Spring always seems to be a triumph of fertility over atmospheric inclemency. It’s an annual marvel. Increasing day-length gathers momentum through the solstice and although wintry weather may be reluctant to concede ground, new life is an unstoppable force. So although we may end September with snow over lambing pastures in the south, and jacket-hugging gales up north, the sheer ebullience of the new farming year still puts a spring in my step.
Up here we have snows of our own as pastures shimmer under the chalky haze of daisies, like a million stars scattered across an emerald ocean. In the restored bush, drifts of native clematis drape luxuriantly through the branches like wedding bouquets. And, of course, lambs gambol through the paddocks like snowy pups at play.
It’s been an early lambing and they’re growing well so far, in a race to reach good weaning weights before the clutch of the summer dry begins. Maybe with a La Niña summer on the cards, we might hope for some relief from the unrelenting dry. My lambs have already been shucking off their light winter coats and leaving white speckles on the ground to add to the daisy-snow pastiche. In case you’re wondering, this is normal spring deshabille (state of undress) for my Wiltshire breed, famous for their fabulous meat and ease of care rather than their wool. This gives them a great advantage over their woolly cousins in hot climates, with less work and worry for the farmer.
Speaking of clutches, the hen house is in full swing so that it’s hard to keep up with the yolky goodness. In the bushes the wild birds are hard at lay and on display too – with Tui in cleric’s cravat-warbling voice, paradise shelduck guarding every hillock and kereru performing their aerial dive-bombing displays. We even had the first shining cuckoos blown in with the late September gales, trilling their welcome spring overtures.
It certainly feels “all on” down on the farm, even if the humans are feeling trepidatious at what the rest of this strange year might bring. With climate change and what that means for us all on the land; ongoing impacts of the pandemic and access to markets; and an election in which the needs of the rural sector seem noticeably overlooked; the only certainty is change. Resilience is what we do well out here in the boonies, but with such seismic shifts afoot, being a bit nimble-footed will also serve us well.
A report just out in time for the world leaders summit on biodiversity demonstrates that by conserving the key areas of global biodiversity we’ll also protect the earth’s main carbon stores and prevent climate crisis. On a micro-scale we can also see how that operates on our farms and how it also improves our bottom line and sustainability in business. So yeah, with spring in full swing, it’s a good time to dust off those predator traps and get out there on the trap lines. Also good timing for reviewing how we build our soil humus and biodiversity, try to keep our covers longer, and avoid pugging damage. Whatever the question, healthy soils are the answer.