We’ve loved having Fiona here

Since the day Fiona arrived to help us run the Koramba Camp we’ve had the most enjoyable time with her infectious bubbly, positive and happy disposition.

She’s not only taken on every job we’ve asked her but she’s completed tasks,  jobs, repairs and improvements herself as she’s identified the need.

This has made our job much easier and of course more enjoyable with the constant joking and laughing and the overall contentedness with the situation the three of us are together in.

Kerrie, who loves to talk (and talk, and talk) has been in her glory with Fiona here as most of the time a sort of cackle ceaselessly emanates from the kitchen and mess room when they are together.

Kerrie phoned me while I was in Brisbane in tears of laughter as she expounded the details of when Fiona decided to mow the grass with the zero turn ride-on mower. She hadn’t operated one of these before and Kerrie was in fits as she demolished fence posts, spun round in circles and screamed as her boobs got tangled in the steering handles. After a while in the wide open area she became an expert at it.

She discovered one night that the transition from a queen sized bed to a single bed can take a bit of getting used to when she rolled over during the night only to run out of bed real estate and roll straight onto the floor.

It’s a must when in these parts to try a works hamburger from the general store in Talwood, easily the best burger we’ve ever had, so it was off to Talwood to expose Fiona to this marvellous experience. She had on her Sunday best city gear for the event (hey, small things are big out here) and we parked at the Talwood park under the shade of a tree to consume our gigantic burgers.

The meal was interrupted with a string of curses and exclamations from the back seat as her best blouse became plastered with sauce, eggs and bits of vegetation from the dripping burger.

Another hour was spent laughing at both the mess in the back seat and the constant harassment toward Kerrie and her new “Fit Bit”.

Kerrie LOVES her new Fit Bit, or “Fut But” as it pronounced in Fiona’s Kiwi accent.

It tells her how many steps she’s walked, how she slept, heart rate amongst a host of other information. So, of course, we now get this moment by moment commentary about everything the Fut But is telling her.

Fiona is relentless in her comments on the “Bloody Fut But” but you can imagine the comments when Kerrie announced that it even vibrates!

The residents seem to have taken to Fiona much the same as they’ve taken to Kerrie, regarding them both as “Away from home Mums”.

The down side of Fiona being here is that she soon must leave and we are both going to miss her very much. We are unable to say exactly when this will be as tomorrow Kerrie and I will drive to Brisbane for the final analysis of all the tests and biopsies I’ve had.

This weekend will determine our future at Koramba and will also influence what happens from here on with Fiona. Martyn will also know where he stands with staffing of the camp.

It’s a big call for us all!

The camp’s operating again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The camp is now looking and functioning very well.

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

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

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

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

It’s been so long!

Our last post was in November 2015 when baby Luke was born – not far off a year ago.

It seems like just yesterday.

Life in the caravan continues to be a fascinating and fun journey through these our later years.

We’ve had the pleasure of helping run our boss’s business for a few months while he took his caravan away on a trip north, and spent time between Brisbane and the farm (Koramba Cotton Farm), all the time working every possible hour on the suite of Operations Management programs that’s become our life’s work.

These programs would have been long finished had it not been for a disaster last year.

We were relying on a third party programme that was incorporated into our product and as we neared completion the third party software company closed their doors.

We were in a dilemma. We could either release the programme without the ability to make significant updates in the future or start from scratch or rewrite everything. After a lot of deliberation we went with the latter.

It’s taken a year to get back to the point we were at before but the suite of programmes is so much better for it. I’m glad we made that decision.

So where are we now?

Three weeks ago we got the call from our boss Martyn that Koramba Cotton Farm was starting up again in full strength.

The farm has been growing greatly reduced acres of cotton because of a three year long drought. We watched the water storage reservoirs dry up till there was nothing but dry cracked dirt in them. There was always a large winter crop of barley and favor beans planted in the dry land areas. These crops didn’t rely on water storage and irrigation and thankfully enough rain fell in those winter months to produce bumper crops, especially the barley.

Most of the work required to plant and maintain those winter crops was performed by the skeleton crew of staff who live on the farm permanently.

Now it’s time for cotton again!

Water has now returned to Koramba.

It's been a while since we've seen this - Res1 full again.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen this – Res1 full again.

Two dams are responsible for feeding water down the MacIntyre River to the hundreds of farms along its banks. These are Pindari Dam near Inverell and Glenlyon Lake near Yetman.

Pindari is up from 31% earlier this year to 100% with rain continuing. Glenlyon is currently at 62% but Toby, the Farm’s General Manager, is confident it will be full by Christmas.

In addition to the dams capacity there has been flooding on these black soil plains of Goondiwindi and Moree where Koramba is located.

The river has burst its banks and water is flooding into the sump.

The river has burst its banks and water is flooding into the sump.

This has meant large volumes of water have cascaded through the country filling local dams, creeks weirs and rivers.

The farm’s five huge diesel pumps that move the water from the river inlet are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the water storage facilities are now at capacity yet still the water comes. The MacIntyre River has now broken its bank right at the pump station and is pouring in as fast as the pumps can get it out.

pumps

The five large diesel pumps are working 24 hrs a day non stop.

The MacIntyre at the farm boundary - about 15 feet or more above normal.

The MacIntyre River at the farm boundary – about 15 feet or more above normal.

This means that every available field is being prepared for cotton.

This also means workers are needed.

Toby placed a call to Martyn for 10 workers and Kerrie and Martyn went into action finding and vetting about 200 applicants.

All this was done on our Labour Management Application by the way!

It was then up to us to “rescue” the quarters where those workers will be housed. After about 2 ½ years of non-use there was a lot to be done.

We purchased from Brisbane a lot of new equipment, mattresses, new table tops and a host of other stuff, hired a truck and drove it all out to the farm. We drove back the same day after unloading with help from Ashley, our son, who is now living and working at Koramba as a Mechanic’s Assistant (a job he loves by the way).

A couple of days later we moved the caravan from Redcliffe (where we had stayed for 5 weeks) to Koramba.

So here we are at Koramba again.

The 10 workers will arrive in two days and the camp needs to be completely ready so my darling and I are working to achieve this.

Trees are being cut down again, gardens refreshed, grass cut, slashing, painting, moving furniture, gurneying and the never ceasing cleaning.

Ashley helping with Chainsaw

 

It’s been about 2 ½ years since we did any serious physical work so the old bones and muscles are screaming in protest but it gets easier each day.