Fortunately the day dawned relatively clear! No rain! We had no plans to go anywhere other than the farm, so I didn’t even put my watch on.
There was a sign up in the shed that referred to the bovine TB possum control program that had recently been carried out in the area. Unfortunately the possum population has exploded in New Zealand since they were introduced from Australia in 1837 to create a fur trade. They have no natural predators here, and have become New Zealand’s most damaging animal pest (they are a protected species in Australia). From this website: When possums eat a plant’s flowers, the nectar and fruit are reduced. The few berries that grow are also eaten. In one study, an entire crop of kaikōmako berries was eaten in a few nights. Another study revealed that possums ate some 60% of hīnau berries. They rob native birds, bats, lizards and insects of food. By feeding selectively, possums have radically altered the makeup of forests. In the 1960s, possums opened up large tracts of forest in the Ruahine Range to invading scrub. They have eaten nearly all of the rātā trees from the Aorangi Range, and have almost wiped out mistletoes in the North Island. Large stretches of Westland forest are dotted with possum-killed rātā and kāmahi. When possums are eradicated, as they have been on Kapiti Island, the bush regenerates. Possums also eat insects, bats, birds and their eggs and nestlings. They drive native animals out of their dens and nesting sites.
Possums also act as a vector carrying bovine tuberculosis to farmed cattle and deer herds. Control operations aerially apply baits containing sodium fluoroacetate to defined areas. This keeps possum numbers down low enough to keep livestock free from disease and maintain the reputation of New Zealand’s dairy, beef and deer products.
Craig farms cattle. He has a couple of pigs, there’s a horse nearby, a few chooks, and there are also wild turkeys. His property is quite a decent size and the topography is just marvellous. When he appeared with the tractor and trailer we jumped aboard and headed off to explore the farm.
These cattle were feeding a few calves each. Stella was given a quick milking demonstration, much to her disgust! It’s funny seeing how kids react to different things. As a general rule she adores animals (I’m fairly certain that she’ll become a vegetarian before too long) and wants to find out more about them – but there are some things they do that she just doesn’t like! She also doesn’t like animal skulls or skins being around, which can be problematic!
There is a delightful little one-roomed cabin on the property that overlooks the river. It has solar power and will eventually have it’s own water supply, all off the grid. Just perfect for a romantic getaway or for someone who enjoys solitude and possibly trout fishing.
There was great variety in vegetation. Loads of different types of grasses and flowers mixed together, in addition to a plethora of bush and tree types. There was also mint growing along the track that released a glorious scent as we drove over and past it.
For the kids the most fun was getting the opportunity to ‘drive’ the tractor! They did quite a bit of steering – I was rather impressed. They were very proud of themselves.
Down at the river we collected pieces of pumice. Pumice is a light-coloured, extremely porous igneous rock that forms during explosive volcanic eruptions. It is used as aggregate in lightweight concrete, as landscaping aggregate, and as an abrasive in a variety of industrial and consumer products. And as you can see, it’s also very light – actually it is often so full of air bubbles that it can float!
As you can see from the photos the day cleared up beautifully. So much so that I actually got a bit sunburnt! Everywhere I looked there was another delightful vista.
Once we returned it was back to the shed! The kids amused themselves pretending to be sheep and running up and down from the top level of the shearing shed to the bottom. There was also the chance to do more calf patting. Clare also had the opportunity to demonstrate the knot tying skills she’d learned at Girl Guides – you never know when they will come in handy!
Underneath the shearing shed was a rifle range. I am generally pretty anti-gun and am a strong advocate of Australia’s strict gun control measures, but can appreciate that some people enjoy using them in controlled sporting environments and that others – generally farmers – have a need for them in their work. So in the end the whole family had a go at shooting the target.
Well, who’d have thought – it appears that I am a natural! Maybe it’s all that focus on keeping my hands steady gained from years of sewing.
I’m really not a natural at pool. I do generally manage to make the white ball hit another ball – and sometimes I even manage to hit them into the pocket – but I’ll never been known for my skills in this area. The kids ran around outside playing games that weren’t too difficult to translate from Australian terms and rules into those found in New Zealand and vice versa. It was fun watching Clare play enthusiastically with the younger kids too. She often prefers to spend her time in adult company, but was pretty happy out there with the others as the sun began to set! It was a magical day.