The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 20th of February 2010.
Saturday the 20th

We went over to the North Hokianga A&P Show at Broadwood. It's our favourite of the two local shows, but we haven't been for about three years.

Wandering along toward the shearing and woodchopping we had to stop and wait until this race was completed: the NZ Army had a display and the children had to pick up an item of uniform and run to touch a tree on the other side of the track, return and don another piece, and so on. I don't know what the prize was, but they were obviously having a great time.

pumpkin competition

The pumpkin growing competition was obviously well subscribed, with a great-looking collection of entries. The winning entry weighed in at 91.5kg.

diet pumpkin

I have never met Jenny Craig, but because of that other Jenny Craig whose name is associated with a weight-loss programme, this particular appearance of her name made me laugh.

wood chopping

As usual there was the woodchopping competition, always fun to watch.

swimming in the river

It was a very hot day, and some people had decided that down in the river was the best place to be.

shearing competition

We sat and watched the shearing competition for a while. This is James Parsons, with a judge looking on. James and I serve as Directors on the Board of Kaitaia Veterinary Services.

huge spider hole

When we'd come home I went for a stroll through our Bush Flat reserve again, where I found the little Fuchsia plant last week. Things are getting very dry, with the Hangehange (Geniostoma rupestre var. ligustrifolium, also called NZ Privet in my book) saplings all noticeably wilting.

In a long depression in the ground was this impressive spider web. I presume it is the home of one of the common, rather large, Tunnelweb Spiders. They are related to Australia's poisonous Funnelweb Spiders, but ours are not poisonous.

Sunday the 21st
cows and calves

These cows were, a few minutes before, at the top of the hill, but came pelting down to the gate as I descended this evening, ready to move them back across the road to the main part of the farm. A couple of them very obviously nearly lost control of themselves as they galloped down the track, with Demelza doing a quick slide on her forelegs and brisket when she went a bit too fast! When you're over 600kg, you should probably maintain a sedate pace, for safety's sake.

I'm pleased they're still in such good condition, because sooner or later the drought is going to impact on us.

Monday the 22nd
Beggar's Tick seedling

I wandered out to pull a few of the Beggar's Tick plants I knew were growing where I found them seeding last year. Because of the dry weather, some of them are remarkably small and tricky to see! The focus isn't right in this picture, but it's about as well as I was seeing them while walking along looking at the leafy litter on the ground. This one is tiny, but others not much bigger had the little yellow flowers which will readily seed and continue to propagate these pesky plants.

Tuesday the 23rd

The power suddenly went off at around noon today, and didn't come back on until just before 6pm! A lines worker was injured in the event, although we never heard anything more of his fate after the original reports of the incident.

Wednesday the 24th

Back on Boxing Day (26 December) I was showing some visitors the Puriri Moth hole I've been watching in the big tree at the back door of our house. We have a washing line hung around the lower branches and the maximum-minimum thermometer also hangs on that tree, just below the caterpillar's home, so I see it regularly. It was dark by the time we came to look at the tree and because we were looking with a torch, I noticed that the web hiding the hole was disintegrating because it had not been maintained from within. I sadly assumed the caterpillar had died.

But a couple of weeks ago, while hanging washing on the line one day, I looked up and spotted the hatched pupa case of the moth, as you see similarly in the picture to the left. Of course - not dead, just changing!

A couple of days later I found this caterpillar's hole on another tree on the farm, in a similar state of obvious disrepair, so noted its location and today here it is, with the hatched pupa case at the entrance.

The white webbing is that of an opportunistic spider, which must have moved into the hole when the caterpillar wasn't actively keeping intruders out with its strong web weaving, but the spider webs are not strong enough to deter such a large moth from hatching.

Puriri Moth pupa case

This is the complete pupa case, including the "face plate", measuring about 10cm (four inches) long.

Thursday the 25th
Athena in the lead

Isla's daughter, Athena 72, is proving as strong a personality as her mother. She's always out at the front of any mob of cattle, leading them to wherever I'm calling them to go. Cows like that are really handy to have.

This morning I was bringing them in because I had booked vet Nathan to come and do some preliminary pregnancy testing. Only around two thirds of the herd are progressed enough in their gestations for their pregnancies to be visible on the scanner. There are a few of those of which I'm unsure, but which I suspect might well be pregnant and if I know they are, I don't need to keep them quite as close to home, as we begin running short of grass on the flats.

Most of the tests confirmed my suspicions and so I drafted the cows and heifers into two groups and sent a large mob out to the Back Barn paddock. I'll continue to check them regularly, but not quite as often as I will continue to watch the cows I'll keep closer for late insemination.

Queenly 23

Virago Queenly 23 AB. Queenly is such a hairy cow! This year she has carried a very thick coat right the way through the summer, as well as gradually gaining a fair amount of body "condition". It was Queenly's calf which died this year near the end of its gestation, so because she's not producing milk, all her feed has gone to muscle and fat - and hair.

Queenly and Imagen, our milking cow, are half sisters by their sire NBar Emulation EXT. He has a bad reputation for temperament issues in his progeny, but our two are lovely.

We zipped into town this afternoon and for the first time ever, I had some of my digital photos properly printed. It was quite a thrill to hold real photos again! I remember a similar feeling back in 2001 when I first saw my photos directly on the computer screen.

With the printed photos, some apples from our tree (which has yielded several fruit in its second season), and a wood-turned bowl, Stephan and I headed along to the Community Centre and entered the Indoor Competition for the weekend's A&P Show.

Friday the 26th
Demelza and her daughter

A moment of mother-daughter affection between Demelza and her daughter, Emma. Demelza spent several minutes licking Emma's neck and face. They were lovely to watch.