The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 29th of March 2008.
Saturday the 29th
Mike and Eric going hunting

I spent the morning miserably lying in bed.
In the afternoon, Mike and Chantelle and their boys came out for a visit, and after a swim in the pond, Mike took Eric out to hunt rabbits.

Chantelle and I drove out in the ute and had a quick look to make sure the two castrated bulls were ok. They really don't seem to have noticed a thing. Excellent.

Monday the 31st

After months of messing around and procrastinating and not being able to find bits of paper and waiting for other people to send me things, I've finally finished the annual accounts for the Kaitaia Dramatic Society. It's not a very complicated job, but one I kept putting off, having other more important things to do. So illness notwithstanding, we went to town so I could hand them over to the accountant who does the annual audit.

Stephan did a Kiwi Foundation walk this morning and said there were some heifers in the Big Back paddock and that he suspected he and Don had left the gates open at the top of the hill. So my cows are not where I intended them to be!

Tuesday the 1st of April
Stephan and the ram

The ram has been restlessly moving around the paddock for the last couple of days. He can presumably smell a ewe in oestrus somewhere on the wind and she's not in his paddock! Fortunately he seems to have forgotten his lambhood habit of ducking out underneath the electric fencing and has so far stayed where he's meant to be. He mated Lamb on the 29th and Babette on the 30th and now he'd like some more, please!

He came over and had a look at Stephan planting something by the fence and Stephan said he smells very strong! When I was putting the washing out on the line a little later, I got a strong whiff of him too and wondered how the towels would end up smelling. Eau de ram... an 'interesting' after-shower scent.

Stephan went off to a play rehearsal - a new one which may go into production, if they can find enough cast members - and as I quietly wandered back from the mail box I could hear a bit too much calling at the back of the farm. I'm feeling a bit better, so decided to walk quietly out to open some gates so the animals which have presumably become separated by ending up in the wrong paddocks could be reunited - I'd have ridden out, but we've had rain and the tracks are all slippery and hard to ride on.

Another of the yearlings was on heat, followed by three little bulls and a number of steer calves. As one of the larger steer calves was mounting the hot heifer, Abigail's son, #63, bashed him under his belly and the poor fellow collapsed onto the ground and laid there for a few seconds in disorientation. #63 seems to have done a huge growth spurt in the last couple of weeks and suddenly seems far larger than before. A little later on, as he was still following the hot heifer around, I heard Abigail calling quietly to him as if to say, stop trying to have sex and come for dinner! Which he instantly did. It's quite comical watching the bull calves, now that they're starting to look very much like bulls, trying to do what will come very naturally to them in their future lives, yet still being big babies at feed time, attached to their mothers' udders.

Wednesday the 2nd

Perhaps walking out to the back of the farm was a bit more than I ought to have attempted in my frail state. I spent today lying down with a book and a blanket.

Thursday the 3rd
moving cattle in the sunshine

I rode out on the bike to move the cattle this morning, hoping they'd all just turn up safely, since I'm far too ill to go hunting for them. Lots of them were already near the gate and a whole lot more came running when they heard the bike.

They were coming out of the Big Back paddock, around to the right in the picture, and then they'd thunder across the Bush Flat paddock to where I and the other cows were waiting. I love watching them arrive like that, glossy in the sunshine, looking so healthy and content.

A couple of pairs (cow and calf) and another three calves hadn't turned up, so I rode to the bottom of the Big Back paddock and tooted my horn a number of times and could hear various calls from away up in the top of the paddock in the midst of all the trees. They gradually appeared, in little groups of twos and fours, with one lonely little heifer bringing up the rear at last.

cattle in the Mushroom paddock

This picture is one paddock back toward the front of the farm, looking back in the same direction as in the picture above. It was such a beautifully clear, warm morning and I went home and lay on the couch again with a book and a box of tissues.

Friday the 4th
bulls in the lane

The weather forecasts are predicting ongoing wetness next week and so I rang to see if the rest of our fertilizer could go on sometime later today when, hopefully, the wind will have dropped.

The cattle are all around the flats, so I had to shift them to other places, starting with the bulls, which have gone onto Jane's place to get some of her grass under control. They fought their way down the paddock, followed by Stephan, then came very quickly along the lane and overtook me. They're beautifully behaved though, so they just ran past without any threatening displays.

moving the ewes

The 105 cows and calves are eating the flats until Don gets here and Ivy's gone into the already-fertilized Camp paddock. After lunch we moved the ewes out of the House paddock - the ram is out of sight at the back, trying to keep control of Yvette who's on heat (and also his mother, but we won't think about that too deeply).

The ewes and rams had to stand in the sheep yards for a short time while we moved the hoggets, because I didn't want any of them having the opportunity to try going through the fences back to their mothers and the ram.

moving the hoggets

Moving the hoggets (the recent ex-lambs) across the flats is not too difficult, since they follow Damian and Bendy who follow the bucket of maize. We took them past the yards to graze the chicken paddock and they all ran up to their mothers and looked like they'd like to climb over the railings to get back in with them. For weeks they've not even appeared to miss the ewes!

Through some stupid misunderstanding Don ended up not coming out with the fertilizer and I spent an hour feeling very frustrated and swearing darkly around the place. I'm sick, sick of being sick, worried about the possibility of missing this chance to get the fertilizer on ... Of course there's nothing I can do about it and it will either rain or it won't. Part of my distress is the fact that the fertilizer bill arrived in the post and it's a far bigger number than I've ever spent on it before and that's not because we've increased the quantity! I want the stuff on the ground, to start doing what I'm paying for.