Goodbye Koramba

At Koramba Farm, cotton irrigation is now in full swing and the camp routine has settled back into a more orderly manageable routine after the grain harvest when the camp was bedlam – jam packed full of backpackers, harvesters and experts rebuilding some irrigation systems.

Tractors ready to work

Cotton in the evening

Crop dusters are constantly landing and taking off from the airstrip starting at 3 or 4 am as they battle to keep the million dollar cotton crop free of insects that could destroy the lot.

Yesterday one of these crop dusters hit a head ditch at the end of a field ripping his landing completely off the plane. The pilot managed to fly back to the airstrip and at 4:00am and belly landed the plane successfully with no injuries.
This was after another incident earlier in the week just across from another farm we’ve worked on where the plane clipped the power lines and crashed in the cotton field critically injuring the pilot.
These blokes really know their stuff and have nerves of steel.

A safe belly landing after loosing landing gear in head ditch.

Another cropduster crash last week in Gundy.

Fiona has taken two weeks off to spend time with her family and get prepared for taking over the cooking position when we leave tomorrow to head to Brisbane in preparation for my radium treatment.

It’s hot – super-hot and it appears there’s no respite from the heat anywhere, even in our precious caravan with the air conditioner on full! The kitchen temperature rises quickly to the late 40º’s early 50°’s once the ovens and Bain Marie are turned on and throw in the repeated hot flushes and the body just cries out for COLDNESS.

The long Christmas and New Year period has finally drawn to a close. This is always a rather testing stretch for us as the heat and the backpackers (especially the few “Needy” and demanding ones) make the stretch seem a long one.

The camp mess room Christmas day.

Christmas Lunch at the camp

One thing that’s helped this year was having Ashley, Lish and our wonderful grand kids, Riley and Charlotte living on the farm. They’ve moved into their beautiful home here and it was such a delight to hear Lish tell us last night that she feels totally at home.
We were expecting her – a city girl – to take a while to really settle in but she’s slotted right in and she seems genuinely happy, excited and motivated about their future.

Riley and Charlotte driving the Grader

The Grandys on the forky

Ashley wanted to propose to Lish at Christmas so Ash, Kerrie and Lish’s sister conspired to secretly get the engagement ring that Lish had chosen from Brisbane out to the farm in time for Christmas. Unfortunately their efforts failed but the ring did get to the farm a few days later. Ashley (in a rare romantic moment) took Lish down to the river for a swim and on a sweltering New Year’s Eve proposed to her after which she accepted his proposal.

Lish’s engagement ring

It’s a real thrill for me watching Ashley work over at the workshop (I can often see him from the office window). He’s seldom found without a grin and loves working on the variety of machinery he gets to operate on daily.

Today he’s fixing the brakes on the Mack truck, yesterday servicing a Landcruiser and tomorrow possibly repairing a huge pump. He’s in his element, even in the heat.

I’m very proud of him.
But now we are on our final day at the farm!
How strange!
Throughout the last few weeks I’ve been rather excited to move on and get the next part of the adventure started, but today – I’m not sure.
Everything I do today reminds me it’s the last time – cooking breakfast, placing orders, clearing and cleaning, cooking dinner.

It’s strange.
This place has been such a huge part of us for five years. We’ve learnt so much about life here (and about ourselves) and we’ve grown to love the place and deeply respect all the people involved with keeping it running.

My little office seems somehow a sad place today after I’ve spent so many happy hours here designing our software. Even the mess and kitchen that we’ve played such a large part in operating seems sort of forlorn today.

It’s strange to see Fiona’s caravan under our annex that has provided shelter for our precious home for so long and under which I would sit on the swing seat at night after work with a glass of scotch and marvel at the starts and the moon.

I realise how much I’ll miss driving around the farm and seeing the magnificent green of the young cotton, the shining gold of the grain and the glistening water channels and dams that make me marvel at the engineering that created them.

I look at the camp garden with its ripening grapes and flourishing fruit trees and I remember the hours of toil and sweat that went into carving that garden out of the bush and I recall the huge quantity of vegetables it rewarded us with.

Every tree around the camp speaks of the efforts in sawing, trimming and clearing and I would like to think that at least this small corner of the 38,000 acres that make up Koramba is better for us having been here.

Nothing remains the same.

Nothing remains the same.

Life has been wonderful for me, especially the last 14 years or so spent with Kerrie.

We’ve been blessed with a lifestyle that’s allowed us to see a great chunk of Australia, work when we want, play often and love unconditionally.

We’ve never faced real hardship as our faith and trust in God has led us to expect that our footsteps are directed and even when situations have arisen where we didn’t know what to do, we’ve always been given the answer – seldom early, never late.

We were faced with one of these situations a few months ago not long before Koramba Cotton Farm reopened.

I had a couple of nasty looking skin cancers on my arm and decided to see a doctor. Our doctor took one look and said she couldn’t do anything to them and they would need to be removed by a specialist. This all took 3 minutes so the doctor said, “Well let’s order a blood test while we’re at it”.

Three days later I get a call from the doctor to come and see her as my PSA level was quite high.

Feeling fit and healthy I cockily thought it would be some vitamin deficiency due to past operations as sometimes happens when I get a blood test.
This was not to be. The doctor was concerned that there may be prostate cancer present.

Feeling a bit floored but still cocky, I went to an urologist who examined me an ordered an MRI scan and a biopsy.
The MRI came back with a definite diagnosis of cancer and a possible breach (an area where the cancer may have broken out of the prostate into other parts of the body).

This meant another full body/bone scan to try to confirm if there was indeed a breach.

Thankfully the scan did not confirm a breach but the biopsy result came back with a Gleason score of 9.

The lowest Gleason score of a cancer found on a prostate biopsy is 6. These cancers may be called well-differentiated or low-grade and are likely to be less aggressive – they tend to grow and spread slowly.
Cancers with Gleason scores of 8 to 10 may be called poorly differentiated or high grade. These cancers tend to be aggressive, meaning they are likely to grow and spread more quickly.
So, all this news is happening when we are flat out trying to get the Koramba quarters inhabitable again after 21/2 years closed.

Into the equation is thrown my brother Pete and his cancer diagnoses that unfortunately is incurable.

Making the trip to Moranbah to see Pete left me saddened to see how quickly the cancer had changed him physically and while he remained in relatively good spirits until the end, he succumbed to his illness a couple of weeks after my visit.

As if to accentuate life’s frail thread, a supervisor at Koramba passed away on the farm after a long battle with cancer which had returned after a substantial remission. He’d worked on the farm for 30 years.

So now I’m nearing the end of a 12 week hormone treatment which is designed to reduce testosterone levels which in turn reduces the cancer to a size where radium treatment can be administered more effectively.
The treatment causes female menopausal symptoms like hot flushes and I must say that after repeated bouts of feeling like my body was burning up from the inside out I have a great respect for what Kerrie has been suffering for the past six years.

The hormone treatment is nearing completion so we must say goodbye to Koramba as we move the caravan to Brisbane to undertake the radium treatment which is five days a week for two to three months.

I’m confident in the work being carried out by the doctors on my behalf and I’m looking forward to fulfilling our dream of hitting the road again selling the software at agricultural festivals and country shows around Australia and possibly filling in at Koramba when Fiona needs a break.

We’ve loved having Fiona here

Since the day Fiona arrived to help us run the Koramba Camp we’ve had the most enjoyable time with her infectious bubbly, positive and happy disposition.

She’s not only taken on every job we’ve asked her but she’s completed tasks,  jobs, repairs and improvements herself as she’s identified the need.

This has made our job much easier and of course more enjoyable with the constant joking and laughing and the overall contentedness with the situation the three of us are together in.

Kerrie, who loves to talk (and talk, and talk) has been in her glory with Fiona here as most of the time a sort of cackle ceaselessly emanates from the kitchen and mess room when they are together.

Kerrie phoned me while I was in Brisbane in tears of laughter as she expounded the details of when Fiona decided to mow the grass with the zero turn ride-on mower. She hadn’t operated one of these before and Kerrie was in fits as she demolished fence posts, spun round in circles and screamed as her boobs got tangled in the steering handles. After a while in the wide open area she became an expert at it.

She discovered one night that the transition from a queen sized bed to a single bed can take a bit of getting used to when she rolled over during the night only to run out of bed real estate and roll straight onto the floor.

It’s a must when in these parts to try a works hamburger from the general store in Talwood, easily the best burger we’ve ever had, so it was off to Talwood to expose Fiona to this marvellous experience. She had on her Sunday best city gear for the event (hey, small things are big out here) and we parked at the Talwood park under the shade of a tree to consume our gigantic burgers.

The meal was interrupted with a string of curses and exclamations from the back seat as her best blouse became plastered with sauce, eggs and bits of vegetation from the dripping burger.

Another hour was spent laughing at both the mess in the back seat and the constant harassment toward Kerrie and her new “Fit Bit”.

Kerrie LOVES her new Fit Bit, or “Fut But” as it pronounced in Fiona’s Kiwi accent.

It tells her how many steps she’s walked, how she slept, heart rate amongst a host of other information. So, of course, we now get this moment by moment commentary about everything the Fut But is telling her.

Fiona is relentless in her comments on the “Bloody Fut But” but you can imagine the comments when Kerrie announced that it even vibrates!

The residents seem to have taken to Fiona much the same as they’ve taken to Kerrie, regarding them both as “Away from home Mums”.

The down side of Fiona being here is that she soon must leave and we are both going to miss her very much. We are unable to say exactly when this will be as tomorrow Kerrie and I will drive to Brisbane for the final analysis of all the tests and biopsies I’ve had.

This weekend will determine our future at Koramba and will also influence what happens from here on with Fiona. Martyn will also know where he stands with staffing of the camp.

It’s a big call for us all!

It’s been so long!

Our last post was in November 2015 when baby Luke was born – not far off a year ago.

It seems like just yesterday.

Life in the caravan continues to be a fascinating and fun journey through these our later years.

We’ve had the pleasure of helping run our boss’s business for a few months while he took his caravan away on a trip north, and spent time between Brisbane and the farm (Koramba Cotton Farm), all the time working every possible hour on the suite of Operations Management programs that’s become our life’s work.

These programs would have been long finished had it not been for a disaster last year.

We were relying on a third party programme that was incorporated into our product and as we neared completion the third party software company closed their doors.

We were in a dilemma. We could either release the programme without the ability to make significant updates in the future or start from scratch or rewrite everything. After a lot of deliberation we went with the latter.

It’s taken a year to get back to the point we were at before but the suite of programmes is so much better for it. I’m glad we made that decision.

So where are we now?

Three weeks ago we got the call from our boss Martyn that Koramba Cotton Farm was starting up again in full strength.

The farm has been growing greatly reduced acres of cotton because of a three year long drought. We watched the water storage reservoirs dry up till there was nothing but dry cracked dirt in them. There was always a large winter crop of barley and favor beans planted in the dry land areas. These crops didn’t rely on water storage and irrigation and thankfully enough rain fell in those winter months to produce bumper crops, especially the barley.

Most of the work required to plant and maintain those winter crops was performed by the skeleton crew of staff who live on the farm permanently.

Now it’s time for cotton again!

Water has now returned to Koramba.

It's been a while since we've seen this - Res1 full again.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen this – Res1 full again.

Two dams are responsible for feeding water down the MacIntyre River to the hundreds of farms along its banks. These are Pindari Dam near Inverell and Glenlyon Lake near Yetman.

Pindari is up from 31% earlier this year to 100% with rain continuing. Glenlyon is currently at 62% but Toby, the Farm’s General Manager, is confident it will be full by Christmas.

In addition to the dams capacity there has been flooding on these black soil plains of Goondiwindi and Moree where Koramba is located.

The river has burst its banks and water is flooding into the sump.

The river has burst its banks and water is flooding into the sump.

This has meant large volumes of water have cascaded through the country filling local dams, creeks weirs and rivers.

The farm’s five huge diesel pumps that move the water from the river inlet are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the water storage facilities are now at capacity yet still the water comes. The MacIntyre River has now broken its bank right at the pump station and is pouring in as fast as the pumps can get it out.

pumps

The five large diesel pumps are working 24 hrs a day non stop.

The MacIntyre at the farm boundary - about 15 feet or more above normal.

The MacIntyre River at the farm boundary – about 15 feet or more above normal.

This means that every available field is being prepared for cotton.

This also means workers are needed.

Toby placed a call to Martyn for 10 workers and Kerrie and Martyn went into action finding and vetting about 200 applicants.

All this was done on our Labour Management Application by the way!

It was then up to us to “rescue” the quarters where those workers will be housed. After about 2 ½ years of non-use there was a lot to be done.

We purchased from Brisbane a lot of new equipment, mattresses, new table tops and a host of other stuff, hired a truck and drove it all out to the farm. We drove back the same day after unloading with help from Ashley, our son, who is now living and working at Koramba as a Mechanic’s Assistant (a job he loves by the way).

A couple of days later we moved the caravan from Redcliffe (where we had stayed for 5 weeks) to Koramba.

So here we are at Koramba again.

The 10 workers will arrive in two days and the camp needs to be completely ready so my darling and I are working to achieve this.

Trees are being cut down again, gardens refreshed, grass cut, slashing, painting, moving furniture, gurneying and the never ceasing cleaning.

Ashley helping with Chainsaw

 

It’s been about 2 ½ years since we did any serious physical work so the old bones and muscles are screaming in protest but it gets easier each day.

Moving day arrived.

Would the Gore Earthmoving job at South Callandoon start or would it be delayed again after huge 80mm rainfall over Easter?

We doubted very much there would be a start, however, since we hadn’t heard anything we decided to proceed as planned and move and if the job was delayed again it would at least give us a chance to get set up properly.

It took us a couple of hours or so to pack up the Aussie Wide and hook up as this time we were taking desks, all computers, 4 large monitors and even a few hydroponics for fresh garden herbs.
A bit of a concern sprung up when a squeaking noise appeared from somewhere down near the water pump of the Nissan so we were prepared for a bit of drama on the drive between farms which thankfully didn’t eventuate.

We arrived at the gates of South Callandoon and met Jim a grain cleaning contractor and James the farm manager.
They were a bit surprised to see us as, due to the rain, they couldn’t see the job starting within the next week.
James was happy for us to get set up though and was most helpful and welcoming.

The silos and Gore Vans. The site of our first set-up.

The silos and Gore Vans. The site of our first set-up.

We decided to set up next to the grain silos where the two Gore caravans were already set up because the live-in farm hand, Andrew, had meticulously cleared and sown grass seed around the camp and that, coupled with the soft ground after the rain, made us decide we didn’t want to start our relationship off by digging up the yard getting the caravan in.

The accommodation has four bedrooms on one side a breeze way through the middle. On the otherside of the breeze way is 2 bathrooms/laundry, lounge room and kitchen. A really nice set up.

The accommodation has four bedrooms on one side a breeze way through the middle. On the other side of the breeze way is 2 bathrooms/laundry, lounge room and kitchen. A really nice set up.

So after hours of work we had set up and were completely done in.
Poor Kerrie was howling for painkillers and I felt like I’d expended the last bit of physical strength I had left.

What a sight it must have been, these oldies setting up!
There was a pile of pellets nearby and James the Manager said we were welcome to use them as we wanted to make a floor under the annex to prevent the floor getting wet if it rained again.
This would be our office for the next 3 months or so and we needed to protect our valuable computers.

Well here we were, Kerrie on one side and me on the other dragging these pallets (pallets are bloody heavy).
We must’ve looked like a couple of old Draught horses on the last job before the knackers yard!

After meticulously placing these pallets and manouvering them in place and placing the mat over them it soon became apparent we’d need to go into Gundy the following day and get some timber sheeting or we were going to have a serious accident when the wheels of the office chairs met with the empty space between the pallets.

This didn’t stop us setting up the computers and finally all was made ready enough for us to knock off for the day.

After washing down some painkillers with a couple of scotches I was ready for bed and Kerrie looked completely over it. It was funny because the whole thing didn’t really FEEL right!

I suppose it didn’t help that when we went to take a shower. The water we’d plugged into (from a quite old tap we found) had a strong smell. Now Kerrie can put up with most things and she has since we’ve been on the road but she really likes to have a nice shower at the end of the day. This one wasn’t so nice.

Also earlier when we were looking for the best place to set up we walked over a cattle grid. Kerrie was behind me and as she put her foot on the grid a large Red Belly Black snake slithered away just under where her foot was. Needless to say she failed to complete the journey over the grid!

To top it all off there was NO INTERNET! Nooooo! We can’t have NO Internet! Part of the attraction with these jobs is being able to work on the programs through the day.
Were we supposed to be here?
Did we make an error of judgement?
These questions beset us as we drifted into a pain wracked sleep.

We were awakened at midnight by the sound of thunder and we realised we’d left the annex flaps open so as I threw on a dressing gown and dashed outside the heavens opened and freezing rain bucketed down over me as I fought against the wind which was howling like a banshee and was threatening to blow the annexe clean away.
Kerrie rushed to get the computers inside and that’s how we spent the first day and night at South Callandoon.

A rethink was necessary!

In the morning Jason, the Gore Earthmoving project manager and James the Farm Manager turned up and made the decision that they would look at the job on Friday and make a decision about starting but that nothing would happen before then.
The Gore workers had been temporarily stood down.
We were told we were welcome to stay and move anywhere we liked so we decided to go back to the original plan of parking the van next to the accommodation block.

Of course this meant packing the whole deal up again and moving. We tested the internet over at the accommodation block and found that although it was quite poor it was better than where we were.
The large steel silos we were next to may’ve been distorting the signal.
Also the water at the camp was great with no smell.
It would also be easier to get to work at 4:30am in the mornings as we’d be right there. We weighed up the benefits against the effort and decided to do it, just bite the bullet, tear it all down again and move.
It must have once again been amusing to all on the farm as we had all our stuff piled outside while we hooked up and moved. Andrew the young farmhand took pity on us and moved the 8 heavy pellets with the forks on a nearby tractor and then he helped me lay them in place.
He was a Godsend.

We took off to Gundy to get some timber sheeting for the floor and a few other things and then moved the van. It took all that day to get sorted and we were still not finished when tiredness and pain once again caused us to collapse into bed.
At least we got a wonderful hot shower with no smell. The next day saw us finish off the whole deal and by the time we were able to stand back and look at it we had to admit we did the right thing!

The caravan set up beside  our new work area.

The caravan set up beside our new work area.

There’s heaps of room for the computers, the floor is stable with no gaps and the view from our “office” is awesome!

The new "Office" for the next couple of months.

The new “Office” for the next couple of months.

The view from our office, we can see any cars going past, cows and other wildlife...very nice.

The view from our office, we can see any cars going past, cows and other wildlife…very nice.

We cooked a roast dinner and invited Andrew to thank him for his help and ended a much better and rewarding day.

Even the satellite dish is picking up 80 TV channels – something we couldn’t get at Koramba or Belah Park. The best news was when the boss phoned us to see how we were getting on. The rain over the last few days had ignited a renewed hope throughout the whole area and he’d been on the phone all day arranging workers for farms.
There was understandably a bit of a negative feeling in the town as things got dryer and dryer and it was great to see how quickly these tough people bounced back at just a small hint of change.

This morning we awoke to a cool but magnificent morning and after throwing back the flaps on the annexe I was able to get to work overlooking a magic view in a wonderfully comfortable office.
The office and the van are filled with the aroma of Kerrie’s fresh bread being baked again and a routine has already begun to evolve. Yes we did do the right thing, South Callandoon is a great place!

We like hot fresh bread for lunch.

We like hot fresh bread for lunch.

We make a deadline

After getting back to Koramba and setting up again we began an all-out effort to meet a deadline we’d set for ourselves.

You see while were staying with David and Lacey’s over Christmas David asked when the Budget Application would be back on line.
He was waiting for it as he’d always used it to control his money.

Now just a bit of background here!

We once operated our business, Simplicity Programming, creating programmes for a varied range of uses.

These programmes were primarily built for installing on PC’s running the Widows operating system.
They needed to be installed, reinstalled when updated, reinstalled when a client’s PC was changed and they couldn’t run on Macs, Smart Phones, or Tablets.

This was very limiting and meant many hours of work that we were never able to fully charge out to customers.

We made a decision five years ago that the whole concept of the business would need to change if we were going to continue with it!
That’s why we hit the road.

We wanted to gradually convert our existing applications to web based systems that would not require installation, would run on any device on any operating system.

Our “Stop Money Worries” home budgeting application was one of these.

We’d been working for many months on a large Operations Management system that could be used for workshop management on farms and heavy machinery operations and although we were at a critical point in the development of this system we decided that if David was so keen to use the budget app we would shelve the Operations Management System for a couple of weeks and get the budget up and running.

As usual – “the best laid plans of mice and men” – this redevelopment turned into a three month task!

In the meantime the Gore Machinery job was delayed a further few weeks so we decided to make an all-out effort to get the Stop money Worries system completed before the Gore job started.
If we could we’d celebrate by taking another quick trip to Brisbane before starting work.

So for three weeks our workday started at between 3 and 4 am and finished at between 9 and 10pm with only a scant hour or so off for lunch and a few short breaks.

It became a marathon effort that was at times very taxing and yet it was also a rewarding time as we saw large success in some really difficult pieces of coding.

Kerrie was as usual totally amazing in her support and help.
She built the first website that would be the landing page for the application and then produced a series of what I think are wonderful video tutorials.
In the midst of this she was always cherry and happy every day as she cooked all the meals, cleaned up and cooked a loaf of her incredible bread which was our lunch each day.
All this as well as building the website and producing the videos and keeping me encouraged when I got down.
Man there’s just no way I’d achieve anything without her!

It finally came to the point I never thought would arrive.

We’d planned to scoot off to Brissy on the Monday and the application was finished at 12 noon on that day. Since we’d been up since 3:15am we toyed with the idea of having a sleep before undertaking the journey but to be honest the excitement of completing a major milestone was just too exciting.

We were on the road by 12:30pm.

The conversation during the journey was so good as we discussed plans for possible changes, updates to the website and new videos.

Here’s a link to the Stop Money Worries website.

To see the application in action click the “Login” link and use the Username Guest and Password Guest to have a look.

Also here’s one of Kerrie’s videos which introduces the Stop money Worries system.

We had a truly great time in the unit at Maroochydore for three days and two nights before again heading back to Koramba.

We now had confirmation of the Gore Earthmoving job!

It was to be at South Callandoon a large farm of about 33,000 acres just 20 minutes from Goondiwindi.

The job would start on the Tuesday following Easter and we were to be there on site on Easter Monday.
We met with the Boss, Martyn, and the Gore Management team on the farm just before Easter and took a look at the accommodation and the facilities.
Our first impressions of the farm were good.

It was tidy and equipped with huge silos and the fencing was in good repair. The cattle that we saw looked healthy and the whole place looked, to the untrained eye, to be well managed and clean.

Gore Earthmoving will rebuild another dam on this farm fairly similar to the one just built at our last job at Belah Park.

The accommodation unit and kitchen are bigger and better set up than Belah Park and are spotlessly clean, the credit for which goes to the young station hand, Andrew, who lives there by himself at present.

We’d set up the Aussie Wide next to the kitchen where there was plenty of power and water.

After visiting the farm we went in to Gundy with Martyn for lunch just because it was so close. It was so exciting to be so close to town. It seemed like the Nissan had just got wound up when we were costing in to town.

With the move to South Calandoon scheduled for Monday and the Stop Money Worries application finished we decided on a day trip up to Emmaville again on the Easter Saturday.

Shannon had made a deal for a donger to use as a house and his Dad, Mum and Sister were going to be there for the weekend.
We also knew that Stretch and Kim from Koramba were going up for the weekend.

So off we went at 5:00am in pouring rain like we’d only seen once or twice in our three years at Koramba.
It poured all the way and we thought this to be good as it would give us a chance to see Emmaville at its worst so to speak.

As we ascended the road to Shannon’s the surrounding hills had huge layers of misty rain winding through and around the trees and the grey rainy sky just seemed to highlight the trees and the grass.

On arrival at the Shack we walked into a cosy communion of Shannon’s family, Stretch and Kim sitting around a monster log which was burning under the overhanging roof with Shannon’s mum cooking fresh scones on a camp oven.

A roaring fire, fresh meat on the BBQ, and hot scones who cares about the rain.

A roaring fire, fresh meat on the BBQ, and hot scones who cares about the rain.

It was such a wonderful time with people that are down to earth, humorous and generous.

Shannon’s Dad took Kerrie and I up the hill in the 4wd, via the new road Shannon had made with the excavator, to the new house site.
There was no donger.

It turns out that the people giving it to Shannon weren’t “allowed” to move it from Tamworth due to council regulations. Will we EVER escape government intervention?

Shannon and his Dad decided instead to go ahead and build a permanent house and amazingly within one week they had the peers in, floor down, walls up, veranda on and roof almost ready to go up.
The deck which will open out from glass doors off the living areas takes in awesome views of the ranges and the fact that it was grey and wet didn’t diminish the panorama one bit.

This is the sort of attitude that we’ve become used to – decide on a course of action and just get on with it!

Ern (Shannon's Dad)  showing Chris and Kerrie, Shannon's new home.

Ern (Shannon’s Dad) showing Chris and Kerrie, Shannon’s new home.

Even in the wet this place has the most amazing views.

Even in the wet this place has the most amazing views.

1-2 bedrooms, kitchen, lounge room, bathroom/laundry and a large verandah. What else do you need?

1-2 bedrooms, kitchen, lounge room, bathroom/laundry and a large verandah. What else do you need?

After an enjoyable few hours of chatter and laughter we headed home but not before checking out a block of land that took our fancy.
Tramping over it in the wet just further flamed our desire to settle up here sometime.

The boys tramping over the property we like.

The boys tramping over the property we like.

We liked this property so much we have rung the real estate to let them know if the owners want to sell we're willing to buy.

We liked this property so much we have rung the real estate to let them know if the owners want to sell we’re willing to buy.

We drove the fours hours back to Koramba arriving about 9:30pm.

We’d driven over 700km but we felt it was well worth it!

Never two days the same

With the finishing up of the Gore earthmoving job at Belah Park station it was back to our beloved Koramba for a while.

The Weir River at the entrance to Belah Park.

The Weir River at the entrance to Belah Park.

The job at Gore’s was initially for an 8 week period and ended up being a 5 month stint.
One of our last communications with the company as the job ended was when they asked us if we’d like to do another job for them.

They couldn’t tell us exactly where it was as they’re quite understandably very tight lipped on future jobs especially before they’re not fully signed off and “in the bag”. They did however say that it was “no further from Gundy than this one”. Belah Park was about 150 kilometres west of Goondiwindi near Mungindi.

We said we’d be happy to do another job when it came up providing it was still under the same arrangement with Martyn Morrissey, our boss.

By the end of the Belah Park job we were really looking forward to a “Coastal Fix”.

The heat had been relentless for weeks as had the flies and dust and although we enjoyed the job we began to look forward to a break.
So it was with much joy that we hooked up and headed to Koramba yet again where we wanted to get the grounds around the camp looking as smart as we could in the drought conditions.

We wanted to take the ride on mower into Gundy for a service and just make sure everything was spic and span.

We’d previously learned that Shannon, our young friend and teacher of all things rural from Koramba, had decided to move on.
He got a job with a stock transport company in Glen Innes which allowed him to live up at his property at Emmaville and commute daily.

Would Koramba be the same for us without his presence?

He’d been such a huge part of everyday life for us for nearly 3 years. It was both sad and exciting for us to see him move on. Sad from a purely selfish point of view – we wouldn’t have him around – but excited that he’s exploring other avenues and opportunities.
At 25 he has such a massive store of knowledge and yet we can’t help but wonder how this’ll be added to and honed over the next phase of his life.

After getting Koramba ship shape and harvesting the massive haul of delicious grapes from the vines we’d planted 3 years before, we hooked up the Aussie wide and headed to Brisbane for a Kids, Grandkids and ocean change.

It was a great feeling to have the Nissan humming along, easily towing the Aussie Wide again.

Just before leaving Koramba we got a call from Jason at Gore earthmoving.
The new job would start in two to three weeks.

This meant a shortened trip as we wanted to swing around Emmaville and stay a few days with Shannon before starting.
We still didn’t know where the new job was but there were strong hints that it was much closer to Gundy than either Belah Park or Koramba. This was very exciting!
There was even talk of the camp being set up in the Gore yard IN Gundy.

The prospect of being “Townies” for a while was a thrill as we love Goondiwindi.
Kerrie began running through all the possibilities of being able to get to town just for a coffee, a chat and a look round the shops.

So it was with the backdrop of this prospect that would once again change the direction of our daily lives, that we parked up at David and Lacey’s place on the Sunshine Coast and relaxed and caught up with everyone.

I must say it was quite a thrill to be woken in the morning with a little girl’s voice coming from inside the house, “Nanna, Grandpa”!

It was a wonderful stay and it was a thrill to see the Grandkids, (Elliana, Riley and Charlotte), all growing so fast and happy and healthy.

Elliana does Little Kickers once a week. It improves their motor skills, colour recognition and sportsmanship.

Elliana does Little Kickers once a week. It improves their motor skills, colour recognition and sportsmanship.

It was a whirlwind of outings with the Netball Girls, talks with Ash, playing with Riley and Charlotte, dinners with Emily, shopping with Lacey, walks with Elliana, catching up with Barry & Christine and, of course, fishing with David.

This is always a highlight for me and this time we were rewarded with a great haul of Tuna, Snapper, Grassy Emperor and Sweetlip.

Fishing with David is great but even better when we catch something.

Fishing with David is great but even better when we catch something.

I must say it was a bit hard packing up and leaving this time and as we hit the road again, pointed toward Glenn Innes on the coast road; it caused us to have a long discussion about what we wanted for the future.

On the one hand there was the thrill of life on the road – seeing new places and meeting new people – and we’ve loved every minute of it.
On the other hand there’s a desire to have our own place again – but where?

After the quality of life we’ve enjoyed, especially at Koramba, would we be contented with a small house or a unit back in the city?
Country life has rather captured us and yet we still love the sea and the close proximity to Kids and Grand kiddies.

On a weekend trip up to Shannon’s land at Emmaville a few months previously we’d been captivated by the breathtaking views, peace and quietness of his 250 acres.
We could easily imagine a small house up there and perhaps a small unit on the Sunny Coast where we could enjoy the best of both worlds.

Of course the foundation of it all is the Management Programme that we’re building that’s nearing completion.

There’s the possibility of us touring the country shows and Agfests to present the software to farmers. This would allow us to still spend time on the road in the Aussie Wide as well!

So after hours of these discussions we camped the night in a small free camping area somewhere in the ranges north of Coffs Harbour and enjoyed a great sleep.

You know how sometimes you go to a place and really enjoy it, even fall in love with it but on returning it’s not the same?
Well we wondered if this would be the case with Emmaville.

Would this be just an idea we’d come up with that on the next visit would prove impractical, unattractive or impossible?

We drove up through the New England ranges and stopped at Point Lookout, made a coffee, had a chat with some other travellers and marvelled at the magnificent scenery which spread before us.

Point Lookout New England By Andrea Schaffer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/aschaf/13976506424/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Point Lookout New England By Andrea Schaffer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/aschaf/13976506424/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Through the town of Emmaville we drove and up on to Shannon’s land where we were once again presented with the breathtaking views stretching for miles over the New England ranges.

We set the Aussie Wide up next to the little shack where Shannon temporarily lives and wandered around the place waiting for him to come home from work.

Looking down to his temporary residence. You can see the van parked at the back.

Looking down to his temporary residence. You can see the van parked at the back.

Last time we were there was in winter and although the nights were cold the days were lovely.

This was in the middle of summer and temperatures had soared. Koramba was hitting the 40 degree mark daily but here, although hot, it was pleasant and very bearable and there were no flies!
Kerrie loved the place all over again.

Shannon came home and took us for a drive up to where he’d carved out his future house pad with his excavator.
The three of us climbed on the cab of the digger and looked at the view that Shannon would be greeted with every morning.
It was utterly beautiful!

The view from Shannon's selected house block.

The view from Shannon’s selected house block.

From any angle the view is impressive.

From any angle the view is impressive.

The camera never captures the whole experience.

The camera never captures the whole experience.

Down in his valley was a blue water dam and a small 4 or 5 acre paddock that he’d planted some oats in. His cows, getting so big now on the abundance of feed, wandered peacefully over the valley and then we spotted our Topsy.
She’d formed an alliance with the little calf, Lulu, and it was lovely to see her wandering around fully contented.

We talked into the night with Shannon outside the caravan with the moon casting a magnificent silver glow over the surrounding hills and the air crisp and cool with no insects.
We could have easily just stayed there.

Jack, Shannon’s cattle dog refused to go with him to work the next morning and instead just sat next to the caravan. He spent the day with us as we drove around the countryside and spotted a few properties that we could easily have lived on.

No… the feelings and the idea of living up here had not subsided, in fact this visit seemed to further cement the idea into our thinking.

After a truly wonderful three days we once again headed back to Koramba where we’d await the call from Gore Earthmoving to start work.

A family visit:

We had visitors come out to the farm.

David, Lacey and Elliana had been down at Tamworth for a family reunion to celebrate Lacey’s Nanna’s 100th birthday. On their way home they stopped at the farm.

We also had Noel and Dermot, Natalie’s dad and brother, visit at the same time.

Noel and Dermot arrived before David and Lacey so Chris took the boys out for a run around the farm.

They ended up down the back boundary of the farm near Stretch the supervisor’s place where they found more cattle eating the green carpet of barley in one of the 200 acre fields causing Chris to use the Nissan to chase them back to their home on the adjoining property.

Once David arrived it was back out again to try and shoot some feral animals. I think Noel and Dermot were rather surprised at the amount of wild life on this property. Kangaroos in plague proportions, emus with their young, foxes and of course feral pigs.

There was no luck on the shooting side and just like fishing it was the equipment at fault, they needed to sight in their guns, (Yeh yeh haven’t we all heard those stories “I would have got it but…”).

So it was back home to enjoy the evening around the camp fire with a dinner of lamb chops. We’d wanted to show off our own butchered meat supply of lamb, goat and of course let the visitors taste the beef from T-bone.

Grandpa showing Elliana the tractors and Pickers.

Grandpa showing Elliana the tractors and Pickers.

Plans were made to go out and check the pig traps for Shannon the next day and I wanted to show Elliana Shannon’s cows and introduce her to Topsy our little calf who’s now not so little.

The next morning after breakfast the boys took off to check the traps. Lacey, Elliana and I went out to see the cows. Elliana truly looked the part trying to feed the cows with grass while calling out “Come here”. Not quite sure what the cows thought of it all.

Elliana and cows 1

She looked the part with her gum boots, but now sure about her "Come here"

She looked the part with her gum boots, but now sure about her “Come here”

The boys returned back to the camp having had no success with the traps but they knew they had to sight in their guns as it had been a long time since anyone had used their weapons.

We ‘d brought David’s plinkers (targets made from steel plate that when hit with a bullet give a “plinking” noise) and so it was off to the back of the main  reservoir to set these up to test the guns as well along with some boards to mark out how far off their shots were.

Noel and Derment sighting their guns.

Noel and Dermot sighting their guns.

Along the top of the Reservoirs is a good place to put out targets.

Along the top of the Reservoirs is a good place to put out targets.

Lacey shooting “Fox Targets with David checking the accuracy.

Lacey shooting “Fox Targets with David checking the accuracy.

And what was Elliana doing you ask, watching “The Wiggles” of course

And what was Elliana doing you ask, watching “The Wiggles” of course

Chris’s was out by a mile but eventually they were all happy. David had a go of Chris’s 22-250 aiming at one of the plinkers 150 meters away. We thought he had hit it as it wobbled a bit but it should have spun around.

It wasn’t until we went to collect them that we realised the power in the gun as it had shot straight through the 10mm thick steel… all 5 shots. Elliana’s future boyfriends should take note.

All five shots straight through the plinkers.

All five shots straight through the plinkers.

Plinkers 1

Jack, Shannon’s pup, was fascinated by Elliana. It must have been that she was the same height as him and he never seen a small child before.

He didn’t jump up on her and if he tried to lick her we taught her to say “shoo Jack” and they soon became best mates, he would follow her around and they would both investigate things together, sticks, dirt, trees, rocks.

“Here want to play with the stick”

“Here want to play with the stick”

Jack watched her very carefully.

Jack watched her very carefully.

For dinner Wednesday night, Chris cooked his sweet Goat Curry and as always sitting around a roaring campfire was a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Thursday the boys headed out to walk the dry river bed where Shannon had told them the guys has shot 22 pigs the previous week walking it in the middle of the day. Yes they saw pigs but they were a bit slow off the mark to shoot them and the pigs quickly disappeared in the thick scrub.

Now David had come across a fox and even with the fox standing there looking at him he managed to miss it. He unloaded his magazine and raced back to try another shot with Chris’s gun, still no luck. Of course as family and friends we gave him heaps about it. His determination was set, he wanted to shoot a fox. These animals might look cuddly but are quite savage with the livestock and are feral.

Thursday afternoon we caught up with Jason one of the farm workers. Jason has a couple of lambs and a pig and he was happy to let us show Elliana the different animals. After a dinner of roast beef they were back out hunting and this time everyone was happy with their shots.

It was a great time seeing everybody and being able to show them around the farm.