WHERE has Norm been lately?
While following the fortunes - or in Norm's case, the misfortunes - of the McNabb family, you might have wondered why there had been little mention of Norm of late.
The explanation is simple. Last year, Norm decided to expand his contracting business by buying a header.
It was not a good year for such an investment.
The machine is almost stretched from being pulled from boggy paddocks, the costs have outweighed the income and his clients are unhappy.
To add to his woes, Norm cut and raked a lot of contract hay, but he could not get it pressed before the rain, so his hay clients are chasing him and being sticky about payment.
Norm has done what Ted does in the same situation - change the subject in an effort to draw attention away from the mess he has been part of causing.
Right now, he can think of no better subject than the weather, specifically, the autumn break.
Traditionally, Ted looked for an autumn break about Anzac Day.
Some of his mates talked about a St Patrick's Day break, but Ted reckons "they're dreaming".
Statistically a break as early as Anzac Day is rare.
There are four systems that drive our weather patterns and rainfall. The climate-change scientists have given those systems the sheep dog names of Enso, Indy, Ridgy and Sam.
The theory is Enso rounds up the tropical moist air in the equatorial region, Indy delivers water from the Indian Ocean, Sam influences the strength and frequency of cold fronts over Victoria and Ridgy is responsible for those high-pressure blocking systems.
While Norm spends hours on his computer tracking the systems, Ted has a more traditional method of measuring rain - after it falls.
But Harry thinks that this year, because of the amount of moisture in the profile, they won't need much rain to keep things ticking along.
If the long-range forecasts are right, we can expect somewhere between 25-40mm a month in southern NSW and northern Victoria and a little more in the southern part of the state.
This year Harry doesn't need a "break". Just a little rain now and then.
The wetter conditions are rich in opportunity for those who want to grab it.
Many people have shied away from growing canola in the last few dry years because of the risk of low returns, but this year that risk, when associated with moisture limitations, is reduced.
There are still risks in a situation where there is too much water.
The bottom line? This year the McNabbs will be able to think about planting canola in many paddocks where because of dry conditions, it has been too risky.
Ted reckons swamps are for ducks, not crops.
- Mike Stephens is a Consultant with Mike Stephens and Associates.