October Already!

Why does time speed up as you get older?

Its 5:00am and apart from the myriad of birds there isn’t a sound on Koramba Cotton farm.
The early morning sunlight is touching the trees and the surrounding bush making it all a wonderfully peaceful time. It rained here yesterday, a light to moderate, soaking rain that has penetrated the Kikuyu grass seeds we planted a week or so ago. It wasn’t enough to turn the farm’s roads into the usual impassable black soil slop that accompanies heavier rain, just enough to freshen everything up.

The whole farm is on a long weekend off this weekend after the last three weeks of 12 hour days and full on activity planting the cotton. Some of the boys have gone to Brisbane while others have taken the opportunity for a rare visit to their homes. Of the ones left in camp most took off to Goondiwindi for a night at the pub.
This means a much appreciated break for us. We put breakfast time back to 9:00am, meaning we can sleep in, and dinner is a much easier job with only a few around.

After a walk around the camp to take in the stillness and peace I’ve taken the opportunity to update the blog, something that’s been difficult to do recently.

Our boss, Martyn, has put an ad on seek for the Cook/Managers job out here and we hope to fill it within the next few weeks enabling me to get back to the programme building.

One of the young Irishman, Philip, arranged for his girlfriend, Lauren, to come and work at Koramba and the plan is for her to do the weekend cooking until a permanent cook is appointed. We’ll be able to get back to Brisbane on the weekend of the 13th and 14th of October. She’ll also work the weekends giving us a welcome break from the constant seven day weeks.
Lauren is a very nice, competent young lass who, although only 19, has already extensively travelled, alone, from her home in England. She has little to no cooking experience but a great attitude, a willingness to learn and a readiness to undertake any job required of her. We’re very confident in her.

Even with the temporary full time cooking we’re still enjoying our lives here immensely.
The workers are a fantastic bunch and it’s a real pleasure to be involved in the nightly laughter and banter at dinner time, especially for Kerrie.
A number of the boys take joy in winding her up and she delights in responding to them. There seems to be a good feeling in the camp and we can honestly say there is no one who we find difficult to handle.

We drove out to where the boys were sowing the cotton seeds the other day which sort of completed a cycle for us as now we’ve seen the whole cotton growing process from seeding to harvest.

One of ten tractors planting field 51

One of ten tractors planting field 51

Planting from the irrigation channel from where water is syphoned onto the rows of cotton

Planting from the irrigation channel from where water is syphoned onto the rows of cotton

This is "Soong", one of our boys from the camp, planting cotton

This is “Soong”, one of our boys from the camp, planting cotton


 

Fifteen tractors were involved in sowing, ten actually planting seed while another five prepared fields that were full of more cotton trash than was acceptable after last year’s bumper crop.

Large clumps of cotton, stalks and roots gather in the rows to be planted and what happens is the planters hit these clumps, ride up on top of them and drop the seed onto the clump instead of in the soil.
This means all the seeds dropped onto this trash are useless. To fix the problem tractors draw large chains attached to heavy pieces of railway line over top of the cotton rows. This action rakes off the trash allowing the seeders to correctly drop the seed into the soil.

Heavy chains are dragged over the cotton furrows to rake off excess rubbish

Heavy chains are dragged over the cotton furrows to rake off excess rubbish

Its a dusty old job on the chains

Its a dusty old job on the chains

Dave the tough but highly respected foreman - always working, always in control.

Dave the tough but highly respected foreman – always working, always in control.

Dave does smile! It's great to listen to the boys mimmicking him after he's told them off, but every one of them does it with great respect.

Dave does smile! It’s great to listen to the boys mimmicking him after he’s told them off, but every one of them does it with great respect

Planting is very precise.
The ground temperature must be above 16 degrees and the moisture levels just right.
Moisture levels are updated constantly from sensors that are dug into the fields. These are solar powered and send readings to a central internet server via satellite. By logging on to an internet site the farm management can receive precise and constant moisture readings of every paddock.

Pre planting irrigation had been instigated a week or so prior to planting with water being distributed at just the right amount to the sections of each field to bring the moisture levels to the correct percentage.

Planting is carried out using planters drawn by tractor with an ingeniously simple mechanism that scrapes a hole, drops in the seed and rakes soil back over the hole in an almost simultaneous action. Ten tractors work in unison counting off 16 rows from where the last tractor finished and then doubling back.
It’s only been 14 days since planting began and already the cotton is well above ground in the first fields that were planted.

This field was planted less than 2 weeks ago and already the cotton is well up.

This field was planted less than 2 weeks ago and already the cotton is well up.

The boys have just completed their best ever day of planting. They’ve sown 1600 acres of seed in one day. This is a record and caused the farm management to praise up the guys.

About 11,000 acres will be planted this year and at the rate they are moving they’ll be finished tomorrow, just 2 weeks after starting.