Today is Father’s Day. It’s the day I struggle with the most when finding a gift for my Dad.

At Christmas, he gets a year’s supply of garlic. On his birthday, he gets a pile of his favourite apples from the trees in our orchard. It’s an arrangement that works.

But Father’s Day doesn’t line up with a useful harvest. I always get a bit stuck.

He tells me that he enjoys my writing though, so I thought this year, maybe I’d do that.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Here are three things I learned from you.

Safety first

Whenever Dad teaches us anything, he always puts safety first.

It means I trust him to teach me the right way. Whether we were learning to work with power tools, or how to back a trailer. He always makes sure we’re wearing our PPE, and that we are completely aware of the risks.

It’s become a habit for me. We have ear and eye protection because I went out and purchased it. I am the one making sure appropriate footwear is worn on adventures.

I consider risks, and tend to survey situations before I go diving in. Both my father and I considered a lot of risks in buying The Outpost. He was very helpful in considering things I had not, and adding historical context to what I thought I knew.

It might be boring, but it has kept me alive in a relatively-unscathed body for 40 years. And I’m grateful safety is always first.

The world is better with books

As a kid, I was always surrounded with books. Dad’s mother was an early childhood academic, and she was probably most responsible for the books I loved at the time.

But Dad always had a large bookshelf of books that I’d browse through sometimes, reading the names and wondering what they might contain. I won’t lie – most of them seemed terribly boring and old at such a young age. But books were always there, always encouraged, and role-modelled.

Now, I am a pretty frequent borrower at Dad’s Library. Truth is, I’m terrible for keeping them much longer than I should. If I want to learn about New Zealand history, geology, flora, or fauna – and especially if I’m seeking something perhaps a little obscure – I’ll make an enquiry there first.

The book I treasure most for planning my garden – Michael Crooks’ The New Zealand Gardening Calendar was one I ‘borrowed’ from Dad’s bookshelf for several years, before finally tracking down my own copy and returning it.

And while researching our family history last year, I found myself needing a copy of a Scientific American article from the early 1990’s. Dad had no problem finding it in his extensive back catalogue. The next time I saw him, there was a copy of it ready for me to take home.

These days I have my own fairly extensive library. I find the presence of a big bookshelf really comforting. I like knowing that the knowledge I might be looking for is just right there, on the shelf.

I’m passing that on to the next generation too. If I’m giving a kid a gift – especially in their early years before they’ve started developing specific interests – they’re getting books.

Look after nature

I wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for the values instilled in me by my parents – and especially my father.

His job for as long as I could remember was always to help protect New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. Those are values that were difficult to ignore in our household.

He’s always hunted pest species – long before I came onto the scene. These days we regularly catch up when he has a pile of frozen goat meat for our dogs.

And he’s always planted trees. When I was young, he planted what felt like a huge number of natives in the backyard of our childhood home. I think mostly as a shelter for the large veggie garden he grew garlic and other vegetables in with mum.

Looking at Google maps, I’m pretty sure a number of them are still there, 35 years later.

When he moved, he started planting his new place too. Seeing these trees mature over my lifetime gives me an appreciation of what planting a tree really means.

I think being my father’s daughter has made me a concerned global citizen. One who is informed and considers risks. Unsurprisingly, his influence has really guided a lot of who I’ve ultimately become. And – I’m sure – who I will ultimately grow into.

So thanks Dad. I promise I do listen, even if it feels like I’m not. I love you. Thanks for being a great Dad.

Image of my father with his father (my grandfather), New South Wales, 1965