Taumarunui farmer and Whanganui River tour guide Robert Carter finds some silver linings in his ‘splendid isolation’.

Recently I found myself speaking with Brian Crump on Radio New Zealand about being in what they termed “splendid isolation”.

I found the title a little privileged bearing in mind the privations and intolerable conditions borne by others particularly in urban situations.

However, on reflection, I thought that being in isolation for a contagion is best served in a rural setting, as in many ways nothing has changed at all except to say that we appear to be appreciated once again, as we provide food for the masses.

Yes, it has been a ‘splendid isolation’ but that has always been the case living in the wilds of the Whanganui river.

We have had to put some controls in place as our daughter-in-law is a frontline health worker.

Upon arrival at The Poplars Farm after work we simply put her through the spray dip with a good mixture of Virkon and Diazinon added, she now is possibly the cleanest woman in Aotearoa.

We did heat the water, though, even though she is Canadian and used to the cold. Our son also reports that there has been very little fly strike in his house this year too. I have to note here that perhaps some readers may like to take my writing with a grain of salt. We have been lucky in other ways too. Our tourism business has halted, (not lucky) but there have been some silver linings in that cloud.

One is that we have acquired Dan the Pleasant Peasant Fencer, he’s joined our bubble. Dan is normally a tour guide driving busloads of tourists all over New Zealand. Being sort of ‘no fixed abode’ we’ve now got another son and he’s super capable and so our fencing programme is now well ahead of what we may have done alone. Travis has had us all going hard on tracking, fence lines as well as new grass and fertiliser.

I have to pay tribute to our local farm supply stores, too. They have been solid in their support and nothing has been a problem, so take a bow Farmlands, PDC Barn and PGG Wrightson in Taumarunui.

There was a small delight for me, in this modern day of plastic this and that when I went on a search for post staples. Cliff and John at PDC barn had plenty and they were in wooden boxes too!

I hope this is a sign of a return to the good old days when things were packed in cardboard or wood. (I remember all our shearing gear being carted from shed to shed in modified wooden nail boxes instead of the now-common 20 litre pails).

One thing I found weird, was driving a truck through Taumarunui carting fertiliser, in the middle of a weekday and the main street was quite empty.

That was contrasted by day one of level three when I saw the Macca’s drive-in, totally blocked by traffic.

The next contrast has been the short supply of Perfit-Seal preserving jar seals. For years Suzanne has preserved fruit at this time, and now the lockdown has seen a resurgence of this old skill. We thought we had the monopoly on purchasing seals but even millennials and ‘gen Xers’ are into it. This is good stuff!

Notable also was the short supply of flour and yeast for a while, caused again by folk returning to the old skills we’ve always employed.

I read the commentary about the lockdown in various media, potential witch hunts being started by various politicians around the dilemmas faced: Health outcomes versus economic activity. I would not have liked to be the Government at this time and despite the beauty of hindsight, they have done the right things, in my view.

Civil defence, police, fire and emergency have also been stand-out in their service to our community.

I also note and admire how our local Iwi organisations have stepped up in their delivery of manakitanga and whanaungatanga. They’ve been true to putting care of people and family before anything else and that fits with our rural way completely. My last word goes to the local food suppliers, they’ve seen the best and worst of human behaviour but remained organised and kept things going despite the difficulties.

(I’m not going to mention the drought except to say it’s been bloody tough to endure on top of everything else).

Kia kaha me kia manawanui Aotearoa,

Be strong and be steadfast New Zealand. Taku aroha ki a koutou.

Love to you all.