Meet TBone

Meet “T-bone” Shannon’s new pet, although judging by the name you wouldn’t think it’ll be a long term relationship.

Meet “TBone” the feisty steer with heaps of attitude!

The feisty steer was put into a hastily erected yard near the camp where he’s alone, just him and his belligerent attitude.

After penning up T-Bone, Shannon came over to the camp to announce that, “If that thing gets out stay clear because the only way we’re going to stop it is by a bullet”.

I went over for a closer look at T-Bone and the whole time I stood there he snorted violently and raked the ground with his hoof almost as if he was daring me or anyone else to step inside the enclosure.
Occasionally he would charge me, stopping only when he realised there was a fence between him and me.

Even Mongrel, the fearless dog, stays safely perched on the back of Shannon’s Ute when in the steer’s vicinity.
Despite the bad temper it’s a rather beautiful looking animal with fine brown toning and strong features.

As Kerrie has already written, we’ve made a commitment to stay for another year at Koramba before once again resuming our wanderings around Australia.
Why stay?
The short answer is because we enjoy our lives out here.

To the casual observer the place is just a massive area of brown grass, scrub and cotton with a smattering of wheat and other grains dotted about the 40,000 acres.
To us it’s much more.

It’s ultimately a business, one that’s very complex and subject to a whole range of influences that are often outside the ability of humans to change, such as weather, markets, and prices of raw material.
It’s also a place where things seem more real somehow than what we have been used to in the working environment of the cities.

The place just seems to WORK.

What makes it work?

Well, all of us know that the responsibility for an organisation’s capacity to produce and prosper comes down to one person, the Manager.

The Manager is where the proverbial buck stops, no matter what the circumstances.

Out here at Koramba the Management are tough, on the job and fully involved.It often seems as if the General Manager, Toby, is everywhere at all times.

His hands on knowledge and his involvement with the daily activity of the farm are extraordinary.

From purchasing toilet rolls and paper towels at the camp to tracking global commodity prices; from understanding the complex chemistry of the soil to fixing a pump, the man is there, always calm and seldom losing his grin.

The most noticeable aspect of this is that he seems to be unflappable and unfazed by problems. His philosophy is very much “one day at a time”. Of the sixty or so workers between the Gin and the farm there would be few if any he doesn’t know by name and none that he hasn’t been able to accurately read their ability and character.

We feel we’ve learnt a lot from this young man who seems to be someone for whom most people actually want to do a good job for.

When Dave, our beloved supervisor, passed away we felt that the absence of his vast experience and his ability to supervise would have a negative impact on the farm as we didn’t believe he could be replaced easily.

We were wrong.

While Dave is still sadly missed, even this far on, the farm didn’t seem to miss a beat, even though Dave was not replaced.

The other young supervisors seemed to stand up and grow taller, taking responsibility and initiative and they did it without the need for pep talks, threats or motivational speeches.
The harvest was achieved in record time with a remarkably low incident rate and the preparation for the next crop is proceeding smoothly and ahead of time.

Like I said, the place just WORKS!

Because of our commitment to stay for another year, we’ve bought a shelter for the Aussie Wide.
A few weeks ago we had a hail storm go through the farm and it damaged the annexe roof so we decided that since the caravan would be here for a year we’d shelter it and the car from the extremes of weather we experience out here.
Toby gave us permission to erect it and even offered to get the farmhands to put it up on the next wet day.

We still enjoy working for Martyn, our boss, who contracts our labour to the farm.

He seems to value the job we do out here and as it’s the end of the financial year he gave us a great bonus the other day which we were quite overwhelmed with. We don’t need a bonus to do our best for this man who we’ve come to respect greatly but it was really great to know our efforts were appreciated.

He’s another example of the “Realness” of life out here. He just knows his business extremely well and makes it happen with a minimum of fuss and bother.
Kerrie and I are amused by Martyn’s young assistant, Jaala who seems to be taking on his persona.

The writer Napoleon Hill said that you emulate the people you associate with most and watching Jaala as she grows into the business this is definitely true.

Kerrie is thoroughly enjoying her new job in the workshop store.
She comes home of an afternoon covered in cobwebs and dust but always with a smile, full of reports of what type of bolt or nut or spare part she familiarised herself with today.

She especially likes working with Shannon and I think she’s taken on some of his attitudes especially where dealing with the workers is concerned.

Like Toby, Shannon seldom gets into a flap, even when a flap would be entirely justified.

This project has been good for Kerrie and I think it will also be good for the farm as she’s sees how the efficient management of this workshop could save the farm many thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of dollars.

We’re taking delivery of some new tractors soon and she hopes to have the parts sections of the workshop organised by then which hopefully will ultimately make maintenance schedules and repairs easier and more efficient.

Kerrie’s new domain – The Workshop

The population of the camp has remained quite stable over the last few months with the “core” of the camp probably being the three young Estonian couples, Arvi and Ave, Merlin and Kristjan and Ingrid and Lauri (who were here when we first arrived last time and have returned).

It’s a joy to have this lot at the camp, always seemingly happy and never grumbling or discontented.

We especially feel close to Ingrid who is quite an inspiration to us.

Small, petite and weighing in at no more than 45kg wringing wet, she first came to the farm during irrigation where she was put on a shovel digging irrigation ditches. This is hard work in the scorching heat even for a fit well built bloke and there could not be a greater contrast to her home in Estonia.

Martyn often remarks as to how, on seeing how small she was, saw her career in cotton farming as very short lived.

Ingrid told us how, in those first days, she cried herself to sleep at night, unable to see how she could carry on. But carry on she did!
She made a commitment to herself that no matter how bad she felt she would not let any of the management see her inner struggle with the job. She would at all times present as if she was happy with the job.

In a short space of time she did become happy with the job and ended up becoming one of the most efficient tractor operators on the farm.

Lauri and Ingrid

Lauri and Ingrid

Kerrie and I would often laugh about seeing Ingrid’s tractor, huge and powerful, with this tiny figure inside almost too small to see.
It’s great to see this petite young lady, always looking immaculate, operating this large machine and her story of perseverance is inspiring, even to us who are more than twice her age.

Arvi and Ave are from Estonia

Arvi and Ave are from Estonia

Merlin and Kristjan. Even though Kristjan speaks very little English he is always joking around and no matter what country you are from everyone understands him.

Merlin and Kristjan. Even though Kristjan speaks very little English he is always joking around and no matter what country you are from everyone understands him.

We have six Australians living on camp at the moment, Darryn, Steve, Travis, Josh, Mick and John. This is the most Aussies that we’ve had on camp at one time since we’ve been here and another two are moving in next week.

Travis is from Goondiwindi

Travis is from Goondiwindi

John another Aussie

John another Aussie

We have three Irishmen Fin, Darragh and Joe, Klaus who is Danish and is a helicopter pilot who is sitting his exams for Australian accreditation, Jan who is German and Kirill is Russian.

Darragh is from Ireland

Darragh is from Ireland

Joe is also from Ireland

Joe is also from Ireland

Jan Our only German

Jan Our only German

 

In keeping with the rest of the farm the camp runs very smoothly. Everyone seems to mix well and if there are any resentments or personality clashes they’re very well hidden.

While almost all the camp’s inhabitants regard themselves as “short term” and are all looking to a time when they will move back home or on to other places, they all seem to be contented with where they find themselves at present.

The atmosphere is most often humorous and enjoyable and it seems like nationalities make no difference, they all get along.

Perhaps the Koramba Camp is a mini version of what the outside world could be like if we all accepted each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

So, it’s because of this easy going atmosphere where big things seem to happen without fuss and nonsense that we’ve found a place to call home for another year.

We still look forward to our trips to Brisbane every 5 or six weeks, especially now with another granddaughter, Charlotte Eden Jones, being born just a week ago but we are very comfortable with our decision to stay awhile at Koramba Cotton Farm.

Dogs are a man’s best friend:

Old saying, but true.

We only have one dog at the camp now,  Mongrel. He was brought home from the pub by two of the back packer’s for Shannon after he lost Bing.

Mongrel had been found on the road by a truckie and after two weeks at the pub and “Lost Dog” notices not bringing to light his owner he came here to stay.

Why Mongrel? Well when Shannon was asked what he was going to call him to which he replied, “What the mongrel dog?” Plus the general call of “Come here Mongrel” seem to stick.

When he arrived he was shy towards people and hated noise like the whipper snipper with a vengeance.

He had eyes that gave the impression he wanted to rip off your face. He hated Junior (the other dog) and would nip him to the bone if he was annoyed. This of course didn’t help in getting people to like him, but one thing about this dog was similar to Bing, he LOVES to hunt pigs!

He was insane about hunting pigs. The first time out with Shannon he took off, Shannon trying to hold him but he was determined to go. The other dogs and hunters weren’t chasing anything and Shannon thought he had a dud dog. That was until a minute later when they heard the unmistakeable squeal of a pig.  Once the others had arrive and the kill was finished he just wandered back to the Quad bikes and waited for the rest of them.

On another trip in the back of the ute he must have smelled a pig and at 60km an hour was up over the roof of the cab, on to the bonnet and off the vehicle. Shannon locked up the ute brakes so as not to hit him. Shannon has had to train him NOT to have this much enthusiasm.

Now, Mongrel has slowly grown on us all, his eyes don’t have the killer look any more and he knows the camp routine like when to come for dinner and breakfast. He’s taken over the blanket in our annex when Shannon isn’t around and snores louder than Chris. He happily follows Shannon around the farm either sitting in the back of the ute or if he missed the ute, running until he catches him.

Shannon has just had holidays, 2 weeks in the Simpson Dessert with his father, brothers and friends and Mongrel wasn’t invited. He was tied up for an hour when Shannon left so he wouldn’t follow but what confused him most was that Shannon had left behind his work ute and taken his own car.

He stayed by the ute for the next 2 weeks. Shannon is never far from the ute so he just waited for him to come back. We all tried to get him to come to the camp but he would head back to the ute to stand guard waiting for his owner. He would race over at meal time when I called, hurriedly eat his dinner then it was back over to the ute in case he missed him.

 

Waiting patiently for Shannon

Waiting patiently for Shannon

He has to come back for the ute soon.

He has to come back for the ute soon.

He went for 8 days before he finally gave in and slept in the annex but would go back to the ute during the day. By the end he would wander over to the workshop looking for him there.

Shannon has now arrived home and Mongrel hasn’t left his side. He’s not going to lose him again, he might miss out on a pig hunt!

We’re staying put for another year:

We have committed to stay on at Koramba Farm for another year.

Why?

Chris has a couple more programs to write and while he can do this in the van, it’s a lot easier to do it from his “Office” with the computer set up with double screens, a comfortable office chair and all the power he needs without watching the solar inverter.

We committed to a year as this is easier for the farm and Martyn knowing they don’t have to look for anyone until after harvest next year.

Myself on the other hand, have taken on another job!

I wasn’t getting much brain stimulus cleaning toilets and showers and the yard work is now under control and only needs to be maintained, so while speaking to Shannon (the Mechanic) he said they really needed a Storeman to sort out all the parts and spares over at the workshop.

 

The Workshop, my new work place.

The Workshop, my new work place.

 

Chris will build a programme for the workshop which will entail stock and parts management and maintenance schedule.

We are investigating ways to make it easier for anybody to find the parts they require, remember it’s not only Shannon who works there by himself amongst a vast array of parts and spares.

The Gin staff come over for parts, back packers are sent there to work on quiet days and all the supervisors have access to be able to fix tractors or utes as needed so this makes it really hard to maintain control of literally millions of dollars worth of equipment.

They used to have a storeman and two office girls at the workshop but during the 8 year the drought many of these staff were let go or not replaced when they left. Over the years since the drought Shannon hasn’t had the time to organise or clean it by himself as it’s all hands on deck making sure all the equipment is running the best way they can.

There is two floors here, then the Hydraulic container, small machinery shed, picking container...the list goes on.

There is two floors here, then the Hydraulic container, small machinery shed, picking container…the list goes on.

Now I don’t know anything about machinery parts so it’s one steeeeeeep learning curve! If I look at the whole picture I have doubts I can do the job but when the doubts start I just think of the task at hand and stay focused on “one day at a time.”

I have been going into hardware stores and auto stores looking at ways to organise, hang and store products. I think the whole process will evolve as time goes on as new ideas surface and I learn about the stock. Shannon as always is so patient. He also knows nearly every part in the workshop.

I have put in a system so I don’t bug Shannon all the time.

I put any part I’m not sure of on the sorting table and when he has 5 minutes he puts it in the sections marked out with tape eg. Toyota, Plumbing, Case, John Deere.

When I start working on that section he names the products so I know where to place them on the shelves. I’ve started to recognise many of the parts and go back to the table myself to place them where they need to go.

I'm sorting out the John Deere parts.

I’m sorting out the John Deere parts.

Everything use to be in containers and easy to find.

Everything use to be in containers and easy to find.

I’m reading as much literature as I can on stock control, searching the internet for names of bolts and learning the confusing tensile strength of imperial bolts. Men… and they say women are confusing.

Bolt graded by the ANSI standard is identified by the number of lines arranged around the head of the bolt. The minimum value of tensile strength is defined as 2. A bolt of this value has no lines on its on its head.

    • 0 lines = Grade 2 tensile strength
    • 3 lines = Grade 5
    • 5 lines = Grade 7

 

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I love being challenged and I can tell you it’s way more fun being covered in grease, cobwebs and dust than dishwashing liquid.

I’m getting use to the cobwebs but I have seen one mouse so far. We have come to an agreement, he stays away from me and I will stay away from him.

Yes the hair gets washed everyday, just in case a spider came home with me.

Yes the hair gets washed everyday, just in case a spider came home with me.

Catching up with family:

Yes, we got to go home for 11 days and yes, I got to jump out of a plane but we did do a lot of other things as well.

Catching up with family was one of them.

First we caught up with Barry and Christine. Barry had finally bought his new car, a Toyota Land Cruiser. He loves it, and being a V8 can tow anything. It will tow his beloved Trayon Camper with ease.

Then it was off to see Emily. We had coffee with her at Logan during her break and organised to go out to a vegan restaurant for dinner with her and Jennie.
Chris also borrowed her Myers card to go, wait for it… SHOPPING.

Off we went to Carindale where Chris wanted to look at R. M. Williams jeans. Well you are aware Chris’ “Clothes Shopping Patience” lasts approximately 10 minutes. Even the shop assistant knew to stay out of the way except to get correct sizes for me. Well he ended up with shirts, jeans, boots and a jacket and he was done shopping for the week.

We were going to stay with David and Lacey for a night but they had borrowed Wayne’s Caravan and gone to visit Lacey’s grandmother in Tamworth. So we stayed an extra night at the Unit.

We never get tired of this view, it's always changing.

We never get tired of this view, it’s always changing.

This is something we had been looking forward to, the ocean.

It happened to be a clear winters day in Queensland and apparently something of a rarity with all the rain they’ve been having.

It also was a super moon. So the view from the unit was spectacular. Chris of course started working, even on days off the computer is the first thing he packs.

The moon lit up everything.

The moon lit up everything.

Chris hard at work even on his days off.

Chris hard at work even on his days off.

With the sound of the ocean in the background we slept like babies. We even left the doors open so we could hear the surf. The manager told us they have people complain that the ocean is too noisy and they can’t sleep. Guess you can’t please everybody all the time.

Having photos sent of your grandchildren is nothing like being able to hold them, so it was wonderful to catch up with Elliana and Riley. They are both growing so fast. Riley will have a baby sister in a couple of weeks so we will see her next visit.

Play time with Dad.

Play time with Dad.

Riley always has a smile on his face.

Riley always has a smile on his face.

We went to see Elliana at her swimming lesson. She is definitely David’s daughter and loves the water.

Elliana is a water baby.

Elliana is a water baby.

 

The video is 7min long but hey I’m her Nanna – what do you expect! The music is “Me and my daughter” from JewelBeat.com

 

Other big news is Little Chris and Natalie are engaged.
Congratulations guys. They haven’t made any dates yet but I guess Natalie and her sisters are in full swing on the wedding planning.

We caught up with Ben on the day we were going to jump. He is loving his new job out on the mines. It’s so nice to hear him speak about work enthusiastically.

He has a new nic name “Melon” as in Big Fruity and Little Fruity (Chris). Well with a surname of Freudenberg Melon isn’t too bad.

So our days off flew by and it was soon time to head back to Koramba. As usual we spent too much and ate too much, but hay that’s what holidays are for.

 

A 14,000ft drop and loved every second:

Chris and I finally got 11 days off after 3 months without a break. We headed back to Brisbane for a few nights and then on to the sunshine coast.

This is what I had been waiting for, my birthday present, a 14,000ft tandem skydive. Whoopee!!

David and little Chris were jumping with me. Both had jumped 2 yrs. before for David’s birthday but this was my first jump.

It was something I had wanted to do since living at Wurtulla.

I used to watch people skydive over the house and land on Currimundi beach.

Due to the weather our appointed day was cancelled so we tried again the next day. We were lucky, a heavy rain cloud passed and there was sunshine behind the cloud, so off we went.

The boys wanted to see me jump so I got to sit next to the door which they leave open.

The view was great.

As there was only the three of us jumping another skydiver came with us. He was testing out a new flag that they were jumping with in the afternoon for the Maleny Show.

One second he was there and then he was gone, falling at 120km. I was up next.

With my feet hanging over the edge I did stop and ask myself, “Am I nervous? Is my heart racing?” The answer surprised me. NO I was loving every second of this.

Clear blue sky and here I come.

Clear blue sky and here I come.

Now, concentrate Kerrie, stop looking around, what did the instructor tell you. Oh yeah, cross your arms, arch your back towards him and curl your feet back to his.

Ready, set,  go

Ready, set, go

 

There goes a perfectly good plane.

There goes a perfectly good plane.

We’re free falling and the view is spectacular. Now everybody knows the G force on your face is not the most photogenic.

So here I am trying to keep my mouth shut (which is pretty hard to do) and still do the thumbs up and OK sign for the photos. Well some turned out OK but others, well…anyone know a good plastic surgeon?

See what happens when you open your mouth

See what happens when you open your mouth

Anyone know a good plastic surgeon?

Anyone know a good plastic surgeon?

Now after a few seconds you start to feel the cold on your face, I mean it’s freezing.

They said it was -3 deg. I know, I’m a wusse. But I was glad when he pulled the rip cord because I wanted the jump to go for ever.

Chris and David free fell for longer and I got to see them passing me by.

This was probably the most amazing part. When you are on level ground (so to speak) it really hits home how fast they are falling. As I watched David and Chris fall, a sigh of relief came over me as one by one the colourful chutes that we had seen so many times before while living at Wurtulla, opened.

Watching the boys speed past me as they free falled.

Watching the boys speed past me as they free falled.

Now the scenery is to die for. The ocean with all the container ships. the houses, the Glass House mountains. The whole experience went way too fast.

The little yellow dot over the water is David's parachute.

The little yellow dot over the water is David’s parachute.

It was thrilling and I would recommend it to anybody. Now if I could just get Chris to do it, hmmmm…

Chris landing.

Chris landing.

David coming in to land

David coming in to land

Knees up.

Knees up.

Smiles all round. A great 52nd Birthday present.

Smiles all round. A great 52nd Birthday present.