Gypsy Day

Farming contracts in New Zealand traditionally finish on 31 May, and start 1 June, this is especially true with dairy farming.  Given that most farms have ‘free’ accommodation on farm, the logistics of finishing work one day, packing up, leaving and turning up keen and ready for your first day at a new job the next morning can be challenging, to say the least.  In the farming industry we call this Gypsy Day.

We had the advantage of not having any job to turn up to, but we still managed to have a chaotic time.  Our reason for leaving was that the owner of the farm we were on, had sold.  Everything had been planned, booked, and about as organised as you could reasonably expect, right up until 27 May, when the buyer very kindly informed us that settlement date was 29 May.  This was due to the fact that lawyers wont work weekends or public holidays, so even though we were contractually employed until 31 May we had no legal right to be on the farm after 29 May.  All our big plans of an organised withdrawal was about to become a total rout.  So much cleaning and packing, so little time.  We got there in the end, though it was dark on Friday before we finally pulled out, exhausted but pleased with the fact that everything was left spotless for the buyer.

We spent the night at my mothers, for a last goodbye, then a stop over in Havelock for the same with friends.  We were so wired by the time we actually left that I think everyone was awake by 4am just itching to hit the road.  Sadly the ferry wasn’t leaving until 10.45am so we had long wait.  Getting off the ferry was a great feeling, finally the waiting was over and we were on our way.  Maki took Noah and Heidi on a direct route while Luca and I, with two cats and 6 chickens made a detour to pick up 10 piglets.  After loading up on who knows how many energy drinks, by midnight I had no intention of stopping, while Maki sensibly spent the better part of the night in a hotel.  Luca and I arrived at about 5am having driven over 1,000km’s towing a well loaded trailer.

A couple of hours much needed sleep, then it’s time to put up the fencing and unload the pigs.  They look really calm in a stupid kind of way while they are sleeping, but the moment I picked up the first one, it let out an ear-splitting scream that I think you have to experience to understand.  Thankfully by this stage Maki had arrived and we could have a laugh about it together.  So I’m feeling pretty buggered by this stage but I still have nine of these piglets to offload by hand.  Optimistically I took the biggest one next, who had luxury of sleeping through the night as opposed to driving.  More screaming, then a thrashing heave, and the pig was gone, ran off a few meters and then kind of stood there looking about as stunned as me.  Meanwhile the first pig, which should have been happily chowing down on some food I had kindly left him, decided this was chance, bolted through the fence and joined his mate in relative freedom.  I don’t know if you have tried to herd pigs before, I haven’t, and so this is training day.  You can’t herd them, they don’t even seem to notice you unless you are about 2 meters away, then they just run in a random direction until they feel safe at which point they wait until you get close for a rinse and repeat.  Well I had Maki and the kids all helping, and even though I was feeling shattered I couldn’t just give up.  Eventually I snuck close enough to dive tackle one, screams and all.  Maki managed to get a hand on another and together we brought it down.  We ended up putting then in an old pigsty where I let them learn about electric fences.  Today they are out in a paddock behind a single wire happy and content.

Finally it was time to offload the chickens, by which point I was happy to just release them and let them find their own way around, which they did.  In a surprisingly short time they had dropped a number of sticky ‘gifts’ on the porch.  When I unloaded their pen I was happy to see that we could have scrambled eggs, sadly they were raw.  This may have had something to do with the fact that unloading the pen consisted of heaving it of the back of the ute.

We made it, covered a fair fraction of State Highway 1, but arrived on June 1 keen and ready for work.


2 thoughts on “Gypsy Day

  1. Happy Gypsy Day.

    On the pig herding, they’re actually very herdable. It is a matter of technique and that comes with observation and practice. It is much like herding cattle and sheep. They react to the pressure points. They move along fence lines. As we say, pigs flow like water.


    • Well, they were still young pigs, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. At the moment they are pretty easy to shift, they just follow me around.


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