21 November 2022

Why farmers still rule the roost, rain, hail or (no) shine

| Sally Hopman
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Rising river

When those flooding rains bring the river a little too close to home – Yass River is on the rise. Photos: Sally Hopman.

You have to take your Akubra off to farmers. Chances are, they’re in it because their parents were and the same before them. It’s not like they don’t know anything else. They don’t want to know anything else.

If people still go to ag college, they may well be the only ones who have decided to go on to the land voluntarily. Or they just like sheep.

We throw everything at farmers, literally – like pesky TV reporters in high heels and new Drizabones – and they keep coming back for more. At a news conference once not near anywhere, the TV station choppered its folk in (the rest of us came by bus), and the TV journalist complained of an odd oily smell coming from her new coat, as she ventured back to the chopper because she didn’t want it to get wet.

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Shame, she missed quite a good yarn. From memory, it was something about rain breaking decades of drought.

You really have to feel for farmers when the only time they’re wheeled out for a TV interview is when they’re going through the worst of times. These reporters prefer it if they break down – the farmers, not the reporters – but the farmers are too stoic for their own good.

You know the scene: a reporter, usually a woman – the red lipstick usually gives it away – standing in a sodden/dried up or barren paddock, depending on the season. With her Princess Diana-caring eyes, she asks the farmer how they feel after losing their crops/livestock/something dead that was once alive to the drought or flooding rain.


Do you remember when all we ever wanted was for it to rain, rain and rain some more? Never thought that wish would dry up. Until now.

If that’s not bad enough, we also throw townies at them. People who move out to the bush, say living off the grid is the only life for them. But within months, they want out. Tank water, septics, creepy crawlies, no pizza delivery? Thank you, but no. What they want is double glazing, non-natural noise and their choice of pizza delivery.

Because it’s unlikely that the townies will know any farmers, they’ll direct their demands for the country to be more like the city to local authorities like the council.

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One mayor of a regional council not a million miles from Canberra even took to social media recently to gently ask the keyboard warriors to take it easy on council workers who were being abused, from stop-and-go men (who were going nowhere because of the potholes) to council officials blamed for not fixing all the damaged roads prior to COB the day after the rain stopped.

This is where social media can come into its own. Not the anonymous keyboard warriors; they should stay in their dark little rooms and delete themselves. But for when you need to spread the really important word, like the end of the world is nigh, or you’ve lost your dog. And not necessarily in that order.

Tree over bridge

Sometimes Mother Nature can be, well, not helpful. The day after the river subsided and the bridge became crossable, this tree came a cropper.

But despite what we throw at farmers, they’re masters and mistresses of lobbing it straight back. Their world lives and breathes by the weather, yet they remain so stoic about its consequences. I live in a farming community where the bridge that connects us to town goes under almost at the smell of rain now because it’s had so much water go through it recently. If it goes under, you can’t go anywhere. The farmers take it in their strides. The others, not so much.

Farmers also have that precious gift of rarely saying more than they need. Also, they know the weather. They know that if there are a lot more potholes on the roads, we’ve probably had more rain. That if you hit one of them – preferably a pothole rather than a farmer – you’re driving too fast. You can’t fix potholes by pouring something/anything down them till they’re full of whatever you flooded them with. If that were so, we wouldn’t have any. Ever. (Again, potholes, not farmers.)

But you have to laugh. This week, a council official on the radio was talking about how dire road conditions were. So dire that the council was running out of “Stop, hazard ahead” road notices. A sign of things to come?

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