving it some serious thought, we went out to try again.

The track had been displaced to the machine side of its wheels; had it come off to the outside, we'd simply have pulled it off to provide sufficient slack to get it back on to the drive sprocket, and then the front idler wheel.

We had to lever it off at the back, where there was enough space to allow us to pull it forward to get it right off before putting it back on the drive sprocket.


Then it was relatively easy to get it on at the front, before Stephan retightened the grease nipple bolt, then pumped grease back in to push the idler wheel forward and properly tension the track again.

I felt terribly pleased with ourselves. I've always liked doing that sort of stuff: figuring something out and getting it done. We'd contemplated calling Kees but weren't really sure if it would qualify as an essential service and besides, neither of us wants to be in close proximity to anyone else right now.

farm track

An hour and a half later I went up through the Swamp East Right to inspect progress and found a new track and the digger was gone.

Unless we can get some metal on this track, it will get pretty messy during the winter, but we'll be able to fix that up again later. A work in progress.


Around the other side the latest fence section was completed.

We need to purchase a culvert pipe for this drain, so a walkway from one side to the other can be created for the cattle to use. The rest of the drain will be fenced, to keep the water clean as it flows down to the stream.


Stephan was now working with the chainsaw again, clearing up the next fence-line, on the other side of the big gully.


I try to let the chicks out of their small cage every afternoon for a while. But they nearly always find their way up onto the raised garden beds. To stop them, we have to put the sprinklers on and water the gardens while they're free to roam: they don't like getting wet.

Within a couple of minutes of being let out, they all excitedly flap away from the cage and across the lawn. It must be good to stretch and dash about for a bit. I'd love to leave them out most of the time but you can't have chickens and a garden.

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