Ever Changing – Koramba Farm

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We’re always hesitant about asking the Koramba people for “things’. We feel we’re being pests as the farm is always busy and everyone has heaps of “stuff” to do.

This is particularly true of the farm’s key people; Toby (The General Manager), Daryl (The Farm Manager), Dave (The Farm Supervisor), Shannon (The Mechanic) and Martyn (Our Boss).

These people seem to work seven days a week most weeks, virtually from dawn to dusk and not once have they given us a reason to feel like pests. Quite the contrary! Whatever we’ve asked for they’ve always bent over backwards to provide it with an easy going “nothing is too difficult” type of attitude. They’ve even openly told us that whatever we want they’ll get for us.

It’s probably because of this willingness and cooperation that we try to “cull out” what we ask for, being careful not to be frivolous with this good natured, good humoured willingness.

This is why we asked Shannon to teach me how to drive his little bulldozer so we didn’t have to take up his time in order to clean up the roads and the overgrown trees.

Shannon was happy to show me how to operate this beaut little machine that’s rugged and tough and, as Shannon says, unbreakable.

After a brief and to the point explanation of each of the levers and pedals, a pre start check, a lift of the throttle lever and a push of the starter button the machine blasted into life with a roar. I played around in the ½ acre or so of open space next to Shannon’s house where I couldn’t destroy anything of significance, ever mindful of Martyn’s parting words the day before warning me about driving the dozer through the camp buildings.


It was a great experience and I soon got the hang of it. All the potential of having such a small yet powerful machine at my disposal came flooding in. Trees could be uprooted, ground levelled and things moved around that would be beyond our ability to do manually.

I was soon knocking over the thicket of scrubby trees in the camp where we will put the large vege garden.

By the end of the day the camp grounds were looking considerably clearer. I shut the dozer down just before dark and climbed off with every muscle aching, especially the left leg from the hours of working the heavy clutch, and the lower back where the steel seat had constantly slammed into it for the last few hours. As sore as I was I was extremely happy for the opportunity to learn something new and to get such a large amount of work done.

Cleaning up the overgrown bushes is making a hugh difference to the over all look.

Cleaning up the overgrown bushes is making a hugh difference to the over all look.

After a scotch and a few pain killers I slept for an unbroken twelve hours before firing up the dozer again early Sunday morning.

I don’t know where the day went but 10 hours non stop on the dozer saw a significant change in the camp landscape.

Periodically through the day onlookers from the farm would stop for a gander. I wonder what they were saying. Probably, “Who let that idiot use that thing”?

By the end of the day we had our garden bed and all the trees, roots and rubbish, including the huge telephone poles had been cleared away.

Shannon ran a huge tractor with an Offset machine over the cleared ground on his side of the camp to dig it up and he’ll later level it ready for us to sow grass seed at the end of August.

Shannan with the offset. He will run this over our veggie garden to turn the cotton trash and ground to workable dirt.

Shannan with the offset. He will run this over our veggie garden to turn the cotton trash and ground to workable dirt.

Toby, the General Manager gave us a sack of Kikuyu seed a few days before as he dropped off the farm’s chain saw for us. He’d made a comment that stuck with me. We were talking about how some of the farm’s houses are cut off when it rains and he said, “The rain never bothers me. There’s profit in mud and poverty in dust”.

Almost everyone had given us the advice that we needed to get some Cotton Trash for the garden. Having no idea what cotton trash was and how good it might be I undertook some research and found that this trash was the end run of the cotton processing cycle. It is the rubbish that is discarded from the gin and includes soil, cotton seed husks, bits of cotton, sticks and burs etc from the paddocks.

In its natural state, as it comes out of the gin, it’s pretty useless for gardens as it contains weed seeds and pesticide chemicals which will quickly destroy a garden.

What is useful is the end product after the cotton trash has been composted. The raw trash is discarded and dumped in a pit near the gin and temperature and moisture combine to compost the trash, destroying all harmful chemical residues and sterilising any seeds.

It turns out just like dirt.

It turns out just like dirt.

The broken down compost is extremely rich and beneficial as a mulch or compost additive. It also makes the soil lighter and easier to keep watered.

We were told we could use the farm’s tipping trailer to get as much as we wanted ( there are hundreds of tons of the stuff) but Shannon said he would bring a load down for us.

In the meantime I’d left one large tree in the middle of the garden bed as it was too big even for the tough little dozer. I was going to leave it but after talking to Martyn we decided it would suck out too many nutrients and too much moisture from the garden bed.

It had to go!

It had to go.

It had to go.

I prepared myself mentally to do another chainsaw job on this tree when Shannon said he would bring over a machine that would get it out.

Remember, Shannon is a very busy young bloke but, true to his word, well after dark and as we were serving dinner, the farm’s Kenworth semi-trailer roared past the kitchen. We ran out to see Shannon backing the huge truck up to our new vege garden and within minutes a whole semi load of richly composted cotton trash lay on the bed.

The load of cotton trash is rich in nutrients.

The load of cotton trash is rich in nutrients.

As we thanked him his ever present smile shone through a face caked in dust and dirt as he explained that this was his favourite truck. “There’s not much in her,” he said, “but she runs like a beauty.”

(A Note from Kerrie)

We would have had a picture of the semi but Chris came back in with the camera and commented “The camera’s not working properly”

No… it doesn’t with the lense cap still on.

Now during the early part of the day, yet another change confronted us as Martyn paid an early morning visit to the farm to speak to Jacquie, the Cook.

Jacquie decided to resign and within a few hours she had packed up and left the farm.

This, of course, meant Kerrie and I are back in the kitchen full time as well as the cleaning.

So it was a matter of getting stuck in and reorganising the food again to get everything on an even keel.

We’re not sure how this will pan out for our near future but the important task at hand is to keep things running smoothly until things are sorted.

After breakfast Shannon again turned up at the camp, this time with the large Caterpillar back hoe. With a bit of digging and a few hard rams with the bucket the large tree in the middle of the new garden area was uprooted and partially moved.

Shannan can handle any machine on this farm, fast and efficient.

Shannan can handle any machine on this farm, fast and efficient.

In the middle of this operation Shannon had to leave to do a job. This coincided with a visit from the Farm Supervisor Dave. After a chat Dave told me to jump up on the back hoe and he’d teach me how to use it so I could grab it whenever it wasn’t in use on the farm.

Within a few minutes I was operating the backhoe trying to pick up logs and branches with the bucket. What a thrill! I always wanted to have a go at one of these!

When Chris first started it took 10min to pick up his first branch. I wanted to go over and put the branch in the bucket for him. He was so proud when he carried away his little branch to add it to the already hugh pile of over growth and scrub.

When Chris first started it took 10min to pick up his first branch. I wanted to go over and put the branch in the bucket for him. He was so proud when he carried away his little branch to add it to the already hugh pile of over growth and scrub.

So in the last few days this is what we’ve achieved;

  • Learned to drive a dozer
  • Learned to drive a back hoe
  • Moved tons of scrub and bush
  • Levelled out the new garden bed
  • Renovated the roads around the camp
  • Cleaned one of the farm’s houses ready for a new occupant
  • Taken over the cooking
  • Removed heaps of debris and junk to the tip

Whew!! We need a day off!

But – part of the whole reason for us “hitting the road’ 20 months ago was to learn new things, especially about farming. We’ve certainly done that and we’ve only just begun.