Southland farmer Blair Drysdale received a health wake-up call recently not to work so hard.

As autumn sets in, the days draw shorter and the shadows get longer, the workload just increases and doesn’t seem to stop. It’s that time of year when everything is happening at once on an arable farm. Harvest is still ongoing, stubble burns to do, working ground, fertiliser to get on, the start of seeding, some stock work, throw in a substantial shed building project for good measure, several fire calls to attend as a volunteer and there’s barely enough time for sleep. This can catch up on a bloke sometimes. More on that later.

This season has been one out of the box for yields not only on our place, but all around the district with nearly all crops well above average at this point in time. The autumn sown barley, oil seed rape, wheat and hemp is all done with only the spring sown barley left to harvest which also looks particularly good as well. While the hemp harvest wasn’t great, this is the first year I haven’t had one paddock that’s been a complete disaster for quite some time.

The first crop to go back in the ground as soon as the weather allows is the oil seed rape which will be followed by oats, barley and then onto the wheat with some grass seed to finish off, all by the end of April if all goes to plan. The iron disease that inherently comes with arable farming saw us buy a John Deere 750A disc drill, which will speed up the seeding process dramatically with not having to work all the ground first. It is a tool in the toolbox that will, with a bit of learning, get us to a complete no till practice in the near future.

We’ve been lacking a decent shed with fertiliser bays and workshop for a long time now. In late January an old shed was torn down, the site completely cleared, and the build of a six-bay shed began which is on course to be finished by the end of March. I’ve spent a bit more time than I originally thought would be required helping the builders out, but it’s satisfying when you start seeing the progress. Not being able to store bulk fertiliser onfarm has been a major hamstring and cost a lot of time and tractor hours running into the local transport to get product 2.5 ton at a time. Having a decent sized workshop in the main yard will be very handy for this former mechanic.

Sometimes us males think we are bulletproof, forget that we’re not 20 anymore and fail to look after ourselves like we should. Like I said earlier, it can catch up on you. On a hot and windy Sunday morning in late February I jumped in the combine harvester to get cracking on what was going to be a long day harvesting wheat. Only a few minutes into opening up the paddock a weird sensation swept up my chest which tightened a little and I thought I was going to collapse over the steering column. I thought I was having a heart attack.

To cut a long story short, after an ambulance trip to hospital and a lot of electrocardiograms (ECG’s) later it was just extreme dehydration, fatigue and a little bit of stress along with a blood pressure spike all in one hit.

On the plus side, I now know my heart is in perfect working condition and Jody won’t reap the benefits of my life insurance policy just yet. However, in all seriousness, it gave me a hell of a fright after losing a lifelong friend to a heart attack a year ago, not to mention the fright Jody and the kids got. Sometimes we all just need to slow down a bit, drink plenty of water, eat well, get a good night’s sleep and remember that tomorrow is another day and the work isn’t going to run away.

In closing, I really feel for those in the horticulture industry right now that can’t get enough fruit pickers into the country with the fruit rotting on trees, and yet the cast of The Lion King is deemed essential. These are absolutely deplorable antics from our government. It’s a double whammy for those in the Motueka area that lost everything in the tornado and hailstorm recently. Chin up folks and battle on.

Everyone, look after yourselves. We only get one go at this.