Our hens discovered that we’d borrowed their fencer unit for sheep and began adventurously exploring the farm. Hens are incredibly nosey and it’s amusing to witness them being disciplined by proud ewes. Now the lamb posse are running races, the Henriettas risk getting trampled. The evenings are lighter so they’re getting later going back to perch, and it’s harder to remember to shut them up.

The late layer, Henrietta 10, has developed a habit of sleeping around. I warned her it would end in tears, and threatened to paint her tail green, but alas she didn’t heed my advice. Sometimes I was lucky enough to find her sleepout and returned her to the safety of the hen house. But when she was absent for two days I thought the foxes had got her. I was amazed to find her calmly strutting around in our locked, bird and vermin proof grain store. Well, what better place for a hen to sleep? There’s no shortage of food if you’re feeling peckish, but no water supply. Eventually her luck ran out. No fox visits lately, so I assume that Henrietta 10 didn’t taste so good. The nine remaining sensible hens are laying incredibly tasty eggs so I’m reluctant to restrict their freedom.

Why green paint? In New Zealand I noticed that some of the cows had tail paints on and queried it. The herdsman explained that orange meant coming into season, but green warned that they were “naughty.” We experienced milking in a 60 cow rotary parlour. Each rotation took eight minutes, with 850 cows being milked. The cows jostled to get onboard for the ride, and were fed a 1.5 kilogram mix of palm kernels and molasses. Those reluctant to disembark were encouraged with a blast of air or water. I was impressed to hear that the oldest cow was 17 years old.

The herd were mostly Friesian x Jersey with no Holsteins, which were deemed to be too large, eat too much, not hardy enough, and wouldn’t put up with the track walking according to the two young herdsmen. The Fonterra tanker that came to collect the milk weighed a massive 48 tonnes and had capacity to carry 28,000 litres. Fonterra is a farmer owned cooperative. Most of the milk is made into powder which is then exported to China and America. We also helped with milking in a 42 a side herringbone system, 750 cows. Last time we had anything to do with milking, we used a bucket system in a cowshed designed to tie up 18 cows. That shed is now a house!

New Zealand has a ministry for primary industries, and their strategy is to grow and protect this sector for the benefit of all New Zealanders. They claim to focus on success, and strive to help. Wouldn’t it be good if the UK’s government adopted this attitude, one that appreciated those at the start of the chain. I feel that positive vibes are sadly lacking in this country.

The modern obsession with passwords is annoying. I phoned the basic payment scheme helpline because my password stopped working and they were pleasantly helpful. But I did have to temporarily upgrade myself to an agent to have this conversation. I find it frustrating that everything is geared to a third party when dealing with the official paperwork. It gives me the impression that they don’t expect farmers to do it themselves. Ticking the right boxes is more important than we care to admit in this bureaucratic environment. I fervently hope Brexit improves this.

Dealing with livestock is generally preferable to office work. However ‘silly cow’ seems an accurate description of a cow in a 12 acre field, who chooses a calving place tucked under a tree beside a ditch. Luckily for them I happened to be in the adjoining field feeding triplet ewes when I spotted that her backside was precariously close to the ditch. I arrived just as she delivered her bull calf straight into the water. Three feet down, the calf lay upside down in 18 inches of ditch water. I hesitated but realised it was get in or loose it. I managed to get the calf out by effectively cuddling it, wedging it against the bank and then using strength that I don’t usually have to shove it up into the field. We both got cold and muddy.

The cow then decided that I shouldn’t be messing with her calf. She tossed her head warningly and I adjourned to the safety of the mule. Using a damp phone I called the menfolk, who were off farm. I then headed for a change of clothes. By the time they got to the calf it was back in the ditch, standing on wobbly legs. They managed to load the cow and calf and bring them back to the safety of the barn. This calf had an affinity for water as within minutes it had clambered into the water butt. I think the calf might have inherited it’s mother’s IQ.

I’m presently negotiating a tricky deal – a stressful situation for opposing sides concerning the viability and suitability of where to locate a new home. The robin is determined that an appropriate nesting place is under the roof of our Kawasaki mule. I disagreed and removed it. Overnight, robin did a quick rebuild! I’m sure robin and family won’t appreciate doing the daily lookering and walking is not an option. I’ve considered calling Channel 4’s Location Location Location, but in the meantime I’ve placed the nest in a basket tied to the barn stanchion. From here the robins will get a bird’s eye view of our daughter’s wedding celebrations.