The camp’s operating again

It’s good to see Koramba buzzing with activity again.

Everything’s gearing up to take advantage of the massive amount of water that’s been dumped on the farm over the last few weeks. Every available acre of land that’s not already growing barley will be planted in cotton.

The dry, brown landscape has been transformed again to green grasses and plants and every water storage facility is full to the brim. Hundreds of thousands of birds are nesting and feeding around the dams after their 2 year absence.

Even the local shops have an attitude of expectancy again as the farms all gear up for what’s anticipated to be a bumper couple of years.

Amidst this intense activity we’ve been working to get the quarters ready to receive the backpackers who will arrive to begin jobs such as planting, pipe throwing (getting the irrigation pipes ready that will spill water into the many thousands of furrows alongside the cotton plants) and irrigating. The harvest contractors will arrive soon to begin harvesting the thousands of acres of barley that’s already turning golden.

Smack in the middle of this activity I get a health scare.

This means a seemingly endless round of tests and consultations that couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

We’re determined to ensure this has a minimal effect on the preparations to open the quarters.

To this end we spoke to an old friend and work colleague, Fiona.

She was at a loose end and was happy to come out and work with Kerrie for a couple of weeks while I went through the merry go round of tests, scans and biopsies in Brisbane.

I’d have thought most women, who’re used to the city’s busy and varied lifestyle, would be reluctant to just drop everything and come way out here into a lifestyle that is completely different and in many ways quite harsh compared to city comfort but Fiona did just that.

She arrived with a smile and an attitude that seemed to say, “I’ve no idea what I’m getting into but I’ll give it my best”.

The next day was a drive back to Goondiwindi to purchase two full Ute loads of food for the initial stocking of the kitchen.

We’ve given the camp a quick but thorough face lift as the last 2 ½ years of laying idle has rendered it untidy and tired looking with many basic facilities not working properly. The mess room has new table tops and benches and a new crib lunch system, which utilises a new double door fridge to keep the meats and sandwich fillings cold. It’s also had the large cracks in the walls and roof fixed and a paint job. Leaking rooves have been repaired, the kitchen painted and a few new pieces of equipment have been added.

The courtyard pavers have been straightened, a new water tank installed to replace the badly leaking old concrete one and, Kerrie’s favourite addition, a tap on the outside wall of the mess room that takes water from the rainwater tank and runs it through a copper coil in the cold room. This offers easy to get at COLD water for drinking. It’s also been piped to the kitchen so we now have fresh rainwater in the kitchen also. New shelves have also been installed in the cold room.

A whole block of dongers has relined and repainted walls and ceilings and walls have been fixed in the toilets and showers.

The camp is now looking and functioning very well.

Since this is a fresh start we’ve redefined the policies and a number of systems that we’re confident will make for better operation of the quarters and a more acceptable experience for the inhabitants.

The initial intake of 10 workers arrived on the day I had to leave for Brisbane, 9 blokes and 1 girl.

They come from Russia, England, South Africa and Ireland and we have to say we are impressed by them. They seem a happy lot, keen and willing to work and are courteous and well mannered around the camp. We can’t speak for their work effort out on the farm but from what we’ve heard that’s pretty good also.

Kerrie and Fiona soon made them feel welcome and settled them in to their rooms on their first day here and the old single men’s quarters at Koramba Cotton Farm was once again doing what it has done very well for some 30 years, making a temporary home for workers from far flung places around the world.

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.

Here one minute gone the next:

 

We arrived back at Belah Park after having two and a half weeks off over Christmas, only to have it rain the very same night we arrived back causing the job to be shut down everyone stood down again.
We opted to stay out here as unlike the others, our home is where we are.

BelahPark

The men eventually came back to work and got another week and a half in before another storm put the whole job on hold again.
This time we were told we’d probably not be needed again as they’d be sending a couple of guys back to finish off the job.

The scrapers compact the ground too much if it has been wet which is not good for the fields so – no machines – no blokes needed to drive them.

So we packed everything up and headed back to Koramba.

The feelings of being back after four and a half months were amazing. It felt like we’d come home.
The van again went under the shade awning and we’d forgotten how much this makes a difference to the temperature inside through the day.
The smell of fresh bread was soon wafting through the place from the bread maker, and our “Office” was set back up in one of the spare dongers, making plenty of room in the van once again.

The van once again under the awning.

The van once again under the awning.

The thing we missed most while out at Belah Park was that experience of never knowing what the day would bring.

At Koramba, this really meant, you never knew what Shannon would be up to or what he would show us.

There was always something happening outside the window and it wasn’t long after setting up the van that we heard the sound of hooves trotting past the caravan window.
Shannon had started rounding up Topsy (our cow), his steer that “refused” to get on the truck with the others to go to Emmaville, and a calf that belonged to friends.

They’d been grazing freely around the camp and workshop as there was more grass for them there after the rains but Shannon had decided the time was right to sell the steer as cattle prices had firmed up considerably.

To be able to get the steer in the truck (he had taken all his fencing and ramps to Emmaville) he had to get the cows down to one of the stockyards about 8 kilometres away.

The calf refused to oblige so we watched on as Shannon rounded up with the quad bike, Jack (Shannon’s dog) nipped at hooves and a little game of “Who’s Boss” from Topsy (she always did think she owned the camp) the cattle eventually figured out it was easier to do what Shannon wanted and trot to the cattle pens.

Topsy had to learn what a fence was for as she hadn’t really cottoned on to this yet, preferring to just walk through fences that she didn’t like. and needed to learn a thing or two about fences.

Had I told you about the story of when she decided to walk out of the paddock near Shannon’s?
Shannon first learnt of it when Jack was barking at 3.00am one morning and Shannon come out to investigate only to be licked up the back of his leg with a large wet tongue from Topsy.
Topsy had decided she wanted to camp at the bottom of Shannon’s steps on the verandah for the night. This was of course all done in the dark, pity we didn’t see the action taking place, it would have been quite a sight. We heard about it when he saw us and started the conversation with “Your Daughter!!”
I wonder where she learnt that from hmmmmm!

I wonder where Topsy learnt to sleep on the verandah.

I wonder where Topsy learnt to sleep on the verandah.

I caught up with the girls at the weighbridge which was wonderful.

Having a conversation with other women was a thrill I hadn’t had for awhile. Being surrounded by men all the time would excite some women, but I missed the art of just chatter, (you have to be a women to understand this).

Kim and Stretch dropped by for a visit and of course we were greeted enthusiastically by Jack every day.
Jack would be over for breakfast, stay awhile until he heard Shannon’s ute and then he would disappear to other adventures.

The only down side of coming back was learning that Shannon was moving on from Koramba.

He had a position in Glen Innes working for a company that operated cattle trucks.
This would enable him to be closer to his property at Emmaville and his cattle. He had been at Koramba for 6 years and it was both sad and exciting to hear he was moving on.

Sad from a purely selfish angle – he wouldn’t be around – exciting that he was going to learn and add to his already impressive knowledge.
I’m hoping he might meet some nice girl in a town that’s bigger than Boomi…but don’t tell him that.

While at Koramba we had decided to pull down the green house and the shade house and pack these away. If Gore Earthmoving wanted us to work again we might be a bit further away and it would become a hassle coming back to check on the plants and watering system.

It was great to get back into the large garden, do the mowing and eat from our grape vines.

Remember how we had built the garden at Koramba and realised it was too big and needed so much water, well we had cut down on the veggies in the garden but had kept all the fruit trees and of course our grape vines from home.

Last year we lost a lot of the grapes to the wildlife but not this year. I had purchased netting on-line and we covered the grapes so this year we have a bumper crop.

Grapes

About a week into our new routine we met up with the Supervisor from Gore’s while at Talwood voting for the state election and he was shocked to find we had left. “No, no, no, be back there Monday”, He said.
So it was once again back on the road with our home to Belah Park.

We ended up staying at Belah Park for another two and half weeks before the main part of the work finished. Only three men are left to finish off laying pipes and laser bucketing some fields and these can cook for themselves.

So as I’m writing this blog we’re back at Koramba.

We were going to head away travelling a bit and visit the family but with cyclone Marcia bearing down on the coast we thought we would stay away from it all. We probably got under 10 mm of rain at Koramba around the quarters, where as Maroochydore got over 300 mm. and of course Yeppoon and other areas were hit quite badly.

We did pick up the mower from Goondiwindi where we had taken it for a service and Chris proceeded to mow the grass in the rain in case the rain got heavier. We were hopeful for the farm but it wasn’t to be. Not long after, the rain cleared. If the farms out here don’t get rain soon there won’t be another crop in next year as well. The gin is only expecting to run for three weeks this year compared with five to six months it normally does.

We spent last night with Shannon, his brother Zac and Zac’s parter Morgan laughing over dinner while reliving some of the “experiences” Shannon had shown us. Telling Zac and Morgan how much Shannon had kept his patience trying to teach a couple of old city folks about living in the bush.

I think Shannon still has nightmares about the time rounding up the neighbours cattle and one cranky old cow charging at the boys while being forced into the cattle pen. Shannon was up the fence in no time but looked back to see Chris still in the pen with one foot on the bottom rung and no chance of making it out. We wrote about it here.

We never would have seen as much as we did without that young man taking us under his wing. We’ll miss his cherry disposition, huge grin and the excitement he brought into our lives.

Some of the exciting thing we did with Shannon.

Some of the exciting thing we did with Shannon.

Zac and Morgan had come to Koramba to help Shannon packed up his last load.

Shannon had already done about six truck loads to his Boomi property and to his property at Emmaville. Zac couldn’t help give Shannon heaps about how much “Stuff” he had. Zac said they even needed to use the fork lift to push the doors shut on the truck.

Today Shannon’s place looks rather lonely and is of course quieter now that he’s gone.

No cattle in the yard, no Jack racing over to greet us.

It does make you wonder where the next chapter in our life will take us?

Dust, fly’s and heat:

Well the harvesting is over at Koramba!

The balers, however are still working stacking the high density hay bales onto the head ditches at the end of the fields to be collected by the trucks.

Harvesting the barley at Koramba with the bales in the background.

Harvesting the barley at Koramba with the bales in the background.

The young contractors working this part of the process have had a lot of trouble with their gear.

First, running out of fuel while driving the tractor to Koramba, then being stuck on the side of the road for two weeks with a blown transmission.

They eventually got the tractor to Koramba but as of writing this post they’ve still not had their mechanic look at it.

The tractor they’re using to stack has no rear lights working so they are unable to work 24/7 choosing instead to work one day each and have the next day off while the other works. The other contractor, John who was doing the actual baling, left last Saturday driving his tractor back to Condamine from where he came.

So, for the last week and a half I’ve been driving to Koramba from Belah Park, (a 120 km daily round trip) to cook and clean up after them. I can’t  buy food that will be wasted as once these boys leave, the kitchen and quarters will once again be shut down. Since these guys keep telling me every day that they will be gone in two days I can’t go all the way into Gundy just for food for two people for two days but these two days have now been pushed out to 2 weeks! If I’d known that we would have gone to Gundy for supplies and I would have stayed at Koramba to save the daily drive and associated wear on the car etc. At the moment it feels like they’ll NEVER get the job done!

We DO miss Koramba and it’s facilities!

Chris has come over on occasions and helped me cook up cakes or dessert and you forget how easy it is working in a commercial kitchen. The oven fits more than two trays and things like stainless steel bowls, trays and utensils all within easy reach of the cook. I’ve already said in the last blog I got the better deal on kitchens.

Chris is doing a great job out at Belah Park, at the moment we’re not only feeding a full camp with the guys from Gore Earthmoving but the farm workers who’ve come from another farm to harvest the wheat crop on this property.

The other night Chris Collins (we have four Chris’s out here including my Chris) made the comment that there had been no complaints regarding the food. We said if there was, we would happily move on as we don’t stay we’re we are not wanted. Chris Collins looked at the other guys around the table and said “You wouldn’t hear about it before we would sort it out”

I thought that was rather nice…scary, but nice.

The earth moving company is having their annual Christmas party next week and the workers will be off for the weekend, so Chris and I have decided to take an extra day and go to the Sunshine Coast to stay in the unit at Maroochydore. Because it’s such a short break and because it’s now only 5 weeks till we head to the coast for Christmas, we’re not going to be travelling to Brisbane to try to catch up with everyone this time round.

We hope that at least some family and friends will make the trip to the coast for a catch up.

It will be ten weeks since we’ve had a day off and that 4.30 am alarm is starting to get very tiring. So we’re looking forward to blue water, green grass and being high enough off the ground that the flies and other bugs aren’t covering the walls, our backs, faces and  food.

Bugs1

This is the window in the kitchen 10 min after it had already been sprayed.

BUGS…..Ahhhh!!!

As you can see from this photo which was taken from the kitchen window, the bugs have taken over. And this is DAYLIGHT, wait until dusk you can feel them as you walk through them, Screens don’t stop them as they are small enough to get through. We leave off as many lights as we can in the kitchen, even changing the fluro to a a yellow bulb, but as they guys come in and out to go to their rooms, have showers or get a beer the bugs pour in.  I have to admit the bugs are sending us spare!

At Koramba I put up signs telling whoever was last in the mess room to turn off the lights because if they didn’t I would literally sweep up 2 mm  of bugs across the entire floor before I could start work.

And then we have flies!

With your back always covered, you are constantly doing the Aussie salute and don’t get me started on the ones that get under your glasses. At least the mozzie’s haven’t started yet maybe we won’t have mozzie’s due to the drought….let’s hope so. Don’t you just love this time of year.

We’ve an early heatwave out here with temperatures in the high 30 to 40 deg + and it’s not even summer yet! Saturday’s temperature is forecast for 45 deg!!!!

Watching the rivers and weirs dry up around here is a very disturbing scene. Add the empty reservoirs on the farms and again our hats go off to the country folk who go on with their lives making a living out here as best as they can with no fuss, a smile and cherry word to anyone around them.

We moved Chris’s “office” into the caravan as it just got impossible to work out in the annex in this heat.

We think it turned out pretty good and he can still have his three screens up and not be in the way and the air con in the Aussie wide is coping with the 40 deg heat extremely well and even in the worst heat of the day keeps the van cool and easy to work in.

We should have thought about this when we were having the van built but thought just the table would be OK. That was the best part of the “Old Girl” how we had the desk for both of us and the leaf table for eating.

Now even when we go home at Christmas and stay at David and Lacey’s place Chris will have somewhere comfortable to work.

The "Office" now set up in the caravan. A lot cooler with the air conditioner and not covered in dust.

The “Office” now set up in the caravan. A lot cooler with the air conditioner and not covered in dust.

The farm at Belah Park is similar to Koramba in the sense that everything is Big. Big Machinery, big earthworks, big fields etc.

They’ve recently acquired the new Case Quad Trac tractor  which has awesome pulling power and they say is incredibly comfortable to operate.

Tractor1

Belah Park’s new Case Quad Trac

Tractor2

Yesterday Kevin,one of the guys from the camp had to clear away secondary growth from  the levy banks around the camp and Chris captured it on his camera.

These machine make short work of gardening. I have been trying to dig out a few weeds around the camp with a shovel and it takes me 10 min to remove one weed, I want one of these!!!

Kev reckons the trees in this video don’t count as the Caterpillar D9T doesn’t even feel them. He says trees the thickness of our caravan are more the go.

 

We’ve seperated…for a short time:

Now don’t jump to the wrong conclusion – Chris and I are living apart for the next three to four weeks because it’s harvest time at Koramba.
Chris is staying over at Belah Park feeding the earth movers on the Gore Earthmoving job while I have returned to Koramba to feed the harvesters.

We’ve now been living apart for nine days and we’ve seen each other four times, (we don’t do separation well).

I’m living in one of the dongers at Koramba. For those unfamiliar with remote living quarters a “donger” is a transportable unit with cubicles for bedrooms and/or showers and toilets.

I had the choice of every donger in the place so I picked Kristjan’s and Merlin’s old room, the two Estonian backpackers we have often written about in the past.
Kristjan and Merlin didn’t smoke and they’d bought a few items of furniture so add a computer screen to play movies from the hard drive, a doona cover that was left behind and my room has come up quiet cosy.

But it doesn’t have Chris in it!

For all my complaining about Chris snoring I miss the noise when it’s not there.

Now anybody who knows me would be a little bit worried about the fact that I’m cooking!

The boys often joke about how they were scarred for life by my cooking when they were young, especially Ben who says he’s never been able to eat Chinese food since his childhood as it causes nightmares of the endless jars of Kanton that he was made to eat as a kid.
But..Don’t worry, Chris is giving me lots of instructions over the phone and I’ve even amazed myself at how much I remember what to do from our catering jobs over the years.

Over the fourteen years we’ve been cooking together we have a bit of a routine going.
Some things I do better and some things Chris does better and we make a good team when those things are bought together.

Now we each have to do the lot ourselves.

I used to turn up in the kitchen and clean up, finish off desserts, make sure drinks were in the fridge, cut up all the lunch stuff, and do the sweeping and mopping.
I never worried about getting out the meat for the next night, choosing a dessert and cooking cakes or biscuits, and visa versa for Chris.
Now I’m searching recipe books for something new each day for breakfast.

The endless rows of Barley to harvest. It's very pretty to watch the colours especially as the sun is setting as it turns to a golden colour.

The endless rows of Barley to harvest. It’s very pretty to watch the colours especially as the sun is setting as it turns to a golden colour.

It’s a good thing I don’t have fussy customers, the guys here are great.
The same harvesters that were here last year are back again.
We have John the ex farmer from Cropper Creek and his friend Dave from New Zealand. We also have “Dipper” another mate from Moree who owns a Timber and Hardware store.
There’s supposed to be another harvester and a fourth header arriving but they’ve not turned up yet.

Loading the Barley.

Loading the Barley.

That’s the trouble with harvest it never gets under way exactly when you want.

Because the barley was a little green to start off with the Balers, who were going to be here last Sunday, haven’t started yet either.
So you never know if you are cooking for twelve or five.

I’m also cooking for some of the Koramba staff who are driving the chaser bins, taking the barley from the headers to the trucks, and the trucks which take the grain to the grain board in Talwood.

Martyn, our Boss, has loaned me his Ute, so when the meal is ready I pack it up in eskies and drive it out to the paddocks where they’re all working.
Either Stretch, one of the supervisors, texts me the field number or I use the UHF radio to find them.

Jason, Dipper, Dave and John eating dinner from the back of the Ute.

Jason, Dipper, Dave and John eating dinner from the back of the Ute.

The worst part is there is NO ONE around to talk to all day!

A quick 10 mins in the morning during breakfast and another 20 mins at dinner time, otherwise I’m on my own without talking to anyone. As you all know how I love to talk you’ll understand my dilemma. If I didn’t have work to go on with for the programs and websites I’d go insane.

But I’m not complaining, I think I got the better deal out of Chris and I.
I have an air conditioned room, air conditioned office to work in and a great kitchen with plenty of freezer space and walk in fridge.

Chris might have our home and oh so comfy bed but, as the temperature is climbing (they say 40 degrees this Sunday) his office out in the caravan annex is not the easiest place to work.
Lately it’s been blowing a gale and with no grass or crops to stop the dust it gets dusty and very hot in the annex.

I do feel sorry for him in my temperature controlled rooms 🙂

Kangaroos still eating the crop.

Kangaroos still eating the crop.

A day with the cows:

We always seem to be writing about something Shannon has invited us along to, well this morning was no different.   We’d gone out to check on Stretch and Kim’s place late yesterday evening as they are away on holidays.

Coming back we noticed about a dozen head of cattle eating the winter crop of Barley.

We managed to chase them out and Chris informed Shannon first thing this morning.

Chris and Shannon jumped into the Ute to have a look and again found even more cattle eating the precious crop. Continuing to drive over the almost vertical retaining walls they found another herd of about 30 cows. They needed to be rounded up!

Now these cattle belong to an adjoining property and we’ve had considerable damage caused to crops for a while now.

The cattle took off into a more densely wooded area and the boys would need the quad bikes to get them rounded up.   Like we’ve said before, life for us can change at any moment so when Chris walked in the door I thought it was to have breakfast. It turned out quite differently with the words,

“Come on Shannon’s getting the bikes to muster cattle and we’re taking the Ute to help!”

We really need a grab bag because I’ve learnt to wear boots (you never know where you will end up), get the camera (something I do forget and miss some amazing sights) and we never seem to grab a hat, of which we have several, but we never think to grab one if we end up in one of Shannon’s escapades.

Jason, one of the farm workers had turned up at the workshop so both quad bikes went on the trailer and we grabbed another Ute.

 

Getting the quad bikes ready.

Getting the quad bikes ready.

 

The plan was to pen them in the stock yards at Stretch’s place. This was where one of the three stockmen lived when Koramba ran cattle before the last drought.

The boys took off on the bikes and Chris and I went to open the gates of the stock yard.   Well I have never seen such cranky cows. They didn’t want to go in the pens. Two got away from the others and took off in opposite directions. Shannon ended up shutting those gates and bringing them in from the other side.

Bringing the cattle out of the scrub.

Bringing the cattle out of the scrub.

They did not want to go into the paddocks from this way.

They did not want to go into the paddocks from this way.

A few cranky cows in this lot.

A few cranky cows in this lot.

They chased after one of the cows who thought she was a bull and charged the boys on the quad bikes. She broke off the front guard on Shannon’s and luckily for Jason rammed into the tool box on the front of his bike. Shannon came back and took off with Chris in the Ute as he said, “The land cruiser’s bull bar is tougher than the bike.”

They finally got this cranky girl into the holding pen and when they tried to move her into the other pen with the rest of the herd she charged at the boys.

Now no one was hurt but it was the funniest thing to watch!

Chris had gone into the holding pen to help Shannon shoo the cow into the other enclosure but when she refused to cooperate and turned to charge, the boys ran for it. I had just turned off the video and failed to capture the next scene. Shannon was, of course, up the fence in no time at all. Having lived with cattle all his life he was more adept at avoiding their antics and has done this numerous times before.

Chris on the other hand is another matter. I so wish I had captured his facial expression as he ran for the fence, put one foot up onto the first rung and knew he would never be able to hoist his body over the fence in time. The look on his face as he realised this… omg hours later and I’m still in tears of laughter over this.

Luckily for Chris the cow must have thought it funny too and she stopped charging and walked into the other pen quietly with the rest, seemingly having a laugh to herself.

 

The other cow was not to be found but Shannon said she would wander back towards the pen later looking for her calf. We’ll come back this afternoon to try and pen her then. This one is even crankier than the other so maybe Chris will stay on the other side of the fence this time!

When we were finished Shannon took us back to a nest of Emu eggs he nearly ran over while looking for the cow. These eggs are just in the middle of the paddock, not very protected.

Emu Eggs in the middle of the paddock.

Emu Eggs in the middle of the paddock.

Well Shannon picked us up late afternoon to head back down to the stock yard. On the way we came across this Turtle looking very sorry for it’s self and in need of water. As it was a couple of kilometres to the river we put him in one of the reservoirs.

The turtle that was trying to get to water.

The turtle that was trying to get to water.

We would have not been able to climb out of the res if we had gone done to free the turtle. So "Fly be free"

We would have not been able to climb out of the res if we had gone done to free the turtle. So “Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle”

 

… Now back to the cows.

Unfortunately the cranky cow was nowhere to be seen so off we drove in the Ute while Shannon searched the area on the quad bike.

Shannon did find quite a few more cows in a herd but chased them back through the fence on to their own property.

We then all hopped into the Ute for another quick search around the area and came across another herd with a variety of owners. You can tell this by their ear tags.

So Shannon rounded them up using the Ute. Thankfully most of this group were quiet but we did manage to pick up the cranky cow and add her to the herd.

He then sorted them all out in the stock yard.

The stock yard is made so that you can place the cows into the middle enclosure then divide them up using different gates.

Shannon did this like a pro. It was quite funny watching as he sat up on the fence rails and asked the cows very nicely. “Herefords in here please, other strays over here!”

The funny part was they seemed to know what he was saying and did what he asked! Well at least that’s what it looked like to us amateurs.

Now it’s just a matter of getting the owners to come and collect their cattle.

When we arrived home, Jack (Shannon’s new Cattle dog) had a few cows baled up on the wrong side of the fence near our caravan. It was dark by this time and we could just see them.

Oh no!

They were Shannon’s cows, including Topsy, they’d escaped from their paddock.

So it was back in the Ute for Shannon, us in our Ute and Jimmy, a friend of Shannon’s on his motor bike.

They took off heading towards the main road.

Cows aren’t easy to spot in the dark. But lucky for us Jimmy tracked them down across the road and they were herded back home.

By the time everything was back in order it was 8.30pm

We were cold, hungry and over cows by now.

But when we thought about it after a drink and dinner, sitting in a nice warm caravan would we want to give up our life style?

The answer NO way!

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

How can I explain the taste?

T-Bone has been hanging in the cold room now for over three weeks. There’s a lovely crust over the meat which is exactly what we’re looking for. We don’t want the meat to be sticky to the touch.

T-Bone the steer

T-Bone the steer

Butchering a cow is a bit different to a pig, sheep or goat so, with a book in hand, Shannon, Stretch, Kim, Chris and I headed down to the Meat Shed to have a go at one of T-bones hind quarters.

The Meat Shed on Koramba

The Meat Shed on Koramba

Jason was there but his eldest daughter had fallen on her arm at school during the day and was in pain. So, after giving the hospital a ring to make sure someone would be there to do an X-ray, and since none of us are doctors, it was a trip into Moree for his family to visit the hospital. The arm turned out to be badly bruised.

Why is it when working from a book, the product never looks the same as the diagrams? We all knew where the T-Bones where so they were quickly sliced up with the ban saw, but the rest went something like this:-

Is that the topside?

No it could be the rump?

Well where is the chuck?

What other parts are there?

Look at the book. This book said Topside but I’m on the internet and it’s saying Silverside.

Get the picture?

Anyway we divided it up the best we could, steaks, roasts and bits we weren’t quite sure of but looked good.

Some of us went home and sliced whole pieces into steaks, other left the same pieces for roasts, but what I can tell you that after being divided into four, we each took home half a large garbage bag full of meat, and that was only one quarter!

Shannon had decided to ask Freddy to come out and show us how to butcher the rest of the meat. Freddy is a local from Boomi who has been share farming in this area since he was 17 (he’s now 75 and fit as a fiddle). He’s also a butcher who used to come to Koramba in the old days, butchering for the quarters. It was a thrill to spend the morning watching him quickly and easily seperate the cuts from the remaining three quarters of T-bone and to listen to him recount stories of what went on at the farm in the yester years. As he held up a crooked finger he told us how he cut it off when he was younger and he had us in fits of laughter as he told us about the finger still jumping around the floor as his father tried to catch it!

He patiently explained what he was doing to T-bone each step of the way.

We’d been waiting to taste this meat for a long time. Most people we speak to out here butchers some portion of their own meat and the biggest comment you always hear is, “You will never buy meat from Coles / Woollies again after you taste it.”

Now this is where the heading of this blog post comes from.

How can I explain the taste?

Well, firstly there IS a taste! Not a gamey, strong taste but a meat taste that is emphasised more by the freshness and other things such as marbling that is seldom seen in shops these days.

Let me try to explain it another way.

Have you ever eaten home grown vegetables? They taste more pronounced. A tomato straight off the vine sends your taste buds into a frenzy, the same way fresh herbs do. Even just the smell of them makes your mouth start producing saliva.

So does this meat.

A T-Bone from T-Bone hmmmm you could cut it with a butter knife.

A T-Bone from T-Bone hmmmm you could cut it with a butter knife.

The animals haven’t been injected with anything, they have only eaten grass or some hay or grain if they’re lucky. They are always left to hang for a few days at least with cattle hanging for at least three weeks. Their lives are stress free.

We now have in the freezer fresh beef, lamb and goat and every day we are looking forward to our meals like never before. We add fresh herbs from the garden and cook most of the meat in the Weber BBQ. Add to that vegetables grown fresh from the greenhouse like peas, carrots and eggplant and both of us are moaning with every mouthful. Seriously, it’s better than sex???

We can’t wait to pick up our Kitchen Aid and start producing our own gourmet sausages. Can you imagine being able to add anything you want to change the taste? An amazing array of different sausages is available from the butchers these days but even they use powered products. Look on the internet, you can purchase them online.

We want to add only fresh natural ingredients to our sausages like fresh apples to the pork mince or fresh tomatoes to the beef. Prunes, basil, garlic and Paprika will go into the lamb sausages.

MMMmmmm is your mouth starting to water?

After Freddy dissected the rest of T-Bone in less time it took all of us to do one quarter, we borrowed Freddy’s mincer and produced 30kg of lean mince. In today’s prices that was between $300 – $400 worth, just in mince.

With everything we learn out here it changes our opinions of where and what we want, when we settle down again. To be able to have a piece of land big enough to shoot on (min of 30 acres). To make sure that land has animals on it you can shoot or place animals on to use for food and still have a place that is close enough to the family and health facilities as we get older. That’s our dilemma.

But in the meantime hmmm “What’s for dinner?”

The Endeavour Rally at Koramba:

The 2014 Endeavour Rally from Warwick to Bundaberg via Corner Country came through a part of Koramba Farm.

Some of the cars that were entered in the Rally.

Some of the cars that were entered in the Rally.

This rally uses forestry roads and private property to create a fascinating rally through seldom viewed parts of Australia.

As described by their website:

You’ll travel through the outback visiting remote destinations that few others get to see. Enjoy breathtaking scenery by day and relax around the campfire each night.

Stanley, one of the farm supervisors, had graded the River Road so that it could be driven on by the cars and the other myriad of vehicles that would be traversing through Koramba.   This makes it a bit easier for the drivers and helps them to stay on track and not get lost on the property.

Keeping with the whole spirit of the charity event, Toby had caught several pigs in the traps that day and layed them out along the path, as well as setting up outside “dunnies” to add to the country atmosphere and convenience of the travellers.

Last dunny for 100km.

Last dunny for 100km.

Most of the residents on Koramba met up down by the river to watch the cars come past.

Toby had supplied sausages for lunch and drinks, and with the addition of a warm fire it turned into a great afternoon.

Social gathering by the river.

Social gathering by the river.

 

Some of the contestants drove by in a cloud of dust with their variety of musical horns blaring while others decided to stop and have a chat, with Toby offering liquid refreshment to anybody who required it.

The cars were cheered on by the residents of Koramba.

The cars were cheered on by the residents of Koramba.

One of the cars threw out bags of Macadamia's

One of the cars threw out bags of Macadamia’s

Chatting with the organiser's

Chatting with the organiser’s

 

The Army joined in from the Enoggera Barracks and there were some contestants who had been on every rally right from its inception in the early 1980’s.

The army joined in.

The army joined in.

Topsy is back:

Remember our beautiful little Hereford calf Topsy?

Topsy would sleep beside the van at night after we had given her a good brush.

Topsy would sleep beside the van at night after we had given her a good brush.

Well, when we moved her over to the paddock behind Shannon’s place and put her in with T-Bone, she wouldn’t come anywhere near us.

When we tried calling Topsy she’d put her head up and take a couple of steps towards us but T-Bone would go between her and us stopping her from coming any closer. Protecting her maybe?

Now don’t get me wrong we appreciated the fact that she was safe from dogs and other animals while around T-Bone, but we did miss giving her a pat or cuddle. And as her coat changed to the more fluffy winter coat we would have liked to rub our hands down the softness of her neck.

With T-Bone now gone we tried again to see if she remembered us.

Slowly walking towards Topsy with a nice handful of hay we softly spoke to her encouraging her to stay. She was a bit hesitant at first, jumpy at every noise but the hay being offered was too strong a deterrent and she came towards us for the food.

Once there we were able to finally give her a pat and be able to stroke her soft neck. Her whole body seem to give in and relax. She used to like her rub downs that we would give her using a horse brush, often nudging our hand if we stopped to let us know she wanted more.

Topsy and her beautiful coat.

Topsy and her beautiful coat.

Happy to sit there beside us chewing her cud

Happy to sit there beside us chewing her cud

Shannon had been watching from the workshop and told us later he was very surprised she let us pat her as he thought we had been apart too long. He was even more surprised when she sat down at our feet and started to chew her cud, meaning she was at total ease with us.

We now go back every few days to give her a pat. We don’t take food as we don’t want that to be the only reason to come to us. She is still beautiful and has a wonderful nature. We are learning that every cow has its own personality, some are sweet like Topsy, some psychotic like T-Bone, some are just plain cranky but they’re not all the same.

Shannon’s property at Emmaville:

Three day weekends are now the norm for the few remaining staff at Koramba Farm.

Shannon often takes the opportunity to go up to his 250 acre property at Emmaville.

He invited Stretch & Kim, Chris and I up to visit.

Shannon left Thursday afternoon to make the slow trip up driving his John Deere tractor while towing his Nissan and various other implement’s and odds n sods on the car trailer. The rest of us left Friday morning, Stretch and Kim with their camper trailer and us with the Aussie Wide.

Shannon with all his bits and pieces loaded up ready to go to Emmaville.

Shannon with all his bits and pieces loaded up ready to go to Emmaville.

Shannon made this blade to go with his John Deere.

Shannon made this blade to go with his John Deere.

Meet Shannon's new dog Jack. Yes we spoil him.

Meet Shannon’s new dog Jack. Yes we spoil him.

 

We met up at the pub in Emmaville before venturing up into the hillside to Shannon’s place. It’s tucked away off the road and is accessed by a common road used by other properties in the area and is very much Shannon.

Why?

There’s no manicured lawns or views of the ocean. It is flat to undulating terrain with some large peaks that are rocky and wooded which sweep down to large cleared areas.

The road into Shannon's.

The road into Shannon’s.

The views are spectacular!

You overlook the Northern Tablelands of the New England region of New South Wales, with the Torrington State forest and Recreation Area at your door step. He has a shed and water tank, an abundance of firewood, plenty of goats and pigs to shoot (as well as the occasional deer) and great phone and internet service.

What more could he ask for?

He has already taken up his International bulldozer (nicknamed “The Ant”), his Nuffield tractor (nicknamed “Nuffy” and now has his John Deere tractor up there to be able to get some of the jobs done.

The Nuffield Tractor

The Nuffield Tractor

It didn’t take long to knock down some dead trees (a fire had gone through the property a few years ago) and a roaring fire was started.

As usual with Shannon – nothing small. The logs needed to be pushed onto the fire with the bulldozer!

Nothing beats a warm fire and good company.

Nothing beats a warm fire and good company.

Please note for future reference of where Jack is sitting...On Shannon's lap

Please note for future reference of where Jack is sitting…On Shannon’s lap

 

As Stretch and Kim had already been to the farm Shannon took us around for a tour.

WOW!

There are spring fed dams, a waterfall and seriously the views are to die for.

The mist in the valley.

The mist in the valley.

The sun rising over Shannon's property.

The sun rising over Shannon’s property.

He has started putting up fences around the area and will be bringing some of the cattle he got from his father up here to graze.

While out and about we came across a herd of feral goats. The guns were out and we quickly had dinner for tonight. A goat BBQ.

The next morning Shannon and Stretch started to clear a path down to the waterfall using the John Deere tractor and “The Ant”, knocking down trees, moving dead branches and unearthing large boulders. They had to stop when the valve on the JD broke off the tyre causing a flat. They’ll fix that later, so then we all piled into the Nissan to hunt for another goat. Chris wanted to cook a Goat Curry for the evening meal and he wanted at least a couple of hours for it to simmer. That’s the benefit of taking our home with us as we had all the ingredients.

Shannon working the John Deere to clear a path to the waterfall.

Shannon working the John Deere to clear a path to the waterfall.

Up and down hills chasing goats. When they say its goat country they mean it. The down side of shooting is the retrieval. That means climbing up the hill finding the animal and carrying it back down the hill over rocky ground. Chris was very impressed with himself that he managed to pretty much keep up with the younger guys.

The boys hunting the goats, why do they always have to be at the top of the hill?

The boys hunting the goats, why do they always have to be at the top of the hill?

Getting around the property. Stretch, myself, Kim and Shannon.

Getting around the property. Stretch, myself, Kim and Shannon.

 

With the curry in the camp oven to simmer, the others went down to Emmaville to the pub. Chris and I stayed at the property to enjoy the fire and keep an eye on the curry. It was so peaceful and in the dimming light the shed posts reminded me of “Craig’s Hut”. I do love “The Man from Snowy River” movie.

Craig's Hut (as seen in the Man from Snowy River movie) in the Victorian alps, Australia photo from Fotolia.

Craig’s Hut (as seen in the Man from Snowy River movie) in the Victorian alps, Australia photo from Fotolia.

I don’t know about the others but I will have to say Chris out did himself with his Sweet Goat Curry. We’ve now decided we want to take a goat home with us.

So with an early morning knock on the caravan door and Shannon calling out to Chris that there were goats down at the water hole, we all made a dash for the guns and headed off to bring home a goat.

The goat we brought home. Killed, skinned and butchered by Chris.

The goat we brought home. Killed, skinned and butchered by Chris.

Success, here is Chris coming home with his kill, the goat thrown over his shoulder, skinned and wrapped in a cotton bag.

My man home with the kill.

My man home with the kill.

Now I had asked how on earth do we get it back to the farm as it’s a 4 1/2 hrs drive? Shannon was very helpful by suggesting we put it on the back seat with the air conditioner on cold.

Not bloody likely!

It turned out to be a lot colder outside than in the car and the goat and ourselves made it home without mishap.

We had a wonderful weekend and hopefully will get to go again to Shannon’s place.

On the way home we stopped at Glen Innes to visit with Maxene. Ian and Maxene have a 100 year old house there that they are doing up. Maxene was down during the school holidays and it was lovely to catch up. Lovely place Glen Innes but Oh so cold.