Rants and raves – Graham Smith

GS 4X4 Tour1

Hi all. As usual at this time of year, the emphasis is on setting up for next year.

For me that means using grass silage to lengthen the round from 36 to 72 days. The girls are still putting in the effort, but you can tell they are looking forward to a rest. They are currently producing 1 kg MS, after empties and culls have been sold.

Lime has been applied to the whole farm at 2 tonne/ha, and SustaiN is now going on at 70 kg to keep the cover going into winter.

As you read in the last blog, we featured on Country Calendar and this has put pressure on my timber business. Following the programme, I had 170,000 hits on my website. Business has been booming ever since, and I have had to increase the throughput of timber fourfold. I have had numerous offers of trees to buy, of people wishing to grow timber for me, and of course sales have increased because people know about Paulownia now. There have been more visitors to see the operation on farm and I have many new friends.

I said I would talk about the growing of Paulownia in this issue, but events have overtaken me a little. So instead I am going to have a rant and a rave.

First the rant. Some time ago we all became aware that we could claim our fuel tax back, and there are companies out there to do it for us. I contracted one of those companies, they duly delivered and every three months I received some cash back. Great!

Then, out of the blue, I received an email saying they were increasing my fee structure because I don’t use enough fuel. They already took a percentage commission, but on top of this they felt it necessary to take what worked out to be about 20% of the refund I got after their commission. My fuel usage was about 200 litres a quarter. Not a lot, but then this is not a big farm.

They, of course, were depending on inertia. That is, I wouldn’t be bothered to do anything about this because I was too busy, or not confident enough to do it myself. Their effort to earn the commission was little once I was in their database, and if you think about big fuel users their share of the commission must be pretty good for the same amount of work. Anyway I saw red, and googled up NZTA, eyeballed the forms, and decided that I would do it myself. My first payment is on the way, NZTA were very helpful, and I make more money. Of course this made me think about insurance, so after investigation I changed companies. Then I did the same with the power company and presto! Saved enough for a holiday!!!

So, bugger inertia, have a close look at things you have let slide, you never know where it may get you.

Now the rave. We took a four wheel drive holiday with NZ Adventures in the South Island, seven days through the central high country. Fabulous views, learnt some new skills with a four wheel drive vehicle, and met some great people. We were well looked after, getting very well fed and very good accommodation. The mountains and their management were a revelation and it was interesting to meet the farmers who were running these big stations. Safety was paramount, and although some of the farm tracks were rugged there were no mishaps, which was a credit to how the trek was managed. Erosion, hieracium, matagouri and rabbits were in evidence everywhere. Some erosion was natural, but quite a bit was man-induced, and it was noticeable that retired areas were making a good comeback from the ravages of stock and man. Apparently, a lot of this country was covered in beech forest originally, but it was rare to see any on the trip, and the only growth that beat the conditions was wilding pines. Makes one wonder if the current thrust to plant trees should be directed at this fragile land.

The tour ended in Wanaka, just in time for Warbirds over Wanaka. We saw two days of old planes re-enacting their glory days. It was truly amazing to see these planes still flying, and we enjoyed it immensely. We also took the opportunity to look up old friends in both islands as we passed through.

After a couple of weeks away I was pleased to be home, if only to catch up with all the deferred work!

GS 4X4 Tour2

Photo credit: thanks to Tess Smith, Te Awamutu Camera Club.

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