The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 14th of March.
Saturday the 14th of March
lime spreading

Ryan brought another load of lime today, it being beautifully calm and fine.

Stephan spraying gorse

As I was riding out to set up gates ready to send the cows to the Big Back Paddock, I looked up and saw Stephan on a hillside, hauling the spray hose up from the tractor-operated spray pump, in the process of spraying gorse.

Apart from organising lime, cattle movements and writing, I spent my day acutely aware of a wasp sting I received this morning from a wasp which flew under the flapping edge of my shorts as I rode along the track. The wasp was one of the common or German wasps - I didn't have time to minutely identify it - which sting repeatedly until removed, which I did very violently as soon as I'd skidded to an emergency halt on the bike! I'm mildly allergic to insect venom and stings really hurt!

Sunday the 15th
cows and calves sitting at the bottom of the Big Back Paddock

The cows and calves were nearly all sitting down at the bottom of the Big Back Paddock this afternoon when I went to check them.

Every Sunday for four months (I've been doing it for a few weeks now) I have to go and find Irene 698 and Irene 35 and spray them with Viburnum, a homeopathic remedy, which is supposed to help Neospora-infected cows keep their unborn calves alive. Fortunately it is as effective to spray the vulva of a cow as it is to spray her nose, to which she would strongly object. Spraying the other end of a quiet cow which likes a scratch, is far simpler.

fallen Puriri trunk

This ancient Puriri trunk has been standing in the Swamp in the Big Back Paddock for as long as I've known this farm. Today I found it lying down. Fortunately I had already discovered all the cattle were safe, for anything standing in the way of that mass when it fell, would not have survived.

reserve fencing in progress

The guide wires are run around the reserve in the paddock on the hill over the road. It's very good to be getting this project underway.

Wednesday the 18th
lovely calf bottoms

Lovely healthy calves, moving along the lane with their mothers this morning.

Stephan spent the day going to and from town, spending hours there installing the extension to the Community Centre's main hall stage, for the Royal New Zealand Ballet's Tutus on Tour performance tomorrow night.

In the evening I went up to feed the pigs and poultry. I picked up a wooden fence batten as I went through the top gate, because the ram has been increasingly problematic recently, and I've had to bang him on the nose a few times to make him go away and discourage him from having a go at me with his head. He has knocked Stephan a few times when he hasn't been watching out for him, but generally a slap on the nose will discourage him and he'll trot off and carry on grazing.

I fed the pigs and the ram and Bendy were quietly grazing nearby, so I kept an eye on their movements while I worked. Then I went into an enclosure in which the Turkey hens and their chicks have been for the last few days, since they discovered the vegetable garden and began taking liberties - and vegetables. As I was working inside that enclosure the ram appeared and began pacing up and down outside, so when I went out through the gate, the first thing I grabbed was my fence batten for protection and immediately had to start using it to fend the ram off. I banged him on the nose a couple of times and he turned and ran off, but then returned. He would trot in my direction and then put his head down and lunge at me, at which point I'd ensure his nose met with the batten, with increasing force from me. I kept moving toward the gate to get out of the paddock, but the ram's aggression was escalating. I put down the bucket I was still carrying to get a better hold on the batten with which to strike the ram and the next thing I remember was the feeling of my head bouncing off the ground. The ram had hit me somewhere - possibly below my left knee, as a very large bruise appeared there later - and thrown me onto my back on the packed gravel outside the shed. I am very fortunate that he didn't then come at me again while I was on the ground and struggling to get up, or I doubt I'd be here writing this now.

I got to my feet, and I think I had to hit the ram again with the batten, before I could escape into the open shed and over a pile of firewood, where the ram did not follow. But then, seeing me inside the shed, he trotted off around the corner of the building and came back in through the tractor's door, causing me to take refuge on the fencing trailer, and he looked very much like he was going to attempt to follow me up there! I picked up some blocks of wood from the trailer and hurled them in his direction, causing him to take a couple of steps backward, but he stayed there, staring at me for what seemed like an age, before backing out and trotting back around to the other side of the shed. I climbed down from the trailer, but when the ram heard me moving, he came back into the shed again, forcing me to climb up onto the tractor seat, brandishing my wooden batten because I feared he'd still try and get up to get me again!

He went past the tractor into the shed and around to where I'd first climbed over the firewood, giving me enough time to climb down and shut myself in the shearing pen, a few feet from where the tractor was parked - I figured that if the sheep pen was good enough to keep sheep in, it would probably keep him out, so I'd be safe. Throughout all of this time my head was buzzing and ringing from the thump on the ground, and I was quite dizzy and frightened that I might fall over and off whatever perch I'd been forced to choose for safety. It felt much better to be on the ground again in a safe spot.

Eventually, while the ram was stomping around in the other end of the shed, I took what appeared to be a safe opportunity to run across to the gate out of the area - if I'd not left it unlatched earlier I wouldn't have dared, for fear I'd not have got it open quickly enough - and headed for home. As I walked away from the gate, the ram appeared there pawing the ground, obviously eager for another opportunity to attempt murder.

So much fear had left me feeling as though I would burst from all the adrenaline coursing through my system, so I spent some time in the shower simply howling until I felt less overwhelmed. Fortunately nobody came home or to the door while I was in there to hear my racket. Then I sat down on the couch, and then I had to lie down because I couldn't stay upright, and eventually Stephan came home.

Thursday the 19th
the ram

First thing this morning we went up to get the sheep in to the yards. The ram was so aggressively bunting Bendy that the others wouldn't then come past him to the yards. While the ram was attacking Bendy, Stephan grabbed his back leg and wrestled him to the ground before dispatching him with the knife from his belt. My fear had been that the ram would crash into Stephan and break some part of him, so I'm glad he was able to get the ram before the ram got him.

When ready, Stephan took the ram to the butcher for processing into sausages.

Moral: don't mess with Ruth!

I note from these pages that the ram first started bashing into Stephan a year ago, but we'd just put that down to an excess of testosterone-induced enthusiasm. He has been quite respectful of anyone carrying a stick, so I had simply treated him with the caution one would for any entesticled farm animal. I hadn't foreseen that he might be potentially murderous.

That is the end of Wedding, the lamb whose brother was called Reception, bred specifically for Jude and Roger's wedding a couple of years ago. Wedding was such a good-looking animal that I kept him as a ram and Reception went to the wedding with another companion. They were born in September 2006. There's a picture of a very cute little Wedding at the bottom of that page, but now I detect evil in those eyes! "Cute" was most definitely not a word which came to mind as he was trying to kill me yesterday.

I had intended to get one more crop of lambs from Wedding before we got rid of him, but we won't now have lambs this year - nor, perhaps, ever again.

Friday the 20th
Jill, Demelza and Eva

Jill came up yesterday and stayed home with me in the evening while Stephan went out to attend and help with the Ballet - I'd have gone except I was feeling too battered to sit upright for very long.

Today she and I went for a very quiet walk and moved the cows to a new paddock. Demelza is often the last to move, as has been the case throughout her life, and she's now teaching her annoying habit to her daughter, Eva 81. Jill went around behind them to get the two of them to come out of the paddock.