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.

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.

We make a deadline

After getting back to Koramba and setting up again we began an all-out effort to meet a deadline we’d set for ourselves.

You see while were staying with David and Lacey’s over Christmas David asked when the Budget Application would be back on line.
He was waiting for it as he’d always used it to control his money.

Now just a bit of background here!

We once operated our business, Simplicity Programming, creating programmes for a varied range of uses.

These programmes were primarily built for installing on PC’s running the Widows operating system.
They needed to be installed, reinstalled when updated, reinstalled when a client’s PC was changed and they couldn’t run on Macs, Smart Phones, or Tablets.

This was very limiting and meant many hours of work that we were never able to fully charge out to customers.

We made a decision five years ago that the whole concept of the business would need to change if we were going to continue with it!
That’s why we hit the road.

We wanted to gradually convert our existing applications to web based systems that would not require installation, would run on any device on any operating system.

Our “Stop Money Worries” home budgeting application was one of these.

We’d been working for many months on a large Operations Management system that could be used for workshop management on farms and heavy machinery operations and although we were at a critical point in the development of this system we decided that if David was so keen to use the budget app we would shelve the Operations Management System for a couple of weeks and get the budget up and running.

As usual – “the best laid plans of mice and men” – this redevelopment turned into a three month task!

In the meantime the Gore Machinery job was delayed a further few weeks so we decided to make an all-out effort to get the Stop money Worries system completed before the Gore job started.
If we could we’d celebrate by taking another quick trip to Brisbane before starting work.

So for three weeks our workday started at between 3 and 4 am and finished at between 9 and 10pm with only a scant hour or so off for lunch and a few short breaks.

It became a marathon effort that was at times very taxing and yet it was also a rewarding time as we saw large success in some really difficult pieces of coding.

Kerrie was as usual totally amazing in her support and help.
She built the first website that would be the landing page for the application and then produced a series of what I think are wonderful video tutorials.
In the midst of this she was always cherry and happy every day as she cooked all the meals, cleaned up and cooked a loaf of her incredible bread which was our lunch each day.
All this as well as building the website and producing the videos and keeping me encouraged when I got down.
Man there’s just no way I’d achieve anything without her!

It finally came to the point I never thought would arrive.

We’d planned to scoot off to Brissy on the Monday and the application was finished at 12 noon on that day. Since we’d been up since 3:15am we toyed with the idea of having a sleep before undertaking the journey but to be honest the excitement of completing a major milestone was just too exciting.

We were on the road by 12:30pm.

The conversation during the journey was so good as we discussed plans for possible changes, updates to the website and new videos.

Here’s a link to the Stop Money Worries website.

To see the application in action click the “Login” link and use the Username Guest and Password Guest to have a look.

Also here’s one of Kerrie’s videos which introduces the Stop money Worries system.

We had a truly great time in the unit at Maroochydore for three days and two nights before again heading back to Koramba.

We now had confirmation of the Gore Earthmoving job!

It was to be at South Callandoon a large farm of about 33,000 acres just 20 minutes from Goondiwindi.

The job would start on the Tuesday following Easter and we were to be there on site on Easter Monday.
We met with the Boss, Martyn, and the Gore Management team on the farm just before Easter and took a look at the accommodation and the facilities.
Our first impressions of the farm were good.

It was tidy and equipped with huge silos and the fencing was in good repair. The cattle that we saw looked healthy and the whole place looked, to the untrained eye, to be well managed and clean.

Gore Earthmoving will rebuild another dam on this farm fairly similar to the one just built at our last job at Belah Park.

The accommodation unit and kitchen are bigger and better set up than Belah Park and are spotlessly clean, the credit for which goes to the young station hand, Andrew, who lives there by himself at present.

We’d set up the Aussie Wide next to the kitchen where there was plenty of power and water.

After visiting the farm we went in to Gundy with Martyn for lunch just because it was so close. It was so exciting to be so close to town. It seemed like the Nissan had just got wound up when we were costing in to town.

With the move to South Calandoon scheduled for Monday and the Stop Money Worries application finished we decided on a day trip up to Emmaville again on the Easter Saturday.

Shannon had made a deal for a donger to use as a house and his Dad, Mum and Sister were going to be there for the weekend.
We also knew that Stretch and Kim from Koramba were going up for the weekend.

So off we went at 5:00am in pouring rain like we’d only seen once or twice in our three years at Koramba.
It poured all the way and we thought this to be good as it would give us a chance to see Emmaville at its worst so to speak.

As we ascended the road to Shannon’s the surrounding hills had huge layers of misty rain winding through and around the trees and the grey rainy sky just seemed to highlight the trees and the grass.

On arrival at the Shack we walked into a cosy communion of Shannon’s family, Stretch and Kim sitting around a monster log which was burning under the overhanging roof with Shannon’s mum cooking fresh scones on a camp oven.

A roaring fire, fresh meat on the BBQ, and hot scones who cares about the rain.

A roaring fire, fresh meat on the BBQ, and hot scones who cares about the rain.

It was such a wonderful time with people that are down to earth, humorous and generous.

Shannon’s Dad took Kerrie and I up the hill in the 4wd, via the new road Shannon had made with the excavator, to the new house site.
There was no donger.

It turns out that the people giving it to Shannon weren’t “allowed” to move it from Tamworth due to council regulations. Will we EVER escape government intervention?

Shannon and his Dad decided instead to go ahead and build a permanent house and amazingly within one week they had the peers in, floor down, walls up, veranda on and roof almost ready to go up.
The deck which will open out from glass doors off the living areas takes in awesome views of the ranges and the fact that it was grey and wet didn’t diminish the panorama one bit.

This is the sort of attitude that we’ve become used to – decide on a course of action and just get on with it!

Ern (Shannon's Dad)  showing Chris and Kerrie, Shannon's new home.

Ern (Shannon’s Dad) showing Chris and Kerrie, Shannon’s new home.

Even in the wet this place has the most amazing views.

Even in the wet this place has the most amazing views.

1-2 bedrooms, kitchen, lounge room, bathroom/laundry and a large verandah. What else do you need?

1-2 bedrooms, kitchen, lounge room, bathroom/laundry and a large verandah. What else do you need?

After an enjoyable few hours of chatter and laughter we headed home but not before checking out a block of land that took our fancy.
Tramping over it in the wet just further flamed our desire to settle up here sometime.

The boys tramping over the property we like.

The boys tramping over the property we like.

We liked this property so much we have rung the real estate to let them know if the owners want to sell we're willing to buy.

We liked this property so much we have rung the real estate to let them know if the owners want to sell we’re willing to buy.

We drove the fours hours back to Koramba arriving about 9:30pm.

We’d driven over 700km but we felt it was well worth it!

Never two days the same

With the finishing up of the Gore earthmoving job at Belah Park station it was back to our beloved Koramba for a while.

The Weir River at the entrance to Belah Park.

The Weir River at the entrance to Belah Park.

The job at Gore’s was initially for an 8 week period and ended up being a 5 month stint.
One of our last communications with the company as the job ended was when they asked us if we’d like to do another job for them.

They couldn’t tell us exactly where it was as they’re quite understandably very tight lipped on future jobs especially before they’re not fully signed off and “in the bag”. They did however say that it was “no further from Gundy than this one”. Belah Park was about 150 kilometres west of Goondiwindi near Mungindi.

We said we’d be happy to do another job when it came up providing it was still under the same arrangement with Martyn Morrissey, our boss.

By the end of the Belah Park job we were really looking forward to a “Coastal Fix”.

The heat had been relentless for weeks as had the flies and dust and although we enjoyed the job we began to look forward to a break.
So it was with much joy that we hooked up and headed to Koramba yet again where we wanted to get the grounds around the camp looking as smart as we could in the drought conditions.

We wanted to take the ride on mower into Gundy for a service and just make sure everything was spic and span.

We’d previously learned that Shannon, our young friend and teacher of all things rural from Koramba, had decided to move on.
He got a job with a stock transport company in Glen Innes which allowed him to live up at his property at Emmaville and commute daily.

Would Koramba be the same for us without his presence?

He’d been such a huge part of everyday life for us for nearly 3 years. It was both sad and exciting for us to see him move on. Sad from a purely selfish point of view – we wouldn’t have him around – but excited that he’s exploring other avenues and opportunities.
At 25 he has such a massive store of knowledge and yet we can’t help but wonder how this’ll be added to and honed over the next phase of his life.

After getting Koramba ship shape and harvesting the massive haul of delicious grapes from the vines we’d planted 3 years before, we hooked up the Aussie wide and headed to Brisbane for a Kids, Grandkids and ocean change.

It was a great feeling to have the Nissan humming along, easily towing the Aussie Wide again.

Just before leaving Koramba we got a call from Jason at Gore earthmoving.
The new job would start in two to three weeks.

This meant a shortened trip as we wanted to swing around Emmaville and stay a few days with Shannon before starting.
We still didn’t know where the new job was but there were strong hints that it was much closer to Gundy than either Belah Park or Koramba. This was very exciting!
There was even talk of the camp being set up in the Gore yard IN Gundy.

The prospect of being “Townies” for a while was a thrill as we love Goondiwindi.
Kerrie began running through all the possibilities of being able to get to town just for a coffee, a chat and a look round the shops.

So it was with the backdrop of this prospect that would once again change the direction of our daily lives, that we parked up at David and Lacey’s place on the Sunshine Coast and relaxed and caught up with everyone.

I must say it was quite a thrill to be woken in the morning with a little girl’s voice coming from inside the house, “Nanna, Grandpa”!

It was a wonderful stay and it was a thrill to see the Grandkids, (Elliana, Riley and Charlotte), all growing so fast and happy and healthy.

Elliana does Little Kickers once a week. It improves their motor skills, colour recognition and sportsmanship.

Elliana does Little Kickers once a week. It improves their motor skills, colour recognition and sportsmanship.

It was a whirlwind of outings with the Netball Girls, talks with Ash, playing with Riley and Charlotte, dinners with Emily, shopping with Lacey, walks with Elliana, catching up with Barry & Christine and, of course, fishing with David.

This is always a highlight for me and this time we were rewarded with a great haul of Tuna, Snapper, Grassy Emperor and Sweetlip.

Fishing with David is great but even better when we catch something.

Fishing with David is great but even better when we catch something.

I must say it was a bit hard packing up and leaving this time and as we hit the road again, pointed toward Glenn Innes on the coast road; it caused us to have a long discussion about what we wanted for the future.

On the one hand there was the thrill of life on the road – seeing new places and meeting new people – and we’ve loved every minute of it.
On the other hand there’s a desire to have our own place again – but where?

After the quality of life we’ve enjoyed, especially at Koramba, would we be contented with a small house or a unit back in the city?
Country life has rather captured us and yet we still love the sea and the close proximity to Kids and Grand kiddies.

On a weekend trip up to Shannon’s land at Emmaville a few months previously we’d been captivated by the breathtaking views, peace and quietness of his 250 acres.
We could easily imagine a small house up there and perhaps a small unit on the Sunny Coast where we could enjoy the best of both worlds.

Of course the foundation of it all is the Management Programme that we’re building that’s nearing completion.

There’s the possibility of us touring the country shows and Agfests to present the software to farmers. This would allow us to still spend time on the road in the Aussie Wide as well!

So after hours of these discussions we camped the night in a small free camping area somewhere in the ranges north of Coffs Harbour and enjoyed a great sleep.

You know how sometimes you go to a place and really enjoy it, even fall in love with it but on returning it’s not the same?
Well we wondered if this would be the case with Emmaville.

Would this be just an idea we’d come up with that on the next visit would prove impractical, unattractive or impossible?

We drove up through the New England ranges and stopped at Point Lookout, made a coffee, had a chat with some other travellers and marvelled at the magnificent scenery which spread before us.

Point Lookout New England By Andrea Schaffer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/aschaf/13976506424/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Point Lookout New England By Andrea Schaffer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/aschaf/13976506424/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Through the town of Emmaville we drove and up on to Shannon’s land where we were once again presented with the breathtaking views stretching for miles over the New England ranges.

We set the Aussie Wide up next to the little shack where Shannon temporarily lives and wandered around the place waiting for him to come home from work.

Looking down to his temporary residence. You can see the van parked at the back.

Looking down to his temporary residence. You can see the van parked at the back.

Last time we were there was in winter and although the nights were cold the days were lovely.

This was in the middle of summer and temperatures had soared. Koramba was hitting the 40 degree mark daily but here, although hot, it was pleasant and very bearable and there were no flies!
Kerrie loved the place all over again.

Shannon came home and took us for a drive up to where he’d carved out his future house pad with his excavator.
The three of us climbed on the cab of the digger and looked at the view that Shannon would be greeted with every morning.
It was utterly beautiful!

The view from Shannon's selected house block.

The view from Shannon’s selected house block.

From any angle the view is impressive.

From any angle the view is impressive.

The camera never captures the whole experience.

The camera never captures the whole experience.

Down in his valley was a blue water dam and a small 4 or 5 acre paddock that he’d planted some oats in. His cows, getting so big now on the abundance of feed, wandered peacefully over the valley and then we spotted our Topsy.
She’d formed an alliance with the little calf, Lulu, and it was lovely to see her wandering around fully contented.

We talked into the night with Shannon outside the caravan with the moon casting a magnificent silver glow over the surrounding hills and the air crisp and cool with no insects.
We could have easily just stayed there.

Jack, Shannon’s cattle dog refused to go with him to work the next morning and instead just sat next to the caravan. He spent the day with us as we drove around the countryside and spotted a few properties that we could easily have lived on.

No… the feelings and the idea of living up here had not subsided, in fact this visit seemed to further cement the idea into our thinking.

After a truly wonderful three days we once again headed back to Koramba where we’d await the call from Gore Earthmoving to start work.

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.

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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?

Dust, fly’s and heat:

Well the harvesting is over at Koramba!

The balers, however are still working stacking the high density hay bales onto the head ditches at the end of the fields to be collected by the trucks.

Harvesting the barley at Koramba with the bales in the background.

Harvesting the barley at Koramba with the bales in the background.

The young contractors working this part of the process have had a lot of trouble with their gear.

First, running out of fuel while driving the tractor to Koramba, then being stuck on the side of the road for two weeks with a blown transmission.

They eventually got the tractor to Koramba but as of writing this post they’ve still not had their mechanic look at it.

The tractor they’re using to stack has no rear lights working so they are unable to work 24/7 choosing instead to work one day each and have the next day off while the other works. The other contractor, John who was doing the actual baling, left last Saturday driving his tractor back to Condamine from where he came.

So, for the last week and a half I’ve been driving to Koramba from Belah Park, (a 120 km daily round trip) to cook and clean up after them. I can’t  buy food that will be wasted as once these boys leave, the kitchen and quarters will once again be shut down. Since these guys keep telling me every day that they will be gone in two days I can’t go all the way into Gundy just for food for two people for two days but these two days have now been pushed out to 2 weeks! If I’d known that we would have gone to Gundy for supplies and I would have stayed at Koramba to save the daily drive and associated wear on the car etc. At the moment it feels like they’ll NEVER get the job done!

We DO miss Koramba and it’s facilities!

Chris has come over on occasions and helped me cook up cakes or dessert and you forget how easy it is working in a commercial kitchen. The oven fits more than two trays and things like stainless steel bowls, trays and utensils all within easy reach of the cook. I’ve already said in the last blog I got the better deal on kitchens.

Chris is doing a great job out at Belah Park, at the moment we’re not only feeding a full camp with the guys from Gore Earthmoving but the farm workers who’ve come from another farm to harvest the wheat crop on this property.

The other night Chris Collins (we have four Chris’s out here including my Chris) made the comment that there had been no complaints regarding the food. We said if there was, we would happily move on as we don’t stay we’re we are not wanted. Chris Collins looked at the other guys around the table and said “You wouldn’t hear about it before we would sort it out”

I thought that was rather nice…scary, but nice.

The earth moving company is having their annual Christmas party next week and the workers will be off for the weekend, so Chris and I have decided to take an extra day and go to the Sunshine Coast to stay in the unit at Maroochydore. Because it’s such a short break and because it’s now only 5 weeks till we head to the coast for Christmas, we’re not going to be travelling to Brisbane to try to catch up with everyone this time round.

We hope that at least some family and friends will make the trip to the coast for a catch up.

It will be ten weeks since we’ve had a day off and that 4.30 am alarm is starting to get very tiring. So we’re looking forward to blue water, green grass and being high enough off the ground that the flies and other bugs aren’t covering the walls, our backs, faces and  food.

Bugs1

This is the window in the kitchen 10 min after it had already been sprayed.

BUGS…..Ahhhh!!!

As you can see from this photo which was taken from the kitchen window, the bugs have taken over. And this is DAYLIGHT, wait until dusk you can feel them as you walk through them, Screens don’t stop them as they are small enough to get through. We leave off as many lights as we can in the kitchen, even changing the fluro to a a yellow bulb, but as they guys come in and out to go to their rooms, have showers or get a beer the bugs pour in.  I have to admit the bugs are sending us spare!

At Koramba I put up signs telling whoever was last in the mess room to turn off the lights because if they didn’t I would literally sweep up 2 mm  of bugs across the entire floor before I could start work.

And then we have flies!

With your back always covered, you are constantly doing the Aussie salute and don’t get me started on the ones that get under your glasses. At least the mozzie’s haven’t started yet maybe we won’t have mozzie’s due to the drought….let’s hope so. Don’t you just love this time of year.

We’ve an early heatwave out here with temperatures in the high 30 to 40 deg + and it’s not even summer yet! Saturday’s temperature is forecast for 45 deg!!!!

Watching the rivers and weirs dry up around here is a very disturbing scene. Add the empty reservoirs on the farms and again our hats go off to the country folk who go on with their lives making a living out here as best as they can with no fuss, a smile and cherry word to anyone around them.

We moved Chris’s “office” into the caravan as it just got impossible to work out in the annex in this heat.

We think it turned out pretty good and he can still have his three screens up and not be in the way and the air con in the Aussie wide is coping with the 40 deg heat extremely well and even in the worst heat of the day keeps the van cool and easy to work in.

We should have thought about this when we were having the van built but thought just the table would be OK. That was the best part of the “Old Girl” how we had the desk for both of us and the leaf table for eating.

Now even when we go home at Christmas and stay at David and Lacey’s place Chris will have somewhere comfortable to work.

The "Office" now set up in the caravan. A lot cooler with the air conditioner and not covered in dust.

The “Office” now set up in the caravan. A lot cooler with the air conditioner and not covered in dust.

The farm at Belah Park is similar to Koramba in the sense that everything is Big. Big Machinery, big earthworks, big fields etc.

They’ve recently acquired the new Case Quad Trac tractor  which has awesome pulling power and they say is incredibly comfortable to operate.

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Belah Park’s new Case Quad Trac

Tractor2

Yesterday Kevin,one of the guys from the camp had to clear away secondary growth from  the levy banks around the camp and Chris captured it on his camera.

These machine make short work of gardening. I have been trying to dig out a few weeds around the camp with a shovel and it takes me 10 min to remove one weed, I want one of these!!!

Kev reckons the trees in this video don’t count as the Caterpillar D9T doesn’t even feel them. He says trees the thickness of our caravan are more the go.

 

We’ve seperated…for a short time:

Now don’t jump to the wrong conclusion – Chris and I are living apart for the next three to four weeks because it’s harvest time at Koramba.
Chris is staying over at Belah Park feeding the earth movers on the Gore Earthmoving job while I have returned to Koramba to feed the harvesters.

We’ve now been living apart for nine days and we’ve seen each other four times, (we don’t do separation well).

I’m living in one of the dongers at Koramba. For those unfamiliar with remote living quarters a “donger” is a transportable unit with cubicles for bedrooms and/or showers and toilets.

I had the choice of every donger in the place so I picked Kristjan’s and Merlin’s old room, the two Estonian backpackers we have often written about in the past.
Kristjan and Merlin didn’t smoke and they’d bought a few items of furniture so add a computer screen to play movies from the hard drive, a doona cover that was left behind and my room has come up quiet cosy.

But it doesn’t have Chris in it!

For all my complaining about Chris snoring I miss the noise when it’s not there.

Now anybody who knows me would be a little bit worried about the fact that I’m cooking!

The boys often joke about how they were scarred for life by my cooking when they were young, especially Ben who says he’s never been able to eat Chinese food since his childhood as it causes nightmares of the endless jars of Kanton that he was made to eat as a kid.
But..Don’t worry, Chris is giving me lots of instructions over the phone and I’ve even amazed myself at how much I remember what to do from our catering jobs over the years.

Over the fourteen years we’ve been cooking together we have a bit of a routine going.
Some things I do better and some things Chris does better and we make a good team when those things are bought together.

Now we each have to do the lot ourselves.

I used to turn up in the kitchen and clean up, finish off desserts, make sure drinks were in the fridge, cut up all the lunch stuff, and do the sweeping and mopping.
I never worried about getting out the meat for the next night, choosing a dessert and cooking cakes or biscuits, and visa versa for Chris.
Now I’m searching recipe books for something new each day for breakfast.

The endless rows of Barley to harvest. It's very pretty to watch the colours especially as the sun is setting as it turns to a golden colour.

The endless rows of Barley to harvest. It’s very pretty to watch the colours especially as the sun is setting as it turns to a golden colour.

It’s a good thing I don’t have fussy customers, the guys here are great.
The same harvesters that were here last year are back again.
We have John the ex farmer from Cropper Creek and his friend Dave from New Zealand. We also have “Dipper” another mate from Moree who owns a Timber and Hardware store.
There’s supposed to be another harvester and a fourth header arriving but they’ve not turned up yet.

Loading the Barley.

Loading the Barley.

That’s the trouble with harvest it never gets under way exactly when you want.

Because the barley was a little green to start off with the Balers, who were going to be here last Sunday, haven’t started yet either.
So you never know if you are cooking for twelve or five.

I’m also cooking for some of the Koramba staff who are driving the chaser bins, taking the barley from the headers to the trucks, and the trucks which take the grain to the grain board in Talwood.

Martyn, our Boss, has loaned me his Ute, so when the meal is ready I pack it up in eskies and drive it out to the paddocks where they’re all working.
Either Stretch, one of the supervisors, texts me the field number or I use the UHF radio to find them.

Jason, Dipper, Dave and John eating dinner from the back of the Ute.

Jason, Dipper, Dave and John eating dinner from the back of the Ute.

The worst part is there is NO ONE around to talk to all day!

A quick 10 mins in the morning during breakfast and another 20 mins at dinner time, otherwise I’m on my own without talking to anyone. As you all know how I love to talk you’ll understand my dilemma. If I didn’t have work to go on with for the programs and websites I’d go insane.

But I’m not complaining, I think I got the better deal out of Chris and I.
I have an air conditioned room, air conditioned office to work in and a great kitchen with plenty of freezer space and walk in fridge.

Chris might have our home and oh so comfy bed but, as the temperature is climbing (they say 40 degrees this Sunday) his office out in the caravan annex is not the easiest place to work.
Lately it’s been blowing a gale and with no grass or crops to stop the dust it gets dusty and very hot in the annex.

I do feel sorry for him in my temperature controlled rooms 🙂

Kangaroos still eating the crop.

Kangaroos still eating the crop.