The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 9th of August 2008.
Saturday the 9th
Babette having a lie down

Time for the ewes to start lying around looking like beached whales again. This is Babette, now nine years old and probably carrying twins, only one of which she'll be able to feed, with her half-faulty udder. If there are twins and both survive birth, one will go to Lynn at Paparore, who said she'd like one to raise by hand this year.
If I'd not been able to arrange a home for one of the lambs, I'd not have put Babette to the ram this year. Last year one of Babette's lambs died because he didn't get enough to eat during some cold, wet weather, when we were distracted by other events. I don't want to have that happen again.

Sunday the 10th

Three of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos which sometimes visit us, flew around the house this morning and then headed back out toward the pines behind the farm. I haven't seen them for a while and there are usually four. Perhaps one has succumbed to old age. There's a picture of one the last time I remember them being near our house, in December 2005. I have seen them since then, but only out at the back of the farm.

moving some cattle

There was a light frost this morning, followed by this sparkling, fine day. The colours at this time of year are intense, sometimes almost unbelievable, with the light striking everything from low in the sky.

These are the older non-pregnant heifers and their two younger companions, following me to cross the river to the Road Flat paddock. Seven made the crossing, but Stupid #58 got himself so frightened by ... everything, that he ended up staying in the paddock alone. Usually one can go around behind a cattle beast and gently coax it to go in the right direction, but I cannot steer this steer in the usual manner because he has some sort of temperamental disorder which makes him completely STUPID! Very annoying, since all I want to do is put him somewhere with more feed.

Kukupa in a Pūriri tree

There are a lot of Kukupa (native pigeons) around at the moment, heavily flying into the trees. This one sat in the sun in the top of a Pūriri with its eyes occasionally closed, having what looked like an afternoon snooze.

Patrick leaping into the pond

Mike and his boys came out for a walk and to cut some firewood and afterwards I was rather surprised to find some swimming in progress! This is Patrick, just leaving the ground as he leapt into the pond again. It's not really warm enough for swimming, unless you're a smallish boy.

Monday the 11th
Dotty and her first lamb

Dotty was due to lamb today, at 147 days since mating, but I had a migraine and slept in. When I did get up and look out the window, there she was with a little flat white thing on the ground and I thought perhaps it was going to be a sad morning, but she must only just have pushed it out and the lamb hadn't yet begun to move. Then it shook its head.

I ran around in a disorganised manner for some part of a minute and eventually located some clothes and my gumboots and the camera and ran out to ensure that all was well.

The lamb was still mostly covered in its membrane, and was having a confused time trying to breathe, so after photographing it for educational purposes, I pulled the membrane clear and the lamb was able to move and breathe more easily.

Dotty in labour again

Dotty was soon back down on the ground to deliver the next lamb - you may be able to see a little hoof at her vulva.

a lamb being born

I could see two feet and a nose, so let her get on with it and just watched. She didn't get the job done as quickly as I'd have thought a second one would have been born - it looks a bit like the left elbow may have been caught against Dotty's pelvic bones, which would have slowed things a little, but she was making continued progress and then suddenly the head and shoulders were through and the lamb was out.

The lamb lay on the ground (I took the membranes off its face too) and Dotty lay there and rested for a while, occasionally looking behind her to see who was bleating. Eventually she got up and licked the new lamb, while the other continually hunted for its first feed.

Dotty and three of her daughters

This is one of Dotty's triplets from last year, the one young ewe I may keep for breeding, coming to see what was going on.

Dotty began expelling afterbirth and didn't seem to be needing to lie down again, so I adjusted my expectations and thought two live and healthy ewe lambs would do very nicely, thank you. I had thought she might have triplets again, bearing in mind her girth.

two lambs

The lambs had a lovely first day, with warmth and sunshine and very little wind (although I hear there was a very nasty frost early this morning). They both fed well and are quite nice-sized babies, so should do well.

The first born has dark points - nose, ears and legs are dark brown, and the other has lighter colouring. (Dotty is half Black Suffolk.)

Tuesday the 12th
Dotty and her lamb Dotty and her lamb

What a clever lamb! Sitting on a sheepskin rug in preference to the wet grass is an excellent idea. It's not all plain sailing though, as the lamb kept discovering; several times it got on, sat down, slid off, as I caught in progress in the second picture. Lambs often sit on their mothers, but I don't remember seeing such a young animal having figured it out so early in its life.


Unfortunately I didn't quite get a clear picture of this Kukupa. It was sitting in a tree on the side of a steep slope, hence my ability to see it from an equivalent height, rather than looking up at its white underside as I usually do. It was eating the soft leaves of whatever that tree is. I haven't seen them eating leaves before, only berries.

Stephan went out to do a trap-line around our boundary and reappeared rather earlier than I had expected to see him. He had discovered that the flood-gate (which he, Issa, Laurence and Neil had renovated a few weeks ago) had been smashed through by the cows out the back, and they'd obviously been grazing under the forestry trees beyond our boundary. Stephan hadn't seen any cows out there, had made a note of every one he'd seen on the way back through the paddocks where they were supposed to be, but had not seen enough of them to know they were all back home.

We went back out there, found all but three of the cows fairly quickly and shut them out of the Back Barn paddock while Stephan went to repair the gate again. I spent the next hour climbing up and around in the PW looking for the last three cows, suspecting they'd be on the hill somewhere, having seen them the day before. They were sitting quietly in the top corner, under the trees.

I don't know when the cows might have broken out, but as was evident along the other broken boundary, they go and they return home again, so sometimes we're not even aware there's a problem. Winter is tough on cows and they're tough on fences, finding any weak point in the system! Flood-gates are difficult to manage, since they need to be solid enough to stop the stock going through them, but flexible enough to allow them to swing when the rivers are high. Most of the time ours work, but with big waters coming through in the winter, sometimes they don't. In this case the boundary is with a forestry block where there are seldom other stock and there's not really much to tempt the cows out there, except when they're getting really low on feed.

Wednesday the 13th

Stupid steer is still on his own in Flat 4, with the gate open for him to go across the river and join the others of his little mob. I've tried going in there and heading him toward them, but he runs off in the wrong direction. He'll just have to make do with the grass left in that paddock until the others come back or I move them to rejoin him.

His mother has gone to the works and I often think of the people to whom I sold his brother of the previous year. The elder steer showed similar tendencies, but was not quite so stupid as this animal and I very much hope he continued to quieten down. Nothing ever happened to the two calves to prompt this behaviour; it was presumably just some nasty genetic brain disorder which made them scared of everything and this one as wild as a beast straight out of the bush.

tiny fungi growing on live Pūriri branch

Another fungus to add to my collection, these ones tiny and growing out of the underside of a live Pūriri branch.

slow heifers on the hill

Late this afternoon Stephan and I went to fetch the pregnant heifers off the hill over the road, since there's not much grass left there now. Seventeen of the heifers were easily found and made their way to the gate and across the road and then we went back to find the other two: Irene 35 and Delilah 36. They're like a couple of naughty sixth-form girls, hanging out behind the rest of the group, probably having a secret cigarette behind a tree before they eventually make their way to where they ought to be! And then they don't actually come all the way down without being fetched.

Thursday the 14th
Abigail in a drain

Abigail, doing the drainage system no good at all. What does she think she is? A water buffalo? Mind you, I've been feeling like I need a wetsuit to get around the farm lately.

I managed to find 21 of the 28 cows and took them to the front of the farm and across the river to Jane's first paddock, since the grass needs grazing there. I expected that the other seven cows would appear on their own quite soon.

Friday the 15th
hail on the deck

At several times in the night I was awoken by nasty squally showers of rain and thought about the poor little heifers in Flat 1 with trees only on the down-wind side of the paddock. This morning as I finished my breakfast, another nasty lot of rain fell and then it started to hail. I bravely set out with my umbrella to open the gate for the heifers to go into the next paddock, where there are trees under which they could shelter. Some of the hailstones were 1cm across and lay about on the ground and on the deck for over half an hour after they'd fallen.

Five of the missing seven cows came down the lane during the morning and so this afternoon I went out to see if I could find the last two. Walking across the Windmill Paddock I saw this...

a bull in an odd situation

... a photo deserving of a caption far cleverer than any I can think of right now. Send me your suggestions; make me laugh. I'll post them in here as I receive them. (Email to if you can't do it by clicking the link.)

The animal is Virago Direction 45 AB, now nearly two years old and far too big a bull to be climbing piles of sticks!

a Kahikatea swathed in lichen

Even on the wettest, most uncomfortable days, there's something lovely to see. This Kahikatea tree (or trees, perhaps) is growing in the swamp running along the bottom of the PW (Paddock With etc. - you all know that by now, don't you?) and its swathes of lichen looked delightful in the gentle breeze.


I climbed the slippery hill from the gully where steer 356 got stuck, thinking the missing cows might have been drawn to the pregnant heifer mob which would probably be in the Middle Back paddock next door. Some of the heifers were there, but I couldn't find the cows.

Three Paradise Ducks were making an enormous racket at the top of a Pūriri tree. I often see the pair out here; I don't know why there's an extra female with them in what is, I presume, their nesting tree.