The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 1st of December 2012
Saturday the 1st
hen and chicks

All eight chicks have survived and are growing quickly.


Looking down on the swamp we fenced off a couple of years ago, on the northern side of the farm.  The post at left is the top corner of the swamp reserve on the farm boundary, which goes across the swamp and up the hill through the bush on the other side.

I like the Raupo, the long grass-like plant which grows in such areas.

Walking along the fenceline toward the right of the photo, I discovered a large orchid plant which must have flowered only in the last week.  I hadn't seen it before.  As I've been discovering, they're everywhere!

native orchids

Over on the opposite side of the farm I checked on the Sun Orchids at the base of the Bush Block (obviously none were out, or I'd have taken pictures) and then walked on toward the Big Back paddock.  These Onion-leaf Orchids were flowering along the riverbank.

native orchids

On a fallen Puriri log at the top of the Big Back paddock's swamp, many of the orchids have already bloomed and the others were not open today.

native orchids

They're lovely even when closed.

native orchid

Away over the farm's central ridge and down into the Middle Back paddock, I found one of the little white-flowering plants I found two years ago, in a slightly different part of the fallen log than the previous discovery, so I hope that means they're multiplying.

epiphytic Manuka in Puriri

In the middle of the paddock are the dead and threatened Puriri trees (want to sponsor a tree's protection?) and up in this one grows an epiphytic Manuka tree!  Manuka do not naturally grow high up in other trees, but that seed obviously found a welcoming place to germinate.

The bird is a Kingfisher (Kotare).

Sunday the 2nd
water slide

William cycled out for a visit and helped Stephan install the water slide.

They started by carrying the pre-fabricated slide down to the side of the pond, to ensure they could actually get it there, before building the frame upon which it would sit.  It is a heavy bit of construction!

water slide

Surely you don't imagine we ever build anything with plans?

water slide

Some careful digging and then some whacking to ensure the posts were solidly in the ground, but without destabilising the side of the pond...

water slide

... make sure it's all level...

water slide

... put some bigger poles in ...

water slide

...put the slide in position and secure it well...

water slide

...try it out!

William and Stephan went down the slide several times, and watching how tricky it was to get on to it over the top of the end of the ladder up which they climbed, I'd guess that the fun level was pretty high to keep them going back for more.  I predict it'll be a hit this summer.

sparrow nest

The sparrows nesting in our wooden nest box have laid some eggs.

Angus cattle

The mob of 17 cows and calves came past Joe 90 and his two small companions and into the neighbouring paddock this afternoon and the bulls looked like there was nothing they'd have liked more than to be with those cows.  I'm very glad we have electric fences, because I suspect there would be times when the animals would challenge other barriers if they knew nothing would sting them.

native orchid

Isn't this a gorgeous thing?

Caladenia chlorostyla.

native orchid

This is the flower from the plant (above) which I had to photograph with Stephan's camera a couple of years ago when I first saw it open.  I get more clarity with this camera.

Angus cow

Athena, at the top of the Back Barn paddock hill.  I like seeing the cows looking relaxed.

Titoki Tree

A Titoki tree, which I used to think was something else.  It grows on the edge of the House Paddock in the reserve and is currently flowering.  I've never seen it seed, which was why I identified it incorrectly in the first place, since Titoki seed capsules are very distinctive.

Titoki flower panicle

A Titoki flower panicle.  I brought some of it home so I could photograph it without the breeze and without having to reach uncomfortably high above my head.

Monday the 3rd
Native orchid

I had only to run a morning exam session today, my penultimate day for the year and as the students all finished early, I was at home by about noon.

The sun was out and the air warm, but with a bit of a cool breeze the orchid by the greenhouse wasn't responding very quickly, so I attempted to make things better: a black jersey to radiate some heat upwards, and a mirror to bathe the flower in sunlight from every direction.  With only half an hour to spare before we had to go out, it still wasn't enough.

We had to go to Broadwood to attend the funeral of Maureen Baine, whom Stephan used to see most mornings when he delivered milk around the North Hokianga and became friends with Maureen and John at the Broadwood General Store.  John and Maureen had recently retired to Kerikeri, but because they'd been such an integral part of the Broadwood community for so long (nearly 40 years, I think), it was to Broadwood that they returned for Maureen's final farewell.

pine plantation

We decided to travel up Diggers Valley, being the shortest possible way to get to Broadwood, despite the usual condition of the winding, narrow road.

This is where the pine logs which were thundering down the valley on huge trucks last summer came from.  We expect it won't be long now before the logging starts again and we need to look out for the trucks on every corner.

Flowering Northern Rata

On our way home, I was hopefully orchid-spotting.  Seeing lots of Sun Orchids on one piece of roadside bank, we stopped for a closer look.  This Northern Rata was visible through a gap in the trees.  I love seeing the Rata in flower.  They don't flower every year, so it's a treat to see them when they do.

The orchids had all already finished flowering, but it was fascinating to see how many different types there were in one small area on a sunny corner.

When we drove off, we discovered we'd been within a few metres of the driveway of another orchid enthusiast who lives on Diggers Valley Road.

Native forest and bush

Perhaps it was something about the angle of the light, but as we drove down from the top of the last hill before home, the line between the old mature forest and the younger, regenerating bush was quite clear.

The old forest on the left has much more variety in the height of the canopy than the younger bush.  The area on the right was once cleared pasture land and Stephan says he found a number of old fencelines in there when he was trapping for the NZ Kiwi Foundation.

I wonder whether the recent apparent increase in Native Orchids around our farm is because it has taken them that long to make their way from the old forest, through the newer-grown area and on down to us?  They all have dust-like air-borne seed, but their growth depends on the presence of Mycorrhizal fungi and perhaps the required types do not occur in areas which are open and farmed and so colonisation has been quite gradual?

Tuesday the 4th
Angus calf under a Totara tree

On a damp and drizzly day, under a big Totara tree is about the best place to be.

This is Imagen's son, by himself, probably because everyone else moved off to graze and he stayed where they'd been together.

Totara, although it looks like it shouldn't provide much in the way of shelter with its small, hard leaves, seems to stop the rain coming through better than any other tree.

Wednesday the 5th
low cloud

Another drizzly, grey day, with the cloud so low we lost the hills at the back of the farm.

Thursday the 6th
Angus cows and calves

After the rain last Thursday and lovely warmth (overnight temperatures have been above 10°C for the last two weeks), the grass is finally getting ahead of the cows.  It's been a long few months since I've seen the cows sitting in grass, rather than on it.

Angus calf, feeding

Imagen's son this year is vastly better off than her last.  She produces loads of milk and her calves grow really well if they have unrestricted access to it.

Angus cows

The cows aren't in as good condition as I'd like, but thankfully the rampant grass growth will address that problem.

Skinny in the middle of the picture is Squiggles, Ivy 73.  I don't know if she'll ever come right.  She's now five years old, which means she's reached physical maturity.  If she can't gain enough condition to look healthy over this summer, I think I'll make 2013 her last year.

None of it is her fault; she just had a very poor start and early checks can affect a whole life.

succulent flower

The pink succulent flower in the greenhouse has opened and looks gorgeous.

Northern Rata in bloom

My plan, after the exams were finished, was to collapse and rest until I need to start inseminating the cows.  Then I was informed by my sister, Jude, that I was expected in Auckland on Saturday for Stella's graduation ceremony, as she and her friends leave Te Whanau Whariki, the bilingual Māori unit at Richmond Road Primary School.

Stephan and I initially thought we'd both go down, but then we remembered our responsibilities and Zella in particular: we can't waltz off and leave her unmilked!

So with the ute tray stacked with things other people wanted taken to Auckland, I set off just after noon.

In the Maungataniwha Range through which runs the Mangamuka Gorge road, the Northern Rata were blooming magnificently.  This huge tree was a fabulous sight, prompting me to pull off to the side of the road for a longer look.

All things take their turn: the Rata, which began as an epiphyte in some long-ago-dead host tree, now hosts its own epiphytes.  The green amongst the red is Puka, the Shining Broadleaf, Griselinia lucida.

stormy sky

Just after 1pm I heard on the radio that a tornado had ripped through a part of West Auckland, leaving three people dead.  There was a band of severe thunderstorms coming down over parts of Northland and Auckland and I began to think it would have been preferable to be at home!

The sky was interesting as I continued south.

But other than a short period of very heavy rain and a bit of blustery wind, there was little to disrupt my journey.

The motorway into Auckland was another matter: driving along in first gear for about an hour.  Because of the weather-related chaos out west, lots of people had apparently chosen to travel in to the city via the Northern motorway, so it was quite congested.

I stayed with Jill (my mother) at her apartment in Point Chevalier, which was quiet enough except for being woken before seven by her Cockatiel making a racket in the living room.

Friday the 7th

In the morning, Jill and I went over to Jude's place, finding her a few metres up the road at her favourite café, with a band of tapestry spread out before her, which she and a friend were busily stitching.  For their graduations, the children were all being given Korowai (cloaks) by their whanau/families and Jude's had been something of a community effort, with all sorts of people taking up a needle to assist her in its creation.

I left Jill there and went off to my regular Auckland dental appointment, at which my dentist always marvels at my wonderful dental maintenance over the preceding months and tells me I'm lucky or very diligent; I would say both.

children playing music

When I went back to Jude's place afterwards, there were music lessons in progress all over the house!  Jude was teaching piano in the music room and in the living room there was a wind-instrument lesson.

Jill was busily bent over the tapestry work.  I spent some hours stitching during parts of the day and Jill insisted that she needed to take part in the work, so she sat next to me at the workbench.  It surprises me how much facility she has lost as the dementia disorganises her brain.  Jill used to be able to do anything crafty and detailed and now she cannot work out where to put a needle through tapestry fabric to form the stitches.  I spent as much time undoing what she had tried to do as I did stitching, myself, until I suggested she have a break for a while!


The tapestry band: Ruru (the Morepork, New Zealand's native owl), Stella's favourite bird; the Pohutukawa flowers of her whenua tree (under which her placenta was buried when she was born); stars for Stella; a stylised river, her awa, Mokau, south of Russell, where the family spends a lot of time; musical notes because music is such a big part of their lives.

Roger and Jude were over at the school for much of the afternoon and into the early evening and dinner didn't seem likely to eventuate.  Jude had booked us all in to Covo Italian Restaurant a little way down the road, but then decided she didn't have time to stop, so sent Stella and me off on our own for an exclusive Aunty-niece special time.  The restaurateur was a little peeved to find a booking for seven reduced to just the two of us, but everyone was very friendly and both service and food were splendid.

After dinner we went back to the house and I took up a needle again, until Jude's friend Jane arrived at about 11.30 and the two of them took over.  Jill and I went home.