The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 13th of November 2021.
Saturday the 13th

Rain. There was a MetService rain watch for 9am - 1pm and then later in the day a warning was also issued for 10pm tonight until midday on Sunday. Over the whole two days of rain, today and Sunday, we had 125mm of rain in the gauge. That's not extreme for us, indeed quite an unremarkable amount over two days.


Hooray, I've managed to healthily support these caterpillars to pupation.

I'd been using the tripod, upside-down, to take photos of family photographs and, lately, paper copies of documents for the farm accounts, so left it on the top of the wheeled trolley I'd been using it on, for the caterpillars to find places to pupate. I didn't want them crawling off around the living room because I can't ensure their safety if I don't know where they are and they might get squashed on their way across the floor.

cow and calves

Late this afternoon during a break in the rain, we walked out to check and move cattle.

Here Gertrude 162 was sitting with most of the calves in her little mob, while the others grazed nearby. I don't think she was particularly nannying them, since the paddock is small and the calves' mothers were only a few running steps away.


That mob above, and this one, of which Zella is a member, are all in parts of Flat 5 so they can become reacquainted before I put them together when they next move. That will be in a day or two, after the last calf has had a bit of settling-down time.

Away across the paddock (at right in the photo), 188 was standing, not coming across to join the others because her calf was snoozing there.


On our way back, I came into the House paddock to give Al a pat; but now that Stephan usually feeds him, I'm not as attractive to him. Cupboard love.

Sunday the 14th
nest holes

It rained for most of the day. I got up at 4.30am, since I wasn't sleeping, and went out at dawn to help a confused calf who'd ended up slightly separated from his mother; then I went back to bed until lunch time.

Later in the afternoon when the rain had cleared, I went to check the heifers Over the Road. A Kōtare flew out of one of these holes as I walked past. I'm not sure which hole but I have found them nesting here before.

rotten post

I had a lovely wander around the hillside, checking the cattle, then climbed to the very top of the hill to confirm that this rotten bit of log was all that remained of the formerly-still-solid old strainer post we used to sit on and look out at the view from the very top. The world turns, things change.


I took this picture as I came up the driveway, looking toward the pond but where the brightness of the slide was hidden behind some of the foliage. The Kauri on the island (the tallest tree, third from right) is really putting on some growth. I think it likes being there.


After dinner we walked out to check the two cows in the Tank and Al followed us.

He gets very excited about our company. Here he was in the middle of one of his fast spinning turns, an alarming manoeuvre because he's so solid that if he miscalculates and crashes into me, it could hurt! But it's so entertaining to watch that it's difficult to know what to pay attention to: him or safety! Stephan's stout walking stick is primarily to fend Al off, as necessary.


710's daughter's eyes still have a hint of the lighter colour below her pupils.

I like my grumpy-looking-but-aren't animals.

cows and calves

We moved the 14-pair mob along the lane from Flat 4 to 2, then combined the other two, smaller, mobs in Flat 3, where I hoped there'd be enough grass to distract them from fighting.

There was a bit of pushing but mostly the cows seemed more interested in the bigger mob in Flat 2, than in their new mob-mates in their own paddock.

All the pushing around seems so pointless when they've lived their entire lives together, been together and apart over and over in various combinations. And they're all related to some degree. Related and stroppy.


On the way out of Flat 5 I watched this little calf (I think it was Gina 168's tiny son) having a fight with a fence post and then rubbing his neck into the soil and felt a little relieved that we'd decided to castrate him. There's a bit of 'wild' in that family and adding testosterone to it makes it quite scary.


Christina kindly gave us a couple of mandarin trees when we said we'd need to replace ours - the nicest of the two was attacked by borer beetles and eventually killed and the other, bearing less nice-to-eat fruit, looks like it will go the same way.

Stephan planted one in the shelter of the milking shed and we thought over here near the tropical guava tree (just visible to the left) would do for the other. We don't plan tree planting, just do it where it feels like the right place.

There's nobody buried under this tree.


One of the Feijoa trees has more flowers than I've seen on it ever before.

feijoa tree

They're pretty flowers, all the nicer in anticipation of the sweetness of the fruit that will eventually follow.

Monday the 15th

Here's Dushi's yearling daughter, 210, with that off-centre hair parting on her nose. I linked to her calf picture a few weeks ago.


The grass in the Chickens paddock (the one that used to have chickens, sometimes has pigs and was once an orchard) beyond Stephan's shed is growing crazily and I would like to put the yearlings in here. But the trough had to be moved from its initial installation when he put the fence in around the stream edge, so it needed to be reinstalled and as there is water at the pig sty, it might as well be there, in the middle of the paddock area.

I needed to go to the medical clinic this afternoon, requiring a significant effort to control my Covid-anxiety. We have been trying to avoid going into buildings in town but health appointments, when a good, free system exists, should not be squandered. Since I was going there, Stephan went into the hospital to the laboratory for a blood test he'd been asked to undergo a few weeks ago. We'll both probably survive.

fern frond

Tree fern fronds are lovely at every stage. This one grows in the drain between Flats 1 & 2.


Zella's a funny-looking thing when I see her like this. Lovely cow.

cow and calf

812's troublesome leg doesn't seem to cause her any great difficulty. Presumably it hurts a bit when she heaves herself up from sitting but not so much that she is disinclined to lie down.

It's funny how things turn out: if she hadn't been so sore when I was going to send her to the works, we'd not have seen this beautiful calf. Life is luck.

Tuesday the 16th

I finished the annual accounts this morning and emailed everything to the accountant. It's a process that seems to take me quite some time although in recent years, since I set up a useful spreadsheet template, it all goes much more easily. Finding documents becomes easier by the year too, as businesses have gradually shifted to emailed invoices and statements, rather than sending everything by mail. There were still some I had to photograph to include but not so many. It's too easy to lose track of them around the house in my usual disorganisation. I've always appreciated the ability of a computer to search through its own files by date, key words or type of file, when I can't find something myself. I just need the same thing applied to the house.

onion orchid

The afternoon was sunny so I went out orchid hunting again. But in just the few days since I last looked, most of the Sun Orchid flowers have already done their thing and I found none open.

I do like the little Onion Orchids though, despite their being so modest. Having become so interested in the tiny native orchids, I now sometimes find the big exotic ones excessively showy!

I ended up in the Middle Back but as I write this page I have absolutely no memory of how I got there, nor any particular purpose for going, although I would have checked on previous orchid sites, none of which had plants this year. I must just have been happily wandering around, and from the photos I was obviously thinking about Pūriri again. I can remember those thoughts but not the practicalities of the day. I live in my own head!


Here is a fungus. It is growing on the chibbled* bits of decaying Pūriri in the middle of a fallen trunk.

* Chibbled does not appear in the dictionary, so how do we know what it means?


Looking up, the two huge trees just up the slope give some sense of how big some of these trees were when fully alive, although the dead of these two was presumably damaged by later human-related activity than the earlier fires or it would have fallen down already. The one on the left is just hanging on to life, a few sprigs of leaves still growing from some of its branches.

I spent some time around the trunk, trying to work out how that life was being sustained, where the strips of live bark still came down the trunk to the few obviously live roots.

We must get this area fenced. It's one of those places on the to-do list and Stephan got closer to it when he fenced the gullies just down the hill in early 2018 (no pictures since I think they belong to a missing page). But then there was a boundary fence to build and the yards ...


This is a piece of regrown Pūriri from the huge fallen trunk upon which I've found a number of orchids over the last several years. The canopy regrew where the original tree fell, creating its own quite sizeable trunks. This piece was twisted at its base, an obvious weak point. It's odd that so many of the Pūriri are falling at this time.


I took this picture from the Middle Back near the gate to Route 356, across to the Puka in the Spring. It is such a healthy plant.

The tree on which it grows is a (now dead) Tōtara and therefore at some time in the next few years it will end up on the ground, because the Tōtara will rot and fall.

We need to do some more waterway fencing there, so I'll make sure we include the Puka and its host in that area, with enough room to fall and then, hopefully, continue to grow.

two bulls

When I passed them on the way out the back, Andrew was sitting here in the Pines paddock and 189 was on the other side of the swamp. Now here they are together. I'm about to make them sad, because I rang the stock agent to book three cattle in to the works; after careful deliberation, we decided Andrew would be one of them.

When he was in good condition he began to look pretty fabulous but then he got all scrawny again during the winter, while 189 remained buttery-fat and well muscled. The difference between the condition and conformation of the two animals was marked. One of the things I've been trying to do over the last few years is move animal winter condition from stressed to good and part of that process has been selecting for animals who maintain their condition easily and against those that do not. So a bull who tends to scrawniness when feed is a bit short, is not something I want to breed into the next generation - and if Glia's calf is any indication, his calf birthweights might be rather higher than I'd like too.

So in spite of his name and his lovely quiet temperament, I have decided not to keep him and if he's going, he'd better go before he gets too big to go to the works. I will need to separate the two bulls in the next couple of days and put Andrew with the other two who are to go.

young cow

865, now aged three, has four adult incisors and the remains of four of her milk teeth, two on each side.


Zella! This evening she was behaving as if coming on heat. I've been wondering why I haven't been able to feel her calf kicking, can't feel its solidity when I push into her right side and surely I should be able to by now? I thought I felt a kick a couple of weeks ago but now I'm wondering about that.

Wednesday the 17th

Heifer 183's daughter, 213. She's calm and lovely and has a nice bum. I like it when they start to fill out and show how good their structure and muscling will be.

I came out early because I wanted to check on Zella again, see what had come of last night's alarming indications. She was calm and standing quietly in the sunshine, no concerning mucous or any other sign that anything was amiss.

I stood close to her on her right side, with my body and hand against her belly, stroking her back and waited. After a while there was movement, a single kick that cannot have been any other kind of movement but one made by someone else living inside that huge round body. What a relief.

I suspect that as a still-pregnant cow, Zella was a little more interested in 186, who might have begun nearing oestrus again now she's cleared all the post-dead-calf gunk, than any of the other cows, who aren't yet cycling again. It had given me enough of a fright that I started thinking about how we'd find another cow in the herd to provide house milk!


Because the littlest calf has only been born a few days, we haven't yet put the bottom fence wires back on. So the calves of the cows grazing as neighbours in Flats 2 & 3 could zip back and forth under the fence to play with each other and when I moved the Flat 2s to Flat 1, half the calves didn't come with them, since they preferred the company of their playmates.

I let the Flat 3s come to the triangle between Flat 1 & 2 so that all the calves would come over in this direction, then left a spring gate across the gateway between 1 & 2 so that the calves could come under it and back to their mothers when they were ready.

Stephan and Al

Al, leading Stephan to the feed trough for his breakfast.


The watercress is flowering already in the garden waterfall.


Here's steer 861, whose foot was injured as a calf, prompting me not to sell him as a weaner, in case his foot caused later trouble.

His hoof still has a crack in it but the injury never did cause any bother for him (or me) later. He's one of the three to go to the works. He could probably gain more condition still but I wanted to get him booked to go before Christmas, which is when the prices are usually a little higher than later in the summer.

The other one of the three is heifer 190, Eva's daughter and Andrew's full sister, who took so long to grow up that she's still here and I suspect she'll go through as "cow" not "heifer" which will decrease her works value significantly. It's based on how many adult teeth she has and by now no doubt she's grown most of them. This discrimination is only applied to female cattle, regardless of whether or not they've ever been bred.

We brought the two big animals over the road together, letting the five R2 heifers into the other part of the hill.

I then noticed that the steer was mouthing oddly, as if there was something wrong with his tongue. Of course he'll be dying, just as I'm ready to send him off. I watched him carefully and while he was occasionally spitting out what he was eating, he was grazing mostly normally and seemed otherwise at ease. He came right, over the next day or so, and I wondered if he'd perhaps eaten a bee.

Over lunch, having heard discussion on the radio about the availability of the "My Vaccine Pass", I applied for and received mine, then set up an account for Stephan too and now we both have one. Not that we'll use it often but the Minister for Covid-19 Response was urging people to apply for the pass early, rather than waiting for the inevitable rush when the new requirements for its use come in. The application was a very simple and quick process.


In the afternoon I led, and Stephan followed, the 11 yearlings, through the wood milling area to the newly fenced pasture usually grazed only by Zella and Glia. I wondered if they'd be spooked by all the unfamiliar stuff around them but they came through very easily.


There's a lot of grass in here for them and while the Parsley Dropwort flowers are up, they haven't hardened off too much yet.


We have now run out of Zella's frozen milk. We like a little in tea and coffee so I took a small container out with me to see if I could get some from any of the cows.

Zoom was uncooperative, kept moving away but Fancy 126 was quite good, with her big teats being easy to grasp. Endberly, from whom I've taken a little at other times for the price of a kick, didn't have much but at least didn't object physically this time.

Stephan went along the fenceline with a saw and some herbicide, cutting and painting the stumps of the weed trees growing there. The white flowering trees are Chinese Privet, Ligustrum sinense, and they come up anywhere birds drop their seeds. We pull and cut lots of them all over the farm. The cattle don't appear to eat them, so they can get quite big before we find them.


Grass flowers are very interesting if you have very good eyes or find other was of examining them closely. They really let it all hang out!

Thursday the 18th

This is the smaller part of the hill Over the Road, the part that appears in my farm notebook as O/Rd⅓.

The old boundary fence, in quite the wrong place, used to run approximately from in front of the dead gorse in the distance to about where I'm standing.

I have observed that my cattle like to sit on the top of this hill much more now it is not cut in half by a fence.


Walking out to get the mail I spotted this pretty beetle in the middle of the driveway. Its shine is like that of my Dr. Marten's shoes, when I polish them well!


In the evening there was a huge fire somewhere up the valley, accompanied by continual explosions. It sounded extraordinary. I heard later that the people who live at Stephan's brother Edwin's old place, were burning bamboo. Bamboo grows in hollow sections and, when it gets hot, those sections explode loudly.

When I first saw the smoke and heard the noise I was a little concerned but there are so many people living up that way now that someone would have called the fire brigade if it was required.

Friday the 19th

I had a lovely day. I had promised myself that when I finished the accounts I could do another bit of family history writing. To date I'd written a short introduction to my project and the outline of the New Zealand life-story of my great great grandfather, a man named Thomas Brown Craig, who came to Lyttelton, Canterbury, in 1858.

My favourite find after Mr Craig, was a woman named Frances Padwick, who'd come here on the Mermaid in 1869, as the Matron to the Single Women and later married Mr Craig. It was about her life that I wanted to write next. That led me to London and lots of exploration of historical details there, old photographs, older maps, still older writing about places around London. I wrote to historical societies, spent ages looking things up in the UK Archives at Kew, had a lovely time revisiting the 1850s Wills of a couple of my forebears - I've become quite adept at reading 1800s legal copy writing.

From all of that I produced two documents, one primarily about Frances and her life here and another exploring some details of her origins.

Then I started looking into her daughter, my very clever great grandmother who'd been awarded her BA in Chemistry and Maths (pure and applied) in 1899 and her MA (third class honours) in Literature and French in 1900. I ended up buying a book named The Jubilee Book of Canterbury Rhymes, in which a poem of hers was published. I'm looking forward to the arrival of the book and I will then continue putting together what I know of her life.

As I spent months last year tracking back through the lives and possible records of my ancestors, I realised how big a task it would be to pull everything together into something meaningful and accessible to anyone else in the family and so I decided to approach the task in the way I am now doing: writing about each person in turn. There will be places where their lives intersect and I'll have to work out how to deal with that as I proceed.

I felt it was important to write everything down but also to begin sharing it with the rest of the family, who may or may not be particularly interested at this time but I hope that receiving it in small chunks might make it more interesting to them than waiting until I have a great tomb to hand over. People used to tell their family stories but my family did not. It's partly "that Pākehā thing", that Europeans came here from the other side of the world at a time when most of them knew they'd never have the chance to go back, nor to see the family they'd left ever again, and so presumably they decided a clean break was the best way to cope with the wrenching sadness of that break. So they didn't talk about their forebears and nor did their children and the links were lost.

Putting this information back together again now has given me a sense of belonging and connection I've never had before and I have loved the whole process. There have been strangely sad times when I've grieved a woman who died 125 years ago after a hysterectomy; her daughter who died of a middle ear infection and "abscess of the brain" a few years later, both afflictions I've suffered myself but have not died from simply because of the progress of science and the efficiency of modern medicine. I can see, looking back, how the life-paths of the people around them were affected by their early deaths and wonder how differently things might have turned out for the want of a course of antibiotics.

Sandi and Gary came over and joined us for a very pleasant afternoon tea by the pond. We're all busy and Covid distancing makes it harder to casually meet so this was a lovely way to catch up with each other.


Tī Kōuka flowers are frothily out all around us.


Coming back from moving some of the cattle around, I clocked Al at 22km/hr top speed! I think he likes this game: I call "run, run, run" as I come past the paddock and he races me as I drive down the track.

In the evening was the slow eclipse of the moon, which was interesting to know was happening but not terribly impressive to see because of some high cloud which made it all quite fuzzy, as the round of the moon was slowly eaten up by the earth's shadow.

The 2021 calving date prediction sheet is available here.

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