Exploring Hawke’s Bay

cornwall park hastings

It’s nice being in a new place and a bit farther from the South Pole. It feels warmer than it did in Blenheim, even though we’re heading into the worst of winter. A few days after my 47th birthday, we happened upon Cornwall Park in Hastings with more of my favourite old, creepy trees. This one though, had something I hadn’t seen before…an unmanned atrium loaded with orchids, lilies, hibiscus and other tropical plants. There were cameras in operation, though.

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

It also had an Asian flair to it.

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

I always have to get a shot of those trees!

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

We took another drive out to Cape Kidnappers and walked farther this time, along the beach. I love looking for things along the beach and since most coastlines are deserted, you can often see some interesting stuff.
cape kidnappers

cape kidnappers

I had always thought the term ‘hairy muscle’ was just some kind of weird Kiwi humour. Nope…it’s for real! This was one of many that were scattered along the beach. A green lipped mussel with…well…hair…kind of.

cape kidnappers

This sign is meant to catch your eye…at first all I read was ‘dead children’. There’s that Kiwi humour!

The cliffs were stunning and I wished I could remember back to my geology class what these different striations meant.

cape kidnappers
Waterfall carved into the hill
cape kidnappers
Looks like a violent move here

cape kidnappers

At the bottom of this cliff was a dead sheep. It’s not unusual to see, actually. We pondered if another one of her sheep ‘buddies’ pushed her over. This was about the time we turned back.

cape kidnappers
Sheep not getting too close to the edge

cape kidnappers

There’s a gannet colony at the end of that point. The only way to get there is to walk the beach (and check the tide chart!) or by tractor tours.

This was one interesting thing I saw, thinking it might have been ambergris which could have been a great find. With all of the whales in New Zealand, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. I did not take it home though for some reason. When I researched it, this was probably a sponge, as can be seen by the small holes next to that rock. It didn’t look like a normal ‘sponge’ I’m used to seeing but it may have been fresh. Of course, I’ll never really know.

cape kidnappers

Walking back to the car was this lovely old character home with a small windbreak to protect it from the constant breeze off the ocean.

cape kidnappers

A gum tree caught my eye as well. I love how the bark is different colours and as others have mentioned, looks like a tattoo.

cape kidnappers gum tree

cape kidnappers gum tree

A week later, we headed to the Hasting’s farmer’s market where I grabbed a huge bag of habanero’s for $6 and some lemons. This bunch of silver beets caught my eye with their gorgeous rainbow colours. At first I thought it was rhubarb.

hastings farmer's market

I also found a persimmon tree down the street from where we were staying!

persimmon tree new zealand

You know I’m a sucker for fog and I took advantage of the photo ops one morning around the farm.

A pukeko looked for breakfast and squawked to his buddies while the teenage cows minded their own business.

pukeko in the mist

Fast forward slightly to my now current home of Waipukurau (Waipuk for short). We drove up to a lookout and I was finally able to get a photo of the Oreo cow (Belted Galloway) next to a spotted pig. I see a lot of these cows around New Zealand. I’m waiting to find one with multiple black and white stripes one day!

We went to a sandy beach about 25 minutes from here which was deserted. But on the way there were some interesting sights and fantastic scenery. There are things in New Zealand I’ve never seen elsewhere, like these pink ponds which are actually algae.

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

Then we were stopped by a mob of sheep hogging up the entire road (not to mention on a 100km/h stretch of it!). Andy was patiently driving behind them as I urged him to just push on past and they’d get out of the way. We knew the farmer was around the bend waiting for them. A local drove up behind us and waited for a bit, before doing what I had suggested. Moving far over to the left and driving slowly, the sheep scattered out of the way and we could then pass.

A few minutes later, for a fleeting moment I saw giraffes on the top of a hill! Obviously fake, but pretty realistic from a distance, I told him he had to try and stop somewhere on the way back for a picture.

metal giraffes new zealand

Once we made it to Pourerere Beach, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared briefly. We walked along the beach and I found a lot of cool shells.

pourerere beach

A lot of kelp (seaweed?) littered the beach. The waves were pretty rough and the feet of the kelp looked like they had been ripped out quite forcibly.

pourerere beach

pourerere beachpourerere beachpourerere beach

We’ll be seeing more of the upper North Island in December for a mini-road trip. It’ll be great getting out to the sandy beaches in the summer and may finally change my mind about the weather in New Zealand. At least I hope it will!pourerere beach

 

 

The Miracle of Birth

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It was a cold day, rain looked imminent across the sky and the wind was blowing from the south (which down here means the Antarctic). The sun peeked out for a while and we were on our way to go help a cow give birth. I was warned beforehand things could go wrong. Terribly wrong, for mother and calf. I knew that before being told, but decided I might regret not going and I also wanted to photograph whatever happened.

We found every cow except the one we wanted to. I think they were just about to give up when IMG_3500Rosa located her. With some strategic ATV and truck driving, they managed to get her into a pen. I could see two feet sticking out of her, not knowing if the calf was dead or alive. They wrangled her into a holding chute so she couldn’t move and wrapped a rope around the calf’s feet. Rosa tied the rope off about 4 feet from where Bill stood behind the cow. He stepped on the rope to try and pull the calf out, but it still wouldn’t come. More tightening of the rope and more pulling got the calf out half way, tongue sticking out looking as if it was choking. I noticed the calf was still breathing, but he didn’t look strong or hopeful.

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Bill rushed to the ATV…they would have to tie the rope to the back and pull it out all of the way. He ran off, stating there wasn’t much time…it might die. He backed into the pen, Rosa tied the rope to the hitch and he slowly pulled up. The calf came sliding out as the mother let out painful cries. The calf lay there on the cold concrete not moving, but at least its eyes were open. It was still breathing, but not fast (and what do I know, maybe they don’t breathe fast). They dragged him out onto the grass and we all got out of the way as the mother was let out of the holding chute. She stumbled, literally weak in the knees, around the pen. She almost seemed paralyzed a bit and I thought she would fall on the calf. Eventually she righted herself and started taking an interest in the cold, wet baby lying there helplessly.

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Rosa turned to me and said, “You realize they both would have died had we not intervened.” I shook my head in acknowledgement. Just another day at the office for these amazing folks. Apparently I stayed more quiet than usual, not really knowing what to say. It was a wonderful experience and I’m glad that I was there to witness it. We would leave them there and check on them again in the morning to see how they both fared.

IMG_3571The next day, it was cold and rainy. Bill and I went back to check on them and the track was very slippery and muddy. At one point he mentioned that had he known it was that bad, he wouldn’t have taken the truck. It felt like we were driving on ice, and seeing how steep the ravine was with nothing to hold us from going over it, added a little excitement to my morning. “Ahhhh, danejah!” I said in a New Zealand accent, and we both laughed. The great little 4WD Toyota did its job and we got to them in one piece. I noticed the mother still standing and luckily the calf was alive and sitting down. IMG_3568

Bill went over to him and smacked him on the sides of the stomach to get him to stand. He wouldn’t do it. He tried again, and nothing. He pulled him up by the tail and the ear and finally he started to walk around. Looking better than he did yesterday, it was a good sign that they both seemed well. He let them out into the paddock to face the cold day ahead.

 

Life and Death on the Farm

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Another frosty morning on the farm

It’s lambing and calving time here. The dairy cows have been birthing for the past week or so, with a new calf almost daily, it seems. They are mighty cute…one has a little heart shaped white spot on its forehead. They’re soft and perfect, with the shiniest little hooves I’ve ever seen. They like to sleep in the sun and their dark hair absorbs the heat as they snooze silently, without a care in the world.

IMG_3098The calves can, however, pick up something called the scours from the ground by sleeping on it too much. It can end up killing them if you’re not careful. I really don’t want that to happen while I’m here, but Rosa tells me that she sees the signs of it on a couple so far. I’ve gotten some insight into the mass cow production that takes place in the ‘real world’. She told me that calves are taken away from their mothers a day or two after birth just so people can have milk to drink. The little ones then go to ‘the works’ so they can be processed for veal. Sigh….

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The sheep are heavy in lamb, as they say around here. Some have had their babies already and others have simply not made it through to birthing. I mentioned before about sheep being cast (fallen or laid down and can’t get up again) and I came across my first few the other day. When I went to look for a new calf in the paddock, I cut through where some sheep were grazing. I saw the calf, then turned to walk back home. I passed a large rock outcropping and there she was…a pregnant sheep on her side, legs sticking out and missing her eyes. The gulls got to her and it was exactly as I had thought it would be from Rosa’s description. Sad, horrifying and depressing. I went around every rock to make sure no others were awaiting the same fate. I didn’t see any that were cast and alive, but I did see the remains of a couple that had been dead for a while.

Today, we went to muster up some other sheep to give them vaccinations. We had to separate the babies from the mob and somehow also find their mothers to keep them nearby. As we were moving them up the track, we saw a baby with a female, but I was told it probably wasn’t its mother. The sheep had fallen over and was too heavy and weak to make the walk, so she was put on the back of the ATV and I got to hold the lamb in the truck. Lambs are hard to catch and when we can’t, a dog goes after them instead, tackling it to the ground and being a little too rough for my taste. That’s what happened with this one. The dog chased it, grabbed it by its neck and pinned it down. The lamb screamed out and I felt the need to be ‘mom’ for a while and comfort it. Bill went over to retrieve it and I asked if I could hold onto it. It was the most darling thing. Soft little chin, fluffy coat and eyes that were barely open. I noticed a little blood in its mouth, surely from the rough up it got minutes before. My hand cupped around the tiny rib cage and her heart was beating so fast, I couldn’t even keep count.

Once we got the sheep to the paddock and a few females in with their babies, I was told to let the little one go to see if it could find mom. The poor little thing walked up and down the fence line, yelling out just waiting to be found. No mom came. Rosa thought that maybe it didn’t have a mom or else they were separated when we were drafting them out. The decision was made to put the lamb back around where we found it and wish for the best. Hopefully it did have a mom and it will live a long, healthy life.

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Goats making a run for it!

As we brought the other mob back home and crested a hill, we saw about 50 goats in the turnip patch. Rosa was not happy. Goats are a pest here and I often hear of Bill and the boys going out goat hunting. The goats sort of herded themselves in with the sheep and ended up in the yard, behind closed fences. We had to vaccinate all of those sheep and trying to keep the goats out of the way was a challenge. Rosa managed to put a bunch into the sheep shed but some stayed in the mob. One in particular got spooked and ran fast toward a gate at the end of the paddock. It looked as if it thought it could ram right through it, but instead it broke its neck and couldn’t move after hitting the ground.  “He just buggered himself,” Rosa said. I walked up to it, already knowing its fate. It was still alive, looking at me from an unnatural angle.  I saw Rosa walking to the truck and I knew what was coming. For some reason, I expected to see her walking back with a gun, but as I passed her, it was a knife she had. I didn’t want to be around but was still within ear shot as I heard the goat cry out with its last breath and then it went silent.

The future of the other goats in the shed isn’t likely positive either. There are too many goats, hogs, rabbits and hares around here for the farmers’ taste. They take food from their stock and are seen as pests. They’ve told me that the hogs will eat baby lambs during the night. One year, they took so many that they had to do a massive hunt to try and curb their population. They had to just shoot them on sight and leave them there. It’s not as bad now, but it’s a loss they have to factor in unfortunately. I can’t imagine how horrified a little lamb would be, but again, it’s life on the farm. One would like to think that nothing bad ever happens, but nature isn’t that kind.

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Mustering Up Some Inspiration

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We rode out to muster the cattle (or round ’em up, as they say in Texas) the other day. This time I opted to ride in the truck with Bill instead of on the ATV (bike) since it makes me too cold. The back deck of the bike isn’t padded and I have to hang on to what looks like a tail pipe sticking out of the side in order to not fall off. The ride is bouncy and we blaze through mud puddles and precariously close to edges of cliffs, but rest assured, she is a good driver.

We drive in the truck until we can go no further. We all pile onto the bike, close yet another gate behind us and go to a section where the cattle should be. The sun is out and the day looks clear. You can see for miles over the hills and the snow is slowly starting to melt off of the top of the mountain range. She lets Bill off to go find cattle on the Dark Side. I like the name of that section. It’s funny to hear them talk about it. “There’s a mob of sheep on the Dark Side.” I wonder just how evil those sheep are out there. There is also Butt Cheek Hill, the Solar Panel and Volcano Ridge to name a few.

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Looking out toward the Dark Side

Bill takes a long handled flat head axe with him. I wonder why, but don’t ask. Rosa and I ride up the track a bit and she says she will go muster the cattle down below and that I can wait up here. I’m happy to hear that, as I now have some alone time and can sit in the sun IMG_2935 and warm up. As I look up the hill in back of me, the sky is once again an impossible blue. A few cows near the top slowly meander toward the rest of the herd, as if bothered by the fact they have to move at all. The tan color of the tussock and the dark scrub brush on the hill contrast beautifully with the sky. The clouds are breaking up into patches and it reminds me very much of the wool on a sheep’s back.

I take this opportunity to walk up the track a bit to see if I can find some photo ops. The curve in the road seems to promise more beyond it.  I think about how barren this area looks and remember Rosa saying this place hasn’t changed at all in 100 years. I feel very alone, but quite content to be. I feel like I’m the only creature that has walked this ground. Yet, as I look around me, it appears that absolutely no part of this land has gone untouched. I can’t walk without seeing droppings from the sheep or cattle. No matter how far up or down the hillside I go, it is there. There are bones scattered in spots and later in the day, we came across a sheep carcass on the track which hadn’t been there a couple days ago.

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We could see out to the ocean from here

It is quiet except for the many birds I hear singing. They sound happy…maybe it’s the chill wearing off or it is coming into mating season. The sun is getting warm and I decide the tussocks look to be a pretty comfortable seat while sporting a gorgeous view in front of me.  I take off the heavy coat and sling it on top of the tall grass and lean back into it. There is another small tussock right in front of me for my feet. I look up at the sky and the sun warms my lips. The black top I have on soaks in the heat. It’s a good day to be alive. I look beside me and am again reminded that I was not the only one to be in this spot. A twig is poking up out of the ground with a bit of wool stuck to the end of it gently waving in the breeze. IMG_2971lo

I hear the bike in the distance coming back for me and I stand up to take notice of the herd. They are far off in the distance all standing together for once. There might be about 50 of them. It seems to me they are much harder to muster than sheep, but I’m told it’s the other way around. It feels we have been out for a long time and covered a lot of ground to only have rounded up 50 cattle.

Rosa asks if I had seen where Bill walked, which I hadn’t. She pointed to the Dark Side and moved her finger across the land all the way to where I saw the herd of cattle.  It probably took him a couple of hours or more. We all met up and mustered them into different paddocks. Bill leans on his axe while he and Rosa talk about where to put the cattle and try to determine the total count. Experience shows on their faces and clothes. They’ve been farming practically all their lives. It’s a dying business, I’m told. Their concerns about growing older and wondering if their son will take over the farm  lingers on their minds. Their income is mostly obtained from selling lambs and wool. They sometimes contract people to do work on the farm which comes at a steep price. I often wonder how they get by.

Turnip patch
Turnip patch

Even with all of the work that must be done during the day, I’m amazed at what good parents they are. They have two boys and a daughter in boarding school in Dunedin, who comes home on the weekends. They are caring and concerned, teaching the boys manners and encouraging them to do their best in school and sports. They never appeared bothered when one of the boys interrupts them with a question and they always take the time to answer thoroughly. They maintain a sense of humor along with the discipline young kids seem to always need. They are a stellar example of what parents should be. I am happy to be here with them all and able to experience this unique, yet dying lifestyle.