The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 3rd of April 2010.
Saturday the 3rd
the Diggers Valley end of the trail

I drove Stephan up Diggers Valley Road this afternoon so he could walk in from the Veza Road end of the Kiwani bush track, the other end of which is at the top end of Larmer Road. The plan was that he would meet up with Mathew (and a whole party of family), who is planning an Air Training Corps (ATC) camp on our place in a few weeks, and wanted to find a way to come down off the Kiwani walk to our back boundary.

We met a (USA I think) man who was walking up the road, having been looking for water, who was about to set off on another track on his way down the country following Te Ara Roa, the nationwide system of walkways.

the walkers, in the bush

This was a picture Stephan took when he met William, Mathew, Miriam, Dylan, Simon, Liam, Karl and Jonathan, all looking quite fresh and fit.

They all made their way down through the big Pine plantation behind our place to our back boundary, and arrived home just as the sun was setting - rather later than those of us here were expecting them!

In the mean time Elizabeth, Sarah and Kerehoma, Char-Lien, Raewyn, Sean and Phyllis had arrived by car, bringing contributions for dinner, and we all had a very pleasant family get-together until small children needed to be taken home to bed. We always enjoy gatherings of the clan here.

Sunday the 4th
peering up through the branches

Mike and his boys came out for a visit today and while the kids swam in the pond, Stephan, Mike and I went for a wander on the peninsula near our house, to show Mike some of the interesting trees in there - it is there that the huge Northern Rata grows.

It is often when I'm showing other people trees I know, that I look up and realise there is something I haven't identified before, and so it was today. These leaves were something I didn't recognise, so I took a number of pictures to try and see them at closer range. The two trees I found were far too tall to easily see their foliage.
They turned out to be Titoki, Alectryon excelsus, which aren't tremendously common around here as far as I've observed thus far. But these are old trees, so maybe there are more ...

clambering down through the bush

We walked around through the bush for a while and I led the two of them to where Stephan and I found one very large and recently fallen Puriri, then on to the extraordinary one we found growing across the river. The two of them took some convincing to clamber down the steep bank to the river.

huge Puriri trunk and roots across the stream

It's hard to get a clear photo down here - it's shady where I stand, but with the big Puriri having fallen across the river downstream (middle of the picture) the canopy is opened up, so there's a lot of light coming in.

In the foreground is the very long-ago fallen Puriri which has grown in to and out of the river.

I'd like to come down here at a better time of day for light, and some longer gumboots so I can stand in the river, and get some pictures which really show the structure of this huge tree.

Monday the 5th

Early this morning a calf trotted up the lane by the house. At first I thought he was one of the just-weaned calves who had somehow got out of the House Paddock, but then we noticed he had a scrotum! I created an explanation for myself for how he'd managed to get there - I thought he must have come across the river and then through a fence which happened to have been left switched off.

newly battened fence segment

We later discovered that he'd actually been out on the road and someone had run him along and popped him in through our front gates. We had to deduce the facts for ourselves, and were quite glad we now have a padlock on the gate to the paddock in which the little bulls were grazing, because had he simply been put back in through the gate, I would not have known he'd been out, and we may not have discovered the problem with this piece of fence until there were more bulls on the road. Stephan immediately tightened and battened the loose section. The battening ought to have happened some time ago, but as it wasn't then urgent, it didn't get done.

cows heading for shelter

From two o'clock it rained, quite heavily, for about forty minutes, the rain gauge measuring 12.5mm at the end of it. It's five weeks since we had any real rain, and that was just under 35mm.

The cows appeared to have forgotten the feeling of rain. They came back out to graze when it stopped, and when another short shower fell, they remained out in it.

pour-on drench residue

The Genesis Ultra pour-on drench we use leaves this white residue after it has been wet. I drenched these animals three days ago, so rain on them now is not a problem, but it still makes the residue look rather interesting. Heavy dew has the same effect.

I put the drench along her spine, but it is an oily sort of fluid and when the cattle are hot, it gradually runs down their sides, presumably contacting enough skin on the way to be effectively absorbed to the correct degree.

Tuesday the 6th
Kauri snail

A little more rain today, taking our total at home to 27mm.

Over on the East Coast Stephan was trapping and came across this wonderful creature in the drizzling rain: a Kauri snail, Paryphanta busbyi. We rarely see these alive, often finding the empty shells in bush areas around the farm, or evidence of pigs and hedgehogs having eaten them, leaving only shell residues. I've seen one live snail in the last few years, but it was asleep.

My sister Jude, Roger and the kids came up today and all stayed the night. Jude and Roger are going off for a couple of nights on their own tomorrow, leaving us with the three children.

Wednesday the 7th

There was a surprising amount of crying when Jude and Roger left this morning (by the children, I mean), so we distracted them with a variety of activities until they forgot they ever had parents.

Jasper and Stella

Later in the day we went out to collect some firewood, with the three children in the front-end-loader bucket of the tractor. (Louie was probably off organising something when I took this picture.)

Carrying children around on tractors is not an overly safe practice and we only do it with a great deal of care. Children being unpredictable sorts, the driver must always be prepared to react immediately should anything untoward occur. But even travelling at very slow speeds for safety, the children have a great time enjoying a mode of transport they seldom experience.

A few of the younger cows are looking a bit thin: I will have to wean the rest of the calves as soon as I can.

Thursday the 8th
sailing ice boats

Yesterday Jasper showed me some of the ideas in a science and activity book he brought with him, which included making ice boats. We filled margarine containers with water, and made bits of doweling stand upright in the water so they'd freeze in place as masts, to which paper sails could later be attached.

This afternoon the children spent an hour or so decorating the sails and flags for their boats, and when they were ready, we took them down to the pond and launched them.
They lasted for quite a while before the ice melted too much to hold up the masts, and the sails fell sadly into the water. Jasper went swimming with his inflated ring and gathered them up.

weighing the strange calves

We all went for a walk to bring the latest five weaned calves to the yards for their pour-on drench, and when we'd weighed the calves, we put these funny calves over the scales as well. As usual we had to prod them rather a lot with our sticks! They seem to find it all hilarious.

Looking back to their last weighing, I'm going to cull this lot: their weight gain is appalling. They've only put on 5kg between the three of them in nearly a year!

Native Orchid plants

The lovely orchid is growing again. There are corms visible in the substrate this year, and it would appear that the colony of plants is definitely still happily expanding.

A week or two ago I gently pulled on one of the dead flower stalks until part of the plant (or one of the individuals) came away from the rest, roots and all, and planted it in a pot. A leaf is emerging on that piece now. I'm keen to see an independent plant growing, just in case something catastrophic happens to this lot. I continue to throw a bit of water over these, and they seem to be doing quite well despite the drought.

I took a picture of them last year at about the same stage. We've been carefully breaking away bits of the Puriri to allow the orchids more room to grow.

Friday the 9th

We took the children out to get more firewood today and the tractor broke down, so we all had to walk back! As we approached the top of the House Paddock, we could see Jude and Roger at the house, about which the children seemed very relieved - we had told them we had phoned the people from the orphanage who would come and collect them if they didn't behave themselves! Generally they're extremely good with us, but we've been a bit out of sorts due to some sad family news and so the visit has not been as easy as usual.

Jude making friends with Zella

Jude came out with me for a walk when I went to separate Imagen and Zella while Stephan cooked dinner. Jude went over to see if Zella would talk to her, and I quietly watched as Zella gradually came closer and closer.