The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 21st of June 2008.
Saturday the 21st
fungi colony

Anna, who appears in these pages from time to time, brought some Scottish friends Emily and Chris, out for a walk around the farm today. Stephan decided he'd take them on part of one of his trap walks, since it's due to be done and makes a nice walk around our back boundaries.

We found numerous colonies of fungi in a damp patch of bush which has recently been fenced off from the cattle - it's been quite warm over the last week or so, so growing conditions are probably perfect. I'd like to go back when the light is a little better and take some more pictures.


The sudden movement of this weta at the base of a tree caught my eye. She is a tree weta. That is not a sting, but her egg-laying equipment at the back. When I approached her she put her back legs straight up in the air over her back. They behave in an intimidatory fashion when approached, but I don't know if they'd carry it through in an aggressive way or not - I always run away!

The white patch on her front leg is her ear. I've not seen one so clearly before and could remember having read something about their ears being on their legs, so looked it up. They're fascinating and beautiful creatures. This is not a type of large insect I would ever deliberately kill. This one's body was about two inches long.

Tonight was the last night of the play in which Stephan has been acting.

The play went off reasonably well, but it wasn't a consistently good production. In my experience there are two nights during which actors need to take special care: the second night, because everyone is relieved they've got the first night over successfully and so they relax a little too much and it can all be a bit flat; and the last night, when it's all almost over and everyone relaxes because they've done it a number of times and after this, there's no more. This cast managed the second night well enough, but the last night just went to pieces! People forgot lines all over the place and dropped out of character. Kaitaia Dramatic Society has always prided itself on the professionalism of its productions and I'm not convinced that we've reached that standard in the last few months. Those of us who've been around for some time probably need to be a bit more involved in the hand-over to our newer members. But as often happens with this sort of organisation, the longer-standing members are tired of it all and quite happy to pass the baton to new people with new energy. The problem in our case is that we've not managed to pass on the culture of the organisation with the responsibilities and I feel we must rectify that.

Sunday the 22nd
Putangitangi - Paradise Duck

Mary on the shed roof. She flies in at dawn from wherever she sleeps overnight, with rather too much racket to sleep through as she lands on the roof. She spends the day wandering around on the deck and lawn, eating the food I put out for her, or sitting on either of the rooves, then late in the afternoon she flies off for the night.

Monday the 23rd
Stephan setting out in the rain

Our water supply has been out for several days and we've been in conservation mode - the header tank holds a couple of hundred litres, which we can make last for a while if we're careful. But having run the last drop out of the tank this morning, it's time one of us went up to fix the filter again. I let Stephan do it, and let him take my old umbrella with him!

grazed and ungrazed pastures

When the rain was taking a break for a while, I went out to check on some of the cattle.

In this picture you can see the effect of 28 hungry cows compared with a paddock of grass which hasn't been grazed for a couple of weeks.


Thank goodness for the brightness of lemons in the midst of all this damp and grey weather! They're not quite ripe, but they've changed colour very quickly in the last few days.

There's that other lovely yellow beyond them, for all that the plant is not looked upon with any favour: gorse. Gorse flowers smell a bit like butterscotch, well worth the danger of picking from within their prickly branches just to hold under one's nostrils!

Tuesday the 24th

This whole week the weather has been cold and windy with intermittent rain: entirely unpleasant for walking. Stephan's getting behind on his trapping runs - because of the play and also because he's been sick - so he's going to have to go out in the nasty weather and he has no wet-weather gear, so we went to town to buy him some. Because we can usually work our schedules around the weather, or if we do have to be out in the rain, it's usually not for long and we're not far from home anyway, we've never really kitted ourselves out for it - apart from having the odd umbrella around.

Wednesday the 25th
Stephan in his new gear

Well, I did ask him to pose.

The new oilskin outfit, over a woollen shearer's singlet: that should keep him warm!.

We walked out the back together from where Stephan headed up into the bush behind our property and I checked on the cows in the Back Barn paddock.

I'd left the lanes set up so the cows could be shifted into the Camp paddock for a couple of days, for a change and a bit of new grass, so called them out after me as I left the paddock.

cows coming along the lane

Most of them just ambled along and I counted 26 past me and kept calling for the last two and around the corner came a galloping cow, looking like she was extremely alarmed at being left behind! Very odd behaviour for Demelza, who has spent most of her life as the last cow in the line, often needing to be rounded up before she'll come out of a paddock with the rest of her mob. Goodness knows what had upset her - and she just kept on running until she caught up with the rest of the mob. The very last cow just ambled along behind me as I walked along the lane to join them.

a rat in a trap

This is the inside of the DOC200 trap which Mathew carried out for Stephan a few weeks ago and this is what happens to a rat when it walks over the plate on its way to an anticipated tasty meal of dead rabbit.

Thursday the 26th

There was an enormous thunderstorm last night - actually a multitude of them - with hail, very strong winds and torrential rain in short bursts. It was widespread over much of the North Island and there were probably a lot of tired people around today, since it wasn't something one could easily sleep through!

I went over the road during the middle of the day, hunting ragwort with the plonking granule stick and the wind was so strong up on the ridge that it took my breath away. The air isn't too horribly cold though, just very fast moving.

Friday the 27th
55 and 61, waiting for a truck

This morning two bulls left for new homes. The larger of the pair is #55, off to join a small herd of dairy cows at Ronnie's place in Fairburns and the young bull is Meatpacker 61 AB, son of Demelza, going to the same farm as Alex 51 and #37.

I am very pleased their truck is finally coming, because four bulls will be vastly easier to feed than six.

curious bull

#45 came over for a sniff through the rails while I was crouching to take the picture above. I'd not be comfortable with him this close to me without those sturdy bits of timber between us! Not that I think he'd be likely to do anything untoward, but it would only take a gentle nudge of that great head to send me into the mud. All of the R2 bulls will allow us to scratch their rear ends out in the paddock, but head-on contact is not something I'm in favour of encouraging.

Stephan set off in the rain after we'd loaded the bulls onto the truck, heading into the Herekino Forest for a several-hour walk, baiting and resetting traps.

Huhu beetle, I think

I found this beetle this afternoon, while clambering around out the back checking the heifers. I thought it might be an example of a parasitic fungus attack, but my native things book (Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest by John Dawson and Rob Lucas) only mentions a moth and cicadas being affected. However, the book only covers the most commonly found species, so I shall do some further research.

The beetle is definitely dead, although at first glance, it certainly didn't look it.