The Country Calendar camera was rolling when the farmer flung himself off the couch and started crawling towards the kitchen. He’d been quietly reading the newspaper while producer/director Kerryanne Evans interviewed me.
Before filming started, we’d gone all out to ensure silence because the smallest sound gets picked up by the high-tech equipment. The fridge and water pump were off, an errant fly had been swatted and I’d glanced at the dishwasher and decided it had finished its cycle.
Being a professional, Kerryanne merely blinked and continued our interview while the farmer continued his stealthy, silent and sneaky crawl. Not being a professional, I lost my focus. Rex’s distracting journey finished at the dishwasher when he snaked out his arm and made a wild stab at a button.
All of us, Kerryanne, soundman, cameraman, Rex and me, dissolved into helpless giggles. Turns out, Rex could hear the dishwasher humming on its drying cycle and had turned it off.
Actually it was a change to have him trying to play by the rules as his tendency during interviews to slip in what he calls his ‘one liners’ must have landed the end of a few sequences on the virtual cutting room floor. Unfortunately, we were not like the Queen whose performance with James Bond for the Olympic Games opening ceremony was filmed in one take.
On one occasion we were being filmed walking on the beach and talking about fencing and planting the land on the edge the Kaipara Harbour. We’d nattered on about how we’d dug up and split massive flaxes and had planted the cuttings, then I started on about how I’d dealt with flax seeds.
After making a concoction of compost and, um, cattle doings, I’d added flax seeds and enough water to make soggy yet solid balls. Having carried buckets of the cocktail to the beach by quad, I’d wandered along the waterfront, throwing the balls up banks in the hope the seeds would take and flax would grow.
“So you walked around throwing s**t everywhere,” said the farmer.
At which point the soundman, who is trained to be silent, burst out laughing.
The farmer delivered another one liner at the tail end of an interview about his new sheep handling device.
For years he’s farmed bulls, which can be contained by two-wire electric fences, while the few hundred sheep he keeps to remind himself not to farm sheep, have the run of the place. Insulated by their wool, they merrily slip through these fences.
These days, however, prices are good (or were), he’s got a sheep-friendly manager and so many sheep he needs to keep them organised.
“As you’re increasing your flock,” said Kerryanne, “you’ve got a lot of fencing to do, haven’t you?”
“I do,” replied the farmer. “Perhaps I’ll have to teach my wife to fence.”
This was a cue for more laughter – and a fencing lesson for me the next day atop a blustery hill. As I was a contrary student, that footage did make the show.
If you didn’t catch our episode of Country Calendar on TV1, you can watch it by clicking here.