26 May 2015

Farmer spells out drought frustration

7:28 pm on 26 May 2015

When North Canterbury farmer Mike Bowler wanted to write a word expressing how he felt about the ongoing drought in the region, he thought of one word: bugger.


Photo: SUPPLIED / Mike Bowler

Actually, he thought of several others, but decided he couldn't use them - "it's a family show''.

That show takes place daily on the side of one of his paddocks on his Parnassus farm.

Each day Mr Bowler spells out a different word, design or name on the hillside using feed for his stock.

Sometimes it's the name of one of his grandchildren or maybe a Kiwi, but the sheep don't mind, they wander over and cover the letters or design as they eat regardless.

His motivation is simple - "I'm trying to get some smiley faces on people who pass by and trying to keep smiling myself, as the drought continues on.''

Not all of the designs work out, spelling mistakes can happen, a hazard when you're distracted by trying not to run over the sheep that are milling around.

If it looks good from across the paddock, he takes a picture. If not, "you just hope the sheep eat it up pretty quick before too many people see it''.

One of his most recent works, which simply says ``Bugger'' is, he admits, one of his better ones, but it was a passerby who sent the picture into a rural facebook page, which then started getting attention.

Mr Bowler has been on his farm for "only" 20 years but has lived in the area for about 40 years and says the drought is worse than anything in that time.

People with records going back 80 plus years in the region have told him that it is the worst of its kind in that time.

"In a normal year I feed 10 tonne of barley out, that's only in the mating season, this year i've fed out 120 tonne.''

The designs are a good distraction.

"It keeps a smile on my face with all the doom and gloom with the drought," he said.