I used to spend all my time and energy looking for perfect waves. Although I still love surfing, my young family and our small farm are constantly changing my life balance… for the better.
Becoming a farmer, not that I can lay claim to this by any means, is a strange path. It is a combination of romanticism, realism and hard work. I have never been great at hard work, especially physical. Farming requires a lot of this. There are commitments and routines, all of which I have had a particular phobia to. Yet I am transitioning. Maybe age is mellowing me but I like it. Hard work contrasts the ‘soft work’ of my day job. There is always something to learn.
It is nice to be able to have a concept and then pursuit it. Between my wife and I, we come up with ideas, like a biodynamic flower farm, then try and make it happen. Then the concept broadens; horses for manure, then to ride. Now cows, miniature cows, miniature cows to breed, miniature cows to breed and milk… and make cheese. The ideas consume us and our finances, like those people building boats in the middle of dry land that may one day get to the ocean, so too do we follow our ideas.
However, what starts as romantic thoughts of the naïve, soon become enlightened with the harsh daylight of reality. Take our plans to have cattle. First the fences needed to be done, then we needed water, then we realized we had weeds that needed clearing, then an area to handle the cattle, then electric fencing to rotationally graze, then a tractor. What starts out simple soon becomes monstrous. Somehow we make it happen, as an older farmer friend told me, “what I don’t do today, I do tomorrow.” In all honesty the significant driving force to get things done is cash- not derived from farming.
I like how cool farming is. You can wear a cowboy hat and drive a ute. Use a chainsaw, drive a digger. Have hay in your car and talk cows and horses. You can use a mattock- a very manly tool that makes you feel like a convict breaking rocks. You can even wear your gumboots to the beach for a surf check, (they make great après ski boots also). There are cool magazines about farming – Modern Farmer mag is for hipsters that actually do something. Horse magazines are mind blowing, so much gear- a six-horse float with kitchen and bedroom included.
One sad consequence of the enlightenment process is that I can no longer look at an open field and see it as a beautiful whole. I see it in parts- the weeds, the condition of the fences, the irrigation system, the pasture type.
After 15 years in the same profession it is very refreshing to learn new skills and do new tasks. I will never be a real farmer, but the insights I get with our small farm help me enjoy other, less obvious pleasures in life than chasing perfect waves. I like to sweat. I like to train a horse. I get gooey seeing a baby calf no bigger than a Labrador, and just as friendly. Plants growing. Rain falling. Rain stopping and sun shining. Simple pleasures.
Note to reader- give me a perfect wave anytime over pulling weeds.
Photography by And the Trees.