The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 14th of April 2012
Saturday the 14th
Kahikatea Berries

Kahikatea berries look so tempting, that I decided to find out if they were edible or not.  Apparently they are, so we tried them.  I ate quite a few.  I'm not sure whether it was coincidental, but I had to go to bed by 8.30 and slept like a log!

cow's injured teat

That looks so sore.

The udder belongs to 546, whose daughter, 711, is enormous and one of the heifers I'll keep.  I wonder how the cows put up with this much teat injury and still manage to feed their calves?

weaned Angus calves

The calves which are no longer causing wear and tear on their mothers' udders.  Weaning has so far been quite orderly and not overly noisy.  They really do settle quite well when weaned in small groups.

Sunday the 15th
cat hair

Ella and I were holding the gate for Zella and Imagen to go into the House paddock this morning and noticed all this ginger cat fur on the track.  I haven't heard any fights lately and we've mostly been locking our cats inside at night since Finan was injured last year.  There was obviously a serious sort of dust-up, but I've not seen a ginger cat around here since Agent Orange.

weaned Angus calves

The calves have had three nights adjacent to their mothers, and have mostly stopped calling to them, so today I combined the two weaned mobs and added Zella's and Imagen's calves to them in Flat 2.  The weaned cows are now in one mob two paddocks away, so they can still see and hear the calves, and the house-cows are two paddocks away in the other direction.

Stephan's been milking the two house-cows twice a day since removing the calves from them.

Behind me as I took this photo, Abigail was being ridden by the three bull calves, apparently on heat.  I don't know what's up with that cow, this not being the first time she's come back on heat after appearing to be pregnant for weeks after the end of mating.  Her mother (Isla) didn't have any fertility issues and her daughters appear to be alright too.  I haven't had the cows pregnancy tested this year, but I might have to, to ensure that those which appear to have come back on heat really are empty.

Ella and Stephan

Stephan and Ella, collecting tools in preparation for a trip out to the Middle Back paddock to install a culvert.  They were out there for hours, finally reappearing with one small person covered in mud and grinning broadly.  I think Ella's having a good time.

Monday the 16th
milking time

Zella's such a lovely little cow, being quite relaxed about all the people who've come to try their hand at milking her.

Ella's an able milker and did some of the milking each morning during her stay.

I left Ella and Stephan to their own devices for the evening and drove to Whangarei.  Jill moves out of her house on Thursday and I needed to take her to the Post Office to arrange redirection of her mail; organise the change over of her power supply accounts; arrange to have her telephone cut off in Tikipunga and connected in Auckland; and sort out provision of insurance for house and contents.  Each of these things took at least half an hour on the telephone, but I was fortunate in finding delightful and helpful people answering every call I made - and every one of them was in New Zealand.  (Many companies now employ call-centres in the Philippines or India and many NZers find it frustrating talking to people who have no idea where or who we are.  For instance, a guy in Manilla recently promised me I could have a broadband connection!  Yeah, right, heard that one before.)

Tuesday the 17th

This morning we went to see the Gerontologist at the hospital, Jill's last visit to him, since she's leaving the Northland District Health area for Auckland.  I asked a few questions about whether I ought to be concerned for my own future, having a mother, aunt and grand-parents with Alzheimer's Disease.  I also asked about the likelihood of preventative treatments becoming available in the near future and he replied, "not in my lifetime"; so I asked him how long he intended to live?

On our way back to Jill's we went into town and looked at a potential birthday present for Stephan.  Since he rarely reads this (has no idea what outrageous things I write about him) I could tell you what I'm thinking of getting him, but I'd better not.

Jill's real estate agent turned up at the door as we were having a cup of tea and Jill didn't recognise her.  I have my doubts about the wisdom of moving her to an entirely new community.

Jude, Rachel and the children arrived a little later and with the children and their luggage in the car, I set off for home, leaving the others to begin packing up Jill's house in preparation for Thursday's move.

We drove through Moerewa, where the AFFCO worker lockout continues, winding down all the windows so we could all wave and call our support to those on the picket line.  The children's understanding of current NZ politics was really interesting.  Jasper, who's now eight, seems to have a strong sense of right and left-wing political differences.

We had a lovely trip, telling stories and playing word games.  There was only one upset, just before we turned into Takahue Road, which in a two hour trip isn't bad going.

children playing

The pond is always first call for children who visit.  I'm so glad we have an island.

Wednesday the 18th

Today sort of disappeared.  I'm not really sure what happened to it, except that everyone had a lovely time doing all sorts of things.

child playing

We had a Budgie-naming vote after breakfast, writing down a list of about twenty suggested names, then everyone voted for the ones they liked, creating a short-list.  I could tell there was some interference in the voting during that first round, so the second round of voting was by secret ballot, wherein I would call out a name and the four children came individually to whisper in my ear, yes, or no.  Some people were very good whisperers and nobody apart from me could hear what they said.

The Budgie is now named Eco.

I took this series of pictures at some point when everyone was happily involved in something they'd chosen to do: Louie lying on the floor surrounded by plastic soldiers, completely engrossed in some imagined world, with astonishing sound effects.

girls polishing brass

The girls found some brass candlesticks we brought back from Jill's and asked for Brasso and polishing cloths and sat on the deck until the brass was glistening.

boy watching man at work

Jasper spent ages sitting watching Stephan as he continued building a cage for Echo the Budgerigar - he and Ella had been working on it while she was here too.


Jasper, who has long been quite shy and unresponsive with us, has this year changed significantly, becoming a real pleasure to have around.  He and I went out for a walk to see and move the cows and calves.  We took my little walkie-talkie radio with us, leaving the other one with Stephan and the others back at the house and Jasper called them from various points on our walk.

family group

Ella was booked on the five o'clock flight from Kaitaia.  The ute was still in town, fixed and ready to be collected, but with four children and two adults and only a small car, we had a bit of a problem.  It was like one of those logic problems with a crocodile, a fox and three chickens, in which you can only transport two hens at a time across a river and have to make sure none of them gets left alone because they'll be eaten... I may have forgotten the real details of that one.  We couldn't legally travel with everyone in the car because someone would have to sit on top of someone else to do it and there aren't enough seat belts, and I couldn't otherwise take Stephan to town without leaving at least one child alone.  Stephan went and asked Jane if she would please give him a lift to town, which she kindly did.

While Stephan picked up the ute, the rest of us went to the pet shop, because I needed some more food for the Budgie.  While we were there we looked at the other Budgies for sale, so we could think about what sort of companion we could get for Echo and there was such a lovely little female bird that we just had to bring her home.  She has an orange beak, white head and wings with a hint of light grey barring, and lovely blue feathers underneath.  There'll be a picture of her next week.  Her name is Citronella, or Nella for short.

children waving to a plane

Ella, as an Unaccompanied Minor, was escorted to the plane by the pilot, before everyone else got on.

Eventually the plane took off and we all waved good bye.

When we arrived home, I carefully extracted the new budgie from the little box she'd travelled in and she viciously bit me and didn't stop until I could let go of her inside the cage.  There was a terrible lot of flapping and Echo made an extraordinary sort of alarm call I'd not heard before.  I'm not sure how one is supposed to introduce such birds to each other, but that obviously wasn't the quiet way to do it!  I put a towel over the cage, turned off the light and left the room so they could settle down.  They were alright after a while.

making biscuits

I suggested to the children and Stephan that it would be really nice to make some biscuits for the people at Moerewa, so we could drop them off on our way back to Whangarei tomorrow.  The children were very keen and Stephan was willing, so although it made them a bit late going to bed, they stayed up and made four batches of ANZAC biscuits.  There were 127 all together.

Thursday the 19th

Stephan and I got up before 6am so he could milk the cows and set off for Whangarei to help Rachel and Jude at Jill's house.  The children got up a bit later and Stella and Jasper packed 118 biscuits in plastic bags for delivery and we loaded up the car with everything they'd brought and some potted plants they said they'd really like to have (I potted them up before Ella left) and off we went.

At Moerewa we stopped on the side of the road and found someone to receive the biscuits and Stella told them why we'd made them.  Someone took a picture of us and I didn't, because that wasn't particularly the point, although it would have been really nice to have one.

model ship

We arrived just as the removal truck was driving down Jill's driveway, so our timing was perfect.  Children and luggage were rearranged and Rachel drove off in the car, because it's now going to Auckland to be sold, since I will have no further need of the extra vehicle to enable me to get down to see Jill.  Jude took Jill in her car and departed soon afterwards.

Stephan and I were then faced with what remained to be sorted, taken to the recycle/refuse centre, the opportunity shop, or home.  Miraculously we managed to get everything but this ship, Bruce's hand-made model of the Vasa, packed safely onto and into the ute.  Fortunately a lovely neighbour walked up the driveway as we were considering what on earth we could do with it and offered a clean, dry, safe storage place for it until we can come back with the means to bring it safely home.

Friday the 20th
Kauri seeds

The Kauri seeds are on the move!  Most of them have germinated and will soon be standing upright.

logging truck

I walked up the road to check the cows and heard the noises of an approaching truck, so got my camera ready as it came around the corner.  They take up a lot of space, although the photo doesn't give quite the impression I have of them in reality.  They travel up to the forest with their trailers piggy-backed on the truck, then come back down towing them full of logs.