The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 20th of November 2021.
Saturday the 20th
Angus bulls

I put bull 189 into Flat 5d and he growled his way over to the fence separating him from bull 200 and the two yearlings. I'd previously put a tape along the fenceline as well, to ensure they'd not try and fight each other under the now-2-wire fence.

Andrew went in with the big steer and 190, in the House paddock.


Before sending the 14-pair mob into the PW, I walked up to check that the gate was shut into the Middle Back and, down beside the culvert pipe under the last gully, was a Beggars' Tick plant. Just one. But it's obviously time to look out for them. They're easy to pull out but if we miss them this year, there'll be lots more next.


Once upon a time I photographed 773's udder and commented on its lovely structure. It would seem that an udder's appearance during first lactation, is a poorer indicator of how it might be later than I expected.

It looks to me as though 773's calf has never yet fed from her rear teats. I wonder if he will?


We walked up the House paddock to spend a little time with Al, then when we went out the gate at the end to go to the Tank paddock (where we'd just sent the yearlings to join the two empty cows), he pushed his way through too, so he came with us.

He ran across the stream ahead of me then turned and threw himself down in the water.


After a short side-rub and some splashing around, he lurched out of the water again.

He does things with such enthusiasm, it's impossible not to enjoy watching him.

Sunday the 21st

We needed some milk and this was the only place to get it - not the most comfortable position in which to stand but needs must.

I didn't want to stand on the step below 126 because if she'd kicked, she might have hit my head and I already had a migraine.

Stephan insists that I credit him with taking the photo. Fine, but surely that was obvious?

Monday the 22nd

This afternoon we brought the 'second mob' of cows and calves in to the yards from Mushroom 1.


Zella walked ahead down the lane, looking fatter than she ever has before. It's good to see her in excellent condition, since there have been times at the ends of her lactations when she's been quite thin.


In the race Stephan put a ring on the last little bull calf and we tagged the latest three.

I weighed all of them, since it's so easy these days.

Glia's huge son and Harriet 860's daughter, the first calf born this season, were both just over 100kg.

Once the calves and cows were happily returned to grazing, in the Windmill, we got Andrew and his two companions in, weighed them, painted our initials on their backs and they're all ready for the truck, whenever it's ready for them.

Tuesday the 23rd

We took the two cows and eleven yearlings over the stream to the Road Flat and then had a wander around the orchard trees. There's quite a bit of fruit and not as many broken branches as last year, so far. Not all of the trees are doing spectacularly well but many are. Our pruning efforts have been patchy.

Here are a couple of plums.


There were some early peaches, ripe, sweet and delicious, so we ate some there and then and took some home to cook up for dessert.

As I write this page I've remembered some other details that I know I took photos to illustrate and those pictures are not in the camera! The file numbers are all sequential so they have not been accidentally deleted nor lost; they are simply not there.

A visitor some weeks ago caused my camera to fall from its bag and drop onto the ground from about table height, something I have never done to it and while it appeared to be working afterwards, it would seem there has been an unfortunate consequence: the camera is no longer reliably operating when I think it is. The time has come to buy a new one.

It's been a good camera, after the previous two of the same Canon G-series, the first a G10 lasted for about two years, then a G12, whose lens mechanism weirdly fell apart internally after only a couple of years. This one, a G16, has lasted a lot longer and was showing no sign of failure before its unfortunate accident.

The next, since the Canon is the only high-range brand in such compact form, will be a G7X-MkIII (or maybe the MkII if the price is significantly better). It'll look and feel much the same but be several generations on from this last. And as I'm writing this on Christmas Eve, I will wait, for the first time in my life, to have a look for a Boxing Day Sale price, to see if it is a little cheaper then. It's expensive but, as Stephan and I discussed, something I use far more often and consistently than he uses any of his huge range of tools, so a justified expense.

Now, back to November ...


I pulled a big-leaf Privet out under a tree this morning and disturbed two sleepy insect larvae. They're creepy-looking things, even though I find insects fascinating.


We hatched a plan: I'm constantly watching the crack in the Pūriri in Mushroom 1, expecting it to fall at any moment. Today we decided to see if we could precipitate that fall for the safety of everyone who spends any time under it.

We decided that if we pulled it, that might be enough. So Stephan brought the digger into the paddock.


Then he got up onto one of the fallen branches and, having thrown a light rope attached to a heavy shackle over a branch and down to me on the other side, where I hooked it onto some heavy lifting strops, he looped one of them around one of the branches.

Then using a long steel rope borrowed from Brian, he parked the digger far enough out in the paddock that the tree wouldn't fall on him and pulled. And pulled. And I stood on this side and watched and took photos and the whole tree moved, with only a tiny amount of movement visible in the crack up the trunk. That tree isn't going to fall down in a hurry!

All we achieved was ring-barking the branch he'd put the strop on, which isn't a great outcome but if that branch dies, at least it will reduce the weight on that side of the tree.

I felt dreadful attempting this terrible thing.


Walking down to say hello to Al, a movement on the pond caught my attention: seven little ducklings and their mother. Presumably she was trying to call them up onto the island with her.


She didn't like my (remote) proximity, so plopped into the water and swam them all away.

A bit later in the day I pointed the camera at Stephan's endeavours when I found him in the Small Hill paddock with the digger, making a track up the hill so he can get the tractor more easily in there for spraying, but the camera obviously ignored my intent.

Stephan took a break for a few minutes and we went for a wander around the hillside.


Here is an example of what Pūriri will do to survive. It's difficult to fathom exactly why its roots, I think they are, have turned back into its own rotting centre; perhaps there was another tree in the way at some time.

I have in mind a mad project, to go around and catalogue all the Pūriri on the farm, living and dead.

dying sedge plants

I went out the other side to the Middle Back to check the big mob there, found evidence of lots of dying Australian Sedge, recently sprayed by Stephan.


Near the trough in that paddock, just inside the reserve fence, I think this is a young Clematis vine.

Wednesday the 24th
wilding pine seedling

Wilding Pines are a huge problem in the South Island but we don't often hear of them up here; I suspect they may well become as much of an issue here and so we pull them out wherever we see them. This one is less than 200m from our big Pines up the top of the hill.

farm track

Stephan will come up here with the digger to address the camber on this bit of the track and form a drain to take the run-off water down the hill.

Presently when it rains the water comes running down around the top corner on the inside of the track but then runs across the track and off down the side of the hill, which is not what we want: it creates a groove in the track and makes a wet mess of everything.


He started at the bottom of the hill, where he'd done a bit of work earlier in the year but didn't get it all finished before things got wet again.

In the picture he'd just stopped, having dislodged the right-side track, which we then put back on together but work will have to remain halted until we get more grease to pump the tension back into it again.


Everything was about to get wet again, by the look of the sky! I made my way home but some very heavy raindrops fell out of those clouds, all over me as I moved Andrew, who was lying on the track in the way - I'd taken him away from the other two when the cows and calves were in the Windmill and Andrew got all silly and protective of his little mob and kept bullying them away from the top corner of the paddock.

Because he was a bit lonely, I'd let him out into the lane to graze near them for the day but he'd sat down in quite the most inconvenient place at that moment.


In the evening, when the rain lightened, I walked up the road to check on the mob in the Road Flat. Ordinarily I would go across the stream from the flats but the rain had been heavy and fast and the stream would have filled my boots.

The Council contractors appear to understand little about water run-off and never clear the water-tables (little side drains) along the edges of the roads to prevent water running on or across the carriage-ways, which causes ruts and soft holes.

Thursday the 25th

The two Monarch pupae have emerged and here are the beautiful butterflies. They were already out and ready to put outside by the time I noticed them.

We did a quick trip down to Whangārei this afternoon for Stephan to see an orthopaedic specialist, to follow up on his MRI scan. We had to declare and provide dates for our Covid vaccinations when the appointment was confirmed, so presumed everyone there would have similar status, had to mask up to go into the building and so on. I know lots of people are having to wear masks most of the time but for us it's still a new experience, as we have barely left home in the last few months.

The scan, surprisingly, showed no damage in Stephan's pained shoulder and the specialist offered a cortisone injection and then, with very little fuss, administered it. On the way home Stephan said he was already feeling much more comfortable and has continued so since. All that intense, wince-inducing pain for so many months and now it's gone!

native bush

Walking up the road again this evening I noticed the wide sky where formerly this was all closed in by trees and tree ferns. We noticed this year that whole hillsides that had been previously thickly populated by tree ferns, are no longer so; they are drought sensitive and now just dead trunks.

This one though has the impression of liveliness, with the climbing Kiekie giving it an amusingly hairy appearance.

Friday the 26th

Off to town today to pick up our latest grocery order, then some grease for the digger from Kees. We saw one of our first-year te reo class-mates on the roadside and stopped to chat to her for a while, so it was a nice, social outing, despite all the current distancing precautions.


723 is looking lovely and smooth. A year off can do wonders for a cow.

running bull

A demonstration of extreme speed and an illustration of why taking care around bulls is necessary: they're so fast and agile.

This is 189 in an excited moment after I'd shifted them from the top half of Flat 5 to the bottom end's 5a & 5b. He's much more excitable than very-calm 200 on the right.


There's less tarweed in Flat 5 this year, so far as we've seen. We did a fairly thorough job pulling it last year. I've seen how easily it can spread throughout a paddock on other farms, so it is well worth the effort to get rid of it.


Coming back from a check Over the Road, I saw this tiny hedgehog on the driveway. Beatrix Potter's Mrs Tiggy-Winkle has complicated the necessary control of this pest in this country: we know of people who rescue the damned things, rear their young and release them "in places there are no ground-nesting birds". There won't be any ground-nesting birds because the hedgehogs have already eaten them all.

This one got lucky today, being shot only by my camera.

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