The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 14th of May 2022.
Saturday the 14th
a new gate for the old yards

The newly-built gate in the old yards. We have plans to change things here but it's not high on the priority list at the moment and a good gate never goes amiss.

a new rail for the loading ramp

Stephan came and did a proper job on the rails, this nice bit of new pine blocking the space where the heifers escaped. There's a nice new bit on the other side too (visible in the picture above) to make sure we don't have another break-out when the bull and the three heifers go.

Stephan mowing the Windmill paddock

Then on to the next job, mowing the Windmill paddock.

Gertrude's tail lump

In the early afternoon I went out to spend some time with the cows.

I brushed out several tails and felt a lump in Gertrude's tail which looked like this. I don't know what it is but I don't see the need to do anything about it. I'll look at it again some time, see if it changes.

secrets between cows

"Listen, do you want to know a secret, do you promise not to tell?"

Gertrude was whispering to Fancy 191 when I came back past her.

Sunday the 15th

Excitement in the world of family DNA matching today, with a message from the relative of an elderly cousin who never knew the identity of his father. I've become quite good at working out such puzzles, so will see if I can place this man in the family tree.

young 860 going down to the trough for a drink

More tail brushing, this time amongst the cows who still have their calves.

After her grooming, 860 (or it might have been 865) trotted off down to the trough for a drink. She's one of the thinner heifers, not overly surprising considering the size of her beautiful daughter.

lime on the Swamp paddock

Ryan obviously backed up the recently-cleared slope in the Swamp paddock. It'll be interesting to see how the grass there responds.

heifer 900

The works cattle are still content in the Tank.

This is lovely heifer 900, looking nicely rounded, going off to be someone's fine steak dinner. She has no concern about her future, nor will she have. She will be treated humanely and calmly all the way to her last moments, as will her friends 893, Imogen 195 and lovely bull 189, who will no longer break plastic troughs.

I think he'll end up in hamburgers, bull meat being very lean. A lot of it is exported to the US to mix with their very fatty, grain-fed beef, to create burger mince with a uniform fat content. I will receive money which will go into more fencing, mostly. And his progeny will go on, Zita, 931 and grey 932 from last season's calving and whoever is a heifer in gestation now amongst the half dozen cows in calf to him, and proves good enough to keep next year.

Monday the 16th

We've been reorganising things in our house. Stephan's old work shed is now re-roofed and planned to be a "sleep-out" for summer visitors. While it now has a non-leaking roof, we can't easily get materials to line the space for warmth and comfort, but we can at least put things out there that we don't need in the house. So out went the huge, long, old couch that used to be part of the Mathew family lounge suite but took up too much room since Stephan inherited Richard's unnecessarily-large television. Out went the chest freezers from inside, and in went a new section of storage shelving in the store-room.

The TV got a nice new wooden base to sit on at a better height than the coffee table it was on before, my writing desk (that I've barely used for that purpose where it was) and a china cabinet of Jill's have swapped places and now the Three Lanes Restaurant china I still have, can go in there and be easily accessed for use. Anything not in regular use went into boxes and/or onto the storage shelves.

These things have made me feel much more organised. And organisation of that sort helps my less-cluttered head get on with more interesting things, like writing!

Tuesday the 17th

We went out, to Waipapa, over near Kerikeri, to see the optometrist because I've had a spot in my vision for about three weeks and it didn't drift around like those floaty things that happen in ageing eyes. Chloe thought she could see it and that it was probably ok but she would like an ophthalmologist to look at it and confirm that there isn't a tiny hole or tear in my retina.

While in Waipapa we'd ordinarily go in for a look through the second-hand book store but we're still not going into places when it's not essential so as soon as I was finished, Stephan drove us north again - I'd driven down but now I had a wild-looking eye without proper focus, after my pupil had been dilated for the examination.

a view from Oruaiti cemetery

On our way north, it occurred to me to look out for the Oruaiti cemetery. I've never been there, had chickened out of going to an unveiling for my favourite teacher a few years ago but was keen to find it now. The entrance was flagged by an official road sign but the track up the hillside was less obvious than some of our farm tracks, leading to a farm gate and a track curving up over the low hill. But knowing the cemetery to be a public place, we kept going.

This pretty view is back toward the road, which is down over the brow of the hill a way. Our ute was parked off to the right, at the other corner of the cemetery reserve.

Oruaiti cemetery

Most of the people here were of two families, both names we associate with the Brethren churches in the Far North. Most of them had "fallen asleep in Jesus" and one professed that the deceased was "with Christ which is far better". Maybe he wasn't a nice man and his family were glad to be rid of him. They're certainly not phrases I'd be putting on a headstone, although a variation on the latter appeals if the circumstances were right. Muriel used to say she wanted something like "she was always helping others; you could tell the others by their hunted look". I'm trying to remember her other wicked suggestions.

The grave and headstone of Audrey Sheils, my Form 1 year and secondary school French teacher were recent additions to the area and it was that I had primarily come for.

After half an hour or so of wandering quietly around looking at the headstones, we let ourselves back out through the gates and continued on the road north.

Taipa beach

As we came to a stop on the foreshore at Taipa, in rolled Jonny in his bee ute, stopping to have some lunch. So we had a long chat, caught up with him and his doings.

Then we took off our footwear and walked along the beach. The tide was going out, but there weren't very many footprints in any case. I was hoping I might find some Kōwhai seeds, the little yellow things I used to wonder about when I was a small child building magic sand gardens on the beach, while the yacht club racing was in progress and all the wives were sitting having a lovely time together on their picnic blankets further up the beach.

a falling-down abandoned house

I know I've taken another photo of this house but I can't find it to compare with this one. I had the impression that more of the structure has disintegrated since last I photographed it. Cattle probably come and rub on the building and it no longer has the strength to withstand the pressure.

a tree fern in the Spring stream reserve

At home after some lunch I went out to check on the cows and calves.

This tree fern grows in the stream reserve and I take photos of it when I pass because I know that it will at some stage grow too tall to see into its centre from the above.

931 and the bull calf, 216

Heifer 931 and bull 216, on the Spring paddock's ridge.

I have the impression, from 931's appearance, that it was quite windy up here.

nice 942 and her mother

Little 942 is a lovely soft-looking heifer, obviously quite well fed. Her mother, having lost a little more weight than I'd meant her to last spring, is no thinner now than anyone else and her calf is lovely.

cows and calves on the Spring hill

I thought they'd all have followed me down the hill, would have wanted to move, but they stayed up the hill and I went on my way.

a cow having fun

Around the other side I moved the 20 cows from Windmill 3 to the Big Back South.

This is "environmental enrichment" for cows. A bare earth bank is an exciting thing for some of them ...

another cow having fun

... and for others, the fallen tree attraction.

I knew who this was, at the time, can't remember now. It looks like a fat-enough body to be Imogen 155, or 723.

Ellie 171

Here's Ellie 171. I think she's looking better than she did several weeks ago. I don't know what ailed her then but she always looked a bit uncomfortable and she grunted as she breathed whenever she was lying down. I haven't caught her lying down lately to hear if she still does that but overall I think she looks better. I gave her a course of antibiotic a month or more ago and I think that might have addressed whatever it was.

Wednesday the 18th
one of the four newly-fenced wet areas in the Spring

Rain at last this morning, for the first time in about three weeks. Having dry ground at this time of year is lovely but it can get too dry for the grass to grow. I waited for the rain to stop before going out anywhere.

This is a new little wet area Stephan fenced in the Spring paddock, above a new culvert he put in ... some time ago (not sure, can't find the reference). The drain isn't deep or extensive, only intended to allow excess water to run freely to the culvert and away. The fenced area should grow things over time. I'll bring some seedlings out, perhaps, plant them so the birds carrying more seeds have somewhere to stop.

cows and calves running down the hill to my call

This afternoon the cows and calves decided they did want to move. They came thundering down the hill as I approached the gate.

Thursday the 19th

Yesterday I contacted Chloe, the optometrist, again to say that I perceived an extra tiny spot in my vision and so could we please escalate my referral to the ophthalmologist? That meant I would have to pay for a private specialist, not wait around for months to see a public health system free one (who might well be the same person). Chloe wrote an email referral and I made a phone call when our phone was restored to service (having being off for the last two days). That turned out to be a fortuitous delay because when I phoned, someone else had cancelled their appointment for tomorrow, so I could take that one rather than wait for (I think) a couple of weeks. If I'd phoned earlier in the day, tomorrow's appointment might not have been available yet.

So today we went down early enough to go and have lunch with Kate (and not Geoff, who was away at a meeting) before going on to the appointment. The examination confirmed Chloe's assessment that my retina was not involved, that there's some detritus, possibly related to my cataract surgery, wandering around in the back of my eye and it won't do any damage. So that's alright then.

Then Stephan drove us home again, since I again had a weirdly dilated and unfocussed right eye.

Friday the 20th
723, fatter than she's ever been before

This is 723, one of the two empty cows last year. Having a year off calving has allowed her to put on more condition than she's ever carried before.

Stephan cooked pumpkin soup for lunch, since Elizabeth was coming to join us: today marks four years since William died. Time passes strangely in relation to such events.


Time for some "ridiculous Al" pictures.

This is fuzzy because I was dashing to get a picture before he went out of view: Al, carrying a bit of dead Kānuka around the paddock.


By the time I got outside for some clearer pictures he was further away and had dropped half of it.

I think this is playing, since he wasn't taking these things back to his house.

He quite often walks around with a mouthful of long grass, takes it down to his enclosure and stacks it up in his little shelter, for bedding. I used to put hay in there for him but haven't done so for more than a year now because he takes care of it himself. He has a lovely warm sleeping place as a result.

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