It feels funny down on the farm this afternoon, with nearly all the cattle Over the Road on the hill. Down here are only Zella, Imagen, their two calves and three bulls. But it's always lovely to see the cows spread over that face when they have lots of feed there to eat.
One of the live-capture traps waiting for a passing feral cat. The traps are always set (unless we know we're not going to be able to check them within 24 hours) and every now and then they catch something. Out here it's often a possum but this trap, baited with a budgie which had to be dispatched due to illness, has caught a number of feral cats. I was surprised how willingly animals go into traps facing downhill, having assumed they'd be more willing to climb up into an enclosed space; but of course holes usually go down.
I check the cattle Over the Road daily. It's a nice walk when you're fit and healthy.
During an earlier check I couldn't find two of the calves, one of them being head-injured 828, who I particularly wanted to see. I'm checking him daily to ensure he's still recovering ok. This time I found him first, in this picture quietly grazing.
We went out to have a look at Route 356 and drove right up to the very end! I don't think either of us really believed we'd ever be able to get to here.
The point of this consultation visit was to decide where the trough would go and to think a bit more about an idea we've had to address a water problem when the main system isn't working.
When we put the big tank in, we hadn't given enough consideration to the relative altitudes around the farm. We pushed it right up the hill in the Tank paddock, so we thought it would fill all the troughs. But it doesn't because, to our great surprise, where it sits is actually lower than the back of the farm. The tank is at 81m above sea level, so the top of the stored water is perhaps at about 83m at the most; the trough in the Back Barn paddock is around ten metres higher. That means the big tank will supply troughs only as far back as the Mushroom paddocks and on the other side, the Blackberry (I think, need to check again next time the water's off). There are no obvious alternative sites for the 30,000 litre tank because of the difficulty of moving it around and the expense of piping to and away from it again so even though we didn't plan entirely well, we still couldn't have done much differently. But we could now augment the system by installing a smaller tank out here, a few metres up the hill from the Middle Back trough.
The plan is to install a 5,000 litre tank (small enough to cart up here on the firewood trailer), which will fill from the main system and permanently supply the Middle Back trough, so that the tank water is regularly cycled to prevent stagnation. We'll install a tap up here and one down where the main line splits for the flats so that when we need to fill the troughs at the back of the farm, we can do so from the new tank but not have that water ending up in the main tank, which is 30m or so lower than here, nor needlessly supply the troughs which are below the main tank.
I stood and watched as Stephan backed the ute back down the very steep last bit of the track. This is all so exciting!
Then in preparation for a big metal truck coming tomorrow, Stephan went back to continue grading Route 356 and afterwards, did some work in the Bush Flat lane as well, where we may get some metal spread if there's time before it rains.
Fortunately I was in the house when Ryan rang and said he could come out with a load of lime for the paddocks, while he was waiting for someone's fertilizer to arrive in town. I went in the truck with him, out to the Back Barn and then up the first steep slopes of the Spring. I told him I'd only scream a bit if he frightened me. Those trucks can negotiate some scary places!
Stephan, after doing as much as he could to the track, took the thumper up the Big Back North track and over into the PW to thump as many posts as he could at the top of the gully before the rain, so he'd not have to dig too many more in. I could hear him clattering and clanging up over the lumpy bits of the hilly track from back at the house.
Zella seems like a terrible mother: this morning after Stephan had finished milking her, she walked off up the track to the paddock, completely ignoring her calf. There must have been something both cows wanted to go back to quite quickly, since neither fed their calves by the shed in their usual manner.
There were a number of Koekoea, Long-tailed Cuckoos, in the trees this morning. It must be northward migration time for them again. They have a loud and distinctive call and I couldn't see a single one of them, despite looking for ages.
At 8am the first truck-load of lime rock arrived and was followed during the day by another eight loads. The expected rain held off for a lot longer than we thought it might and even when it was falling out at the main road, there was still only the occasional, passing light shower here, so Russell kept on coming in.
I anticipated his return on this occasion and positioned myself above the track to photograph him coming around the corner, such a large vehicle in this place I so clearly remember as a rough cattle track through the trees alongside the swamp.
Wanting to get this bit done well before it got at all slippery, I watched Russell spread a load up that really steep incline. I wasn't sure if he'd be able to and he did say it was a bit hairy backing down, but there it is.
Then we had to leave Russell to it on his own for a couple of loads while we dashed off to town to see a physiotherapist about Stephan's sore knee.
By the end of the day there was metal half-way along the Bush Flat track as well and the rain had only just begun to make things a little too slippery to carry on. We got further than we expected, so we're pretty happy about it all.
Where's the money coming from? Who knows. I'm going to worry about that later. At the moment I'm looking at it a bit like an expensive toll call to someone you know is dying: it's expensive but once they're dead, there's no amount you can pay to make the call. Here, once it rains, there's no amount we could pay to get the metal on.
As he doesn't feel he's really done anything stupid to hurt his knee, Stephan refuses to stop and rest it, although pain eventually beat him into submission.
I took this picture because the bulls were all watching him work.
I went to town to take part in the International Women's Day event I've been involved in organising. It was not a huge hit. But I had some very nice conversations with some lovely people during the day, which was about all I'd decided to hope for. The organisational skill of those with whom I'd been meeting for several months had been less than inspirational. Hopefully we can cause something meaningful to come from the day with the contacts we made there.
A mob of 91 cattle needs moving around rather more often than smaller mobs do, so they're off again, out of the Tank and Camp paddocks after only 24 hours to the Small Hill for the night.
There was some heavy rain last night and with heavy rain warnings coming thick and fast by email again today, we decided to move the sheep from the flood-prone peninsula on which they usually live.
It's nice when Madam Goose comes with them, although Piggy might be a bit lonely without them in the paddock. She does still have the regular company of a number of Pukeko which jump in and out of her enclosure to feed on things she hasn't eaten.
Stephan and Christina's second cousin John came to visit us today. We met his older sister and mother, Elisabeth and Nora, several years ago when Muriel was still alive. Christina's and Stephan's grandmother, Eveline, and John's grandfather, Charles, were siblings.
We all had lunch together and then took John and the friends with whom he'd been staying, out for a bit of a wander and drive around the farm.
We took John, and friends Jenny and John, out to the Bush Flat reserve, for a walk through the big trees. It's lovely having patches of regenerating bush which are easily accessible to take people for such rambles.
The Koekoea were still in the trees around the Mushroom paddocks this morning. It sounded like there were several. I've only ever heard one on its own before, I think, and have only ever managed to see them if they fly when I'm looking.
With rain falling, the river rising and more rain forecast, we made a quick trip to town for Stephan's physio appointment and dashed home again, relieved to be able to get all the way back.
Floss likes rain, letting it fall in through her feathers and presumably right onto her soft skin. She doesn't seem to like bathing in any kind of container and runs away if I put her near the shower, but rain is good.
The streams did come up and over the bridge but it wasn't too much of a flood.
When I moved the cows out of the Mushroom paddocks (I had given them 1 and 2, since they're such a big mob) I counted only 89 out of the gate and was fairly sure I'd not miscounted. When I started walking in to have a look in the trees up the far end, there was a moo from the corner of Mushroom 2 and there were two calves, two little heifers who must have been whispering secrets to each other and not noticed everyone else leaving!
They were confused for a couple of minutes about where to go and then galloped down to the gate and across Mushroom 1. It wasn't until I looked at the photos that I could see how much water was lying around.