As the sun breaks through the final of the rain clouds Tom strolls into his paddock of wheat and surveys his land. He kicks the black soil under his feet and the corners of his mouth turn upwards, ever so slightly. He starts to get optimistic for a good yield this year. That last bit of rain has topped up the moisture store, should get the crop through to its end now.
But he has learnt there is still a ways to, so don’t go banking the money just yet.
He has got four hundred hectares sown to wheat this year. The wife wanted him to sow more chickpeas, she had been doing some research on that fang dangled Internet thing and was always full of bloody “ideas” these days. Wheat is what he knows, he can read the crop, he is comfortable with wheat. He didn’t want to change, he was too damn old for that.
As the dogs chase a rabbit through the wheat plants his mind wanders to the argument with his son.
“Dad we need to diversify” he had pleaded. “Try some legumes, opportunity cropping. Rotate the paddocks more, it helps with the disease. We can follow the markets and forward sell the crops. We need to think about how we will adapt to climate change, trial some new breeds, look at our water conservation, blah blah blah. It’s the only way to survive”
Tom didn’t want to admit he was probably right. Tom just didn’t have the energy anymore.
He pulls one of his plants out of the ground. Good root system this year, the bit of dry weather had made the roots go deep and spread. That will set the plants up for the warm weather in October. He sees the start of the flag leaf, won’t be long til the plants push up the head. He hopes for mild conditions mid October so the plant will set good seed.
Tom still remembers the October of ’89, forty degree hot winds for three days. It was a good season til then. He had borrowed to get that crop in. It was a disaster. The plants shriveled and gasped for breath before his eyes. He has hardly recovered since, especially with the costs of fertilisers, seed, sprays and having to update the farm equipment.
Farming is just not the same as when his father bought the lot as a soldier settlement after the war. He walks deeper into his crop, looking for traces of disease or stress.
He should be glad the son wants to come back the farm. All the neighbours have had to sell. Now the farms are owned by business people from the city. Weekend farmers! He spits on the ground at this thought, and rumours of mining companies surveying the district sets the hairs on the back of his neck on end.
All of a sudden Tom feels hopeless. The community around him is crumbling as all his mates have moved into one of those retirement villages where they play cards all day and talk about their latest doctors visit. He is struggling with moving on, changing with the times. He planned to leave this world with his working boots on, not damn slippers.
This wheat crop is his last. He has so many hopes pinned on every grain of golden wheat that will come from this land. It will get them out of debt. He has promised the wife he will give it over to the son at the end of the year, he wants to leave it in a healthy state.
Apparently they are going to go on a world trip then. Tom isn’t excited about this, but he keeps quiet. The wife has sacrificed a lot over the years, it’s time he gives her something in return.
The dogs barking bring him back from his thoughts. They are getting impatient, ready to move onto the next job.
He whistles them up and turns to go.
He takes one last look over his shoulder. You are looking good he silently says to his crop of wheat wistfully moving in the soft breeze, keep up the good work, make me proud.