Tulips from Balfour

The blaze of colour from a leased block of tulips on Blair Drysdale’s northern Southland farm lifts his spirits in a moist and miserable spring.

Quite often when farmers share their frustrations about the weather in conversation with others, we’re accused of just being a “whinging farmer”. But for farmers and horticulturalists alike among others, it dictates our day-to-day operations, our state of mind and the bottom line result at the end of the financial year.

And this year just like all before it, has had its perils and is no exception. A dull winter with little sun and few frosts, has continued on well into spring with plenty of precipitation, a combination of a lack of equinox winds and little sunshine to dry the soil out, has made it very frustrating trying to get spring barley in the ground here.

October was spent battling average soil conditions with cultivation on the dry days, spraying all the autumn sown cereals with fungicides and growth regulators on the calm days, spreading fertiliser on the breezy days and staring out the window of the ute, workshop, or house in disgust on the wet days of which there was plenty!

Mother nature finally provided five much-needed days in row of sunshine and nor-west winds leading up to Labour Monday and with the help of my ever-reliable father also on a tractor, we managed to get all the ground worked to a seed bed state and got all the young grass and spring barley in the ground which is all now up and going nicely. I must say though that some farmers on heavier soils around our area aren’t so fortunate and are very much still battling the inclement elements.

‘In every negative situation there’s a positive to be found, you just have to find it’. Easier said than done, I know.

October on our farm does, however, provide some gloriously colourful paddocks here, in the form of 25 hectares of flowering tulips which even from a bloke’s perspective is pretty spectacular and lifts the spirits on a dull or wet day. We have nothing to do with the day-to-day management of the tulips, as we simply lease between 20-30ha to the bulb farm next door which provides a very good quarterly cash injection and fits well into our cereal rotation.

Leased colour.

Something I remind myself of quite frequently is that, “In every negative situation there’s a positive to be found, you just have to find it”. Easier said than done, I know. My parents have been shareholders in a whitebait syndicate with two stands on the West Coast for seven or eight years and I’ve never been able to get over there with them.

So, come October 31 I was relatively well on top of the workload onfarm, ideally one block of wheat could have had another fungicide, but it could wait as I still had days up my sleeve from the last spray. The forecast for us was, well…you can work it out and use your own language, because mine is far from printable.

So, I packed my gear, Jody (I’d be stuffed without her) with instructions for the mobs of cattle that needed shifting onfarm, along with our three kids and all her other jobs and buggered off for five days because I wasn’t hanging around here to see more of the same.

The first three days of weather on the coast were nothing short of stunning, shorts and sunscreen stuff. The fishing wasn’t great, the sandflies a right pain in posterior, but spending some time with dad on the stand having a chat, relaxing with a few beers and enjoying the scenery was something I was well overdue to do and I’m so pleased I did. To be a whitebaiter you have to be exceptionally patient and dad is no exception, a trait that failed to be passed on to the same degree!

On day four the weather really packed a sad, full on West Coast-style it did. It’s near impossible to explain to someone what real West Coast rain is like, you really have to experience it. South Westland is insanely beautiful and the rain simply adds to it with the resulting waterfalls, raging rivers and torrential seas showing off the powers of nature.

One day in between tides I was sitting on the beach with mum having a yarn when I spotted a pair of Hectors dolphins. To see them surfing together in the wave side by side, sun shining through it highlighting their perfect symmetry, very cool indeed. I thought to myself then that I just hope my kids and even their children get to see them in the future, we just have to look after our planet to make sure they do.