Happy Christmas from all of us at the Mad Bush Farm #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

We've had a quiet Christmas morning here on the farm. The kids and I went and visited my mum with a special Christmas breakfast and a present. The horses got some treats from us and so far despite being a little cloudy it's promising to be a beautiful day. Have a wonderful christmas wherever you are in the world. Love from us all at the Mad Bush Farm in Northland New Zealand.


Over Christmas madness so I took a back road #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

You know when you get that feeling that you've had enough of festive season madness. All over the social media pages the christmas lights and thumpy music is being pounded out on videos taken by I-phones and all the other electronic age gadgets folks seem to can't do without. I'm over the videos. the adverts full of buy this horribly expensive item or your kids will hate if you don't kind of blackmail. I'm over the craziness and the mad rush to get the best christmas tree, the shiniest decorations and the biggest presents. Yesterday I wanted to go and get my dear mum something special. It wasn't big or expensive and it involved a drive on the back roads to get to where I needed to be. After picking up a couple of cute little pomegranate trees then renegotiate the rough as guts road with a couple of washouts in between I got back onto the long winding gravel road to head home again. I took my time I didn't feel like being in a hurry; not when I had spotted some glorious views of the surrounding countryside with the Otamatea river winding its way inland towards Maungaturoto and the mountain Pukeareinga. So I stopped for a good long 20 minutes and just took it all in. Beautiful isn't it. I'm feeling a little more festive now I took that back road away from the rush and pressure. As a friend of mine likes to write on his Kauri Coast Visitor Information Facebook page "Take a back road.....see where it leads" Indeed it's something worth doing. Happy Christmas everyone and don't forget to take a back road sometime and see where it leads......


There was no gingerbread house in this saga! #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

Once upon a time there was a stubborn little grey horse going by the name of Spirit. When all his friends the other little horses happily came out from the 6 acre paddock - Spirit refused to follow. For six long months we had tried to get him out of there. No amount of food, threats, promises of lots of attention could sway him to leave that haven he now had all to himself. Every evil plan concocted up by the Mad Bush Farmer failed in misery. I almost gave up; until two days ago when I had just one more evil plan up my sleeve. So down I went and cut the fence open at the bottom of the driveway and left it open. You would have thought the little horse would have come out. Noooo.........he stayed stubbornly under a tree refusing to budge. This time giving up wasn't an option. I needed him out of there and that was that. With a pile of bread and carrots a tempting trail was made out of that darned paddock.  It only took four hours but finally out he came and I shut the fence back up behind him.


Hello Summer it's about time you got here #FarmVoices

I've been wondering when our summer weather was coming. We've had a rather wet couple of months with low temperatures and very poor pasture growth. It's finally starting to warm up again. I haven't dared plant anything for the garden because the soil was just too wet, and the wind just kept on blowing a gale. It hasn't helped my rather bluish mood being frustrated by endless wind and rain. I am over it completely. Outside is a better day and I should be out there fixing my garden up so the cows can't get into it, and destroy everything like they did last year. I gave up in the end. I've had no incentive to blog of late. I'm out job hunting and so far no joy, which has made me feel rather blue and not worth much of anything. I've redone my CV several times but the odds are against me with my age for starters. It seems once you get over that magic 40 plus age mark - nobody wants to know. But I'll keep on persisting and not give up. Somewhere out there is the perfect job made just for me. That all aside, I've had plenty of reason to be very proud of my kids. My youngest had a part in the Otamatea Repertory Theatre's production of the Wind in the Willows. She played the part of the horse, sorry no photos because of copyright issues relating to the play and costumes - fair enough. I saw it last Sunday afternoon and what a delight it all was. So much fun. I needed something like that to lighten my rather dejected mood.  Michelle is also developing a very beautiful voice. She's joining a combined choir to sing christmas carols with a mixed harmony of sopranos and baritone singers of all ages. I am really looking forward to hearing them all later this month. It's so close now to Christmas I can't believe the year has gone so fast! Inaya has been working hard to obtain her Grand Prior for her St John Youth Cadet. She's finally achieved it - we were so over the moon. She tells me she is going to be going for her Sergeant's rank in St John then move on to become a youth leader. I'm so proud of my girls they've done so well. Michelle turns 16 years old tomorrow I have to wonder where all the years have gone. It makes me feel a little old even though I'm only 50. Right now the cows are roaming around outside the house and the old horse is giving me that "I'm still here so there!" look. I have to admit I love it here - so I'll smile again for the rest of the day and tell myself I'm not worthless afterall.


It's all rather fishy actually..........#FarmVoices #art

I've been having maybe a bit of a midlife crisis of late. I came to the realisation the other day my kids are growing up and rapidly.  At the end of next year Inaya is leaving school and heading off for university study a couple of hundred kilometres away down in Palmerston North. I can't say that won't miss her, because I will. While all the 'heck my kids are leaving home in a couple of years' thoughts were going around and around in my head I decided to paint something. Here's the result so far; and definitely no masterpiece. More an 'I need some creative therapy' kind of thing. Being a single parent living out in an isolated rural area can sometimes feel very lonely. I'm fortunate that I can be satisfied with my own company during the day, there's never a shortage of things to do around the farm. Me time is therapeutic and something I should do more often. I'm in the process of trying to get back into fulltime work. My resume has been done and I'm really making a huge effort with the applications. I'm doing this for me - my self esteem of late hasn't been particuarly good. Just doing the resume has made me feel a lot more positive about myself. That nagging little voice of doubt for now has been silenced. In between this rather pathetic midlife crisis thing, I had a lawyer travel up from Auckland to shoot possums in our bush and in our neighbour's pine block. All up eight less of the hairy pests are now resident on our farms. We've had really strange weather including a massive thunderstorm that hung around for a few hours the other week. I got a rather poor quality video of it at dawn. I think the birds were trying to drown out all the noise!


Life in a toilet paper roll (sounds wierd I know) #Farmvoices

A few weeks ago I found an old packet of bean seeds I forgot I had. Unfortunately they had expired. I took the chance any way just to see if any would come up. The problem I had until just the last week was cold, rain soaked soil. We had the worse winter ever in 47 years here in Northland, New Zealand. It was hopeless I was at the point of considering moving the animals off the property completely it was that bad.

You may have seen a recycling tip about planting seeds in empty toilet rolls. I've done it for years. It it protects the seed and the young plant,, plus gives a great alternative to using plastic. I put the entre roll into the soil once the plant is big enough to transplant into the garden.  Out of the seeds (which I didn't expect to germinate) one came up. I photographed it over 48 hours literally growing in front of my eyes.

I'm intrigued how in just two days from a small seed a plant emerges which will later produce something that will feed my family. Recycling your empty toilet rolls is a great way to help the environment and save more rubbish headed for the landfill, or being burned in the fire pile. Over the last few years, I've noticed more and more plastic is being used to package up our food in. It's not good for our environment. Each year thousands of tons of plastic end up in our oceans. We need to change that reliance on plastics for our packaging and come up with a better alternative. Recyle where you can. I compost our cardboard,  newspaper and food scraps in old tyres it works and the tyres don't end up polluting the environment. Worth thinking about.


Labour Weekend (of course I wore my gumboots!) #FarmVoices #NorthlandNZ

I don't do selfies of my mug.  I just do selfies of my gumboots instead. There are my gumboots looking out across beautiful Batley Bay yesterday. They got wet of course. I walked in the tide with them on as any self respecting Mad Bush Farmer would expect one to do. Amy and the kids came over, so we decided to go and visit the beach for a change of scenery. With my girls being teenagers these days, the beach was not an appealing option. Inaya wanted to stay home with the technology at her fingertips. Too bad I said we're getting you lot out of the crypt bedrooms well away from the Tumblr blogs and smart phones with discussions about Star Trek politics and heck knows what other fandom stuff. I used to do it too. Once a trekkie, always a trekkie. Just not yesterday.

The kids weren't all that keen of course on some isolated bay on the north eastern arm of the Kaipara Harbour. Amy and I had our cameras with us of course. We were after getting some more shots of the area and especially on such a stunning day. The tide was in, people were out and about and it was just a perfect opportunity to get some great images to remember the day by.

I love these old tin boat sheds that have been at Batley for years. People do use them to stay in. The paint is flaking off the old wooden doors and window frames. During the summer their owners sit out on the old timber decks, and just enjoy the harbour in all its glory. Batley itself has a long history. It was originally name Oahau, then later its name was changed to Batley. Named for the township in Yorkshire by a subsequent owner William Colbeck. Once there was a canning factory and a steam powered flour mill on the shore. All since vanished from memory. The only inhabitants of the now tranquil bay are Rex and Rae Roadley residing in the beautifully restored grand villa aptly named Batley House.

We spent a couple of hours catching up on everything while the teenagers denied of their technology roamed aimlessly around the beach. We'll have to take the technology away more often I think!


A song for spring and why cows make terrible window cleaners #FarmVoices #NorthlandNZ

My youngest daughter Michelle started singing lessons last year to help her with her speech and confidence. For those who don't know our family, Michelle was diagnosed with autism just before her third birthday. Over the last almost 16 years I've worked with her to help her gain independence. We've had fantastic support from the teachers at the local christian school she attends. A few months ago the school started preparing for the Christian Schools Convention which is held in Auckland each year. Michelle worked very hard on her song "Precious Jesus" with her wonderful singing teacher Maura. As a result, she gained third place in the platform event for singing. Inaya kindly vidoed Michelle on stage singing a very beautiful song. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. And then there is this video. I took it yesterday afternoon after my rather naughty (but much loved) Terrorist jersey cow came to pay me a visit and 'clean' my windows again. Now you know why cows make lousy window cleaners. Slimey bovine sandpaper tongues don't do much to bring up the shine, it's more a foggy kind of look. I do have more to write, but I'll save the rest for the next post.


Of cunning fence wreckers and runaway moos #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

There some things at times that provide for some rather different entertainment in an odd kind of way. Of course, nothing on my farm is normal anyway. There's always something going on involving wrecked fences, escapes and general mayhem. I intended to leave Tempest behind in the paddock - plans thwarted by a backside leaning on the boundary fence, with full weight put in for good measure. He's due for a drench again in few days time. Even so as soon as I opened up the gate for him, he quit the promise of "let me out or the fence gets it" And then there is the other matter.....

Since we've had so much rain and lots of flooding, part of the fence yet again was washed out. Terrorist has found a new escape route off the farm and back to next door. This time though it was onto the race which has closed gates fortunately at each end. She led River out with her grrrrr. Didn't take long to get them back. Now they're locked up in the top paddock where there are no escape routes and a very hot electric fence ticking a way to keep them in. I finally found the short in the fence - it only took six long frustrating weeks to find it. Once I did find it, I fixed it very quickly. For a change the fences are all electrified until something else causes it problems. We've a couple of warm days but yet again the weather is packing up once more. I am over it all completely. Never mind that's life for you! Hope you like the video - enjoy!


We got sunshine on (what was meant to be) a cloudy day #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

Inaya found my missing camera - yes where I left it (der) in a 'safe place' typical isn't it. Happy me I had my camera back and for a change a beautiful warm spring day. Terrorist thought so too. She was enjoying the warmth and the sunshine. And tomorrow it's back to rain............again.

I had the usual chaos during the week. The electric fence has been shorting for weeks and no matter how hard I tried to find it - I just couldn't locate the fault anywhere. After a long day up in Whangarei I came home on Tuesday evening to find the cows and the horses all out of the paddocks and generally having a great time playing wreck everything in sight. What's new there. Wednesday was out as well because I was in Whangarei for another entire day. Yesterday I decided that was it time to check that darned fence section by section. I still couldn't locate it! The compensation for my frustration was a beautiful dinner put on by the St John Youth Cadets in Maungaturoto. It was great catching up with friends from around the area and having a good chat. Finally this morning after a lot of elimination and a couple of hours I found the cause of the short in the fence. Now fixed and two green lights are happily appearing once more on Mr Gallagher. Let that lot just try escaping, now the 3000 volts are back in the wire. And below is the trouble making Terrorist just waiting to make her next escape. Hope everyone has had a wonderful Friday, I know I have!


Shove off winter wet so we can get a spring in our step (instead of a squelch) #farmvoices

Showing hay making on a farm near Rotorua
Photographer Eric W. Young

This image by Eric Young of a moody New Zealand landscape with the storm filled sky in the background reminds me very much of what the sky here over the farm has been for a couple of days. I am so over this continuing bad weather. The soil is so wet growing anything right now is an impossibility. The grass growth is so slow I'm starting to think we will never actually get to have a decent spring. Despite all of that woeful outlook, it's a matter for everyone reliant on the weather to get things done heedless of the challenges faced. I've hardly blogged about much of anything lately, not much really to write about except the mud, more mud and yet more bad weather. I could discuss my endless digging of drains to keep the water away from my humble little home - but that is a rather boring subject. I've lost my digital camera as well. I just 'know' I put inside somewhere. WHERE it is ? Idiot here has no idea where she put it or why it is the electric fence is still shorting despite checking cables, insulators, every bit of fence and yet I still can't locate it. Frustrating so say the least! I'm completely over it all. On with this post and blow the moaning.

On October 16th, World Food Day is upon us. There was a bit of a discussion going on Twitter with the awesome crew @farmon about the focus being this year on family farms. The concept of a farm being in the ownership of the same family for generations is sadly a vanishing ideal. Many farms now are owned by the banks and urban based investors. Despite that reality globally, there are still farms maintained under family ownership. As most now these days, are used to just going to the supermarket and buying the neatly packaged up items to put on their table, not a lot of thought goes out to just where all of that food actually comes from or who grew it so they could eat. Farmon.com based in Canada have suggested the idea of the hashtag #ToastAFarmer for celebrating the farming families that grow our food across the world. We had a bit of a chuckle about a toasted farmer being served up with butter and jam. Of course it's the other kind of toast - as in raising a glass to those who work hard to feed us all. My farm only grows weeds and a few struggling trees right now - my soil is horrible and will take years to sort out. Even so I've grown a great garden in the past, the last few years I really haven't had much luck because the cattle, possums, pests and the frosts have had their way. This year.......I am determined to have a good sized bit of productive garden feeding me and the kids. Fruit and vegetables are so expensive these days they are becoming a luxury for many low income families. That is ridiculous and shouldn't be happening but it is. I was watching Country Calender a few weeks ago about Ben and Sharon Smith who farm up at Hikurangi Swamp. They overwhelmed severe flooding after the storms in late June. What had my interest was what they were feeding their cattle. Waste food from the supermarkets which a company in Auckland as I recall processes into pig and cattle feed. It's staggering just how much food gets wasted each and every day. I suppose because of all the health regulations a lot of perfectly good food can't be passed on to cash strapped foodbanks to feed families and people who are going without. Something to think about.

The last couple of weeks have been filled up with the kids getting organised for the Christian School Convention at Willow Park in Auckland. The girls spend a week there with different competitions from art to singing and spelling. Michelle last weekend had competed for the first time in the Northland Festival of Arts competitions. For the past year she has been having singing lessons to help her to improve her speech. Michelle had a serious speech delay when she was at preschool. It's part of her autism and has needed a lot of time and effort to get her to where she is now. She came back with a highly commended which is awesome. Maura and Peter Flower have been a rock for Michelle and they kindly took care of her while she was away from home. Inaya and Michelle both did really well at the convention. Michelle took out a first in the coloured pencil drawing section, first in running and a third in her singing. Inaya won the Pen and Ink Drawing section, the spelling and got a first for her black and white photography entry. I am so proud of my girls they are awesome kids. I am actually sorry they are growing up! I've enjoyed them so much. Well that's me for now. Keep World Food Day in mind mark it on your calender October 16th 2014.


Continuing of the theme of being creative.......and to heck with the rain!

While the rain continues to fall there isn't a lot I can do out on the farm. We've had a couple of days reprieve for now. Tomorrow it's back again to add to our woes. I am totally over it all. This winter has been the wettest on record since 1946. That's saying something. Grass isn't growing everything is mud. It's not making me feel any happier about the situation with the farm right now. All I can do is carry on and look forward to the coming warmer weather. No doubt we'll see yet another drought for the third year in a row. Well above is my rather um amateurish continuation of the the Wood Pigeon I'm painting. The kids reckon it's great, um yeah okay. It has a very long long way to go before it resembles what it's supposed to be. Onwards and upwards I say. I'll figure out what to do about booting the rain gods and their lousy persistant bad weather up the rear with my very muddy gumboots. Right that's me for another griping whining post. Next one better be much happier.


Getting back to the creative side - confessions of a rural drain digger #FarmVoices #NorthlandNZ

The winter has been dragging on and on. First day of spring today for us here in New Zealand, we've had so much rain I'm thinking maybe I should build an ark? No instead I decided to follow my own advice and find the Mad Bush Farmer again. She decided she just so needed to start painting again. It's been ages. This is the start of what will become a New Zealand Wood Pigeon or Kereru. They're beautiful birds. I based the drawing on a photograph I took at Auckland Zoo last year. Meantime on the rest of the insane front here on the farm. Terrorist and River did a break out again. They're next door after doing some fence climbing. I've been playing drain digger after we had flooding all around the house. Michelle is going to be taking part in her first singing competition this coming weekend. She has six songs to sing and has been working really hard on them all. My girls are growing up fast. There's talk of the "when we leave home" bit. Hard to believe the years have gone so fast. I'll miss them both when they head out into the world. I have awesome girls oh and a cat glaring at me at the moment. That's the end of my prattle for this post - back to the drain digging now.


Just a quick update on life, mud and otherwise #farmvoices

 Yesterday Inaya turned 17, we spent the night watching of all things Monster's University on the laptop and chuckling our heads off. Worth a watch just for a smil It's been a long hard very wet winter for us here. The feed is hitting the wall and the grass is slow in coming on. I've had a rather bad dose of the winter blues I think. We had a fine few days here and I made the most of them while it lasted. Rain is back and so are all the problems with it. I've had slips happening close to the house which have been a serious worry. Of late my mum hasn't been at all well, She's getting on in years and her health isn't at good as it used to be. Difficult decisions are having to be made. I won't pretend that the last few months haven't been a struggle for us all here on the farm.  Everywhere I walk it's a quagmire, strangely enough a couple of days ago I heard a cicada chirping. Spring is slowly returning and hopefully with the departure of winter it will end my own long run of having chronic writer's block. I need to smile more and get back to my old happy self. I miss me. So if anyone sees the Mad Bush Farmer roaming around out there let her know I need her back here for some more off the wall humour. Hope everyone is well and happy. I'll rejoin you all soon.



In the insanity that is my life right now, I had to be proud of myself that at last I had the winter grazing sorted out. How efficient the Mad Bush Farmer was, industriously ensuring all fences were checked. Oh so proud was she. Grazing rotations of the four largest of the beasties all managed properly so the grass kept growing (slow as it was because of winter cold). Yes indeed all so efficiently done.

Tuesday last week came. There they were so nicely contained grazing on the new grass I had found for the gang of four. Off I went with Mum out for the day. We enjoyed coffee at the cafe, did a bit of shopping and got all things done us girls needed to get done. Smiles on our faces and proud of our wares the hour long trip home came into despair. I look, I look again and there looking so smug and satisfied - the gang of four were munching their way through the new growth in a paddock that was 'supposed' to be fenced off. Fence Rammer Ranger, it seemed, had decided the grass was way better on the other side of the break feed. So ram the fence he did, then encouraged the rest of the gang of four to do the corporate raid! Grrrr.

 After getting out of the going out clothes, the Mad Bush Farmer cursing the fence rammer's name trudged up the hill and fixed that darned fence - again! Fence repaired, with gang of four trolled up into the next paddock then securely locked away. Never mind right now I am being out-smarted by two shrunken grey mini horses who are in no way leaving the paddock they are running wild in. Eventually they shall be caught - little toads.


Calving time #FarmVoices

Calving time again in my part of the world. Last week I watched as one of Terry's cows calved alongside our top gate in the sunshine early one morning. My two wayward jersey's took an interest of course in the proceedings. The small wet bundle was up on its feet and standing within an hour after its birth. I'be seen cows calve many times but never ceases to hold my own sense of wonder about the amazing process of birth and a new life coming into the world. The slow turn towards spring is happening, eventually the soil will warm again and the grass will grow. After several weeks of endless rain, bad storms and flooding the weather is a little more predictable We're due for more rain in the weekend I can live with that. o all our hard working farmers out there keep up the good work you are legends.


Welcome to Swampville! Our roads are crap #FarmVoices #NorthlandNZ

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19121024-3-1 24 October 1912

Yep me again moaning about the darned crappy weather we've been having. I think Mr Storm and his mates have been having a field day up my way for the last couple of weeks. Thanks to Mr Storm and company the main highway North has been brought to a stand still. I drove on it this morning south to Kaiwaka to drop off my brother-in-law's friend so he could take a bus back to Auckland. Usually he can catch it not so far away, but, because of the landslips and collapsing roads that option became a few more miles down the road to the next township. The road already is full of deep potholes which I had to avoid both ways. Northland's roads are crap and always have been. Anyone wanting to travel north this week will have to take the long way around through the rough as guts back roads (which I know all too well) to get to Whangarei. Craig Cooper the editor of the Northern Advocate in his editorial last Friday had this to say about Northland's roads:

"For a long time, I have wondered about the quality of Northland roads. It is a lay person's observation, as a motorist, but I think our roads are of a poorer quality than elsewhere in the North Island.
Drive south, and it is hard to not be impressed by the quality of the road surface, and its appearance.
The latter, I think, has more impact than people realise. It gives you a sense of the region.
Consider this - you're looking at buying a house, do you feel more positive about a home in a residential street with an asphalt-lined professionally curated driveway, or the one with a rough, metal driveway?
Sure, metal driveways have their appeal and charm, but you get the picture?
What does that driveway tell you about the home owner?
Much, I believe. I am a lay person, so I don't know what the answer is. But I think Northlanders have a right to ask some damn hard questions about why our roads aren't as flash as our southern cousins, putting aside the fact the hammering they get from the elements."
- Craig Cooper Editor Northern Advocate
Editorial "Why are our roads so bad?"
18 July 2014

Without a good roading network a regional economy can grind to a standstill. We've had the notion as well by our present government to either mothball or close down the Northland railway network. Which in the long term would be a very poor financial decision. Sooner or later, we are going to have to stop relying solely on road transport as the only option. I have to wonder when eventually the powers that be are going to wake up and realise that reliance on fossil fuels and roading network with a history of problems in adverse weather isn't going to solve a damned thing. Northland has always been on the bottom of the heap when it comes to government funding and still is. Take a look at the graphic below from The Transport Blog

Credit: Transport Blog Graphic Sourced: "Roading in Northland" 

While further south motorists enjoy well constructed roads we get potholes and collapsing roads, the graphic above speaks for itself. Spending on state highways increased then peaked in the 2008/09 period, decreasing with one small increase in 2010/11 before declining in the following subsequent years. The government recently added yet another excise tax onto the cost of petrol. A tax on the tax so far has only seen everything else rise along with that increase. Northland's entire regional economy is almost solely dependent on a reliable roading network. We do have a port at Whangarei and an airport as well as a decaying rail network. It's election year this year, and suddenly the MP for Northland Mike Sabin is promising to get the two one way bridges on State Highway 12 sorted out. Admittedly Mr Sabin has been gathering data on the two dangerous crossings which have hampered Kaipara District's economy due to transport hassles. Even so those bridges should have been replaced over 20 years ago, but instead we have to put up with them and the tourists who don't know what a give way sign is for. Enough bleating about our roads. That's life I guess.


You can't control Mother Nature #FarmVoices

The weekend before last we had a massive storm come in from the Tasman Sea. Most of Northland was inundated with heavy rainfall, high winds and thousands of hectares of farm land under water. It couldn't have come at a worse time for our dairy farmers. With calving commencing for the new dairying season, losing pasture to flooding wasn't a welcome sight. I've spend most of the week clearing up flood damage and fallen branches that had broken one of my electric fences. I had hoped we'd be over the worst of it all and then bang the next storm has come along today with the Metservice warning of more heavy rain and high winds. After two consecutive droughts and now an over kill of rain this rather miserable winter I wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to walk away. But like many rural communities globally, people stick it out, clear up the mess and move on. The photos above were published in the Dargaville News last Wednesday. It's not over yet. Until the winter abates no doubt we'll have more bad weather to come. No point complaining we just have to get on with it. On a more positive note....

Back at the end of February this year Mum asked me to take her to a place called Glinks Gully. It's a small coastal holiday settlement on the shores of the very long Ripiro Beach. All up the beach is about 66 miles (107km) long. It's been the scene for many a shipwreck over the last 150 or so years. It also has a lot of old Maori pa sites which are protected by law. Mum I think needed that day. I just stepped back and let Mum go and take it all in. She hasn't been very well for a while now. The radiant smile and the joy on her face was just something I won't ever forget. There she is, with shoes in hand walking barefoot towards the waves.

 I asked after she had finished her walk if she wanted to go anywhere else. She was so happy that I was asking and not treating her like someone to be locked up inside. She needed the sunshine and some time just to enjoy herself and the amazing landscape the region we live in has on our doorstep. I love the entire district it is just so beautiful. So after a thought or two I asked Mum if she wanted to see the gigantic Kauri Tree Tane Mahuta (discovered 1923/24). She was really keen to see it again. So off we went.

It didn't take too long to reach the Waipoua Forest where Tane Mahuta lives. I first saw this tree when I was just 9 years old. This was the second time I had seen it with Mum. I've been other times, but after 40 years it was so nice to have Mum with me gazing up at the massive truck and towering crown of a tree believed to be about 2000 years old. We spent a while there just taking in the stunning untouched forest, before Mum said she was feeling a little tired so we started to head back home.

On the way home we stopped in at the former Kauri timber settlement of Kaihu (formerly Opanake) where I photographed the old Kaihu Tavern (1899) and the beautiful old St Agnes Catholic church which was built by the local Maori people in 1896. It's still in use even today. It's a special place worthy of preservation.

A few weeks ago I was asked by the Farmon Foundation in Canada if they could include some of my images in an exhibition now on in Alberta Canada. What a huge honour and a positive way to get the stories of rural life from across the world out there. The exhibition is on now. Worth seeing if you're in Canada. I've been involved indirectly with the Foundation through theirr #FarmVoices feed on Twitter. Check out their website there's some awesome stuff on there for farmers. Hope you enjoy this video Farmon Foundation put together to promote the Born to Farm- #FarmVoices exhibition.

Well that's another blog post done and dusted. I need to get back to more regular blogging but it seems the words just haven't been there to write down. Today made a change for once I actually wrote something.!


Until the cows came home!

It was nice and quiet earlier today. This afternoon I heard the quad the boys use to shift the cattle on the farm next door. For weeks my two wayward Jersey cows have been running in with a group of other cows and some bulls. I'm not scared of bulls, but I would have been an idiot to go nto that paddock with a few mean looking jersy bulls and most likely get flattened. We just had to wait. Well the result is more than likely Terrorist and River will both be in calf and due next autumn. The first thing these two did was come straight down to the house and wouldn't stop mooing until I came to the door and gave them both some attention. Heck it's like having two bovine kids. I'm just glad they're home and okay. Very grateful to the boys for looking after them. Hopefully Ranger will not ram the fence and let them out again! Winter has very definitely set in. It's overcast most days and cold along with it. Not much really has gone on of late - guess we'll be back to the Terrorist and her comedy show. Hope she doesn't want to climb into our old bath tub again!


Back with a rattle and a small banger of a post

Oh lordie I haven't blogged in weeks. Way too much going on and each time I thought "I'll write a blog post" the words just weren't there to put down. I attempted to have a draft post on standby with little diary type notes and then that fell by the wayside as well. Bleeding my woes all over the internet just isn't how I do things. I've had challenges both family ones and farm ones. We've lost our two cows to next door again. The kids found them in with Terry's future autumn calvers and some bulls. Whoops guess we'll be seeing a couple of jersey calves next year. Any way this is just a quick post to say yes I am still here. When some more words come to me I'll write another post. One thing I can tell you - we have earlier than normal frosts this year. The rainfall hasn't been overly significant either. In a way I'm glad we haven't had huge volumes of rain otherwise by now I would be up to my eyeballs in mud! For some odd reason I looked up how many sheep there were per person in New Zealand. Rather trivial I know. Seven sheep for every person. It used to be 20 sheep per person which just shows you the numbers of woolly brethren have dropped significantly over the last few years. Still we're outnumbered seven to one by wool-wearing revolutionaries! Yes that's my sad humour coming through again I suppose. I was watching an interesting documentary just the other day about a farm in Devon in the UK, and the implications of what intensive scale farming can do to the land. It's worth watching because it's done by a young woman who took over the family farm from her father. It's quite an eye opener. Titled "Farm for the Future" We need our farms and our farmers, in syaing that we also all need to change how we do things to grow our food.


A "Moa" in the bush

Years ago when my Dad was still alive and I was still a kid, we had a special get-away place at Tramcar Bay on the Whangateau Harbour. It was high up on a hill overlooking the bay, and from there we could see out over to Omaha Peninisula, and further out to the point where Tarawhanui ended at the rocky edge of Takatu point. Dad loved to have us youngest kids on. Sometimes we would ask him what was for dinner, and he would say "Bees knees and potato bread". Took a while to click that bees knees were a little difficult to obtain, and making bread out of potatoes wouldn't really work that well.

One summer Dad mentioned there was a "moa" in the bush. We had a lovely stand of ancient native bush just down below, with a clay track lined with ancient pohutukawa trees, and a rope swing over the water at the end of the short journey down to the bay. A moa? A real live moa? Of course, kids will believe anything at such a tender age, as I was back then.

Just before Christmas, I had learned all about the gigantic moa birds that once walked New Zealand's forests. Typically, the imagination was running wild about finding a HUGE moa bird hiding in the bush.  Still, with faith that my dear dad wasn't kidding about that moa bird - off a couple of kids went in search of a long since-extinct monster.

Up the trees we looked and down the trees we looked. Through the tracks, under the ferns, there we hunted for the giant, that shouldn't be able to hide from a couple of keen eyed kids. All afternoon we hunted high and low, but alas, no moa was to be found anywhere in the bush. Crestfallen, we both headed back with heads down and frustration in our minds. That moa had to be somewhere, it had to be, because Dad said it was.

And thus we returned sad in our defeat, to tell our dad that no moa was to be found. It just had to hiding, because it knew we were looking  for it. Dad though, had a cheeky grin and a little chuckle. He just quietly led us kids back down the path, then slightly off to the left. Indeed there was a mower - a lawn mower that was. A rusty old lawn mower long ago left by someone in the bush. All dad could say as he laughed loudly "See? I told you there was a mower in the bush!".

And the lesson for us kids was to check our spelling!


The "B" word

Yesterday I read the forecast for Northland and I used the "B" word. It's now Autumn, and yet again we're in a drought. So is the Waikato and things are looking rather grim where rainfall goes. I'm letting the Toyota crew there say the "B" word on my behalf, and the rest of the rural crew out there looking up at the skies and praying it rains and soon!


Bovine Blackmailers and half a kennel

The cows know I have a bag of feed just inside the door right now. It's not theirs to have of course; it belongs to the old man. Sometimes, though, I do give them some of it, even though right now they don't really need feeding much more than some hay.  Trouble is they've cottoned on that I feed the old man twice a day. They have it all figured out, along with how to muck up my recently cleaned windows (forget that now!)

 It's been a month or more since I did my last blog post. I've had nothing much to say I guess. I have a lot to tell now. More to think on before I write about it. But just for laughter's sake, a smile and a chuckle, the dog ended up with half a kennel after Cyclone Lusi came through and blew everything to kingdom come.

No need to tell the rest of the story it's all there in my visual diary. Simon at times is a bit dense. Maybe he was enjoying the rain. And sorry about the big water mark. Some people who don't seem to respect that thing called copyright have been taking my photos and my artwork and sticking them on so called "Free Wallpaper" websites and claiming they have my permission. Like heck they do. Sadly that's what happens when you blog and put your creative work on the internet. More to tell in the next post about the trip Mum and I did a few weeks back to Glinks Gully and Waipoua Kauri Forest to see a gigantic and very iconic tree. This is just my way of saying hey I'm still here and sorry about the wait.


And the last thing you'll see is a tractor! Oh and an electrifying story too.

I made a video. Yes I did make one. Indeed I made one. It's a little story I put together about the history of our region before the land was turned into dairy, beef and sheep farms, with a few cropping areas dotted in between. If you have about 6 minutes to spare and can stand watching my amateur attempts at trying to make something look cool then go for it. And the last thing you'll see is a tractor! Mark my words on that. Every good vid about a rural area just has to have a tractor in there somewhere.

And on a funnier note. We have seven turkeys roaming around the farm at the moment.  Of course, around here, only one name comes to mind for such feathered brainless minions of their ilk. Christmas Dinners! Today, the seven christmas dinners decided to hang around the house. On past the door they strutted, gobbling, and doing whatever walking christmas dinners tend to do on a slightly damp day. I wish just a few mere seconds later I had a video camera. One of the christmas dinners, decided it would try perching its bulk on the electric fence! I've never seen a christmas dinner have such an electrifying moment of realisation before. A rather shocking realisation I suppose for that tiny little bird brain to consider. 3000 volts of current and a turkey make for one heck of a launch. Shame it wasn't in the space programme. It might have made a record - for a turkey at least that is. The thing shot straight up in the air gobbling in pain, only to promptly hit the cabbage tree in midflight. It knocked itself out. Wrong month to nab for turning into a frozen christmas dinner. So I left it there for a while. There it lay,  watched over by six other unblinking dumb-as future festivity delights (evil grin). After a few minutes it finally recovered, staggered up and went off with its pals. Not long now until that month without an 'r' in it happens along. All I need now is to find some cranberry sauce.....


Defending champion returns

Defending Tasman champion, Reuben Carter, is the first Grand Finalist to be named for the 2014 ANZ Young Farmer Contest.

The thirty year old agronomist took first place at the Tasman Regional Final in Murchison at the A&P Show over the weekend, Saturday 15 February.

Mr Carter had a dominant performance leading for most of the day and took out both the Silver Fern Farms Agri-Sports and Ravensdown Agri-Skills Challenges giving him solid platform going into the evening show.

The Christchurch City Club member went home with a prize pack worth over $10,000 including cash, scholarships and products and services from ANZ, Lincoln University, Ravensdown, AGMARDT, Silver Fern Farms, Honda, Husqvarna and Vodafone.

Second place went to Andrew Wiffen, 26, of the Renwick Club. Mr Wiffen took home $2,900 worth of prizes and also won the Lincoln University Agri-Growth Challenge.

Sarah O’Connell, 29, of the Dunsandel Club, placed third and was also the top scorer in the AGMARDT Agri-Business Challenge.

And, in a close fourth, was James Hoban, of the Hurunui Club.

It was a strong group of competitors with plenty of knowledge and talent on display. The eight contestants were put through their paces in a variety of challenging modules touching on all aspects of farming from practical hands on tasks to theory and business components.

Mr Carter is off to the Grand Final in Christchurch, 3-5 July where he will battle it out for the Champion’s title and over $300,000 in prizes.

He now has eight Regional Finals under his belt and placed fourth overall in the 2013 Grand Final. Contest rules dictate that competitors can only participate twice at the Grand Final level, so this will be his last chance to be the ANZ Young Farmer Contest Champion.

“I have a lot of passion and drive for the agricultural sector and this is what drives me in the contest,” he said. Mr Carter does admit to having quite the competitive streak. “I have always been competitive and enjoy the challenge,” he said.
Mr Carter grew up on a sheep and beef farm at Opononi in Northland and later moved to Canterbury for study and earned his Bachelor of Agriculture from Lincoln University.

Outside of work he enjoys hunting, wood chopping, 4-wheel driving and is very active in stock judging. He was the 2012 winner for the NZ & Australasian Junior Meat and Wool Breeds Sheep Judging Championship.

Mr Carter is also working on raising his sheep stud, “Hurricane Romney,” and building up his equity for the ultimate goal of buying a drystock and cropping farm.

Be sure to tune in to ‘Road To The Young Farmer Final’. The series covers each of the seven Regional Finals and follows the seven top achievers who make it through to the Grand Final. Catch all the action starting Sunday 18th May, 8.30pm exclusively on TVNZ Heartland.

For more information visit www.youngfarmers.co.nz

Future Young Farmers battle it out in Murchison

The AgriKidsNZ and TeenAg competition season is underway for 2014 with Regional Finals taking place throughout the country over the next three months.
The competitions test skills, strength and stamina while introducing youth to the fun side of agriculture. Primary and high school students from all walks of life are welcome to join in.
Tasman held its Regional Final in Murchison at the A&P Show with Karetu Kids, Hamish Mackintosh, Ginny Smith & Maddie Hassall from North Loburn School taking home the top honour in the AgriKidsNZ competition and Jack & Ben, Jack Anderson & Ben Early from St Andrews College were the top team in the TeenAg event. 
Rounding out the top three for AgriKidsNZ was the Gumboot Gang, Bella Caughley, Stuart van Heerden & Sophie Stephens in second place from North Loburn School and third place went to Grass Guru’s, Taine Kinzett, George Kitney & Ben Allan from Murchison Area School. 
AgriKidsNZ is open to children 8-13 years of age and they compete in teams of three while the TeenAg competition calls for high school students 13-18 years old, competing in pairs.
“It was a great start to the 2014 competition series,” commented Josie Hampton, AgriKidsNZ & TeenAg Project Leader. “There was a great level of competition in both events which was exciting to see for the first Regional Final and everyone really enjoyed their day,” said Miss Hampton.
There was some fierce competition amongst the TeenAg competitors. George & Hamish, George Fraser & Hamish Gardner from St Andrews College took home second place and in third place was Team Wire, Scott Higgins & Brent Dalley from Nelson College.
The competitions are structured into seven modules which can test anything and everything farm related. The top scoring seven teams continue through to the Race-Off challenge where contestants must work as a team and complete a series of tasks as fast as possible.

Top three teams from each Regional Final are invited to attend the 2014 Grand Final held in Christchurch, 3-5 July where they will battle it out for the national champion’s title alongside the ANZ Young Farmer Contest Grand Final.

Several Regional Final events around the country are nearing capacity which presents an exciting challenge for event organisers.
“The skill level of the competitors continues to impress us year after year and we are thrilled with the uptake from youth around the country,” said Miss Hampton.
For more information head to www.youngfarmers.co.nz

Life Snapshots Part 1 (video) #farmvoices #agchatnz

Over the last six or so years, I've ended up with a huge archive of digital images taken over the years. I'm amazed at how many places, people and animals I've photographed. Some in this video are taken at the farm, and others around the Kaipara, Hokianga and Auckland districts. It's mainly snapshots of rural life and the region I live in. My kids have grown up living a very different to the life they would have had if I hadn't made the decision to start again else where. So why not share the years now in video. It's a half bad first effort. I used Windows Live Movie Maker for this video. The music is composed and performed by Jahzarr. Track is Titled "Roads that burned our boot" Track 2: "The Last ones" these are released by the composer under a Creative Commons attribution license for non-commercial use.


Yep the kid wants to be a farmer #agchatnz #farmvoices

Just on ten years ago I moved here to the farm. It didn't have the name it has now. Just an empty bareblock with grass taller than my head, and the promise of a new beginning. Ten years on, Michelle my youngest daughter is now 15 years old. All season she's been showing beef cattle for a friend and learning all about how cattle go together.

Her dad took her out a few weeks ago, and gave her some spending money. You would think Michelle would have gone and bought a CD with her favourite music on it. Instead she came home with a book about cattle breeds, which she carries around with her. After the last show she went too, home Michelle came with a big insight into the conformation of Jersey dairy cows and how they should go together.

My two jersey cows have been scrutinised by said daughter and every conformation fault picked out in the process. Well considering one was out of a first year heifer, and not considered economic to keep as a replacement? She wouldn't be perfect, but what a great mother she turned out to be for her first calf. The other aka The Terrorist was a twin, so not much good for anything to do with a dairying operation. However she certainly has given us all a lot of laughs over the last almost 6 years since she came to live with us. The blog got started because of the tiny jersey calf Gillian dropped off one morning.

I've watched my daughter grow, and overcome significant diabilities and challenges during her life. Michelle is growing up. She can go into a dairy shed and put the cups on the cows, handle calves and give mum lectures on what a good cow on a dairy farm should look like. She's told me in the last few weeks, that she has decided that she is going to go farming. She wants to farm beef she's told me. I suggested she starts on a dairying operation first, get her AgQuals on farm while learning on the job, then make some choices from there. Michelle has autism, but it hasn't stopped her from learning new things and developing into a bright intelligent upcoming young woman with a positive and clear goal to reach for. I am so proud of her!

 For anyone reading this post in New Zealand there are a number of Farm Experience days coming up for teenagers considering farming as a career. The Primary Sector are finding there are less young people choosing farming as a career option. Check out the Get Ahead website for details on the Get Ahead Experience Days being held at various locations around New Zealand.


Our quiet good Samaritan dairy farmer neighbour.

I've been wondering why, of late, my four little horses have been watching my dairy farmer neighbour's back race. For the last few days, the dairy herd has been grazing near the back of our farm. We've got half the farm shut off at the moment to let the grass recover, and the rest in the process of being refenced. Right now grass growth is a bit slow, so the cows and the old man are getting the priority. Little horses do not need fresh green grass to add to their weight problems. Miniatures get fat very quickly, and easily just on the smell of new grass!

 I saw one of the boys on the quad a couple of days back pull up next to our back fence, and get something out of the back of the quad. Over it went, much to the little horse's delight. What was it I wondered?  After a closer look, it turned out it was some hay from the other paddock. He had picked it up, and out of a bit of kindness, had given it to the little horses. Not that they really needed it! We've been juggling paddocks to try to get the pasture to recover.

After a four month long drought last summer, and then a wet cold winter, the grass got its end badly knocked in. Yesterday, again, I found the little horses up in the back corner munching out on more hay! I just have to smile, and quietly say thank you to my good Samaritan dairy farmer neighbour for his caring. We've had a lot of changes going on in the last few weeks family wise. That small act of kindness by one of the boys next door, made me smile. He did it, because he cared. This is what I love about living in a rural community. There's always someone out there to lend a hand, even if they haven't been asked for help. People just do kind things anyway. From the bottom of my heart to my kind neighbour I can only say thank you!


Thank you Mr Gallagher for spoiling our fun! Memo from two jersey cows

My cows want to lay a complaint about Mr Gallagher, and his rather shocking tactics. As they can't speak human,  the concept of writing nothing but "MOO" through out the composition is out of the question. I guess, I will have to translate my bovine's rather loud complaints into the english language as best as I can.

Moomo Memo to Mad Bush Farmer dated 2nd February 2014
Delivered by MOO cowpat left on door step. Time 5 am

Dear %$^&!!!  Mad Bush Farmer aka &^%$#@@@!!!!!!!!!MOO

We note you have mooed blocked off our access from your moo garden with white &^%MOO wire. This is completely &*%$#  unacceptable! moo. We require an moo&%@Moo explanation Moo%$! IMMEDIATELY! signed your two Jersey cows

Response to Memo from Two Jersey Cows dated 3rd February 2014
Delivered by loud shouting from the hilltop 10 a.m

Dear Jersey nuisances River and Terrorist

Banning you lot from &*(%$   shredding up what is LEFT of my #$%^ garden is the best thing I EVER did. Better still, I've got Mr Gallagher working at full capacity. I hope you enjoyed your shocking experience when you attempted to infiltrate the secure zone I have now instigated.

Signed The Mad Bush Farmer

PS don't call me ^%$*&@#$MOO it's not nice

Response to Memo From The Mad Bush Farmer aka &^%$#!!!!&%$!???!! dated 4th February 2014
Delivered by a wrecked fence down the back of the farm 11.15 pm

Did you say Mr MOO%^*&^@%%!!?? Gallagher Moo??? &^*($#!!!Moo!!!! So THAT explains why both of us are having a bad MOO day?? Moo*&^!!!

Response to  Jersey Nuisances response to Mad Bush Farmer about Memo dated 5th February 2014
Delivered by loud cackling from the other hill top 6.30am

That's what I said. Whoops it appears the boys next door found you two roaming again. Did I mention you're now banned from the back of the farm. Mr Gallagher has assisted in this decision. You may experience another shocking incident in this instance. Oh and then there's the matter of the high tensile wire recommended for Mr Gallagher. I understand it has a rather nasty bite to it.

Signed the Mad Bush Farmer

PS I believe Mr Gallagher has won this round. And please I can't translate cow language obscenities very well.

Ransom demand Memo from Jersey Cow Mafia delivered by loud barking at 10pm dated 5th February 2014

We have your MOO&^%! dog surrounded MOO$#  Hand over Gallagher Moo&^%  immediately! or the mutt gets it!

*&^%MOO,@#$%%  The Jersey Mafia

Response to Ransom Demand of Dog by Jersey Cow Mafia dated 6th February
Delivered by cattle stick


Irate Mad Bush Farmer

PS Mr Gallagher says he has increased the current. He assures me your experience will be totally electifying if you try getting out again.

Response from Jersey Cow Mafia dated 6th February
Delivered by strategic retreat

This is not over Moo. The dog peed on our legs ^&%$moo. You'll be hearing from our lawyers! Moo

Response to Jersey Cow Mafia now locked in a paddock by Mad Bush Farmer and Mr Gallagher

Cows don't have lawyers. Take my advice you two. Stay behind the wire. Mr Gallagher is always on patrol. Yes the dog would pee on your legs if you two are standing like two statues alongside his kennel.

Signed the Mad Bush Farmer

PS those attempts to make me feel guilty are failing to work. Now behave!