The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 27th of November 2021.
Saturday the 27th
cattle ticks

Ticks! I don't remember if I realised what they were when I took the photo. I probably thought I was photographing spiders. If they're here, on a fence post insulator, they're everywhere!

They're creepy little things, literally and figuratively, crawling over any surface they find, be it grass, cattle hair, human skin. But even though they might seem quite disgusting to some, I've never found them particularly offensive. It might be different if they carried disease.

We're very fortunate in this country that there are none of the human diseases that are transmitted by ticks in other places. The only thing a tick here will do to you is make wherever it latches onto itch madly for about a week.


Now the ground is dry and Stephan doesn't have any huge summer jobs on his list, it's time to do some useful reorganising, starting with the gateway arrangements at the bottom of the Big Back North.

The drain down to the left has been there since we hired a little digger in 2018 but the culvert under the gateway didn't get done before the rains started and we've been busy since then.

A new culvert pipe is now installed across the gateway (on the front of the tractor is the surplus culvert pipe, it being sold as a 6m length and the gateway only needing 4 metres of pipe). The lower end will be protected by the drain fence and the right hand end, looking from here, will have a small section of protective rails around its opening.


I came back a couple of hours later and there were some rails.

I wonder if, as a child, Stephan ever imagined having a digger, a tractor and a truck? This must be like playground heaven.


The drain up into the Big Back North was looking nicely formed.

We will have to work on this area some more and in the mean time the drain will remain shallow and unfenced. The hillside is steep and we'll have to think about the whole area and how we manage it. It's part of a rethink about entire paddocks where we have, in many places, simply replaced original fences but now wish to take better account of the land and animal movements. Old farmers did things in particular ways and now, with different tools, machinery and attitudes, we want to do them differently.


The little hired digger a couple of years ago did some useful work but it's nice to be able to improve on it, with no time limit.


Around in the Spring paddock I found 932 looking gorgeous as usual.


She and Glia's son are so different from each other, she with her straight hair, he with the hypotrichosis fuzziness.


931 is pretty and smooth and no doubt she'll turn into a beauty like her elder sister, 900; but if she's like her in temperament as well, I'll not keep her.

Sunday the 28th
wasp nest

I went into the Big Back South to access the swamp and see if there were any more Sun Orchids (the camera has lost any pictures I might have taken, but I think they had all finished blooming by today) and spotted this paper wasp nest just before I brushed past it. The mother wasp was nowhere to be seen, so I picked it off the rush to which it was attached, before squashing it.

There were at least four larvae, several eggs yet to hatch and I presume the cell with the closed top contained a pupating wasplet. Usually there's at least one adult insect on the nest when I find them.


These white rocks are in many places around the farm - it's a lichen, I think. I noticed this rock particularly because of the piece that had cracked off on the left, enabling me to examine its interior colours.


The drain is now better fenced than it was before - there was a waratah at this corner, which was not sufficiently strong to resist the pull of the fence when the soil got very wet.

The work continues.


Stephan noticed this chrysalis in one of the raised gardens. Goodness knows how it evaded wasp predation and now we'll have to keep watch for when it emerges, so we can let it out of the netted area.

Monday the 29th

Watching the Tūī in the flax flowers is always a delight and there were many of them around on this warm afternoon.

They have many disagreements and some intense, musical, debates.


Moving the 14 cows and their calves this afternoon was a bit of excitement for them, all of the cows wanting to rub their heads and necks in the newly-bared soil in the little lane down to the Big Back South paddock. The calves were in danger of being knocked around by all that adult excitement.

Tuesday the 30th

This morning as I sat at my computer, a Tūī hit a high window with a bang and as I turned to look out the office window, the big black feathery lump plummetted to the ground and lay in the water drain outside. I went out and around to pick it up and it got up and flew directly at my head, so I had to duck to avoid it hitting me. It was obviously stunned, not quite in control of its own path yet but it appeared to fly into the Pūriri successfully, where I hope it was then able to continue its recovery.


I love seeing the cows here in the Spring paddock, in deep, cool shade beneath many large Tōtara.

They all quietly sit around chewing their cud, snoozing. Ruminating.


I walked a few steps further up the slope to look at this Pūriri trunk and saw where it had obviously come from: the rest of its burnt trunk is still standing.


This is the other side of the standing trunk, with small scorch marks still visible.

The holes in the trunk must be the scars of Pūriri moth caterpillar activity.


I didn't find all the cows, but the calves were all present and happy.

I walked down the edge of the reserve fence, climbed through to walk down to the stream and found this little clump of Greenhood orchid plants, where previously I've only found one or two. I didn't get out to see any of them in bloom this season.


I watched the stream for a while, enjoying the relief of seeing it flowing at its normal level, having seen it so much slower during the last couple of years.


Bull 189 in Flat 5c, enjoying the shade from the Tī Kōuka I grew and we planted there.

It's such a satisfying feeling, growing things, providing goodness for plants and animals.

cows and calves

In the evening I found the Spring paddock mob gathered at the gate and brought them to Flat 3. I'd have moved them this morning except they were a long way from the gate and so content where they were.


The Tītoki at the edge of the House paddock looks spectacular with all its tiny crimson-brown flowers changing its appearance from the usual green.

Its canopy belongs to neither of the trunks visible beneath it: it grows from off to the right, its trunk on a perilous lean, presumably having grown out to the light.


The Akeake this year looks like a gangly teenager compared with its lovely compact form last year. I'm watching the seed pods developing again.

Wednesday the 1st of December

I've been writing letters. I have always enjoyed writing by hand, although my hand-writing is sometimes a little untidy, if I've not been writing for a while. The use of a fountain pen makes it a real treat.

Some months ago I bought some really nice paper and some more ink and whenever I feel the urge to use it, I sit and write a letter to someone. Sometimes they write back, sometimes not.

I presume everyone is familiar with the object in the photograph, being a real mailbox, the kind that still exists in rural areas in particular. Mail is delivered here on more days than it is in the cities, Monday to Saturday (although Saturday might just be parcels and papers) and if one wishes to send a letter and has the stamps, one places it in the mailbox, raises the flag and the postie will take it away. I think some cooperative and intelligent posties will accept the correct postage in cash and affix the stamps themselves.

Posting from home like this adds an extra day to a letter's travels compared with posting it in town; but when we're not going to town, it's a very useful service.


I moved the 14 cows and calves out of the Small Hill, counted them carefully out the gate and only got to 27. I called and eventually heard a moo from away up the hill somewhere, then had to keep calling and waiting for several more minutes until Endberly appeared and came down out of the paddock.


They went along to Mushroom 1, where some of them found the nice long grass in the big tree's fall-zone, no longer out-of-bounds since we've tested the tree's strength.


This one's a bit of a worry though, to the right of the picture above: there's a large crack obvious up its trunk, with a gap between two parts of the tree. I wonder how long it has been like this?


Stephan had collected some rocks from one of the streams, ready to create cemented ends around the culvert.


Life is luck, bad luck for these eggs. I wonder if they're fish or insect eggs?

I suppose I could have taken them back to the stream but suspect it might have been difficult to find any without eggs laid on them.

Thursday the 2nd
cattle grazing

The three works cattle, 190, steer 861 and Andrew, had eaten about as much as there was to be had in the House paddock and still no word from the works about them going, so I moved them into Flat 1. Easy enough to get them out of here at short notice.

cows and calves

In the afternoon we brought the mob with 14 calves in to the yards to weigh and give them their NAIT tags. Last year we left the NAIT tagging quite late and they were big and feisty and didn't like the head-bail. These ones didn't like the head-bail either but they were small and Stephan got in behind them and stroked them while I did the tag application at the front. Because they couldn't leap around so much, they were less distressed and the whole operation was smoother and calmer.

There are a few mucky bums and one calf with quite sloppy poo but nothing looks out of the ordinary for their age and the time of year.


The concrete ends of the culvert are done and I will request a small change to the tape gate arrangements here, so this one does not create a sharp little corner for someone to get shoved into. It currently attaches at the same point as the other gate in the picture.


The colour of the Pōhutukawa flowers is gorgeous this year. Some years it's not as rich a red but this is glorious.

Friday the 3rd

Stephan has been milling some big boards for beams in a shed we might build.


There was no milk left for lunch, so I nipped out and found 126 standing in the shade under the trees in the Windmill, conveniently near the gate.


I think I got a little confused the other week when I wrote about the peaches. I knew we picked some, but I think it was on this day, not that previous occasion. There were only two ripe last time, but today we picked all that were there, since some were going brown and we were already surprised that the possums hadn't beaten us to them.


Part of one of the Pūriri on the stream bank has fallen down. I had thought it looked a bit brighter through the trees from the flats. This tree grows at the bottom of Flat 2.

The big branch has fallen into the stream and has caught all sorts of debris that has come down the stream in the recent rains. It has messed up the nice place we had been using to cross the stream to the orchard. Perhaps Stephan might cut some of it out. They're such huge and heavy trees to deal with.

mown paddock

Stephan had been and mowed the orchard a couple of days ago and then the paddock as well.


We walked back down the road.

The sandy clay at the base of this bank is all material excavated by nesting native bees. They're tiny insects, about half or a third the size of a honey bee and yet they shift so much dirt. Each lives in its own burrow.


On the right in this photo and back behind the Kauri, is a Pōhutukawa, given to me by one of the teachers in the Science department at College when we worked there together, a seedling from Whakaangi, on the eastern side of Doubtless Bay.

Terri's mother, Audrey Sheils, was one of my favourite teachers at Taipa Area School, despite my rarely having done my French homework and being a frustrating student. Mrs Sheils was the Form 1 form-room teacher, our sort-of school mother as we left the relative safety of primary school and went into the more senior part of the school. I always think of them both whenever I look at that tree.

The foreground red flowers are on a tree whose identity is uncertain. It may be a hybrid between Pōhutukawa and Rātā, or it is vaguely possible that it is a Northern Rātā whose seed was already present in the trunk of the big Pūriri when it fell, for it is in the base of that trunk that it began to grow, many years ago. Its flower forms are different from the Pōhutukawa.

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