Meet “T-bone” Shannon’s new pet, although judging by the name you wouldn’t think it’ll be a long term relationship.
The feisty steer was put into a hastily erected yard near the camp where he’s alone, just him and his belligerent attitude.
After penning up T-Bone, Shannon came over to the camp to announce that, “If that thing gets out stay clear because the only way we’re going to stop it is by a bullet”.
I went over for a closer look at T-Bone and the whole time I stood there he snorted violently and raked the ground with his hoof almost as if he was daring me or anyone else to step inside the enclosure.
Occasionally he would charge me, stopping only when he realised there was a fence between him and me.
Even Mongrel, the fearless dog, stays safely perched on the back of Shannon’s Ute when in the steer’s vicinity.
Despite the bad temper it’s a rather beautiful looking animal with fine brown toning and strong features.
As Kerrie has already written, we’ve made a commitment to stay for another year at Koramba before once again resuming our wanderings around Australia.
The short answer is because we enjoy our lives out here.
To the casual observer the place is just a massive area of brown grass, scrub and cotton with a smattering of wheat and other grains dotted about the 40,000 acres.
To us it’s much more.
It’s ultimately a business, one that’s very complex and subject to a whole range of influences that are often outside the ability of humans to change, such as weather, markets, and prices of raw material.
It’s also a place where things seem more real somehow than what we have been used to in the working environment of the cities.
The place just seems to WORK.
What makes it work?
Well, all of us know that the responsibility for an organisation’s capacity to produce and prosper comes down to one person, the Manager.
The Manager is where the proverbial buck stops, no matter what the circumstances.
Out here at Koramba the Management are tough, on the job and fully involved.It often seems as if the General Manager, Toby, is everywhere at all times.
His hands on knowledge and his involvement with the daily activity of the farm are extraordinary.
From purchasing toilet rolls and paper towels at the camp to tracking global commodity prices; from understanding the complex chemistry of the soil to fixing a pump, the man is there, always calm and seldom losing his grin.
The most noticeable aspect of this is that he seems to be unflappable and unfazed by problems. His philosophy is very much “one day at a time”. Of the sixty or so workers between the Gin and the farm there would be few if any he doesn’t know by name and none that he hasn’t been able to accurately read their ability and character.
We feel we’ve learnt a lot from this young man who seems to be someone for whom most people actually want to do a good job for.
When Dave, our beloved supervisor, passed away we felt that the absence of his vast experience and his ability to supervise would have a negative impact on the farm as we didn’t believe he could be replaced easily.
We were wrong.
While Dave is still sadly missed, even this far on, the farm didn’t seem to miss a beat, even though Dave was not replaced.
The other young supervisors seemed to stand up and grow taller, taking responsibility and initiative and they did it without the need for pep talks, threats or motivational speeches.
The harvest was achieved in record time with a remarkably low incident rate and the preparation for the next crop is proceeding smoothly and ahead of time.
Like I said, the place just WORKS!
Because of our commitment to stay for another year, we’ve bought a shelter for the Aussie Wide.
A few weeks ago we had a hail storm go through the farm and it damaged the annexe roof so we decided that since the caravan would be here for a year we’d shelter it and the car from the extremes of weather we experience out here.
Toby gave us permission to erect it and even offered to get the farmhands to put it up on the next wet day.
We still enjoy working for Martyn, our boss, who contracts our labour to the farm.
He seems to value the job we do out here and as it’s the end of the financial year he gave us a great bonus the other day which we were quite overwhelmed with. We don’t need a bonus to do our best for this man who we’ve come to respect greatly but it was really great to know our efforts were appreciated.
He’s another example of the “Realness” of life out here. He just knows his business extremely well and makes it happen with a minimum of fuss and bother.
Kerrie and I are amused by Martyn’s young assistant, Jaala who seems to be taking on his persona.
The writer Napoleon Hill said that you emulate the people you associate with most and watching Jaala as she grows into the business this is definitely true.
Kerrie is thoroughly enjoying her new job in the workshop store.
She comes home of an afternoon covered in cobwebs and dust but always with a smile, full of reports of what type of bolt or nut or spare part she familiarised herself with today.
She especially likes working with Shannon and I think she’s taken on some of his attitudes especially where dealing with the workers is concerned.
Like Toby, Shannon seldom gets into a flap, even when a flap would be entirely justified.
This project has been good for Kerrie and I think it will also be good for the farm as she’s sees how the efficient management of this workshop could save the farm many thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of dollars.
We’re taking delivery of some new tractors soon and she hopes to have the parts sections of the workshop organised by then which hopefully will ultimately make maintenance schedules and repairs easier and more efficient.
The population of the camp has remained quite stable over the last few months with the “core” of the camp probably being the three young Estonian couples, Arvi and Ave, Merlin and Kristjan and Ingrid and Lauri (who were here when we first arrived last time and have returned).
It’s a joy to have this lot at the camp, always seemingly happy and never grumbling or discontented.
We especially feel close to Ingrid who is quite an inspiration to us.
Small, petite and weighing in at no more than 45kg wringing wet, she first came to the farm during irrigation where she was put on a shovel digging irrigation ditches. This is hard work in the scorching heat even for a fit well built bloke and there could not be a greater contrast to her home in Estonia.
Martyn often remarks as to how, on seeing how small she was, saw her career in cotton farming as very short lived.
Ingrid told us how, in those first days, she cried herself to sleep at night, unable to see how she could carry on. But carry on she did!
She made a commitment to herself that no matter how bad she felt she would not let any of the management see her inner struggle with the job. She would at all times present as if she was happy with the job.
In a short space of time she did become happy with the job and ended up becoming one of the most efficient tractor operators on the farm.
Kerrie and I would often laugh about seeing Ingrid’s tractor, huge and powerful, with this tiny figure inside almost too small to see.
It’s great to see this petite young lady, always looking immaculate, operating this large machine and her story of perseverance is inspiring, even to us who are more than twice her age.
We have six Australians living on camp at the moment, Darryn, Steve, Travis, Josh, Mick and John. This is the most Aussies that we’ve had on camp at one time since we’ve been here and another two are moving in next week.
We have three Irishmen Fin, Darragh and Joe, Klaus who is Danish and is a helicopter pilot who is sitting his exams for Australian accreditation, Jan who is German and Kirill is Russian.
In keeping with the rest of the farm the camp runs very smoothly. Everyone seems to mix well and if there are any resentments or personality clashes they’re very well hidden.
While almost all the camp’s inhabitants regard themselves as “short term” and are all looking to a time when they will move back home or on to other places, they all seem to be contented with where they find themselves at present.
The atmosphere is most often humorous and enjoyable and it seems like nationalities make no difference, they all get along.
Perhaps the Koramba Camp is a mini version of what the outside world could be like if we all accepted each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
So, it’s because of this easy going atmosphere where big things seem to happen without fuss and nonsense that we’ve found a place to call home for another year.
We still look forward to our trips to Brisbane every 5 or six weeks, especially now with another granddaughter, Charlotte Eden Jones, being born just a week ago but we are very comfortable with our decision to stay awhile at Koramba Cotton Farm.