Wairarapa farmer Mark Guscott looks back at the weather over the past year and hazards a guess as to what Mother Nature has in store for him this year.

It’s 6am on January 2 and old habits die hard. I’ve never been one for a sleep-in anyway, and the 4.3 earthquake near Upper Hutt that woke me up got me thinking about what Mother Nature has in store for the year ahead. I reckon I know the answer to that. It’ll piss down at some point, hopefully February or March, blow like a bastard from the nor-west sooner or later, but probably when we’ve got the docking gear out and it’ll get so dry that my mate Doug can continue to mock me for being a lizard farmer. Who needs weather forecasting apps when everything is so predictable!!

The Wairarapa enjoyed a pretty good 2020 I have to say. It got a bit dry last summer but nothing like Hawke’s Bay, a nice mild and dry winter and early spring followed by lots of rain in November. Now we’ve got hay paddocks on the side of hills because I followed the rule of ‘no-one regrets an early decision’. No, that’s unfair, I won’t blame Mother Nature, she might be listening and I’d like to stay on her good side. Maybe with all this long grass that will probably get trampled in by my beef cows I can be called a regenerative farmer? The government will love me.

I think I’ve written about my 5% crazy theory here before. This year we had planted a paddock of choi sum, which is an Asian brassica that we were growing for seed production. I can safely say that the Wairarapa slugs, springtails and other critters enjoyed it immensely, even with multiple measures to deter them. The maize in that same paddock is now nearing the top of the fence and I’ll put that idea down to experience and any margin I make out of the maize will cover the cost of choi sum seed and some drilling. Good times on the farm, trying to be market-focused.

We’ve had a slow start to lamb drafting this summer. The November rainfall was 180mm and when history says to expect more like 60mm, the stock didn’t enjoy it much. The lambs are steaming ahead now with a bit of sun on their backs, but it hasn’t been a record season for early lamb tallies on the truck. Conversely, the Friesian bulls did enjoy the extra length to the grass and did well in the rain and we only have about a unit load left which will head off for processing sometime in January. The month of January is often a bit stop-start here with people (me included) coming and going from holidays. We’ll get a bit of farming done like lamb shearing, grass seed harvest, and hopefully we’ll have our lamb numbers down enough to start buying in some more.

We’re heading down south to do the Abel Tasman with the kids in a couple of weeks, which I’m really looking forward to. We love getting into the outdoors and Suz and I are trying to pass on our enthusiasm for it to our kids. We have the same battle as everyone else trying to persuade them that carrying a pack with everything in it for a few days is more enjoyable than watching mindless crap on YouTube or TikTok.

We have this grand idea of doing all the great walks as a family. I don’t know how realistic it is, but might as well give it a nudge. The kids range from 9 to 14 and they’re physically capable of it, we just need to work on the mental capabilities. Fingers crossed for the weather to play ball while we’re on the walk. We will enjoy a few days on the beach at Golden Bay afterwards and I’ll see if the beer in the South Island has improved since I was last there in the winter.

Good health to you all in 2021.