Dear Aunty Thistledown

Holy hell, everything costs so much these days. Can you give me some pointers on how to add value onfarm without incurring extra costs?

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Holy hell, everything costs so much these days. Can’t hardly fart without someone sending a $1000 invoice. But still, you have to keep on keeping on, don’t you? Nothing else for it. Can you give me some pointers on how to add value onfarm without incurring extra costs?
Thanks, Short of Ideas and Dosh

Dear SID,

A wise person once advised me that “people go broke trying to save money”. I’m not sure how much credence to give to that, since I seem to be going broke no matter what I do. I note that top operators do splash the cash around a fair bit, but I will be damned if I know how they got it in the first place. What came first, the cash or the splash?

However, I did have a eureka moment the other day that has already saved me hours of time and many tears, for the low-low price of $20. I am happy to share it with you, but you must be warned that it is probably not the idea you are looking for. It is mainly about receiving fewer electric shocks in the crotch, which is not everyone’s priority.

The point is that I had an idea. I was able to have the idea because my head was uncharacteristically empty of chores to do and my body was not yet screaming for sleep – and out of nowhere up the damn thing popped. So that is what I recommend you do: declutter your cranium so there is room for new ideas. Adds value and doesn’t cost a thing. It might help to get off farm and mingle with other people and their ideas. I know, I know, everyone says “get off farm”. You are here to farm, but the number one piece of advice seems to be to stop doing it.

Hear me out. What do you have to do to get off farm? That’s right, you have to tidy up all the little hurdles that are “good enough” for you to struggle through on a day-to-day basis, but “bad enough” to cause embarrassment if you had to ask anyone else to do it.

That gate that only opens three quarters and in the wrong direction.

That trough leak that has graduated to a quagmire.

Equipment that only functions when the moon is in Venus.

Maybe you could spend a little time removing the scum that builds up on the surface of life and then not even leave the farm. Just stay there and enjoy the smooth ride you were setting up for the farmsitter.

You may also want to document some of the info that lives in your head, so that you are not the only person on planet Earth who knows where your farm’s valves and switches are and what the dog is supposed to eat. That might boost some processing speed in the old brain box. Basically what I am suggesting is that you spend a bit of time greasing the wheels so that it is quiet enough to hear yourself think.

But let me tell you about my idea, so you can judge if the payoff is even worth it. It was a smart switch for the electric-fence energiser. I can now toggle the electric fence on and off from wherever I please with my phone. Many of you with fancy-pants energisers can already do that, but we couldn’t because we are a family of cheap thistles.

The embarrassing thing is we had already bought a four-pack ($80) of these Kogan smart switches so that we could put a timer on the farm water pump and the child’s electric blanket…and then we got busy and stuck the other two in a drawer without ever considering the electric fence. While the switch costs $20, there needs to be internet at the shed for it to work.

Luckily for us I once dedicated a day’s frustration (and $600 of equipment) to beaming the home internet to the shed. If you have a teenager you may be able to trick them into doing this.

The beaming is done by a couple of Ubiquiti NanoStation doodackies which can talk to each other over many kilometres (line of sight) and you will need a couple of ethernet cables, an extra router and someone who knows what these words mean to sit through a YouTube tutorial. But it’s a great starting point for smart gadgets and security cameras, and watching “what to do if your chainsaw isn’t working” videos in the shed.

Best of luck, Aunty Thistledown

  • Cali Thistledown lives on a farm where all the gates are tied together with baling twine and broken dreams. While she rarely knows what day it is, she has a rolodex of experts to call on to get the info you need. She’s Kiwi agriculture’s agony aunt. Contact our editor if you have a question for her,