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When you can't make things right

One characteristic shared by all lifestyle farmers is that we are 'doers'. Farming is not an easy option, it involves hard work, making practical decisions and getting your hands dirty. Sitting back and hoping that things turn out right is not an option.

This is one of the things that makes farming so fulfilling - facing challenges and making things happen. It's also one of the reasons that it's so hard when you feel helpless. Coping with situations that are out of your control can be frustrating and depressing.

Last winter was a wet one for many of us and I'm sure we all looked forward to the arrival of spring. What happened when spring arrived depended on where you were in the country. Sue, a long-time member of LSB is in Levin and her farm went almost straight from a very wet winter to a drought. She posted on the forum about lack of grass growth, having to buy in feed and having to sell animals she had not intended to sell. You can see her posts here and here.

At the same time up here in Northland we had a wet winter followed by a wet spring and a very wet summer. We had grass growth but also goats trying to cope in muddy paddocks and deal with the worst parasite season we've ever had.

Sue couldn't cut hay because she had no grass. We couldn't cut hay because we had no good weather to dry it.

The point is not that the weather was difficult but how it makes you feel. I checked weather forecasts obsessively. I started comparing multiple weather sites, looking for a glimmer of hope. The long term forecasts always offered hope, an end to the rain, but as the promised relief got closer it disappeared - unlike the dark clouds. Waking up in the night and hearing the rain still pounding on the roof was like a physical blow.

It's not that I minded for myself; I have gumboots and wet weather gear. I minded for my animals. The cattle coped well with soggy paddocks but the goats weren't happy. They have large, dry shelters with bark flooring and plenty of balage but it's not the same as being able to roam over large paddocks, choosing the choicest blade of grass or nibbling on young gorse. While the animals tolerated it the barber's pole worms loved it and we've already used more drench this year than in the previous five years combined.

With time, as always, things came right. Sue got rain and we got sun. With the dry weather the goats got their bounce back, literally; they bounced down the hillside and jumped on the rocks just like kids do. I felt like joining them.

King of the castle