A disadvantage of living on a hobby (any?) farm

Regular readers know how much I love living on the Rock Farm. I find great joy in the raising of livestock, planting of trees and improving the amenity and functionality of our farm. Through the pandemic, we have considered ourselves extremely fortunate to be custodians of this 100 acres of farmland. We have used the isolation periods to get some projects done, spent hours walking around the paddocks and even gone on camping ‘holidays’ in the back paddock. These adventures have been wonderful, and no doubt my friends in the city have looked enviously at our relative freedoms. However before you all rush out and join the hill-change, it is fair to warn you living on a hobby far does have one significant drawback.

The recent school holidays brought this disadvantage into sharp focus. It can be hard to leave – for even a few days.

With travel restrictions easing across most of the country, we were determined to head north and catch up with some of our family during the school break. We had a limited window of opportunity in the second half of January to get away for a week…. but the planning for our break away started much earlier than that.

Livestock have an uncanny ability to know when you are not around. Being a shift-worker we recently changed from a two day / two night pattern to an alternating arrangement with blocks of three day shifts and two nights. And the cattle sensed the change too. For some reason, on my third day shift, the wheels come off on the Rock Farm.

It is always on the third day that the water trough leaks, or a calf gets through a fence, or the bull gets in with the neighbour’s cattle…. or any other myriad of crisis that require intervention. And it is not just cattle. It can be that the pump stops working meaning the toilets in the house won’t flush – and by default the cattle run out of water. Or the car starts making a new noise, or a chook gets sick, or a branch falls on a fence – or a road. I think you get the picture.

This gives you some idea about the things going through my head contemplating heading away for a good week and a half. It required military level planning – and generous neighbours.

Thankfully we are blessed with wonderful neighbours, who offered to take Sapphire – our almost useful dog – in and treat her as one of their own. Our neighbours also kindly agreed to feed and water our hens during our absence.

But it was the cattle that needed the most thought. They needed to be in a paddock with good water, good fences and good feed. And this was the problem. I had such a paddock, in reserve since September for just this purpose. The only problem was that we had also planted around 130 trees in the paddock, and they required a tree guard to protect them.

You may recall in my last post that we had started building a fence to protect our one hectare native habitat reserve…. Well that was in the same paddock I was reserving for our trip – and it needed to be finished.

One solid days work with all four of us working had the star pickets hammered home, with wire strung and mesh clipped on. The new fence looked great. The next day I spent restoring the defunct electric fence system to operational – and the paddock was ready. Just in time.

With good water in the paddock we weren’t relying on our temperamental electric pump to supply a water trough. The Not-So-Smart helper proved the electric fence was operating with his hand. I also hoped there was enough feed to keep the cattle safe and happy until our return.

And they were – but they mobbed me on our return, bellowing and asking to be moved to a new paddock, which I obliged. 30 seconds later the pandemonium was over…

Our holiday was well worth the efforts to get away. We caught up with family and friends, swam in the surf and even braved the crowds at Wet’n’Wild. It was important to remind us how much we love a good road trip.

It also provided a new issue to contemplate. How to set the property up for super low maintenance such that a keen teenage neighbour could keep an eye on it for some pocket money.

If we solve that problem, we will have the best of both worlds. We will be able to live in a truely beautiful place, without it becoming a burden. We will let you know how it turns out.

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