The week beginning the 8th of August 2020.
Saturday the 8th

Mathew came out to help Stephan with the yards roof, here putting up the high-side beams.

Working at a height, it is much easier to have someone on the ground to pass things up as required, or fetch things dropped. But also a safety consideration: if you fall off, you want someone there to fetch help immediately!


Light showers started falling during the morning, with very cold wind.

I moved the cows because they looked like they were fed up with the Big Back North. The ground is now quite wet.


As I came back down the track Stephan and Mathew were still working in the rain. They stopped soon after because of the risk of slipping. But it didn't rain all day.

I went out to a funeral at Mangonui. I have had nothing to do with the family for nearly 40 years and only scant contact about 20 years ago. Phil and Bev Lange were my first boyfriend's parents and as the first adults I had independent contact with, were quite different to the people I had known throughout my childhood but they were kind and decent people. In retrospect I wonder if the girlfriends of their six sons were welcomed into their lives as the daughters they'd never had? There were only three of us during my time, two of the boys being younger, another "a bit of a lad". They were attractive young men but I'd forgotten how short they all were. Maybe they've all shrunk, as well as getting surprisingly old.

I didn't seek an opportunity to speak to any of them, not wanting to intrude. I was there for my own thanks and farewell to Phillip (and Beverley), old Mangonui, old times, an opportunity to think of things I've not for many years. That two-year period was my first foray into young adulthood, followed by two entirely different sorts of lives in the big city (Auckland). Now I am here, and going there today felt like closing a circle somehow.

At the cemetery I walked around a little with others doing the same, trying to find my grand-parents and brother. I found the former but not Bruce. I'll have to go back for another look - perhaps after referring to the Council's index of burials, so I know where to look.


Mathew and Stephan had made good progress during this bitterly cold and showery day.

Stephan and I had spent some time considering the height of the roof, balancing protection for the cattle crush from the weather and creating too dark an area for the cattle to want to enter the race. I hope we've got it right.

Sunday the 9th

After erecting an electric tape around the still-unfenced bit of wet-land in the Big Back South, I let the cows in and then watched how they reacted to the new culvert work and the bare soil beyond it.


They weren't bothered about the culvert renovation but were very excited by the bare soil where Stephan had excavated this bank.


Imagen found a big lump of soil across the track and rubbed her head and neck on it until it fell apart.

Here she's blearily getting up after her blissful moment.


The Taraire tree (the grey leaves on the right) up the hill looks worse every time I look.


But amongst the dead leaves are green sprigs with newly growing shoots. Perhaps there's hope yet?

Monday the 10th

I continued planning our holiday this morning, having booked the air tickets over the weekend. I decided to buy the most flexible (and expensive) tickets in case something changes in our plan - it has not yet been confirmed when my te reo course weekend will happen, for example - because while I enjoy the anticipation of a holiday, I don't like worrying about something changing and our being restricted by the terms of tickets I've already purchased. We will fly from Kaitaia to Auckland, then Auckland to Wellington.

In Wellington we'll stay a couple of nights with Char-Lien, spend some time with Stella and her new boyfriend around the city - I particularly want to go to Zealandia and if the weather is fine, I'd like to go out to Matiu/Somes Island. Stephan would like to go back to Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand.

I had been looking to travel north by train but under the Covid restrictions and the lack of tourists, the main trunk train is not running. Then when we called Char-Lien to discuss our plans, she said it would be very helpful if we drove Simon and Anna's car up to Auckland: problem solved.

We plan to visit some friends of Jill, a couple whose wedding Jill attended as soon as she arrived in Aotearoa in August 1962 (I'm very much looking forward to finding out some more details of that relationship and its history), then on to see Renée in Ōtaki, up to Ōhau to visit Sue and Trevor and their lovely Murray Grey herd. From there we'll visit Dee, sister of my lovely late friend Katy, and Fran and L-J, whom we've not seen since they came to visit us in February, 2012.

My cousin and niece both live in Ngāmotu (New Plymouth), so we'll spend a night there and catch up with them, before driving north to Auckland, Tāmaki-makau-rau. From there our flight will return us home on Tuesday the 1st of September.

We're very much looking forward to our trip, having not been away for so long, nor so far since we went to Queenstown in 2012.


There was a big storm sometime in the last year (it seems it must have been in a week I've not written yet) and this large Puriri was split in three. The parts of it still attached to its roots are now thick with new leaves. Puriri are fantastic.


The slip in the far corner Over the Road has noticeably moved. I'm hoping it won't suddenly go and don't think it will, there not being a big body of water moving beneath it or past its base. It is gradually moving down into the existing gully.

Gary came over and helped Stephan with the last of the concreting around the base of the poles for the high side of the yards roof. There was already some concrete in the bottoms of the holes and a little around their bases, to hold them steady and ensure they would not alter in height but could be adjusted laterally if necessary. Now the roof structure is all built, the rest of the concrete went into the holes.

Tuesday the 11th

It rained all night and this was the result. Fortunately this was about the extent of it and the water went down again before the end of the afternoon.

We've been watching the little group of brown quail who visit our garden, gradually diminishing in number from the original two parents and four chicks. I presumed the parents went off elsewhere and left the youngsters on their own but they then reduced from four to three and now there are only two. Something must be eating them although it would be nice to think they were instead striking out for new territories in which to live.

On Sunday the country celebrated reaching 100 days Covid-19 free, until this evening we discovered that hadn't quite been so, as several cases of community transmission were announced at a special 9.15pm press conference. Oddly, this came as a great surprise to us all, I think. We've returned to living entirely ordinarily in the last few weeks. When I booked our holiday flights I'd thought of a number of things that might cause us to change our plans a little, alter the dates by a day here or there, so had bought the most expensive and most flexible air tickets; a resurgence of Covid-19 had not occurred to me as a possible problem.

This seems odd to me in retrospect, this mental return to normal. When there was a threat of bird 'flu it didn't come anywhere near us but Jude joked she was bringing the family and 400 tins of peaches from Auckland to stay with us and I told her they'd have to stay out in the front shed for two weeks and if the sparrows all lived, they could come over the bridge. We're not exactly "preppers" but we do have the option to stay out of the way of circulating illness if we really have to and under the current circumstances, we thought we'd do just that. But however we ever imagined life in a pandemic, it wasn't like this. I guess we'd be behaving differently if it were invariably deadly. But there have been no cases in our community and so we've carried on with the community involvement that is important to us.

I decided there was no need to make an immediate decision about the holiday yet, we'd wait and see what the numbers of cases do, see what the Government decides in a couple of days about the alert level and consequent restrictions.

Wednesday the 12th

The morning was cold and squally and I phoned Jude to commiserate on the sudden restrictions to her movement when she had no doubt other plans for her day: Auckland is under Level 3 restrictions from noon today while the new cases are investigated, the rest of us move to Level 2.

The cattle know nothing of these concerns and in the afternoon I moved the R4 heifers and the yearling bulls into the PW.


There's a lot of water everywhere and the newly cleared drain in the big swamp is running well.


I came to check how the new culvert topping was looking after taking the cattle out of the paddock. It appears to have held up reasonably well, despite the rain.

Thursday the 13th

Since killing the pigs last week we've been freezing all of Zella's milk to use during her dry period before her next calf is born. Yesterday was our planned stopping date so we can watch her for a week to ensure she's happy and well, before going away on our holiday. But there was the most awful rain squall yesterday at milking time, with misty droplets flying everywhere in the rain and wind and so we left it until today, hoping for calmer conditions.

Because Zella was prone to mastitis for several years, we are still taking a precautionary approach when drying off and treating her with a "dry cow" intra-mammary long-acting antibiotic. We also then use a teat sealant product to provide further protection from any external bacterial entry to her teats. The instillation of both products requires very careful attention to cleanliness, so as not to accidentally introduce bacteria to the udder.


After finishing Zella's treatments the two cows had their usual hay treat, then I took them out to Flat 5a, a paddock they don't usually occupy during milking, with an electric tape restricting their grazing while Zella adjusts to not being milked.


We brought the young mob from Over the Road and I took note of the obvious development of their udders. It's easy to see now that I was not mistaken in believing them pregnant.

They've been changing quite quickly over the last couple of weeks, now a couple of months from calving.

Friday the 14th

We picked up the bacon this morning, requiring quite a bit of freezer rearrangement! Few people I know in the city have more than a small freezer; here we have chest freezers, full of all sorts of things we preserve and usually quite a bit of meat, that we gradually eat our way through and share with our guests, friends and family. (Meaning we share our lovely dinners with our friends and family, since it is illegal to give or sell raw meat to anyone outside our household.)


In the lovely afternoon we went out and got the 13 heifers in to the yards and gave them their 7in1 vaccine. They then went into the Windmill paddock in the foreground, before we brought the cows down the lane for the same treatment.

Many of the cows are still extremely difficult in the yards. They're such creatures of habit that despite the excellent new facilities, requiring them to move around in a clockwise direction, opposite to the old yards, completely throws them and when we finally manage to trick them, push them into the concrete-floored forcing pen, they turn around and around in a tight anti-clockwise circle.

I did wonder if this might be a problem but had hoped they would find everything so much more pleasant that they'd just flow through as we'd planned. The young cattle are generally fine, so the problem will resolve itself in time. Hopefully that time won't be the entirety of the remaining lifespans of the older cows.

Grey 812 didn't go up the race for her copper shot last time and she wouldn't go up today either, so when she was close to the rails by the catwalk, I jabbed her in the space between her tail and pin bones. She has the most extraordinarily thick skin in any case and so by choice I've injected her there on a couple of earlier occasions as well. That is not the correct injection site but needs must.

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