I went to a Genealogy group meeting this morning and took part in a presentation by one of the members, during which she asked us all to read parts of a High Court examination of a woman who had thrown her ailing baby off a bridge in about 1902. It was a very effective way of telling the story, causing us all to be more involved than we would have been had she presented it all to us. While that act on the face of things seems awful, worse is the sort of lives many of our foremothers were forced to live by the appalling behaviour of some of our forefathers! Had alcohol never existed, we'd all have been a great deal better off.
Then Stephan picked me up and we went to lunch beside Lake Ngatu, guests at the home of the man who was once my family's lawyer. I met him at the Covid vaccination place a two and a half weeks ago and said I'd like to come and talk to him about his recollections of my grandparents. He said, phone my wife, come to dinner. Lunch was chosen as an easier meeting time and today was the day.
My grandfather died when I was four, so I have only vague memories of him in person, most of my mental pictures of him come from the smiling photos of him on the Pamir. But while I was looking him up in various places on the internet, I found his name associated with a 1950 film he'd been part of making and had watched him, with grinning delight: Journey for Three. There was something astonishing for me in seeing a face I know so well in animation, with so much of my father in his appearance, from whom I've inherited a quarter of what makes me who I am.
Lunch was fun and Robin told me all sorts of things, some of which I already knew, along with little details that one can only hear from someone who actually knew the people in question.
At home I came out quite late to the cows in the Back Barn, who were in need of a move to some new grass.
Over the last several days Stephan has been working hard to clear some of the rubbish he's spent decades stacking up around the place. Some things were deliberately kept and were at times useful, other stuff has been stored with the knowledge that at some time we'd have to take it away to an appropriate dumping place. The easiest way to do that now was to hire a big skip bin, which is what he did early last week and by Friday it was as full as he could get it.
One gets used to one's rubbish but it was always a bit of an embarrassment when visitors were walked past it all, so this clear area is a lovely sight.
Andrew and 189 have been living in Flat 2 for months but the grass is getting a bit untidy and needs grazing down by a mob of cows; so I moved them.
They've both grown significantly over the last few months but Andrew is still as quiet as ever.
I went out to move the cows again and found Gina 142 looking very strange - it's odd how much an ear-tag can change my perception of their faces and hers has gone.
There are now several cows without tags at all. I'm back to writing descriptions of them in my spreadsheet so if I'm dead someone else might be able to work out who they are!
I moved them out of the Swamp paddock and sent them along the lanes, finding them all at the bottom of the Pines, having a lovely time in the drain diggings Stephan pulled out of the Pines drain the other day.
Then back out to the Spring to see if the young stock would move to the Middle Back. They didn't seem to like that idea at all and since I hadn't yet fixed up my winter grazing spreadsheet, I wasn't entirely sure how long it had been since it had been grazed, so decided to let them decide. (Of course that's not real farming.)
While I went and made sure the cows had gone ahead to their paddock, I left the youngsters waiting in the Back Barn.
I had one of those 'that was close' moments earlier when the big steer came past me with some excitement, following a hot heifer, and kicked up his heels as he careered down the track; I felt the wind of his feet passing my face. He hadn't felt that close but the fast movement of his feet must have been. You could get hurt doing this job!
The cows had all gone into Flat 2, where there is quite a bit of grass, even though the two bulls had started to make an impression on the greenness over the last few days since the weather got really cold and the grass slowed right down.
The crack in the last third of the Pūriri in Mushroom 1 looks much the same. I doubt it will last a year but at the moment it appears stable.
The truck came to collect the skip this morning.
Stephan and the driver secured a mesh screen over the whole thing to stop anything falling out or blowing off and away it all went.
We had to pay an overweight fee, which was hardly a surprise, since I don't imagine everyone uses their digger to squash as much in as they can; I was just relieved we didn't have to pay to have stuff prised out!
Gary came over to help Stephan retrieve a tree he felled a few months ago, one of the Tasmanian Blackwoods that William planted when they first lived on what is now Jane's place. Jane only wants firewood and Blackwood is far too fine a timber for that use.
Stephan has plans for this log!
I took Al with me for a walk, checked the young stock, opened a gate for Zoom and friends, had a lovely time.
Al's face has changed a lot. I presume there are some tusks growing in those bulges on either side of his nose. I hope that having removed most of his testosterone, that they'll not become large, sharp and dangerous.
He had such beautiful, ridiculously long, eyebrows when he was tiny and I have noticed that they seem to have stayed about the same length while he's grown into them. He has very pretty, light brown eyes, when you can see them through all those eyelashes.
At home we went for a stroll around the pond and when I called him from the island, I thought he might jump in and swim across, as he once (accidentally) did before.
It makes a pretty picture if you imagine he's looking deeply into his own reflection.
Al came for another walk to check on the young stock and they're still not comfortably used to his presence.
Several of them came over for a closer look. I had to be careful about where and how I walked, alert to Al suddenly trying to run through me to get away from the scary cattle.
White-faced 889 was on heat and it looked very much like Zella's daughter was on too. Several of the R1 heifers are already regularly cycling.
I walked home across the House paddock and Al stayed up the far end, snuffling around. When he realised I was gone he came sprinting across the paddock to catch up with me.
Until the last few months, while I've been busily diverted by my family in the second half of the nineteenth century, I managed to write about nearly every week in every year since I started on 7 July 2001. I have no intention of giving up on filling in the gaps I've left - it won't happen overnight, but it will happen.
Coincidentally the 7th of July is the date on which the Mathew family signed the purchase agreement for the farm, so Stephan marks 44 years today, since coming here.
Back to check the young mob in the Tank - there are still some nasty, unfenced, gullies in the paddock, so I like to check regularly to ensure everyone is safe. I also expected them to need moving by now.
This flow of water along the bottom edge of the paddock is something I had anticipated we might have fixed by now with the digger. I'd like to see some drains, culverts and fencing to take clean water out of the paddock to the stream.
We went to town earlier today to have our second Covid-19 vaccinations. The Northland District Health Board decided not to worry about vaccinating by priority groups but to get as many people done as it possibly could. Early in the process there were reports of bus-loads of Aucklanders coming up to the southern-most vaccination centres to get in early; but they were turned away, not being residents of the area.
There's so much chatter about the vaccination, most of it complete nonsense, and I've had to stop talking to some people about it. But talking to some who've been through the process already, some have said they reacted more to the first, some more to the second shot, some to both and some had no detectable response at all. So not having any idea how I'd feel by tomorrow, I wanted to move the young mob this afternoon in case I didn't feel like it tomorrow.
I called them and the 21 animals came down the slope and across the soft ground and then out the gate and across the stream; while Al hid behind me.
They can stay here for a day or two if necessary.
When I was on the island the other day I noticed a lot of freshly-placed grass in one of the old Pukeko nests. This will be one of those nest-building birds.
They seem to bring fresh grass from quite some distance and I have no idea why they do that, there being a lot of nice-looking grass a lot closer to where they want it.
I was feeling just fine today, other than the expected sore arm, so climbed the hill Over the Road to inspect the heifers, having not seen them all for a few days.
Stephan is delighted that he has arranged room under cover for the digger, possibly the first time in its life it's been out of the weather.
He will obviously have to be very careful never to forget not to raise the boom before he's all the way outside!
Heifer 912 was away down the front of the Windmill paddock on her own and I wondered if she was on heat, or coming on. I'd thought she looked a bit suspicious two days ago too.
I spotted some odd colours through the trees on the way to setting up the gates for the cows to go across to the Road Flat paddock, so went for a closer look before calling them across the stream.
The two horned animals match the description someone gave us the other day when asking about some wandering cattle further up the road, two which may have been the ones Stephan saw in the Marko Buselich Reserve. Stephan phoned the Department of Conservation, since they are supposed to be looking after the reserve, but despite leaving a careful message, as usual no action resulted.
To my great relief, both of these animals are steers, not bulls and to my enormous surprise, both have NAIT tags. They belong to someone and it isn't our neighbours, unless they've found the owners and bought them, which seems unlikely.
I watched them for a while, seeing how they responded as I moved around. Potentially they jumped into that paddock - although the fence along the road is very shabby and it wouldn't be difficult to push through somewhere - so potentially they could keep jumping. There is a hot wire along the top of the boundary fence, as well as our internal two-wire electric, so they're not very likely to try. Stephan cleared the grass off the fence recently and so it's delivering quite a whack if you touch it.
I brought the cows over the stream, they began quietly grazing, all looked fine. (And it was; there's no more news on this matter, other than my heightened anxiety about the cows being here with such neighbours.)
I went to check on the sphagnum moss, see if it had recovered yet from the dry periods and it's looking lovely and green again.
These six are the remainder of a larger group of weaning animals and, in the interests of not constantly recombining mobs and upsetting everyone, they've stayed together as they are. Four of them are on the cull list.
Grey 607 is coming up to 13 and has been showing her age in general discomfort. I didn't ever see her showing any signs of having been on heat during the mating period and she's shown none since either. I could potentially change my mind about her but I think she should go, unless she picks up again.
Ellie 141 is going because of her strange bleeding nose problem and the undershot jaw of her son from two years ago - and I'm watching her youngest with some suspicion too. 742 is not in calf and always looks a bit less than thriving. Grey 812 is young and I like her but she has that extraordinarily long-legged form and since being injured when she was on heat as a yearling, has been quite stiff in her gait. I fear that injury will come back to bother her again - and indeed the other day, when I was attempting to stop her going the wrong way back along the lane, she danced around enough to then begin limping a bit afterwards. I'm much the same, really, so she's not in a terrible state, just not a reliable one.
Al has lovely evenings out in the House paddock - as long as he doesn't scoot under the electric fence and come back down the lane and into the garden. I theorise that feral pigs root up the ground in search of protein and Al's getting his from other sources, so while he will dig holes, he doesn't do so to the same destructive extent.
In the early afternoon today I remembered my father, Brian, and particularly since I've been writing so much about his family; today marks 32 years since he died. It seems both a lifetime and no time.