The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 28th of November 2009.
Saturday the 28th
running calf

Whenever the cows and calves are moved, the calves spend the first ten minutes in the new paddock galloping around and around the new space. I regularly wait and watch as they do so, kicking up their heels and taunting any hesitant calves into joining in with their fun. Now they're a few weeks old, their mothers are no longer watching their every move, nor trotting around behind them as they do when the calves first discover playful speed.

Sunday the 29th
trunk of dead sapling

This is the trunk of a dead Puriri sapling, killed by the numerous caterpillars which took up residence inside.

I was surprised to discover an empty pupa case when I pulled away the branch which now juts up into the left top corner of the photo, uncovering the bottom of a caterpillar's tunnel, on the left in the picture. The entrance to that tunnel is around on the other side of the trunk, so there's obviously not a lot of actual tree left inside with at least three tunnels running through that section.

Puriri Moth pupal head covering

Interestingly the presence of the hatched moth's pupa case indicates that the caterpillars must sometimes live for a shorter period than is generally accepted (five or six years) inside the trees, because this tree has only been growing for around four years.

At the bottom of the exit hole of the hatched moth, I found this hard covering, quite obviously the "face plate" of the moth - see my earlier photos of a moth in close-up.

Monday the 30th
Puriri Caterpillar holes

This afternoon I cut through the trunk of the dead sapling and then gave it a few hard knocks against the table until this interesting rear end appeared.

Puriri Moth Caterpillar

And here it is, a Puriri Moth Caterpillar! I grabbed a bit of fresh Puriri from the tree, thinking that if the caterpillar was really hungry, it might have a chomp on it, but it wasn't at all interested - perhaps the wrong sort of material in the outer branchlets, or maybe it wasn't feeling relaxed enough to eat, being suddenly exposed and in the open light!

It was, as I expected from my observations of the minute ones I've found before, a very lively creature. A pulse of 'blood' could be seen every second or so moving from the tail end to the head, along a vein running up the middle of the back. I'm very excited to finally have seen a large caterpillar.

caterpillar exploring a vacant hole

I offered the caterpillar the opportunity to go back into what was left of its home and it climbed straight up and into a hole which wasn't the one from which I'd shaken it, and then set about spinning a silk covering at the entrance.

A few days later I checked again and not only was there a complete covering of the hole in the side of the trunk, but also a very firm plug just inside one of the holes at the cut end of the trunk.

I've found a few such tunnel end-plugs, with which I presume they must seal off some parts of their tunnels. I'll have to keep investigating. The problem for this caterpillar, and any others still remaining in this piece of tree, is that they have nothing to eat and nor have they had for some time. Perhaps they will pupate, or maybe they will just die.

Wednesday the 2nd

This afternoon's exam session was the last for the year, so I have sent off the last papers, packed up all the NZQA materials for return, filled in all the required reports, arranged for everyone to be paid appropriately and now I shall rest.

Thursday the 3rd
Tui on flax flowers

A Tui in the flax just outside the house.

small hen, big chicks

The little chicks are now bigger than their little hen foster mother! She's the dark one at the back right. I have a strong suspicion those three in the foreground are all male.

Stephan and his pond

I spent a couple of hours this morning in my favourite deck-chair, in the shade of one of the Cabbage Trees I planted, doing a crossword and watching Stephan take his little pond to pieces. Somewhere there's a leak, so he's going to rebuild it - water getting out isn't too much of an issue in terms of the loss of that water, but we don't want the increasingly wet patch below the pond to become any bigger.

Kikuyu roots

The white roots which grew under the plastic are those of Kikuyu. It's an amazing grass and will travel for great distances underneath other things - it would not be surprising to find roots all the way under the concrete pad upon which our house sits. We have some of the grass growing up through one of the outside walls and into the kitchen. It is extremely difficult to eliminate from areas you don't want it, without the use of systemic herbicides. Pulling it out will always leave sections of root which simply grow again.
But all of these possible disadvantages are what makes it such a tenacious and fantastic plant upon which to grow cattle in a hot, sometimes dry climate.

Stephan and some calves

I moved the cows and calves this afternoon and Stephan wandered along for a look. They're suddenly long-legged and solid - like looking at six-year-old children instead of the chubby babies they were as toddlers.

Northern Rata

The Northern Rata looks an interesting colour, so I wonder if it might be going to flower again this season? I'm not convinced because I think it should have flowered before the Pohutukawa, which is already blooming.

Friday the 4th
a cast ewe

What a twit! This is one of Dotty's triplets from three years ago, and she's fat and woolly and gets cast, more often than she ought, in almost indistinguishable dips in the paddocks.

Cast sheep, if unrescued, or unable to wriggle themselves back to their feet, will eventually die, so this is not always an amusing situation. But as I'd looked out the window just a little earlier and all the sheep had their feet pointing in the right direction, this one was of no concern.