Well, it's almost Christmas. It's typical hot Christmas weather. It's already topped the old Fahrenheit century mark (38Â°C), and probably with the hottest quarter of the year still to come (early Autumn will be hotter than early Summer). It's been another dry year. People have taken crops off, but many or even most of them won't recover costs. Grain has been high in protein, but that's only because it hasn't filled out with starch - small and pinched. A lot of people cut their cereals for hay while they were still green - they could see that most of the heads were light, or even frost-damaged and empty. Canola yielded low and is very low in oil as well - didn't receive the rain or have the sub-surface moisture they needed when it was maturing. Fortunately my brother the farmer decided that farming was becoming too marginal and too costly, so he remade himself as my brother the grazier. As he says, he buys skinny sheep, makes them fat, and sells them again. We've never believed in overstocking the place and having starving animals chase the pasture down into the ground, eating the roots when they've eaten everything else, and then losing an inch of topsoil every time they break wind. Now it's paying off. For about the third year running rainfall has been low, but there's been just enough at just the right times to keep pasture growing. Now it's all dried off, and our place has standing feed where neighbours have already eaten their feed to the ground. Lots of people are eating-off their crop stubble now, and have very little stored feed - after all, it's the third straight year of severe drought. As my father says (and he's 85) it's the first drought he can remember that's nation-wide. Any severe drought before, there's been feed available somewhere. People could buy feed in, sell stock to a non-drought area, or even send them there for agistment. Not this one. Of course, that doesn't mean nothing grows. Just that nothing much grows. My brother's sold most of the stock now, and gone on holidays. Srelling a few more by remote control. He's relatively newly married, and he and his wife and their new son Peter (five months) have gone back to show Peter off to her family. She's from Mizoram - a state in India, in the far northeast, adjoining Bangla Desh (former East Pakistan) and Myanmar (former Burma), and not too far from Nepal. Interesting place - about 90% Christian. That doesn't go down too well at all with the other Indian states. They're working up a major missionary effort now. Won't be long before they have more missionaries in the field than all the conventional Christian churches of all the European and European-derived countries combined. That's than you and me, brother - the flame has passed to other hands - the people who are truly living the Christian life. Anyway, that's how he met her - he was visiting as part of his own missionary effort. Anyway, to return to the farm. My brother is getting the benefit of pre-Christmas prices for fat stock now. When he returns from holiday (another month yet) we'll be just about at the stage of seeing people unable to afford to hang onto their animals any longer. They'll have eaten their pastures, they'll have eaten their stubble, they'll have begun to make inroads into their stored hay and grain, and they'll be making decision about which stock they can afford to keep. That's when he'll be able to buy light (i.e. skinny) lambs at bargain prices, and take advantage of the pasture we haven't eaten-off. Also means that, because we're not over-grazing, the pastures will recover faster when the autumn rains come. In the meantime, here I am, back on the family farm. Not good for much. My back problems just aren't getting better fast enough, so I'm going to have to relinquish my job. Still, I can make myself useful here. My father is needing more and more help now, and there are things Mum won't be able to do for too much longer. One thing I earnestly believe is that today's farmers have lost the plot to an extent. Financiers have sold them a bill of goods, and they believe they have to finance operations and be in debt. In that situation, they are too busy servicing the debt to think about things. Too busy making money to pay bank interest, to be able to spend time saving money. When I was growing up, we used to do "homesteader" things. Kill our own meat, grow a lot of our own food. That's something I can do (although we're severely limited with vegetable gardens and even fruit trees in a drought). We're enjoying the first of the summer fruit now - cherries (we don't grow them ourselves, but they're worth buying), apricots, plums, figs. I love fresh figs. Busy time for Mum (age 82) - she still preserves (you'd call it cans) and makes a lot of jam. I have to be fast to get any fresh fruit. Do you know, when a mob of livestock goes away to be sold this way, they take everything - even crippled animals? Clear the animals out, ready for a new mob. However, those cripples may only bring a dollar at the saleyards - abattoirs have to handle them specially, as they may need to discard an injured forequarter or hindquarter, or even downgrade the whole animal to petfood. Then you pay fifty times that or more for a dressed carcase from the butcher. You have to earn a lot more pre-tax dollars than that to have that many after-tax dollars to spend. Well, that's poor economics to my mind. So, come Tuesday (first available day, even if it is just before Christmas Eve) I'll slaughter one of the cripples for meat. Have my father standing by (well, sitting) to give advice - I've never done the whole thing myself, even though I've done a lot of it decades ago. Slaughter and hang it overnight, then break the carcase down the next day. Wish me luck. Then I'll move on to refurbishing the poultry yard. Things my brother wouldn't bother doing that seem worthwhile to me.