The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 14th of February.
Saturday the 14th
sheep before shearing sheep after shearing

A couple of days ago, since the rain last week, I noticed one or two of the sheep beginning to twitch. With the extreme humidity and very warm temperatures, the conditions were excellent for the flies which lay their eggs on sheep and that's exactly what they did. We brought the ewes and lambs in from the flats and Stephan shore them.

flystrike on a lamb

Dotty's hogget daughter from last year had been the most twitchy (they run around, twitch their ears, put their noses to the ground) and she was struck between her back legs in particular; a couple of the lambs had tiny spots of maggot-initiated dampness and one lamb was quite badly struck behind the shoulders (in this photo), although none had been afflicted for long enough for the maggots to have yet done any significant damage to their skin.

I crouched next to Dotty and scratched her back as she lay by a gate and observed her snapping at the flies around her rump, but even at that proximity I didn't detect the maggots under her wool. We discovered, as she was shorn, a large patch of very active maggots on her rump, of which she was no doubt very glad to be rid. Dotty has the very tight wool of her Suffolk sire, and has been prone to strike.

The shorn lambs in the picture at the top have a pink tinge because I marked them with pink raddle (chalk) so I can distinguish them from one another in the paddock. One of them has a nasty hacking cough and I want to work out which of them it is. Straight after shearing they're quite greasy with all the lanolin from their skin and wool, so they smudged their pink stripes as soon as I'd applied them.

Bendy and flies

We checked the five sheep in the Chicken Paddock as well - three of them came to the other side of the sheep yards while the ewes were there and they were all very healthy and happy looking, but when we went to check Bendy, he was not nearly as content.

He needed shearing as a preventative measure, since the flies were already checking him out for dinner! He had maggots in one foot which we eliminated, but they'd not yet started elsewhere, although it obviously wouldn't be long judging by all the flies on his wool.


Down at the end of the Chicken Paddock, which used to be an orchard area (with very old Pear trees still standing a few years ago), there are some Quince trees. Until a couple of years ago we thought they'd died of old age, particularly when they fell over and had no leaves. But last year they produced a few fruit and this year they're doing it again and looking very much like they'll make a strong comeback to the land of the living, despite being prostrate on the river bank.

Sunday the 15th

Today we attended the AGM (Annual General Meeting) of the Far North Organic Growers group. We are "support members" only, since we're not actually Organic farmers. The meeting was held on a property in Rotokawau Road, near the lake which presumably bears that name.

After the business was done we walked around the property and then Terry, with whom Stephan works for the NZ Kiwi Foundation, gave a demonstration of setting various types of traps to catch introduced pest species which target native birds. He had a number of traps available for loan to members so they may do trapping on their own properties.

Terry demonstrating a Timms Trap set-up Steve Allan possum trap on a fence post

The most important thing to do when setting traps for predators of Kiwi, is to ensure that you don't accidentally catch Kiwi instead of the pest species. For that reason no trap should be set less than 750mm from the ground, or it must be inside a specially designed cover which will keep Kiwi from reaching the trap itself.

In the photo (above left) Terry was demonstrating setting a Timms possum trap on a fence stay, but the same method would work in the bush wherever there was an appropriate "ramp" or branch along which possums might travel. The Steve Allan possum trap attached to the fencepost on the right, was one I haven't seen before, but I'd like to have a few around our place.

moving the cows and calves along the lane from the Back Barn Paddock

The cows, calves and some heifers, moving from the Back Barn paddock, down the lane to the PW gateway this evening.

Monday the 16th

Virago Direction 45 AB, son of my lovely Demelza and the AMC (Arthrogryposis Multiplex Carrier) bull C A Future Direction, went off to the works on a truck this morning. I had initially booked both AMC bulls in to go to the works today, but then recalled that I'd drenched the two yearling bulls just before Christmas (with a 91 day Meat Withholding Period) and so today only the older AMC bull could go. I really liked that little bull and he had a lovely placid temperament.

Northern Rata

When the truck had gone we went back to the house and prepared for a walk. Stephan's trap line through a property at the base of the Maungataniwha Range was due for its three- or four-weekly maintenance and I said I'd like to go too, now that I'm free of my regular cow-checking duties.

We parked the ute at the top of a long driveway and climbed up into the bush at about 9.30 am. The cicadas were making so much noise I wished I'd thought to bring ear plugs!

This is the base of a Northern Rata, Metrosideros robusta, an enormous tree which would once have been a tiny epiphytic vine.

a bone

Stephan told me this was why he got this run: the last guy died and they never found all of him.

The weather was showery which would have been uncomfortable if it had been constant, but served to keep us cooler than we would have been had the weather been dry. And when it was raining, the cicadas shut up for a little while, which gave our ears a rest.

red rock in a stream

I know very little about rocks, but there are red ones in all of the rivers and streams around our area. This one was very striking with its cloak of beautiful bright green moss.

looking back at the hills

At 1.10 pm I took this picture as we climbed a slope back up to where we'd left the ute, looking back toward the hills we'd been climbing around.

It is as wild as it looks - there is no obvious track on the ground, so the direction is marked by bright coloured plastic ribbon tied to branches and trees. In some places one has to look quite hard for the next ribbon!

Thursday the 19th
Kikuyu grass

After the rain the Kikuyu grass started to grow, in some places very quickly. This track was bare brown dirt a few days ago, with the odd bit of green. Now the Kikuyu is advancing over it at a great rate, so that the change is noticeable every time I ride or walk up here.

Friday the 20th

We had a lovely visit from Amanda, daughter of Stephan's sister, Rachel. I've seen very little of Amanda over the last few years, since she left school and went away to commence her Tertiary studies, so it was lovely to spend some hours catching up with her again. Then she rode off on her cool little motorbike, wearing lots of leather!