Farming life at Middle Rock has taught Charlotte Rietveld a few lessons. One is that it’s one of her years of delivery.

Word from the Prime Minister is that 2019 is the Year of Delivery. I can’t even stifle a smile. Aside from the fact we could be mistaken for thinking last year was the mother of all Beehive deliveries, the cynic in me is having a field day. With the rug-pulling partner she’s gone into business with, you can only wish ’Cinders good luck.

It’s fair to say we all start out in life as fresh-faced idealists, and who would wish it any different. When I think back on my own foray into farming 10 years ago, I recall an over-hyped young bird who had yet to appreciate the delicate balance of matching people, stock, the environment and economics.

In truth, there was very little delicate about yours truly and much to the Chief Inspector’s consternation, certainly no matching going on. As with ’Cinders, mine was rather a last-minute coalition, but that’s quite another story. Those were the days of grand ideas based on a very loose plan, aiming for lofty ideals with little thought to reality. Sound familiar?

I know I must be turning into a cynical old trout when all I have is a scornful smirk for ‘simply not accepting poverty’, a ‘Wellbeing Budget’ or wanting the Government to ‘bring kindness back’. It’s not that I disagree with any of these admirable concepts, it’s more that farming life has taught me a few lessons. One of the most important involves laneways. Races to some, tracks to others, I refer to the farm roads which double as stock routes.

Way back in the early 1970s, The Boss was following a time-honoured rite of passage; completing the practical element of his Lincoln ‘College’ studies. This involved a stint on a dairy farm in the Waikato. It was here that this young sheep farming lad from the hills discovered laneways. On his return home he embarked on what would be a 40-year project – honing a passion for fencing, constructing laneways all across the farm. These days every single paddock on Middle Rock opens on to a laneway, linking the whole farm. I will leave you to infer as you please what this says about the quality of our dog team, my point regards efficiency.

During the very early days of my farming career I was taught to work with wind and weather patterns when moving stock. Instead of opening a gate and mustering sheep using dogs to move them into a new paddock before shutting the gate behind them, The Boss would simply open two gates linked by a laneway and let the sheep move themselves. It’s not exactly rocket science – the next day involves a quick sweep through their old paddock, shutting the gates on the way.

Obviously, there are frequent occasions requiring more careful shepherding but as we all know, laneway use is highly efficient, allowing more time for other activities. Naturally, this efficiency comes at a cost, with occasional stragglers inevitably left behind. For us, these are simply merged into the next mob coming through and eventually separated during their next trip through the yards. This tolerance for less-than-perfect practices is, it appears, a litmus test.

I am slowly discovering what many of you would have known for years –there is a continuum of character types. When talking to fellow farmers about our use of laneways and their consequences, reactions vary from understanding acceptance to outright intolerance. I have translated this into a highly scientific continuum with Purists at one end and Mongrels at the other. In between the perfection-seeking Purists and the utterly shambolic Mongrels sit the well-adjusted Realists where efficiency meets attention to detail and real gains are made.

While my she’ll-be-right attitude has an unfortunate leaning towards the Mongrel end of the spectrum, I am slowly discovering that Purists such as our Prime Minister don’t have it all sorted either. Indeed, life is hard on the Purists. It is seldom easy to live up to perfectionist ideals, let alone when you’re shackled to a political Mongrel. Lofty concepts are commendable, but they must be balanced with some economic realism – we as a country must remain efficient. And so it is that I sit back, cynically awaiting the ‘Year of Delivery’. I am sitting back for good reason. With
#3 babe due mid-winter, delivery is inevitable. Who knows, perhaps the Year of Delivery is ’Cinders telling us she’s heading back down the same laneway.