The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 1st of January 2022.
Saturday the 1st
New Year's Day
sick 921 now out and about

921, still up and about. What a remarkable recovery; I hope it continues.

Tāheke stream

The Tāheke stream is still running at a reassuring level. This crossing can look different depending on how the stones are arranged but so far there's a good flow.

Kikuyu roots

Stephan moved the trough in the Bush Flat, as he prepared to rearrange the fence along the lane.

These are Kikuyu stolons which have grown along the ridges under the trough.

I think they'd look like this under the concrete pad on which our house is built, one plant capable of growing from one side to the other. It's an amazing grass.

looking down the Bush Flat paddock

Looking down toward the Mushroom paddocks...

looking back in the other direction

... and back up the lane from near the Small Hill gateway.

The dark green rushes indicate the damp areas, here along the depression of the drain and in the picture above, in a wider area where, we think, water from the adjacent hill probably collects.

bull 200 with some of his cows

Bull 200, busy with his cows; here he was following 186, the cow whose calf died before birth this year.

921, getting better

921's rear is very messy but at least she's standing up, not needing to be buried.

I'd been giving her a course of antibiotic for the last three days and this evening's would have been her fourth dose, an extra one, just to make sure. On the other occasions I've injected her where she lay but this evening she got up as soon as I inserted the needle into her neck and ran off, with the syringe hanging. I had to follow her quietly until I could retrieve it from her. I guess she's better enough not to need any more.

Earlier in the day I checked her vulval colour again and it is no longer the pale creamy-yellow of the last week, but a horrible-looking orange colour which might signal the presence of a bit of pink mixed with the yellow, which is a very good sign. She must be beating the Theileria and making some blood.

Sunday the 2nd
bull, cows and calves

Bull 203 and his little mob of five young cows in the Swamp East Right.

The bull is the one lying down between the two cows, 860 and 865.

drain digging

The drain in the Bush Flat was in the same place in 1950, so I'm not sure we'd successfully move it very far from its current depression. But it could do with being opened up a bit so the water doesn't soak out into the paddock; then we'll fence it so the cattle don't stomp around in it and make the water muddy.

a plaited cloud

Cute cloud, looks like a plait.

Monday the 3rd
preparing to fell a pine tree

Nephews Mathew and Simon came out today to "do some work", so Stephan took them up to the Pines to help him with processing another of the pine trees - dropping the tree is easy enough, but tidying up once it's down takes some work.

Mathew is standing in the foreground, Stephan's orange hat is just visible looking through between the two closest trunks, where he's starting to cut the chosen tree.

Simon was standing up the hill to my left.

a screen-shot from the felling video
Simon Tailby

Simon sent me a slow-motion video of the tree going down, which was impressive - this is a screen-shot from it. I think we all managed to take our ear-muffs off as soon as the saw stopped, so we could listen to the huge noise of the tree going down and then hitting the ground.

Then I remembered that Floss was in my buggy (in a cat carry-cage), out for some environmental enrichment. She probably got quite a lot of it, with all that noise.

the big pine log ready to be moved down the hill
Simon Tailby

Simon took this picture when they'd finished cutting all the branches off and the log was ready to be cut into sections, before Stephan began dragging one down the track.

looking back to the Pines

There is still no obvious gap where the felled trees no longer stand.

a trough-full of calves

How many calves can fit around one trough?

This photo is a demonstration of one aspect of the social structure of cattle: while calves will often tussle with each other, sometimes in quite serious-looking stoushes, they don't have the same sense of hierarchy as their mothers.

In this herd, it's common to see one cow drinking from a trough, with a queue forming behind her: any less-senior cow won't dare to put her head in the trough while the other drinks.

Floss in the Sebastian apple tree

When the rest of the family arrived for swimming and a barbecue, I brought Floss down to sit in the Sebastian apple tree to be part of the gathering.

Maihi and Evelyn on a tyre inner-tube in the pond

The children, as always, spent a lot of their time in the water.

Here is Maihi taking cousin Evelyn for a paddle in a truck tyre inner-tube.

floating children

Summer drowning figures in Aotearoa are already horrifyingly high so it's always good to see the children learning to be confident in the water, especially here where they cannot touch the bottom.

Once upon a time we all learnt to swim at school but that's no longer so; if you don't have money for lessons, or a nearby pool, maybe you don't spend much time in any large body of water before you end up in trouble in a river or the sea.

The little children always wear life-jackets in our pond to begin with - if they slipped out of sight, it might be difficult to find them when the pond water gets stirred up by the swimmers - but as they gain swimming skills and confidence, they begin to swim without them, start jumping from the high places, having a ball.

a Hercules overhead

I wonder where the Hercules had been? They quite often fly over, presumably up to any of the islands (Fiji, Tonga, Norfolk ...) but rarely show on the on-line flight radar websites.

They make a thrillingly big noise.

cattle all sitting out in the sun in Flat 3

I saw a very good opinion piece in one of the newspaper's websites recently, decrying the common farming carelessness about the provision of shade for farm animals. The writer was astonished, as am I, that there is no minimum standard for the provision of shade; unrelenting heat is unbearable.

Sometimes I am surprised to see that my black cattle are quite happy to sit out in the full summer sun in the middle of the day. The constant breeze must make the conditions pleasant enough for them to feel comfortable here, rather than lying in the shade of the big trees down the other end of the paddock. But they must always have that option.

Zella, Andrew and Stephan

Since Andrew still hadn't gone to the works, I'd put him in with Zella and Glia.

Zella must have been coming on heat so Andrew didn't leave her side all day and spent much of the time yesterday herding his little mob into a corner, not letting them out to graze.

Andrew getting into Glia's molasses

At milking time, Zella got some peace for a few minutes, Stephan having shut the gate so Andrew couldn't come in and get in the way. So he made trouble elsewhere, pushing Glia away from her molasses bin.

Andrew learnt about molasses when he was a calf.

921, the less-sick calf

Out in the "hospital" paddock, little 921 was feeling well enough to investigate her mother's bin too.


I don't take many pictures of sunsets because our view of them is generally not conducive to spectacular sights. But this was beautiful. Smoke in the atmosphere contributes to some lovely colours at dusk.

Tuesday the 4th
not quite a gateway, but nearly

Time for another new gateway, this time at the northern corner of Flat 2. I wanted to move the mob of cows and calves with bull 189, so suggested to Stephan that he undo the fence wires ready to create the new gateway, and we'd take the cattle out that way to move them. It worked very easily, despite their never having gone that way before.

cattle stirring up dust

It was hot and windy so the dust the cattle raised along the track blew away quite quickly.

I am very glad not to be having to move them around for insemination in this heat.

the rose named Elina

I found this rose in the garden: it is Elina, a cutting I must have grown from the huge, vigorous plant by my greenhouse.

I'm not very organised about my roses and usually forget which cuttings I've taken from which plants and have no idea at all by the time they show that they've taken root. So this one is a lovely surprise and I'll probably need to move it before it gets too big, because it has dreadfully vicious thorns and such a dangerous plant ought to be somewhere it's not going to hurt anyone trying to get past it.

a bucket of peaches

Stephan acquired a lovely bucket of peaches. I still prefer them cooked to fresh, perhaps a hang-over from the childhood pleasure in the tinned variety and their delightful texture. I don't think they taste much different, raw or cooked, but they're so juicy that I prefer to eat them from a plate, with a spoon, without the fuzzy skin.

Wednesday the 5th
921, the much-less-sick calf

Little 921 is looking better and better - well actually she's looking really dreadful, as the effects of her week without adequate sustenance, while fighting to survive, become more obvious - now able to run a little.

950, still not looking entirely well

Zella's calf is still not looking happy but his condition seems stable.

126's injured foot

This is Fancy 126's injured hoof, showing a healing crack along the top of the inside toe. She appears unaffected by the injury.

thinking about what to do in this corner

After a consultation on how to arrange the new gate out of Flat 2, we had a look at this bottom corner of the Windmill paddock, where it would also be extremely helpful to have a gate. The problem here is that where it would be best to put a gateway, there is the end of a culvert under the lane. We could dig that up but we're not sure we want to.

In the mean time Stephan will take out the rails where he's standing and the drain fence along to his right, so it's easier to see how we might proceed. (The drain fence is two wires held up by steel standards [I've long called them Waratahs but I find now that's a brand name!], which are easy enough to pull out and need rearranging anyway.)

Flat 2's new gateway

And now the new gate at the top of Flat 2 is in. For so many years I've been working around having to take the animals out the other gate, making sure nobody comes back along the wrong side of the fence with those who are already in the lane. While it has often worked out well enough, there are always moments of concern. It will be so much easier to let them out of the paddock in whichever corner is best for their intended destination.

a broken Pūriri

I have repeatedly examined this Pūriri, trying to figure out why it has grown as it has. The big root/branch coming out to the bottom right of the picture is curious and was perhaps a fallen branch. The big trunk out to the right must be the main part of the original tree.

On the 1950 aerial photo there's a tree here, so by then the canopy had regrown after the fires.

The recently-fallen branch has exposed a dark area of what looks like compost, so there wasn't much holding the branch in place. In that soft material there's now a hole and from that hole I heard, as I passed, the funny growling calls of a nest of Kōtare chicks.

Ellie's son appears to have bloody scours

Goodness, I thought we were past having Coccidia scours but it would appear not: the dark shiny coating on 218's rear indicates blood in his faeces. He was in otherwise good health, behaving normally and when I next saw him, his poo was loose, but brown not bloody and his bum less shiny. It's an affliction they usually fight off quite well on their own.

Thursday the 6th
a pumpkin vine on our deck

There's a pumpkin on our deck!

In the midst of Covid - well, not exactly in the midst of it here but the threat of it seems constant as it's been out in the community for a while - we had to revisit our decisions about risk levels, because most of the time we simply don't have to think about any of it. I don't do well with colds, so I definitely don't want Covid, if I can possibly avoid it but Stephan was required to have a follow-up X-ray and so we talked ourselves through the necessity of accessing health services, even though we've decided not to go into any other enclosed spaces.

We also talked about our upcoming booking for the vaccination booster shot and how now that the Government has shortened the period between the initial shots and the booster, because of the approach of the new Omicron variant, we could stagger them: Stephan could get his today, so we're not both knocked about at the same time next week. By a couple of phone calls I discovered that the hospital might be accepting walk-in recipients today.

I dropped Stephan at the hospital door where he was asked all the screening questions to ensure he was well before entering (there's a joke in there somewhere) and found a nice parking place under a tree in the shade, since it was a sweltering afternoon.
He was back far sooner than I expected, x-rayed and vaccinated and said he'd been amongst very few people inside the hospital.

Wana-i-Rangi and Sarah looking at the cows in the Spring paddock

Elizabeth came out with Sarah, Karl and Wana-i-Rangi; Miriam, Roy and Asher and after we'd eaten (all of this always happens down by the pond) I took Sarah and Wana-i-Rangi, who likes being a farmer, out to check on my cows and their mating progress.

Friday the 7th
a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar on one of the Swan plants

There are a couple of big caterpillars on one of the swan plants. It must be early enough still that the paper wasps haven't yet started predating them.

Māhoe fruit

This is the now-ripe fruit of the Māhoe I photographed twice before, at the end of the lane near the Back Barn gateway.

Māhoe is one of te reo names for purple - from this tree or given to the tree for the colour of its berries?
Taumatamāhoe is the name of the highest peak at the top of Diggers Valley and I have long wondered if it was so named for its colour in the distance, or these trees populating its slopes? (One of the meanings of taumata is the summit of a hill. Taumatamāhoe is the maunga of many of the hapū around Pukepoto, over the other side of the Herekino range, near the coast, where Elizabeth lives.)

a Tōtara tree

When checking the cows in the Back Barn, I noticed this Tōtara, probably pruned when the last working bee happened out here .

a Tōtara tree

I am fascinated by the way trees meld their branches together so that in some cases they appear to become one.

a Tōtara tree

I'll have to look out for the presence of branch melds like this in places Stephan intends pruning, so I can take "before" photos as well.

a Tōtara tree

I think growth like this happens when a tree's main trunk is broken and the next branch then grows up as its main stem, growing bark around the scar and eventually covering it up.

Stephan in his garden

Stephan, harvesting the garden for dinner.

a feral pig in Mushroom 3

On my last walk for the day I climbed the hill to the ridge that divides the Big Back North and the Small Hill paddocks and looked down at the farm. It's a lovely view, one I've often featured in here, especially since it is often in the evening, with the sun behind me, that I come up here and look down over our realm.

I looked at that black animal for a few seconds before I remembered there aren't any calves in Mushroom 3 and besides, its legs were way too short: a big, black, feral pig!

Always when I'm not carrying a rifle.

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