A woman’s best laid plans

Suzi Corboy and her husband Peter recently made plans to mark their silver wedding anniversary away from Owaka Valley. Sadly it didn't quite go to plan.

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Suzi Corboy and her husband Peter recently made plans to mark their silver wedding anniversary away from Owaka Valley. Sadly it didn’t quite go to plan.

Over half way through 2021 already, and it has been a year of celebrating milestones on both sides of the family. Our parents have reached 70, 80 and 85 years of age, Paul’s parents were married 60 years ago and we recently celebrated 25 years of marriage.

Paul and I are very poor at making time for ourselves, and very rarely take a day off together to go and do something non-farming related, which I am not proud to admit. Our excuse is usually we have too much to do on the farm, or if we do have most of a day off we stay at home as we are too tired to go anywhere. I know that the most important thing on the farm is ourselves, and we need to look after our mental and physical health, but, like so many farmers, we don’t put enough importance on making this happen.

Anyway, back to our silver wedding anniversary in June. We had made plans, fortunately, or unfortunately, whichever way you look at it, these were only vague plans. Rush around in the morning shifting break fences for cattle on swedes, maybe give the ewes another break on swedes, the fences would be up so a quick job, then drive to Dunedin (about an hour and a half away), having lunch on the way or when we got there depending on timing. The afternoon would be the movies, botanic gardens, museum or whatever we wanted to do, then dinner and home. We did consider staying the night in Dunedin, but decided our own bed was probably more comfortable, and we would have to be up early to get home to feed animals anyway.

Like all great plans, nothing went right. I, for some stupid reason, agreed to do an extra day of work at my ambulance job on the day prior to our anniversary, and that day turned out to be the worst weather of the winter so far. Hail, sleet and snow lying all over the farm by evening.

Paul didn’t manage to get as much done as he planned, so before we even got up things didn’t look promising for a day away. The reality was we worked on the farm all the day of our anniversary, not getting in until after dark. As a compromise we went out for a lovely dinner to Kaka Point. Maybe next year? 25 plus one. Unfortunately this epitomises our 25 years of farming, putting the farm before ourselves far too often, successful farmers, but worn out physically and mentally before we actually enjoy the money we have made.

“Don’t be like Suzie and Paul, have time off farm yourselves this winter.”

It has not been the easiest year to farm in the Owaka Valley. I don’t remember summer, so I presume it didn’t arrive. Autumn was dry, so we had very little grass going into winter, then the wet weather arrived in June when we were trying to transition cattle onto swede crops. This equals mud, unhappy farmers seeing their animals in mud and getting stuck trying to put straw into bale feeders using the motorbike trailer. Consequently, I got four new tyres on my four wheeler last week.

The problems I wrote about in my last article with getting cattle killed from March onwards didn’t help with grass covers going into winter. It was a slow process, with long waits for processing space, but eventually we got them all killed, with a sudden rush at the end, getting space for 68 in one week.

Thankfully, we have some of our best ever swede crops this year. We now have about 2000 ewes and 450 cattle on swedes, and 500 ewe hoggets on grass, all behind break fences, so with daily shifts for the cattle fences and ewes on three to four day shifts we have lots of temporary fencing to do for the next two months. Sheep scanning will be done by the time this is published, and there is no shortage of maintenance work needed on the farm. So we won’t be having many of those days off together in the next few months either. Don’t be like Suzie and Paul, have time off farm yourselves this winter.