Two years on the road

Its 6:00am at Koramba Cotton Farm.

I’ve cooked breakfast and the workers are slowly filtering into the mess room, most are only just starting to wake up, and all are completely oblivious to the spectacular sunrise which is turning the tree tops and the clouds a brilliant golden colour.

I love the sunrises and sunsets at Koramba and the silence and cool peacefulness they seem to bring.

A few days ago marked the ending of the second year we’ve lived in the caravan full time.

What an event packed two years it’s been.

The passing of that date caused us to reflect on the many blessings we’ve experienced and the absolute lack of the slightest regret.

Our time at Koramba

The longest we’ve stopped anywhere in that two year period has been at Koramba Cotton Farm.

We continue to enjoy our life here and we can’t really see the future without some involvement in Koramba.

Although quite isolated from all the things city dwellers like us are used to, the farm always seems to have something going on.

We never tire of driving around the immense acreage and checking out what’s happening.

Because of this rather busy lifestyle it’s been a while since we updated the blog so here goes.

We lose Bing and Bella

The faithful old pig dog Bing was a familiar and welcome sight around the camp.

Bing, Junior and Bella.

Bing, Junior and Bella.

War torn and scarred this old dog was always up for a pat or a play but the moment Shannon (The Mechanic) started up his ute Bing would cease whatever he was doing to race with all his strength to the ute. He would run for miles to avoid missing out on a possible pig hunt.

Bing ever watchful of Shannon in case he was going pigging. All Shannon had to do was eject a cartridge and Bing would come running and jump in the ute. He would stay in the ute all night if Shannon had his gun in the car.

Bing ever watchful of Shannon in case he was going pigging. All Shannon had to do was eject a cartridge and Bing would come running and jump in the ute. He would stay in the ute all night if Shannon had his gun in the car.

Shannon took him and the puppy, Junior, to his own property for one of his rare weekends off. Unbeknownst to him a neighbour had laid 1080 poison on an adjoining property.

Bing took a dose of the lethal poison and by the next morning was dead.

It was a sad loss for the whole camp. Everyone, even those who don’t care much for dogs, respected this gutsy old hound.

Bella was a little Jack Russell who lived with Dave, the Foremen, and his wife Bev. She was always over at the camp with other dogs at each meal time for her ration of leftover food.

She would play for hours with Bing and Junior and would long for the pats and plays from the camp inhabitants.

One day she found a Red Bellied Black snake from which she received a deadly bite.

By the morning she was dead.

The loss of both Bella and Bing seemed to put Junior into a pensive, depressing mood. It was as if he was constantly looking for his companions.

Lauren, the young English girl, seemed to be Junior’s main source of comfort and affection. They seemed to dote on each bother.

When Lauren left to go back to England for Christmas Junior moped around for a few days until Shannon bought home another dog, a stray from Boomi.

This rather OVER friendly and boisterous dog has pulled Junior out of his lethargy.

The passing of the dogs and one of the horses is a reminder to us that life out here is so different to the city. It can be harsh and unforgiving and unless you learn to live with that harshness you’ll not be able to make a life out here.

New People

The makeup of the camp inhabitants is ever changing.

We’ve lost Soong, the immensely popular Korean, who’s been here for two years. It was very sad when he left as he didn’t want to go and he’d made some deep friendships here especially with one of our favourite Irishman Michael Duggan.

The farm management didn’t want him to go either as he was by far the best all round operator they’d had for a while.

Replacing the ones that left are three great young Irishmen, Steve, John and Mark, two young couples from Estonia and Klaus the young Danish pilot who drove the Wheat Harvester that Kerrie filmed here.

The young Estonians arrived smack into over 40 degree heat and the reality of the place and its isolation must have been a shock to them. They have however gotten used to the place and, even though there’s a definite language barrier, they have fitted in to life here extremely well.

It constantly amazes us that with all the different people and personalities that go through this place we still have not struck any real trouble makers or even anyone unduly difficult to handle.

The farm management also has never ceased to support us and help us with their ever easy going attitudes.

The Garden

Kerrie has taken over most of the work in the garden.

She is refusing to allow it to die and is out there every day weeding, planting and watering.

We ate our first tomato from the garden yesterday and were reminded of why we love to garden. It was an absolute taste sensation totally beyond comparison to the cardboard like, massed produced tomatoes we’ve become used to consuming.

Dave’s wife Bev, also an avid gardener, has experimented with different methods of seed raising to beat the torturous heat that destroys seedlings so quickly out here. It’s good to have another person close at hand with similar interests.

Kerrie has the whole garden looking quite spectacular and even in the mid 40 degree heat it’s flourishing under her constant care.

The 20 fruit trees are exploding with new growth and the grape vines are producing fruit and weaving their way along the fenceline.

The Passionfruit are going great as are the Zucchinis, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Sweet corn, Capsicums, Beans, Onions, Lettuces, Bok and Pok Choy, Carrots, Parsnips and the many herbs.

I’m so proud of Kerrie’s efforts and it’s great to wander through the garden and see everything responding to her care.

An operation

Last week was the trek to Brisbane for the surgery on my skin cancers; four on the right hand and one on the scalp.

These are typically quite painful especially on the hand as with every flexing of the hand or fingers the stiches strain over the tightly pulled together skin.

It’s been fairly uncomfortable working in the kitchen the last 4 days during Gary’s days off.

We’re off to Goondiwindi tomorrow to get the stiches removed, so here’s hoping this helps..

 

Christmas is coming

Christmas this year will be spent at Koramba.

It may be a hit and miss affair as the irrigating of the cotton will not cease.

There’s both a day and a night shift working at present as irrigating is a 24 hour a day affair and this is likely to continue through Christmas day.

Kerrie has bought our Christmas tree from Brisbane and some decorations and set it up in the mess hall and we’ll have Prawns, Hams, Turkeys, Racks of Lamb and Plum puddings to put on for them all. Martyn has also contributed a liberal quantity of beer.

How and when we’ll prepare and present this is a bit of an unknown.

Some are predicting a wet lead up and possibly even a wet Christmas day, so this’ll determine what we do.

Progress on the programmes

I’m finally getting my head around the ASP.net protocols that form the basis for the conversion of all our programmes to web based ones.

Man it’s taken some frustrating turns.

Developing these programs over the last 20 odd years has always bought me along a roller-coaster ride of high mountains and deep valleys and the last few weeks have been no different.

There’ve been numerous times when, but for Kerrie’s encouragement; I could have easily given up, especially trying to understand how to create comprehensive reports for the programs.

It took me three weeks of long hours and literally hundreds of failed attempts to get a readable web based report created.

You see without having a way to print or email a report the programmes are useless.

It either had to be done or walk away from web based applications.

To walk away from web based apps is to walk away from the whole business as nobody wants installed programs that are exclusive to desktops and laptops anymore. Unless the apps can be used on tablets, ipads and smart phones they have a limited usefulness.

Well finally I got the reports mastered and I have the first application running on the cloud – a simple web based Risk Assessment and Safe Work Procedure Application primarily for my brother, Barry’s use.

Here it is.

Logon details are;

Username is “Guest” (without the quotes)

Password is “test” (again without the quotes)

This application (along with the 18 or so others we have) will eventually be offered in three ways;

1.            Users will be able to log on and create as many reports as they like for a small annual fee. They will be able to have their own logo on the report.

2.            They can have the application customised and installed on a server on the cloud with their own domain name, (either their own server or one that’s hosted by us).

3.            They can have the application integrated into a more comprehensive Operations Management application which can again be available to them on the cloud.

All the above choices will include access from mobile devices.

We’ve even worked out how to use a mobile phone to scan barcodes to make stocktaking in the Catering Programme easy.

Kerrie’s Health

Kerrie’s sugar count remains persistently high even though she’s been very diligent with her diet.

It ranges from the 7’s up 13.5 and even beyond sometimes!

This has caused the doctor to put her on medication, something she fought against quite hard.

It’s been two weeks since the medication started and yesterday was the first sign of the sugar readings coming down. They’re hovering around 7.5, still too high but better.

The Kitchen

At the moment the kitchen is HOT!!!

At 40 something degrees outside it must be reaching the 50’s in the kitchen when all the ovens and stoves are on.

There’s a great air cooler that certainly helps keep the heat down but it’s broken at the moment so we just put up with the heat.

I’d still prefer to be in the kitchen than out in the fields.

Kerrie has the sprinkler watering the garden for 2 or 3 hours a day now as without it the sun would just fry everything.

During the 10 days that Gary is on I have access to a spare room with a great air conditioner and here is where I’ve set up the computers and desk. The coolness makes it easy to work the long hours necessary to get the programmes built.

Irrigation at Koramba

Irrigation is in full swing at the moment with the guys working 24/7. So Chris and I went for another tour of the farm to see another aspect of this facinating place.

The “Old Girl” resurfaces

What a wonderful surprise it was to read this comment on one of the blog posts.

12 months since deciding to live “on the road”

It’s been 12 months since we made our “Big Decision” to stay on the road and to upgrade the caravan from the Old Girl to the Aussie Wide.

We can honestly say we’ve never once regretted that decision.

We do however often think about the happiness and contentment of our life in the “Old Home”.

The Old Girl

The Old Girl

There’s a multitude of precious memories that feature the old 71 Viscount, many of which we’ve tried to share on this blog, but most are day to day ones that are locked inside of us for our own fond recalling.

The “Old Girl” has new owners

When we made our decision to upgrade to the Aussie Wide we gave the Old Girl to a lovely young couple in Melbourne who have used it regularly since.

Wayne and Karen have now acquired her.

They were researching 1971 Viscount Caravans on the internet when (imagine their surprise) a photo of the Old Girl popped up leading them to this blog!

The twists and turns of life, aint they marvellous?

Wayne and Karen comment on the blog.

Wayne and Karen subsequently made a comment on one of our blog posts letting us know how they found the blog and how excited they are to have acquired the Old Girl.

The comment made us very happy to know that once again this amazing caravan has found its way into the lives of people who will receive untold enjoyment from her.

I can imagine the joy that this story would have bought to Perc and Gwen, Kerrie’s parents.

Encouragement to keep the blog going.

The comment was also quite timely as I was contemplating stopping the blog.

It sometimes seems a bit of a waste of time to put so much work into something that is of interest to such a very few people.

The thing is though, even if the readership is small it consists of people we love and care a lot about.

We also get enjoyment out of rummaging back through old posts and the flood of memories that result.

Its’ been two years on the road

Wayne & Karen’s blog was also timely as it coincides with the end of our second year living on the road.

When we first “shoved off” we intended that this adventure would have an 18 month lifespan.

So, at the end of two years is it time to rethink?

Is it time to get back into “normal” life?

Do we want to do get a house in the city somewhere and “settle down”? What does that even mean?

Honestly? We couldn’t imagine doing that at this stage.

We adore life in the Aussie Wide, the freedom of living simply and the excitement of moving to different locations.

We love the release from the pile of material bits and pieces that we once thought were so valuable, but that at the end of our lives would be dumped or sold for pennies.

No, we’re not stopping anytime soon!

A year since we swapped homes

It seems a long time ago that we had the Old Home and the New Home parked side by side at a van park in Melbourne while we transferred our stuff.

The Old Home and the New Home in Melbourne

The Old Home and the New Home in Melbourne

I’ll never forget the strange feeling of going back into the Old Girl after she was cleaned out ready for her new owners.

It was like saying goodbye to an old living, human friend while at the same time knowing that ultimately it was just a collection of bolts and nuts, timber and sheet metal. She had kept us safe and comfortable across thousands of kilometres and I couldn’t stop myself feeling a sense of sadness.

This feeling was tempered by the excitement of the New Home.

I’ll also never forget the pleasure of our first night in the Aussie Wide and I can honestly say that the same pleasure is repeated every night when I go to bed. I know that Kerrie feels exactly the same.

Our hope for the next segment

We hope we’ll one day spot Wayne & Karen and the Old Girl on the road somewhere. It’ll be a wonderful thing!

In the meantime we’re happy to be at Koramba Cotton Farm until the run down to the Ayr Peninsular in February which we’re really looking forward to.

I need to be in Brisbane on the 5th of December for some surgery on some rather big skin cancers. I’ve just had a “burn off” of about 20 of them on the last Brisbane visit.

I’ve promised Kerrie that I won’t be so slack on applying the Black Salve to them in the future. She’s forbidden me from getting sick, having an accident or dying until the programmes are finished.

The last word goes to a wonderful woman

I never stop being thankful for the amazing woman God has teamed me up with!

As I work in my air conditioned office I’m looking out over the garden. There she is – crouching down in the hot sun, fly net over her face, weeding and digging.

She’s already cleaned the kitchen, tidied the Aussie Wide, written up the time sheets and meal sheets and probably fifty other things that I don’t even know about.

She’s a total giver; always fussing about making sure I have everything I need as well as trying to ensure the farm hands are happy.

The lads have now got a new saying – “Far Out”.

Philip, who is a master at voice impersonation, has taken to mimicking Kerrie’s often expressed phrase of “Far Out” and this is spreading to be a common place substitute for the more profound expression starting with “F”.

I am fully aware that the healthy level of high morale in the camp is due almost entirely to her; it’s nothing I’ve done. Sure, I cook a reasonable meal, but it’s her that interacts with the people and manages the camp.

Her attention to detail fascinates me as does her desire to mother the farm hands, young and old alike.

Her concern for me and my health goes far beyond what could be expected from a relationship but this is the hallmark of this woman; beyond expectation.

I love her more each day!

First Hand Experience Harvesting Wheat

The harvesting of the 6000 or so acres of wheat planted at Koramba Cotton Farm is almost over.

The Header in action

The Header in action

It’s taken 2 weeks and some of the hands have been working 20 hour days, especially Shannon (The Mechanic) and Dave (The Supervisor).

They’ve been driving the trucks from the paddocks as they’re filled by the Header back down to the wheat silos down behind the camp.

A couple of days ago we had to catch up with Dave to sort out some business on the camp.

We found him on the Corinda property way out on the western boundary. This was where the last few acres of wheat harvesting was underway and we got to experience it first-hand.

Dave organised for Kerrie to jump up in the cab of the header and see how the whole thing worked.

We’re told that the wheat harvested this year is of exceptionally high quality and as such should bring an excellent price.

A Beautiful Machine

The header was quiet, cool and comfortable as it chomped its way through the acres of wheat, cutting the plants off at just above ground level and funnelling it all into a central opening from where the wheat seed would be separated from the chaff.

Klaus, the operator is a Dane who is a helicopter and light plane pilot. His Danish licences don’t allow him to fly out here and it’ll cost him many thousands of dollars to change them so in the meantime he operates headers.

A flashing light on the roof of the Header lets the chaser bins or the trucks know it’s almost full. This is a sign for the Chaser Bins or the trucks to meet up with the Header so it can discharge the separated wheat from its bin.

Today the farms old Kenworth is being used instead of chaser bins.

Pigs and Roos have eaten swathes of wheat

As the header munched its way through the acres of wheat Kerrie could see the large areas that have been eaten right down to the ground by kangaroos and feral pigs.

Until we saw these large bare areas we had no idea of the scale of destruction these animals can cause and the cost in lost production.

The wheat sucks all moisture from the ground

Huge cracks have formed in the black soil paddocks that have given the harvest of wheat.

These cracks are caused by the wheat sucking every drop of moisture from the soil during its brief lifespan.

Dave told us that the farms moisture probes, which can descend 1 metre into the ground, will show absolutely no moisture left in the soil at all.

The Old Kenworth

The truck that’s used to carry the wheat from the paddocks to the grain silos is the farm’s old Kenworth.

Although old and unregistered this is the favourite truck of the drivers at Koramba.

She’s a faithful old workhorse that has really been through the mill.

It’s had the cab replaced due to a farm worker setting fire to it once and almost completely destroying it. It’s also been tipped over into one of the giant water reservoirs from where it had to be dragged out before almost disappearing forever, and it’s had numerous changes made to chassis and trailers.

This truck drags thousands of bales of cotton 24 hours a day from the paddocks at harvest time stopping only to refuel, transports numerous bits of machinery around the farm, transports wheat and fertiliser and never seems to break down.

Within a few hours of finishing dragging wheat it was transporting a huge excavator and other machinery to the workshop.

Within hours of completeing the wheat harvest the trusty old Kenworth is hauling machinery

Within hours of completing the wheat harvest the trusty old Kenworth is hauling machinery

The Buggy – another interesting machine

Shannon, the Mechanic, has acquired another machine which was built by his younger brother.

It’s a 4WD buggy for pig shooting and it can often be seen travelling at high speed down the farm roads with the trusty old black dog, Bing, sitting in the passenger seat on its way to shoot pigs.

Shannon stopped outside the kitchen the other day and loaded Kerrie and Lauren in to take them for a drive. They both ended up having a drive themselves and, although at a much slower pace than if Shannon were driving, they had a ball.

Of course trusty old Bing the pig dog ran nonstop behind them for fear he might miss the opportunity to hunt pig. Junior, the “Bing lookalike” puppy followed as well, afraid he might miss something.

 Machinery everywhere

The farm workshop currently has machinery for repair everywhere and it just seems to keep on arriving.

The big International tractor which tows the farm’s Laser Bucket awaits repair as it has numerous problems after Toby tried to shave 8 inches of virgin soil off a piece of land. Normally 4 inches would be more than enough. Among the multiple problems this caused was the shearing off of 8 x 1 inch bolts from a steel housing, displaying the tremendous forces at play during this operation.

Around the yard at the moment and awaiting repair are two International tractors, two John Deere tractors, a John Deere front end loader, the Excavator, our ride on mower, four Land cruiser utes and a few pumps and various bits of farm machinery.

The workshop yard is littered with machinery awaiting repair

The workshop yard is littered with machinery awaiting repair

The Laser Leveller has been torn apart by the rough land

The Laser Leveller has been torn apart by the rough land

Pumping begins soon

On the 15th of December the five huge diesel pumps down by the river will be fired up.

They’ll pump the farm’s water allocation from the McIntyre River into the reservoirs.

Pumping will go on 24 hours per day for 20 days during which massive volumes of water will fill the reservoirs ready for the next 12 months cotton growing and irrigation cycle.

Shannon won’t be able to leave the farm as it’s critical that these pumps don’t stop.

The new cook arrives

Gary, the cook we gave a trial to last week was offered the Cook/Manager’s job permanently and has accepted it.

He went home to the Gold Coast on Friday and returned to officially start work today, Wednesday.

I’m very confident he’ll work out great and he seems very enthusiastic about the job. His wife, Helen, is coming out next week to see where he works.

Lauren is still doing well

Lauren is still doing really well at the camp. She’s done a great job of painting the newly renovated rooms and has fitted in extremely well.

She even learned how to use slices of bread to get the horses back to Dave’s place when they escape and come over to the camp to eat the rare green grass.

Junior, the puppy still dotes on her and she obviously loves him as well.

She went out shooting with some of the backpackers the other night with George, the Pommie backpacker’s newly purchased bow and arrows. George, in his wisdom, told them they needed to roll around in the dirt to get the smell off them.

Well, Lauren, (newly dyed hair, painted nails and all), proceeds to make “snow angles” only in the dirt, much to George’s consternation, who insisted she “get serious about it all”.

I think possibly the pigs had a bit of a laugh at the site of this group of 5 young backpackers from the UK on a sortie to hunt in a Ford Falcon sedan with bow and arrows and rolling in the dirt to mask their scent.

Lauren learns how to lead the miniture ponies with a slice of bread

Lauren learns how to lead the miniture ponies with a slice of bread

An awful stench

Junior the puppy made his way into the caravan annex a couple of days ago for a sleep accompanied by the most putrid smell imaginable.

I made the mistake of patting him and the smell lingered on me for hours. No matter what I did I couldn’t completely remove it.

The next day we discovered the cause.

A snake had bitten one of Dave’s horses a few days earlier and Dave had to shoot the poor thing.

The job of burying it was given to young Nick from the workshop.

As the rotting corpse expanded Junior discovered this treasure trove and we found him proudly trotting around the camp with one of the horse’s legs, hoof and all!

It took two days after its removal for the stench to dissipate and a number of baths with the fire hose to get the smell out of Junior.

Junior - Very proud of his lovely new stench of dead horse and keen to sow it off to everyone

Junior – Very proud of his lovely new stench of dead horse and keen to show it off to everyone

A Full Camp

The camp is jamb packed full!

Today two couples arrive. They’re friends of Lawrie and Ingrid, who were the young Estonian couple that were here last time we were at Koramba.

Another couple, Paul and Jennifer, who left the farm a few weeks ago, are returning.

Also one of our very favourite workers is returning, Michael Duggan.

So by this week we’ll have four couples living on camp, 5 counting us, and a full camp of single men.

Back To Brisbane

We’re so excited about tomorrow!

We’ll clean the camp by 9:00am and will once again drive to Brisbane to catch up with as many friends and family as we can.

Wheat harvesting is in full swing

The wheat has gone from green to golden.

The wheat has turned golden.

There’s about 6000 acres of wheat planted at Koramba Cotton Farm.

It’s now ready for harvesting and everywhere on the farm there’s these blankets of gold adding yet another colour contrast to this place.

The wheat is planted on virtually every available acre that is not in cotton. Wheat is never planted in the cotton fields.

The wheat belongs to the farm but all the work associated with the wheat is contracted out. This includes preparing, sowing and harvesting.

The only exception is that Shannon (The Mechanic) and Dave (The Supervisor) are driving the two Kenworth trucks transporting the wheat from the headers in the fields to the silos.

One truck belongs to a local contractor and is registered, enabling it to be driven on public roads, while the farm’s one is unregistered and only used on the property.

Pigs are in abundance on the property

As the wheat is harvested the many feral pigs that inhabit the property become easily seen and Kerrie and Lauren are very excited about this as Shannon is taking them both out to the paddocks to shoot some this week.

Neither of them has been shooting before and I don’t think Lauren has even seen a pig yet.

Fire breaks out

With the soaring temperatures and the hot, dry winds of the last few weeks the 10 acres or so of cotton trash down behind the gin ignited.

Fire is a constant risk when dealing with all phases of cotton production from field to completed bales.

During the past few months of processing the gin has been closed numerous times due to cotton self-igniting, requiring the many fire prevention measures to be initiated. One measure is the complete closure of the gin while the risk is prevalent.

This time the fire was huge.

Flames and sparks where leaping hundreds of metres and there was a real risk of the dry grass around the area catching alight and eventually getting into the wheat fields, or even worse into neighbouring properties.

It took three days to quell the fire with some of the blokes working round the clock.

Shannon jumped on the grader and although he couldn’t see the front wheels of the grader through the smoke, managed to cut extra fire breaks around the worst of the fire.

He put a tree branch through the front window of the grader and drove over fences and gates but was able to contain the fire within the cotton dump.

The whole farm seemed to be wrapped in grey, misty smoke and the awful stench of burning cotton for days.

Topdressing planes droned overhead constantly as they took off and landed at the airstrip to load fire retardant and drop it over the fire.

Fire crews were also on hand from Moree.

The fire is no big deal

Of course they take these things in their stride out here and what would have been a major incident in any city or town was just another challenge to be sorted without whinge or whine.

Although the fire was big it made no news bulletins.

Unfortunately we have no photos of the fire as we didn’t want to go down there and get in the way of the many men and machines in the area.

Dry grass is a threat to the caravan

It did however make us think about the tall, dry grass and other tinder dry vegetation growing up to the camp fenceline and only a metre from the caravans.

On suggesting that it might be a good idea to get rid of some of this vegetation I was given the Caterpillar backhoe to, “Have a play and do whatever I wanted.”

More earthmoving with the backhoe

So, after familiarising myself with the backhoe’s controls again I starting knocking over trees and scraping out a swathe of vegetation about 10 metres from the camp fenceline.

I couldn’t help wrecking the fence itself as it was partially fallen down and tangled in the scrubby trees.

At one stage poor Kerrie came to help and was pulling a piece of barbed wire from the backhoe. Unbeknownst to me the wire was close to her legs and as the backhoe moved it pulled a piece of barbed wire around her legs cutting her quite fiercely.

Barbed wire and I don't mix.

Barbed wire and I don’t mix.

 

Before and after photo's of the area cleared.

Before and after photo’s of the area cleared.

 

At the end of the 5 hour earthmoving activity the area was cleared, the backhoe was severely overheating and was missing a radio antenna, an orange flashing roof light and had a flat tyre.

None of this bought even a slight negative reaction from the farm people who just shrugged and said, “No worries we’ll have that fixed shortly.”

I’ve offered to repair and redo the fenceline round the camp and they’re going to give me a couple of boys to help when the work eases off.

The ride on mower blows up

The day after the earthmoving we decided to mow the camp grounds with the John Deere ride on that is looking very much the worst for wear at the moment.

I managed to get about ¼ of the grounds done before a huge pall of black smoke blasted from the engine and it stopped, never to restart again.

Shannon had told me to expect this as it was on its last legs but it means we have no mower at present to mow the camp or the weighbridge/office area.

The new cook arrives

Monday saw the arrival of the potential new cook/manager for a week’s trial.

He’s an amiable Kiwi named Gary, just two months over from Dunedin although he and his wife have lived in Australia before.

The first thing I liked about him was that he’s a listener. He intently listened to everything and only rarely added in bits and pieces of his own experience.

He’s obviously a very competent cook and we’re hoping he likes the place enough to stay and that Martyn likes him.

It was so good to be able to get up this morning and go straight to the office to begin chipping away at the work I have mounted up.

Phones, modems and barbed wire!

The telephone and internet reception at Koramba Cotton Farm are not the best.

In order to maximise reception we have a large high gain antenna on a long pole attached to the caravan, another antenna on the car and yet another one for my new office.

New Office?

My comfortable little office that we set up in the annexe has become uncomfortable!

The extreme heat, dust and flies of the last couple of weeks have made it necessary to rethink the workspace.

We’ve got permission to use one of the air conditioned rooms until the room is needed and so we’ve moved the desk, chair and the computers up to the camp.

Only trouble is the Internet!

The Telstra modem that we use for internet reception requires the use of a “patch” that connects the modem to the antenna we’ve rigged up.

This has been OK in the past but since Telstra sold us the wrong patch when we bought the modem some months ago, the patch connector in the modem has slowly deteriorated.

Now, the move to the new office meant buying yet another ($110.00) antenna and another Telstra Modem with a “Pre Paid” card for Kerrie (cost about $200.00).

When I moved the old modem up to the new office – guess what?

No reception.

Modem Repairs go haywire

So with a sharp pointy knife in one hand and a sewing magnifying glass in the other, (the connectors are microscopic), I proceed to “Repair” the intricate connectors.

As I’m poking around with the micro connector using the kitchen knife, an audible “ping” could be heard accompanied by three tiny modem parts sailing off  in different directions around the room!

I’m losing it!

I can feel it!

Attitude deterioration in progress!

So I figure I’ll take the Simm card out of the modem and use an old Telstra modem we’ve got in the cupboard as a temporary measure.

Of course, while all other parts of the modem so easily take to flight across the room, the Simm card is really difficult to get out, requiring the application of pressure that you just know was not meant to be applied to such an intricate device.

Naturally the Simm card holder was the next thing to part company with the modem leaving the modem completely stuffed and the Simm card so badly damaged it wouldn’t fit into the other modem.

Now I’m REALLY mad!

Why did I even attempt to solve the problem with an attitude like that?

All I wanted to do was grasp the modem, and fling it as far as possible into the scrub.

Kerrie of course can spot these moments of complete insanity and is able to calm me down.

But, it means another 120km trip to Moree and another new modem (Cost $300.00) and an encounter with one of the banes of my life TELSTRA SHOPS.

Surprisingly Great Service

The next day sees Kerrie, Lauren and I in Moree and the Telstra Shop.

Kerrie wouldn’t even let me in the shop, insisting I have coffee with Lauren while she fixed it all up.

I did however venture into the shop and to my surprise the lady serving us was super-efficient, pleasant and friendly.

She gave us such great service we bought her a bunch of chocolates as a gift.

Just goes to show, you can’t put people into your preconceived packages.

So its home to set up the new modem

After carefully setting up everything in the new office as per instructions it comes time to fire up the new $300.00 modem and the new $110.00 antenna.

Nothing!

No reception at all!

I’m on the roof, out the door, trying every possible position – still nothing.

I decide to go down to the caravan and swap the antennas over.

I figure I’ve got to place the smaller one on the roof of the caravan to have any chance of getting reception down there, so I climb up on the back bumper of the Aussie wide whilst holding on to the existing antenna for support.

Not my best idea

I distinctly remember having a flash thought – This isn’t going to go well.

You see the existing antenna is only secured to the rear bumper of the caravan with cable ties and there’s a double barbed wire fence right behind the van also.

Sure enough, just as my foot gets a hold on the bumper and I haul myself up the cable ties all snap off at once.

Down I go still clutching the 30 feet of antenna and galvanised poles it’s attached to.

Fortunately the double barbed wire fence cushioned my fall but it was hard to appreciate this lucky break as the barbs ripped through my pants first, then my shirt before starting to systematically gouge large areas of skin.

So there I was doubled backwards over the straining barbed wire still clutching the antenna and poles firmly to my chest.

Bleeding profusely with my raiment in tatters, I untangle myself from the barbed wire and stumble back around the van. A trailing piece of rope from the guy ropes on the annexe wraps around my boot and over I go again.

Fortunately this time it was only my arm, (the only body part that was hitherto spared from cuts), that met with the barbed wire as once again I plummeted groundward.

Still no darn signal!

Bruised, bleeding and ragged I finally set the huge poles and the antenna up outside the room and connected it, totally confident that even though sore and bleeding, I’d solved the problem.

Wrong!

The damn modem still would not pick up a signal!

To add insult to injury Kerrie had found her way onto the scene and demanded an explanation for the blood, cuts and tattered clothes.

Of course all she can do is break down into uncontrollable fits of laughter, snorting and pouring out tears, a process that would be repeated many times over the next couple of days as she recounted the story to all and sundry.

Kerrie solves the problem

Suddenly Kerrie looks at the new modem.

“There’s two different holes for the antenna patch here,” she states, “Why don’t you try the other hole?”

Muttering under my breath about how they were probably both the same holes and what would SHE know about it, I reluctantly tried the other hole.

Immediately reception jumped to 5 bars, the maximum!

If it were at all possible I’d have hidden this from her but she saw it!

The whole embarrassing and painful process was all for nothing. Returning the huge antenna to the caravan and replacing it with the little one (plugged into the right hole) meant brilliant reception at both the caravan and the office.

The ridicule that was to come my way for the next few days was worth the fact that I now had the internet and the phone and nothing else mattered for the moment.

 

A New Kid on the Block

Lauren was hired to do the cooking in the weekends until our new cook is appointed and starts work.

Lauren has a smile even when the temperature is way above what she is use too.

Lauren has a smile even when the temperature is way above what she is used too.

This gives me a break from the seven day per week cooking.

There’s a danger with the never ending routine of cooking every day without a break, Breakfast at 5:00am – Dinner at 7:00pm.

The job that can and should be quite enjoyable can easily turn into a relentless drudgery, a daily slog from which it’s hard to maintain the good attitude which is necessary if you are to continue to do the job well.

This young 19 year old is the girlfriend of one of the farm workers, Philip, and she did a good job for the four days we were away in Brisbane last week leaving us no hesitation in going away again and leaving her in charge.

She’s been keen and enthusiastic, even with the heat, dust and flies of the last couple of weeks.

Kerrie has a deep liking for Lauren

Kerrie has taken Lauren under her wing so to speak. She never talks about her without exuding an obvious affection.

I’m not sure if this is because Lauren is the only other female on the camp or if it’s just Kerrie’s motherly instinct, or if it’s because she admires this young lady’s gutsy demeanour that seems to cause her to be almost always smiling and to have absolutely no qualms about mixing it with the men.

This attitude seems to have commanded a respectfulness from the blokes on camp as well. Everyone from the oldest to the youngest seems to like her and the way she is able to maintain a high degree of self confidence and remain totally feminine in what is very much a male domain, and a fairly tough one at that.

Lauren does some “prettying up”.

Lauren is also quite happy to paint parts of the camp.

This means we can give her some extra paid hours painting some of the rooms that have recently been renovated and the exterior of the Dongers (accommodation blocks).

She emerges from the room she is currently painting covered in paint from head to toe but still retains a smile.

Lauren has gone through more clothes painting than anybody we have every met.

Lauren has gone through more clothes painting than anybody we’ve ever met.

Luckily most of the paint reaches the walls and ceiling.

Luckily most of the paint reaches the walls and ceiling.

About the only thing that bothers her are spiders. She hates them and every spider seems to be, “Really, really huge!”

Since Kerrie hates mice they’ve made a pact that Lauren handles the mice and Kerrie the spiders.

Neither of them has a fear of snakes of which there are plenty although we’ve seen none around the camp of late.

Junior Loves Lauren

Junior the “puppy”, (who’s growing huge), follows Lauren everywhere and now, instead of sleeping in our caravan annexe, sleeps on a chair outside Lauren’s room, even though he’s too big to fit in it comfortably.

This is what you get when you mix a puppy,water and dirt.

This is what you get when you mix a puppy,water and dirt.

The hole Junior dug while the sprinkler was going.

The hole Junior dug while the sprinkler was going.

We need to hose off both of them.

We need to hose both of them off.

To the utter amusement of the farmers, she even got him some flea powder on one of our trips to Moree, diligently rubbing it into the dog’s coat in a seemingly futile attempt to dissipate the flea colony residing therein.

A Full camp keeps us busy

We’ve got a full house at the moment with five laser levelling contractors in camp and six spraying contractors along with the usual bunch.

One of our favourites, Clint, left us this week. He was an amiable Irishman who never stopped smiling and always greets us with a cherry “Ullo Lads”, and farewelled us every night with a “Thanks Lads.” He left with another pleasant and likeable Irishman, Jarrod. We’re very sorry to see these two great blokes go.

It’s one of the downsides of getting to know the camp’s inhabitants. You always know it’s very temporary.

We enjoy it when the camp is full though, especially the banter at meal times, and of course Kerrie loves to fuss around everyone.

A Weekend off for the boys

The boys had last weekend off and they decided to take Kieran’s car into Moree for repairs.

They used a car trailer to transport the imobile vehicle and what great entertainment it was watching them trying to marry car with trailer.

Who eventually came to the rescue?

Shannon, the “always get it done” mechanic.

Over he drives in his Land Cruiser, like some huge white knight coming to the rescue of some unfortunates.

He drops down under the car with a length of chain and proceeds to organise the event, hardly uttering a word, watched by the boys with Phillip “Supervising” as usual and two car loads of pig shooters looking on from their utes as if mesmerised by the out of the ordinary activity.

Philip and Lorcom supervising while Shannon secures the car. Kieran in the back of the ute tiding up. Lauren is wondering if she will ever get to Moree.

Philip and Lorcan supervising while Shannon secures the car. Kieran is in the back of the ute tiding up. Lauren is wondering if she’ll ever get to Moree.

Of course Shannon’s the only one that can see a solution and effortlessly proceeds to have the car dragged up on the trailer while he lies underneath holding up the exhaust pipe.

The car making it's way on to the trailer while Shannon holds up the muffler.

The car making it’s way on to the trailer while Shannon holds up the muffler.

Ten minutes later the job is done and Shannon is on his Quad bike with his trusty old Bing, the pig dog, on the back as they both ride off into the heat and dust to do battle with a few pigs.

A new Cook/Manager on trial

There’ve been a number of replies to the ads Martyn has placed for a Cook Manager and we’re giving one person a trial for a week beginning next Monday.

If he works out he’ll work a ten day on four day off fortnight. We’ve high hopes that he will work out as it’ll be good to move out of the cooking again and get back to the programmes which are so sadly neglected.

In some ways the weekend breaks of the last two weeks have increased the desire to find someone quickly. We’re both looking forward to cooking just four days per fortnight with Kerrie doing her 38 hours per week cleaning over four days of the week.

We’ll be here till January

We’ve committed to do this four days cooking per fortnight and Kerrie’s 38 hours per week until January when Lacey and David’s baby is born after which we’ll move on again. At this stage we’ll be heading for the Ayr Peninsular and then across the Nullarbor to Western Australia.

A “Working” Grey Nomad Couple wanted

It would be nice to find another Grey Nomad couple like ourselves who would do our job for three months or so and swap with us. A sort of three or four months on and three or four months off arrangement that will allow both of us to go on the road. Ideally we’d love to find someone who would be interested in this arrangement and everyone associated with the farm as well as Martyn has given the thumbs up to this.

For now though, it’s a matter of getting the new cook started and locking me away to work.

Did We Waste Our Time Building The Garden?

We’ve virtually finished the garden at Koramba Cotton Farm.
It’s been enjoyable but a lot of hard work.

The worm farm is up and running, the seed raising table is built, the mulch bins are full, and trellises have been erected for the beans, tomatoes, melons and pumpkins and they’ve all been planted.

Sunrise over the garden.

Sunrise over the garden.

Grape vines and passionfruit vines have been planted up against the new fence and corn, capsicum, and zucchinis are growing.

The only problem is – It feels like it’s all been a waste of time!

Daytime temperatures soar close to 40 degrees

The one thing we didn’t count on was the weather.

Up until a fortnight ago the daytime temperature averaged about the mid to high 20’s with the nights dropping to a cool 6 – 10 degrees. This wasn’t to last.

At present a dry, dusty wind is combining with 39 degree temperatures to simulate the inside of a giant oven, drying everything out and sapping every drop of moisture out of the ground and almost every living thing. It’s been like this for a couple of weeks now and it’ll get hotter still.

The daytime temperatures by December will be averaging 40-45 degrees!

We simply didn’t realise the speed with which this heat dehydrates vegetable seedlings and parches the ground.

A Hydroponic Garden was our original idea

Of course our original idea was to build a hydroponics system using what we’d learned from the system we built at Wurtulla but even with all the bits and pieces laying around the farm it would have required us to put money into it and since we’re only here for a short while we couldn’t justify the cost.

Fortunately we’ve only spent a couple of hundred dollars and some physical excursion.

Neither has it cost the farm anything except a box of Gerard staples. All the bits and pieces used to build the garden could easily be returned from whence they came if we decide to give up on it.

So…Do we give up?

Do we call it quits before we expend any more energy?

As we stand looking over the parched plants it seems that without a full shade cloth cover (top and sides) and a drip irrigation system similar to the Israelis (who’ve been able to turn desert into flourishing, productive farmland), the garden is a futile undertaking.

A drip irrigation system (like this Israeli which has helped to transform desert to farmland) is the ideal part solution.

A drip irrigation system (like this Israeli one which has helped to transform desert to farmland) is the ideal part solution.

Swirling Dust Clouds and blasting heat seem to be urging us to give up.

As if to underline and confirm our thoughts of giving up the temperature just touched 39 degrees and clouds of dust are swirling through the camp, at times obscuring even the closest buildings.

The lids we made for the mulch bins and the worm farm are sailing away and the reddish grey dust is settling over everything, including the plants.

Even the Aussie Wide’s air conditioning, normally extremely efficient, is struggling to keep the caravan cool.

So, in spite of a feeling of failure and a sense of regret, we’re close to deciding to cut our losses and not put any more work into the garden and to save ourselves the inevitable disappointment of watching all the plants wither and die later.

3 days on the Sunshine Coast didn’t help

Now don’t get us wrong, we’re still enjoying the farm but we have to admit that the 3 ½ days we spent on the Sunshine Coast last week made us conclude beyond doubt that we are still water people.

The lush greens of the coastal vegetation and the sea’s stunning turquoise, white and blue made us realise our deeply ingrained affinity for the sea.

Chris's favorite spot at Moffet Beach

Chris’s favorite spot at Moffet Beach

 

The Brisbane trip was a pure delight

It was a delight to catch up with everyone in Brisbane last week. Our Grandson, Little Riley’s, baby dedication service was so moving and special; we wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Reily with his two new teeth and his cheeky grin.

Reily with his two new teeth and his cheeky grin.

He’s crawling already and sporting two new teeth and, as usual, he smiled and laughed his way through the family gathering without as much as a whimper or whine.

A dinner date with Emily, our daughter, on Friday night accompanied by long conversations with her while overlooking the city lights at the top of Mount Gravatt were special as was the time spent with David and Lacey and the brief few hours with the best brother in the world, Barry.

Kerrie had dinner with her beloved netball girls laughing and talking till 2:00am Saturday morning. She loves these times spent with her friends.

We’ll catch up with sons Ben, Chris and Wayne next time since (as per usual) the weekend passed all too quickly.

It’s a stark contrast between the Sunshine Coast and here

The western border lands of New South Wales and Queensland are such a stark contrast to the coast. They’re beautiful in their own right, but dry, brown and hot – where only the toughest of vegetation survives.

The climate seems to be hell bent on sucking the life out of anything or anyone who displays the smallest weakness.

The harsh environment is not all bad of course

It keeps the Nutters away like the ones who occupy the thousands of taxpayer funded, air conditioned government offices in the myriad of obscure little government departments like the one in this story, The Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA).

Unless they can bring down their little legislature backed hammers on people from the comfort of the office they’ll almost never visit here.

Every day that we’re here our respect grows for the folk who make this land work, particularly this farm.

They’re tough of body, mind and spirit, and it’s only that very special toughness and resilience, that unswerving ability to solve any problem, that enables survival and prosperity out here.

This is the part of Koramba that we’ll miss when we move on, the easy going attitudes, the freedoms that are just not found in the city anymore, and the quiet toughness in the people.

Giving up is not how things are done out here!

We can’t give up!

It isn’t the way things are done out here.

We’ve learned many good things here and the most valuable is that giving up is not an option.

They don’t philosophy about it or attend “Positive Mental Attitude” classes or read motivational books. They just damn well don’t give up – at least until every avenue has been exhausted.

On confiding to the Farm Manager, Daryl about our thoughts on wasting effort in the garden we got the reply, “No mate just give it heaps of water. It’ll be OK.”

In conversation with Dave, the Supervisor, the answer was, “Just pour on the water mate, we’ve got plenty.” Nowhere in him could we see the faintest glimmer of sympathy for giving up.

Bev, (Dave the Supervisors wife) has propagated a heap of seedlings for us using foam boxes and a peat/sand mix in deep seed raising pots. We dare not even mention to her about giving up; not when she’s grown hundreds of beautiful roses and other flowers, as well as green lawns and veges out here not 100 yards from our garden.

Martyn, our boss arrived out at camp with 10 fruit trees in pots. The car was like a mobile shrubbery with Jaala the secretary holding one of the Mandarin trees on her lap for the 120 km drive. Needless to say we did not even mention giving up to him!

So…We persevere!

Maybe it was foolhardy to start the garden project when we still have so much work to do on the computer applications.

Maybe we didn’t “count the cost” to ascertain if we were able to finish no matter what the circumstances.

It is a lot of work when we’re already starting at 4:45am in the kitchen and finishing at 8:00pm.

But… having started it we’ll see it through and do the best we can.

As if to confirm our decision to carry on the plants that looked so forlorn and near death have revived despite the heat.

There are hundreds of new shoots everywhere and the combination of cotton trash, sorghum mulch and blood and bone mixed with the natural soil seems to have created a good environment to hold moisture.

Also of course, the hardest work has already been done. It’s now a matter of, “Keep pourin’ the water on it mate.”

The Garden

We’ve almost finished the garden.It’s about 12 metres wide by about 25 metres long so it’s fairly substantial.
It’s our hope to provide the majority of the veges required for the camp’s 20 – 30 inhabitants.

We wanted to create the garden entirely from bits and pieces lying around the farm and we’ve managed to do this.

We found a broken old BBQ which we rebuilt with some offcuts of cable trays to make a mobile table for growing seedlings. All we need to do is work out how to keep the farm dogs, especially the puppy, from destroying the seedlings.

A new life for the old BBQ trolley.

A new life for the old BBQ trolley.

Before planting anything in the garden we needed to seal it off as it seems to be a high traffic area for dogs, kangaroos, emus, rabbits and horses, as well as the camp inhabitants.
We’ve never built a star picket and wire fence before so for a couple of weeks we took note of how the fences on the farm have been constructed.

As it’s not a big area and we didn’t need large corner posts, we decided to use star pickets entirely as there are thousands of them discarded down at the tip. We designed a simple way of bracing each corner post that required minimal work.

Bolting another star picket on, with the end cut off was a great way to utilise what we could find at Siberia

Bolting another star picket on, with the end cut off was a great way to utilise what we could find at Siberia.

A salvage/scavenging trip down to Siberia (the tip) yielded 30 star pickets, two rolls of chicken wire, a roll of fencing wire, an old farm gate, the frames of two bulk liquid containers and some corrugated iron.

This Goanna has made a home in the pile of star pickets

This Goanna has made a home in the pile of star pickets

With the help of the farm’s star picket hammer we made the skeleton of the fence with 26 of the star pickets.

 

Putting in the star pickets and leveling off for the wire.

Putting in the star pickets and leveling off for the wire.

We then borrowed the fence strainers to fasten and stretch three strands of wire around the row of star pickets.

The Wire Stretcher

The wire stretcher made straining the fence wire easy

Daryl, the Koramba Farm Manger, told us to use an ingenious little tool from the farm’s stock shed called the “Gerard Fastener” which makes it easy to fasten the chicken wire to the fence wire. This tool uses a kind of stapling method to clasp the netting onto the wire with a galvanised staple, saving a massive amount of work and time.

This ingenious little tool (The Gerard Fastener) made easy work of clipping the chicken wire on

This ingenious little tool (The Gerard Fastener) made easy work of clipping the chicken wire on

The Gerard Fastener was a great tool and made the job so easy.

The Gerard Fastener was a great tool and made the job so easy.

The only chicken wire down at Siberia was 2metres wide so we were able to lay about 180mm of wire flat on the ground which will make it almost impossible for the animals to burrow underneath.

The grass will be able to grow through the wire and we will still be able to run the mower over it.

The grass will be able to grow through the wire and we will still be able to run the mower over it.

The farm gate we salvaged was bent and broken but a small section of it remained undamaged. We cut this good section out with the grinder to make a perfect sized gate which we hung by welding on two hinges that I bought from Goondiwindi. These and some staples for the Gerard Fastener were about the only purchased items in the project.

A good gate remodelled from an old bent and broken one

A good gate remodelled from an old bent and broken one

The new mulch bins.

The new mulch bins.

Next we wrapped chicken wire around the two bulk liquid container frames, fastened it into place and then rolled them to the corner of the garden. These will be filled with sorghum mulch to rot down for our mulch. Mulch will be a total necessity during summer when the temperature will reach 45 degrees regularly.

Chris and Cliff' with 3 bales of Sorghum Mulch

Chris and Cliff’ with 3 bales of Sorghum Mulch

Then it was on to constructing a large worm farm using the cut down bulk liquid container that was used as an herb garden in the camp yard.
This has never really grown herbs successfully and the yard will look better after it’s gone. We emptied the herb garden with the help of a few of the Irishmen. There’s a valve at the bottom to drain off the worm pee which is a rich and potent fertiliser.
We have a few layers of chicken wire in the bottom of the container covered with sacks and sheets of calico cotton bale covering. On top of this is dampened, torn up cardboard, old leaves and some compost.
The worms will be placed in here on arrival and kitchen scraps will be placed on a top layer and covered with more wet calico.
A lid made from a sheet of corrugated iron will keep out access moisture and we’ve sited the worm farm under a tree so it will be shaded through the hottest part of the day.
We ordered 4000 compost worms over the internet and they’ll arrive soon.

The container for the worm farm.

The container for the worm farm.

This is the way we've layed out the worm farm

This is the way we’ve layed out the worm farm

So far we’ve planted some grape vines along the fence, tomatoes, and zucchinis.

Martyn has offered to buy 20 or 30 fruit trees to plant around the perimeter of the garden as well and this will be a really great start for it. We’re off to Moree on Monday where we’ll get some blood & bone fertiliser and some more seedlings.

Kerrie has planted many seedlings but unfortunately the little scoundrel of a dog ripped up a lot of them so we’ll now put them inside the fence of the garden.

The garden has been a lot of work but it’s been fun and it looks great. It’s hard to visualise the scabby, unruly bush and scrub that once occupied the location. We’re looking forward to seeing something growing in it before we move on.

 

October Already!

Why does time speed up as you get older?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of ten tractors planting field 51

One of ten tractors planting field 51

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

Its a dusty old job on the chains

Its a dusty old job on the chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Machinery for big jobs

The other day we were out and about on Koramba cotton farm when we noticed the huge Caterpillar D7 bulldozer that’s owned by Trent, one of the contractors currently living on the camp.

Last year in the floods a large chunk of cotton field situated closest to the river was nearly destroyed along with about $8,000,000 of cotton.  This was due to the river over flowing and flooding into about 6000 acres of land adjoining the cotton fields at a depth that caused the water to rise inches from the top of the levy banks around the fields. If the water had risen those few more inches millions would have been lost.

Fast work and maximum effort from the farmers managed to avoid this devastation by temporarily increasing the height of the levy banks with excavators and other machinery.

The water nearly reached the level of the Nissan.

The water nearly reached the level of the Nissan.

Now the time has come to eliminate this risk for any future flooding.

This is being done by clearing a strip of land close to the banks so that the temporary job that was made to heighten the levies can be strengthened and made more permanent. A road will be rebuilt on the top of the levies and another road built round the perimeter so that machinery such as laser buckets and excavators can access the area.

The first step in this large project is clearing the land and this is where Trent’s toy comes in. The D7 makes the clearing of the area easy. It’s a huge machine and fascinating to watch in action as it easily moves virtually anything in its path. In the 4 or so weeks Trent and his machine are on the farm they will have cleared about 20km around the perimeter of the levies.

Trent and Chris with the height of the banks behind them.

Trent and Chris with the height of the banks behind them.

All the land that was subject to the flooding has been completely cleared many years ago when the farm ran stock on this area and had some of it under cultivation. The trees now being removed have taken only a few years to grow.

Watching this operation once again bought home the magnitude of the commitment of time, money and resources to keep this farm producing and contributing in so many ways to this county’s economy.

 

After watching Trent in action we moved around to another field where another operation was in progress.

This time a cotton field was being re levelled to maximise the flow of irrigation water to the cotton rows.

Two other contractors, Scott and Ray, have their laser levelling machinery here in order to accomplish this. This consists of two huge Steiger tractors with laser controlled buckets.

Ray and Scott working the paddock to get the levels right for the water to run off.

Ray and Scott working the paddock to get the levels right for the water to run off.

A simplified explanation of how this works is that a laser is set up on a stand at a specified point in the field. Another laser is mounted on the earth moving buckets pulled by the Steigers. The contractors use stakes across the fields and plans as to the levels required to move the surface material around the field. Another 4 of these Steigers will join these two in the next few weeks to get the job done.

The Laser level in the middle of the paddock sends GPS and information to the tractors.

The Laser level in the middle of the paddock sends GPS and information to the tractors.

All the land looks flat but with these machines it is corrected to within 4cm.

All the land looks flat but with these machines it is corrected to within 4cm.

Back at the camp we seem to have gained a “hanger on”.

The big black dog “Bing” is a regular inhabitant of the camp. He’s always made his way to the mess room door at exactly the right time for breakfast and dinner every day where he knows the guys will feed him scraps and have a pat and a play.

Bing has been joined by one of his progeny, a puppy who is so like old Bing he has been given the name “Junior” by the guys on camp.

His real name is Keno, (intended to be a companion name to Bing – Bingo. Bingo and Keno), but the workers all call him Junior.

Junior spends most of his time, day and night, on the camp and lately a large portion of that time wrapped around my feet as I work in the annexe.

Keno (Junior) sleeps at Chris's feet while he works at the computer.

Keno (Junior) sleeps at Chris’s feet while he works at the computer.

 

Lately he’s worked out how to unzip the annexe at night and make his bed either in the basket of clothes to be washed or my chair.

He unzips the annex so he can sleep inside.

He unzips the annex so he can sleep inside.

I don’t know what sort of road kill or wild animal remains he’s been into but boy is he putrid today!

He will be just as big as Bing with those massive paws.

He will be just as big as Bing with those massive paws.

The farm is on a rare weekend off at the moment and most of the workers have taken the opportunity to get away. Some have gone to Brisbane and others to Moree. It means we can put breakfast on at 9:00am and have a precious sleep in.

Kerrie has taken the opportunity to drive in to Goondiwindi to do some shopping and just hang out around a different environment for a few hours while I’ve decided to stay on camp and try and catch up with some work. Strange how we have been together almost 24/7 in the caravan for the last 21 months and yet I still miss her when she’s not here.

The camp is so quiet – quieter even than normal – and it’s warm and peaceful with almost everyone gone and the sun shining in a flawless blue sky. The annexe is open out onto the bush at the back and scores of birds inhabit the trees and the fence running to the rear of the annexe. It’s all very conducive to creativity. I hope to get a lot done.