The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 2nd of July 2022.
Saturday the 2nd
an unknown soldier

This young fellow's identity is a mystery to me, one I've been attempting to solve for some months. The photo has nothing on it to identify him.

I sent him to various people and the most useful suggestion so far, I think, is a likeness to a uniform worn by a soldier in the South African war at the end of the 19th Century. The other place this strappy uniform regularly turns up is in Brass Bands around the same sort of time but if he were a band member, I presume he'd be holding an instrument, not a sword.

To me he looks quite like my nephews and niece, although I know it's easy to imagine one sees such likenesses, even if they're not there. The photo was in the Renner family history box, so he probably belongs to the family.

If you've ever seen anyone with a similar uniform or know anything that might help me identify his regiment or associations, please let me know.

The local genealogy group had a Research Weekend. This usually means everyone piles into the big room at REAP in town with all the resources the group holds - a library of books, electoral rolls, the microfiche library of all sorts of indices produced over many decades. Everyone works on their own projects on their lap-tops with the opportunity to ask for or offer assistance.

But not everyone wants to be in shared spaces with others beyond their households at present, so we decided to try out a hybrid on-line meeting over the Zoom application. I was the only person attending from outside and there were only half a dozen members in town together (last year there were twice as many of us, at least). The on-line part of things took a little sorting out, we'd thought everyone could sit with their own laptops connected to the meeting but ended up with so much feedback and noise, they all gave up and the host ended the meeting, so I was left on my own. Eventually I suggested that only the host and I should be connected, which worked quite well.

My role for the weekend was "fiche librarian", available to look up any fiche record anyone requested. It worked very well, I think. Most of the fun for me was being in touch with everyone there.

While I was engaged in historical pursuits, Annina and Pascal from up the road were working with Stephan, milling some boards they want to use for panelling in a new room.

Sunday the 3rd
the cows have done a good job in Flat 2

I spent most of the day indoors again, while the sun shone outside. My librarian duties were finished by about 3 o'clock, so I was able to get out for a nice walk.

I had pushed the cows to do a good clean-up in Flat 2 and after three days here, felt I should move them on again. They were very willing.

pig rooting in Flat 5b!

Then walking across Flat 5b, I saw that we've had feral pigs here! Extraordinary. They'd have to have come through two electric fences to get here and with no similar damage visible in 5c, I can't quite figure out what's going on.

looking across the flats

Looking back toward Flats 3 & 2, you can see how gradual the change in colour is, as grass regrows after the cows have grazed a paddock. The furthest-left is where the cows have just come from and, to the right, Flat 3, where they were three days ago. Here in 5b the last grazing was 16 days ago.

calves, and their mothers in the other paddock

The last weaners have a lesser dietary offering than their fore-runners, but they are also two months older than those I weaned for sale. Age gradually improves robustness, although they are still babies, and still need the best I can grow for them.

weird bull

Out in the Back Barn paddock this bull was lapping water from the trough.

cattle don't usually drink like cats

They don't usually drink like this. Maybe he's lost one of his front teeth as his new adult one emerges and drinking cold water is uncomfortable at present.

a little bit of drain digging

When I came home, Stephan was engaged in some drain digging, by hand, since the area is far too boggy to bring the digger in.

Stephan and Al

Al demands attention whenever he can. But we must always have some kind of stout stick to defend ourselves from his sharp points.

Monday the 4th
a foolhardy attempt at moving a heavy cage

You can see the potential for problems with this manoeuvre. I walked away quickly after taking the picture.

The intention is to do something better again for the hens. We let them out regularly but they very soon appear in the garden, on the deck and if it rains, all crowd into the back porch and shit all over the mat.

Stephan has bought some wire netting and has some long poles, with which to build them a bigger enclosure attached to their house but it first needs moving to ground that definitely won't flood.

the last weaning group

I find it hard to estimate how much grass to allow the weaning cows but as the greatest restriction is only for a couple of days, they'll be ok with the little I've offered them. They're always very keen on the next strip down the paddock when I move the tape at each end of the day.

812 and her daughter

812 and her daughter 932...

213 and her mother

... and 183 and her daughter, 213, also needed to be separated for weaning.

This photo is a little fuzzy because my subject moved.

I brought the four of them out of Flat 1 and put the two cows in the little area by the yards and their daughters went into the House paddock. They will share the water trough and be able to touch each other through the steel gate.

the house-cow mob in the Pig paddock

Zella's and Glia's calves will be separated this evening as usual and we won't put them back together in the morning, so for them, tonight will be normal.

Little mother hen came to the end of her life this evening, by humane means. She was ailing last winter, then rallied and continued her contented life with her daughters but in the last few weeks she's been looking increasingly unwell. Today I looked at her and saw that the balance had definitely shifted from any pleasure in being alive to waiting to die. I'm not sure how old she was but she's been hatching eggs for us for years. She was definitely hatching eggs in 2014 (and the goslings later that year), so must have been at least ten years old.

Tuesday the 5th
disappointed cattle

After milking Stephan let the two cows wander up along the lane and the calves went into the House paddock, much to their anxious consternation. I feel so sorry for them. Weaning is a management necessity.

If we kept fewer cows, maybe they could stay together ... except when the next calf is born, if the cow hasn't managed to stop the previous calf feeding, there's no colostrum for the baby, the baby doesn't get adequately fed and so on. On balance it seems better to manage it all.

fighting calves

There was some fighting, when the two pairs of calves met. Zita and 912 had several set-tos, watched by the big steer, who looked like he'd like to help but didn't want to get in the middle of it all.

Wednesday the 6th

We had heavy rain after midnight, nearly 100mm in the gauge this morning, causing a reasonably sizeable flood. I don't like overnight floods, when we have no way of easily seeing what's going on. In winter, with the windows closed it's also hard to hear if the water starts getting loud because it's rising quickly or overflowing the stream banks. But having gone out to make sure there was nothing lying around in the way of any flood waters, I went to bed, hoping all would be well.

murky pond

The pond looks very much like the stream came through it to some degree - fortunately not as high as it sometimes has, or the deck chairs wouldn't still be sitting there!

evidence of high water

It was a reasonably high flood to come across here, evidenced by the flattened grass and debris.

the natural bridge near the Bush Flat

I wanted to check on the cattle in the Big Back North paddock and so went around to the flood bridge near the Bush Flat.

Those living roots should continue providing a safe path over the water for some time. The stream, where the track crosses it, runs too deep and fast to cross.

another view of the populated Bush Flat Pūriri

Here's that Pūriri in the Bush Flat, which I photographed two weeks ago, this time from the other side.

weaning cows in Flat 5

A disgruntled Endberly! I set up a tape across 5c (in the background) and tried to draft the four young, thin cows into that paddock but Endberly and 166 kept pushing through to the front. So I went and did things the other way around, drafting Endberly and 166 into this little patch of ungrazed green in 5d, then called the young cows across to the gate and put them through into 5c. Then I took the tape around these two cows away.

One of the management divisions for winter grazing is by age, because mature cows are more robust than young ones, particularly young ones who first calved as two-year-olds and are still needing to catch up. Mature cows like Endberly (she's nearly 11!) and 166 (nearly 6) will survive the winter adequately on the younger cattle's left-overs.

more water than there should be on the track

When there's heavy rain, water wells up in the middle of the track between the PW and the Frog. I'd previously marked it with that white standard, thinking that we'll need to pay attention to anything odd in the soil when we re-dig the drain - or indeed dig another drain along the other side of the track from that point. But today no marker was necessary as there was a small stream running down the track as we drove out here.

Stephan came back out with a shovel and did some drain deepening on the up side but it made no difference to how much water was welling up. I don't know what we'll do about it.

two sad calves

Why have you done this to us?

Glia's calf, in particular, is very unhappy about the separation from his mother. It's not as though he needs her milk now (at nearly nine months old) but they're obviously very firmly connected emotionally. I had thought that the worst separation for him would be from Zita, so we arranged not to disrupt their relationship; but he cannot stay with his mother.

Thursday the 7th
cows coming out of Flat 1's gateway

Zella and Glia are standing further along the lane in this picture, behind another spring gate. There's enough to eat in the lanes, probably a bit more than Glia ought to have as she stops making milk but Zella needs to keep eating as she's not drying off just yet.

I brought the 23 cows out of Flat 1 when the rain had stopped for a while, putting 21 of them into Mushroom 1. I stopped Dushi 170 and Fancy 188 and made them wait in the lane while I got Endberly and 166 (who's 188's mother) out of 5d, to go in with the other cows.

Then the two younger cows went across 5d to graze a strip of 5b, as overnight neighbours of the other young cows in 5c.

Friday the 8th

I was supposed to go and have a routine mammogram this morning but the river was over the bridge, so I've postponed the appointment. Too often in the news are stories of people who attempt to drive across flooded fords (which is essentially what our bridge becomes when the stream is high) and get washed away and found later, drowned in their submerged vehicles. Sideways water can exert surprising force and if you start going away with it, there's nothing you can do. I'd hate to experience that awful moment of panicked regret. So we have a rule for ourselves about how much water can be over the bridge before it becomes a no-go proposition. Ankle-deep is ok; knee-deep is not.

some of the weaners meeting the new four

I moved the four calves from the House paddock to the Windmill this morning, after letting Zella and Glia wander along the lane a little. Glia and her calf are still calling for each other.

Then I went and brought the other weaners into the other end of the paddock and watched them all becoming acquainted with each other. (Fortunately I'd brought the umbrella.)

The two pregnant R3 heifers are still in with the calves.

lots of water fowl on the flats

There are ducks, many ducks, sitting around in Flat 2. It's lovely to see the Pūtangitangi back after thinking we'd lost so many in recent years.

quietly mixing cattle

I took the tape out of 5c for the four young cows and then let the other two join them. Hopefully they'd had enough time near each other through the fence last night. Fresh grass will distract them as they get used to being together now.

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