Meet Flora McFauna, born late afternoon on Thursday 11 October, about five minutes before we wandered up the hill to find out why her mum didn't seem interested in the hay we'd brought.
The mother, Senga, had already been mated before she arrived at Muntanui in February but we weren't entirely sure she was pregnant. Although she was bulging a bit at the sides, it didn't seem to be by enough (not that we'd know, rank amateurs in animal husbandry that we are).
As it turned out, dear Senga was indeed in calf. At the appointed time, she took care of business very quietly and efficiently by herself and then lay down to have a little 'her' time. When we went to check on her and spied the brown bundle lying on the ground in front, we initially thought the calf was dead. Farmer Wan started swearing quietly. After a minute or so, the calf moved, waved a leg in the air, rolled over and stood up. Joy!
There was a fair bit of gunk still hanging out of Senga. Thinking she might have partially prolapsed, I took some very graphic photos that I won't disturb you by sharing, and emailed them to the vet. He identified the mess as "membranes" and said there was nothing to worry about unless she got sick.
Mother and calf are both doing very well, especially considering the gales, rain and snow they had to put up with over the weekend. By rights, that should be the end of the nail-biting where baby animals are concerned, although our heifer calf, Sonsie, is now looking suspiciously bulgy in her own right. I'm hoping that's more to do with the good hay she's been eating than the amorous activities of Hamish the bull but I guess time will tell.
On the subject of Hamish, yesterday was his third birthday. Given that he's recently taken to spitting out the carrots we bring him, he didn't get anything special to mark the occasion. Farmer Wan and I, however, treated ourselves to a bottle of champagne. This had nothing at all to do with Hamish's birthday; yesterday also happened to be our eighth wedding anniversary. If anyone had told us on that Friday afternoon at Brisbane's Customs House in 2004 that we'd end up back in New Zealand, learning to farm and trying to live sustainably, we'd have laughed them out of the room. I guess the joke's on us... and what a brilliant joke it's turning out to be!
Posted by Farmer Nik
Last month, a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign designed to lure Aussie tourists back to Christchurch was launched across the ditch and online. The mockumentary-style ads centre around Christchurch mayor Bob Parker's quest to borrow one of Australia's iconic "big things" to use as bait, thereby enticing Lucky Country residents to visit Christchurch and spend some dosh.
There's been a good-natured response from an Australian businesswoman, who's offered to ship the "big thing" over to Aotearoa once Bob has managed to acquire it.
It's all good fun and I hope the campaign works ... but NZ does actually have a few big things of its own, most of which its own people (myself included) don't know a heck of a lot about.
On the "big sculpture" side, we have the big salmon of Rakaia, the big brown trout of Gore and assorted fruit, animals and soft drink bottles dotted around the country. On the "lesser-known but still big" front, there's the giant weta, the Nelson cave spider and the beautiful, carnivorous land snail, Powelliphanta.
There's also this:
It's a leaf-veined slug, endemic to New Zealand. I had no idea these even existed until I saw this guy having a rest on the cover of our worm farm. I've since learned there are about 30 species of native slug and they all have the leaf-vein pattern on their backs.
These slugs eat algae and fungi; they're not harmful to garden plants. They're also nocturnal, so it was a surprise to see this one out in the late afternoon. I gave it a very gentle prod with a stick (you don't seriously think I'd actually TOUCH it with my HAND, do you?! My scientific curiosity only stretches so far) but it didn't respond, so it might've been dead. It was gone by the next morning.
I grabbed a plant punnet to put behind it and give it some scale. It's a damn sight bigger than your common, garden-variety destroyer of lettuces:
So there you are: the leaf veined slug. While I can't see Bob Parker rushing to include them in any tourism campaign (unless he's targeting entomologists), these molluscs are important members of the local ecosystem and it's great to know they're doin' their sluggy thang here at Muntanui.
Posted by Farmer Nik
About Ewan and Niki
Scottish mechanical engineer with a deep and abiding passion for good food. Outstanding cook. Builder of lots of stuff. Cattle whisperer. Connoisseur of beer. A lover rather than a fighter.
Kiwi writer and broadcaster who hates cabbage, even though she knows it's good for her. Chook wrangler. Grower of food and flowers. Maker of fine preserves. Lover of dancing and wine. Definitely a fighter.