The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 12th of July 2008.
Saturday the 12th

Just before 7pm I received a telephone message and then a call from an irate neighbour who said he had a dozen of my animals in his paddock. The caller is not one of our direct neighbours, so it took me a moment to work out what had happened. (This is turning into a nightmare year for cattle escape and intrusion!)

Late yesterday afternoon I'd opened up the Camp paddock for the young stock - it's been part of the cows' round, but they have sufficient feed where they are for the time being - and it would seem that an elephant has come through the boundary fence at some point and the young cattle hardly stopped to eat the grass before heading out into the bush on our neighbour's property. From there they had made their way down to the rather extensive lawns and garden of the old homestead and were seen, just on dark, by one of the residents of the house. They called the next neighbour over, not realising the cattle were from here, and it was that farmer who had taken the animals to his paddock and then phoned us.

It being dark and a Saturday night, I phoned William up the road and asked if he could come down and stand on the road to warn any traffic that we were moving black cattle around in the dark and we went immediately down the road to collect the animals.

Cattle are a little difficult to move easily in the dark through unfamiliar areas, but we managed without too much uproar.

On our arrival home, we went directly out and found the rest of the mob - the other ten of the 21-head mob were grazing in one of the flats paddocks - and shut the Camp paddock gate! We were back in the house by two minutes after 8pm, so it hadn't taken us too long to sort it all out.

Sunday the 13th

We made the necessary visit to the neighbours with the trampled lawn and garden this morning. Being long-time farming folk, this was not the first time they've had cattle in their garden. There's little we can do to repair holes in a very wet lawn at this time of the year, but we had a very pleasant conversation with them in the warm sunshine.

a couple of pig hunters

A couple of pig hunters (whose dogs have been through "Kiwi aversion" training) came out this morning to hunt for some of the pigs which have been causing so much destructive damage to our pastures. A few hours later they reappeared, empty-handed. They'll come back, they say, and try again.

Isla on the riverbank

Good Grief! Isla has found her way through the flood-gate at the top end of this river reserve area and has "tidied up" considerably. That includes eating the half-dozen flax seedlings I very lovingly planted only yesterday! It's the time of year for cattle to push the boundaries, wherever they think there might be a little more feed just beyond their allowed grazing areas.

One day we like to think everything will be so well-fenced and tightly controlled that they won't get out anywhere, but with around 7km of external boundary fencing as well as the various conservation areas internally, it's an ongoing job to keep it all up to scratch.

little orange toadstools

Stephan and I went walking our boundary, to find out where the cattle had escaped yesterday, discovered the Elephant-sized hole in the fence and continued along the whole fenceline, ensuring that there were no further problems we needed to fix. In conversation with Arthur next door, whose lawn the young stock had trampled, he told us he remembers fencing the boundary with his then-neighbour some 50 or so years ago. They cut and used Puriri posts and Totara battens. In many places that original fencing still stands as a very adequate boundary, but in others it needs repair or replacement. To replace the whole fence would necessitate a great deal of clearing Stephan says he really doesn't want to have to do, but I think we shall have to consider the longer-term and give it some serious thought.

Walking through the bush is a delightful experience and here's another fungi picture.

Monday the 14th
cutting grass for cattle

I have used this riverbank area to feed Ivy for the last few years and so it hasn't been grazed this winter and has got rather out of control. Stephan has started cutting it and throwing the grass over the fence to the young cattle, who eat the green bits and trample the rest. The next cut, in a few weeks time, will yield better feed. It's an area we're planting with natives as I have seedlings available. Letting the cattle in there to harvest the grass themselves, would be too risky for the seedlings already planted.

My sister, Rachel, and my nephew, Issa, arrived this evening from Auckland, to stay until Friday.

Tuesday the 15th

Stephan took Issa with him on a trap-line walk today, which they both enjoyed. The DOC200 trap on our place near the hole we suspect a Kiwi sometimes lives in, caught both a stoat and a large rat.

Rachel and I walked out and found all 28 cows, brought them in to the yards and I gave them a shot of copper. Then, because the weather has been dry-ish for a few days, I popped them into Jane's place to take the top off the grass again.

Wednesday the 16th

Stephan and I cut quite a bit of flax for the cows today, but they were hardly interested. Perhaps if we'd put it in blue containers they'd have taken it all more seriously. They're holding their condition quite nicely, despite the lack of any obvious source of feed around the farm.

Thursday the 17th
Stephan and the boys

In the gauge this morning there was 56mm of rain, the bridge was washed clean and we had no running water.
This afternoon, after the rivers had gone down a bit, Stephan took Issa, with Laurence and Neil from down the road, out to fix the water. Because he had some helpers with him, they took tools with them to do an overhaul on the flood-gate in the back corner, since it has had quite a bit of water through it lately and some of the rails will need replacing again, being untreated, cut-down Totara and Kanuka.

Mary followed them all the way out to the back boundary.


I went over the road to check the 19 heifers. I'm quite happy with their condition, all looking pretty much like this one, 539. They're nicely covered without being fat and the grass is growing out the back in the other area they have apportioned to them, and to which they'll return in a couple of days.

Friday the 18th

I've been asked to double my magazine column output! Instead of appearing in Growing Today every other month, I shall henceforth be writing monthly. I'm thrilled, but also feel some trepidation, knowing that it has felt like quite enough to be writing only every eight weeks. But I could hardly turn down the opportunity, having dreamed of such a job for years.