The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 7th of February.
Saturday the 7th
The PW Bush Reserve

A view from the top of the PW Bush reserve area, showing two new fence posts in place, with the guide wires run. The reserve is to the left of the fence; the large trunks to the right are Totara, which are not negatively affected by the cattle.

The shape of most of our reserve areas is dictated by the position of any Puriri trees, being the species most vulnerable to the cattle.

When I went to check on the cows late tonight, Abigail was alert and looking very interested in the bull in the neighbouring paddock, where he is still with a reduced mob of cows. I don't know what's going on, so I decided I'd put her in with him for the rest of the night. I thought she was five weeks pregnant.

Sunday the 8th
an enormous dragonfly

I spotted this huge insect on a Totara tree by a river crossing this evening. I believe it is the aptly named Giant Dragonfly, measuring around five inches in length. It was a stunning creature!

Monday the 9th
bur-reed bur-reed seed head

The little Bur-reed, Sparganium subglobosum, I found back in December, has now fruited. There are still some plants flowering in the same location.

Tutu growing on a riverbank

This is Tutu, Coriaria arborea, growing in the riverbank of the recently-fenced reserve in our Bush Flat paddock. There are a great number of Tutu plants now growing on the banks since the cattle have been excluded from the area and I have a strong suspicion that the cattle have formerly kept the plants under control. Tutu is reported to be extremely toxic to cattle, but I've seen my animals eat it on several occasions, and the one large plant I know of in the Back Barn paddock always looks like it has been recently pruned by a passing beast.

I wouldn't like to tempt fate by letting the plants grow everywhere, but it would appear that there would be a great many more of them if the cattle weren't regularly eating them where they sprout, before I ever notice them growing.

seeding Ragwort

This charming head of ragwort seed was growing on a little spit of land in the Bush Flat reserve, which I had meant to come and clear in the last few weeks, but obviously left (almost) too long. It's too easy to spot some yellow flowers and think, I'll come back to that later, then forget to do so. I am practising more discipline in dealing with yellow flowers, when I see them the first time!

I have been prompted to come out and see to this little area by the forecast of heavy rain, which would dislodge the seeds and I'd rather they were in my bag before that happens.

Tree daisy seedling

In the same area a new plant: I have identified this as Rangiora, Brachyglottis repanda, a tree daisy. It is apparently another plant the cattle have formerly kept "under control" by eating them whenever they grow, since I've not seen it on the farm before.

This reserve area is proving as interesting as I had anticipated, with its great range of mature trees, its proximity to the mature native bush on the Buselich Reserve next door, and its consequent production of a huge variety of seedlings in the leaf litter.

Tuesday the 10th

It rained! We had 32mm to 9 o'clock this morning, which is a very nice amount. We've had no really significant rain since the 24th of December and I was beginning to worry, with so many growing animals to feed.

(To Wednesday morning's reading another 17mm fell and then on Thursday and Friday, another 16mm in total. The overnight temperatures three nights in a row were 21°C, so now we'll sit back and watch the grass grow - but we won't sit anywhere for too long or we'll get lost in it!)

Wednesday the 11th

I took the bull out of the cow mob today. Any calves conceived later than today would probably be born during the NCEA exam period and then I will be supervising other events, so I have been trying, since taking on that annual job, to get my calving period to end before the exams begin.

the young mob on the road

Stephan and I went to move the cull cows and young stock from the Road Flat paddock this evening, and for the first time ever they went out of the gate and headed off in the wrong direction along the road. Stephan had to do some very fast running and leap over the fence at the end of the paddock, to get around in front of them and head them back towards me. Usually they'll follow my call and I simply walk ahead of them back to our main gates.

Back at the yards I drafted off the cows and calves and they went to spend a couple of nights grazing next to the mating mob, before I'll mix them all together again.


Bella, having her nightly Moozlee treat after I drafted her out of the cow mob for the night, so Imagen's overnight milk can go into our bucket in the morning. Bella and Imagen have become quite accustomed to the pattern now.

Thursday the 12th

Today I mixed all the cows and calves back into one mob, minus Imagen and Bella, who have come back to the House Paddock, which is where a House Cow should live. The big mob now numbers 86 animals, including the five yearling heifers and three cows without calves.

intended reserve area

This is part of the stand of trees in the paddock on the hill over the road, for which we have been granted reserve fencing funding assistance. In a few months time it should look quite a lot less barren at ground level.

Friday the 13th
hook grass

Stephan went walking in the hills today, clearing and resetting traps for small carnivorous animals. When he arrived home, his legs were covered in Hookgrass seeds. They are a native grass of bush areas and when you walk through them with bare hairy legs you really know they're there! This is one of Stephan's leg hairs which caught one of the seeds as he walked. I've felt the pain of walking through this grass, but hadn't before examined the cause very closely. This picture of the hook part of the seed, is through one eyepiece of the binocular microscope, at 32x magnification. The hook holds the hair extremely tightly, but they're also quite firmly attached to the plant, so that as you walk through, the plant pulls your leg hairs painfully, before the seed lets go of the plant to join you on the rest of your journey.