“One positive of lockdown is that it has given us the most valuable currency of all which is time,” Katie Piper.

For me, a member of the 'vulnerable age group', Covid-19 hasn’t been all bad.

I’ve dusted off the dumb-bells, watched some fabulous programmes on Sky TV and caught up with my reading. Many of the books have been in my possession for years unread.

Some I have read several times. Two of the more interesting came from New Zealand. Their titles, 'The Intuitive Farmer' and 'The Resilient Farmer' hint at their contents.

'The Intuitive Farmer' is by Peter Nuttall, a professor at Lincoln College, near Christchurch. He has written five books about farm management. This one is disguised with only partial success as a novel, which helps to lighten the message.

It follows the fortunes of a group of farmers who take part in an experimental programme devised by a management researcher to explore the best way to improve farmer's decision-making. The farming group has different members with varied objectives and problems.

Each chapter addresses a different issue, such as risk management, benchmarking, budgeting and planning, negotiation skills, active listening and business succession. Although it has a Kiwi slant, it can hardly fail to benefit those farmers like me who have in the past allowed day-to-day farming to take precedence over such important tools of future strategy.

The second book, 'The Resilient Farmer' is by Doug Avery and will already be familiar to some in the UK. Many farmers in Scotland and elsewhere may have attended his talks in 2018.

Doug farms in Marlborough, in the South Island, of New Zealand. The area is exceptionally dry and 25 years ago the region suffered a drought so extreme and long lasting that Doug’s grass withered away.

In consequence, financial troubles mounted and he slumped into severe depression. A friend, seeing this, almost dragged him to a talk at Lincoln University about lucerne (alfalfa). Lucerne has exceptionally deep roots which find water in dry conditions and thrives in drought when nothing else will.

Doug’s farm was transformed, money troubles melted away and his depression lifted. Since then, he has travelled New Zealand and elsewhere in the world helping those with mental illness. The Avery family were New Zealand South Island Farmers of the Year in 2010 and in 2017 Doug was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to agriculture and mental health.

With no criticism intended, I was a little surprised that Doug had been unaware of lucerne. In 1968, I worked for the Cameron family at Ben Ohau, in the Southern Alps. The 'High Country' has a similar climate to Marlborough and is very dry.

Most of the farmers grew lucerne for hay. It was the coarsest stuff I have ever handled and leather gloves and aprons were necessary to prevent hands and clothes being ripped to shreds. The boss, Jack Cameron, had to bale before the dew was off the swath to prevent leaf shatter.

The small square bales dropped out of the baler as they came and we followed behind with the farm lorry, which had a land-driven elevator fixed to the side of the deck.

There were four of us. Three built the bales and the other drove, at which we took turns. When we reached the end of the field which was a mile long, we had a full load, which we built into a stack.

It was very hot and dry, so we were always glad to see one of the wives appear with a cool drink. On one occasion, I was first to drink. I was parched and took a long swig. Suddenly everything from my navel to my teeth started to combust.

Struggling to hide my discomfort, I passed the bottle on. Everyone else did the same as the bottle was emptied. The moment the woman’s husband took his turn in the cab, we blurted out simultaneously 'what the hell was that.' The consensus was that it was home-made ginger beer.

My father tried growing lucerne in the 1950s. At that time, we grew tares for the sale rams to fill the gap from when the grass lost its kick to just before the sale when we fed cabbages.

The tares had to be sown every year and couldn’t be sprayed so ended up heavily contaminated with thistles, day nettles and chickweed. My father thought lucerne, a perennial, might do better. Possibly due to Scotland’s colder and wetter climate, the crop wasn’t a success and wasn’t grown again.

The second surprise from 'The Resilient Farmer' was that the foreword was written by Sir John Kirwan. Kirwan was one of the greatest players ever to pull on an All Blacks jersey and a national hero.

The obvious message was that if severe depression affected him it could affect anyone. Re-inforcing that impression was the fact that Kirwan played with a touch of arrogance and was a champion 'sledger', the term used Down Under for verbally abusing opponents.

He, like generations of we dour Calvinistic Scots, quickly discovered that in a verbal joust with the Irish, there would only be one winner.

Unlike Kirwan, Irishman Neville Furlong wasn’t a household name. He won only two caps, both when touring New Zealand. In the second test, although suffering a severe foot injury, the Irish were so hit by injury that they had to play him. He marked Kirwan.

Early in the game, Kirwan rounded the almost static Furlong to score: “Beat you on the outside, arsehole," Kirwan taunted. Minutes later, he burst through Furlong's tackle: “Not strong enough, arsehole,” Kirwan mocked. Sometime after that, Furlong managed to hold Kirwan who got the ball away to a colleague who scored: “Too soft, arsehole.”

Late in the game, the Irish were pressing the All Black line. The ball was passed to Furlong, his foot bound up like a mummy, who dropped on it to score. Even then Kirwan wasn’t done: “Soft try, arsehole.”

Furlong shot back: “Couldn’t catch an effing cripple ... arsehole.”