The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 8th of January 2022.
Saturday the 8th
feral pig damage to my pasture

Look what that big pig did to my pasture!

jars of preserved peaches

Lovely peaches!

If you're not familiar with preserving in Agee jars, don't be concerned by the rusty appearance of the green bit, it's only the ring that holds the seal on until the jar is cold, then it is removed and washed for reuse next time.

the little sick calf can run!

921, on the left, running! That's a sure sign of feeling better and having enough blood in her body to move quickly. When she stopped she seemed to be only breathing normally, not falling down in a fatal collapse.

Then they both ran back across the paddock again.


Trying out the new camera, to see if I can detect any difference in quality.

I'd climbed to the ridge between the Big Back North and the Small Hill and looked back to the back boundary. The mist in the distance and the silvery appearance of the foreground Tōtara leaves, were due to some rain in the middle of the day.

I was spotting Pūriri trees: the one in the foreground with the dead central branches, and three in the distance, one down to the left in the same sort of green as this one, then two rounded canopies up the hill.

This evening I went pig hunting and saw no pigs.

Sunday the 9th

Collateral damage: those brown leaves belong to a Tātarāmoa, a Bush Lawyer vine. Stephan didn't notice its trunk when he was pruning that area in preparation for the fence he was about to erect around the little wet area in the Big Back South.

Fortunately Tātarāmoa is very common, although it is sad to see a mature plant accidentally cut off. I think a second stem is still intact, its leaves invisible amongst the rest of the green of the trees.

the Big Back swamp

I thought the swamp worth a bigger picture, for the record. Most of the grass is an exotic species, probably Agrostis stolonifera, creeping bent.

There are also patches of Mexican Devil weed (left centre) but, gradually, other things are beginning to colonise the area, like the patch of rushes coming out from the right side and into the middle, in the top half of the picture. Mānuka, various ferns and tree ferns are becoming visible.

Most exciting is the thought of all the animals (fish, birds) and invertebrates living there, now without the threat of habitat disruption by heavy cattle feet and grazing.

Taraire tree

Still the Taraire tree at the top of the hill is hanging on, replacing its dead grey leaves with healthy, green foliage.

cows and calves coming down the Big Back North track

Having checked around the Big Back South, I walked back down the hill, calling to the cattle in the North paddock.

They came thundering down the track in small groups and I waited for them all to appear before moving them from there to here.

I had a bit of bother because bull 189 was determined that his cows shouldn't go into the new paddock and repeatedly tried to chase them back out into the little lane but eventually I prevailed. One of the cows was coming on heat, so he was trying to keep them all together, away from some imagined other suitor.

bull, cows and calves coming along the lane to the PW gate

Then out the other side to move bull 200's mob from the Back Barn to the PW.

Writing this page, a memory and a feeling struck me: when I was a small child and used to go and stay with my godparents, Marj and Hack Matthews on their dairy farm, I was fascinated by the ford across which everyone, cows, people, machinery, had to cross from where the milking shed was to the places the cows often grazed. Now I cross the streams - or rather the streams cross our "roads" - every day and when on foot, I nearly always stop to look into the water.

Floss having a rain shower

A 2pm shower for Floss, in some rain!

the two hospital calves

This evening I heard 950, Zoom's son, call out; both calves have been entirely silent while they've been ill. He now doesn't look as healthy as 921 has become.

bull, calves and cows in the Middle Back

Most of the mob with bull 200 had come through to the Middle Back by this evening but three of the animals without calves were not there. I opened the gate between the top of the paddock and the PW as well, in case they were at the top of the hill somewhere.

the half-live Pūriri tree in the Middle Back

Here is the half-dead, half-live Pūriri near the top ridge toward the back of the Middle Back.

There is a "tube" of light brown live material snaking down this dead side of the trunk. It connects to a bit of life up in one of the dead branches. Pūriri are amazing.

Monday the 10th
fungus growing out of a possum poo

When I first walked past this I thought it was a feather, except that didn't quite seem right, so I went back for a closer look: it's fungus growing from possum poo.

The air is very warm and humid.

Stephan scratching ticks off Andrew

One of the dodgier photos I've taken of late: Stephan scratching ticks off Andrew's scrotum.

It's unnerving having such a quiet bull. We never completely trust him, just in case and while this does look like a potentially risky activity, Andrew obviously liked the feel of it so much he wasn't going to kick anyone doing it. Mind you, you'd not put your hand there all of a sudden, for a fright would indeed elicit a kick.

an affectionate calf

And another very tame animal, calf 213. Having tame calves is a lovely experience, although I have to be careful about not allowing them to form habits that would become dangerous when they're bigger.

As I scratched ticks from around the base of her tail, she rubbed her nose against my leg.

a suspicious-looking calf

I've been watching this calf, thinking he probably has Theileria. He's slower than the others, so I make sure I check him every day for any sign of deterioration.

a tiny hedgehog

Returning along the Bush Flat lane I found this minute hedgehog.

a tiny hedgehog

Little animals are so pretty but hedgehogs are voracious predators of ground-based creatures, most of which, out here, are native and endangered; so I took it home with me for Stephan to do the necessary.

a tiny beetle

Another little friend I picked up on my travels.

Al having a scratch

A piggy close-up. I try and spend some time each day with Al, scratching him and often he lies down and closes his eyes while I'm doing it.

a logging truck passing our gate

These great trucks have started thundering up (empty, with their trailers carried on the truck) and down the valley again now their holidays have ended. I'm not sure how far away the pines are that they're harvesting but we can sometimes hear the chainsaws in the distance.

The dust from the road drifts across the flats when the wind is blowing that way and there are days there is no point hanging out washing, for it will simply catch all the dust. At least we do not live this close to the road.

tiny flies

The hospital calves and their mothers are out here in the driveway where there's some nice grass in the roundabout.

One of the cows had just deposited this pile of poo and as she walked away, a swarm of these little flies descended.

tiny flies

When disturbed they all fly off but immediately return. I think it is these that swarm around my face when I'm out checking cows for insemination at night, attracted by the torch light.

bull 201 and his little mob

Yearling bull 201 is with 166 and her daughter, 188 and here they were on their way out to the Blackberry paddock.

I put the bull with just two cows so that if I needed to borrow him for Zella and Glia, I could do so. Once I have observed their first matings with him, I'll know which days he definitely needs to be back with them again, should I need to take him away in the mean time.

a big calf and a little calf

These are 226, the big tame daughter of 166, and 211, her niece, the smallest calf in the herd, daughter of 188.

211 is disappointing. Her mother is three years old, and although she's a first time calver, the calf should be better than this.

raupo flower panicle

The Raupō in the big swamp is flowering.

Tuesday the 11th
a bull in the wrong place

Out to check the cattle this morning it took me a moment to work out how on earth that bull got to be there, at the bottom of the PW, yelling across the lane at bull 201 in the Blackberry.

When I shut the cows and calves in the Middle Back yesterday, once the last cows had joined them there, I had forgotten I had opened the top gate as well. I felt very cross with myself, appalled by my ability to entirely forget things; distraction perhaps.

a fortified gate

Bull 200 being a cooperative animal, I began walking him back along Route 356 to the Middle Back; but then I heard a calf call from further up the hill: he wasn't the only animal out of the Middle Back.

So I gave up trying to sort this out, climbed the hill and shut the forgotten gate, then put a tape barrier around the old wooden gate from the PW, so the bull wouldn't push it or think he might just pop over the top.

Then we went off to town for my long-booked booster Covid vaccination. Stephan dropped me off outside the big building, where there was a long queue (walk-in booster vaccinations had just been approved from this week). I popped in to the head of the queue, since I was just in time for my appointment time but on talking to the woman inside the door, was informed that "oh, we're not doing times, your booking just makes sure we've got enough vaccine for you to have one." She said I'd have to go in and wait with the scores of people already inside on spaced-out chairs. She directed me to another woman inside who was of no more assistance.

I was very upset. There's so much nonsense around about people being adversely affected by the vaccination that it's hard not to feel anxious, no matter how willingly one participates in the public-health response to the pandemic. I'd made the appointment a month ago to ensure the process would be smooth and it wasn't. For some reason this vaccination centre had abandoned the appointment system without notice to those who'd booked.

January is a busy time and I hadn't come prepared to wait for two hours in town - both of us had other things we needed to get on with at home; and we've very deliberately been staying out of the way of other people and I did not want to be inside with that many strangers.

Back at home I phoned around until I discovered a helpful response from the pharmacy-based vaccination provider who, on hearing my story, said they would fit me in tomorrow morning and would ensure that my timed appointment with them had meaning.

There are a number of reasons for the delayed publishing of these January pages, mostly to do with there being so many interesting things from which to choose what to do. And it's an unsettled time. Today though, to settle myself in something useful about which I didn't have to think creatively, I set about re-coding a lot of 2010's weekly pages: I keep discovering sections of the website I've not yet re-coded to catch up with changes in technology since I first wrote them.

Old pages are exactly the width I set them to be but they need to be made flexible to fit on different-sized screens, so they're still readable. It probably sounds boring and certainly some if it is repetitive work but I like making things better and the technology still fascinates me.

Al getting into some salt

Al, investigating the bin in which I'd given the hospital calves and their mothers some loose salt. I'm sure someone will suggest that all he needs now is something to smoke and he'll be cured.

cows and calves sitting in the Middle Back

In the evening I went to the Middle Back to see where everyone was and all the cows, calves and the bull were contentedly sitting around on the slopes. I shut them in, properly.

smoke in the air

There's more smoke in the air this evening, from Kaimaumau - I'd not thought to take the photo to remind me, until I was most of the way back along Route 356, so there are the smoky hills behind, through the Kānuka.

a hen in a trap

I bet that was a surprise! Just popped in for a snack on the cat biscuits lying there so temptingly and BANG, the door shut!

After yesterday's noise of the logging trucks travelling up and down the road, today was surprisingly quiet and it was late in the day before our attention was drawn to the quiet and the reason for it: Diggers Valley appeared in the national news for the first time I can ever remember, because the forestry workers had discovered human skeletal remains where they were working and work had consequently been halted while the Police investigated.

Several people emailed and either asked if Stephan was still alive, or if I'd been up to no good.

We never did hear who it was, a Coroner having ruled that the person's name should not be released.

Wednesday the 12th
cows and calves on the PW hillside

Several of bull 189's mob, on the hillside beside the big swamp in the Big Back South.

I love these colours and the warmth of the air I can almost feel when I look at them. And seeing cattle quietly living their lives, happily moving around the environment they know as home.

sun through the trees

I was out early to check cattle, anticipating spending the rest of the day quietly at home after my Covid booster shot.

The sun was filtering through the trees, lighting up the smoke still in the air. The small picture probably loses much of effect of the sunlight in the leaves of the trees.

We took coffee with us to town and I drank mine standing in the shade outside the back of the vaccination pharmacy, waiting a short time for my turn. People who arrived for "walk-in" vaccinations were told they would have to wait as those who arrived for booked appointments were done, which was what I'd expected yesterday. Afterwards we sat in the ute, parked within sight of the door, for the required fifteen minutes, then drove home. Nice and simple.

a tiny pseudoscorpion

Stephan noticed this creature walking around on the newspaper he was reading: it's a pseudoscorpion. It would be scary if it weren't so tiny.

I spent several hours in 2010, continuing to re-code web pages, reading my way through the year as I checked the changes I'd made. I often find reference to events I have entirely forgotten and it's nice to be reminded.

scratching ticks off 716's tail

Stephan wouldn't dare do to that bull what he did to Andrew, but the cows like to have their ticks removed. I delegated everything this afternoon, except taking photos of Stephan doing it all.

cleaning the Small Hill trough

We moved bull 189 and his cows into the Small Hill and then went along to clean out the trough - the sides benefit from scrubbing and the water is often a bit full of algae and in need of refreshing. We're very fortunate in having an endless supply of fresh water. (So saying, I'm very conscious that may not be true forever.)

two boys going out to camp for the night

Wana-i-Rangi wanted to come and stay, so she'd be here in the morning to see Zella being milked, so an overnight camping trip was arranged.

Cousins Kerehoma and Sean wanted to have a different kind of camp, somewhere out on the farm, under a shelter they would build for themselves. Mathew went out with them to help a bit and Wana-i-Rangi went too. That little girl can walk a long way!

the milking audience

After evening milking, Maihi, Sarah and Wana-i-Rangi.

Then after dark, we all went down to the stream between our side and Jane's, to see if we could see and feed some eels. We found some of the pretty fish I'd seen before and the huge eel that we often see under Jane's bridge came down to investigate what we were doing. I managed to get a good look at it as it turned and swam around our feet and after comparison with some pictures of the differences between the short and long-fin species, concluded that it is one of the rarer long-fin eels. Rare elsewhere, common here. They're lovely to stroke too, although nobody else was game to try this evening.

Thursday the 13th
some boys in their bivouac

Sarah and Wana-i-Rangi came out with me for my morning check and we went to see how the boys had set themselves up last night.

While we went on our way around the cows, Mathew got the boys moving, ready for the day's adventure.


When we came back to see how they were getting on, we met them walking out to the back of the farm.

Then Stephan, Mathew, Sarah, Kerehoma, Sean, Maihi and Wana-i-Rangi went off through the back fence, on their way ...


... to the top of Puketutu!

Fortunately it was a much cooler day today than it has been in the last week, because that's quite a climb.

I didn't go, partly because I'm feeling the effects of the vaccination - a very sore arm and some unusual tiredness - and because I don't want to be away all day from checking the cattle. During the first oestrus cycle, I like to check them in the middle of the day, as well as early and late.

Al lying in the shade of his mud wallow

Al, enjoying the shade of his mud wallow.

I enjoyed the afternoon reading a good book.

the walkers return, some not walking

Just over five hours after they left, the walkers arrived back and I picked up those who were no longer conscious and one who looked about to fall asleep.

but not too tired to swim

But the restorative power of water worked its magic and they were soon expending even more energy, racing around the island in the pond.

flowering pond weed

We've been looking at these yellow flowers on the pond for the last few days, but they were always up the other end.

Today the wind had changed and blown the weed back down to where we sit, where I could see them more easily. They're the flowers of the little ... and here is the value for me of writing these pages: I have been thinking the flowers belonged to the triangular (presumed) Azolla pinnata but if that's what those plants are, then they're a fern and ferns don't have flowers. What are they then?

And so another reason why I take so long to get a page finished: I spent an hour trying to work out the answer to this puzzle. I think the flowers are from a separate plant, growing amongst the little floating fern, probably Utricularia gibba, a bladderwort, or possibly the native alternative, Utricularia australis. The native plant is less likely than an exotic, since it is floating around with the other exotic plant. These things all seem to come down the Waikawa stream, from further up Diggers Valley.

the milking audience again

Milking time with an audience, again.

The two bivouac boys had abandoned their independent accommodation and came down to join the rest of the family tonight, in the tent on the lawn.

We went out to see the eels again, this time taking a few eggs as enticement.

Friday the 14th
taking the shed roof off

It being a fine day, Stephan and Mathew set to work taking the leaky roof off the shed that used to be Stephan's workshop.

Most people would probably demolish such a building but we can see use for it; and why remove something that can be altered to suit another purpose? I have in mind our own quarantine centre! Or a sleep-out cum work-room for various pursuits.

a tidying helper

Sarah and the boys went blackberrying but Wana-i-Rangi didn't want to. While this doesn't look like a very happily cooperative face, her attitude was quite cheerful, as she did a small job for me, collecting up all the Taupō pumice and putting it in a box for storage.

I have repeatedly thought to put it away and then it has rained and I've waited for it to dry out again...

ready to replace the iron

By lunchtime all the iron was off the roof, ready for the newer (recycled from someone else's house re-roofing job) iron to go on. Sometimes we buy new stuff but not when there's perfectly good second-hand stuff around.

When that job was finished and Sarah and the children had packed up their tent and all the gear, they all went back to Elizabeth's place, and as they all drove out the front gate, Cathie and Andrew drove in, having been travelling north during the day.

Andrew came out with me for a look around while I checked the cattle.

Stephan milked rather late and came in to tell me that Zella had some evidence of activity with Andrew (the bull), they having spent the day closely together. I dashed out and acquired a sample from some mucous on her rear, then put that under the microscope. The presence of sperm confirms that she's been on heat and hopefully she'll now be in calf.

If you wish to send us a message or comment, feel free to email us.