The week beginning the 23rd of January 2021.
Saturday the 23rd
calf and cow

Interrupted mid-feed: not the best look for 908, but I wanted to see his right eye, which was very sore and tearing yesterday, probably caused by a weeping grass seed somewhere under his eyelid.

I had then contemplated taking them to the yards to try and help him but they all moved off in the wrong direction. The problem usually rights itself in a day or two and fortunately his has. Today I wouldn't know that he'd had any trouble at all.


Two-year-old 872 was on heat and standing quietly with bull 200 in the shade in the Bush Flat.

The coolest places on hot days are beside the streams in the shade.


I'd seen this caterpillar earlier in the day forming the silk attachment ready for pupation but here it was, late in the afternoon, the wrong way round, apparently eating it up again.

When I looked again later it had cleared this bit of silk, created another anchor point and was looking more settled in its task.


The two non-breeding bulls were quite excited about 200's mob being moved along the lane beside them this evening, especially since 872 was still on heat.

I decided not to use 192 because he is far too bad tempered and unpleasant to work with in the yards, and we don't want to breed more of that sort of behaviour; 197's lower jaw is short. I don't know where that trait has come from, having not ever seen it in any of my pedigree cattle (and only once, decades ago, in a cross-bred steer calf). An undershot jaw potentially means the incisors won't meet the hard palate in the right place, so the animal cannot eat efficiently.

Sunday the 24th
native bees

Native bees nest in holes in clay banks. I have read that not much is known about them and have read nothing about them collecting wood pulp for their nests, which it looks like these may have been doing. There were half a dozen of them along the top of this wooden rail.

cow and calf

Last evening I opened the gate from the PW to the Middle Back, and this morning went to check on bull 199 and his mob and see if they'd all gone to the fresh paddock.

I met white-faced 749 and her daughter a little way along Route 356, turned them around and followed them along to the Middle Back, where everyone else was quietly grazing or sitting around.

I got the impression these two didn't know where everyone else had gone.

Australian Sedge

Stephan sprayed some of the sedge here a week or so ago, so patches of it are dying. It's a start!


A butterfly about to emerge. The chrysalis goes dark in the 24 hours before emergence and the orange appears toward the end of the process, then when it goes a little cloudy like this one, you know the butterfly has cracked the skin somewhere and let some air in. I took this photo at 10.55am.

Monarch butterfly

This one had pupated beneath a box I'd left perched on top of something else on the windowsill, so I then had to add a sign asking that it not be moved by anyone passing - the sign was then used by the caterpillar yesterday, now hanging off the edge of that paper. In the mean time another caterpillar had joined the first on the bottom of the box, so I won't be able to move it for a while yet.

I prompted this butterfly to climb onto my finger and took it outside to the Swan plants to be ready to fly away whenever it had finished dripping its excess fluid.

dead caterpillar

A caterpillar who won't become a butterfly. I don't know why it died.

The brown pebbles are caterpillar poos. The dark, dried drips are from a hatched butterfly.


This one won't be a butterfly either. I noticed a beautiful green drip of fluid hanging from it yesterday, as it finished its pupation process, so something went wrong somewhere.

Monarch butterfly

Here an hour later than the first chrysalis photo above, the hatched and expanded butterfly.

Monarch caterpillar

In the interests of learning more, I collected a just-laid egg. It took three days to hatch.

The tiny caterpillar (about 2mm long) then ate its egg case.


More wandering, wondering about Pūriri.

This is the base of the enormous fallen tree near the top of the watercourse in the Middle Back. I have taken pictures of it from many angles over the years. It would appear to be another tree someone attempted to kill, or was not concerned about accidentally killing, by fire.

Presumably it fell over after the flames damaged its bark and trunk, because there are no scorch marks on its enormous roots.


The scorching goes into the hard wood, so must have burnt through a lot of the bark.

The trunk in the first photo is split; it wasn't like that a few years ago. The new growth of the surviving, re-rooted canopy must be holding up the upper part of the old trunk. There are many Pūriri around here that have used their dead structures as scaffolding for new growth.


I was looking at the big, live roots coming out the bottom of the tree when I noticed this large wētā. Its thighs were about two inches, or five cm long! When it moved, I jumped. Fortunately it didn't, for I fear it could travel a very long way in a single movement.


Across on the southern slope of the Spring paddock, the skeleton of another old Pūriri. I think I know where that trunk stands, in the midst of the strong growth of a much younger Tōtara. It is one I haven't been to look at more closely yet with my new theory of their demise.


Little Gina 202 was grazing quietly on her own, still a bit sore but moving better every day. Then heifer 900, coming on heat by the look of her, went and shoved her. Bad tempered madam.

Being on heat always looks terribly uncomfortable with its heightened alertness and anxiety.

Monday the 25th
Monarch caterpillar

Day two for the baby caterpillar, now eating the underside of a Swan plant leaf.

Covid-19 testing queue

Stephan is horribly ill, with a terribly sore throat.

We went in to see a nurse for a throat swab, to ensure he's not got a Streptococcus infection. The nurse took a swab, then recommended we go along to the Covid testing station at the Hospital.

Its usual opening days don't include Monday but today being the day the news of the Northland community case was out meant they'd opened up and a lot of people were concerned enough to line up for a test, so we joined the end of the queue.

One of those in the line was going to need a very long nasal swab!

Unfortunately we'd arrived just behind the last car to be done before lunch time so after we'd waited in line for 45 minutes, we then sat at the head of the line outside the nurses' station for another half an hour while they went off for an overdue lunch break.

We were far more fortunate than those at other testing stations further south where demand for testing was very high, in that we were right outside the front doors of the hospital, so we could go to the toilet, find cold drinking water from a dispenser and the café was open and I bought a coffee and a scone for us to share while we waited.

It was unlikely that Covid would be involved in Stephan's illness but bearing in mind our recent visit from Jude, Stella and Faith, who could have come in contact with the latest case's 'locations of interest' on their way up from Auckland, it seemed wise to eliminate the possibility. Despite my only having the slightest sniffle, they did me too. While it's not the most pleasant thing to submit to, I'm all for surveillance testing to ensure the infection isn't circulating asymptomatically.

bull and cow

Today is day 23 in the mating cycle, so I'm watching all the cows and heifers carefully for any signs of coming back on heat. Jet is obviously not yet pregnant and spent the day with bull 199 again.

This is always a nervous time when a group of cows have been out with a bull for the first three weeks: does the first one back on heat mean anything worrying? Will she be the first of many, or are the others pregnant?

In Jet's case it doesn't matter, because the big crack down the front of her front foot means she has to go anyway.

Harriet 860 is in the same mob and behaving quietly; she'd be due back on heat today if she weren't already pregnant.

stick insect

I brushed a tickly thing away from my neck and fortunately I'd not been too rough, finding this medium-sized stick insect the culprit. I carefully put it up onto a branch nearby. I've learnt to gently scoop things off my neck, rather than slap them away, because it is often something I'd like not to harm.


Dushi's lovely daughter, 210.

Tuesday the 26th
Monarch caterpillar

Caterpillar day three, still munching the undersides of the Swan plant leaves. Now it is recognisably a Monarch, with the yellow and black colouring.


This evening I walked into the Middle Back from Route 356 and, seeing the bull standing quietly on his own up the hill, didn't go around the whole mob. I only needed to know if he was keeping company with any of the cows.

I could instantly see it was him from the set of his ears.


As I came back along the top of Flat 1 I saw 190 having a munch on that poor little Cabbage Tree I've been trying to keep the cattle away from. I went over and chased her away and, seeing that she was going to go straight back to the tasty morsel as soon as I turned my back, I went and got an electric tape and ran it down from the top of the paddock and out around this bit of the fence to keep the cattle from eating any more.

The two calves on the left were eating blackberries and beside 190 is her little niece, 210, who was chewing on the bit of tape that I'd previously staked out to try and keep the cattle away from the tree.

I have requested a fencing modification, to bring an electric feed from the other side of the drain, so I can make a loop of electrified tape around this part of the fenceline.

Wednesday the 27th
Monarch butterfly

Another butterfly successfully emerged.

Monarch caterpillar

The caterpillar on day four, now able to make holes in the leaves.

Monarch butterfly

I put the new butterfly out on the Swan plants when it had stopped dripping fluid.


When Al was living in the old aviary cage on the lawn, I threw some water under the Hydrangea for him to make a little mud wallow whenever he was out for a while around the garden. He particularly enjoyed it on the hotter days, so when he moved to his bigger enclosure, we made sure there was somewhere we could easily keep wet for him to make another one.

It's fun to watch him enjoying it so much. He flops down on one side and wriggles around, then turns over, sometimes sits like this to itch his nether regions.


The Middle Back. One day we'll get a protective fence around the Pūriri trees. It's a bit easier to think about doing that now there's a fence around the gully below the trees. We'll be able to take an electric feed off that for the fence around these big trees in the middle of the paddock. A couple of them are still clinging to life. The white skeleton in the middle is entirely dead.


It always amuses me that the animals will lift a hind leg like this when they're scratched or licked just there. 186 is doing the licking.

I'm not sure what's going on with 186, she was on heat last week but the bull still seems to be hanging around with her.

Thursday the 28th

Back to see a doctor today, since Stephan is no better. Spending most of several days in bed is not his usual form. The doctor performed a very thorough examination, remarked upon his enlarged spleen and looked worried, then sent him back to the lab at the hospital for more blood tests, while I waited in the x-ray department to make an appointment for him to have a chest x-ray. Then one of the lovely women there dragged him in and x-rayed him before we left.

[Stephan has since almost fully recovered and the doctor's working hypothesis is that he may have had Leptospirosis, from disturbing rodents' nesting materials in his under-renovation shed.]

There having been a Covid community case earlier in the week, I had done a "click and collect" order at the supermarket. People's concentration on toilet paper has been an entertaining aspect of the pandemic and today while we were unloading the shopping locker, an acquaintance passed and spoke with us for a while, commenting on my obvious stock-pile: it was on special at a very good price, so I'd bought several multi-roll packs. I cautioned him that last time I stocked up on toilet paper, the whole country went in to Covid lock-down eleven days later.

And who knows, toilet paper could be like bitcoin and we'll be able to barter it for salt if things get really bad. Seriously though, it's the best way to shop if you've sufficient resources in cash and storage space. The restrictions during the earlier lock-downs were a pain in the proverbial for people like us who shop once or twice a month and therefore buy most things in multiple.

Monarch caterpillar

Caterpillar day 5, now with its familiar colouring.

cow and calf

Dushi got very thin last year in the drought. She's looking alright so far but I'm monitoring her condition. It would help to have some rain and some more grass.

cow and calf

Here's Imogen 155 and last year's daughter, 195.

195 is a better looking heifer than her older sisters were this time last year.

All five of the yearling heifers are looking very nice and weighed heavier than my mating minimum in December; but after last year's drought and the way this season looked to be going at the beginning of the month, I decided not to get them in calf this year.

We were so dry through last winter and if that's the start of an uncomfortable pattern, I'll be glad not to have to worry about young first-time mothers.

Friday the 29th
Monarch caterpillar

Caterpillar day 6.


Dushi's daughter carefully eating ripe blackberries.


Stephan and I both think Zoom looks very much like her mother, Zella. I like her smooth solidity.


Gina 202 is now very much on the mend. She still has a slight limp, but that she's feeling good enough to play with the others is a very good sign of her marked improvement.

I'm glad to see it. I've been worried about her. I think she's one of the nicest heifers this year, so it would have been very disappointing if she'd been permanently disabled by whatever injury she sustained.

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