The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 26th of September 2009.
Saturday the 26th
Stephan and Ella

A couple of days ago I removed a clucky bantam from one of the cages in the garden, and she's been sitting in a cat cage on a little nest with no eggs since then. Most of the time I leave her on the washing machine, but when I need to use it, I lift her down and she just looks at me in a distrustful manner and stays firmly on her nest.

I had thought that taking her out of her comfortable, dark little box in the cage's shelter would have stopped her broodiness, but she's obviously very determined. So I have asked William and Elizabeth if they would collect some fertile eggs from their hens for us to set under this hen.

Today Stephan and Ella built a little cage for the hen to nest in, which will provide a safe place for her and the chicks when they hatch.

Sunday the 27th
installing a hen

The paint having dried on the new little hen cage, I installed the hen. I didn't immediately put the eggs in her nest, wanting to wait for 24 hours to ensure she didn't decide her accommodation was unsuitable and stop sitting.

She seems a very determined and settled little hen though. She is not a tame bird, but I can now stroke her without her pecking my hand.

break feeding

I'm break feeding the cows in the Windmill paddock - break feeding meaning the grass is apportioned out in daily breaks, separated with electric tape.

The four heifers are still in the top half of the paddock and the five cows in the bottom half (in the foreground), with part of their block taped off where I sowed some rye seed the other day.


I went walking to check on the young heifers and made a special trip along a very muddy track to check on my favourite Clematis plant. It is looking lovely, as usual.

I chose a different path on my return, to avoid the deep mud of the main track and spotted these fungi growing on some dead branches in the grass.

toadstools toadstools

Clive Shirley of, tells me they are Polyporus arcularius.

Stephan and Ella, clearing a culvert

Back down on the flats Stephan and Ella were out working on the tracks and culverts. This one regularly floods and has needed some of this sort of attention for some time!

interesting clouds

This looks very much like the demarcation between one bit of air and another. The photo is taken looking south and the cloud edge was moving away to the east (left). I looked at the current weather map and the cloud line would fit with the isobars as they were drawn. Interesting. Father used to point these sorts of things out - approaching fronts and the like - because we generally lived by the sea and he and I sailed a lot together. As a youngster though, I didn't take a huge amount of notice. The "how to read weather maps" page on the Metservice site is usefully explanatory.

Monday the 28th
dust in the air

There have been some stunning pictures in the news of the red dust storms in Australia and local news reports have told of the dust arriving in this country over the last couple of days, but this is the first we've seen of it here. We get all sorts of stuff from Australia, borne on the winds: smoke, dust, orchid seed (apparently), the occasional bird...

Tuesday the 29th
Ella, Stephan and cows

Ella and Stephan spent some of the day strolling around the flats sorting out some electric fencing.

During calving I want to be able to turn off the bottom electric fence wires, so that any stumbling newborn calf doesn't get a shock and hurtle through into dangerous territory - many of the fences are along the drains and riverbanks. I want the top wires on still so the cows and other adult stock don't suddenly discover they have free range over the whole farm and into the reserve areas, as has happened in other years when I've turned fences off when using the paddocks for calving.

I've seen calves get tangled up in fences, paralysed by the regular shocks, which after a while will kill them. If they go through electric fences, they tend to get frightened by the shocks and run for their lives away from them, often then getting into trouble in their blind panic - running into rivers and drains, or on through more fencing. It's far easier from my perspective to see a little calf curled up asleep on the other side of a fence and know that it will go back to its mother when it wakes up for a feed. If it were shocked on the way through, it wouldn't go back on its own, and that can cause far more complication.

cows lying in the sunshine

I went out to give the homeopathic Coccidiosis remedy to the five cows which I started on their four day programme this morning, and happily found them all sitting together in one place. It can take ages to hunt out cows in these big scrub-covered paddocks.

mixing two mobs of cattle

There being only a little fresh grass left in the Windmill Paddock, I chose this afternoon to mix the two mobs which have been separated by electric tape. The cows and heifers have been grazing separately since weaning, so I wasn't sure how they'd react to being mixed again, but their having been almost together for several days was obviously a very effective way of reintroducing them. I let them separately into their own new bit of grass, then removed the dividing tape and there was no pushing about at all. They simply wandered around each other, grazing.

hunting glow-worms

We went out this evening and when we arrived home, I stopped the ute at the front gates and we wandered up the road a little, to show Ella the glow-worms (Arachnocampa luminosa). They live along the banks above the road, and below the road, along the banks of the river. We have, in recent years, been attempting to stop the Far North District Council contractors from spraying herbicide onto the banks where the insects live, because that practice has either directly affected the population, or removed some of the protective vegetation which kept the area damp enough for them to flourish.

Wednesday the 30th
Ella under the big Northern Rata

Stephan gave Ella a bowl he'd made from some Northern Rata, so I suggested they go for a walk and find the huge living Northern Rata tree in some bush on the other side of the river.

Sun Orchid

Our orchid has six flower spikes (peduncles) this year, so as long as nothing nasty happens to them, they'll make a marvellous display.

mother and daughter

Mother and daughter. 367 (left) is eight and 529 is three and having her second calf.

The black cow behind happens to be 475, sister of 367, the calf we had to help feed in the first few days of her life.

Beggar's Tick plant

In April when I found Beggars' Tick seeds on my cows, I collected a few of them and threw them onto a tray of potting mix where I germinate tree seeds. For some months nothing happened, but a couple of weeks ago they started to germinate and they look exactly like this plant, which I found today, growing on one of the tracks. No doubt they'll be everywhere!

Thursday the 1st of October
Putangitangi chicks

The Putangitangi chicks are still all present and correct and growing beautifully. It's quite difficult to get a clear picture of them, because they swim off away from wherever I am. I've been taking pictures through the trees from the bank in the Windmill Paddock, above the stream.

mini chess tournament

Mike brought his three sons and a spare boy out for another bush camp today, and this evening came to the house, along with fellow chess club member Jan, to play some games together here. I presume there's not quite so much beer around when they're at the real chess club meetings. They were sampling and comparing Stephan's and Mike's home brew beers.

Friday the 2nd
lots of small boys by the pond

We had a large number of visitors today - family bringing friends. It wasn't until later on that I realised all the children were boys. I had a writing deadline to meet, so had to excuse myself from much of the excitement.

479 in labour

I spotted 479 lying in the paddock in early labour, but when I took the visitors out to watch her, she stood up and looked most unwilling to get on with her job...

a crowd of walkers

... so the whole lot of them went out for a walk instead, while I stayed to supervise the first calving of the season.

479 in labour

Just as she usually does, 479 made a great deal of noise about the hard bit of the birth, but it was all over quite quickly and comparatively easily.

It is 274 days since I inseminated 479; the calf's sire has a gestation length EBV a couple of days shorter than the breed average.

479 and her calf

Calves are amazing to watch as they "find their feet". This was the end of a not-so-successful attempt.

479 and her calf

But after her mother comforted her with some more large licks, she carried on trying until she very quickly gained the knack, and was having her first feed within half an hour of being born.

The ninth annual Isla's Calving Date Competition is now OPEN. Click on the link to enter.

Isla Isla

The competition closes at midnight on Saturday, 10 October. There is such a thing as a free lunch!