The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning Saturday the 13th of September 2008.

A bit of a catch-up from the missing week, in terms of farm news: Stephan had to call in one of the vets to calve white-faced 416 (who'd had the strangely hanging membrane for the last couple of weeks). She had been looking unsettled, then appeared to be attempting to calve without success. She had dead twins, female and male, and they weren't a very long time dead, but not fresh either. The cow appears to be alright. She was not due to calve until 12 October.

Saturday the 13th

Today was the day I brought Stella (6), Jasper (4) and Louie (2) home with me from Whangarei, so Jude could spend some time supporting Jill during Bruce's last days.

Steam train at Kawakawa

When we got to Kawakawa, the steam train was operating, so we stopped for a look. (This picture was one I took last Saturday with Stephan.) The children and I walked along the platform and sat for a while to watch some men trying to fix a minor derailment which was blocking the way of the steam engine. In the end the train was pulled away on its journey by a small diesel engine and we waved it off and continued our journey.

We arrived home and all the way along the driveway we could see balloons hanging in the trees and on the fences. Stephan decided we should have a Birthday party, since he'd missed my Birthday in Whangarei - and we thought such a celebration might be enjoyed by our guests. They all had a slice of cake with a candle on it, so they could blow their own out without spitting on anyone else's food.

children struggling in the mud

Later on we took the children out with us for my first walk to check some of the cattle, and it was hard work! The ground is still so sodden that nearly every footstep necessitated unsticking a child from the mud.

Sunday the 14th
the yearling heifers

The yearling heifers, in the conservation corner of Flat 1. Not where they ought to be, but several have been breaking in to the area in the last few weeks and there isn't any other grass, so I gave up and let them have it.


The Nikau palm I've been watching beside the road: the new frond has opened at last.

the children in the lane

I went out to check the cows and spent a long time sniffing the breezes as I walked along the slopes in the PW, hoping to find somewhere the result of 418's failed pregnancy. I've also been watching cow bellies for movement of their calves and those which will allow stroking have also endured a bit of prodding in the hope of waking a slumbering calf within. There are a few definitely live babies there, so I am a little reassured. I've been feeling pretty negative about calving this year after losing four pregnancies and five calves!

Walking back across the flats, I was met by this welcoming party. The track along the length of the House paddock is solid and dry, after Stephan spread truck-loads of metal last year, so it's one place the children can walk with ease.

Monday the 15th
communications across the seas

While I've been catching up with the animals after my extended absence, Stephan has been taking care of the children. Today's entertainment was a communications experiment with tins connected by string, and naturally that had to be tried between one land mass and another.

Tuesday the 16th

I had to attend a vet meeting today, so Stephan took the children out to Ahipara to spend some time on the beach.

Heifer 545, in late pregnancy

The first expected calf will be from this heifer, number 545, which I inseminated on the 20th of December.

The blood test results for 416 (who had the twins, and incidentally is mother of 545 in this picture) came back negative for Neospora, which is interesting, since we thought she would be another infected cow.

Wednesday the 17th

The health system continues to keep a very good eye on me, with another six-monthly Melanoma check today. Stella and Jasper came with me while Stephan walked down to town with Louie in the stroller and bought seedling tomatoes.

I've started drafting the calving cows according to expected calving dates and body condition, with the four thinnest cows coming onto the flats where they can start having their daily molasses and a little more grass than they were getting out the back.

After several days of no rain or only a tiny shower, it rained from mid afternoon, wetting everything again. It's lovely when things start to dry a little; gives one hope for the future ...

Thursday the 18th
children out walking

The eight young cattle are across the flats again, so we took them their dairy meal and molasses for the cows. I turned off the fences so the children could use them as hand-rails.

Paradise ducklings

One of the Paradise Duck families is spending a lot of time over here and down in the river. I haven't seen the family I photographed last week where they were then, but I'm not convinced this is the same lot. It's very easy not to see these ducklings unless you're particularly looking for them and there are usually two families living out on the flats.

Friday the 19th

The children said they wanted me to take pictures of flowers when I went out to check the cows. Abigail was standing in front of a hill with a flowering gorse bush in the far distance, so I took her picture - although you can't see the gorse in this one.

Abigail, just in case you've forgotten, is Isla's first daughter, born on 11 September 2001. She's in calf this year to a very old bull, from which I had some semen in my bank, whose daughters have had extremely nice udders. Isla's family have slightly "untidy" udders, so I thought I'd try the old bull on Abigail.

Woolly Nightshade, Tabacco Weed

Louie wanted a picture of a blue flower and I actually managed to find one! Woolly Nightshade or Tobacco Weed, spread by pigeons, grows all over the place, noxious weed.

going to fix the water leak

On my walk yesterday I found a break in the water pipe from the back of the farm, where a joint had burst under too much pressure. I suggested that Stephan take some helpers with him to fix it while Louie had a sleep and I had some quiet time alone at home.

Isla's Calving Date Competition
is open until midnight Wednesday 8 October (NZ time) so get your entry in!