Goodbye Koramba

At Koramba Farm, cotton irrigation is now in full swing and the camp routine has settled back into a more orderly manageable routine after the grain harvest when the camp was bedlam – jam packed full of backpackers, harvesters and experts rebuilding some irrigation systems.

Tractors ready to work

Cotton in the evening

Crop dusters are constantly landing and taking off from the airstrip starting at 3 or 4 am as they battle to keep the million dollar cotton crop free of insects that could destroy the lot.

Yesterday one of these crop dusters hit a head ditch at the end of a field ripping his landing completely off the plane. The pilot managed to fly back to the airstrip and at 4:00am and belly landed the plane successfully with no injuries.
This was after another incident earlier in the week just across from another farm we’ve worked on where the plane clipped the power lines and crashed in the cotton field critically injuring the pilot.
These blokes really know their stuff and have nerves of steel.

A safe belly landing after loosing landing gear in head ditch.

Another cropduster crash last week in Gundy.

Fiona has taken two weeks off to spend time with her family and get prepared for taking over the cooking position when we leave tomorrow to head to Brisbane in preparation for my radium treatment.

It’s hot – super-hot and it appears there’s no respite from the heat anywhere, even in our precious caravan with the air conditioner on full! The kitchen temperature rises quickly to the late 40º’s early 50°’s once the ovens and Bain Marie are turned on and throw in the repeated hot flushes and the body just cries out for COLDNESS.

The long Christmas and New Year period has finally drawn to a close. This is always a rather testing stretch for us as the heat and the backpackers (especially the few “Needy” and demanding ones) make the stretch seem a long one.

The camp mess room Christmas day.

Christmas Lunch at the camp

One thing that’s helped this year was having Ashley, Lish and our wonderful grand kids, Riley and Charlotte living on the farm. They’ve moved into their beautiful home here and it was such a delight to hear Lish tell us last night that she feels totally at home.
We were expecting her – a city girl – to take a while to really settle in but she’s slotted right in and she seems genuinely happy, excited and motivated about their future.

Riley and Charlotte driving the Grader

The Grandys on the forky

Ashley wanted to propose to Lish at Christmas so Ash, Kerrie and Lish’s sister conspired to secretly get the engagement ring that Lish had chosen from Brisbane out to the farm in time for Christmas. Unfortunately their efforts failed but the ring did get to the farm a few days later. Ashley (in a rare romantic moment) took Lish down to the river for a swim and on a sweltering New Year’s Eve proposed to her after which she accepted his proposal.

Lish’s engagement ring

It’s a real thrill for me watching Ashley work over at the workshop (I can often see him from the office window). He’s seldom found without a grin and loves working on the variety of machinery he gets to operate on daily.

Today he’s fixing the brakes on the Mack truck, yesterday servicing a Landcruiser and tomorrow possibly repairing a huge pump. He’s in his element, even in the heat.

I’m very proud of him.
But now we are on our final day at the farm!
How strange!
Throughout the last few weeks I’ve been rather excited to move on and get the next part of the adventure started, but today – I’m not sure.
Everything I do today reminds me it’s the last time – cooking breakfast, placing orders, clearing and cleaning, cooking dinner.

It’s strange.
This place has been such a huge part of us for five years. We’ve learnt so much about life here (and about ourselves) and we’ve grown to love the place and deeply respect all the people involved with keeping it running.

My little office seems somehow a sad place today after I’ve spent so many happy hours here designing our software. Even the mess and kitchen that we’ve played such a large part in operating seems sort of forlorn today.

It’s strange to see Fiona’s caravan under our annex that has provided shelter for our precious home for so long and under which I would sit on the swing seat at night after work with a glass of scotch and marvel at the starts and the moon.

I realise how much I’ll miss driving around the farm and seeing the magnificent green of the young cotton, the shining gold of the grain and the glistening water channels and dams that make me marvel at the engineering that created them.

I look at the camp garden with its ripening grapes and flourishing fruit trees and I remember the hours of toil and sweat that went into carving that garden out of the bush and I recall the huge quantity of vegetables it rewarded us with.

Every tree around the camp speaks of the efforts in sawing, trimming and clearing and I would like to think that at least this small corner of the 38,000 acres that make up Koramba is better for us having been here.

Nothing remains the same.

Nothing remains the same.

Life has been wonderful for me, especially the last 14 years or so spent with Kerrie.

We’ve been blessed with a lifestyle that’s allowed us to see a great chunk of Australia, work when we want, play often and love unconditionally.

We’ve never faced real hardship as our faith and trust in God has led us to expect that our footsteps are directed and even when situations have arisen where we didn’t know what to do, we’ve always been given the answer – seldom early, never late.

We were faced with one of these situations a few months ago not long before Koramba Cotton Farm reopened.

I had a couple of nasty looking skin cancers on my arm and decided to see a doctor. Our doctor took one look and said she couldn’t do anything to them and they would need to be removed by a specialist. This all took 3 minutes so the doctor said, “Well let’s order a blood test while we’re at it”.

Three days later I get a call from the doctor to come and see her as my PSA level was quite high.

Feeling fit and healthy I cockily thought it would be some vitamin deficiency due to past operations as sometimes happens when I get a blood test.
This was not to be. The doctor was concerned that there may be prostate cancer present.

Feeling a bit floored but still cocky, I went to an urologist who examined me an ordered an MRI scan and a biopsy.
The MRI came back with a definite diagnosis of cancer and a possible breach (an area where the cancer may have broken out of the prostate into other parts of the body).

This meant another full body/bone scan to try to confirm if there was indeed a breach.

Thankfully the scan did not confirm a breach but the biopsy result came back with a Gleason score of 9.

The lowest Gleason score of a cancer found on a prostate biopsy is 6. These cancers may be called well-differentiated or low-grade and are likely to be less aggressive – they tend to grow and spread slowly.
Cancers with Gleason scores of 8 to 10 may be called poorly differentiated or high grade. These cancers tend to be aggressive, meaning they are likely to grow and spread more quickly.
So, all this news is happening when we are flat out trying to get the Koramba quarters inhabitable again after 21/2 years closed.

Into the equation is thrown my brother Pete and his cancer diagnoses that unfortunately is incurable.

Making the trip to Moranbah to see Pete left me saddened to see how quickly the cancer had changed him physically and while he remained in relatively good spirits until the end, he succumbed to his illness a couple of weeks after my visit.

As if to accentuate life’s frail thread, a supervisor at Koramba passed away on the farm after a long battle with cancer which had returned after a substantial remission. He’d worked on the farm for 30 years.

So now I’m nearing the end of a 12 week hormone treatment which is designed to reduce testosterone levels which in turn reduces the cancer to a size where radium treatment can be administered more effectively.
The treatment causes female menopausal symptoms like hot flushes and I must say that after repeated bouts of feeling like my body was burning up from the inside out I have a great respect for what Kerrie has been suffering for the past six years.

The hormone treatment is nearing completion so we must say goodbye to Koramba as we move the caravan to Brisbane to undertake the radium treatment which is five days a week for two to three months.

I’m confident in the work being carried out by the doctors on my behalf and I’m looking forward to fulfilling our dream of hitting the road again selling the software at agricultural festivals and country shows around Australia and possibly filling in at Koramba when Fiona needs a break.