The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 4th of December 2021.
Saturday the 4th

I've been feeling a bit off so had a quiet day, preparing website photos, then I looked up how to prepare an aerial picture from 1950 as a map insert for our hand-held GPS unit, so I can walk around the farm and identify the positions of trees then and now.

But an even better use of the old photo is as an overlay with adjustable transparency, over current satellite imagery, using Google Earth. The instructions are here (ignore the bits about Garmin devices, the "Creating a Custom Map from a JPEG File" instructions are the important part) and the old photographs are in The retrolens images are under a general use license so may be used for the purpose and after downloading one that covers an area of interest, crop it to concentrate on the bit you want, save it, then use it as the instructions direct.

Here it allows me to see parts of our landscape without later-grown trees, so the streams and wetland areas are more visible, which is helping with planning fencing, working out whether drainage would be sensible or not in some areas and so on.

part of a 1950 aerial photograph
copyright info Sourced from and licensed by LINZ CC-BY 3.0

This picture shows a bit of the back of our place (at the bottom), which must have been cleared earlier and then not kept that way - the darker areas would probably have been regrowing Kānuka; and the lighter area is that now covered by the pine trees behind the farm, which was farmed for some unknown period, then left to regenerate in native bush until that was crushed and the area was planted for forestry in about 1982. There were protests at the time by Diggers Valley residents and I understand the regenerating gullies were left alone as partial mollification.

Of significant interest to me is that it is the Pūriri trees which are the prominent living trees in the photograph, with a few young Tōtara visible where they are now, 70 years later, large trees.

The Pūriri that survived the fires of the 1910s & 20s had, by 1950, regrown their canopies over 30 or 40 years, and many that had died of the assault were still lying as white skeletons.

I do not find these old pictures comfortable to look at; it is like viewing photos of the WWI trenches, where people died and were abandoned. There's such senselessness here.

Al in his pen

According to a couple of regular correspondents, this page needs more pictures of Al.

He has the most beautiful light brown eyes. Have I shown you those yet? I'll have to work on a close-up when he's looking in the right direction. He has so many long, white eyelashes, it's hard to see his eyes.

Stephan mowing the House paddock

Stephan set off to mow the House paddock, now the three works cattle have left it.

He got into a bit of an unexpected bog up the other end, where one of the water pipes has been leaking. So now that's fixed.

the newly-mown paddock

The grass was quite thick in places but the white flowers needed to be cut down and the cattle had decided they'd finished with whatever grass was here.

the yearling heifers

I had completely forgotten the yearlings and two cows I'd put in the Swamp East Right! I should have moved them yesterday.

They were very pleased to come through the little alleyway to the Swamp East Left to some fresh feed.

calf 937's face

Endberly's daughter now looks much less moth-eaten. Pretty gorgeous, I reckon.

Sunday the 5th
a Monarch in the Pūriri

The Monarch chrysalis we found in the garden last week hatched this morning; we let her out of the netting-covered garden bed and she flitted up into the Pūriri.

a pretty hydrangea

My mother, Jill, gave me a hydrangea like this and before it died, Elizabeth took some cuttings and then a year or two ago gave me some cuttings of her living plants and here they are. I think this is a common cultivar, a smallish bush when mature, the flowers returning to a mauve colour as they reach full bloom.

Al having breakfast

Al finishing his breakfast.

Ruth getting some milk from Fancy 126

A little more milk, if you please.

Fancy 126 continues to cooperate with my occasional requests, although if she's just fed her son, there's sometimes very little there.

Swallows on the fence by the yards

These two swallows are making a nest under the yards roof and repeatedly swooped over us as we set up the gates ready for the cattle.

Behind them the Windmill paddock is lawn-like, freshly mown this morning.

cows coming out of the yards lane

We brought the 17 cows and 15 calves in, weighed all the calves and inserted their NAIT tags.

Stephan's milking stool was still up here, previously used to milk Gina and now needing to go back ready for whenever Zella starts milking again.

The cows were all around the yards, so this gate was partly open so they could come either way out to the lane and on out to their next paddock. Several stopped and fed their calves first.

Monday the 6th
tape gates into two paddocks

Stephan has changed the new gates: he'd set them up to meet at one point on the post in the middle of their new position but that meant there were funny little corners in each paddock, which could have been troublesome for calves, in particular, if anyone had pushed them into the tight spot.

The timber rails are untreated pine and we'll see how long it lasts.

a hen in a box trap

I was outside and about to set off in my buggy when I heard a little noise in the live-capture trap by the lemon tree. There was a surprised hen inside.

She's sitting somewhere secret on a nest and it wasn't until I had opened the door and let her come out that I realised I should have released her into one of the cages and kept her there until she'd got over the inclination to sit on eggs. Wherever her nest of eggs is, they'll be way past eating quality by now.

the two heifers born in Flat 1 this year

These are 935 and 930, the two calves born in Flat 1 in October.

They're quite different in body shape, despite having three quarters of their pedigrees in common. 930 has a longer beef-breed history than 935, whose GGGGrandmother was at least a dairy-cross cow, if not full Jersey.

930 weighed 120kg yesterday, gaining only 1kg/day in the last two weeks but her overall growth since she was 11 days old has been 1.34kg/day because from day 11 to day 48, she'd grown at just under 1.5kg/day, which is jolly good and really shows.

930 weighed 106kg yesterday and her overall growth since she was a week old has been 1.21kg/day but in the last two weeks she's kept growing at just under that rate.

Over the 50 days between yesterday and the first time I weighed them, 935 has gained 60.5kg and 930 has gained 67kg. Interesting. I like the collection of such data and I like to sit and consider it all in my spreadsheets with reference to the animals' parentage and appearance.

Ellie 171's nice udder

This is bull 189's mother, Ellie 171, whose udder, I am very pleased to note, is very nice still during her third lactation. I hope her udder doesn't fall apart like 773's (photographed during her fifth lactation).

The second cracked Pūriri in Mushroom 1

Here is a better photo of the crack in the second Pūriri in Mushroom 1.

Stephan mowed the paddock this morning, cutting down all the hardening stalks of the Parsley Dropwort (which we still just call Carrot weed, even though it isn't).

In the evening we had a surprise phone call from Ryan, our lime spreader, asking if we'd like him to bring some lime? You bet we would!

Tuesday the 7th
Ryan's new lime-spreading truck, here at last

Ryan arrived a little after the breeze but it wasn't terribly windy and at this time of year, it's hard to find a still day.

His new truck is a bit bigger and wider than the old one, so we had to think about how to get him into some of the paddocks and in the end, took down a couple of fences so he could drive over the wires, since he couldn't turn into the tops of the Flats paddocks from the lane. Some rearrangements will be required.

the Rātā and Pōhutukawa in our pond reserve

As the Pōhutukawa fades, the Rātā takes over in brilliance. I think their flowering is unusually early this year.

a collection of cow manure on the Big Back North track

The cows really like sitting down here on the track in the Big Back and that means they leave their calling cards in great quantities. It's not every day but it concerns me that a lot of this could be washed away into the drain and down to the stream, which is not what is intended at all.

I'll have to think about this problem for a while, see if we can come up with any kind of solution.

Stephan points out that if we got some Kikuyu grass growing on it they may not all choose to sit here and grass catches things so it wouldn't all run into the drain when it rains. I presume they like sitting on the clay because it's warmer than the grass.

Wednesday the 8th
Zella, glossy and fat

Zella, glossy and fatter than I've ever seen her. Her spine looks terribly bent at the moment probably because her pelvis will be changing shape, getting ready for calving. Time to take her in to the front! I'll put her mob into the Back Barn, so it's easier to get her, Glia and the calf out tomorrow.

Harriet 860 and her lovely daughter, 930

Here's lovely eldest calf 930 again, and her mother, Harriet 860, who's obviously working hard to produce the milk to feed her, and getting a bit thin as a result.

183 having an odd moment

In the middle of the day I found 183 having some kind of odd moment. I don't know what the matter was but she seemed to be breathing in an odd manner, twitching a little around her face.

Later in the day she looked entirely normal again. Bearing in mind the history of some of her family (GGGGrandmother Isla had terrible seizures, as did one of Isla's grand-daughters and later a newborn calf died the same way), I don't like seeing what look like weird neurological signs. I'm going to hope this was nothing to do with any of that but ... We'll see.

Stephan rearranging the tape gate at the stream end of Flat 4

This is the gateway to the stream crossing at the bottom end of Flat 4.
The strainer post on the right has just been installed by Stephan, to replace a broken one. Here he was adjusting the tape gate to fit properly.

The old post was quite probably a reused one we put in years ago when we didn't have enough money to buy lots of fencing materials and had needed to repair or upgrade the fence.

fencing rearrangements at the top of Flats 2 & 3

Nowadays things are a bit easier and we can rearrange fencing simply to make things more convenient.

Because Stephan had let the wires down for Ryan's truck the other day, we decided we should carry out a long-wanted change to the top of Flat 3: I've often found it a complete pain trying to get cattle out of the paddock and along the lane, because some of them will invariably walk back along the fenceline instead of out the gate, once the leaders start walking down the lane. A gateway at this corner would mean everyone just comes out the way they need to go. And so it shall be.

the outline of a shed we are planning

And across the lane (to the right of the photo above) we will build a wished-for nice-to-have shed, a shade and shelter structure for the cows, because up this end of the flats there are no significant trees and in Flats 5 a, b & c there is very little shade either.

Soon there will be none at all in 5a because Mr 189 has been pushing the old truck canopy around and it is quickly collapsing and needs to be removed before he breaks things that make it sharp and dangerous.

We set out an electric tape to start thinking about which way around we might build a shed, where its gates might be and how it could work in with the new gates across the lane, because we will organise it so that it serves the tops of Flats 2 & 3 and Flats 5 a & b and possibly some of the others via the lanes too.

a swallow nest full of chicks

I went to check on the nest in the canopy: the swallow chicks are almost overflowing the nest, nearly ready to fledge. I think there were five eggs in there this time, so whoever's at the bottom of that pile must be feeling pretty warm!

bull 200's front teeth

Bull 200 was standing by the fence quietly chewing his cud, so I took some teeth pictures to see what's happening in his mouth.

I do this quite often to inspect their teeth: I set the camera to take multiple shots, focus in a likely spot and then hold down the shutter button. Back at home I go through the pictures and discard about 90% of them where they're out of focus or the mouth is closed or the tongue is in the way; it is an excellent way to examine the teeth without interfering with the animal.

The bull is now two years old and the big crooked tooth is one of the pair of first adult incisors. They often come up crooked and later straighten out. The other one must be about to erupt as well.

heifer calf 220, flat-out

This is a photo I intend to refer back to later and I took it because I thought it was interesting that heifer 220 was flat-out, looking tired, when everyone else was sitting up.

heifer calf 220 sitting up

I didn't particularly notice anything amiss (and there may not have been), simply took the photos because I think it amusing when they do these things. But there may be another explanation that I will come back to in a later page.

I had an entertaining afternoon, went opportunity-shop shopping, on-line, in Dunedin! I bought some tea-towels, because if you really like an arty tea-towel you can pin it on your wall and if you don't want to do that you can use it. Marvellous. I had such fun. I bought a couple of other little bits and pieces as well, all in aid of Presbyterian Support Services in Dunedin, which seemed entirely appropriate because my Great great grandparents got married in the Presbyterian Knox Church in 1864. I paid exorbitantly for the postage and today I didn't care at all.

Later on I continued with my retail therapy (I don't know quite what this was all about, probably something to do with Covid anxiety) and bought some fancy fountain pen inks, since I'm so enjoying using my pens - I found five in my drawers and am currently cleaning them up to use again, since they've been lying dry for years. My usual two have gone missing, probably under some pile of papers somewhere.

a fish in the stream

After dark I remembered to go and unlock the gate for Ryan to come again early in the morning and, on the way, went down to the stream in the crossing to Jane's paddocks, for a look in the water.

I am fairly sure this is a Red-fin bully. I wouldn't have noticed the redness except for having seen a picture of one recently when looking at a 2022 calendar on the Forest and Bird website. Radio NZ did a "critter of the week" interview about it earlier in the year.

another fish in the stream

Presumably this relatively large fish is Kōaro.

a very small fish in the stream

And I think this might be a young Kōaro, because of the beginnings of the same green markings along its spine.

Thursday the 9th
Ryan spreading a second lot of lime

Ryan arrived with a slightly smaller load of lime, due to some malfunction of machinery at the quarry, and spread it across Mushroom 1 and some of Flat 5d.

There was barely a breeze this morning but the dust still drifted up and away.

spider webs all across the mown House paddock in the early morning

I went home while he continued driving around and around and noticed, all across the House paddock in the sunshine, tiny spider webs on the grass.

If you think about all the lives that go on around us, unnoticed, it's quite mind-boggling. Yet we (humankind) live as if ours are the only ones that count.

Stephan and 183's calf, 213

Stephan and I went out together to the Back Barn because I wanted to get Zella and Glia and her calf out of the mob to start coming forward, ready for Zella's calving.

183's daughter is quite tame but sometimes animals who've become used to my presence are still a bit wary of other people, so they were checking each other out.

Glia's son's coat

Glia's calf's coat is really interesting, growing in different directions. It's quite a lot thicker than Endberly's daughter's coat, so he's shown no balding patches, as these calves quite often do.

We herded Zella and Glia down to the gate and I made an unfortunate decision about which way to take them - they were heading for the open gate out to the Swamp paddock and could actually have walked quietly through there to the next gate but I thought they would be better to go directly out into the lane. But by the time we got them there, everyone else had caught up and it got more complicated. At one point Glia, who's quite timid, quickly backed off from another animal's threat and stepped on Stephan's foot and I turned to see him falling over onto the ground behind Glia! He said he wasn't hurt. I know he says that sometimes when he's broken bones or is bleeding profusely and needs an ambulance, so rechecked his answer to the same question several times once we'd sorted everyone out and were on our way along the lane. I made him drive the buggy along while I walked behind Zella and Glia, just in case he was still fibbing and his foot was really sore.

moving Zella, Glia and the calf away from the bigger mob

Glia's calf was very unhappy about being separated from the other cattle and seemed unwilling even to follow his mother.

I hurried him along a bit to be closer to the two adults but still he kept calling. I diverted them in to the Frog paddock and went back to move the rest of the mob to the PW across the lane, so at least he could be near them all still for a little while.

Mahoe flowers and fruit

This is Māhoe, Melicytus ramiflorus, near the Back Barn gateway and I was surprised to see both flowers and fruit at the same time. The berries will go purple.

812 climbing the hill with surprising agility

I moved the remaining cows and calves (now 15 and 14 respectively) from the Back Barn to the PW and watched 812, with her sore leg, making very smart and eager progress up the steepest bit of the hill. She's obviously not feeling particularly slowed by her leg problem.

taking Zella, Glia and the calf in to the front

In the evening I went out and walked Zella, Glia and the calf in from the Frog to the driveway where there's a lot of nice grass and I could pop out easily later on and have a look at Zella.

new gates at the top of Flats 2 & 3

Stephan has mostly completed the Flat 2 & 3 gates.

the new gates at the top of Flats 2 & 3

He just wants to find some stone-free soil to fill in the cable trench under the Flat 2 gate.

Having gateways set in at angles like this will make it possible for big machinery to get into the paddocks much more easily than through gates set in line with the fence and lane.

Friday the 10th
cattle hurtling down the Big Back North track

While I called from the bottom of the Big Back North, Stephan went up to make sure all the 14 cows and their calves came down, which they did, in a hurry!

Once I knew they were all there, we put them across into the Bush Flat.

preparing to fence another little bit of wetland

Then we had a planning meeting in the Big Back South, looking at the little tributary wet area that feeds into the main swamp under the first culvert.

It formerly grew quite a bit of Raupō, until Demelza ate it all but there's a little bit growing there again now.

Stephan is in the middle of the photo, over by the boundary fence where the water comes in from the Buselich Reserve, winding up the electric tape I put around the area some months ago. He will do a little digger work to ensure the water can flow freely here and then put in a fence to keep the cattle out.