South Canterbury’s Andrew Steven is no champion of smartphones, but he has got hooked on the blogs he’s found.

AS I WATCHED MY FIRST CELL phone descend to the bottom of a 20,000 litre water tank, I knew I was never going to have a good relationship with them. I have long since given up carrying a phone.

I watch as other farmers have their lives ruled by a device and I think, how did they cope before phones and is their quality of life better for having one in their pocket at all times?

I like to tell a story from before smartphones. I was a young man in Canada and just embarked on my OE. I was sitting in a bus station café, feeling a bit lost and lonely and killing time with a bottomless coffee and a smoke.

A bloke walked in and he looked familiar, like I should know him. Eye contact was made and he came over to say hello. Turned out that his girlfriend came from Timaru. A contact and friendship was made – the joys of travelling. The point of the story being that nowadays, people are head-down and engaged with their devices. There is zero chance of eye contact and ironically they’re more lonely than ever.

While I don’t carry a device, I do borrow Vicky’s and enjoy reclining on the couch checking Facebook and also a new vice: reading blogs.

Chris Trotter is well known and writes very insightfully and well. Karl du Fresne is excellent and often a breath of fresh air. Martyn Bradbury is a raving lefty, sometimes vile, but his best role is the excoriation he delivers to the woke. I do read some others also – we cannot rely on main stream media to keep us informed.

These three bloggers share a common value: a commitment to the principles of free speech as being fundamental for the proper functioning of a liberal democracy. If somebody is offended, so what?

Meanwhile, farming just carries on.

An autumn highlight for me was to become Andrew the apple picker. The local orchard was desperate for help and a message came via Fed Farmers looking for labour.

I spent a week on the job and thoroughly enjoyed it. The pleasure was working together with a diverse group of people. Quite a few had lost better-paying jobs because they were anti-vaxers. The political classes might have demonised them, but they were good company. I was impressed by the efforts of two guys in their 70s. I was less impressed by the young man who regularly picked less than the woman who was 62 years old.

Another highlight was a party of 13 people, mostly farming types, crossing the main divide at the head of the Rangitata river and then rafting out the Perth/Whataroa river to the West Coast. We headed off in the face of a dodgy forecast and spent our first night in tents at about 5000 feet (about 1500 metres).

The weather came in and the wind roared all night, the tents flapping and one blowing away. There was very little sleep and we had to retreat down for a day until things improved. It may seem strange to readers, but that was great fun. The rafting section was in the hands of very competent guides and a day on a serious river. It was my first time rafting and great fun.

My new hero [ine] is Nadia Lim for advocating a positive story about farming and our products.