Posts

Here one minute gone the next:

 

We arrived back at Belah Park after having two and a half weeks off over Christmas, only to have it rain the very same night we arrived back causing the job to be shut down everyone stood down again.
We opted to stay out here as unlike the others, our home is where we are.

BelahPark

The men eventually came back to work and got another week and a half in before another storm put the whole job on hold again.
This time we were told we’d probably not be needed again as they’d be sending a couple of guys back to finish off the job.

The scrapers compact the ground too much if it has been wet which is not good for the fields so – no machines – no blokes needed to drive them.

So we packed everything up and headed back to Koramba.

The feelings of being back after four and a half months were amazing. It felt like we’d come home.
The van again went under the shade awning and we’d forgotten how much this makes a difference to the temperature inside through the day.
The smell of fresh bread was soon wafting through the place from the bread maker, and our “Office” was set back up in one of the spare dongers, making plenty of room in the van once again.

The van once again under the awning.

The van once again under the awning.

The thing we missed most while out at Belah Park was that experience of never knowing what the day would bring.

At Koramba, this really meant, you never knew what Shannon would be up to or what he would show us.

There was always something happening outside the window and it wasn’t long after setting up the van that we heard the sound of hooves trotting past the caravan window.
Shannon had started rounding up Topsy (our cow), his steer that “refused” to get on the truck with the others to go to Emmaville, and a calf that belonged to friends.

They’d been grazing freely around the camp and workshop as there was more grass for them there after the rains but Shannon had decided the time was right to sell the steer as cattle prices had firmed up considerably.

To be able to get the steer in the truck (he had taken all his fencing and ramps to Emmaville) he had to get the cows down to one of the stockyards about 8 kilometres away.

The calf refused to oblige so we watched on as Shannon rounded up with the quad bike, Jack (Shannon’s dog) nipped at hooves and a little game of “Who’s Boss” from Topsy (she always did think she owned the camp) the cattle eventually figured out it was easier to do what Shannon wanted and trot to the cattle pens.

Topsy had to learn what a fence was for as she hadn’t really cottoned on to this yet, preferring to just walk through fences that she didn’t like. and needed to learn a thing or two about fences.

Had I told you about the story of when she decided to walk out of the paddock near Shannon’s?
Shannon first learnt of it when Jack was barking at 3.00am one morning and Shannon come out to investigate only to be licked up the back of his leg with a large wet tongue from Topsy.
Topsy had decided she wanted to camp at the bottom of Shannon’s steps on the verandah for the night. This was of course all done in the dark, pity we didn’t see the action taking place, it would have been quite a sight. We heard about it when he saw us and started the conversation with “Your Daughter!!”
I wonder where she learnt that from hmmmmm!

I wonder where Topsy learnt to sleep on the verandah.

I wonder where Topsy learnt to sleep on the verandah.

I caught up with the girls at the weighbridge which was wonderful.

Having a conversation with other women was a thrill I hadn’t had for awhile. Being surrounded by men all the time would excite some women, but I missed the art of just chatter, (you have to be a women to understand this).

Kim and Stretch dropped by for a visit and of course we were greeted enthusiastically by Jack every day.
Jack would be over for breakfast, stay awhile until he heard Shannon’s ute and then he would disappear to other adventures.

The only down side of coming back was learning that Shannon was moving on from Koramba.

He had a position in Glen Innes working for a company that operated cattle trucks.
This would enable him to be closer to his property at Emmaville and his cattle. He had been at Koramba for 6 years and it was both sad and exciting to hear he was moving on.

Sad from a purely selfish angle – he wouldn’t be around – exciting that he was going to learn and add to his already impressive knowledge.
I’m hoping he might meet some nice girl in a town that’s bigger than Boomi…but don’t tell him that.

While at Koramba we had decided to pull down the green house and the shade house and pack these away. If Gore Earthmoving wanted us to work again we might be a bit further away and it would become a hassle coming back to check on the plants and watering system.

It was great to get back into the large garden, do the mowing and eat from our grape vines.

Remember how we had built the garden at Koramba and realised it was too big and needed so much water, well we had cut down on the veggies in the garden but had kept all the fruit trees and of course our grape vines from home.

Last year we lost a lot of the grapes to the wildlife but not this year. I had purchased netting on-line and we covered the grapes so this year we have a bumper crop.

Grapes

About a week into our new routine we met up with the Supervisor from Gore’s while at Talwood voting for the state election and he was shocked to find we had left. “No, no, no, be back there Monday”, He said.
So it was once again back on the road with our home to Belah Park.

We ended up staying at Belah Park for another two and half weeks before the main part of the work finished. Only three men are left to finish off laying pipes and laser bucketing some fields and these can cook for themselves.

So as I’m writing this blog we’re back at Koramba.

We were going to head away travelling a bit and visit the family but with cyclone Marcia bearing down on the coast we thought we would stay away from it all. We probably got under 10 mm of rain at Koramba around the quarters, where as Maroochydore got over 300 mm. and of course Yeppoon and other areas were hit quite badly.

We did pick up the mower from Goondiwindi where we had taken it for a service and Chris proceeded to mow the grass in the rain in case the rain got heavier. We were hopeful for the farm but it wasn’t to be. Not long after, the rain cleared. If the farms out here don’t get rain soon there won’t be another crop in next year as well. The gin is only expecting to run for three weeks this year compared with five to six months it normally does.

We spent last night with Shannon, his brother Zac and Zac’s parter Morgan laughing over dinner while reliving some of the “experiences” Shannon had shown us. Telling Zac and Morgan how much Shannon had kept his patience trying to teach a couple of old city folks about living in the bush.

I think Shannon still has nightmares about the time rounding up the neighbours cattle and one cranky old cow charging at the boys while being forced into the cattle pen. Shannon was up the fence in no time but looked back to see Chris still in the pen with one foot on the bottom rung and no chance of making it out. We wrote about it here.

We never would have seen as much as we did without that young man taking us under his wing. We’ll miss his cherry disposition, huge grin and the excitement he brought into our lives.

Some of the exciting thing we did with Shannon.

Some of the exciting thing we did with Shannon.

Zac and Morgan had come to Koramba to help Shannon packed up his last load.

Shannon had already done about six truck loads to his Boomi property and to his property at Emmaville. Zac couldn’t help give Shannon heaps about how much “Stuff” he had. Zac said they even needed to use the fork lift to push the doors shut on the truck.

Today Shannon’s place looks rather lonely and is of course quieter now that he’s gone.

No cattle in the yard, no Jack racing over to greet us.

It does make you wonder where the next chapter in our life will take us?

Shannon’s property at Emmaville:

Three day weekends are now the norm for the few remaining staff at Koramba Farm.

Shannon often takes the opportunity to go up to his 250 acre property at Emmaville.

He invited Stretch & Kim, Chris and I up to visit.

Shannon left Thursday afternoon to make the slow trip up driving his John Deere tractor while towing his Nissan and various other implement’s and odds n sods on the car trailer. The rest of us left Friday morning, Stretch and Kim with their camper trailer and us with the Aussie Wide.

Shannon with all his bits and pieces loaded up ready to go to Emmaville.

Shannon with all his bits and pieces loaded up ready to go to Emmaville.

Shannon made this blade to go with his John Deere.

Shannon made this blade to go with his John Deere.

Meet Shannon's new dog Jack. Yes we spoil him.

Meet Shannon’s new dog Jack. Yes we spoil him.

 

We met up at the pub in Emmaville before venturing up into the hillside to Shannon’s place. It’s tucked away off the road and is accessed by a common road used by other properties in the area and is very much Shannon.

Why?

There’s no manicured lawns or views of the ocean. It is flat to undulating terrain with some large peaks that are rocky and wooded which sweep down to large cleared areas.

The road into Shannon's.

The road into Shannon’s.

The views are spectacular!

You overlook the Northern Tablelands of the New England region of New South Wales, with the Torrington State forest and Recreation Area at your door step. He has a shed and water tank, an abundance of firewood, plenty of goats and pigs to shoot (as well as the occasional deer) and great phone and internet service.

What more could he ask for?

He has already taken up his International bulldozer (nicknamed “The Ant”), his Nuffield tractor (nicknamed “Nuffy” and now has his John Deere tractor up there to be able to get some of the jobs done.

The Nuffield Tractor

The Nuffield Tractor

It didn’t take long to knock down some dead trees (a fire had gone through the property a few years ago) and a roaring fire was started.

As usual with Shannon – nothing small. The logs needed to be pushed onto the fire with the bulldozer!

Nothing beats a warm fire and good company.

Nothing beats a warm fire and good company.

Please note for future reference of where Jack is sitting...On Shannon's lap

Please note for future reference of where Jack is sitting…On Shannon’s lap

 

As Stretch and Kim had already been to the farm Shannon took us around for a tour.

WOW!

There are spring fed dams, a waterfall and seriously the views are to die for.

The mist in the valley.

The mist in the valley.

The sun rising over Shannon's property.

The sun rising over Shannon’s property.

He has started putting up fences around the area and will be bringing some of the cattle he got from his father up here to graze.

While out and about we came across a herd of feral goats. The guns were out and we quickly had dinner for tonight. A goat BBQ.

The next morning Shannon and Stretch started to clear a path down to the waterfall using the John Deere tractor and “The Ant”, knocking down trees, moving dead branches and unearthing large boulders. They had to stop when the valve on the JD broke off the tyre causing a flat. They’ll fix that later, so then we all piled into the Nissan to hunt for another goat. Chris wanted to cook a Goat Curry for the evening meal and he wanted at least a couple of hours for it to simmer. That’s the benefit of taking our home with us as we had all the ingredients.

Shannon working the John Deere to clear a path to the waterfall.

Shannon working the John Deere to clear a path to the waterfall.

Up and down hills chasing goats. When they say its goat country they mean it. The down side of shooting is the retrieval. That means climbing up the hill finding the animal and carrying it back down the hill over rocky ground. Chris was very impressed with himself that he managed to pretty much keep up with the younger guys.

The boys hunting the goats, why do they always have to be at the top of the hill?

The boys hunting the goats, why do they always have to be at the top of the hill?

Getting around the property. Stretch, myself, Kim and Shannon.

Getting around the property. Stretch, myself, Kim and Shannon.

 

With the curry in the camp oven to simmer, the others went down to Emmaville to the pub. Chris and I stayed at the property to enjoy the fire and keep an eye on the curry. It was so peaceful and in the dimming light the shed posts reminded me of “Craig’s Hut”. I do love “The Man from Snowy River” movie.

Craig's Hut (as seen in the Man from Snowy River movie) in the Victorian alps, Australia photo from Fotolia.

Craig’s Hut (as seen in the Man from Snowy River movie) in the Victorian alps, Australia photo from Fotolia.

I don’t know about the others but I will have to say Chris out did himself with his Sweet Goat Curry. We’ve now decided we want to take a goat home with us.

So with an early morning knock on the caravan door and Shannon calling out to Chris that there were goats down at the water hole, we all made a dash for the guns and headed off to bring home a goat.

The goat we brought home. Killed, skinned and butchered by Chris.

The goat we brought home. Killed, skinned and butchered by Chris.

Success, here is Chris coming home with his kill, the goat thrown over his shoulder, skinned and wrapped in a cotton bag.

My man home with the kill.

My man home with the kill.

Now I had asked how on earth do we get it back to the farm as it’s a 4 1/2 hrs drive? Shannon was very helpful by suggesting we put it on the back seat with the air conditioner on cold.

Not bloody likely!

It turned out to be a lot colder outside than in the car and the goat and ourselves made it home without mishap.

We had a wonderful weekend and hopefully will get to go again to Shannon’s place.

On the way home we stopped at Glen Innes to visit with Maxene. Ian and Maxene have a 100 year old house there that they are doing up. Maxene was down during the school holidays and it was lovely to catch up. Lovely place Glen Innes but Oh so cold.

Back to the Farm

After a wonderful three weeks in Brisbane it was back to the farm again.

This time things would be very different!

No Backpackers!

No meals to prepare!

No dishwashing!

No bathrooms to clean!

Since there was to be no one living at the camp for the foreseeable future we would be free to get up in the morning when we liked, go to bed when we liked and most importantly spend an unlimited amount of time on finishing this massive project that the Farm Manager application has become.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, but as we drove back towards the farm and “home” we felt the peacefulness and serenity of the much more easy going country pace overtaking us.

The first night back was incredibly different than the past two years with the silence being perhaps the most noticeable factor.
After discovering that the motorised jockey wheel we bought at the caravan show was next to useless, we settled in to what we thought would be the quiet and slow pace of life.

Wrong!

In the couple of months since we’ve been back we’ve crammed in more activities, learnt more about living in general, seen more and experienced more than we have in many years.

We’ve been busier than ever, and you know what? It’s wonderful!

There certainly IS that element of peacefulness, for instance it’s possible to go for hours without hearing a truck or a car passing the farm on the Boomi Talwood road and the camp is quite and undisturbed by any activity other than our own.

The early mornings are like existing in a silent amphitheater within a canopy of countless stars, and surrounding walls of moonlight bathed trees and bush.

It sounds contradictory, but the silence is magnified by the tiny subliminal sounds we seldom hear like a tiny insect, the ticking of your own watch, a bird call far in the distance or a rare rustling of a breeze disturbed leaf.
It seems that the softer the sound, the deeper the silence.

The sunrises are always spectacular and are always a delight to savour.

Even the workshop is quieter now that not much is happening on the farm. The occasional sound of a tractor being driven in for servicing or the distant rattle of the air socket as a tyre is changed.

So yes there is a peaceful element to our daily life that we love.

There is also the other side!

An early morning knock on the door – It’s Shannon.
He has a couple of pigs in his traps and wanted to know if we wanted to shoot them.
Hell yes!
So we grabbed the gun, our 22.250 and traveled with Shannon down the river road.

We’ve been on the farm for 2 years now and we often drive around to investigate areas but we realised we hadn’t seen anything of the 39,000 acres.

Why you ask?

I think the main reason would be Kerrie having a heart attack every time she would hear the car being scratched with the large spiky bushes as we traveled down some of the not so used tracks that Shannon or Toby had made with the work utes.

(Kerrie) Ha ha I know I’m a girl.
But I must admit over the last couple of years out here I have been slowly changing.
I now look at the car with a sense of adventure as well as common sense.

This also covers clothes, shoes and home.
What do I mean by this? Well anyone who knows me, knows I liked everything neat, clean in it’s place and not damaged in any way, shape or form.
Keeping that up out here means you could miss out on some exciting activities.

So it was off to check the pig traps with Shannon.

Now before anyone gets on their high horse about shooting feral pigs let’s get a few things straight.

THEY’RE FERAL!

They’re not indigenous. They were introduced to this country.
They wreak havoc on farms, will eat new born calves and lambs during delivery, spoil crops and breed profusely, so putting a bullet in to their heads didn’t even make me squirm.

 

A few more pigs to shoot. There is nothing 'cute' about these pigs.

A few more pigs to shoot. There is nothing ‘cute’ about these pigs.

But what was really interesting and showed me up as a city slicker was the colour of their blood.
Bright red, iridescent nearly, nothing like the movies, and also how much their body still moves even after you have exploded their brains. Everyone has heard the saying “running around like a chook with no head” – it’s true.

We had a few traps to check and we entered areas we’d never seen before.
Areas that are beautiful.
Spots beside the river, in pine forests that seem so out of place here and opened grass areas.

We both thought of Barry and how he’d love coming to some of these areas to camp.

Along the way Shannon would stop and show us old stock yards, so old that solid Hardwood stumps were rotting, a process that usually takes 60 – 80 years.

Chris and I love these bits of history, a glimpse of yesteryear.
It takes us to a place in our imagination of what it was like here when these areas were in use.
The sounds and the smells.
Why in this spot that now seems in the middle of nowhere?

Hardwood timber slowly decaying.

Hardwood timber slowly decaying.

It's places like this that take your imagination on a ride.

It’s places like this that take your imagination on a ride.

All the time Shannon is telling us about other spots on this incredible farm that he has come across while out investigating or shooting.

He will remember a spot and the next thing you know we are heading into the scrub to see something else.

Now as you know we’re not 4×4 experienced and really Shannon could scare the living daylights out of me.

Stories have been told of him taking backpackers out in his shooting buggy and driving straight off the near vertical reservoir walls or through bush and trees at high speed chasing pigs etc.
But with us oldies in the car he drove with an experience that never had me concerned for a moment.

As usual I asked a heap of questions like, “What is the size of the tree you can’t knock over with the bull bar?”

The trick is to know what you can do and what size tree you can push over because you can’t back up over branches if you only get half way over. Doing this will cause the branches to rupture your fuel tank or radiator when you drive back. You have to remove the stumps to back up which is hard work!

If you do follow Shannon’s off road paths, go in the same direction as he made them.

At this point I would look at Chris and casually comment “Don’t even think about it”. I’m not totally insane, we still need our car to get us places.

When we arrived back home we sent a SMS to David telling him Chris had shot a pig.

Chris: Shot a 60kg pig today.

David: Great, head shot or heart shot?

Chris : Head shot

David: Was it running at you, away from you. Come on, a few more details please.

Chris: Sorry to have to tell you it was in a cage.

David: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ask a few more questions and the truth comes out. Well done anyway one less pig is always better.

Isn’t funny how a story can change with a few minor details left out?

Now of course Lacey is giving Chris heaps whenever we shoot a feral animal, asking if it was caged.

The next weekend Shannon picked us up and for the next 4 1/2 hours we traveled the farm and adjoining properties making our way back to Corinda house where Stretch and Kim (one of the supervisors) live now.

We stopped to inspect old machinery, more stock yards and an old homestead way down the back of the farm.
All that’s left of the homestead is the house stumps.
The rest, you need to try to imagine from the rotting bits and pieces around.
A picket fence wired together lying on the ground, a railing with aloe vera growing around it. Was this a walkway to the river or did it hold the water tank?
There is an old suspension bridge across the Boomi River just down from the homestead, where did this take them?

Like we said this is a fascinating place.

The farm has closed:

The last of the residents left on Sunday 25th May. It’s so quite here now but it hasn’t sunk in yet as there is still much to do. For the next 3 days Chris and I cleaned, scrubbed, wrapped and packed away the entire kitchen and closed it not knowing WHEN the camp will open again.

Empty kitchen

Empty kitchen

Packed up everything into plastic boxes or wrapped up.

Packed up everything into plastic boxes or wrapped up.

Empty fridges and freezer's that use to hold so much food.

Empty fridges and freezer’s that use to hold so much food.

Martyn came out and took the remaining food back to his place. There wasn’t that much as we had been shopping for small quantities of stock at Goondiwindi for the last few weeks, not sure when the last of the residents would finish or just pack up and leave as they found other positions.

Everything locked away for future camp residents.

Everything locked away for future camp residents.

Packing away the gym equipment was a laugh. Two of us struggling to lift some of the weights into the back of the ute. Seriously we think they just put all those weights on the bars to make it look good, no one could lift that amount of weight. Then we cleaned out the remaining rooms. Some back packer are collectors (don’t ask why?) but when they go home they can only take 30kg. So sheets, doona’s, pillow’s, towel’s, work boots, all their work clothes and an amazing array of bits and pieces are left behind. Normally I leave a departing residents room “Open” to the vultures and most of the stuff gets removed, but not this time. So we had a few trips to the dump and a collection for St Vinnie’s.

 

Empty car park for the first time in 2 years. A lot of the back packers cars never made it off Koramba and are living their lasts days at Siberia or over at Shannon's.

Empty car park for the first time in 2 years. A lot of the back packers cars never made it off Koramba and are living their lasts days at Siberia or over at Shannon’s.

 

We then packed up our caravan, sorted out the greenhouse and finally left Thursday to head back to Brisbane for a few weeks.

Picking:-

Well, so much has been happening again at Koramba.

The picking has finished.

This time the rain held off after disrupting the early part of the harvest for nearly three weeks.
Nineteen days after restarting again and the 2013 – 2014 cotton picking is finished!
All that remains now is the gathering in of the thousands of bales from the fields and transporting them to the Gin for processing and the preparation of the ground in readiness for the next planting – whenever that will be.

Everyone was tired after working 18-20 hr days.
It was an amazing effort and really only possible with the degree of commitment to the job that is constantly displayed here, especially by the supervisors.
What we lost in cotton through this long dry spell ( many of the fields had to have irrigation stopped far too early to save the remainder of the crop) we will hopefully make up for with the winter crops of barley and Faba beans.

Faba beans (sometimes known as Fava beans) and Broad beans are a good source of carbohydrate and protein while containing a low amount of fats and are an increasingly important crop for China and many Mediterranean and African countries. They also pump nitrogen back into the soil and provide great ground cover for the soil.

The rain that was so disruptive during harvest will now hopefully do some good as thousands of acres of these crops are now in the ground. There’s always a bright side if you look for it.

Cotton picking in full swing.

Cotton picking in full swing.

3 tons of cotton ready to go to the gin.

3 tons of cotton ready to go to the gin.

Shannon’s brother, Zac and his partner Morgan had both come to the farm to work during picking.
Zac was one of the picker drivers and Morgan was driving one of the tractors.

They pick the most conscientious people to drive the pickers because…well they’re a million dollar piece of machinery and the last thing you want to hear is “Whoops my bad”.

This might seem silly but I’m amazed at how many items and pieces of machinery break down on the farm due to sheer negligence.

I wonder how people treat their own belongings when they have to pay for repairs themselves.
We often remark on the frustration the farm management must go through when they encounter this constant stream of negligence.

The trucks are again lined up at the weigh bridge. A very busy time on the farm.

The trucks are again lined up at the weigh bridge. A very busy time on the farm.

Anyway that’s my rant for the day. Moving on…

Shannon’s Mum Sharon, Dad Ern and sister Georgie came for a visit over Easter. It was great to catch up with them. Georgie, Shannon’s sister was just as down to earth as her two brothers.

Georgie, Shannon's sister out visiting.

Georgie, Shannon’s sister out visiting.

We are now experiencing the dwindling numbers of backpackers in the camp as the time draws ever nearer for the farms closure due to lack of water.
As we will be staying on as caretakers we are in mixed minds about everyone leaving.
On the one hand it’s exciting to be able to take off on the road again regularly and be able to come back here and on the other hand it’s sad that such a productive enterprise as the farm will cease providing employment and the high quality product it is renowned for.

For the first time in 2 years the car park is empty of back packers cars broken down or working.

For the first time in 2 years the car park is empty of back packers cars broken down or working.

Catching up with the Blog

So much has been happening out on the farm that we’ve let the blog fall behind.

We apologise for this and will try not to let it happen again.

So, where to begin…

Planting:

The planting was completed in September with 8000 acres sown this year..

This is down on last year’s crop of 13,000 acres, but the farmers are constantly trying to second guess the weather to ensure the available water is enough to see the crop through to harvest.

This year has been hot and dry, so dry in fact that we need at least 4 inches of rain just to complete this year’s crop cycle. If we don’t receive rain Toby will stop irrigation early and bring on the cotton ahead of schedule. Modern chemicals are a blessing to the farming industry. They can manipulate the growing cycle of the plant to be able to at least get a crop off.

Years ago if it didn’t rain they lost the lot. But sometimes even bringing on the cotton bulbs early doesn’t help. We’ve heard of a farm that has 700 mega litres of water allocated from the dam 15km away that will not be able to receive it. The rich black soil that can grow anything is also a curse when it is dry, it shrinks  and opens into great crevasses that even 700 mega litres of water will just disappear down the holes and never make it to it’s destination. That farm will have to wait until other farms along the river require water. Unfortunately that farmers crop won’t wait that long.
Our hat goes off to the families who make a living from the land.

From the first ones who came out here and carved out a future that never knew the luxury of certainty, to the tough individuals that carry on the tradition today amidst other challenges that those who preceded them could never have foreseen.

There were enormous risks associated with the changing of ideas from grazing sheep and cattle to spending the money and effort to introduce cotton cropping, all the time not knowing if their effort would pay off.

Remember we told you the story of Murray and his cattle, having to lead his herd along the Stockman’s route to keep them alive, well a lot more farms are having to do this now. It’s a common site to head in to Gundy passing herds along the way.

Harvest:

October came and the Barley was harvested. We had 2 header driver/contractors, both Kiwi’s.

One had been in Australia for over 30 years and the other comes over for the harvest season. Both really great guys. John, who had a wheat farm at Copper Creek has since  retired, sold off the farm and bought 120acres at Beenleigh.
He works a couple of months a year with his own combine harvester and was a wealth of knowledge.

Dave , the other one, only comes over to Australia for the harvest and spends the rest of his time hunting and fishing in NewZealand. He owned a programming business which he sold some time ago.

Chris and Dave could talk programming which was something he doesn’t get to do much.

The farm utilises as much of the unused area with Wheat, Barley or such, which keeps the weeds down and hopefully brings in some income. We heard they needed about 100 tons to break even and they ended up with 450 tons so everyone was happy.

Harvesting by moon light

Harvesting by moon light

 

It was a pretty sight at night.

It was a pretty sight at night.

 

The Workshop:

I’ve now finished sorting the Workshop, Hydraulic Shed and Picker Container.

Apart from the dust, cobwebs, grease, oil and wasps I have thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt heaps. I’ve no idea where most of the parts fit on machinery or even what they do, but I know how to read Hydraulic codes on fittings, or if a belt is A, B or C width, Cogged or a V belt. I can even point backpackers to where they can find the part they’re after.

Before

Before

 

After

After

 

Before

Before

 

After

After

Chris has now finished the workshop program and Shannon wants to implement it in to the workshop. It is an on-line program that will track every part, asset, services, maintenance and more.

So our next job is putting everything in.

Here’s a link to the program and if you want to you can log in with the Username of “Guest” and Password “Guest” to see it working.

Christmas 2013:

Christmas again came to Koramba and as usual it was hot.

From left: Tim, Justin, Frank, Lauri, Ingrid, Kristjan and Merlin.

From left: Tim, Justin, Frank, Lauri, Ingrid, Kristjan and Merlin.

From left: Joe, Jonathon, Rainer and Randar

From left: Joe, Jonathon, Rainer and Randar

They managed to get Christmas and Boxing Day off this year between irrigation. The local workers went home, some took off extra days and had the pleasure of family visiting. We ended up with 13 for dinner and the menu was Antipasto Plater,  Prawns, Ham, Turkey, Hassel back potato’s, Roast Pumpkin, Minted Peas, Honey Carrots, Plum Pudding and Pavlova.

Yummm I love Christmas Lunch

Yummm I love Christmas Lunch

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

Everyone's favourite Pavlova

Everyone’s favourite Pavlova

Chris and I bought the residents a Christmas stocking that included a water pistol. As expected Kristjan started off the water fight shooting me. That boy loves to tease me but this is what we had hoped for as this lot of backpackers are very quiet. The others quickly stepped in and hearing the laughter was what we had wished for.

The water fight.

The water fight.

The Fordson Major

Remember the tractor (that was suppose to be for my Christmas present) that Shannon got? Well it really is a beauty. Chris has used it to slash the rougher areas around the camp but often Shannon uses it to move the large JD Tractors that are in for maintenance. I really must get a photo of this little tractor towing the bigger tractors while Shannon is talking on his mobile. The technology scenario tickles my funny bone.

Slashing the rougher ground

Slashing the rougher ground

Family Catch ups:

We have, on occasions, been back home to catch up with family.

October took us home for Emily’s 21st. That was a flying visit, no rest for the wicked, but well worth it. Can’t believe she has reached 21 already.

David, Lacey, Elliana, little Chris and Doug dropped by the farm on their way home from their Tassie trip in November.
They loved Tasmania as much as we did and want to go back.

Shannon and Stretch took David and little Chris out pig shooting while Doug, Lacey and I stayed at home and played Cue and Can 500 (card game). This brought back a lot of memories and laughs of our family caravanning trips away when the kids were younger, Doug coming on most of them.

David and Chris had a lot of fun. They have gone pigging before with their own mates but the thing they commented on the most was the wild life.

We’ve often told them of the abundance of kangaroos, emus, foxes and pigs out here but unless you actually see 100’s and I mean 100’s running and jumping before your own eyes you don’t believe it.

Backpackers have often said they have seen more wildlife on the farm in 3 months than all their own wildlife in 20+ years at home.

We went home again in January, this time for Elliana’s 1st Birthday party and Baptism.

She has grown up so fast.

Elliana

Baptism

Here is a video of Elliana, Nanna and Grandpa swinging. I’ll let you guess which one had all boys and which one had a girl growing up. Seriously Grandpa how boring is that?

 

We also caught up with Ashley, Lish and the kids, but I’m afraid they saw Chris at his lowest immune time. He had to have a colonoscopy so he had been off all vitamins for a week and no food for 2 days and Lish and the kids were just getting over the flu, of course Chris caught it and ended up in the Goondiwindi Hospital but I’ll let him tell you that story.

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

 

?????????

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.

Cotton Harvest in full swing again:

Well the cotton harvest is on again and the farm hands are working around the clock bringing in the multi million dollar crop.

Cotton harvest is once more on the go at Koramba Cotton Farm

Cotton harvest is once more on the go at Koramba Cotton Farm

This year I went with one of the truck drivers to see how the cotton bales are transported to the gin.

This process takes about 7 months with two drivers working 24/7.

Steve and the chain bed truck collecting approx 50,000 bales this season.

Steve and the chain bed truck collecting approx 50,000 bales this season.

Here is a video of the cotton bales being transported to the gin.

 

 

A Changed Man

Men (and women) come and go at the Koramba Cotton Farm Quarters.

Some are backpackers travelling around the world and working as they go. Some are just restless souls looking for the greener grass over the other side of the hill.

We get to know these people who temporarily enter our lives only to say goodbye just when they begin to become familiar and a part of our lives.

They’ll leave because their work visas are about to expire or they think they’ve found that greener grass or they’re homesick for friends and family.

Sometimes they’re just plain sick of the heat, the flies and the repetitive work that is sometimes a consequence of becoming a farm hand on a large property.

A few get fired and no matter how unjust they feel it is in their own minds, it’s usually a wise move on the side of the farm management.

It was within this constantly changing human environment that a young man came upon us about 4 months ago.

Michael or “Mick” as he became known was different.

He’d just been paroled from prison after serving a twelve month sentence and even with all the varying individuality of the inhabitants of the Quarters Mick stood out.

The Farms Management team (especially Dave the supervisor) and our boss, Martyn had stuck there necks out for Mick.

They knew that unless he had a job he’d not be paroled.

They took him on.

In the first couple of weeks I didn’t think Mick’s chances of making it were very good at all. He was morose, obviously depressed and displayed such weird behaviour that we had to move him into the unrenovated housing block by the kitchen by himself to stop his night-time antics of banging and talking to himself disrupting the camp.

Every day the whole crew must be down at the machinery pad (four kilometres from the camp) at 7:00am for the morning meeting before work. Not attending or arriving late is not an option.

Mick would be still asleep and Dave would need to stop by the camp on the way to the meeting and wake him and drive him in what seemed like a daze down to the pad.

This was mainly due to heavy medications he was prescribed.

The other inhabitants of the camp were very wary of him and kept him at a distance.   We would try to engage him in conversation only to have him reply in jumbled sentences that were difficult to comprehend.

As the weeks started rolling by this all changed and a different Mick began to emerge from this troubled cocoon.

He began to sleep all night without his wanderings and ravings and this in turn led to his prompt appearance, showered and shaved, at breakfast.

He devoured his food in large quantities always appreciative of it usually making some complimentary comment.

He stopped the confused, jumbled chit chat and began to have meaningful conversations with others. This began to cause others to warm to him and begin to include him in the daily life of the farm.

Mick had never driven a Grader before arriving at Koramba but a Grader Operator was the position assigned to him.

It only took him a few days to get familiar with this rather complex machine and in the ensuing weeks he made that Grader his own. He got to know everything about it and within a few weeks he began to operate it with a competent professionalism that would be expected of someone who’d worked the machine for many years.

Mick’s whole demeanour changed.

It soon became a rare thing to see him not smiling. He put on weight (maybe a little too much) he dressed clean and tidily and regularly washed and folded his clothes. His room was immaculate.

He became a happy and contented man.

In our many conversations he’d tell me how much he loved his life here at Koramba and his beloved Grader.

Kerrie told Mick one day that she found it hard to recognise him as the same man that arrived at the farm a few months earlier, that the change in him was amazing.

There was also a strong tendency for this man to reach out to others with a helping hand. He would often be found working on the resident’s cars or extending a welcome to new people.

A week ago Mick decided to go home for a rare weekend visit with his parents.

He laughed and joked with the family, and told them he was the happiest he’d been for fifteen years. He helped his mum clean the house and cooked meals for the family.

It seemed the family could now rest easy knowing that Michael had finally found a place of peace, contentment and happiness in life.

On the Sunday Michael went to the toilet at his Mum and Dad’s place where he suffered a heart attack which caused his death.

He was 33 years old.

We are so thankful that he took the time to visit his parents and to let them see the massive change that had taken place in his life.

We still expect him to make his entrance into the mess hall at 6:00am every morning.

We miss Mick around the Koramba Camp.