The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 13th of August 2022.
Saturday the 13th

Instead of catching up with weekly news pages while the weather's been unpleasant outside, I've been delving repeatedly into the long-distant past. Last week I discovered a DNA match, who lives in Aotearoa, with a nicely descending level of relatedness to my aunt, myself and my nephew and so I sent him a message, asking which part of the family we have in common - there are two Scottish branches and one Danish, then the whole Renner side which is English and German. He quite quickly wrote back and said that his foremother was named Agnes Dickson and that he thought he might have found some Scottish census records to confirm her parents' names and suddenly my genealogy project has a whole new front: Agnes was sister to Catherine, my grandmother's grandmother, whose origins I have been working to find for the last couple of years.

Catherine came here on her own, and I had no previous evidence that any of her siblings had come too - indeed I was still under the impression that she'd had little contact with them since she was very young. But subsequent work with the Scotland's People records has been turning up all sorts of exciting new details about their lives.

My new 4th cousin and I compared notes and records and I was able to supply the names of parents, siblings, places of residence and so on during the early period of Catherine's life and working with the details Don provided, I then began to fill in some of her later childhood and young adult years. I had known vaguely where and when she was born and knew where she was in the two years before she left Glasgow to come here. Catherine's marriage announcement had said her late father was from Bogside in Kincardineshire: that's quite a wide area with a lot of boggily-named places! Now I know exactly where he was and can piece together a lot of the later part of his life and of Catherine and some of her sisters.

When I started this project, prompted by one of my te reo kaiako (tutors), I had no idea how grounding it would be. Now I know where we came from and how we got here and it has been far more important to me than I ever anticipated.

the bleakness of winter in the wet

This is very much an August look: cows coming out of a mud-trampled paddock, passing their previous mud-trampled paddock, going towards not very much new grass.

Glia chasing one of the heifers

We stopped milking Zella a few days ago and she and Glia then stayed in Flat 2, where I could see them regularly and ensure she didn't develop any udder soreness. Next to them, in Flat 3, I'd put the two first-time heifers for this year, and 183, who was previously the companion of lame 812 (who was humanely dispatched two weeks ago).

Today I put them all together in Flat 5b and Glia was very excited about the change: she dashed up the lane, went directly into the paddock and ran at the white-faced heifer, then chased this one, then finally ran after 183. Then they all settled down to quietly grazing. Zella didn't bother with anyone else, just ate.

(At some stage there's going to be a cattle sheltering shed where those white-topped standards are standing in 5a.)

Sunday the 14th

Despite my having a migraine, we popped down the road to provide some ovine antenatal advice to Aaron and Kim, whose single young ewe is nearing lambing time.

Monday the 15th
upset heifers

The R2 heifers are a moaning, unsettled lot at the best of times and today they were not happy about being in the Pig paddock when I first put them in: we had 812 slaughtered in the driveway, since ground conditions are too wet to be anywhere far from the hard surfaces. The smell of blood and rumen contents continues to upset the cattle for a while, even though we'd played the hose over the area and there's been quite a bit of rain since.

some environmental modification for Al

Al's area was (for him) knee-deep in mud, so Stephan brought a few sacks of sawdust down to soak up the wet and make a nicer surface for him.

Tuesday the 16th
experimental miller

Stephan, experimenting with the mill. He cut, then rotated his log, to make a square ...

Zella having a blissful moment

I put Zella and friends into the Windmill paddock and they sped off, kicking up their heels - even Zella with her still-heavy udder. Then Zella found the bare clay bank near the blackberries and had a lovely few minutes rubbing her head in the mud.

I often ponder what Glia is thinking.

Wednesday the 17th
a lovely heifer

I repeatedly look at heifer 210 and think how lovely she looks. I recall I spent a lot of time thinking the same about her mother, Dushi 170, so this may be an excellent sign.

Admittedly she doesn't look quite so fabulous in this picture, it being August and blowing a gale so her hair's all askew. But she's generally a nice shape, has a nice temperament and I look forward to seeing how she further develops.

Thursday the 18th
a big flood

We had good warning of this impending rain event - more than good warning, so that I was nervous it would get much worse than this.

My fear is that at some time we'll end up with a stationary weather system that sits over us and dumps heavy rain for hours or days, which would bring the streams up and keep them entirely full, and higher than this.

Stephan went to open the gate through to Jane's place, since the water might otherwise break it.

ensuring things can't float away

Then he put the shed poles, which have sat here on the ground for months, up on the log trailer, to ensure they didn't float away if the water got really high. The highest we've ever seen it would come about half-way up the trailer's wheels, but would not float or push it out of place.

Al looking perplexed

And the water kept rising. When it began coming up through the drain near Al's place, he looked quite nonplussed and I watched him slowly entering the water, not sure if he was wanting to drink it or swim in it. He didn't seem overly sure, himself.

the peak of the flooding

This was the peak level just before noon, before it gradually receded over the next several hours.

Friday the 19th
young cows Over the Road

Along with 220mm of rain, we had some very strong winds during the storm, so I was pleased to find the young cows Over the Road all peacefully sitting or grazing.

This was the pedigree section, Dushi 170 at the front and Fancy 188 behind her. The other four were on the top of the hill to the left and just over the brow beyond.

a dead chick

Farming has caused me to think a great deal about life and death and still does, every time I encounter it in any way. Genealogy is making me think about it quite a bit too, since most of the people I'm looking for are dead. Sitting around researching dead people has also made me contemplate how I'm currently using my time.

There are a lot of people in the family trees who lived no longer than this little bird. Life is luck, I reckon, and so is what happens to you along the way. And when you're dead you're dead. What's more meaningful afterwards? A statue because you were considered important in society? A painting people sell and resell for increasingly mad sums of money? The recipe notes you wrote in the book your mother had given you when you turned 18 and you kept using until you could cook no more and passed it to your niece? To your descendants, who want to know something of your essence, I'd bet it's the last.

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