The Farm in Diggers Valley

Part One of The week beginning the 9th of October 2021.
Saturday the 9th

I suppose I should be commenting on the various Covid alert level changes that have happened since the Delta variant got into the country, then out and about in the Auckland community but the thought of going to look that up makes me feel exhausted. I have not even noted the changes in my notebook (we went up to Level 3 or something around now). What I did do though was put a click-and-collect order through the supermarket for collection on Monday evening because I know that as soon as there's a case in this community, there won't be any timeslots available and it would be useful to get some supplies in.

I also telephoned a couple of people who live on their own, one of whom sucked all the life and joy out of my being and I've sworn never to contact her again. This was not my first experience of that feeling with her and over time I have learned it is her preferred mood. Friendly phone calls do not appear to have any effect and when I realised she wanted to recite her Covid conspiracy beliefs and anti-vaccination sentiments, I decided she'd taken our relationship a step too far. I gently attempted to help her acknowledge the sense of the science on those matters, and that most of the people she knows are just fine having received the Covid vaccination but she was having none of it. I eventually withdrew from the conversation and wished her well.

I have been surprised by the number of people I know who have fallen prey to the international movement to upset everyone by circulating nonsense about both the pandemic and what might be done about it. For me it is science that makes the world most interesting and I derive immense pleasure from discovering why things happen when science is able to explain them. I know science does not examine and explain everything that is important but where it clearly does, I think it ridiculous to deny it has done so.

cow and calf

Look at that beautiful face!

This little heifer was born to 865 sometime before I got out here early this morning. Her sire was the big growly bull, 199, and she's the sixth heifer born. Perhaps we won't have bull calves this year.


In Flat 2, milk streamed from Gertrude's left rear teat, as her calf fed from the other side. I should carry a clean jar with me everywhere.

cow and calf

Harriet's daughter galloped around Flat 1, probably excited about having a playmate (she and her mother are in the same paddock as 865 and this morning's new calf), although she's a bit unsteady yet to play.


I must have passed this calf, sleeping, on my way along the lane a couple of hours later and only noticed her when I returned because she moved. She is 162's daughter, of the feeding picture above and she was obviously quite nervous about my proximity and wanted to move away. I stepped back until she'd done so.

Spur-winged Plover chick

These little Spur-winged Plover chicks live dangerously. They're so good at hiding from hawks that I very nearly trod on two of them in the Windmill as I went to move an electric tape.

They don't get up and run away when I get near them, just squeeze themselves further into wherever they've tried to hide.

Spur-winged Plover chick

They're such sweet-looking little birds. I've always found precocious chicks fascinating, that dangerous independence they're forced to adopt as their parents watch from afar or attempt to distract predators and other threats.

When I'm this close to their chicks, the parents are generally swooping down at me but if I'm trying to see where I'm stepping so I don't accidentally squash their chicks, I'm not taking much notice of their show.

cow's udder

812 has an extraordinary udder. But her calves don't appear to have any trouble with her large teats and she milks well enough to furnish a fast-growing calf with all she needs.


745 spent all day standing around like this, looking pensive. She's up to day 277.

At 7.30pm she was actively in labour, her tail out, licking 166's calf and following it around.

By 8.45 she had a couple of feet showing and I could see that she was aware of her own calf's movement at her rear whenever she had a contraction, so I wasn't overly concerned about her interest in the other calf.

I watched for a while but she's a nervous cow who doesn't really like to be watched, so I went home for an hour.

When I came back at 10pm she was feeding her bull calf. Whenever he took some tottering steps in the wrong direction, Fancy 166 ran at him and bowled him out of the way. I really dislike that behaviour.

Sunday the 10th
the farm

Little black dots across Flat 2.

Fancy was still bashing everyone else's calves around whenever they dared get too close to her own calf. She won't listen to reason.

I've noticed she (and others) only do this when the calves are up and moving. If they're lying on the ground, they're not so disturbed by them.

The calves gradually learn who to stay away from but it's tough when they're still unsteady, not yet in full control of their movements.


After lunch I climbed the steep hill Over the Road to check on the seven young cattle there.

They're looking lovely; the five R2 heifers in the foreground with the big R3 pair in the background, the steer 861 and heifer 190.


Here are the five later-calving cows who'd been grazing the Blackberry with the two empty cows. I pushed them all out of the paddock, then drafted Imogen 155 and 723 back into the paddock, shut them in and then the other five could go forward along the lane to the Frog paddock.

There's still not enough grass growing to be feeding the cows who won't be having calves as much as the others, as they near the end of their pregnancies.

dead rat

Stephan tidied up an area beside the house and discovered this long-dead and very dried rat.


Proof that I am a very bad person indeed: I extracted a swallow chick from the nest under the old truck canopy in Flat 5a - I didn't realise my molasses-sticky fingers were that bad until I looked at the photo - simply to look at it. The nest is too high and close to the roof to see into, even with the camera.

The chicks have feathers all over their bodies but have yet to fully grow their flight and tail feathers. I imagine they will fledge in three or four days.


The two little calves in Flat 1. Their mothers were quietly grazing a little distance away when I went in to give them their molasses this evening.


I pulled up some of the Kikuyu around the garden and threw it down for Al in the House paddock. He picked some of it up as if he might carry it off, then lost interest and went back to his mud puddle.

When walking today I was listening to the radio and there were people talking about children's participation in sport. I've often considered New Zealand's enthusiasm for sporting achievements, by which I suffered very much at school because of my own disinclination to sportiness, partly because of my inability to ever understand any of the rules of the games. I never knew how other people knew what to do when nobody explained any of it. I presume that demonstrates a difference in learning style: I don't learn by being shown what to do but by understanding processes and schools and sports coaches did not cater for that alternative.

And then, listening to a parent talking about teaching their child to play some game or other, I thought, why did nobody, even my father who never played any sport at all, as far as I know, not suggest I got a book from the library about the rules of cricket, hockey, or soccer, all of which I was obliged to participate in? He had shelves of books on every aspect of sailing and sailing ships, rules of the sea, of small-boat racing and so on. There was I, an acutely self-conscious social outcast whenever I was forced to stand on a field having no idea at all what was going on, nor what to do when a ball came in my direction, other than avoid being hit by it, which apparently was not the thing to do.

There were so many things about life my parents did not explain, which would have saved me from a world of pain, embarrassment and trouble. I can only imagine that they were enduring the shadows of their own worse experiences and could not bear to examine and learn from them. Stupid, harmful, patriarchal British culture. I now doubt we will ever completely escape from its brutality.

Monday the 11th
dying thistles

Tortured thistles, dying from some herbicide Stephan applied a few days ago, before they took over the whole lane.

cow and calf

I needed to move the cows and calves from Flat 2, there being so little grass left for them to eat. I propelled the calves out with their mothers but had to draft 745 back to the paddock because her calf was sleeping beside the drain and there'd be a fuss later if he couldn't find her and she couldn't get back to collect him. She had to wait until he was ready to wake up and move.

Tuesday the 12th
Spur-winged Plover chicks

Two mostly-feathered Plover chicks running as fast as they can away from my surprise appearance in their peaceful world. These are in the Mushroom paddocks.


I thought Imogen was unwell when I first saw her, with her head held at that depressed-looking angle but she was just keeping her ear attendants happy.

The cows mostly seem to like the Myna birds pecking ticks off their bodies and out of their ears. Often I see a cow standing or lying in an odd position, then realise it's so the birds can easily hop up onto her head, or because they're there and she doesn't want to frighten them off by moving.


Woops: 872 was not supposed to be losing weight!

I kept her and the other well-conditioned heifers together in a small mob because that makes it easier to keep them fed adequately but I've obviously miscalculated how much grass they were getting in these last cold weeks.

It's not the end of the world, just going to be a little harder on her and she'll take more feed to get back in good condition again after calving.


I moved the tape in the Frog paddock for the five cows, then noticed the contrasting colours of these bracket fungi on the huge Pūriri in its little reserve.


Looking up the trunk of the Pūriri.

I suspect this is what an undamaged Pūriri should look like, although I can't be sure it wasn't in the way of some bush-clearing fire at some point. Many Pūriri close to the streams look like they may have escaped some of the damage those on the flats obviously sustained.


This one was very damaged, next to and just out into the paddock a little, so that parts of it split and fell and we eventually cut down the last third, to fell it in a controlled manner to prevent a later dangerous event.

Stephan sprayed a lot of these thistles last year, before most of them had seeded but obviously one got away.

cows and calves

Stephan came out with me to do the molasses round. It takes a while and usually requires quite a lot of walking and I'm tired.

As we approached the gate at the top end of the flats, I stopped to look at the four calved cows in Flat 5c, all feeding their calves in a group.

773, on the left, is the only one in the group still to calve.

The thing I really enjoy about Covid level escalations is that my reo course goes on-line. I wasn't going to be able to get to town for classes during calving but this evening was able to join in from home. It's not the same as being together but it's better than not being there at all.

The 2021 calving date prediction sheet is available here.

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