The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning Saturday the 20th of September 2008.
Saturday the 20th

Today was going along quite nicely for a while. I moved cows around and sorted some things out and in the early afternoon Stephan took the children off to town to visit some of his family's children, giving me some quiet time ... and then I ran over Mary's head!

Mary the Paradise Duck has been here since she was flown by plane from Nelson, and we've taken a great deal of care to look out for her species' suicidal behaviour around vehicle wheels.

I needed to move the ute out of the way before bringing the young heifers down for a feed and between stopping to open a gate and driving forward again, I forgot to check where she was. There was a bang (probably a protesting wing on the underneath of the vehicle) and a squawk and when I got out to look, she was running away up the driveway shaking her head. I caught her and put her in her cage so she'd be in a quiet and contained area. She was bleeding from her bill and constantly tucked her head back under her feathers, obviously in some distress, although she seemed steady enough on her legs.

My friend Mary-Ruth, who is a vet, happened to phone at that moment and instructed me to give Mary Brandy or Whiskey! Apparently traumatised birds are aided by strong alcohol when in shock. The strongest thing in the house, other than Gin, which Mary-Ruth reckoned wouldn't be the thing, was some Port, so she got a swig of that.

Eventually Mary stopped bleeding and appeared able to eat, although she was rather quieter than normal for a couple of hours. That turned out to be a very temporary effect.

As previously noted, Bruce Armstrong, beloved husband of my mother, Jill, died at around 7pm this evening.

Sunday the 21st
Mary's head

Mary's head, complete with muddy tyre mark. Her bill is damaged on the right side, so I presume one side hit the ground while the other was rolled by the tyre. I am surprised she wasn't more seriously hurt or killed, and very glad of it.

disturbed ground

I went over to Jane's place next door this morning, to move the now-empty cows around. I was puzzled by this patch of ground, until I realised it was probably the result of many hours of circling by a couple of hot cows! Both Irene and 506 had quite muddy sides, so they probably had a sleepless night together, turning in circles.

the yearling heifers

The little heifers have been in the house paddock for a few days, behind an electric tape and I don't want to give them any more of the grass they've been sharing with the sheep. Stephan did some tidying up in the native tree area and he and the little boys threw all the grass over the fence for the heifers to eat.

Later in the day we sent most of them out to the Pines and PW, keeping Curly and Squiglet with the sheep, so they can finish off the last of the dairy meal. Curly, with her odd skin and hair, has been suffering from the wet and the sheep paddock is actually reasonably dry, so I decided it would do her good to stay here. Squiglet just needs more looking after. I don't know if she'll ever catch up to the size she ought to be.

Squiglet and Curly are the two animals at the front of the group above.

boys climbing the fallen tree

The children all went up the fallen Puriri tree this morning. I supervised, bearing in mind how often the smallest of them is pushed over by his older sibling and that such an action could have serious consequences when the ground was a long way down! They found all sorts of interesting insects and had a lovely time clambering around between the branches.

Monday the 22nd
545 and her calf

Our first calf for the season, born as predicted to heifer 545, a bull.

Stella came up the lane to watch with me as the calf was being born and we sat together a few feet away from 545 with our binoculars.

Jude arrived this afternoon, to reclaim responsibility for her three children, which we relinquished with some relief! We have found it quite hard work being instant parents to three small children, in the middle of a busy time of the year.

Tuesday the 23rd
545's calf

545's calf.

Wednesday the 24th

This morning I checked the heifers in the Windmill Paddock, leaving them with some trepidation, knowing we'd be gone for many hours, then set off for Whangarei for Bruce's funeral.

We were home again with enough light left in the day to check the heifers, happily finding all as I'd left it this morning.

Thursday the 25th
371 and her heifer calf

I watched 456 this morning standing out alone in her paddock, stamping her back foot, so I assumed she was in labour. However it was not she, but 371, who actually produced today's calf a little later in the morning.

371 needed veterinary assistance last year because her calf was oddly positioned, so I was keen to keep an eye on her progress this year; but she was having none of it. As soon as I entered the neighbouring paddock, she bellowed at me and moved away - I think she must have had unpleasant memories of last year. I withdrew to the house, from where I watched through binoculars while she successfully produced this heifer calf.

371's udder is awful, although better than that of her mother and so far she has managed alright with it. Every year I think I'll cull her from the herd, but for various other reasons I let her stay on last year. She has a two-year-old daughter in the pregnant heifer mob and she does raise a fabulous calf.

Friday the 26th
clematis clematis

The white splashes of flowering Clematis vines in the tops of trees in our Camp Paddock. I'll have to go on a neck-craning hunt for them to tie bright ribbon markers around their stems to prevent accidental felling during scrub clearance by Stephan. The one on the left is quite substantial, climbing across the tops of several trees, from the look of it from a distance.

Curly's feet

Curly 562's feet, showing evidence of the effect of living in mud through such a long wet winter. It was Curly whose legs I noticed bleeding when the heifers were all on the flats. She obviously lost a lot of her leg hair, which is now in the process of growing back again.


Dexie 46 and 548, both due to calve shortly and quite different in shape.

I've wondered if 548 might have twins (as one of her sisters did on another property). 548's mother has a very wide gut too, so it might just be other bits of her innards pushing her out so far.

I have to remind myself frequently that the size of a cow's belly is an entirely unreliable way to predict anything about pregnancy, stage of gestation, or number or size of calves she may be carrying. My twinning cows have always been as thin as Dexie on the left and sometimes a wide animal will have a minute calf. Some will remain as wide as a bus even after calving.