The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 31st of January.
Saturday the 31st
a bit of bush

This is a photo of some of the trees we will soon have fenced off, in the second of the four reserve areas for which we have been granted Northland Regional Council funding. Stephan has begun work on clearing the ground around its edges, ready to construct a new fence.

There are some beautiful trees in here, including mature Taraire, Puriri, Rimu, Nikau, and Totara. There are also one or two trees I have not yet been able to identify.

Sunday the 1st of February

A Yellowhammer in the top of a Totara Tree in the late evening sunlight. The Yellowhammer is an introduced bird, and relatively common around here.

Monday the 2nd
Tractor carrying fenceposts

Stephan headed off in the tractor this morning, carrying posts and the thumper to begin construction of the conservation fence at the top of the PW.

Later I went up to inspect progress.

reserve fencing reserve fencing

The new gateway from the Middle Back to the PW, will be a nice change from the dishevelled Taranaki Gate (behind the tractor) which was a struggle to open and close. So far the strainer posts are in at both sides of the gate.

To the right of the gate, and in the right hand picture, is the old fence between the Middle Back and the PW. Stephan has decided to pull the wires off the posts and battens and replace the posts, since all but a couple of them are wobbly or broken, being so old.

Stick Insects

Who'd have thought it? There are insects all over this farm!

A couple of stick insects, presumably the large female and small male, were hanging together on a small Kanuka tree as I was reaching to pull some ragwort.

In the middle of the morning I received an email with the Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM) test results for the four bulls. Two-year-old #45, son of Demelza and yearling #63, son of Abigail, are AMC (Carriers); #49 and #60 are AMF (Free). It just so happens that right now the two AMF bulls are out in Flat 1 and the two AMC bulls are out with the cows, so I turned off the computer and headed out to do some rearranging of cattle.

#63 has, as far as I have been able to observe, only mated one cow in his mob and #45 was out with the cows which were previously with #60 for their first cycle after AI. I doubt that he has had much to do during his few days with the cows, since they should all be pregnant already.

It's a sad thing to realise that this is the end of the line for a couple of young bulls I like. I could continue to use them, but it would mean having to test all of the progeny for the AM and Hydrocephalus defects and it looks like that would cut out 75% of them to start with. I'm not sure if it has yet been ruled upon by the NZ Angus Association, but it is most likely that registered breeders will be required to test and then not be permitted to sell carrier bulls, so that we do not ever cause breeding clients to have to deal with dead calves from these conditions, should they have carrier cows in their herds.

Now #60 has all the cows which are no longer in the insemination mob. The two I'm still not letting him have are his half sisters by their sire, Ardrossan Connection X15, tested as a carrier of AM, but I don't have any indication of his status in regard to the hydro condition. I understand that CA Future Direction, sire of #45, #49 and X15, grandsire of #60 and #63, is a confirmed carrier after the birth of a number of deformed calves.

Tuesday the 3rd

The Paradise Ducks have begun arriving back from their annual moult, right on schedule. These three came over to the house to have a loud exchange with Mary this morning.

349's rubbed patches are healed

349's rubbed patches of three and a half weeks ago have recovered in both senses of the word.

Clematis seed heads

These are the seed heads (the white things) of the female Clematis flowers I found this season. Its leaves are the shiny, larger ones on the left. I can't reach them to collect any seed, because they're away up in the top of a tall tree. I found a seed the other night, when out checking cows, when I shone the torch up into a tree. There was what looked like a wisp of spider-web, which I realised was the fibre strand of a Clematis seed. I have found single seeds on the pasture in the same area before, so there are presumably female Clematis vines up in the bush block nearby.

cleared fenceline

From the Clematis vine I continued climbing up the hill looking for ragwort, then came down a fenceline I don't recall walking along before (because it was previously a far more difficult task) and here it is, all cleared! I took this photo looking back up the hill. Stephan and a young helper cleared the fenceline a few weeks ago and I have failed in my inspection duties in not visiting it before now.

Wednesday the 4th
a new gate

The new gate has been hung, with a new bit of fence now in place back to the strainer post on the down-hill side of the old gateway.

re-wired fence

The old fence up the hill has been stripped and rejuvenated by the installation of new posts. Stephan rolled up three of the old wires and left the best four in place, ready to be run through insulators on the posts and re-strained and then electrified, to form a four-wire electric fence, in place of the old 7-wire post and batten fence.

halter training Bella

Getting Bella and Imagen separated in the evenings would be a lot easier if we could lead Bella out of the paddock, so I carefully put the halter over her head this afternoon and eventually moved her to the training post in the middle of the (House) paddock.

The first task is to demonstrate to her that there's no point in pulling against the halter, so it needs to be tied to something solid. When she was quiet I brushed her and gave her some Moozlee.

shades of green

I went for a walk across the hill over the road this evening. I hadn't checked on the young stock for a few days and I like to know they're all safe and healthy.

The colours of these trees struck me as I was looking around from a ridge. In the background are the Pines on William and Lisa's place, in the foreground are Kahikatea of various hues, Totara, Kanuka, Puriri and probably a bit of Manuka as well.

Thursday the 5th
a grass hedge

Between Flats 1 and 2 we currently have a grass hedge. The fence is there to keep the cattle out of the drain which runs along the side of the Flat 1 paddock, so nothing grazes anything which grows in there.

hot cows

551 came on heat all of a sudden this morning and sometime around noon, so did Demelza, at last. Demelza's been looking a bit off-colour for a few days; maybe cows get pre-oestrus tension. I don't know why she's taken so long to return to fertility - she may have cycled about four weeks ago, but there was only a very slight indication for a very short time, so I did nothing about it.

Because they were both still very active when I took them out of the paddock and took this photo, I didn't inseminate them until after 9pm.

Friday the 6th
Waitangi Day
turkey chicks

Three little turkeys spend a lot of time just outside my office window at the moment, with their mother close by. I'm trying to keep them out of the vegetable garden by feeding them around the back of the house and the easiest way to do that is to throw their feed out my window. They're very sweet.

Below is a selection of foot pictures. I hoped they might prove interesting. The cow's weight is carried on the part with the hard nail around the edge, with the soft heel mostly remaining off the ground - although some injury is apparent in the top right photo. All of these cows are quite comfortably walking normally. The other two bits are called dew claws and serve no active purpose.

cow foot cow foot
cow foot cow foot

I took the two pictures directly above as a record point of the new growth which is apparent from the top of the foot. I'm unsure how much a hoof grows over a year, but I think the new, thicker growth on these two cows has occurred since the spring, or since calving. The calves have a proportional amount of new growth.

Stephan cutting grass

The tree we planted over Cattin's grave has been quietly growing in its reserve, but has had to compete with Kikuyu grass and Blackberry. Stephan did some reserve maintenance this afternoon, to give it a clearer environment in which to grow.

The bulls were quite happy to help tidy up the cut grass.

a bird nest

Then we went for a walk. We walked across the flats to our bush hill block, walked along the fenceline and picked the ragwort plants which the neighbours seem not to have noticed they have growing in their paddocks, which would otherwise soon seed. Upon reaching the corner of the block, we turned up the hill, climbing up through the bush.

I found this nest, of an unknown bird, lying on the ground.

view from the bush

From the top of the ridge we walked down toward the farm, until we could see through the trees.

The cows are in the Windmill Paddock, with Flat 5 and the old truck canopy shade provider just visible. Flat One and the House Paddock are on the far right of the picture.

walking down through the bush

We spent a lot of time cutting a track through the bush, something we've planned to do for a long time. We were careful not to fell anything interesting. We've had visions, for a long time, of taking people - or sending them off - for walks through this bush, and the track-cutting is a good step on the way to that aim.

There are a great number of Totara trees up on that hill, as can be seen from down on the flats and one of the Regional Council people having recommended that we might want to thin them out a bit, I did some judicious ring-barking along the way. Totara, like Pine trees, prevent everything else growing beneath them and if we want more than Totara to grow in the block, we need to prevent them from taking over. In the Far North they grow like weeds.

I took this last picture about a quarter of an hour before we climbed over the fence into the Mushroom 2 paddock. We really weren't very sure where we were going to emerge as we came down the hill. It was great fun being "lost in the bush" but knowing that eventually we'd find something familiar.

Despite my best intentions these weekly update pages are still seriously behind the times! There has been a lot to think about lately and quite a lot to do. I will catch up ... eventually.