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Dairy Diary #1

January 19, 2013

After four months of debasing frivolities in New Zealand’s party capital, I decided it was time to leave Queenstown so I could do what I came to New Zealand to do in the first place: work as a Dairy Farmhand.

Even though, on the morning I left, I was nursing a hangover that felt like dysentery would be a favoured alternative, I took comfort in the promise of what the near future may bring. This was a day I had been quietly anticipating since the idea of coming to New Zealand sprouted in my head over a year ago.

Admittedly, leaving Queenstown and all its beautifully enticing appendages, not least of all the South American female backpackers that seemed to be so prevalent, didn’t feel like a natural thing to do at the time, but I knew I needed to experience something more rewardingly wholesome and in fitting with the real New Zealand.

That’s my face….

I managed to get the job through an agricultural recruiting agency on the back of living for a number of years on a small holding in Wales and working as an assistant to my Engineer step father for a couple of summers between university years.

It wasn’t long before I realised I was in over my head. It came as a swift and not all that unanticipated realisation that feeding chickens and twice bailing hay is not an impressive background in farming, and, as anyone with even a paltry familiarity of the working world will admit, is far from enough experience to work for five months on a 900 acre working dairy farm with a herd 700 cows strong. A fact that my boss, Brian, became quickly assured of three minutes into my first day.

“Right, you can ride a two wheeler can’t you?” he said, confirming rather than asking. After deducing that he probably wouldn’t appreciate me admitting I couldn’t, I attempted circumvent the issue by cleverly replying “Uhhhmmm……”. It was early.

This must have only given him the impression that I’d forgotten whether I could or I couldn’t, a curious tactic when talking about riding a bike, but there we are. I attempted to change tack by ostensibly conveying concerned confusion as to where he could have got that idea from, while knowing full well it was from the job agency I had told I could a month before.

“OK, right, you can ride a 4 wheeler can’t you?” he asked, but this time with a tone and a facial expression that suggested only an idiot would say no to that question. I said no. After a short pause, while he came to terms with hiring a cretinous space waster, he half-heartedly asked “Tractor?” I didn’t offer an answer as much as slowly release a defeated breath from my inflated cheeks and raise an eye brow that told him all he needed to know.

That morning it became ominously clear the months ahead were going to be laden with an enduring sense of disappointment, chiefly dispensed by yours truly.

For someone who had never before worked on a dairy farm, it took quite a lot of focus and brain power (admittedly something I am not regularly accustomed to) in order to fully comprehend what my tasks involved and how they contributed to the overall continuity of the farm. Receiving instructions from Brian wasn’t quite as elementary as the two, usually, reciprocally conducive acts of him saying them and me hearing them would suggest.

Not wanting to say Brian had a limited vocabulary, although it seemed he would use words as if he was being charged by the letter. In trying to get his money’s worth he would cram them all into each sentence, while not being overly concerned with the trifling issue of making any sense whatsoever. Conversations with Brian would often leave me utterly perplexed and completely clueless.

One of his many mystifying instructions was to “go and spray the paddock halfway down the lane, that’s above the opposite field where it joins the back paddock next to the one that’s below itself”. That might not be entirely verbatim, but it was similar nonsense giving me a cerebral meltdown almost every day in the first few weeks on the farm

There were a number of things I found especially hard to get to grips with during the initial stages of my appointment in Tokoroa. Being in Tokoroa was one of them. It’s a moderately sized rural New Zealand town, situated in the Waikato region at the heart of the north island and surrounded by an unremitting landscape of absolutely nothing.

The farm itself is reached by a 20 minute car journey approximately 15km north of the town along Old Taupo Road. A journey that when going to the farm for the first time gave me my first real sense of what Tokoroa and the Waikato could offer.

As the evening crept in I was given the opportunity to survey my new habitat from atop a gently rising brae outside Brian’s wooden slatted farmhouse. The dwindling sun threw faint beams of twilight skipping across an endlessly undulating countryside that engulfed me on all fronts, before falling behind the silhouette of the Rangitoto mountain range to the west.

It was an undeniably tranquil and humbling setting that most would struggle not to appreciate, and I was suddenly smitten. However settling this brief moment of reverie was, it was to be the last one for several, several weeks.


From → New Zealand

One Comment
  1. Ann Hallett permalink

    Enjoyed reading this Andrew. Hope to see a lot more.

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