Life with the Earthmovers:

With the alarm clock once again set for 4.30 am the new day started.

Chris had prepared some of the breakfast in our van as he did not want to wake the men up working in the kitchen. Once we get started Chris is always a meal in front with preparation. Breakfast is prepared the night before, not cooked, just ready. Scrambled egg mix ready in a bowl, tins of baked beans opened and put into a microwave dish etc., but for this the first meal we needed to wing it a bit.

As there were already 7 people trying to get breakfast and lunch organised in the small area I didn’t venture over until everyone had gone to work.
Now Chris will tell the story that I just stayed in bed but we know the truth!

After watching how the men tried getting breakfast while making their lunches all together at the same table, we knew the system needed a little refining with some of Chris’s organisational skills, so after everyone left for work we rearranged and cleaned everything, cupboards, shelving, benches, range hood and bathroom.

The bench has now been cleared of the electric grill plate (seldom if ever used), electric jug and other bits and pieces. If we want to cook off steaks we’ll do it on our Weber Baby Q outside. Those grill plates are good but take so much more work cleaning and valuable bench space. We set up an unused urn on one of our little tables and placed all the tea and coffee makings and cups there.

This will also be good to use for washing up water. We have a rain water tap coming into the kitchen which is great, but the clarifier which cleans the river water needs attention meaning the water is out a bit muddy.
I remember when Koramba had a problem with theirs and we would have a layer of mud in the bottom of the bain  marie each day.
Once Toby knew about it the plumbers were out and now it is the cleanest of water. I would have been aghast at this a couple of years ago but it’s just a way of life now. It’s no use wearing white clothes as they come out of the wash brown so it’s out with the dark colours again.

Now that Chris has changed the kitchen around breakfast and lunch making is much easier.
Some are sitting at the table eating breakfast while others are prepping lunches and Chris is able to wash up the dishes without men trying to get to the jug or toaster.

The camp numbers have quickly swelled to 10 men.

On returning from days off one of the guys asked “What’s the difference in the morning? We’re all sitting here ready not racing around late and it’s only 5.40 am.”

Another replied “We’re organised!”

Yes Chris has done it again.

We’ve found the men are very proud of what they are doing out here and happily tell us all about the new reservoir they’re building and all about the machinery that’s being employed. We asked if we could go out and visit the job site and after meeting the farm manager Maurice Pierce and obtaining his permission we went out to explore.

We easily found where the guys are working after following the directions of, “Just follow the road” , from the supervisor Jeff . He told us to stick to the top of the reservoir or we might be run over.


Three scrapers and a laser level removing the dirt from the center of the new reservoir.

Three scrapers and a laser level removing the dirt from the center of the new reservoir.

These guys are not like the backpackers in the tractors where once you had your wheels in the paddock furrows you didn’t have to do anything until you got to the other end of the field. This is constant, full on action where a slip up could mean costly delays or perhaps even a disaster.

These machines move twelve cubic meters of dirt at a time.

These machines move twelve cubic meters of dirt at a time.

Moving the dirt to build the walls

Moving the dirt to build the walls

Wall gone

Two scrapers "Push Pulling"

Two scrapers “Push Pulling”

These guys move fast and efficiently and are constantly thinking of what needs to be done next.
There are 5 scrapers, a D9 bulldozer, a grader and a laser leveler among about four utes and various fuel tankers and equipment.

We watched as they removed the dirt from the bottom of the newly formed reservoir to be placed on the sides. We’ve been told getting the sides of the reservoir right is critical or the whole thing will leak!  This is done by forming a core first out of material that has a high clay content. After this core is compacted then the rest of the soil from the reservoir floor is packed either side of it.

The whole job revolves around finding the correct types of soils from the various sections of the reservoir floor and from other places on the farm. Any silt or sand is “mixed” in with other soils to avoid future leakage.

Even in the few days we’ve been here we can see the huge amount of work being done.

The old reservoir wall is coming down and that dirt is being put into raising the old sides an extra four meters.

This will result in one huge reservoir that is water tight and able to store the staggering 6,000 megalitres of water .

Go West young man, go west:

We met with our new client, Mick Gore from Gore Earth Moving on Monday afternoon on our way home from Brisbane.
Mick gave us the directions to the farm, Belah Park that his company us currently working on.

They’re extending the current water reservoir to be able to store 6000 mega litres.

The farm is 56 km west of Koramba and 32 km east of Mungindi.

We took a run out on Tuesday to have a look at the site that will be our new home for approximately eight weeks.

There are two caravans on site that house two of the supervisors and one of their sons use, and an ATCO accommodation unit.
This consists of two bedrooms, one at each end of the unit, a laundry/toilet room and a mess room and kitchen in the middle.
Four workers use the two beds in each of the two rooms in this “donger”.

A typical work roster for these blokes runs fourteen days on and four days off although this changes for some who live further afield. They start work at 6:00 am and finish at 6:00 pm every day of their time on the job.

The set up at Balah Park Cotton Farm

The set up at Balah Park Cotton Farm

We first met Bruce who has been filling in doing the cooking as the company has had difficulty finding cooks.

Bruce would come home early, shower and then cook and clean up for six to seven men.

He did a great job and the place was extremely clean but with the cooking added to his day’s driving heavy machinery  it turned out a long day for him.

Wednesday was packing up and moving day.

Remember the days when we could do this within 20 minutes? Not now!

Chris worked on the office packing up the three computer screens, his laptops, hard drives, printer and pulling apart his deck, keyboard trays and collecting his paper work.
He then started on my two screens, laptop and my desk.

I packed up the caravan, sorted out the green house, sprayed some more weeds around the camp and then did a rubbish run.
I checked on Topsy and the other steer to ensure they had water and food as Shannon is away this week.
We also saw Stanley and Stretch to see if they could check on Topsy until Shannon returns.

We definitely are not as mobile anymore.

We then had to get our office chairs into the van and anything else we needed and I also wanted to take our food trolley as there isn’t much bench space in the new kitchen.

We got away before lunch and then did the whole procedure in reverse unpacking at our new site.

All set up

All set up

Chris has three screen now working on the program

Chris has three screens now working on the program

My office

My office

By the end of the day all we wanted to do was collapse into bed with a drink in our hand but we also needed to see how Bruce ran the kitchen as Chris was taking over the next morning.

The workers return home at 6.15 pm after working their twelve hour day. They then have showers, of which there is only one, get any washing in the machine and chat around the fire outside while waiting for dinner at 7:30 pm.

They are a great bunch of guys. They all get on well together and are happy and very polite.

We left them to their night and happily climbed into our comfortable bed knowing it was going to be a pleasure working here with them.

A flying visit back to Brisbane:

I know it’s only been 2 weeks since we left Brisbane but here we go again.

Two reasons for the trip back..

1. Emily is flying to New York for a month.

2. The Accountant is fitting us in during her lunch break.

Emily is doing an intensive drama course on Broadway, as well as attending acting lectures at the University of New York run by her old Lecturer from ACU Dr Tracey Sanders.

Even though Emily only did one semester of a Bachelor of Arts degree she has kept in contact with Tracey and was encouraged to go to New York after winning the Rocky Horror Show competition.

Even though she works full time as Manager of Cue at the Logan store, Emily has put every other bit of spare time into dance , singing and drama lessons.
She wants to get back into the whole drama scene and when she returns from New York she has auditions for NIDA, The Conservatorium of Music, The University of Melbourne and the University of Perth.

We are so proud of her “Going after her dreams”.

She’s willing to keep going until she makes it no matter what the obstacles.

Her passion has replaced the world’s usual problems that can stop any of us achieving our dreams and just like her father, she refuses to let these problems stand in the way of her dream.

Staying in New York City and attending Broadway – that’s two of her dreams already achieved by age 21. Way to go Emily!

This is not to say she doesn’t put everything into her full time job either.

On her return home Emily has been asked to take on the management of the new store at Garden City Westfield now that the new wing of the shopping centre is nearly completed. She can still outsell most of the staff at Cue.

We got away from the farm Thursday and stayed the night with Barry and Christine. Unfortunately Barry had to start work at midnight, but we caught up with him again in the morning before he went to bed. Catching up with Barry is always a great pleasure for us.

We then headed over to the North side to visit Karen and then to our accountant. I’ve been seeing Shauna, our accountant, for 23 years and it was nice of her to give up her lunch break to fit us in. As usual we do a lot more talking and catching up than paper work.

We spent the next two nights at David and Lacey’s place. On Saturday we all headed off to the “Real Food Festival at Maleny” were we spent most of the day enjoying the great food and talks on home gardening and food preparation.

The Real Food Festival has a wonderful variety of food from Sunshine Coast producers, manufacturers, retailers and restaurants and it’s a unique opportunity to talk to, taste and buy from them.

There were presenters at various venues so we split up so we could attend a few. David, Lacey and Chris went to learn about keeping chickens as David has been thinking about getting some chooks at home. They found it very helpful and even went back to the presenters display to continue learning how to clip the chickens wings.

I went to Dan and Steph Muleron’s Sausage making class. Dan and Steph won the 2013 My Kitchen Rules. I learnt a lot and afterwards we all had a sausage from their stall.
I now know how to get that crunch when you bite through your homemade sausage and can’t wait to try it out at home.

There was also a “McDonald’s Farm” which displays baby animals. We wanted to show Elliana the animals as after visiting the farm she knows the difference between sheep, cows and horses.  At first it was a bit over whelming as we had bought food and the animals were hungry and in her face as they desperately tried to get at the food she carried, so we took her back again later in the day when most of the animal were asleep or a lot more contented. She loved touching and feeling the animals and we loved watching her.

Ahh so that's what humans taste like.

Ahh so that’s what humans taste like.

See Mum they're soft.

See Mum they’re soft.

"Now Elliana this is where lamb chops come from"

“Now Elliana this is where lamb chops come from”

Here we are planting lettuce to take home.

Here we are planting lettuce to take home.

Sunday we headed over to Jennie’s place where she had prepared a feast for lunch as a Bon Voyage lunch for Emily. It was good to catch up with Ashley, Lish and the kids, Barry and Christine and of course Emily and Jennie.

Ashley, Barry, Chris and Charlotte going through the door.

Ashley, Barry, Chris and Charlotte going through the door.

After a leisurely breakfast Monday morning Chris and I headed back to the farm about to head off on another adventure.

Where are going…WEST!

During the weekend away Martyn had rang and asked if we wanted to cook for an Earth moving company for about eight weeks.

We were assured Toby, the manager of Koramba, had no objections to us leaving our green house and shade cover behind and that we would be allowed back to the farm.

We said yes!

What will we learn next?