Ever Changing – Koramba Farm

Warning!!!

We’re going to include this warning for the next few posts.

If you are getting text links appearing on some of our pages that take you to advertising, (they will be DOUBLE UNDERLINED links, not like our own genuine links), IT’S NOT US!

You have unintentionally installed an Add On to your browser that does this. Look for an Add On in your Browser called “Yantoo” or “Zemanta 1”. These are the culprits. Read about them here and here.

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We’re always hesitant about asking the Koramba people for “things’. We feel we’re being pests as the farm is always busy and everyone has heaps of “stuff” to do.

This is particularly true of the farm’s key people; Toby (The General Manager), Daryl (The Farm Manager), Dave (The Farm Supervisor), Shannon (The Mechanic) and Martyn (Our Boss).

These people seem to work seven days a week most weeks, virtually from dawn to dusk and not once have they given us a reason to feel like pests. Quite the contrary! Whatever we’ve asked for they’ve always bent over backwards to provide it with an easy going “nothing is too difficult” type of attitude. They’ve even openly told us that whatever we want they’ll get for us.

It’s probably because of this willingness and cooperation that we try to “cull out” what we ask for, being careful not to be frivolous with this good natured, good humoured willingness.

This is why we asked Shannon to teach me how to drive his little bulldozer so we didn’t have to take up his time in order to clean up the roads and the overgrown trees.

Shannon was happy to show me how to operate this beaut little machine that’s rugged and tough and, as Shannon says, unbreakable.

After a brief and to the point explanation of each of the levers and pedals, a pre start check, a lift of the throttle lever and a push of the starter button the machine blasted into life with a roar. I played around in the ½ acre or so of open space next to Shannon’s house where I couldn’t destroy anything of significance, ever mindful of Martyn’s parting words the day before warning me about driving the dozer through the camp buildings.


It was a great experience and I soon got the hang of it. All the potential of having such a small yet powerful machine at my disposal came flooding in. Trees could be uprooted, ground levelled and things moved around that would be beyond our ability to do manually.

I was soon knocking over the thicket of scrubby trees in the camp where we will put the large vege garden.

By the end of the day the camp grounds were looking considerably clearer. I shut the dozer down just before dark and climbed off with every muscle aching, especially the left leg from the hours of working the heavy clutch, and the lower back where the steel seat had constantly slammed into it for the last few hours. As sore as I was I was extremely happy for the opportunity to learn something new and to get such a large amount of work done.

Cleaning up the overgrown bushes is making a hugh difference to the over all look.

Cleaning up the overgrown bushes is making a hugh difference to the over all look.

After a scotch and a few pain killers I slept for an unbroken twelve hours before firing up the dozer again early Sunday morning.

I don’t know where the day went but 10 hours non stop on the dozer saw a significant change in the camp landscape.

Periodically through the day onlookers from the farm would stop for a gander. I wonder what they were saying. Probably, “Who let that idiot use that thing”?

By the end of the day we had our garden bed and all the trees, roots and rubbish, including the huge telephone poles had been cleared away.

Shannon ran a huge tractor with an Offset machine over the cleared ground on his side of the camp to dig it up and he’ll later level it ready for us to sow grass seed at the end of August.

Shannan with the offset. He will run this over our veggie garden to turn the cotton trash and ground to workable dirt.

Shannan with the offset. He will run this over our veggie garden to turn the cotton trash and ground to workable dirt.

Toby, the General Manager gave us a sack of Kikuyu seed a few days before as he dropped off the farm’s chain saw for us. He’d made a comment that stuck with me. We were talking about how some of the farm’s houses are cut off when it rains and he said, “The rain never bothers me. There’s profit in mud and poverty in dust”.

Almost everyone had given us the advice that we needed to get some Cotton Trash for the garden. Having no idea what cotton trash was and how good it might be I undertook some research and found that this trash was the end run of the cotton processing cycle. It is the rubbish that is discarded from the gin and includes soil, cotton seed husks, bits of cotton, sticks and burs etc from the paddocks.

In its natural state, as it comes out of the gin, it’s pretty useless for gardens as it contains weed seeds and pesticide chemicals which will quickly destroy a garden.

What is useful is the end product after the cotton trash has been composted. The raw trash is discarded and dumped in a pit near the gin and temperature and moisture combine to compost the trash, destroying all harmful chemical residues and sterilising any seeds.

It turns out just like dirt.

It turns out just like dirt.

The broken down compost is extremely rich and beneficial as a mulch or compost additive. It also makes the soil lighter and easier to keep watered.

We were told we could use the farm’s tipping trailer to get as much as we wanted ( there are hundreds of tons of the stuff) but Shannon said he would bring a load down for us.

In the meantime I’d left one large tree in the middle of the garden bed as it was too big even for the tough little dozer. I was going to leave it but after talking to Martyn we decided it would suck out too many nutrients and too much moisture from the garden bed.

It had to go!

It had to go.

It had to go.

I prepared myself mentally to do another chainsaw job on this tree when Shannon said he would bring over a machine that would get it out.

Remember, Shannon is a very busy young bloke but, true to his word, well after dark and as we were serving dinner, the farm’s Kenworth semi-trailer roared past the kitchen. We ran out to see Shannon backing the huge truck up to our new vege garden and within minutes a whole semi load of richly composted cotton trash lay on the bed.

The load of cotton trash is rich in nutrients.

The load of cotton trash is rich in nutrients.

As we thanked him his ever present smile shone through a face caked in dust and dirt as he explained that this was his favourite truck. “There’s not much in her,” he said, “but she runs like a beauty.”

(A Note from Kerrie)

We would have had a picture of the semi but Chris came back in with the camera and commented “The camera’s not working properly”

No… it doesn’t with the lense cap still on.

Now during the early part of the day, yet another change confronted us as Martyn paid an early morning visit to the farm to speak to Jacquie, the Cook.

Jacquie decided to resign and within a few hours she had packed up and left the farm.

This, of course, meant Kerrie and I are back in the kitchen full time as well as the cleaning.

So it was a matter of getting stuck in and reorganising the food again to get everything on an even keel.

We’re not sure how this will pan out for our near future but the important task at hand is to keep things running smoothly until things are sorted.

After breakfast Shannon again turned up at the camp, this time with the large Caterpillar back hoe. With a bit of digging and a few hard rams with the bucket the large tree in the middle of the new garden area was uprooted and partially moved.

Shannan can handle any machine on this farm, fast and efficient.

Shannan can handle any machine on this farm, fast and efficient.

In the middle of this operation Shannon had to leave to do a job. This coincided with a visit from the Farm Supervisor Dave. After a chat Dave told me to jump up on the back hoe and he’d teach me how to use it so I could grab it whenever it wasn’t in use on the farm.

Within a few minutes I was operating the backhoe trying to pick up logs and branches with the bucket. What a thrill! I always wanted to have a go at one of these!

When Chris first started it took 10min to pick up his first branch. I wanted to go over and put the branch in the bucket for him. He was so proud when he carried away his little branch to add it to the already hugh pile of over growth and scrub.

When Chris first started it took 10min to pick up his first branch. I wanted to go over and put the branch in the bucket for him. He was so proud when he carried away his little branch to add it to the already hugh pile of over growth and scrub.

So in the last few days this is what we’ve achieved;

  • Learned to drive a dozer
  • Learned to drive a back hoe
  • Moved tons of scrub and bush
  • Levelled out the new garden bed
  • Renovated the roads around the camp
  • Cleaned one of the farm’s houses ready for a new occupant
  • Taken over the cooking
  • Removed heaps of debris and junk to the tip

Whew!! We need a day off!

But – part of the whole reason for us “hitting the road’ 20 months ago was to learn new things, especially about farming. We’ve certainly done that and we’ve only just begun.

 

Life gets more interesting every day at Koramba Farm.

Warning!!!

We’re going to include this warning for the next few posts.

If you are getting text links appearing on some of our pages that take you to advertising, (they will be DOUBLE UNDERLINED links, not like our own genuine links), IT’S NOT US!

You have unintentionally installed an Add On to your browser that does this. Look for an Add On in your Browser called “Yantoo” or “Zemanta 1”. These are the culprits. Read about them here and here.

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Finally, after getting my strength back, Kerrie and I decided to have a go at trimming some more of the overgrown trees around the camp vicinity.

We intended to just spend an hour or two to do something physical and make a start on the next tidy up phase.

After cutting one of the rotting power poles, that was being used as a border around the driveway to the car park, and stacking it up ready to set fire to it, we moved around to the half acre or so of overgrown land opposite the camp kitchen and mess room.

Ready for a great bon fire tonight.

Ready for a great bon fire tonight.

Life's much easier with a chain saw. "Boy Toys"

Life’s much easier with a chain saw. “Boy Toys”

There was quite a bit of big stuff round here and some of the lovely old trees had been killed by a thick thorny vine which I think might be Smilax or Barbed Wire Vine. This thing has used the good tree as a sort of life support, twisting itself around the trunk and then high into the upper branches. The thick wood trunks of the vines had almost become part of the host tree and many of the camp trees that would have once been quite beautiful are now dead, throttled by this ugly and horrible looking thing.

So Martyn’s chainsaw saw action in a big way as vines and dead trees began to cover the ground.

Poor Kerrie!

She started trying to pull the large branches and thorny vines to a central location with a worried look that seemed to ask the obvious question, “You expect US to move this forest?”

It was about then that Shannon the 22 year old mechanic strolled over.

“I’ll get some machinery to push all this away”, he stated through his ever present grin.

Shannon is always smiling and willing to help

Shannon is always smiling and willing to help

I showed him what was happening to the trees with the vines and pointed out how many of the surrounding plants were not actually trees at all but thick clumps of thorny vine with a dead tree in the middle.

Shannon’s simple answer was what he called his “Ultimate Gardening Implement”. “All gardening should be done this way”, he said as he fired up the old International Bulldozer!

Shannon purchased this awesome little machine himself through eBay after the clutch was burnt out by people who had no idea how to operate it. It had sat for a few years in a paddock. Shannon bought it and then spent three months sourcing parts for it and fixing it up.

He’s going to take it up to his own 250 acre farm outside Glenn Innes but since fixing it up it’s already done about 80 hours work on the farm.

It was a beautiful thing to watch as Shannon expertly drove the little dozer into dead tree after dead tree easily uprooting them and then pushing huge piles of the overgrowth into windrows in one of the adjoining paddocks to later be set alight. All the while he seemed to have this look of sheer enjoyment on his face, as if he was relishing the opportunity to put the little dozer through its paces.

 

I kept chain sawing more and more branches, some revealing native beehives thick with beautiful bush honey.

Nothing seems a bother to Shannon. Even though it was his day off he’d already fixed the head gasket on a tractor earlier in the morning. He’s one of those young fellas who’s worth his rather substantial weight in gold on any operation. He never seems to complain, never whines, is always willing and is highly competent with an obvious large helping of practicality and common sense.

Shannon also loves the farm. He’s a hive of knowledge about its history and its current and future operations. He told us of places on the property we hadn’t yet explored and how the vast areas of land that are not producing cotton (that we thought were lying wasted) would possibly soon run many head of cattle again as they did prior to the long drought.

We hope we have the opportunity to see this happen.

It seems that nothing is a bother to the people on the farm. We didn’t ask Shannon to help he just merrily chipped in. We’d also been talking to Darryl, the Farm Manager, a few days earlier and we asked if we could get rid of the old power poles lining the camp driveway.

The old telegraph poles that line the driveway were rotting... so of course we wanted to change them.

The old telegraph poles that line the driveway were rotting… so of course we wanted to change them.

These would have been rather nice when they were first put here many years ago but they’re now distorted, twisted and rotten as they’ve moved into an advanced state of decay. They now make the area look untidy and without them we could make the mowing of the grass a much easier task.

We want to be able to leave the place easy to manage when we move on so that one person can maintain the area easily with just the ride on mower.

Darryl agreed with us but wanted to retain a defining area for the driveway so we suggested using some of the hundreds of discarded 350ml irrigation pipes from Siberia, the farm dump.

These would be uniform in size, straight and won’t decay in the future.

He liked the idea and so as we were clearing up a couple of the workers turned up saying that Darryl had told them to organise the removal of the power poles and to get as many of the irrigation pipes here as we needed.

Sure enough, by the end of the day, there were the delivered irrigation pipes.

In the meantime (and seeing it was Sunday afternoon) Shannon had taken a break to do some fishing so we decided to check out the old Corenda homestead way out on the South Western boundary of the property.

We drove through mile after mile of cotton land in various stages of preparation for the next planting in September and then past large tracks of land planted in wheat. There must be three or four thousand acres just in wheat and, at this early growth stage, it’s a spectacular sight.

The green this time is wheat. It's planted in non cotton areas. They have planted this in every little corner of the farm.

The green this time is wheat. It’s planted in non cotton areas. They have planted this in every little corner of the farm.

It’s a bright, almost iridescent green that seems to shimmer in the sunlight. It’s a carpet of green stretching across large paddocks and it’s an awesome visual.

 

From Cotton to Wheat

From Cotton to Wheat

We eventually came upon the Corenda homestead and we were amazed at the beautiful spot that we’d found ourselves in. It was once a stand alone farm with stock yards and machinery sheds of its own.

Corenda House, one of 4 farms that make up Koramba.

Corenda Homestead. Corenda is one of the 4 farms that make up Koramba.

The home itself has been substantially renovated and has beautiful large surrounding verandas.

Fully screened veranda's around the house.

Fully screened veranda’s around the house.

The old house has had some renovations.

The old house has had some renovations.

The old meat shed is still in remarkable condition and the hanging rack is still there where the carcasses of sheep were once prepared for farm consumption. Even the old butcher’s chopping block is still there.

The old meat shed has had the roof replaced and is still in good condition.

The old meat shed has had the roof replaced and is still in good condition.

The butcher's chopping block and the hanging rack are still there and in good condition

The butcher’s chopping block and the hanging rack are still there and in good condition

The old laundry is still in great condition and all around the house and the yard and gardens are reminders of what once would have been a self sufficient property.

A short distance from the house are the old shearer’s quarters and apart from a collapsed section of roof and some missing walls the quarters are still in surprisingly good nick.

The old shearers quarters.

The old shearers quarters.

The shearer’s quarters shower facility, laundry and out houses complete with drop toilets are all still in quite reasonable condition.

The shearer's showers and old drop dunnies are still in good nick

The shearer’s showers and old drop dunnies are still in good nick

The piece de resistance though is the shearing shed.

The Shearing Shed

The Shearing Shed

This structure would have seen many thousands of sheep pass through its sheep runs and shearing stands and it’s easy to imagine the hive of activity that would have been the norm here. It’s easy to visualize the shearers at their stands, the roustabouts clearing fleeces and spreading them on the classing tables for the classers to grade the wool before being thrown into the cages. They would be taken from here to the old wooden wool press for pressing into bales before being stored ready for shipping. The old wool press is still there although largely destroyed by white ant now.

The old wool press has been eaten by white ants.

The old wool press has been eaten by white ants.

The bed that would have once housed the engine which ran the shears is still there although it would have been a long time since the engine was in place. The electric motors that would have replaced it are still there.

You can almost hear the shears and the sheep.

You can almost hear the shears and the sheep.

That unmistakably pleasant smell of oily unprocessed wool still pervades the whole shed.

Wool fleece is still laying on the floor.

Wool fleece is still laying on the floor.

What a shame that this once bustling old building is falling quietly, molecule by molecule into the ground from whence it came. It makes you yearn to DO something to save it – but WHAT!

What is she thinking? Soaking up the peace and tranquility of the Corenda Homestead backyard.

What is she thinking? Soaking up the peace and tranquility of the Corenda Homestead backyard.

All round the property the wildlife abounds. Birds are everywhere, Kangaroos are almost in plague proportions even a Boar, Sour and 6 piglets could be seen scurrying across one of the paddocks. An Emu hurried on its way to who knows where and all the while the silence and peace enveloped the whole area.

Wild pigs racing through the scrub.

Wild pigs racing through the scrub.

The property itself is difficult to access and I’d say it would be completely cut off at the lightest of rain. Still, it was an amazing afternoon.

Driving back around the cotton fields we could see the boys working the tractors and we could see the contrasting patchwork of wheat next to ploughed cotton fields.

Along the tops of the giant reservoirs we spotted hundreds of thousands of water birds. They were in huge quantities, like moving clouds over the water surface. We could see Herons, Terns, Gulls, Sea Eagles, Pelicans, Black Swans, Ducks, Cormorants and others.

Water birds of every variety.

Water birds of every variety.

Making our way back past the Gin the colours of the wheat fields contrasted with the colour of the cotton modules awaiting processing.

The green wheat against the white wool bales at the gin.

The green wheat against the white wool bales at the gin.

Returning to the camp in the late afternoon we lit up the pile we had made from one of the rotten power poles and sat contentedly watching the sun go down and the amazing array of stars appear as the fire enveloped us with its warm glow.

 

There is nothing like a roaring bon fire.

There is nothing like a roaring bon fire.

Truly this is an amazing place!

 

A reality check!

Warning!!!

We’re going to include this warning for the next few posts.

If you are getting text links appearing on some of our pages  that take you to advertising, (they will be DOUBLE UNDERLINED links, not like our own genuine links), IT’S NOT US!

You have unintentionally installed an Add On to your browser that does this. Look for an Add On in your Browser called “Yantoo” or “Zemanta 1”. These are the culprits. Read about them here and here.

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During the trip back to the farm, from our last Brisbane stopover (where we again had to marvel at the changes in our Grandson, Riley), I got hit with some sort of virus.

Little man - So alert and so beautiful!

Little man – So alert and so beautiful!

The young and handsome and the old and ugly!

The young and handsome and the old and ugly!

It overcame me all of a sudden when we stopped briefly at Warwick, draining me of all strength, making muscles and head ache, churning my stomach and bringing on a desire to do nothing but sleep.

We stopped at Goondiwindi to pick up Martyn’s chain saw in the anticipation of hacking out more trees and we also bought grass seed to try to repatriate the grass that has died around the camp kitchen. This was a result of one of the workers spraying the whole grassed area with roundup thinking it would kill only the weeds!
We also bought Blood & Bone fertilizer and a heap of seedlings to replant the kitchen garden, which is now looking a bit worse for wear.
Alas, none of this was possible for the next four days as I just couldn’t seem to find the strength.

I was able to strip down the annexe of the caravan and lay the pallets that we’ve borrowed from the farm to make a better floor. It’s now nice and level and any rain that we get won’t dampen the interior of the annexe.

The borrowed pallets creating a new, level and raised floor

The borrowed pallets creating a new, level and raised floor

 

The floor completed

The floor completed

Settled in again

Settled in again

It’s now been 6 days since our return and I’m ready to get into the trees again. The area that we’ve already cleaned up is looking much better than last week when it was a mass of thistles, twisted Saltbush, weeds and overgrown branches; but there’s a lot more to do!

Looking down the driveway to the camp carpark

Looking down the driveway to the camp carpark

This area was impossible to mow as it was thick with overgrowth last week.

This area was impossible to mow as it was thick with overgrowth last week.

A huge dead tree stood here last week along with thick reeds, thistles and the ever present thorny saltbush.

A huge dead tree stood here last week along with thick reeds, thistles and the ever present thorny saltbush.

Nothing now remains of the large tree and the huge stump

Nothing now remains of the large tree and the huge stump

I keep toying with the idea of turning some of the treasure trove of discarded items from “Siberia” (the farm’s rubbish dump) into some simple hydroponics and raised garden beds.

I’m convinced that with a bit of good planning the camp (and probably all the farm houses) could be supplied year round with fresh vegetables for a minimal input after the initial build.

I found myself taking trips to Siberia with pad, pencil and tape measure and I was starting to spend time designing a food producing system built exclusively from the bits and pieces lying discarded around the farm.

Hydroponic pumpkins - Ya just gotta build it sometime!!

Hydroponic pumpkins – Ya just gotta build it sometime!!

I’d love to create another hydroponics garden again.
Although we both still love each day of living on the road, so to speak, there’s a part of us that still yearns to plant things and watch them grow. There’s a fascination in being part of the cycle of sowing and reaping and a realisation that nothing beats the shear beauty and majesty of things growing.


That’s why we like the farm. They’ve learned and understood the cycles of growing cotton and created a system that brings those cycles within their control as much as humans can.

So it was that I found my mind gravitating to the simple pleasures we would obtain from creating some growing spaces.

It was extremely timely that I read an article from one of my all time favourite article writers; Gary North called Putter, Fritter and Guess. This is the part of this fascinating article in which I recognised something of myself;

Puttering is the same as perfectionism in this sense: the putterer does not prioritize his work. Neither does the perfectionist.
The putterer differs from the perfectionist in this sense: he has no overall conception of what needs to be done. The perfectionist knows every nook and cranny. He tries to do it all equally well. But the results are the same as if he were a putterer. The final product never gets done right.
The putterer works on lots of projects. He does a little here, a little there. He is not focused on the one project that needs to have the key 20% operating at 96% efficiency, and the key 1% operating at 99% efficiency.
He does not have a time schedule. He does not have a schedule of priorities. He works a little on a major project, but then gets sidetracked on a minor project. The idea that some things can safely be delayed does not amaze him. He delays lots of things. But he has no sense of “first things first.” The putterer is busy. He is not lazy. He never stops working. But his output is unreliable. He is never sure how long it will take him to complete the most important projects. The putterer understands what needs to be done overall. He just does not know the order of production. He has no schedule of priorities. He is therefore always playing catch-up.
He knows that details are important. He just does not know which details are important in which order.

As much as the attraction to create gardens persists it’s not the reason we’ve been given the time in this great place.

It took me two entire weeks to design some code for one particular function on the programs and that made it easier to once again let my mind wander off the job at hand and onto more simple things like gardening.

So I’m now back at the computer and it feels pretty good to be doing what I know I’m supposed to do at present.

I’ll continue to take substantial breaks from the work to get the camp grounds looking nice. This is a great balance; much needed physical exercise, while at the same time bringing the camp grounds up to a high level of tidiness.

The pleasure of trimming trees and clearing the land of years of neglect will continue till we leave here but it won’t stop the progress I’ve made into the programmes.