March 6, 2013

New Zealand. Farmers drought description.

Droughts in New Zealand –Kiwi farmers’ terminology
By Dr Clive Dalton

Hungry sheep enjoying poplar trimmings
Very dry summers are occurring in New Zealand at more regular intervals – which the climate change supporters blame on global warming.

When conditions really start to become dry and a degree of panic starts, a host of organisations in each area meet to ‘make a recommendation’ to the government to ‘declare a drought’.  In New Zealand our Minister of Primary Industry has to give a final approval, and grades the drought as ‘medium’ or ‘severe’.

This then dictates the level of financial and social support farmers and growers can receive, to keep them viable until the rain comes and the drought is officially called off.

Bureaucrats are careful not to rush into approving things which will require government to give money out, as opposed to their rapid approval of things that will suck money into the maw of their consolidated fund!

But long before dry weather starts turning into drought conditions, and is brought to the attention of government officials who reside in block houses with no windows, and who must ignore the messages from their rural MPs – Kiwi farmers have long started to describe the state of play, and it’s rapid deterioration.

The best place to hear this is at sale yards – and not pubs, as when it gets really dry, despite farmers’ needs for a cooling drink, they dare not leave the farm to have one, as there is so much stress and worry to be dealt with at home trying to find feed for hungry stock. 

This Dalton-Stevenson drought scale
This was developed over many years by myself and Philippa Stevenson (veteran agricultural journalist, farming editor, and agribusiness commentator) from listening to farmers when they met. 

These were occasions when it hadn’t rained for a couple of weeks, to the desperation of no rain for 4-6 weeks, and then wondering if it would ever rain again!

By grade 3 farmers start to get worried and by grade 5 it’s time to get the drought committee together and start putting pressure on the government.  Listen up  and this is what you'll hear, so you can grade the description, and get a highly accurate measure of what it's like on the farm.

Grade 1: ‘She’s gitten droy’
Grade 2: ‘She’s gittin blardy droy’
Grade 3: ‘Jeees she’s droy’
Grade 4: ‘Croist she’s droy
Grade 5: ‘Jeeesuschroist she’s droy’
Grade 6: ‘She’s as droy as a wooden God mate’
Grade 7:  ‘She’s as droy as a lime burner’s boot’
Grade 8:  ‘Droymate?  The trees are chasin the blardy dogs’
Grade 9: ‘Mate – She’s droy’s as dead dingo’s donga’

Grades 6, 8 and 9 are clearly of Australian origin and have crossed the Tasman as the term ‘mate’ makes this obvious.  The habit of both starting and ending a statement with ‘mate’ is not common in New Zealand, but is spreading with an increase in trans-Tasman rugby league players.

Grade 7 is a Kiwi term, noted by Kiwi journalist Kingsley Field who was brought up in the Otewa valley near Otorohanga in the King Country.  The family farm was near the Waitomo limestone deposits where the raw lime (calcium carbonate) was quarried.

It was then burned in limekilns and converted into ‘burnt lime or quick lime’ (calcium oxide).  This made the calcium more soluble and concentrated to make the soil more alkali and less of it needed to be spread.  Kingsley also described the important role burnt lime played in keeping the contents of the 'long drop' toilet smelling sweetly and fly-free in summer !

His father explained that the lime workers boots got so dried out by the burnt lime, that after a very short time they fell apart.

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