It’s 6.30 am, a quiet, relaxed morning, 24 degrees on a cloudless day, with the promise of the temperature rising to the low 30s. No sound of cows, dogs, milking machines, or magpies, although I do hear the quiet humming of air-con units and the sound of waves lapping onto the shore. Yes, this blog is coming to you from a different part of the world, namely the beautiful Sofitel Resort on Denarau Island, Fiji. So bula, bula! You may wonder why I am writing my blog from a slice of paradise such as this? Well, the fact is that I finished my book, I’ve had a swim, Bev’s still asleep, and it’s too early to go to the bar….
As we only had short stints away over the summer I thought it may be appropriate to book a week away in late April for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this week coincided with a significant wedding anniversary for Bev and I, so the timing for that was spot on, and secondly, it would be getting cooler back home at this time, so a week of sunshine would be good for body and soul, although as it turns out, maybe not so good for body as the sun’s rays penetrated every layer of sunblock that was applied.
It has certainly been great to get away to such a slice of paradise – made all the more exciting, and daunting to be fair, by the fact that Bev didn’t know where we were going until we got to the airport. Lots of deceit and laying false trails led to a suspense packed few weeks before departure as I attempted to keep the surprise alive right till the very end. Fortunately, it worked, although it did cause some difficulties for Bev on arrival…. I mean when I told her to pack for any eventuality, I think she deduced that Taupo, Queenstown, or by the looks of it, even Scott Base, might have been the destination. Shoes, boots, coats, jackets; yep plenty of winter attire was in the suitcase, but unfortunately not too much appropriate clothing for 30 deg days! I think she felt quite smug when we pulled into the domestic terminal in Auckland as that confirmed the likelihood of Queenstown as the destination, however that was short-lived as we carried on driving and headed to the international terminal.
However, all this deceit comes at a cost, the first destination after unpacking the bags at the resort were the Tapoo and Jack’s department stores in Nadi to purchase some summer clothes! Now, this may seem logical, but the other half of the plan of lies and deceit was the fact that the kids were coming over two days later and I had them all sorted to bring some summer clothes. But I couldn’t let on!! Oh, the anguish, I was torn, do I give up on the surprise and save some money, or do I carry through with it and support the local economy by allowing my wife to purchase summer clothing? In the end I decided to ride it out and try and limit the number of items that she purchased. Well, have you ever taken a kid to a candy store just to look?? Need I say more?? The second surprise went as planned, the kids and friends turned up two days later and crept into our room as we sat on the porch and gave Bev the biggest fright of all. Unfortunately, the baby got a big fright too when they all shouted “surprise” and I got quite a beating as well, resulting in a nappy change needed and having to book in for a massage and a facial to try and recover…..the nappy change was for the baby, just to clarify!!
Anyway, um right, um farming….the sugar cane crops look good and the maize is all off. Stocking rates here appear to be about 3 hectares to the cow and average covers are in the vicinity of 4500 kg DM/ha. Annual production can’t be too good as we are eating Kapiti cheese and NZ Natural icecream.
As for on the farm back home, all was well when I left, new grass was up, rotation was out to 40 days, cows were in great condition, and the river flats had reappeared after the flooding. Sam has kept in touch during the last week with mixed news including: a dead cow on Tuesday, undersowing on Wednesday, a dead calf on Thursday, some culls gone on Friday, and a burst tractor radiator hose on Saturday. I’m not sure if I wanted to know all those things!! I guess he was thinking about keeping a safe distance when sharing the not so good news.
The positive is that a holiday of this nature costs a wee bit more than a weekend at Whangamata, so it’s nice to see a little more flexibility in the overdraft in order to have some quality time away. So, for those of you who out of necessity in the big downturn have minimised your time off farm, good on you, but I do thoroughly recommend you put some time off on the agenda as soon as you are able.
I’m now looking forward to getting back into the daily routine back home, having re-energised and re-evaluated all the good things we have in Godzone. The blessings we enjoy in our country became way more obvious after a visit to a Fijian local who lost his whole house and few meager possessions in cyclone Winston last year. His new “house” is made from materials he scavenged from the rubbish dump…bits of iron, plywood and carpet, and is around 10 m2. The likelihood of him building something more substantial in the near future look remote, as he earns just $2.50 per hour. However, together with his wife and daughter, they are happy and content. They say they could be worse off! I guess this highlights to me once more that even though we go through tough times, there are always many that are worse off.
Time for breakfast, here’s to a warm, dry-ish May. Back home for us soon.
Look out for Blood Brothers, the stage show starting in Te Awamutu on May 6th. Should be a goodie!