Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Hay! Hay! It’s Christmas

Around 85 years ago my father-in-law’s widowed sister Bena bought a 40ha block of bush-clad land on which she grazed her father’s replacement dairy stock.

The first challenge was to clear the only flat 4ha hay paddocks and sow grass seed. The hay-making would take place around Christmas time when there was plenty of free labour to help with the making of the hay stack, and it was hoped the weather would be more settled by then.

Bena eventually sold the land to my father-in-law and we purchased it from him 40 years ago, with hay being harvested off the same paddocks each summer. One year we got four cuts (two being haylage) but the amazing thing is those hay paddocks have only been undersown once in those 85 years.

With only five fenced paddocks, one cattle stop and no mains electricity it’s a real pet park for the cows under my care as they wander anywhere they like apart from the hay paddocks.

Last November, with a lot of cooperation from the hay contractor, I got 1010 conventional bales of hay in the barn before the end of November.

I was so stoked I called into the cemetery on the way home, put one foot on my husband’s grave, the other on my father-in-law’s grave and said “I did it my way!”.

Someone asked me, when I told them, “What did they say?”.

I think they were right brassed off that I, as a woman, had managed to do what they had never managed to.

With 26 days to Christmas I was free to do all the Christmassy things I never usually found time for and by December 23, I caught a bus to Bethlehem in Tauranga where we were all celebrating Christmas. After an early tea we all walked the 1km to the huge shopping centre carpark in Bethlehem armed with deck chairs, rugs, jackets, torches and candles for a two-hour open air concert and celebration of Christmas.

A stage had been set up with lights, music and entertainment suitable for folk nine weeks to 90 years. Here we sang, danced, listened and clapped in appreciation for the two hours of entertainment we all enjoyed.

With only one more sleep before Santa arrived the children were awake early on Christmas Eve, as we were to go strawberry picking out in the country. After waiting in a queue for 40 minutes we were told the gardens had closed as they were all picked out. It was only 10am.

So we went to a roadside stall and paid some exorbitant price for two punnets. On the return journey we knew we had a teenager on board as she politely asked her Dad to turn up the car stereo so she could hear her favourite tune. What with Grandma talking, Mum trying to avoid traffic and kids moaning “Are we there yet?”, Dad ignored the teen request until she leaned over as far as her seatbelt would allow and loudly proclaimed, “BEAM UP THE BEAT BRO!!’’

And he did.

The author's grandchildren with their Santa Bears from her collection bearing the year of each child's birth.

Last-minute shopping

After tea that evening I suggested we go for a stroll to the huge supermarket and check out the prices of perishable goods as these are usually reduced on Christmas Eve. Daughter-in-law was the only one brave enough to accompany me so we set off.

Just as we entered the deserted shopping complex I spied on the pavement a glass-topped outdoor table that had been left in front of a very upmarket shop. It had a price ticket of several hundred dollars attached to it but every shop in the area was closed, so we decided to carry it to a coffee shop that was open near the supermarket. Phone calls from there to the manager only yielded voicemail messages so the coffee shop manager told us to leave the table there and they would contact the owners after the holidays.

We headed for the supermarket; by now aware that we had probably been filmed on the security cameras, but I assured daughter-in-law that embarrassment would be compensated by the reward we would more than likely receive.

With only 30 minutes to go until the supermarket closed we found watermelon chunks, peaches and punnets of strawberries all for $1 each. There were hot cooked chickens going for less than half a dozen eggs.

We filled the trolley, got through the checkout and then remembered we had walked there. We could have rung son for reinforcements but for the fact we’d forgotten to take the cellphone.

After much putting down and picking up of bags, daughter-in-law went on ahead and sent the kids back to help Grandma. We all had a feast of perishable goodies as we convinced ourselves some wouldn’t last until the next day.

With a great gathering of family and friends we were all strawberried out for weeks.

And the table?

Daughter-in-law called in to the shop a few days later and the owner said “Thanks for that. My wife left it out”. He didn’t even offer to shout her a coffee.

May you all have your loved ones near you over the Christmas break. May all your cows be in-calf with heifers, harvested crops tucked away and may you have a safe and happy holiday break.

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