Growing crops is a bit like trying to start a family. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you’re getting a baby. And just because you planned your cropping rotation, prepared your paddocks, controlled pests, weeds and diseases, welcomed rain at the right times and geared up the header to strip golden crops that sway in the wind like a Mexican wave, you’re not guaranteed of a good crop yield, good grain quality or a good price.
Maybe it’s a woman thing. Like forgetting the pain of child birth. Because I’d forgotten that last year’s cropping season ended the same way – with the header knocking on the door (or gate in this case) of paddocks containing the first beautiful crops grown after ten years of drought, when four inches of rain fell on one day in November. Low crop types were flattened, some couldn’t be harvested and the lowered quality of much of the remaining grain rendered it unsaleable.
(I guess it is a woman thing. The men around me seem to be able to recall how much rain fell during any year of their farming life or their father’s and at what time during the year it fell.)
Sometimes I know why I live where I live. Other times I wonder. As I write this walking along the road (read on to find out how), I’m looking at those golden crops. I wish I had some Helen-Garner-type-description for them (like ‘Sheep in the shade look like the trees’ soiled skirts.’ How did she use so few words to create such a perfect description?) but I don’t. Between the crop and me is a table drain filled with water after yesterday’s three inches of rain, frogs are croaking and our Labrador is swishing through on her belly like a seal. And the header sits dormant in the paddock where it pulled up with rain spots on a dust-covered windscreen that has since been washed clean.
I get it, the disappointment of rain when you don’t want it (like when you look out the kitchen window and it’s raining on the washing that was almost dry. Except times that by heaps). And I get the part about shattered hopes. The main frustration is the financial loss when rain falls at this time of year.
We’ve heard farmers call themselves eternal optimists, perhaps at times using it to comfort themselves. But it’s a loyal dog that will stay with an owner when it gets beating after beating.
There. I’ve unloaded and managed to turn things around in my head, as writing allows me to do. Combine writing with walking and you’ve got a win-win situation. Add half an hour on my own to do it in and I imagine I’ve just had the hit an alcoholic might get from their first drink.
I’m also reminded of a lesson we learned recently from the passing of an amazing man and the attitude he and his loving family shared:
“The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Viktor E. Frankl (1905 – 1997)
We choose to live here, to farm and to take all that it offers, in challenges, opportunities, rewards and uncertainties. As Elsie’s doctor told us when she was born prematurely, with uncertainty there is hope. We hope we can still harvest this year’s crops, that the rain damage won’t be too bad, that any grain we harvest will sell and that next year will be better (than the last ten).
But more than anything, we are reminded of what’s important in life. And why we live where we live:
And here’s how I can get some fresh air, do some exercise and write a blog entry all at the same time (add a glass of champagne and a row of chocolate and I might nearly have had a glimpse of heaven):