The Farm in Diggers Valley

The Fortnight beginning the 8th of August 2009.

I spent Saturday with the family, visited Rachel in her latest home, an apartment with a view across Freeman's Bay - not quite as marine as it sounds, being an area of reclaimed land, upon which numerous buildings now stand, although there's a very pleasant amount of green grass and trees amongst them.

Jill and I delayed our trip home until Sunday and were back in Whangarei in the early afternoon, at which point I went into a decline. Within an hour or two, I had retired to the couch beneath a blanket with a hot water bottle, feeling dreadful. Jude and Louie had violent coughing fits while I was there and the air was no doubt populated by a multitude of vicious bugs, some of which I must have inhaled.

Stephan arrived at dinner time, with dinner he'd made before leaving home, and we stayed the night with Jill.

Monday the 10th
Mangamuka Bridge

This is a picture I've long intended to take: the dead tree and the dead house, near Mangamuka Bridge, opposite the Otangaroa turnoff.

I was not a happy traveller on our way home, feeling ill all the way. I don't ever want to go to Auckland again; it's a very bad place.

Rebecca, daughter of Stephan's cousin Christina, turned 21 today and the thing she said she wanted for her birthday was a 21st key. I thought they'd gone out of fashion years ago, but there you are.
Stephan and I spent some time together working out how to create this present, me with an ordinary brass door key, compass, pencil and ruler making a pattern, and then Stephan in his workshop creating the enlarged Kauri key. He took it to the engraver in town to get the lettering done - in Paua shell, since that seemed to fit the theme.

21st Key for Rebecca

Tonight, while I lay miserably at home on the couch, he took it to present to Rebecca, at her family birthday dinner, and she was apparently quite delighted with it.

The rest of the week is a miserable blur of pain and discomfort. I was sitting up in the early hours of Tuesday morning, because breathing lying down was difficult. I went back to bed at 4am, and awoke at 8am with a very solid-feeling left ear. From repeated experience of ear infections as a child, I knew what that meant, so we phoned the doctor's surgery and arranged to see someone.

At noon I downed the first couple of antibiotic capsules at the pharmacy and hoped that would stop the ear bugs in their mad multiplication, but by the time I went to bed that night, my eardrum had succumbed and was no longer intact. It's a disconcerting feeling having a leaking ear!

I phoned the surgery the following day and asked if there was anything more I should be doing, now my inner ear was virtually open to the world, but the nurse very vaguely said I could come back next week if I was still concerned. On Friday I went back to see the original nurse and she sent me off to get antibiotic eardrops, which should have been the advice given two days before!

Wednesday the 12th was Isla's 11th birthday and I had to watch from the house while Stephan gave her a birthday cuddle.

Sunday the 16th
the last old duck

My world is currently whatever I can see from my office window, being still too ill to venture out.

Today is this old duck's last. She must be seven or eight years old by now and is the last remaining member of the last batch of ducklings I hatched here. At least one of her parents had some Swedish Blue blood, and her parents might also have been siblings. It was all so long ago.

Stephan dealt to the rest of the ducks several months ago, but this one got away. She has remained healthy enough, but she's a bit lonely, since the Muscovies don't let her hang out with them very often. Her last job will be catching stoats and weasels.

Mathew, Raewyn and the four boys came out for a visit and Stephan and all the boys went out to re-bait the traps around the farm (with lots of bits of duck) and Raewyn and I lay around and caught up, having not seen each other for several months.

Mike and Eric arrived and went on out to do some scientific shooting experiments for a school project, but I was far too deaf to hear any noise.

Monday the 17th
view from over the road

I'm deaf and have an ache in my ear, but I felt rather more energetic today than I have in a while, so we went for a slow walk up the hill over the road. The farm looks reassuringly green from up there.

yearling 561

The first calf is due to arrive in just under seven weeks, at the beginning of October, so if any of the cows or heifers were to be doing something extraordinary like carrying twins, they would start to show early signs of udder development from now on. Having not seen the pregnant animals since Tuesday nearly two weeks ago, I felt a strong need to go and have a close look at them.

Nothing much has changed since in the last couple of weeks, but this heifer, 561, has quite noticeable udder development. It may only be more noticeable on her because of the white and pink colours, but I took the photo for comparison with photos I will take in the next few weeks.

Tuesday the 18th
cows in the House Paddock

This is the first time I've seen my cows for two weeks! I missed them. After walking the hill yesterday I'm a bit weary again today, so I suggested Stephan move them down to the House paddock this morning, so I could go out and spend some time amongst them without having to exert myself very much.
They're holding their condition well enough, not fabulously well covered, but bearing in mind they now have six weeks of increasing grass growth (if this early spring weather continues steadily) before calving, they should be in better condition by then than is often the case.

367's neck

This is 367's neck. When I squeezed the splinter from it, there was a solid pocket of swelling at the bottom of the picture (it still looks just slightly raised, I think) and the dried lump of stuff at the top was a solid bit of gunk which I couldn't pull out, so left well alone. In the field she's not a quiet enough cow to allow me to touch her neck, but the injury looks fine and she's in good health.

Wednesday the 19th

367, who will obviously rub her neck on anything she can find! There is a small bank just there, which provides a ledge upon which the cows like to scratch their necks, and where the bank drops, the cows can burrow their heads and cover their faces in earth, as they often like to do. I don't know why they do it, but when you see a picture of a cow with a muddy face, that's how it happened. Those cows which are happy to be close to me head-on, enjoy having their foreheads and the poll (where horns would grow had they any) scratched quite hard, so perhaps it's simply pleasurable to rub their heads into something scratchy.

Thursday the 20th
caged bantam hens

Outside my office window on the back lawn are a couple of cages in which a few hens now live - they're those we've managed to catch from the disorderly mob which lives up in the Chicken paddock. I would like to have some eggs again, but unless we keep the hens contained, they go off and hide their nests and if the eggs are infertile, they just sit and rot. I'd rather be able to eat them.

However, that little black hen on the left is a bully - she had herded the other three to the end of the cage and the little brown hen with her head buried under the others, was receiving particular attention. Stephan will bring the third of our little cages down and repair it, so I can remove that bullying hen to solitary confinement! Oddly she also crows - not quite as well as a rooster would, but recognisably. But as long as she lays eggs, I don't mind what sort of odd habits she has.