I find that in any season during which I've had to wait for a late calf, I am much more inclined to be strict about the end of the following mating. Last year I let Grey 607 have a last dalliance with bull 176 when she unexpectedly came back on heat after I'd taken the bulls away from the cows; consequently her calf was born eleven days after the penultimate calf for the season.
Late calves can pose management complications because they sometimes have to be managed separately from the main group for time-related treatments like vaccination and, later, weaning.
Looking at my calving date calculator over the last couple of days, I noticed that my latest expected calves will be born at the end of the first week in November and I think that's quite late enough this year, so this morning I drafted bulls 200, 199 and here, 194, out of their mobs and into separate paddocks next to each other on the flats. They spent much of the day standing in their respective corners where the paddocks meet, growling at each other.
I've at last heard Pīpīwharauroa chicks peeping in the trees. We hear (and sometimes see) them with their tiny Riroriro foster parents, any time from early December to late January and I've usually heard the first ones well before February.
As I moved the cows around this morning I drafted the other two bulls out and into Flat 5 - Andrew had been with Zella and Glia and 189 came in with his mob from the Spring paddock and I deftly drafted him into the Flat 4 lane as they came down the Windmill lane.
These four can all meet in the corners of the four Flat 5 paddocks; 199 in Mushroom 1, off to the right, stood at that fenceline contributing to the noise.
I had forgotten to put a calf vaccination booster reminder in my calendar and had a horrified moment last week when I realised we were now into February and I'd not thought about it again since doing them on the first of January. The booster has to be given four to six weeks after the first shot.
I bought some vaccine and now the timing will work out very nicely, getting them all in as I draft the bulls out of their mobs.
I'm quite pleased with the condition of the mature cows, after the long dry period.
That Stephan gets into the race with the calves to do the vaccinating is partly a hangover from how we did it in the old yards, and something we may change. I could easily do it from above but since he's down on the ground moving the calves into the race anyway, he just carries on.
I bought the cricket pads years ago when I was weighing some of the little calves on my own one day and got painfully kicked. They are a sensible protection for knees and shins.
There's always one; and this season it seems always to be the same one.
We put the cattle from the yards into the Windmill paddock and Fancy 126's daughter 206 went under the spring gate and along the lane, instead of through the gateway into the paddock; and then kept going. I was a bit too tired at the end of the day to find this anything but extremely irritating, so Stephan went and got her back.
Because the cows have been out with different bulls, I had to recombine four mobs into two today. But they've not been away from each other for very long so there wasn't too much upset when they met each other again.
The calves in the House paddock were very vocal during the evening and I wondered if they were upset and confused by there being a lot of unfamiliar animals around them, or by some response to the vaccination. Sometimes some are a bit unhappy afterwards for a few hours, but usually it's so mild you can't really tell.
I needed to go out and set the gates ready to move the cattle, so took Al with me for a walk.
The cattle are accustomed to the presence of feral pigs, so it's hard to know whether the cows' interest is simple curiosity because they haven't seen any for a while, distrust because he's an unusual colour, or because he's with me and that is unusual.
Everyone likes those Barnyard grass plants when they come up.
Al is quite an easy walking companion, once he's had a bit of a mad run around. He trots along sniffing everything, nosing into things and seems to have learnt not to walk between my legs or so close he'll trip me up, although I am on guard at all times in case he forgets himself. He's hard, fast, heavy and strong.
Fortunately the early leash training for walking appears to have set some good patterns of behaviour, although since he grew beyond the girth of the harness straps, we have yet to do any more of that sort of exercise.
All very interested in each other.
I don't have much enthusiasm for photos of people's dinners at eating establishments but when my personal chef produces something new and delicious, it deserves fanfare: tonight, Stephan's first experiment with a soufflé.
Soufflés have never occurred in my real life, only in books and television (never cooking programs, older sit-coms mainly), the puffed up, airy creation that is ruined by the interference of a curious opening of an oven door by someone who isn't the cook.
This one rose perfectly and looked delicious. The texture was delightful and the flavour mix perfect.
Dinner was almost entirely sourced from our garden and farm.
Later Stephan and I walked two lots of cows out to the Spring paddock, forming a mob of 43 animals, then the 30 from the Windmill paddock went out to the Big Back South. They'll stay in those mobs for the rest of the summer.
I'm always a bit nervous about walking cows and heifers along the lanes adjacent to any of the bulls but this is why electric fencing is so useful: the animals know what happens if they touch it and so they don't attempt to go through or over it, even if there's someone irresistibly attractive on the other side.
Walking back, we brought bull 199 out of Mushroom 1 and put him into 5d with 194. They raked up a lot of dust and posed threateningly at each other and then simply stood together quietly. That was easy.
They're both sons of the big Chisum bull, who I used as much for his reputed quiet temperament as his other production-related qualities. While these bulls have been quite noisy and sounded very threatening, they seem disinclined to fight each other.
Today we went over to Kerikeri for a funeral at the historic St James' Church, down near the Stone Store.
The deceased was first cousin to my father and I remember her reasonably well, although she was disinclined to society so I hadn't seen her for several years. Her parents are people I remember very well. In my early adulthood I became very fond of them, after a chance meeting in the middle of one of the diagonal pedestrian crossings in Auckland's Queen Street one afternoon. I was a 17-year-old alone in the city and they invited me to join them for dinner at their motel's restaurant, then later in the evening took me home to my flat. They were so lovely, so kind and generous. I did not know people could be so nice. I grew up as a "difficult" child and people, including that couple whenever we'd visited them when I was that child, generally looked upon me with disapproval.
Part of my desire in attending the funeral was to meet the other Renners in attendance and, walking into the church, I could immediately identify the deceased's sister and Stephan later told me that he'd spotted her brother as soon as he saw him, although he hadn't been as obvious to me. Heredity is fun.
In light of my recent genealogical research, I was thrilled to converse with people who could actually remember my father's and their grandfather.
As we often do when in Kerikeri, we visited the library. The Far North District Council libraries are all linked and so we can borrow books there and return them later in Kaitāia. The Kerikeri library being the largest of the group, it has a wider selection of books and although we can access the entire collection via the on-line catalogue, I still find it a fruitful exercise to be able to see books on the shelves in their groups and thereby find titles I'd otherwise not have thought to search for.
Old friend Liz and her family have bought a house in Kerikeri and happened to have moved in a few days ago, albeit without their furniture yet, so we went to see them for a few hours before coming home. If all my friends would move north, I'd be very happy. Liz being the second, perhaps it's becoming a trend.
The Mangamuka Gorge road is still closed, so we have to go the long way around to Kerikeri. For variety we usually go one way through the Fairburn road, via Peria, but that road being prepared for sealing at present, extra time must be allowed for stops, as the traffic is reduced to one-way along sections where earth-works are in progress. We went to Kerikeri that way and home via Kaitāia.
In the blustery warm evening I went out around the two mobs of cows and calves.
I am pleased to report that Gina 202 has completely recovered from the injury to her left front leg. I watched her coming comfortably down the hill without any hint of a limp.
The regrowing Pūriri in the Bush Flat has survived the summer's dry again. I wonder if the new growth on the fallen branch section will at some time grow its roots sufficiently to burst forth in vigour? It still looks weak and weedy and suffers from the dry much more than the growth emerging from the original trunk.
Yesterday's hot, blustery warmth came before the first decent rain for a month this morning, and there was 19mm in the gauge 11am. I didn't go and measure it at the usual nine o'clock because it was far too wet outside and the rain had only recently begun. Another 13.7mm fell during the day. Because it fell lightly for most of the time, most of it soaked into the ground, rather than running off into the streams.
I have been becoming more and more concerned about the lack of rain and the consequent slowing of the grass growth. This rain was exactly what was required to relieve the feed pressure and keep us going for the next three or more weeks.
As I drove out along the track to go and move some of the cattle, I was startled to find we've gained a big new patch of sky. Most of the right side of this photo would formerly have been lushly green with the foliage of this, one of the largest Pūriri on the flats.
The smaller branches had collapsed onto the top of the fence, fortunately missing any of the posts and only stretching the top wire. I turned the power off to the back of the farm, since the feed wire was now pushed down onto the others.
The big branch appeared to have broken away from the trunk where there was evidence of rot in the centre. The long dry and then the sudden wetness must have tipped a balance.
It must only just have happened, because Zella and Glia had been left to wander out wherever they wanted today, and they would surely have stopped to eat the leaves, had the leaves been there as they passed.
I went home and fetched Stephan with the chainsaw, to come and clear the branches from the electric feed wire so power could be restored to the rest of the farm.
Monarch caterpillar farming.
This is a somewhat stinky business, caterpillar poo having a particular stench when there are a lot of them together. I frequently sweep their dried poo off the windowsill but those bits that drop into the water ferment into a nasty brew.
When I move the sprigs of leaves to new water, I have to be careful not to dislodge the tiniest caterpillars because they drop on fine silk, rather than hanging on to the leaves, and if they end up in the water, they'll drown.
Stephan had been out all day at Elizabeth's, helping Mathew, and William's brother and his wife, to harvest grapes for wine-making.
They were still hard at work when I went over in the early evening to collect Stephan. At least they were as hard at work as anyone might be while sampling beverages akin to the one they were in the process of making.
Mathew was treading the grapes when I arrived and a while later I took a turn in the grape-stomping bin, emerging with softened, pink-stained feet. It was a very pleasant activity.
The grape juice was taken away by Robert and Kate for the next part of the process.
Zella, after a couple of mornings' odd behaviour, was obviously on heat today. This is not going to plan! She was supposed to be in calf in the earliest part of the season, so that she can produce colostrum anyone else's calf might need next Spring.
Stephan and I discussed possibly letting her have a year off calving and continuing to milk her through; but considering some of her outrageous heat behaviour, we decided it would be awful (for her and us) to go through her oestrus upset every three weeks for the whole year, and went out to get her a bull.
We popped Mr 200 in with her for a couple of hours to rectify the situation. The calf will be born a lot later than all the others but we'll manage that somehow.
Butterfly sex is a violent-looking activity. This is not the first time I've found a male butterfly pinning a female down on the ground.
On principle I prised them gently apart and she flew off very swiftly and he fluttered off looking for another opportunity. It wasn't really any of my business but they were right there on the lawn. Get a room!
Even a dead Pūriri is a thing of some kind of beauty, if you suspend thoughts of its demise.
The one on the right is dead, but the left one is still partly alive. It has a few branches with healthy leaves.
Do epiphytic plants only grow on live trees? I suspect a dead tree is a much drier place than a live one, so not a sustaining long-term option.
Yesterday I received a "Valentine's Day special offer" from a genealogy website, offering free access to some of their records over the next four days, so set off again on that treasure hunt. But I soon became frustrated by the "upgrade your subscription" messages I frequently encountered, as soon as I tried to look at anything beyond New Zealand and Australia's record sets.
I've been thinking for a while that when I had some downtime I'd buy a month's full subscription and get stuck into more research. My te reo classes don't start for another couple of weeks and mating is finished and so why not? I paid some money this morning and off I went again.
My favourite relative so far has been a woman who arrived in Canterbury in early 1869 on the Mermaid, who, two years later, married my GGGG-Grandfather a few months after his first wife had died on the same day as the birth of her ninth child.
I can trace my GGGG-Grandmother back to her family in England and have even found DNA-matched distant cousins related through one of her brothers. But her husband is an elusive character before his 1857 first marriage and I can find no record of him anywhere. He may have changed his name, as it appears many people did for various reasons. It seems they were not as well-connected to their official identities as we have become used to being in modern times.
By the end of today I had concluded I need to have a look at everyone with the surname Craig, to see if I can find a gap into which he might fit. I have very quickly developed a potentially unhealthy obsession!