The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 4th of September 2010.
Saturday the 4th

We were not woken by the ground moving, because that sort of thing doesn't happen here. When we turned on the radio this morning, I first thought the unusual news format was reporting the damage of an enormous storm. A few minutes later though, I heard that it was an Earthquake near Christchurch which had led to the change in radio programming, and a huge amount of damage in the Canterbury region.

lamb's face

Lamb's daughter, searching for a bottle of milk.

sulphur crested cockatoo

There was an extraordinary noise outside this evening and both of us thought one of the lambs was dying somewhere, but it was only the return of one of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos which appear from time to time. Only one. Last time we saw them, two years ago, there were three and back in 2005 there were still four. They were obviously not a breeding group.

Sunday the 5th

Feeding the tag-ewe's daughter, who is not at all happy about being separated from her mother and brother, but feeds well enough from the bottle. Her behaviour should gradually settle.

pig rooting

The Windmill Paddock has been closed and growing grass for weeks, since I haven't needed to use it. It has been looking lovely, with all the lush rye grass growing, but suddenly the plants are getting to the point where if they are not grazed, their feed value will drop. I had intended the paddock for the cows when they approach calving, but the heifers can give it a once-over in the meantime. With the weather as mild as it is, the grass should grow back reasonably quickly.

To my extreme disgust, I found pig-sign at the top of the paddock. Bloody horrid animals. I resent them rooting up my expensive, specially sown grass even more than the pastures out the back.

signficant pig rooting

What a mess. This looks very fresh, so a mob of pigs has been here amongst the cattle - I put the cows into the Back Barn Paddock on Friday. Fortunately in these areas there is a lot of Kikuyu grass, which quite quickly recovers the bare areas; but we need the grass for the cows, not to grow pigs for hunters who rarely even have the courtesy to let us know they're crossing our land. If the pigs were naturally-occuring pests, I would feel a little differently. But because these pigs are a population regularly replenished by illegal releases of pigs brought in from elsewhere, I very much resent their presence.

One of the two Putangitangi (Paradise Duck) chicks in the Windmill Paddock has disappeared. They're so little and vulnerable. It could have been taken by a hawk or an eel. The eel option is more likely than predation by a hawk, I think, because the parents are both so alert and protective that an attack from above would be vigorously repelled. I don't think the ducks are nearly as able to detect attack from beneath the water.

Monday the 6th
heifers in the Windmill Paddock
Tuesday the 7th

I consulted an optometrist this afternoon, to see if the experience of life from inside my eyes can be explained by someone looking at them and into them from outside. But there's nothing much wrong with them other than age, and I could do with the assistance of some glasses. I'll have to go back to select frames for my glasses, because the optometrist put some drops in my eyes to dilate my pupils, which then prevented my focussing properly on anything for several hours. Apparently I looked like I'd been partaking of illegal substances.

moving the ram

I asked Stephan to move the ram and the wether from the flats, so I can begin to plan my calving grazing for the cows. The two sheep can live up in the chickens paddock, where the sheep have spent much of the last couple of years. The ram was very interested in the ewes in the House paddock, but I don't want him with them. The wether's big enough to eat, but the ram needs him as a companion.

lamb in the living room

No, it shouldn't!

Lambs will nibble anything. I brought her out of the cage yesterday afternoon because she was throwing herself around in increasing distress, and I thought perhaps she just needed some calm company. I put a cat harness on her, but it was a bit too tight for her growing body, so tied a long piece of strap into the same sort of shape - I want to be able to tie her to something in the living room so I don't have to follow her around the whole house with a cloth or mop. This is why we have a painted concrete floor!

Wednesday the 8th
lamb out in the field

Thinking that a couple of days of quiet cohabitation with us in and around the house would have settled the lamb sufficiently, I put her back out in the paddock for a run around with the other lambs. I left her harness on so I could catch her again, but her odd appearance frightened the other sheep so much when she ran, that I called her over and took it off.

Here she was meeting her young aunty, and grandmother Dotty.

Within a couple of hours she'd rediscovered her real mother and was busily feeding. We had to get the sheep back into the pen for me to recapture her. Her brother is looking much better fed since he's had exclusive access to their milk supply and I want him to stay that way.

Thursday the 9th
Foxton and the lamb

Foxton really likes sheep!

Friday the 10th
orchid plant

These pictures are from the reserve area in the Bush Flat Paddock.

This is one of the epiphytic orchids, which will soon flower.

orchid plant

A closer view of the flower buds.

I took a picture in rather poor light of a plant in flower last year.


This is one of the many Tutu (Coriaria arborea) plants now growing along the edges of the stream, since the cattle were excluded from the area.

Tutu is supposedly extremely toxic, but I suspect my cattle regularly browse it, since I rarely see the plants anywhere the cattle frequent. I think its toxicity depends in part on how much they eat at once, how much other feed they have consumed, and I've heard it suggested that the time of year makes a difference too.

shifting the heifers

The heifers continue to move down the Windmill Paddock in strips. Electric fencing is wonderful technology. The young cattle, if left to the whole paddock, spend much of their time galloping around and making a hell of a mess. Fed in strips, they make far less mess and the paddock lasts much longer.

The width of the strips is determined by feel rather than science. What I ought to do is measure the grass, measure the area and then give them the appropriate amount of grass according to their theoretical needs. They seem pretty content, so I suspect I'm getting it right enough.