"Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah...Staying Alive" is the rhythm to play in the mind while remembering "30 to 2, no matter who" for CPR compressions and breaths . "DRS. ABCD" jogs the memory for action in an emergency situation. First ensure there is no Danger to patient , self or bystander ,check for Response, Send for help, then deal with Airways, Breathing, Circulation and finally D for Doctor ..All this and more will be familiar to those who have done a First Aid course recently enough to recall it all. Jock and I had a day off the farm to brush up on these important skills and increase our confidence dealing with a crisis . The others on the training were mostly farmers but also truck drivers, retired folk and young Mums. I coordinated the course mainly because it is a positive for the new Health/Safety Act to have ticked the "current first aid certificate" box ,and to have first aid kits in home, sheds and vehicles. Living where we do first aid is vital, knowing that any further aid is more than an hour away, The person on the spot needs to be capable of managing a situation competently.
And over the years we have managed a number of incidents. Most of them "recreational" accidents rather than farming. Things like broken legs, a hurt back and injured arm from people slipping on rocks while fishing, a beach chopper rescue for a rider concussed falling off a horse, a freak accident with a rock crushing a person, and two acute gall stone incidents. The most recent farm injury was a bruised hand squashed between a rail and a grumpy, uncooperative ram. The hand recovered but the sheep did not as he is in the dog freezer.
Being a vet has been useful in dealing with emergencies and it's usually OK to transfer skills from animals to humans except for the time I became a risk to myself. One busy day vaccinating for Leptospirosis I didn't feel well. As the afternoon went on I felt worse and was putting my head under the dairy cold water tap trying to revive myself between rows of cows. Thinking I had a fever I checked my temperature, using a clean thermometer and a less messy orifice than vets routinely use. Normal body temperature of dogs, pigs, cows, rabbits, cats and sheep is about 39 degree Celsius, with horses lower at 38 degrees and chickens up about 41 degrees, so I wasn't concerned to record myself at 39.6 degrees. Not serious I thought , and finished my work and back at the flat phoned the medical centre . The doctor was alarmed at my reported temperature and I discovered something that I hadn't learnt at vet school.... normal human bodies operate at only 37 degrees. I was prescribed a cold shower, good sleep, antibiotics and some days off work plus a warning to focus on animal patients and beware self diagnosis .
A little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing but confronted with a crisis no knowledge would be a frightening, confusing thing . Following this training 42 of us in Golden Bay are now able to give aid at an accident or emergency and hopefully we retain that valuable information for some time. Easy to remember codes help , like RICED for the common injuries of sprains, strains and bruises (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate, Doctor ) , SAMPLE to record casualty history... Signs/symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past history, Last food intake and Events leading up to incident and WRAPT for basic care (Warmth, Reassurance, Assess again, Position safely, Treatment ).
So I have a current first aid certificate again . The tutors were entertaining and educational, the company was enjoyable , the paperwork boxes are ticked off, my confidence and knowledge are refreshed ....and now I hope that I never have cause to ever use those skills !
"Freedom campers" is a mischievous misnomer intended to mislead. People who travel NZ staying at beautiful places without paying anything are really "Freebie" camping and by the end of summer I am fed up. Kaihoka Lakes has been crowded this year as have many other river and beach side spots in Golden Bay. One evening I noticed a vehicle sneakily parked far into the bush and in the morning it was gone leaving a pile of plastic rubbish (and I didn't look any further for what else)....careless campers !. Another morning I had to drive around a woman doing yoga in the sunshine in the middle of the road. I talked to one group and queried why they don't go to a camp ground,"Was it the cost ?" I asked. They told me it was because they "wanted to get away from it all"...With so many vans parked so close and privacy limited, I am not sure what they are getting away from. There are 2 roadside picnic spots up the Takaka Valley which have been abused this season. At each there is a single toilet and when the flood came washing through recently I wonder if those loos turned into "flush toilets" . Tourists drive along the road looking in our paddocks ask if there is somewhere they can park. I direct them to the 3 good camp grounds close to us, which have great facilities, pay council rates and pan taxes, employ local people, contribute to our economy and deserve to be supported.
With these uncharitable thoughts of mine it was wonderful irony that, when the phone rang in the middle of the night last week, we were asked to take our tractor to rescue two of these "freedom campers". They had parked at a lovely spot on a boat ramp without understanding the movement of the tides and height when full. While they admired the stars, the sea crept over the mudflats and into their car drowning the engine and wetting their gear. We splashed around in the darkness, Jock hauled the car backwards and we took Felix and Lucas home for a hot drink ,warm shower and bed. They are nice young guys who had made a mistake, felt stupid , and were grateful for a place to dry out. We enjoyed their company and conversation while they stayed a few nights and even cooked dinner for us . These lads are only a few years older than our two kids and, with only back packs now, have hitched on leaving a wrecked car and a challenge to my impressions. When they told us that the stereotype kiwis have of being friendly has proved true in their experiences I have to reconsider my own perceptions.
As is often the case one bad experience influences our thinking. The careless campers who behave selfishly give a bad name to others who pass through . One substandard job gives a tradesman a dodgy reputation. One dry muffin and we don't return to that cafe . ..and recently mention of NZ in those Panama Papers implicate our country as a "tax haven"!!!. I may be sensitive and defensive but it seems that this pattern to stereotype all due to behaviour of a few is used regularly to give farmers a bad name. Like when one photo appears in the media with cattle standing in water all farmers are viewed as careless . I feel for our industry neighbours at the gross unfairness that the "Dirty Dairy" label has been applied even though the huge majority of dairy farmers are responsible . When one mother beats a child we are rightly appalled but all women are not branded as violent .Conversely, when a video ( which maybe a total set up) goes viral of someone mistreating a calf there is public outrage and all farmers are implicated as brutal. These stereotypes are mischievous misnomers too. Clearly intended to mislead and it is time they were challenged.
To sell or not to sell , that is the question at the moment. 3000 lambs are still enjoying life out on Kaihoka paddocks, eating grass, plantain and clover unaware that their days are numbered. But how numbered and what the date for departure of their truck destined to the works is the focus of our current discussions.There are many things to consider when weighing up what to do.
Decisions have to be made soon as rams are out now and next seasons lambs are being created. Pregnant ewes need to be eating for 2 ( or 3 with twins on board) over the months ahead so feeding them well is priority. Now into May temperatures are dropping and we have already had a few light frosts so grass growth will slow . 550 lambs fit on one truck and trailer unit so we could just book space but with lambs are our main income for the year money is obviously major consideration. The weekly schedule from Alliance Group Meat Company arrives in our inbox Friday evening with updates on what markets are doing . I open the attachment with anticipation hope for good news ...but price for the past 6 weeks is "No change", "No change".Disappointing to put it mildly ,even though it comes with explanation on why there is no increase . Succinct statements like ..."Tanners report that garment leather orders remain scarce"..."UK-Post-Easter chilled reducing in-line with seasonal demand"...."Wool prices affected by firmer NZD currency and bids are back on previous weeks". A small summary of a big picture of how world situation impacts our farm gate prices.
Usually there is an up beat spin which we hang on to..."China-lower domestic availability compared to last year which is starting to produce positive sentiment going forward. "..."Middle East-demand continues to improve on the back of Ramadan. "....."Australia-kills forecast to be well down on previous year. This should have some impact on price moving forward".
So ,with thoughts of "positive sentiment" and assuming that "impact on price " will be an upward one for us, we continue to graze lambs hoping an increase in next Friday schedule will make our decision when to quit lambs simpler.It is always easy to be wise in retrospect about what we should have done. We consider it better for both animal welfare and meat quality to send our lambs to the closest works ,though loyalty does get stretched at times . Good lambs kill out at about 43% so to get an 18 kg carcass requires 42 kg at live weight. Every 10 cents/kg is $1:80 /lamb and $1000 per truck load, not to mention more satisfaction to us as farmers receiving a better price for a great product.There must be hundreds of farmers still holding thousands of lambs so this question of when to sell will be occupying many rural minds.
But "Eat,Sleep,Paddle, Repeat" is all that is on the mind of one courageous lady on a solo kayak journey around New Zealand to raise awareness for families dealing with depression. She is coming up the West Coast, and weather permitting, will be paddling past our farm this week. Her daily blog outlines her progress and challenges and I enjoy reading "My smiles today " and "My thoughts today" . Lyn finds smiles in a choc bar from a stranger, a bowl of sweet popcorn and ending a day still dry, as well as amazing weather, pre-sunrise on the water and dolphins playing around her kayak. What a good message to be glad for those "small things " in our days . We hope we can meet this inspiring lady and offer her a bed, a feed and hot bath to encourage her on her way north.
Her words after the frustration of a day off water with wild westerly waves too rough to paddle were "People change, things go wrong, Just remember, life goes on". Wise thoughts which bring a perspective on our frustrations of a flat calm "no change" lamb schedule.
My role on the farm has extended and I am now a PCBU working on our SMS , attempting to produce detailed SDS , providing PPE to everyone and ensuring we practice SWP. Those of you who operate under the new Health and Safety at Work Act ( HSWA) introduced beginning of April will understand those abbreviations mean I am now a "Person Conducting Business or Undertaking " implementing our "Safety Management Plan" with written "Safety Data Sheets" , ensuring "Personal Protective Equipment" are worn and encouraging and monitoring "Safe Work Procedures" on our farm. Last week I attended a Beef and Lamb NZ seminar in Motueka to learn about our Health and Safety responsibilities.
On a sunny day with garden and other jobs calling, being inside didn't spin my wheels but it was worth the effort and I feel less apprehensive about the changes . Both presenters worked as army bomb disposal experts in dangerous situations in countries at war .Both still have their limbs intact, so obviously have risk assessment skills and safe management practices sorted . That practical experience gave them credibility to address a group of farmers rather than some wet behind the ears theorist .Their sense of humour was also intact and the safety talk at the beginning covered hazards like "death by power point" and "drowning by drinking information from a fire hose".
So how does HSWA affect us ?
The good news is that we are already doing most of what is required of us ... encouraging safe behaviour ,responsible attitudes and good practices .We cull aggressive stock, maintain gear, spend time training staff , and make running quality plant high priority even though it costs .
The not so good news is that we now need to create a paper trail to prove that we are doing all that.
All risks must be identified with control measures documented.
All different activities need a written detailed safe work procedure.
Up to date records kept of maintenance and register of staff training and any incidents documented in detail.
Every employee, contractor, and visitor to the farm needs to be "inducted" with explanation of safety management systems, and a list ticked and signed off.
Googling the website there is an explanation that "HSWA is an opportunity for you to review your health and safety practices and behaviours and revise how you manage critical risks that could cause illness, injury or death.".... and "Our role is to lead NZ in creating safer workplaces. But we can't do this alone. Together we'll make changes needed to get everyone who goes to work home healthy and safe". Good intentions, but the big risk lies in a following statement ,..."The new law says you need to do what's "reasonably practicable" to manage health and safety risks at work . This means you're expected to do what a reasonable person would do in your situation".
That word "reasonable" creates a problem , open to vastly different interpretations . The perspective of an experienced operator may differ from an OSH inspector even if there is a book full of records . "Reasonable" leaves a loophole big enough to drive a bulldozer through (with appropriate PPE and SDS of course) and creates a fear that in spite of all the paper trails covering our backsides there is still room for misunderstanding and prosecution.
The final words I quote from the HSWA website, " Everyone has a right to a healthy and safe work environment and the only way we can achieve this is by working together. " We all want to get home safely. Nobody goes to work intending to cause harm. We do need to improve safety on farms but will pages of recording , data sheets and rules really help change attitudes ?( especially when dealing with folk who are not into bookwork and some who can't read.)
Best piece of advice was to 'SLAM " it...Stop and think------Look and identify hazards------Assess any likelihood of harm----Manage the situation safely.
"When you have livestock , you do have dead stock" is a saying I heard often when I was a vet . It is a farmers laconic way of coping with disappointments , sickness and demise of animals , both farm and pet. Death is something we face on farms regularly and rural families do learn to deal with it, although it should never become casual or frivolous. Our garden has a cemetery where the white mice are buried , there are RIP white crosses among flowers, and fruit trees planted on top of deceased dogs. Our children have learnt that life does end. They have experienced grief , understand sadness of loss and have developed respect for death.
Mortality has been a big part of my past month as I attended funerals of friends and spent time with families facing their grief and loss . It is my pleasure to have served as a marriage celebrant for a number of years which has led to me being asked to officiate at funeral services as well. Previously, I would sit crying at the back of funerals, and now I shed tears standing up the front instead. In the past month I have been involved in leading 4 funerals and 3 weddings.One comment people make, is that weddings must be more "fun", but to me it is a huge privilege to be with families looking at photos, sharing memories with laughter as well as tears, and planning a farewell for a loved one. Weddings are about a family celebrating a beginning for a couple looking forward to their future together. I like to think that funerals are just as much a family celebration about someone's life and legacy ,and their part in, and contribution to many lives.
It has been a real time of reflection for me recently, as these people I farewelled are part of my life too, and conducting celebration services with carefully chosen words is my own tribute to these friends. It also means that as well as being part of planning for wedding celebrations our family talk about life, death, funerals, burial, cremation, undertakers and service sheets quite freely, and this openness and acceptance of dying must be a good thing. It does get a bit close when I get asked what music I would like played at my funeral or who I would choose to be pallbearers for my coffin !
A few musings after these funeral celebrations ...Firstly, there is my huge gratitude for the contribution these people have made to growing their families, developing their farms and serving in our community. So often efforts helping at schools, working on farms, serving on committees, and keeping an eye on neighbours go unnoticed and are taken for granted.
Secondly, I wonder who will be the ones following in the footsteps of these stalwarts of our communities. Are there people of the next generation taking up roles in service organisations, delivering meals to sick neighbours, cutting firewood for older folk, joining Federated Farmers to be involved in politics which do affect us all, taking kids fishing and sharing the catch and running clubs? . ...Are we all becoming "too busy", or is that just a dreadful excuse? Another saying I hear is that "somebody should do something about that". So true and these folk who are no longer part of our community were often the ones who have done something . I appreciate that and hope others will fill their boots.
Thirdly ...It is wonderful the support and love from the community, both for the bereaved family and for me .It is valuable and appreciated .A question I am frequently asked, especially when there has been the number of deaths we have faced this month , and usually as I blow my nose and enjoy a cuppa after a service ,is "How do you manage...don't you get worn out?" . In my own ability I would fail and the answer is by my faith . Last weekend was another celebration of another death. Jesus died on the cross about 2000 years ago and His sacrifice ,victory and life give me hope, strength and life. So I ponder mortality AND immortality.