The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 21st of November 2009.
Sunday the 22nd
Imagen coming to be milked

I remain amazed at how easy it is to train a cow to do what you want her to: Imagen leaves Isla and the two calves any time Stephan bangs on the Molasses container, and comes, licking her lips, to get to the molasses and provide us with milk.

All the chicks are healthy and growing.

chicken chicks turkey chicks
Kanuka tree with blackbird nest
Blackbird chicks

I shifted the 23 cows and calves this morning - or rather the 20 of each which were at the bottom of the hill - then had to go and find the other six animals. As I was near the Middle Back paddock, I went to check on the Blackbird nest I found the other day.

The chicks are all hatched and huddled in the bottom of their nest. The nest is really very close to the ground, in a fork of the trunk of this Kanuka tree. Our rat and possum population must not be too high, or they'd never have survived this long.

small rabbit

I found the cows and followed them along the hillside until they ran off ahead of me.

As I walked back along the track at the bottom of the hill, a little rabbit shot across in front of me, then hesitated at the entrance to its hole under a pile of firewood.

cow and calf

Around the corner, the cattle were waiting near the gate where the rest of the mob had gone through to the Small Hill paddock; cattle can always tell where the others have gone before them. I don't usually use this gate, but these cows could tell this was the way to go after the rest of their mob.


This is Abigail and at a quick glance she looked alright, but she was walking very strangely - unwilling to bring that right rear leg forward past her udder. Her udder is strangely shaped, although not tremendously hard or hot, but this looks worrying.

The calf is well and happy, so the udder soreness has not stopped her feeding and Abigail still appears otherwise well.

heifers in the Road Flat Paddock

Stephan and I wandered up the road to move the heifers from the hill paddock to the Road Flat, which has got away on me while I've not being paying enough attention! There's a lot of feed in there, but its quality is not as good as it would have been a week ago before the flowers matured. No matter, they'll get it down a bit. The weed is Dropwort Parsley, rather like Wild Carrot; we call it carrot weed. It makes good feed when it's young, but once the flowers are high, the stems are quite tough and the cattle don't do such a good job, although a number of them like to eat the flowers.

veined slug

Below the road by the stream, a fallen tree has lain for several weeks and neither of us has been to have a close look, so this afternoon we clambered down the bank to investigate it. When one tree falls in the bush, it will often take others with it, which has been the case here - it looks like a Taraire has rotted at the base and fallen with a Kohekohe which was entwined with it, and caused the collapse of a number of smaller trees and a couple of Nikau palms on the downside.

We climbed around on the trunks and inspected the epiphytes we could reach: all very interesting. Looking up at one point I spotted a veined slug on the other side of a large leaf above my head. I wouldn't have expected to find one on the daylight side of a leaf - I thought they were more secretive creatures.

Puriri tree

This was a fascinating find: a Puriri which must have fallen a very long time ago. We couldn't work out which bank it would have been growing on before it fell, but the trunk which goes up in the middle of the photo terminates in a mature-looking tree which would have grown from that piece. There are roots going down into the water all along the length of the trunk which lies in the stream. I'll have to go back for another investigative visit. The timeframes these trees represent are mind-blowing.

A little further downstream was a much more recently fallen Puriri. Sometimes we hear huge crashes as trees fall, but it's not always possible to work out where the sound originates.

Monday the 23rd
Foxton Beach in a Box

What is it about boxes and cats?

We end up with a lot of boxes at this time of year: the cats think they're very useful and provided especially for them.

Stephan had Greg the vet out this morning to check on Abigail, diagnosing acute mastitis, for which she is now being treated with antibiotics, and Stephan is regularly milking out the affected parts of her udder.

I asked that Greg also do something about Irene's awfully sore back feet, but he suggested we'd need to sedate her, lie her down and then do them - she's such a big cow and they're in a pretty bad way. I've been waiting until she was recovered from calving and before we get back into mating again, to have her sorted out. We'll have to arrange to have her done when the exams are over.

Tuesday the 24th
duelling Tui

I moved the cows and calves this evening and as I was wandering around, noticed a couple of Tui seemingly having some sort of singing duel. They were making a huge amount of noise and stayed low in a tree above me for some time.

Thursday the 26th
Ida 75's eye

I went around the road to check on the heifers and thought Ida 75 was giving me the evil eye! She looked very odd and on closer inspection I saw this...

She seemed normal in other ways and because it was affecting both eyes, I wondered if she's suffering an allergic reaction to something in this overgrown paddock - although nobody else showed similar signs. Apparently it's called Chemosis.

Then I started taking pictures of the faces of my heifers, since they were all standing around me. Such photos form a useful reference, should two heifers ever happen to lose their tags at the same time. Should you be interested you can click on each face for their pedigrees.

568 571 579 V67 V72 V73 601 602 604 605 606 607 611 613 616 V74 V75 V81

I moved the cows and calves again this afternoon - some of them must have been grazing on different sides of the stream and so they had to stop for a feed before they left the paddock.

cows feeding their calves

Thank goodness for Daylight Saving, allowing me to do these things I so enjoy, around the job I am currently working at all day. These creatures and this environment are a wonderful way to recover from a day of supervising anxious students and attempting to control rude noisy ones.

Friday the 27th
Tui in the flax flowers

As I was taking pictures of Puriri Caterpillar holes in trees this afternoon, Stephan drew my attention to a Tui just above us. They are generally quite wary of us, but are gradually becoming accustomed to our presence near them. They are nectar feeders - we're very pleased we planted the flax.

I went back to check Ida 75's eyes this evening and she looks entirely normal. This proves that one doesn't have to do something about everything, and that there must be all manner of things which happen which we don't even see. I'm glad it was a passing problem, but shall continue to watch her for further signs of abnormality.