Tracking rainfall a family tradition

Siblings (from left) Quinton, Anita and Eric Erskine, of Westwood, reminisce about their late father David Erskine's rainfall book records.

WESTWOOD farmers Anita, Eric and Quinton Erskine continue to keep old traditions alive.

Their late father David kept records of the rainfall on their farm in Tuatapere since 1958 and they continued to keep the data updated after his death in 2011.

“He apparently began the records before then but never wrote them down.

“Now Eric and I have kept it up,” Ms Erskine said.

By keeping track of the rainfall records, their father was able to know when to shift stock from the back paddock which was close to the Waiau River.

The records show a 1111mm average from 1957 to 1958, compared with their recent data which shows an average of 1249mm.

“This shows that the seasons’ average is becoming more wet, not that you would know it much this year, as we are having drier than normal weather conditions,” Ms Erskine said.

Their Westwood farm had experienced a green drought from December to March.

“To find the last dry four-month spell we had on our farm, we had to go back to December 1973 through to March 1974 which Dad recorded as the driest years about 50 years ago.”

Though they were unsure of the exact year, the siblings were able to recall a time their father mentioned the weather being so dry he did farm work in his gym shoes.

They would often get calls or messages from agents and people within the neighbourhood for the rainfall level records, Mr (Eric) Erskine said.

“It actually helps during those wet days when agents or neighbours are needing to know, so that’s why we do what we do.”

Ms Erskine would often put up photos of her “rain book” on their social media page for followers to be able to compare the seasons.

“I often make a comment on whether it’s above average or below for the year, so it’s a great talking point, but it is quite interesting what we have here compared to what they have over the Longwoods or up the Otahu Flats.”

Weather could be completely different even for farm properties which could be 5km away, she said.

They had recently found old documentation of their farm lease which dated back to July 1915.

It was important to maintain original documentations as well as the rainfall reports of the farm as it was a part of the farm’s history, Ms Erskine said.

“It is something that is going to be here for forever, whereas if people don’t keep those records, they can get lost.

“But I think it is important to hold on to those records because you never know, one of these days you may wish that you actually held on to them,” she said.