The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 7th of March.
Saturday the 7th of March
Champion Beef Cow

The Kaitaia & Districts A&P Show was held today, a week later than usual, having been pushed around in the calendar by the Northland Agricultural Fieldays last weekend (which ended up being closed early because of a storm).
We almost didn't go this morning because the weather was showery and unpleasant, but the sky brightened as we neared town. I went and assisted a little in the Beef competition ring, although there were few entries this year. (I had considered taking some cattle, but I have concerns about the cows being so early in their pregnancies since our calving is later than in most other herds and the fact that on a hot show day there's no real shade in the beef yards and black cattle need access to shade.)

Pictured at right are Gay Semenoff who judged the cattle, a Royal Agricultural Society man whose name I cannot remember, who presented the top prize of the Beef competition to Mr Arthur Beazley, breeder of the Red Devon cow beside him.

Dairy cattle showing

When I'd finished at the beef ring I went for a wander, vaguely looking for Stephan. The dairy judging was still in progress, with a few well-behaved heifers being led around the ring.

Stephan and Terry

Stephan and Terry both had their NZ Kiwi Foundation t-shirts on, so were quite easy to spot in the crowd. It's hard to believe that these two old codgers are responsible for so much great Kiwi protection work around this area, but both of them can scramble through steep and treacherous bush areas faster than most of us could possibly follow.

Terry and Kris were there under the banner of the Far North Organic Growers group.

statue man

This guy, on the other hand, hardly moved at all!

A&P Indoor competition

The indoor competition section is still well supported by all sorts of people, including many children who get an obvious kick out of entering their art or culinary creations.


I love seeing well-made quilts. All that painstaking work to produce something so minutely patterned and beautiful. I have always found lots of bright colour and pattern very visually pleasing - the main quilt in the picture reminds me of looking into a kaleidoscope my sister, Rachel, was once given for her birthday when we were children.

Highland heifers

Back out in the main showground we came across the Highland Cattle breeders who had earlier competed in the Beef show ring, taking their little heifers for a walk.

horse jumping

Our last stop for the day was at the grandstand, where we met up with some people we knew while we watched some of the horse jumping competition.

We enjoyed our day very much, probably because we were quite relaxed and didn't expect a lot from it. We kept meeting people we hadn't seen for a long time and having very pleasant catch-up conversations, and the weather was fine and warm without being uncomfortably hot.

Sunday the 8th

Last September when Jude's three children were staying with us I discovered a newspaper reference to a children's story writing competition, for which the winner would receive $150 in prize money. For a six year old that is a fortune and Stella was extremely keen to write and enter the competition. She and I sat down at the computer one morning and she dictated the bones of a story, which I read back to her and she gradually filled it out with more detail and dialogue between the characters. We printed it, had her mother sign the various required release forms and sent it in to the correct address. Every time we spoke from then on, Stella asked if she'd won the prize, yet weeks passed with no response from the competition organisers. When Jude and the children came to stay in the summer, Stella continued to ask about it, so I emailed and asked if Stella's story had been received and why acknowledgments of receipt were never sent out to eager children who entered the competition? The organisers said it hadn't occurred to them!

A couple of weeks later I received an excited phone call from Jude to say she'd heard from the guy at the That's The Story radio station and that Stella's story was to be recorded, Stella's cheque and a CD copy of the story would be "in the mail" and that the story would be played on the radio show today! She called it "Is there another Swan?". I might ask her if she'd like it published with the pictures she drew, on the website.

Stephan and the post thumper

Up on the hill over the road, Stephan had begun putting posts in for the new reserve fence. He started at our very own "Spare 'oom". One day we'd like to find a lamp for that old telephone pole, which dates back to the days of the party lines up the valley, which were superseded by the new automatic telephone system during 1988.

I spent much of the rest of the day deleting photographs from my computer. It's all very well having a digital camera and thinking one can take lots of photos because they can just be deleted if they're not quite good enough to keep, but then one actually has to do that sorting and deleting!

Monday the 9th
mushrooms again

It must be mushroom time again. These ones were growing under some Totara trees in a sunny spot near one of the stream crossings. I don't know what species they are.

Tuesday the 10th

After a Kaitaia Vets Board meeting today I collected a very expensive bottle of Neoguard vaccine. It is possible that if vaccinated, my infected cattle may have a better chance of keeping their calves through this pregnancy than if left unvaccinated. This afternoon I brought the cows in and vaccinated the three Irenes and four of the other stud cows. The Irenes have all tested positive for Neospora infection, some of the others' families have tested clear and a couple are yet untested.

It has been difficult to get definitive answers to my questions about Neospora and the vaccine, but I understand there's a good chance of the matriarchal Irene, who was probably infected as an adult before she came here, gaining some benefit from being vaccinated. I'm not so sure it will do very much for her daughters who were infected before birth. If it were the vaccine which kept a calf of Irene's alive and possibly protected it from infection during gestation (something of which there's some vague suggestion) then it would have been worth the $300. They're still getting the homeopathic remedy anyway. And I'm crossing my fingers.
I gave it to the others because it won't do them any harm and otherwise it'll stay in the bottle until it goes past its expiry date. The smallest bottle available contained enough for 50 doses, 25 cows twice.

Wednesday the 11th

I went today to visit Sue, a former registered Angus breeder, who bought my #47 bull last year. I asked Sue to let me know when she would next have the bull in her yards so I could go and pull some tail hairs from him - I usually do that before I send them off the property, but must have forgotten to grab some of #47's on his way onto the truck. The bull is a son of Ardrossan Connection X15, a tested carrier of Arthrogryposis Multiplex and I will have #47 tested along with the next batch of hair samples I submit for testing. I'll wait to send them in until the Hydrocephalus test has been developed and is available.

a long metalled track

While I was out a lot of river gravel was delivered and now there are metalled tracks all over the show. What a fantastic sight!

Now I'm starting to feel a little concerned about how much all this is going to cost.

Thursday the 12th

We ate a roasted turkey for dinner this evening and it was very nice. There are far too many turkeys running around up in the chicken paddock after we went to so much trouble to ensure the chicks' survival this year. They will eventually end up in the freezer, when they look well-grown enough.

Friday the 13th
two-spined spider babies

This is a recently hatched batch of Two-spined Spiders. There must be a great number of the spiders in our garden by now, there being a number of already-hatched egg sacs around the place. They're beautiful little creatures.