The remnants of the grass are crunching under our feet, the leaves are drooping on the trees, the dust covers everything and the relentless wind is dry and smokey.
Our cows spend their days in the shade of the laneway – no longer out grazing on fresh pasture each day; there is none. They feed on hay instead – a large bale each day. They don’t seem to mind – at least they don’t need to walk up and down the hills in this heat – conserving their energy to continually swing their tails and keep the flies away. They don’t like the smoke and we don’t know what the herd health implications will be. No one does.
Our Dairy Paddocks are locked up now. Nothing will graze them until summer ends. We’ll put what recycled water we can on them and maintain them as best we can. We’re hopeful that by letting the ground cover grow – spreading waste water and manure on them, not grazing or slashing them – we might retain soil moisture and preserve the root system. We’re asking less of our herd – they’re giving less milk, we’ve moved to once a day milking on Sundays – and we’ve timed it so no cows are due to calve over summer. It will be a hard few months for everyone.
Nothing will really help now – except time and rain.
Our country is parched. It is parched and burnt and burning. As we sit with fire to the North, South and West of us – with a state of emergency declared – we’re thankful that, at least for now, we’re out of harms way.
We wanted to ‘achieve’ more this year but have found ourselves retracing our steps, reconfiguring infrastructure, improving efficiency. Things we’ve taken for granted – like water and power – have demanded to be re-thought. We have spent months nutting out details of how best to manage these resources – talking to experts and chasing grants – researching how to do it smarter.
We fully intended to have milk in glass bottles by now – But the power and the water need to be sorted first.
We wanted the factory and maturation silos completed by now – But the power and the water need to be sorted first.
We’re in a vulnerable state of transition where every single decision seems vitally important – with multiple layers of complications and implications. That mental load – alongside the physical load – is taking its toll. It’s tedious and complicated and just as we think we get on top of it, something else happens; a compressor overheats, a pump breaks, things need to be replaced or changed or started again.
And of course – our children are growing fast, with one finishing her first year at school, one taking glorious days spent hanging upside down or painting endless pictures and the youngest who learnt to run before she could walk. We’ve had to re-learn just how much time a delightful – albeit teething – toddler demands. We’ve already started to field questions about why Daddy works so much (yes, even on his birthday or Christmas) and their understanding is still tempered with disappointment when we can’t make events or parties or when plans get changed or broken. They adapt so well and yet we still feel the pressure of parental guilt as the farm demands our attention with increasing urgency.
We are getting there. Progress is being made, however slow it may seem.
We have transitioned away from industrial farming over the last 6 years and have been learning so much about holistic farm management. We have incredible people helping us, educating us, and supporting us to change the fate of our land. We have plans and resources and our knowledge is growing daily. We’ve had two incredible opportunities this year – with Kel heading over to the UK to learn from Jonny Crickmore and Slowfood Saddleback sending me to Italy to attend the 4 day event – ‘Cheese’. Both hugely beneficial in term of content and learning but also in the physical sense of being ‘off farm’ – being inspired by others and returning home with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence.
We have a long dry summer before us and continuing challenges to face. We not really the thoughts and prayers type – but we do hold onto the unwavering belief that there IS a better way to exist on this planet and that the mindful regeneration of land is crucial. It’s knowing that on our own we can achieve very little but when many people come together to incite change there is so much hope for our future. We have many exciting things happening in 2020 but for now we’re due a little break. If you don’t hear from us for a few weeks – we’re still here – just grinding our way through this drought and taking a breather when possible.
I’ll take this opportunity to thank you all for the support this year and wish you a very Merry Christmas. Every time you tell us our cheese doesn’t suck, or you love our gelato – you really make our whole day.