From a young age, author Janette Perrett showed an interest in the environment and animals; it was an interest that led her to milking cows as a career. In You Have Been Given a Gift, she shares her story and reveals her lifelong passion for the profession.
In this biography, she narrates both the joys and the challenges of being a dairy farmer in New Zealand, a career overshadowed by the many frustrations experienced, at times leaving her defenseless and exhausted. When her family's health becomes a priority, she questions protocol and introduces organic principles to her farming techniques.
You Have Been Given a Gift discusses Perrett's journey as she learns to embrace the magical realm of biodynamics and work in harmony with the earth and Mother Nature. Offering a powerful message in each chapter, Perrett provides valuable lessons, reveals her intriguing discoveries, and showcases the family's relationship with the land.
|Publisher:||Balboa Press AU|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)|
About the Author
Janette Perrett has spent forty-five years in the New Zealand dairy industry. In 2007, she earned her certificate in organic horticulture and in 2013 completed level three in horticulture through a division of Lincoln University. Perrett milks 190 cows with her youngest daughter in Hikurangi, north of Whangarei.
Read an Excerpt
My life's destiny began the day I entered this world in Carterton, New Zealand in 1956. Carterton was a small rural community where everyone knew everyone, situated in the lower half of the North Island in the Wairarapa province. At first my parents lived in town where my father was a cabinet maker, but a few years later we moved to a sheep station just east of Carterton to a little area called Ponatahi. My sister and I attended the Ponatahi primary school with a total role of thirty pupils catering from primer one to standard six. I was the only pupil in standard five and then standard six, the year before I went off to Kuranui College in Greytown. It was quite a scary transition going from a small country school to a college with a thousand pupils.
My parents were keen to give the family the same opportunities they had, growing and experiencing rural life. When the sheep farm position came up, Dad put his cabinet making skills on hold and moved us to the countryside. He never gave up his trade as he later made family members and friends some beautiful furniture and used his skills to renovate the houses he and mum lived in.
I got my first taste of living in the country when I was seven years old and the freedom was amazing. I was able to run free up and down the hills, through the dry creek beds and along well-trodden sheep tracks. I loved it, challenging myself to run the sheep tracks as fast as I could and I remember being out there till dusk, investigating culverts and navigating the hillsides.
I took an early interest in Dad's day-to-day chores as a sheep farmer and each morning before I walked to school I had to know what he would be doing on the farm that day. I must have been a real nuisance because I was never satisfied until I got the complete rundown of the day's events. I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on anything.
November was the best time of the year when I actually got to catch the lambs and pass them to Dad who put rubber rings on their tails so they would later fall off and help prevent fly infestation. They were so fluffy and soft and their aroma was beautiful, so cuddly and warm. I recall the pens that were erected in each paddock to muster the ewes and lambs in for the event. The bleating of the 200 or so ewes and lambs was horrendously loud! The ewes were calling for their babies and the lambs were calling for their mothers. I was amazed how they all paired up again after the lambs had been drafted out and docked. They all sounded the same to me!
Shearing was also an enjoyable event for me and again, I loved the smell of the wool, the sheep's breathe filling the atmosphere in the shed and the natural grease from their fleeces coating my hands. For me the shearing shed was a homely, comfortable place to be and I loved being there.
On the sheep station I quickly learned the importance of the regional weather patterns and how they can influence the land and animals on a daily basis. In the Wairarapa white droughts were and still are customary for the summer months from December through to March and sometimes longer. One hot dry summer day I saw a white rainbow in the sky. It was an eerie sight with not a cloud in the bright blue sky nor a breath of wind moving the trees. I've never forgotten that day and the many cloudless days that followed, one after the other, the sun beating down on the dry earth, cracking it open with its relentless heat. The green grass became shrivelled dry stalks and the fields a white landscape with the odd dusty grey coloured sheep roaming in search of food. Any cold fronts in the weather forecast would move onto New Zealand from the west but the rain wouldn't come across the Tararua ranges. They provided a natural barrier on the western side of the Wairarapa and I used to see the hills covered in misty rain but nothing would come east to relieve the desert like conditions. It was torture for man and beast watching the rain so close but so far away.
I used to spend many memorable hours cooling off in the primary school's swimming pool with my brother and sister. It was really handy, just a short walk across the road. Another memory of those hot summer days were the tadpoles that blocked up the water inlet in the toilet cistern! This was a real curse as the water in the dam began to evaporate and Dad seemed to always be opening the inlet to clear them out. The dam water was gravity fed down to the house just for the toilet and the tadpoles were using the pipe as their way to freedom from the relentless heat and declining water level.
The winter months were also fairly harsh in Ponatahi. The heavy frosts would freeze the water pipes and I used to smash the ice on the puddles as I walked to school. Occasionally they were complete ice packs inches thick and they would stay there for most of the day so I would break them up again on my way home. I enjoyed watching the TV weather forecast and got really excited when snow was predicted. I remember pestering my folks so badly on such a day that Dad just had to take me with him on the farm! Mum dressed me to the hilt with gloves, woolly hat and a thick coat and I was warned not to complain if I got cold. Dad and I went out on the lambing beat that day as the snowflakes began to fall. It was wonderful! I often tagged along with Dad but this was a first in such bad weather. We walked a short distance before we travelled on the tractor to check the ewes. I don't recall how long we were out there, but I do remember not giving into the cold and not admitting to Dad, I was bloody freezing!
I looked forward to the May school holidays when the tent and camping gear got packed into the station wagon and we drove north for our annual family break. I used to keep a diary of our travels and the most noticeable addition was my description of the landscapes and pastures. We used to travel up via the Desert Road to Lake Taupo in the middle of the North Island. I recorded the green grass around Woodville and then the dry brown tussock as we approached the central plateau and the mountains, Mount Ruapehu, Ngaruahoe and Tongariro. I also noted the grazing animals we went passed, the Jersey, Friesian and beef herds, their size, whether they were big or small herds and if they were eating hay, silage or just grass. I was about ten years old when I kept the diary and I am surprised at my interest of the land even way back then!
On one of our annual family holidays we travelled up as far as Kerikeri, nearly to the top of New Zealand. I was amazed at all the orange orchards, the Tamarillos and the beautiful clear blue ocean where the fish were clearly visible looking down into the water from the pier. My diary records how stiff and compact the grass was in places which I now presume was kikuyu grass. Kikuyu was very foreign to me 50 years ago but it has since spread into many North Island regions and I have since grazed the milking herd on kikuyu pastures on three of the dairy properties we lived on.
On another winter holiday we travelled to Taranaki. I can't recall my impressions of the countryside on our journey except to mention the winding roads that made me terribly car sick. Then all of a sudden there was this incredible mountain, Mount Egmont it was known as then and it seemed to lunge up out of the ocean in the middle of nowhere. Being the month of May there was a small coating of snow on the summit and I remember the region being colder than at home in the Wairarapa. It definitely wasn't beach weather as the southerly wind was coming straight off the mountain. We stayed at the camping ground on the beach at Fitzroy, north of the mountain and despite the cooler weather I loved camping out under the stars. I used to lie with my head outside the tent looking up at the stars. What a beautiful canopy I had above me, all twinkling and shining so brightly. I realised the vast spaciousness above me but at the same time I also felt as if I wasn't alone as each star seemed to shine down on me. It was a very vivid and unforgettable experience that I can still remember so clearly.
Back on the Ponatahi Sheep station the property had its own lime stone quarry. This always fascinated me, seeing small seashells in the hillside in the white/ yellowish 'dirt' and how this lime was extracted from the cliff face and spread on to the land above as fertilizer. I was fascinated as to how those shells ended up buried underground in the middle of the Wairarapa, some 100kms from our present day ocean. I remember being told the Wairarapa valley was once a huge river and I'm guessing that was after the land got pushed up from the ocean millions of years ago. As I wrote earlier, stories like that always got my undivided attention.
While living on the sheep station I got my first taste of the fertilizer I would learn to despise, phosphate. The day after the fertilizer truck spread the superphosphate on the paddocks, Dad was rather anxious because the rain forecasted didn't eventuate. This was confusing to me but a few days later I began to understand his frustration. A decent shower of rain was needed to wash the phosphate off and without rain the phosphate was beginning to burn the grass by the fourth day. Huge burn marks were appearing where the fertilizer truck had been. Being eleven years old and watching the grass being burnt left a lasting impression. It didn't make sense. I noticed the limestone didn't damage the pasture so why was Dad applying a fertilizer that burnt everything? I didn't ask any questions back then but I have since learned why phosphate was used and the reason why it was the fertilizer many were advised to use in the 1950s and 60s. I also learned phosphate's the pink stuff stuck on the end of match sticks, no wonder it burned the grass! To my astonishment it was an ingredient used in the bombs during World War II. The story goes that after the war the Americans had a stock pile of phosphate and other chemicals they had to get rid of it. To use the phosphate as fertilizer on the land came about by accident. A portion was spread over some grass and a scientist recorded the pastures extraordinary growth! He was overwhelmed because now it could be sold as an agricultural fertilizer. A number of post war chemicals also went the farmer's way. DDT was one that was advertised as good for our vegetables and great for mothers and babies too. DDT was better known as Agent Orange because of the orange paint on the 44 gallon drums it was stored in. Farmers in New Zealand and other countries were persuaded to spray their pastures with DDT or Agent Orange to kill grass grub and other pests while overseas it was used to stop the mosquito transmitting and spreading malaria. It worked alright but the residual didn't break down. It is still in our soils today, many decades later. No one knows how long it will take to dissipate but scientists do know DDT is the most commonly detected pesticide in mother's breast milk today despite its use being banned many years ago. Phosphates should also be banned because along with the synthetic urea used by many, phosphate is polluting our streams and rivers, killing beneficial fungi and many native fish and plant species and doing just as much damage as DDT.
One of the most beneficial fungi on our planet is the humble mushroom that comes in various shapes and forms. I had the ultimate pleasure of harvesting oyster mushrooms by the buckets loads from the sheep farm in Ponatahi. They would begin to grow just after the summer droughts were broken by the warm autumn rains. Fresh sparkling white field mushrooms would sprout up everywhere in their hundreds and my sister and I used to pick box loads to sell to Turners and Growers in Wellington. We used to sit in the middle of the fairy rings and pluck off the best looking ones. We'd cut the stem neatly and pack the mushroom carefully in the wooden box. It was fantastic pocket money! Unfortunately our harvest wasn't as good if the fertilizer was applied before the mushrooms grew and I now know the phosphate was responsible for killing them off.
My knowledge of the mushroom has increased tenfold since those days. They are a well-respected medicinal food and the microscopic cells called mycelium, the fruit of which are mushrooms, run underground for many miles. It is documented mushrooms could help save the world because they recycle carbon, nitrogen, and breakdown plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. They are extremely beneficial to humans as well because they can help our bodies fight many of our modern day illnesses. So wherever the fungal mushroom resides you can bank on it doing a service to mankind and to Mother Nature no matter what colour, shape or size it is.
I took to the outside life and enjoyed helping Mum and Dad in the garden at an early age. I had my own garden patch at primary school and I got a lot of satisfaction keeping it tidy and pulling the weeds out. One of my jobs around the house was to disbud the roses and cut the long grass under the hedge. They were prickly chores but I didn't mind. The job always looked neat and tidy when I was finished. I recall Mum's surprise one day when I took to the Red Hot Poker plant with the hedge cutters pruning it down to ground level thinking it was just a bunch of stalky grass. Lucky for me the plant never flowered so abundantly as after the unscheduled haircut!
My other interest was music. Those were the days when I couldn't wait to visit my grandparents and sing around the piano with my uncles, aunties and cousins who all played various musical instruments. I used to copy songs I'd heard on the radio on the piano and I wrote my own music pieces too. One song in particular has travelled with me all these years:
Man has ruined this earth, Islands there no more
Mother Nature cries
Time will soon run out
Verse 1: Humans came and destroyed themselves, Earth stood to its ground again, smoke and death fill the air so thick, dirt and rust form a mountain.
Verse 2: War has climbed this earth of his, love will sweat its tears no more, life is all but emptiness, death is blessed with joy.
Verse 3: Trees they used to grow so green, shredded figures now there stand, flowers used to bloom the earth, empty lifeless land.
Obviously the earth's future was a significant worry to me all those years ago. I remember there was even a song writing contest at college in which many students expressed their concerns for the future. That was back in 1971.
After all this time my birth place in the Wairarapa still holds my heart. Each time I visit, a special warmth comes over me when I exit the Manawatu Gorge, through the ranges and drive south towards Carterton. It's an extraordinary feeling of comfort and familiarity which seems strange because I only lived there till I was fourteen. Since then I have lived in many other fantastic places and experienced some wonderful milestones but I've never felt the same emotional pull to any other area.
The Wairarapa gave me a truck load of impressionable memories and one I distinctly remember but would rather forget was when an older college pupil asked me what I wanted to be when I left school. I replied, 'I want to be a farmer'. I simply got laughed at. 'How could you possibly be one? You've never lambed a ewe and got your hands inside to pull the lamb out, not like I do. You will never be a farmer!' I didn't reply, but at the time I was thinking, 'I suppose she's right. I don't do that sort of thing'. I felt as if the rug had been pulled out from underneath my feet, I was absolutely gutted.
The bottom of the North Island was where the interaction between land and animals was first introduced to me and became the love of my life. I enjoyed helping my maternal grandfather and uncle in the old walk through cowsheds during the school holidays, where I could physically touch the cows while they were being milked and I loved coaxing the cows into their stand-alone stalls so my uncle could tie their hind leg with the rope and put the milking cups on. I remember being in the wrong place at the wrong time too and being told to 'bugger off back to the house'! I was trying to help Grandad at the time but he must have been having a bad day.
We lived in Ponatahi just east of Carterton for seven years and I was fourteen when I experienced my very first Gypsy Day. Mum and Dad were looking for a change and decided to move from the Wairarapa to Taranaki to work on a dairy farm. Working with the land and animals was in the blood. On both sides of the family, I had grandparents and several aunties, uncles and cousins who were and still are farmers and caretakers of the land. My father's father was also involved with the manufacturing of the end product as manager of the Parkvale Cheese factory until its closure in the 1960s. I can still see my paternal grandfather in his big white hat and white overalls walking into the house and I remember the smell of the whey on his clothes which was unforgettably potent! Each individual farmer used to transport their own milk to the factory in cans on the back of their trucks or horse and cart in those days. Another image is Grandad testing the milk in the large open rectangular vats before he made the cheese. Dad can recall being put into the empty vats to play while his father worked in the factory, the vat being used as a playpen with no way of escaping. Nowadays the milk doesn't see daylight from the time it leaves the cow's udder till it becomes a block of cheddar cheese!
Excerpted from "You Have Been Given a Gift"
Copyright © 2017 Janette Perrett.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART I: GYPSY DAYS,
1. Early Memories, 1,
2. One & One Make Six, 17,
3. Turning Point, 34,
4. Discovering New Ways, 50,
5. Beneath My Feet, 69,
6. My Dreams are shattered, 75,
7. Stress is a Killer, 92,
8. The Spiritual Mountain, 113,
9. Farming through Hell, 135,
10. At the Eleventh Hour, 150,
PART II: UNDERSTANDING THE GIFT,
11. The 2015/16 Season, 165,
12. Unwrapping My Gift, 175,
13. Who Stole My Money, 178,
14. My Body Can Talk, 184,
PART III: THE LESSONS I'VE LEARNED,
15. Sharing Seventy Six Lessons, 199,
Quick Reference Guide, 247,