What’s a day off?

by Jill Dickie

“Dad, what’s a day off?” the son asked of his father, and the response, “I don’t know son, we’re farmers.” That sums up the rural lifestyle for most in New Zealand while town folk take their Christmas holiday break.

Back on the farm Christmas Day was most likely a half day or thereabouts spent with the family, before shooting out the door to check the hay, just in case it was ready for raking — or even baling. Or the silage needed carting, the cows needed milking, fence breaks needed shifting or irrigation needed moving. There are no complaints, it’s accepted, it’s the lifestyle chosen, and farmers are happy to comply.

In town, a day off can entail all sorts of activities and pursuits because people working a normal job usually have a few days or weeks to enjoy a total break from the work routine. That’s many days off, son!

From another perspective, taking that day off from the farm and leaving someone else in charge can be hugely beneficial for all concerned. Hopping into the car and driving out to the beach, or up the river for a picnic, or even up to Arthurs Pass for the day, can restore a tired stressed perspective to a healthy happy one. In a recent report released by Mental Health Foundation, spending time in nature develops feelings of positivity and general well-being. Of the Kiwis surveyed last year, 95 percent said spending time in nature made them feel good and 75 percent said they intended to spend more regular time in nature.

It could be argued that farmers live in areas surrounded in nature, and rightly so, and the survey was perhaps focussed on city dwellers, but the principal finding highlights the importance of time spent away from the usual work routine so if you’re asked the above question, another answer might be, “it’s when we go off the farm and have fun times together.”