The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 18th of June 2022.
Saturday the 18th
Glia, Zella and their calves

Very heavy rain fell late this morning and I became concerned that the rivers might soon come up.

Zella and Glia were grazing Jane's paddocks today, so I went over to call them out and across the stream while it was still easy for them to come that way - there isn't really any other option, since they won't come across Jane's driveway bridge.

Fortunately they came very quickly and willingly, so I didn't have to wander around in the rain for long.

Stephan was happily in the shed with Brian, doing woody things.

Sunday the 19th
get up!

I watched these two for a couple of minutes this morning - Stephan had milked, then come in for breakfast while the calves had their first feed of the day and a bit of a sit-down.

Zita is obviously a very annoying little sister at times. She nudged and pushed the other calf until he got sick of it and stood up.

pig-rooting in Mushroom 2

Feral pigs have been regularly visiting the Mushroom paddock since the ground got wet again and here they appear to be following the lines where the mown grass rotted down. That must be where all the worms are.

fungi under a Tōtara

I walked out to check the cattle around the farm this morning because the weather was so lovely.

I noticed these fungi at the base of a Tōtara tree and took the picture so I could have a closer look at the overturned one's gills.

the Spring hillside

Everyone was happy in the Spring paddock.

As I walked back down the slope it occurred to me that the area to the right of this picture, now covered in trees, was another large slip, or slump, much like the one to the left. The land has and is always moving.

I was advised, and considered for a while, planting Poplar trees where the land is slumping but I've been looking at the various slips and slumps around the farm and have concluded it would make very little difference. Many of the places that have slumped down have big trees on their slopes and all of them appear to be caused by the same problem: that water is running out from deep under the hillside, far below the reach of tree roots.

Have you ever wondered how big animals get up from sitting on the ground? Hind first:

912 getting up
912 getting up
912 getting up

Their front ends are heavier than their hind ends and so they lurch forward to take the weight off their rear ends, then get up on their hind legs first, then one front leg at a time. They lie down much the same way, bending one front knee after the other, then stretch their heads forward while they plop down at the back.

Stephan, Brian and an Ash log

Stephan was preparing to mill an Ash log Brian had brought round.

Brian planted a variety of trees when he was first farming and now harvests his reward. He's been building lovely furniture, producing milled timber for other people to purchase and use.

planing a slab

When they'd finished the logs, Stephan put the planing blade on the mill for the first time, tried it out on a dry plank of timber he'd had in the shed for some time. They were both impressed with the result.

(The planed plank is on its edge, held by Stephan. The big log was what was left of the Ash, giving a flat base upon which to sit the other piece of wood.)

Al eating Pūriri leaves

Al likes Pūriri leaves!
I hadn't thought to offer him any before but it seems he's almost as keen on them as the cattle are.

Monday the 20th
Al running to catch up with me

"Wait for me!"

I had to go and move the cow mob and as I walked up the track, Al ran to catch up with me.

Al in the Windmill paddock

He seemed so keen to come for a walk, I went to fetch an alkathene stick from the yards, then let him out of the House paddock to come with me.

He behaved very well except for a mad moment under these trees when he woofed, snorted, turned three pirouettes and ran at me twice at frightening speed. But no harm done, he stopped when I told him to, then went off on a trot around the rest of the paddock again.


My mother used to make a birthday party treat we called "mushrooms on grass", green jelly with meringue mushrooms - caps stuck to their separate stalks with a dollop of thickly-whipped cream, stuck to the jelly with another bit of cream. The mushroom caps sometimes had chocolate-bits on them, I think. We weren't a hundreds-and-thousands family, although they'd have looked great! (I don't know what you call those things in the US, multi-coloured sprinkles.)

These remind me of those mushrooms.

I thought Al might come and eat them or knock them over, as I crouched to take the photo, but he took one sniff and went on his way.

Al crossing the stream on our walk

So many things to explore!

Mostly he just ate bits of different sorts of grass he found along the way.

Al doing some yards maintenance

When we came back towards home I set the gates to get him back into the House paddock without fuss, then led him up to the yards, hoping to weigh him.

He made his way through the pens, spending quite some time dealing with this clump of tough grass and I wondered if we should arrange for him to spend some time here, get him to do some weeding.

He followed me up the race and I quickly escaped through the head-bail, leaving him on the scales: he's now 106.5kg!

Tuesday the 21st
cows and calves in the Spring paddock

Stephan has done a sedge-spraying job here in the Spring paddock. I forget where he's been until I happen upon these brown places.

There's still grass between the plants, because he takes care to spray them without letting the glyphosate waft out too far from the target plants. When the dead plants rot down, the grass around them will grow over them... I hope.

Glyphosate is extremely useful but it takes a while for the soil to come right again after it's sprayed. I used to think it was a magic leaves-only poison but no, it's not that clever.

942 feeding enthusiastically

942, 872's daughter, was enthusiastically feeding as I checked around the little mob.

The young mothers all have quite small-looking udders, probably because they're regularly emptied by these large calves. I will look forward to seeing how they develop over the next years. 872 is one of bull 87's daughters, who don't all have beautiful udders as they age, so I hope she takes after her mother's side of the family.

Some of the mothers are getting a bit thin, so I'll have to wean the calves soon. Milk production takes a lot of energy and there's less grass around now the weather has cooled. It has been very cold yesterday and today, a maximum temperature yesterday of 10.5°C, which is really cold up here and today it only reached 12°. The minima were 9.5° and 6.5° for the two nights, reasonably mild.

I've added a soil thermometer to my weather monitoring this winter and so far the soil temperature is staying around 13°, so the grass should still be growing a bit.

Our telephone was off for the second day, although it was on last night for a while. I had a nice conversation with the guy who fixed it, when he rang to tell us it was working again. Ray and I have had occasional Telecom-related chats over the years, since I used to do that stuff too. Sometimes I'm reminded how much I liked that job - at least the work involved in the job. I liked the electrickery of telecommunications, liked my data work in particular, when I was "Broadband Rearrangements" (or Bro Ruth, as someone relabelled my chair when I wasn't looking one day), working on my own with business customers who wanted to move their systems from one building to another and occasionally I'd get to go out to their premises and see what the outside lines teams had got wrong in the installations, fix them, make the systems work again.

The bits I loathed and had to leave, were sexist bosses (and occasional peers), and a group of "born again" young men who held prayer meetings in the basement mainframe area through which all the data systems were routed and where I had to do a lot of my re-routing wiring work. In their oft-voiced opinion, I should have been at home looking after my husband and children. This was 1990, not 1940, but might as well have been, in the basement levels of the Airedale Street telephone exchange.

It had become clear from the start of my training in 1983, that the women who dared to step into that non-traditional sphere, had to be twice as good as any of their male colleagues to be considered half as good. The number of telephone calls I answered in the later years in which some man asked to talk to someone who knew what he was doing, was depressing. Bitter? You bet.

Wednesday the 22nd
coral fungi

Walking up the Pines hill today I saw several patches of coral fungi. They're quite small and I haven't seen many around this season, so far.

the selected first tree

Stephan came up the track this morning to see how wet it was after all the rain and was satisfied he could get safely up and down. So he had selected a Pine to fell and I'd come up to be present while he cut it down.

I presume I was supposed to dash in and stop it falling on him if he tripped over and fell in a dangerous place. Super Woman!!!

the pine, felled

A falling tree makes a tremendous noise, so I whipped off my ear-muffs as soon as it started to go, to hear the cracking, then the report as it crashed onto the ground.

Poor tree, standing there minding its own business in the still, sunny morning...

cattle tracks in the wetland

I went off on my way home, leaving Stephan to cut off the branches, divide the log into the lengths he wanted for milling, ready to drag them down the hill.

This is like showing you the dirty washing: the last major area of wetland we have still to fence off. It's only still waiting because it's taken us ages to work out what we'll do, we've not had the time, other things have been higher on the priority list, etc. etc.

You can easily see that the cattle quite happily walk to and fro across this area, eating anything that's growing, stomping anything living in the soft mud or runs of water. On the satellite pictures it's only a very small area, so in most people's calculations it wouldn't even matter. But one day it will be beautiful, so here is my "before" picture.

regrowth in one of the tree reserves

This photo doesn't work very well with the light behind, but the community of which this tree is the centre is fabulous. There are so many other plants growing on its branches and now quite a variety of plants growing beneath it in the fenced reserve, where the seeds would have been dropped by the birds who perch in the tree.

You can tell which trees are used by the Kūkupa (Kererū, the native wood pigeon) because only those birds are big enough to eat the Taraire and Karaka drupes and therefore poo their seeds; it is beneath those favoured trees that their seedlings can be found.

Thursday the 23rd
broken trees

Another fine morning, another pine tree.

The collateral damage of all this tree felling is obvious in the shattered state of those Tōtara trees. I suppose Stephan could have cut them out of the way. I'm not sure why he hasn't, except that they'll probably survive, so why cut them down?

Oh, I do know, now I think of it: he would have had to tidy all the mess up if he had.

Stephan carting three logs home

He spent an hour or more tidying the pine with its numerous branches, then took the digger up the hill to pull the logs down far enough to drag them down the track with the tractor.

Here he was at ten to five this evening, bringing in three logs to the mill.

Stephan is very happy, because it had seemed he might not have another chance before next summer, to get some more trees down to mill. People might need coffins in the mean time, so he needs to cut and start drying more timber.

Friday the 24th
The first Matariki Public Holiday

Today was fabulous. I felt uncharacteristically optimistic all day. We didn't get up and look at the dawn sky because it was overcast (I don't have to tell you whether I'd have made such an effort or not, if I tell you it was too cloudy to see the stars before the sun came up), but it felt great: our first public holiday to celebrate Matariki, the reappearance of the constellation known in other places as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, marking the beginning of the Māori year.

The legislation instituting the public holiday was passed a couple of months ago, and we are apparently the first colonised country anywhere in which a public holiday commemorates an indigenous event. This is not to say Aotearoa/New Zealand has a great race relations history or present, but it seems like a start. Actually it's the continuation of a change that's been gaining momentum for a while now. It is an exciting time for our country.

There are many articles written about Matariki and the new holiday. Here are three, from Dr Rangi Mātāmua, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and the the Government Business & Employment website.

heifer 909

R2 heifer 909 sitting quietly on the hillside Over the Road.

There used to be a lot of blackberry plants here on this part of the slope and I'm glad there aren't any more. The rambling cane variety spreads all over the place. The berries from here seemed always to have little caterpillars in them, so I gave up picking them.

Kotare on a pole

A Kōtare, on one of the poles carrying power to a little fence around a hole in the side of the hill.

Kōtare, or Kingfishers, hunt from perches from which they watch the ground for the movements of their prey - insects, worms or mice in this environment - before flying down and catching them.

They must have exceptionally good eyesight.

a view of the farm

What a nice little farm.

We were both looking to see if we could see the gap from which some of the pines have been removed. It's not obvious but they came from the left side of the plantation where there's a little bit more grey than dark green.

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