A tiger's fear

This image was taken at the old Moore Park Zoo in Sydney New South Wales Australia. The zoo was at the time, being criticised through the newspapers of the day, for the poor conditions the animals were being kept in. Two tigers were imported one in 1910, then a further male tiger in 1911. Which animal this tiger is, at this stage can't be ascertained. I'm going to look further into their status and see if possible what happened to both big cats. Moore Park was later closed, and replaced with Taronga Park Zoological Gardens which still exists to this day. This is a powerful reminder of a now declining tiger population. This animal was most likely captured in the wild. Perth Zoo in Western Australia did have a record of tiger cubs being born at its facility, but I believe most likely this is one the two male tigers imported by Moore Park Zoo I mentioned earlier.  

Filed for future reference - Cat

"After scolding one's cat one looks into its face and is seized by the ugly suspicion that it understood every word. And has filed it for reference."- Charlotte Gray

I can relate to the above quote by Charlotte Gray. I had a bench cat the other day. The kind of cat that waits until one's back is turned ,before she strikes, and raids the unwary packet of sausages we had intended to be our dinner.

I was clawed accordingly yesterday by her hooky claws in my leg. Offences against cat are indeed filed for future reference. In accordance the stupid idiot human will in future avoid leaving sausages on the bench to thaw if they want to avoid the wrath of cat in times yet to come. Ouchy.....!


What Miss Greedy Wants - Miss Greedy gets!

She is greedy very greedy. Likes her bottle does little Miss Lily. A couple of days ago she was weaned. Not impressed at all. I took these photos a couple of weeks ago. It was her bottle time then so she was trying to look extra cute. Now there is no bottle so now it's I want my feed bucket now! Moo every afternoon. She's leaving us soon to go to a new home where she will be very much loved. I guess she will have a calf in a couple of years time. My girls have to be BVD tested before I put them calf. River has had one calf and he was healthy. The Terrorist has yet to be put in calf I've held off for a while because she wasn't big enough to have mated to the bull. She's grown quite a bit in the last few months so now I may consider bringing in the bull once I've had the girls tested. Hope everyone had a great Christmas. We sure did.!

A Rose by any other name

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare 1600

A few weeks ago I spotted this gorgeous climbing rose over an arbour outside a heritage villa in Warkworth. I couldn't resist taking some photographs. Hope you like them as much I enjoyed seeing such a beautiful rose. 


Dark Stealth - Mandla the black leopard

When you see him, it's too easy to be taken by his graceful movements, and his stunning colouring. This is Mandla. His name means "The Powerful One". He is the most dangerous big cat at Zion, where I photographed him just before he had his dinner. In the USA, leopards like Mandla are kept as pets. People are too easily taken in by the cute cubs, unscrupulous so called 'breeders' put up for sale, and then try to claim it's for conservation. Selling big cats for pets is NOT conservation. It is for nothing more than profit and for greed. For a few years, that so called 'pet leopard' may seem to be 'tame', but no matter how supposedly tame or appealing , these cats are still wild animals. They are born with the instincts given to them by millions of years of existence. It's in their genetic makeup - and that is to hunt and to kill prey. More than one person, who have foolishly kept leopards as pets in their homes, have either ended up seriously injured, or in same tragic cases dead. 

In New Zealand, you are not allowed to keep leopards like house pets. If you want to have a leopard, then you have to keep it in a MAF approved containment facility with an approved Operator - as in a zoo. That's how it should be. Leopards in the wild are becoming increasingly endangered. If you want to see one, then go to your local zoo. Don't support these greedy profiteering, so called private 'breeders 'who have no interest in the conserving of a species. Leopards are not pets and never should be treated as pets. If you see cute leopard cubs being used as props for photographs for tourists, then be very sad for them. In year or so later on, those same little cubs will be possibly used in canned hunts. It's common in Africa, and it also happens in the USA. So think long and hard about the words I've written. Leopards belong to Mother Nature not to man.


The Lion's Bride

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19140115-52-4
Taken from the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 15 JANUARY 1914 p052

Above: Image of famous Czech Soprano Emmy Destinn with Hercules the lion and an unnamed lady lion trainer from Hagenbeck’s Zoo. Destinn sang the Aria Kennst du das Land (Score by Beethoven) from ‘Mignon’ Composed by Ambroise Thomas. For the Selig Production (USA) “The Lion’s Bride”. The image was taken in November of 1913 with the film released in 1914.

In 1913 famous soprano Emmy Destinn[1] stepped into a cage of 10 lions[2] which was reduced to just four being one male and four females)[3] for the Selig Polyscope Company’s film production “The Lion’s Bride”[4]. Destinn sang the aria “Kennst du das land?”[5] from Act 1 of the Ambroise Thomas’[6] opera “Mignon”[7]. It was reported Destinn was paid over £2,500, and was insured for £25,000 against death or injury while in the cage with a lion.[8]

"The Lion's Bride" Oil on Canvas 1908 by Gabriel Cornelius Ritter Von Max

Destinn played the leading role of the main character “Mignon”[9] in the film which was inspired by the 1908 painting “The Lion’s Bride”[10] by Czech painter Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max (August 23, 1840 – November 24, 1915).

A sypnosis of the film is as follows:

“The Lion’s Bride” Film
 Release Date: 1914
 “This Selig production was inspired by a famous painting of the era, also titled ~The Lion's Bride. Although she loves another, the daughter of an evil baron has been promised in marriage to an ancient count. With the help of the count's jester, the girl and her lover are able to elope. Interrupting the wedding, the count grabs the heroine and tosses her into a den of lions, where she presumably ends up as the "blue plate special." Her vengeful lover then kills the count, as the extras react in horror, and the canvas scenery flaps in the wind. The original The Lion's Bride was also the source for a key scene in Cecil B. DeMille's Male and Female (1919).”
 ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi [11]

The scene was shot on location at the Potsdam suburb of Neu Babelsberg [12]  in Germany around circa November of 1913. Destinn was required to enter an enclosure containing ten lions, which had been supplied by Carl Hagenbeck’s Zoo for the purpose. Also in attendance was an un-named ‘lady lion tamer’ and a man described as ‘small and wirey’ who were also both from Hagenbeck’s. According to one report an audience of 100 people were in attendance to witness the scene that unfolded.

According to Destinn in an interview after the event the lions in the enclosure had become unsettled when she had begun to sing, accompanied by the music of Beethoven’s[13] score[14] to the aria[15]Kennst du das land(?)”:

At any rate, Hagenbeck's lions, lent for the purposes of a film recording Madame Destinn's acting, declined to-day to be soothed by the world-famous voice. A great crowd gathered to see Madame Destinn in the lions' den, but the beautiful aria which the film supposes her to sing, Beethovens "Kennst du das Land," was performed at a very respectful distance by the gramophone, and Madam, Destinn was promptly reminded of many inaccurate quotations of Congreve's verse when, as soon as she began to sing, the lions began to growl I noticed," said Madame Destinn, "that as soon as I began to emphasise the notes my lion started to growl. You can guess that I cut it out quickly."[16]

It was required by the producers of the film[17], that one of the lions should be induced to lie on top of the grand piano, that had been placed in the enclosure for that purpose. In due course, one of the male lions named ‘Hercules’, was induced to climb on top of the instrument where he lay down, with forepaws hanging over the keyboard. The lady lion trainer,, had then sat down at the piano, in order to ensure the lion did not attack Destinn.

 A lady tamer sat down on the piano stool, obviously for the first time in her life, to act the role of accompanist, and incidently to keep an eye on the sleeping monarch, while a wiry little man from Hagenbeck's, who treated the lions just as if they had been so many rabbits or guinea-pigs, was very much on the alert, just out of the line of fire of the battery of cameras that were turned on the centre of the cage. These preparations completed, Madame Destinn stepped into the cage quite unconcernedly, and, hardly casting a glance at the animals, took up her station within two or three feet of the lion on the top of the piano. Then the signal was given, the films began to rattle, and the great singer opened her lips.[18]

After the performance Destinn was then induced (somewhat unwillingly), to place an arm around Hercules’ neck, and pose for the photographers. Destinn walked away from her difficult scene without any incident.

“..The song at an end, the prima donna bowed her acknowledgments to the imaginary audience for its imaginary plaudits, and now came the one feature in the performance, (says The Daily Telegraph) which appeared to arouse in her a certain amount of misgiving, for she was asked to lay her arm around Hercules's neck. Whether it was difference at the idea of taking such liberties with the king of beasts, or the thought that the maxim about sleeping dogs might apply with at least equal force to other and larger animals, at any rate, she executed the prescribed embrace with obvious signs of reluctance, and her land rested only  with the gentlest possible pressure on the tawny mane. It was probably concern for the good fame of his pets which made the man from Hagenbeck's step forward and take hold of the singer's arm and, at the same time assuring her that she had no ground for uneasiness, lay it firmly right round the lion's neck…”[19]

 Disclaimer: Readers should check their sources, and not rely solely upon the information provided as being completely accurate. There may be errors or omissions in this article. To the best of my knowledge the information provided is accurate, however any further information may be revealed in the near future.

[1] Emmy Destinn was born at Prague in 1878, the daughter of Emanuel Kittel. She studied under Madame Loewe Destinn, whose name she took. She made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Berlin, in 1898. Her best-known parts were Senta, Mignon, and Carmen. Destinn during the height of her years had sung with Enrico Caruso and other famous opera greats. Destinn died on 29 January 1930 aged 52 years from a stroke. (sourced Wikipedia)

[2] Hawera & Normanby Star 3 January 1914 reported six males and four females as being in the group of lions supplied by Hagenbeck.

[3]The Register 2 December 1913

 “In order not to overcrowd the scene six of the animals were temporarily banished into their travelling van, whence they surveyed the proceedings with indulgent patience.”

[4] The Register 2 December 1913

[5]Kennst du das land? (English translation: Do you know the country?) Was a poem written by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  (28 August 1749  22 March 1832) (sourced Wikipeda)

[6] Charles Louis Ambroise Thomas (5 August 1811, Metz12 February 1896, Paris) was a French composer, best known for his operas Mignon (1866) and Hamlet (1868, after Shakespeare) and as Director of the Conservatoire de Paris from 1871 till his death. (sourced Wikipedia)

[7] Mignon: An Opera by Ambroise Thomas.
The story of "Mignon" is derived from Goethe’s "Wilhelm Meister." It is founded on that favourite operatic subject (used in "The Bohemian Girl" and elsewhere) of the abduction of a high-born young lady and her sojourn with the gipsy tribe.
 (Sourced Music with Ease website  http://www.musicwithease.com/thomas-mignon.html)

[8] The Register 17 November 1913

[9] ‘Mignon’ was originally a character in the book  Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (German: Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre)  the second novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1795-96.

[10]  The painting the Lion’s Bride (1908) by Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max,  depicts a woman lying on her stomach dressed in a white gown with a male lion over her with the forepaws on her dead form. The painting also inspired a Cecil B. de Mille silent 1919 film “Male and Female” starring Gloria Swanson. Swanson posed with an adult male lion in costume in a similar pose as depicted in the original composition.

[12] Babelsberg is the largest district of the Brandenburg capital Potsdam in Germany. The affluent neighbourhood named after a small hill on the Havel river is famous for Babelsberg Palace and Park, part of the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as for Studio Babelsberg, a historical centre of the German film industry.
 (Sourced Wikipedia)

[13] Ludwig van Beethoven baptized 17 December 177026 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers.
(Sourced Wikipedia)

[14] Score is a common alternative (and more generic) term for sheet music, and there are several types of scores, as discussed below. (Note: the term score can also refer to incidental music written for a play, television programme, or film.)
Sourced Wikipedia ‘ Score (music)’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Score_(music)

[15]  An aria (Italian for air; plural: arie or arias in common usage) in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment. Perhaps the most common context for arias is opera, although there are many arias that form movements of oratorios and cantatas. Composers also wrote concert arias, which are not part of any larger work, such as "Ah perfido" by Beethoven, and a number of concert arias by Mozart, such as "Conservati fedele".
(Sourced Wikipedia: ‘Aria’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aria)

[16] The West Australian 29 November 1913

[17]  Selig Polyscope Company (defunct) was based in California USA

A quick visit to an old haunt - Matheson's Bay

It's been a while since I visited an old haunt from my childhood. As kids my sisters, brother and I used to love visiting this sheltered sandy bay. We would spend hours exploring the rock pools and swimming in the bay. 7 year ago, when I was living at Tramcar Bay near Leigh I went up to the point and sat down with a sketch pad and drew the rock you can see in the photos. It took me a couple of hours but it was the best two hours I have ever spent just relaxing and doing something I love to do. It's a great spot to visit in summer. Soon it will be full of people who will enjoy it over the summer break. Well worth the visit.


'A daring feat' The Tiger Chariot Act of Wirth's Circus 1901-1906

Image Credit: J.R. Mann Photographer Auckland Weekly News 19 May 1902
Reproduced with the kind courtesy of
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19020529-10-3

These days with the advent of growing opposition against the use of animals performing in circuses an image like this would be frowned upon. Below is a brief summary I wrote up about the animals in this act.

Prince and Pasha[1] are harnessed to the chariot, with Kitty the Tigress playing the part of ‘Jehu’[2] The trainer was known by the name Monsieur Ragoul[3] or Rogalle in some publications.

The act debuted as a finale on 28 August 1901, where Wirth Brother’s Circus and Menagerie were conducting performances at Rockhampton in Queensland Australia.[4] The trainer at the time was referred to as ‘Monsieur Soueki’. The Bengal tigers Prince, Pasha and Kitty performed with the two male tigers harnessed to the chariot and Kitty riding in the vehicle.

“…A new act is to be put on to-night as a finale to the programme M. Soueki who has entered the tigers' cage nightly, will show his animals in a sensational act in the centre of the ring. A large wire cage has been erected around the ring and M. Soueki will enter it with the three tigers. After repeating their various tricks, two of the tigers will be attached to a chariot and draw it round the ring, and the third will jump on to the box seat and act as driver…” wrote The Morning Bulletin (28 August 1901).

Philip Wirth later wrote from Queensland, to his brother George advising him that the act had been successfully performed at Rockhampton and had gone off ‘with a hitch’.[5]

During the latter part of 1901 the circus traveled extensively through Australia to showcase this spectacular act.

“…Royal Bengal tigers, Prince, Pasha, and Kitty, ferocious forest-bred animals that perform on awe-inspiring act. The entire circus arena is enclosed with a steel cage, the tigers are let loose, Mons. Ragoul, their trainer, enters the cage and makes them seesaw, play leapfrog, jump hoops, roll barrels and globes, and finally harnesses two tigers like horses to a chariot, and a third drives them rapidly around the arena..”[6].

In 1902 during the New Zealand tour, the trainer had some trouble with one of the male tigers, when the animal refused to stand up during a performance in Auckland.[7]
The act was performed in New Zealand tours in the years 1902 and 1904 respectively. No further performances using the tigers in this manner were seen in this country after 1904.

The Act was discontinued around 1906 when the last advertisement of Wirth Circus mentioning the performance appeared in January of that same year.[8] After 1906, no further references are made.

[1]  ‘Pasha’ who was reported in May 1901(Taranaki Herald 16 May 1901) attacking Carl Wirth. Wirth had sat on the tiger during a performance in Queensland. The tiger inflicted serious injuries to the trainer’s leg. The animal was apparently to be held for exhibition purposes only. Pasha had 5 previous incidences of attacking his trainer.
[2] Jehu was a 9th century b.c. biblical king of Israel
[3] When, the act was first reported by the Morning Bulletin (28 August 1901) the trainer was referred to as Mons.  Soueki
[4] Morning Bulletin 28 August 1901
[5] Brisbane Courier 31 August 1901
[6] The Register 14 December 1901
[7] Hawera and Normanby Star 20 June 1902
[8] Advertisements The West Australian 20 January 1906


Lions in my life

I've known these beautiful powerful living beings since 2009. These are the lions in my life. Hope you enjoy them


Midnight Bean Thieves and bad home brew

We were looking forward to our share of fresh butter beans that next night. They just needed one more day before they were just right to pick. The menu would be changed that next night when the midnight bean thief came calling at our doorstep.

Strange noises in the dead of the night. A kind of a crunching sound, as the newly initiated one into the Order of the Sneaky Midnight Raider, began operation deny human idiot from harvesting legume source. It started with one...then two...then a third had gone flying to hit an old bottle of home brewed beer left outside and forgotten. 

It had been a bad brew made who knew how many years ago. For some reason that old bottle of bad home brew had ended up amongst the fencing gear, and was never used for anything but taking up space. Finally it was left one day out in the weeds and out of sight.

 It had stayed upright all of that time until the bean thief had hit the bullseye and it had hit a rock. Now that bad old brew bottle had cracked open the contents tipping out. The possum population were waiting to take advantage of the free meal and a drink to go. There was a free for all going on out there. The snails and the slugs were quick to join in the free tasting session on that bad old brew..and the Bean Thief continued with the purloining of our longed for butter beans which we would never get to enjoy.

The Bean Thief was into the next row of beans when it gave its nocturnal activity away. The dog woke up and started yelping Hey Bean Thief! Leave them beans alone!. He was on the vigil guarding those longed for beans, but for all his effort and all his noise the Bean Thief wasn't budging.

With big deer like ears and big eyes, the bean thief looked far too innocent to commit such a crime. Those rotten old possums, scheming snails and sneaky slugs were the pest mafia that usually did all the raiding. But not this time it seemed as a window was opened and the dog told to put a sock in it.

It was then, that the Bean Thief revealed herself. With long eye lashes, and a little moo she came running to the sound of that grumpy voice, that had two blinking sleep filled eyes and a flea ridden cat sleeping by her head. The game was up the bean thief caught out.

The human idiot rose out of bed to blink sleepily at the bean thief who still had part of the evidence slowly vanishing into her small jersey calf mouth. "Miss Lily!" The human idiot said, staring in hopelessly in vain, at the thought that if one bean plant was vanishing down that little bovine throat, then maybe she had done over more.

With much grumping and huffing the human idiot muttered dire things to pull on old gumboots, and find the one thing that matter most in the Miss Lily's mind.

Out came the bottle and Miss Lily came mooing her loudest and chasing the bottle carried by the muttering human idiot back to her broken tether rope. While she guzzled with glee ,the human idiot tied back up the rope. Took note of the funny walk of the possum near that bad old home brew, and wondered if the world was really crazy or it was just my imagination.

In the morning though, the evidence of the demise of the scheming snails, sneaky slugs lay in many piles. The possum poo by that old home brew bottle now well and truly emptied. It came to only one conclusion. Don't feed homebrew to the wildlife...pour it down the sink.

And those beans well they were all gone. So we ate the tinned ones instead.


I went to play Chopin and all I got was this evil cat

Complete with muddy cat paw prints and a mobile duster as a built in option. Any attempt to remove said Evil Cat will result in painful wounds being inflicted by sharp instruments known by the technical terminology as 'claws'. Apply with caution.


"A Living Fossil" the first live Okapi at London Zoo 1935

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19350925-52-1

Tales of a strange donkey like creature with zebra stripes had long been told in the Congo. Explorers tried to seek out the strange creature the local people called 'Okapi'. By 1901 samples of the animal's skin and bones had been bought back to England by Sir Harry Johnston who presented his findings to the Zoological Society of London

 There was a very full attendance of the members of the Zoological Society at the meeting on Tuesday last, in anticipation of seeing the skin and skull of the okapi, forwarded to England by Sir Harry Johnston, who was present, and gave a most interesting account of all that was known respecting this remarkable mammal, a previous notice of which appeared in our issue of May 11. The details which were given in that account were fully borne out by the examination of the entire skin and skull, which were exhibited for the first time.

The skull was obviously not that of an equine animal, which the okapi was first supposed to be, but a ruminant.- There were no incisor teeth in the upper jaw, but they were replaced. as in all ruminants, by a fleshy pad, the remains of which still existed on the bones. Mr Oldfield Thomas, of the British Museum, who exhibited the skin and skull, maintained that the characters shown were those of a giraffe-like animal, differing essentially from the lopes or the bovine ruminants. It was, however, destitute of the long neck of the giraffe, and obviously would form the type of a new genus, to which it was proposed to give the name Okapia, with the addition johnstoni

 Sir Harry Johnston stated that the first person to draw attention to this newly-discovered mammal, although he had never seen a specimen, was Stanley, who heard of it from the dwarfs inhabiting the Semliki district. This animal the natives regarded as an equine animal, comparing it with the young zebra that Sir Harry Johnston had with him. Anxious to secure a specimen, he. spent several days in the unhealthy district of the Semliki Forest searching for the okapi, but was never successful in securing one of them.

His efforts to purchase a skin only resulted in procuring the striped pieces from the hind quarters, the natives neglecting all the self coloured parts, which constitute the covering of the greater part of the animal. His ultimate success in obtaining an entire skin was due to the exertions of Mr Karl Ericsson, of the Congo Free State, who furnished him with the specimen exhibited. Sir Harry ascertained from the dwarfs that the okapi usually went in pairs, and were only to be found in the deepest recesses of this forest, which lies to the south-west of the Albert Nyanza Lake.

The preservation of this remarkable form from extermination was dependent on the total absence of large carnivora, and on the forest being exceedingly unhealthy, owing to which it is little visited by man. The dwarfs have no firearms, and secure the specimens that they obtain by digging large pitfalls, and killing the captured animal with spears. The forest region was apparently uninhabited until the more powerful negroes, by their persecution, necessitated its occupation, by the dwarfs.

Otago Witness 21 August 1901

In 1935 an Okapi was presented by the King of Belgian to the Prince of Wales. The animal was given by the Prince to the London Zoo. A living Okapi seen for the first time outside of its natural habitat in England caused a world wide sensation. News soon reached the New Zealand print media. The Evening Post reported:-

 An okapi, a rare animal from Belgian Congo, described as a cross between a giraffe, a deer, and a zebra, has arrived at the London Zoological Gardens. It is said to be the only living example of the species that has reached England.

  It has been given to the gardens by the Prince of Wales, who received it as a gift from the King of the Belgians.

 Officials of the gardens went to Antwerp to supervise transport.
Evening Post 2 August 1935  

By November 1935 unfortunate news of the Okapi's sudden death due to an unknown cause was soon over the wireless and reported in the news of the day

 The okapi which was given in July to the London Zoo by the Prince of Wales, who received it as a gift from the King of the Belgians, died suddenly today.

 The cause is at present unknown, but the loss is much regretted as there are only two other specimens in captivity in Europe.

Evening Post 6 November 1935


"Okapi at London Zoo" The Weekly News 25 September 1935 ( Courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collection - Auckland Libraries)
Evening Post 2 August 1935
Evening Post 6 November 1935
Otago Witness 21 August 1901
"Okapi" authored by Brent Huffman August 2004 www.ultimateungulate.com


Just hanging around for Christmas?

With 24 days still to go.....I think he'll be getting rather 'stretched'. Have a good one folks where ever you are in the world.


Slam dung!

I must be on some kind of a nostalgia trip writing these crazy stories of mine. So here's another one to have a laugh about. And it was funny. So here we go another one of those mad stories from my insane youth.

When I was 17 years old and rather thick as two planks, like all young teenage girls who loved horses I ended up working with them at a trail riding place north of Auckland. They had a big rambling old house built sometime in the 1880's, with all kinds of old things lying around the 12 acre small holding that surrounded the grounds. I had my horse a crazed thoroughbred nutcase named Jago, and a small 14.1hh pony by the name of Andy.

Long years, have passed since those two have long since died. But the memories I had of them are still good and strong.  Having  that old farmer's instinct in me somehow, I wasn't scared to roll up my sleeves and help around the place with fencing and the chores that had to be done. We'd take people our for rides to Muriwai Beach on the west coast and gallop for miles. Crazy times sometimes brought in crazy happenings.

The owners of the place, one day, decided to get in these half wild steers from a sale. The things were big, ugly, and didn't know what a 7 wire fence was. They were unloaded in the rickety cattle yards before the entire herd was sent out into the 10 acre block at the back of the property - and we watched as they climbed the fence like a flight of stairs, and off into the next block over. And there, they stayed for a couple of months.

One day going down there, the boss discovered one of the crazy steers had gone off to the great herd in the sky. There it was ,with all four legs stuck skywards as stiff as cardboard. So, the vet was called in to do an autopsy, and find out what the steer had died from. Carking it on a Monday maybe was a good thing. It meant the vet was clear of weekend stuff, and now rolled up her arms to cut up a dead cow, and find out just what had caused it to curl its hooves up.

While everyone else ran for the hills, screaming things about not wanting to see a cows guts, the ghoul here (who had no qualms about looking at dead things in the paddock) happily assisted the vet in cutting up said deceased steer to find out what had bumped it off. Cause discovered in the liver, with some great long scientific name, that, for a 17 year old ,went in one ear and out the other. Not good to have in cattle, so the vet said so it was all cattle in the herd to be vaccinated as soon as possible..which is where we get to the fun part of this story.

Monday night it poured with rain. The next morning showed a hint of sunshine and the task ahead of rounding up fence climbing cattle with no sense of morality about the feelings of the idiot humans that were there to round them up. Lucky we had horses that were about as crazy as those steers were. Two teenagers bareback, on sweated up nutty thoroughbreds must have quite a sight. Either way those fence climbing steers soon found themselves being foiled. Before they knew it they were yarded... sort of.

Given the yards were so rickety from decades of neglect, the chances the hulking bovines would soon break out were high. And sure enough one smashed its way straight through and into the concrete cattle yard beyond. We were soon off the horses and thinking about ways wee could hold the beasts in the crush, while the boss gave them the jabs. Ropes, posts and whatever else could be mustered together were soon in use. Bad idea to rope a steer by one leg, in a muddy yard full of cow crap. It kind of leads to more interesting events, such as Heather holding on for dear life, said steer bellowing like a demented banshee and heading for the hills - literally. At full speed, headlong through the yard fence, the steer took Heather for a joy ride session face first into the great pile of fresh cow dung. It makes an interesting look having green sloppy cow crap dripping from your face, and having the hair colouring to match. Not to mention even the clothing ends up matching with a touch here and there of mud to compliment the ensemble. The score card then read Human 0 Steer 10.

Meantime the boss and I were hard at work getting the rest of the steers vaccinated when one took exception to being jabbed in the butt. I got it both barrels in the guts and went for an interesting flight without the need for a ticket. With Heather already looking very fashionable in her new environmentally friendly 'green look' laughing her head off. By now my free flight was over...straight into yet another big juicy fresh pile of cow crap and churned up my. Naturally it was the facial treatment, joined by hair follicle enrichment eau de processed grass, and the matching ensemble outfit to match that of my friend's. The boss well....let's just say the raucous laughter disturbed the birds in the trees.

It took three showers to get out the stench and the colour green.


When Christmas Pork is a bad idea

When I was a kid, where I lived was still all dairy farms and orchards. One summer, my parents headed off overseas for a few week,s leaving us six kids farmed out among our relatives and friends, while they went off to enjoy the sights of Australia for the very first time. It was back in the 1970's and I was just 8 years old. Everything was larger than life, and the man had walked on the moon at least twice.

In the second week my parents were away, I spent a week staying at an uncle's (he was actually a close friend of my Mum and Dad) farm out in Taupaki. Uncle Lex and Aunty Colleen had a commercial chicken farm, with a few sheds full of cackling hens, that put a raucous if anyone stuck their heads in the shed. I loved being on the farm. Plenty to do there, and lots to look at. They had a few dogs, and one of them a fox terrier named Spot was the bane of kids. She loved nipping my heels at every opportunity, so I learned rather quickly to avoid the old dog, and her favourite sleeping spot.

Way down in the bush, at the back of the farm, two old pigs were doing their best to wreck the fences, and whatever else they could root up. They were nasty old sows, both bush pigs, that had appeared a few weeks before, from out of the fern. The old pigs had already rooted up Aunty Colleen's garden, and had set their sites on the turnip crop being grown for the winter cattle feed. With Christmas coming up, Uncle Lex decided it was time for those old sows to end up as Christmas Pork.

With dogs and .303 rifle in hand, a couple of kids perched on the Massey Ferguson Tractor, off we all bounced down to where those two old pigs hangout was known to be. Shane the big huntaway led the charge into the paddock of braken fern, with only his tail visible for us to know where he was. Jet the pig dog followed behind hot in pursuit of his canine mate. And then, the squealing started. The tractor moved on through the ferns, the big wheels flattening the fronds, with us all watching out for signs of pig. Only the dogs tails could be seen, and the frantic fury of fern fronds being bashed to pulp by a couple of hundred kilos of mature porcine bulk. There she was, being bailed by the dogs, one big old spotted sow with one dog on her nose, and the other dog on her rear. Uncle Lex got down off the tractor, called off the dogs and shot the sow in the head. That was the end of her. Not a problem to lift her carcass up with the tractor hoist, and into the trailor behind. The dogs looked rather pleased with themselves, and so did Uncle Lex, until, there was an indignant squealing right from behind.

"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."wrote the man of wit Willian Congreve in 1697 when he had composed The Mourning Bride. In this case it was "Hell came with fury with bristled up hair, a twitching tail and an angry sow's squealing scorn". She came like a freight train at full speed. I guess that day, Uncle Lex broke the world's sprint record for how fast can you run up the nearest tree. The dogs vanished like puffs of smoke, abandoning the boss to his fate sat up in a tree, with two kids perched on a tractor laughing their heads off at his difficulties.

Lucky he had the safety catch on his gun. While Furious below continued to squeal and slam headlong into the old totara tree Uncle Lex had manged to climb into, the two dogs decided to at last come back to render the boss their assistance and hold onto the pig. Finally there was the sound of gunshot and Furious dropped like a stone. She breathed her last and that was the end of the two old sows in the bush.

We had pork that night.


Book Review:Love at the End of the Road

 Romance mixed in with rural shenanigans and history

Local writer Rae Roadley brings a down to earth account of her experiences of going from city girl to old farm hand when she meets her future husband to be Rex at a Table for Six dinner date.

Rae has lived in many of the major cities of the world, but perhaps the country  life appealed. Finding employment with the Northern Advocate as a journalist, little did she realise she would meet a farmer who lived in a big old house down the end of a long gravel road.

On the shores of the Kaipara Harbour Rae finds out how to deal with bulls in the garden, getting to know the local characters around the Maungaturoto district, and realising she is becoming a rural woman at heart.

Together with her husband Rex, Rae has transformed the old rambling Batley House into a stunning home. Tales of the dogs Jess and Floss, mixed in the mishaps and triumphs makes this a fun book. Photographs of the Roadley family are scattered through out the book.

Rae spent some time researching the history of Batley, as a result she has included family trees for the Colebeck, Roadley and Masefield families, as well as an excellent time line of events. The index is comprehensive and the bibilography of source references has been included.

David Hill of the New Zealand Herald gave this book an excellent review. He noted some of the characters had what he termed 'flawless grammar, but in my view that's being a little picky. You can read the NZ Herald review here

Published by Penguin books in paperback, Love at the end of the Road - Finding my heart in the country by Rae Roadley is a charming down to earth good read. R.R.P NZ$40 256 pages.


YMCA benefits from NZYF quake fundraising

YMCA benefits from NZYF quake fundraising

It’s been a tough year for the people of Christchurch, but proving that their plight is not forgotten, New Zealand Young Farmers recently made a donation to an organisation that has proved a great source of help to many after the earthquakes that changed the face of Christchurch.

Earlier this week NZYF CEO Richard Fitzgerald presented the Christchurch YMCA with a cheque for $34,470.15. The majority of the money was raised through Road to Recovery Auctions that were held at The National Bank Young Farmer Contest’s Regional Finals, earlier this year.

Christchurch YMCA CEO Josie Ogden Schroeder was blown away by the donation.

“It is phenomenally generous and humbling to get this donation. It’s an extra boost and we will be able to make this money go a really really long way.”

Mrs Ogden Schroeder sad that the money would be put to good use with the young people of Christchurch.

“We deal with thousands of young people in different capacities every year. Some are marginalised youth in our education and training programmes and some are high functioning young people that are volunteers. Regardless of their level it’s all about developing them as people.”

Mr Fitzgerald said that the development of young people was a commonality between NZYF and the YMCA, and it seemed a good fit to donate to their urban counterparts.

“Christchurch has had a really rough time this year, so it’s great to be able to help an organisation that not only has very similar values to NZYF, but also one that has implemented many worthwhile projects to help the people of Christchurch as a result of the earthquakes.”

NZYF National Office is based in Methven so staff had some experience with the earthquakes, but Mr Fitzgerald said that when staff and NZYF Members spent time digging silt in February with the Farmy Army, the enormity of the situation really hit.

“Being out there in those badly effected suburbs really brought everything home; it was very humbling to see how those residents were coping with a very tough situation.”

This prompted NZYF to auction off goods that were kindly donated by some of the Contest Sponsors; Honda, The National Bank, Echo and Ravensdown. The money was also raised through donations from many Clubs and individuals within the organisations – some Clubs donated up to $1000 out of their own bank accounts.

The donation to the YMCA is just part of over $100,000 that was raised by NZYF and its members for earthquake relief. The North Otago District contributed a huge portion of that when they raised over $68,000 for the Mayoral Fund.

St John’s also received an extra boost last week thanks to NZYF Members. The Christchurch City Club took part in the Amazing Quake Race at the Canterbury A&P Show. St Johns; as their chosen charity received their $2000 prize.