There is nowhere else they would rather be

The Elworthys’ farm under a foot of snow last week.PHOTOS: ERIN ELWORTHY
The Elworthys’ farm under a foot of snow last week.PHOTOS: ERIN ELWORTHY
Blood sweat and tears, and that’s just on the fencelines ...  Alice Scott talks to a farming couple who have been quietly grafting away in the back blocks of the Maniototo.

The Elworthy family has been farming sheep, beef and deer in the Maniototo’s Styx for 13 years.

Despite a solid 40-minute drive to Ranfurly if they need a bottle of milk and a two-hour drive to Dunedin in the winter should they need anything more, Simon Elworthy said he would not want to live anywhere else.

That was just as well, he said, as wife Erin has enjoyed making a living out of "wearing out cars".

All jokes aside, Southern Rural Life got in touch with the Elworthy family last week as the wintry blast that hit the Southern regions whistled through the Styx, leaving behind a good foot of snow.

Their two properties span 3500ha. On 1200ha they run red hinds and fatten weaners.

The remainder is Lynbrook Station on the other side of a valley, and they have kept busy this winter subdividing the extensive hill country blocks.

"We got geared up and we’ve just been chipping away adding about 10km of fencing. Pretty much every post needed a rock-auger so it was pretty slow going. It didn’t cost me a lot, just a bit of blood, sweat and tears," Mr Elworthy said.

Having moved to the area from South Canterbury, he said he and his family enjoyed the remote community — "although I’m not considered a local yet, and I’m not sure I ever will be," he laughed.

As the bitterly cold wind incessantly continued to bite last week and snow came in sideways around the country, farmers were keeping clear of lambing mobs, and many grimaced at the thought of little yellow stumblers that may not get back up.

But the Styx is known for its cooler climate; it has a late start to spring and a shorter growing season.

For this reason, the main mob of ewes was still about 10 days off lambing when the bad weather hit, Mr Elworthy said.

"We got all the ewes into blocks with shelter and took the cattle off their breaks and also behind a bit of shelter. It was so good that we got a lot of warning to take measures. It saved us for sure, that was a mongrel wind."

The Elworthys’ farm under a foot of snow last week.PHOTOS: ERIN ELWORTHY
The Elworthys’ farm under a foot of snow last week.PHOTOS: ERIN ELWORTHY

However, there were a few ewes that had already lambed.

"Lambs are robust little buggers. It was quite rewarding to see them still alive today. It is amazing how resilient they are."

Wednesday’s strong and slightly warmer wind had helped the snow melt, and there was a good 15cm to 20cm of snow gone by the end of the day, he said.

The road was closed as the storm passed through but, that did not stop the odd neighbour having a crack in a farm wagon or two.

"We have some pretty impressive snow drifts around the place.

"Even the grader got into trouble when he came up to clear the road."

Mr Elworthy had just put the mixed aged ewes back on crop for another week before lambing commenced, and was grateful the timing of the storm would not affect their operation too much.

"We dodged a bullet for sure, but I know others didn’t and my heart goes out to them."

Alice Scott

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