The kids are back at school, we can once again spend time with small groups of friends and family, and takeaways can offer a night off cooking. Looking back, we dairy farmers were grateful to be essential workers during Covid-19 Levels 3 and 4, with kids able to roam around the farm and help us out!

With glorious Taranaki weather, and the mountain visible from the dining room window most days, our kids were very motivated to get their home learning tasks done by lunch so they could spend the afternoon outside. Riding their motorbikes around the farm improved their riding skills. Going for on-farm runs and bike rides or playing soccer and rugby on the front lawn kept them physically busy.

I took up running and joined the online fitness group ‘Strong Woman’. Now I take time most days to get in a run or a workout. I never felt I had time pre-Covid to focus on my fitness.

The kids were able and even willing to help us tag heifers, do herd testing and milk, which meant Glen and I could each get a sleep in. Our kids learning to cook tea, do baking and find long-lost items when cleaning out bedrooms was even more helpful! Pulling out my childhood version of Cluedo, bought in the 1980s, and teaching the kids how to play brought back some great memories and made plenty of new ones.

I don’t know that I want to ‘bounce back’ to the pre-Covid rush, rush, rush to different sports, events, and meetings involving needless travel. We have been so satisfied just to spend time on the farm. I don’t think I want to bounce back to trying to find time for farm planning, budgets, herd records or cleaning the office.

I think I want to bounce forward.

I’m not alone in this thinking. Many rural-based people I have spoken to have had the same thoughts. Why travel one hour to New Plymouth for a one-hour meeting then to turn around and travel home for an hour when I can Zoom in and out and gain two hours in the day? Why travel to do grocery shopping when Countdown now deliver seven days a week to rural folk here in South Taranaki? As a nation, I think we have worked out that productivity hasn’t decreased massively for people able to work during Levels 3 and 4. As farmers, with no off-farm staff coming to work, we worked harder in some ways but more enjoyably in others.

Of course things were not always rosy. Doing Year 9 Pythagoras theorem maths activities did not have me in my happy place. Having to remind our four boys to shower and brush their teeth was a daily occurrence and the endless food we had to buy at the supermarket (albeit using online shopping) was mind boggling.

How can I help our farm business and family bounce forward post Covid Levels 3 and 4? I think I’ll focus on resisting the return to rush, rush, rush and look at how I can be present at meetings without the hours and hours of travel. I’ll put time in my week to get farm business planning and admin done without having to feel like I squeeze it in. I’m going to look at our kids’ hobbies and sports and maybe have one or two days a week where no one is allowed to sign up for anything – let it just be a “come home from school and chill out” day.
I’m excited about bouncing forward into the new season here in Taranaki.