by Dani Darke. Aria, King Country.

I sit here writing this on a beautiful, breezy sunny day. One of the downsides of being a farmer is that I find it difficult to enjoy a good summer like I used to in my past life as a beach-goer and general happy-go-lucky Massey Ag student.

Those were the days when every long hot day was cherished and gins were drunk in the sun. These days as my responsibilities have gone up a notch it’s taken some of the shine off a good summer. I now find myself balancing between being happy that it’s raining (but annoyed we can’t get the boat out), to being annoyed that it’s too sunny (and we have to make each blade of grass go a bit further).

As we head into late spring and eyeing up summer there is a bit of talk of a dry season. I’m just hopeful that if it happens we can take something good from the conditions – like spending time boating with the kids and enjoying the sun, but I’m sure the reality of it won’t be so picturesque.

We have just come to the end of harvesting a small block of trees which has been fun to watch from the deck.

Our normal morning sleep-in has been interrupted at 5am by logging trucks rumbling up the driveway, followed by chainsaws and trees crashing down periodically throughout the day, catching me unawares.

It has made for good entertainment and the loggers are a great bunch of guys.

Our normal morning sleep-in has been interrupted at 5am by logging trucks rumbling up the driveway, followed by chainsaws and trees crashing down periodically throughout the day, catching me unawares.

They happily agreed to cut down three massive old poplars on the driveway, which made me wonder what kind of debacle would have ensued had a ‘townie’ tried to get this job done in Auckland or Wellington –probably a $15,000 exercise.

With our few hectares-worth of log income we are planning to build a new woolshed, new covered yards, new cattle yards, and update about 20km of fencing… dreams are free.

Recently we had the privilege of having a look around Barry Tatham’s farm in Piopio to see the bush blocks and planting he has protected and enhanced for the last 20 plus years. Barry has done some incredible work – a lot of it, he tells us, is just getting the stock out and given time the plants come back themselves.

Blackberry is a big problem around our area, but Barry showed us that once the tress are big enough to shade the blackberry out it disappears.

This has given us the inspiration to put our pine block back into bush rather than replanting into more forestry or the grass option.

I’m not convinced forestry is as good as it is touted to be – harvesting has caused some pretty serious damage to the topsoil, and the never-ending rain through September and October made it near impossible to manage sediment runoff.

We are now trying to work out where in our system we can make changes to  fewer bearings and better production.

Hubby is pretty staunch that our genetics are the most-suited to our environment but I think our environment may be changing as we get our fertility better and our ability to feed them increases.

As an eternal optimist I’m hopeful that we will get the winning formula next year, but it’s a hard lesson for me in patience that we have to wait 12 months to see the results of our system tinkering.

I’m in charge of our primary school’s stock scheme, so I’m presently ringing around farmers asking them to support our school by carrying a beefy for a year.

Every year parents and the community pitch in to host up to 800 people for a weekend for the Aria Two-Day Bike Ride. Regulars from as far as Wellington and Auckland bring their motocross bikes and rip around 150km of tracks through farms in the area. Bikies don’t tend to be mindful not to make a mess on a crossing or in a gateway: they just hit everything at full noise (even the odd strainer post).

It’s a great two-day event though, and raises funds to support our small school and other community facilities.

Lately, I’ve been trying to get our girls to realise how lucky we are living where we do, and getting to call ourselves farmers. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the daggy ewes, bearings and overexcited dogs and I forget how lucky I am.

Growing up in Wellington and always wanting to be a farmer, it takes me just a second to step back and remind myself where I am, and to be grateful that my days are full of fresh air, movement, animals, and sunshine (with the odd bit of rain peppered in for good measure).