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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Why farmers are obsessed with the rain...

If you have ever lived on a farm then you will probably know all about the rain obsession we farmers seem to have. Ask any farmer you meet in town the day after decent rainfall how much rain they had and they will know down to the millimetre. Comparing rain totals is common practice here in the country!

But if you live in suburbia or in the city and long to live the farm life or even just enjoy farmhouse style for your home, then you may not be aware that farmers all have the same affliction - compulsive weather obsessive disorder!

But it's an affliction born from the realities of living on the land - farmers are on the front line on a daily basis when it comes to whatever mother nature decides to hand out!

Farm life from an outsiders perspective may seem idyllic - all that space to live in, lovely trees, home grown produce, rolling green hills and livestock grazing serenely in meadows of wildflowers....If this was a video post this would be the part where the lovely music stops, and the sound of film coming to a screeching halt would slot in!

Yes, farm life does have it's idyllic moments, but it also has it's challenges and weather, in particular rain, is probably the biggest challenge of all.

Last night it rained more than a few drops - first thing this morning I'm out to check the rain gauge - 18mm! I was so happy - but if I seem a little compulsive and this sounds like no big deal then let me explain.

We have been in drought here on our farm for the last 7 months or so, which is nothing unusual for Australia, it is after all famously described by poet Dorothea Mackellar over a hundred years ago as a " land of droughts and flooding rains ". But drought and floods cost farmers financially and emotionally - our lives are intimately entwined with the weather in ways you don't often experience living elsewhere.

It's Spring here and the grass is waking up ready to grow, when the grass grows the animals have feed, when they have feed I don't need to spend extra time every day feeding out and spend hundreds of dollars every week buying in feed, the animals are also healthier when they have grass to graze and not just dry feed, so grass growing saves me time, money and concern about animal health, who couldn't love that!

The other big factor when it doesn't rain enough is that we live on tank water here, no water piped to the door from some distant unseen reservoir or dam, the connection between our water for living is literally a few metres from our taps! Sure, we can buy in water to fill our tanks if we run dry, but when due to transport and labour costs, what is about $15 dollars of water turns into more like $200 by the time it gets here, we are feeling the effects of low rainfall in the hip pocket in a way city dwellers never do.

My sister lives in suburban Sydney and when it rains heavily there I ask her how many millimetres did you get? - she never knows - so I always half jokingly tell her - " If you don't know how much rain you got then you don't deserve to have it! " It's a bit of fun between siblings, but does in general show how people on the land have a stronger connection to the weather - rain for us isn't an inconvenience for our weekend plans, it affects every part of our lives.

Of course people who don't live on the farm also appreciate the rain that waters their gardens and can suffer from too much rain causing flooding, but not usually on a daily basis in a way that costs them so much time and money.

So that is why farmers are obsessed with checking rain gauges and watching weather forecasts (do the weather people ever get them right by the way? - I know of no other job where you can get it wrong so often and still have a job! LOL).

Farm life for sure can at times be hard financially and emotionally, but I would not want to change it for anything - living in close connection to nature, feeling her moods, the enjoyment of her indulgences and the hardships of her darker side give farm life a depth I have never experienced elsewhere. 

Going without at times makes me appreciate the good times so much more. It's why Winter is an  essential ingredient to enjoying the return of Spring, why having Christmas one day a year makes it meaningful, why drought makes me savour every drop of rain that falls, and the sound of the rain on the farmhouse tin roof is the sweetest sound I could hear today.

So, today is a good day on the farm, the rain has come, washed away the dust, watered the land and for now allowed the weather obsession to recede into the background a tad! The drought is far from over but it's amazing how a little bit of water can help that seed of optimism grow!

Do you have a weather obsession? Share your experiences in the comments section below.


  1. ”If you don't know how much rain you got then you don't deserve to have it!”

    It’s a bit like that.

    We’re also reliant on rain for our water. Tanks for the house; dams for stock and garden. When water is scarce, I even go to the extent of collecting buckets of washing machine grey water for the garden.

    Droughts are the pits. My heart goes out to all those affected.

  2. I totally agree!! All excited over here as we got 17.5mm rain (you beat my by .5mm). I watch the skies in hope of rain filled clouds, I watch my dams slowly evaporating, I watch my gardens wilting and use precious water to keep alive my veg.I watch my paddocks shrivelling up and then the 'pocket hurt' of the outlay of buying in extra feed for my animals. I watch every drop I use from our tanks as only mother nature knows what lies ahead. I think even she has become confused! So I laughed at your comment "Do the weather people ever get it right!". If mother nature is all upset and confused how on earth can mere mortals know what lies ahead! SO I go on watching the skies.... and praying!

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts ladies.

    Of all the awful things drought is to farmers, the camaraderie of sharing our experiences brings farmers together and creates bonds that last well beyond any weather event. At least something positive can come out of it!


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