The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 14th of November 2009.
Saturday the 14th

The NZQA secondary school exam season started today. One Kaitaia student was sitting this morning's Scholarship paper, so I had to go and supervise the session.

Stephan following the cows

This afternoon we moved the two calfless cows on Jane's place. Their behaviour was extraordinary - both ran away from us with heads held high, then dashed about like frightened mad things for a while. Eventually we got them to move along the lane between one grazing area and the other.

There have been too many wandering dogs around lately, and I wonder if these two cows have been upset as a result? I've also left the cows to themselves for a couple of weeks, with only a cursory look to ensure they were grazing contentedly each day. Perhaps they'd forgotten we exist.

Puriri Moth Caterpillar tunnel

One of my Puriri saplings has been killed by the Puriri Moth caterpillars which have made it their home. I think it's probably unusual for the caterpillars to kill off their host tree, but there are about half a dozen holes around the base of the trunk of the small tree, which has obviously put it under more stress than it could sustain.

I cut off one of the small branches so we could cut it open and have a look at the construction of the tunnel within.
The caterpillar is very mobile, so can move in and out of its tunnel with ease. There would, while the caterpillar was resident, have been a thick silk web attached to the bark and covering the extent of the feeding area, which is the live and regrowing part of the cambium layer beneath the bark.

The caterpillar would presumably have died of starvation when the branch died; however, I believe it possible that they might move to new homes if something goes wrong with their first. I'm told they don't, but as they're so quick moving, I can't see why they shouldn't.

insect eggs

The vacated tunnel was obviously attractive to some other creature which had laid its eggs within. They all fell out as I investigated, and rolled across the table - about 0.5mm in diameter. This picture taken down a binocular microscope lens.

Ruth and Abigail

After a week of solid work organising the exams, now that I've done all the preparation and the first session is over, I feel quite relaxed. Time for some cow therapy.

Stephan and Zella

Stephan, attempting to get close to Zella: she got up and ran away.

Sunday the 15th
Back Barn Paddock culvert

This is the culvert in the Back Barn paddock which leads to the gateway into the Middle Back. It has always been problematic, deeply muddy when the cattle cross it frequently, so for the last eighteen months I've kept an electric tape around it, in the hope the mud would solidify and dry out. On a couple of occasions I've spent some time filling deep hoof holes with lumps of clay dislodged from high bits and have gradually eliminated most of the sitting water. The green plants have been growing on it for the last few months.
These are the previous references to it: March 2003; March 2003; January 2007; March 2008.

This is today's view after 21 cow and calf pairs, i.e. 168 hooves crossed it. Much improved! My scheme appears to be working.

Wandering along the hillside in the Middle Back paddock, I noticed the flitting movement of a few tiny birds: they were the Tomtits I've seen here before, but I'm fairly certain a couple of them were youngsters. I could hear a very high-pitched and slightly different call whenever they were around in the trees above my head.

Tomtit Tomtit

I think this might be a juvenile bird, rather than the female of the adult pair. It spent some minutes sitting on one branch, which the food-hunting adults don't appear to do. They're not easy to get near.

insect on the window

On the outside of my office window tonight, a colourful visitor. It was about an inch and a half long - somewhere around 3cm. I don't know what its back view looked like, since I didn't go outside to look. I don't know what sort of insect it was.

Monday the 16th

The NCEA exams began for all the students today, so it's all on again for the next two and a half weeks.

Tuesday the 17th
Blackbird eggs

Today's exams were the first serious test of this year's organisation - the first of the big Level 1 exams happened this morning, for those enrolled in English. It all went extremely well. Tomorrow will not be such a busy day, so I went for a ride out to the back of the farm to see the cows and calves.

Walking past a tree on the side of a tree-covered slope, a Blackbird flapped in panic into the evening air, so I had a look for a nest.

If you look carefully, you may see a little white dot on the closest egg on the right, and there's a little mark low down on the one behind it: both eggs' chicks are beginning to hatch.