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.

Rain, Rain go away:

Friday May 1st saw us back in Brisbane.

Rain had once again washed out earthmoving operations at South Callandoon farm.

Geoff, the Gore Earthmoving supervisor, called it too wet at 10.am and we were on the road by 11.30am. We cleaned up the kitchen, washed the floors and tidied up after the guys had all packed up and left and then we packed up ourselves, booked the unit up the coast for the weekend, and away we went.

Our plan was for Chris to drop me off at Karen’s place as it just happened to be the girl’s night out. I would stay there the night and Chris would go over and stay at Barry’s place and catch up with him.
We had the wipers on all the way from Goondiwindi and from Warwick the wipers were on full. It poured non stop.

We managed to hit Brisbane at the same time as the massive, slow moving storm hindering and even stopping, our plans.
It just proved impossible to get through the north side to stay at Karen’s.

Road closures, rapidly running creeks, swollen rivers and drains were all overflowing causing massive traffic delays. Sadly a lot of cars went under water and there were a number of fatalities as people tried to drive through overflowing water courses.

After three hours trying to get across Brisbane we ended up doing an about face and driving back to the south side to Barry’s place where we stayed the night. There were some road closures on the south side as well but they didn’t receive as much rain as the north side so things weren’t as bad.

Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

Goondiwindi got 35mm of rain for the day on the Friday but Caboolture got 233mm in a few hours.

Saturday morning was cloud free. What a difference a few hours make.
Chris and I left early to drive up the coast to the unit hoping to beat the traffic and hopefully avoid any road closures.
Apart from the south bound traffic still using the north bound lane on the Bruce Highway at Morayfield our trip up the coast was uneventful.

For the next couple of days the weather was perfect, warm enough to go swimming everyday with amazing sunrises and sunsets.

The sunrises were spectacular every morning.

The sunrises were spectacular every morning.

Unit49

The view from the unit always takes our breath away.

We got to attend Lish’s 30th Birthday party where Ashley gave a lovely speech and even managed to get Lish a surprise birthday present that she didn’t know about.

Ashley giving a speech at Lish's 30th Birthday Party.

Ashley giving a speech at Lish’s 30th Birthday Party.

A few pictures of the evening. The cake was done especially for her by one of her friends.

A few pictures of the evening. The cake was done especially for her by one of her friends.

Grandpa an Charlotte doing "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor"

Grandpa an Charlotte doing “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor”

Emily came up and stayed a couple of nights at the unit where we were able to catch up with her before she sets off back to New York to meet up with Rodney again.
Kealy, Emily’s oldest and most faithful friend from school spent a night with us also.
We love having her visit us and it’s always a pleasure catching up with her.
Amidst all the laughter and jokes it’s hard to see these girls as grown women, drinking, talking marriage, working and buying their own homes. Where does the time go? It probably doesn’t help that Kealy is 5ft and still wears kids clothes? At 22yrs old she still has to show ID to get water at the bar!

A bed with a view for Emily. Really was the best bed in the unit.

A bed with a view for Emily. Really was the best bed in the unit.

We got a phone call from Geoff, the supervisor, that the Earthmovers wouldn’t start back at work until Friday so we added another couple of days on at the unit so we could catch up with David.

I took Elliana to the Australian Zoo where we went and saw the Lemurs at Bindi’s Island. Elliana has great eyesight and usually spots the animals quicker than I do. Of course we had to stop at the Kangaroos and Koalas for a pat. Elli is getting more and more adventurous with the animals everytime we go there. This time she was checking out the kangaroos ears and has no fear of going up to them.

"Look out Nanna"

“Look out Nanna”

More adventurous every time. What does his ears do?

More adventurous every time. What does his ears do?

I ended up going again with David and Lacey to see the Tiger show. Next time we’ll go a bit earlier as we now know where the best seats are to see the show easily. You gotta LOVE those annual passes.

We ended up coming back to South Callandoon on Wednesday.

The Earthmovers started work Friday after having a week off.
It never rained much while we were at Belah Park but here we seem to have 4-7 days off every 10 days at the moment.
In the 6 ½ Weeks we’ve been here we’ve only had I full weeks wage.
This doesn’t bother us as we are getting a lot of work done.

It’s raining again as I’m writing this blog, two weeks after coming back from the coast. The boys will be off again until Monday at this stage (unless it doesn’t stop raining). We’re not going home this time but might drive up to see Shannon at Emmaville over the weekend.

Our first couple of weeks at South Callandoon:

Well it’s been just over two weeks since arriving at South Callandoon – the time is flying by.

Unfortunately it’s just rained again and the earth movers have packed up and gone home for a few days until the land dries out. Out of the 16 days we’ve been here the boys have worked 9 of them.
The area needs the rain so badly but as usual there is always someone (like us) who want it on another day, week or month. You can never please everyone.

So what have we been doing for the last fortnight, (once we finally got the caravan and office sorted out)?
Working.
Nothing new about that.

Chris has started back on the Operations Management programme and I’ve been promoting the Stop Money Worries Budget application.
Both are going really well and we’re happy with our office set up which makes work very pleasant.
Even when it rained most of the day the annexe, flooring and our computers stayed dry. It was cosy working in our “office” while outside was wet and muddy.

The earth movers had started arriving on Friday after Easter.
Blue and Chris, from the Belah Park job, are here for a week while Belah Park dries out.
Belah Park, the place that rain would literally “Go around” ended up receiving 110mm the other day. That’s great for them as the water tanks are refilled and hopefully some of the rain managed to land in the new reservoir.

We also met two new chaps, Baden and Todd. Both are really nice guys.
Geoff and Reece turned up Monday and as usually Geoff is giving me cheek while Chris is picking on Geoff.
Geoff is the only one to notice my hair and comments regularly that it’s looking a bit grey!
I’ve now booked into the hair dressers to address that issue. He’s a right charmer isn’t he?

The ones from Belah Park like to tease me about not doing anything. Sleeping in (which I do) not cooking (try to avoid) and letting Chris do EVERYTHING. They wait for me to bite. I always think if they’re picking on me they’re not picking on anybody else.

I would like to point out that Chris doesn’t do EVERYTHING.
At the moment he does get up and work the breakfast shift (yes I do sleep in) but in my defence, Chris is usually awake or even in the office working. So why would any sane person get out of bed when he’s already up I ask?

Once everyone has gone to work (Earth movers 5.30am) and Andrew (farm hand at 6.45am), I get up and start the wonderful job of cleaning up. The first job is to give Andrew’s dogs, Ollie and Lola, the scraps and leftovers.
Let me tell you about these dogs.
Ollie the male, Lola the female. They carry on like pork chops when anyone comes around. Seriously I would not like to be on the receiving end if they’re not happy.

So while Andrew was here the first couple of days he would let them off and they got to know us and like most dogs are great big softies when they know you. They love their pats and love their food.

Ollie, I swear has A.D.D., O.C.D. or something when it comes to food. He’s totally obsessed with it.
He’ll start to salivate and run around in circles howling while you walk over with food.
Now because he eats so fast he has a muffin tin for a food bowl so it sort of slows him down while he eats out of every muffin space.
He eats everything – lettuce mandarins – though I’m particular with what they get, no onions or chocolate.
Lola on the other hand is a lady but still gets excited when it’s breakfast time.

We know when Andrew is on his way home as the dogs start howling and jumping around before we even hear his car a couple of kilometres away.

We’ve started to let the dogs off their leads before Andrew gets home and they happily hang around the caravan and don’t wander away. They’re usually back on their leads before the earth movers get home as we wouldn’t like to see them bale these guys up.
Lola got off her lead the other night and Geoff got baled up.
Andrew was quick to fix the problem after wondering what the dog was barking at. Geoff likes to tell the story that Lola almost ripped his throat out, (he likes to exaggerate).

Now back to what I do for the day:

I then clean the bathrooms, dust and sweep the lounge room and kitchen, sweep and mop the breeze way. Restock the crib lunches, bake morning tea and occasionally cook dessert.
Then I head back to the van to start on our work.

The kitchen and the serving area. Andrew had these benches that have come in very handy for crib lunch areas.

The kitchen and the serving area. Andrew had these benches that have come in very handy for crib lunch areas.

The breeze way where they eat.

The breeze way where they eat.

The breeze way between the bedrooms (the rooms to the right) and the kitchen/Lounge and bathrooms on the left.

The breeze way between the bedrooms (the rooms to the right) and the kitchen/Lounge and bathrooms on the left.

The lounge room with a TV. That's something new for these guys.

The lounge room with a TV. That’s something new for these guys.

In the afternoon when Chris has gone in to start dinner I’ve found a new fitness routine.
I’m trying to get serious about getting my glucose count down and the best way is to exercise. Going for a walk sounds OK but I’d rather do something constructive. So I rake the yard of stones.

Why?

Well we told you that Andrew had freshly laid grass seed over the yard and had top dressed it with dirt but it was still covered in stones, small ones, large ones and bits of tree branches. We had a laugh with Martyn saying we’d borrow his brand new ride-on to mow the place and that would get rid of the stones. Can’t really repeat what he said to us about that.

So I started to rake the stones and rubbish into piles and Andrew gets the job of removing them. I do about half to an hour a day while Ollie runs around. Lola will sit right beside me which can prove difficult at times to rake under her. I think it’s coming up rather well, even the grass is growing. I know it’s getting a bit late to grow grass but hopefully it will survive winter.

This is the ground before I rake it over.

This is the ground before I rake it over.

My ever growing stone piles.

My ever growing stone piles.

The green tinge of grass growing.

The green tinge of grass growing.

And didn’t autumn hit with a vengeance?
Last week it was still a warm 22 deg at night, but after the rain I had to get out the jeans and jumpers. I even put the electric blanket on the bed! I went into Target to pick up a set of Flannelette sheets and they didn’t have any yet. I think this change in the weather has taken everyone by surprise. I always remember Mum saying “Once Easter is over the weather gets cool, be prepared.”

We’re really loving, living so close to town.
We’ve made the trip into Gundy a few times, sometimes even twice in one day!
The car just gets warmed up and we’ve arrived.
It’s also a great saving on diesel, we’ve only just gone through a half a tank, compared to living at Koramba or Mungindi were we had to fill up every time we went into town to make sure we would be able to get back again.

Andrew has said he’ll take us for a tour of the farm soon, which will be interesting.
The whole place has its own history as Callandoon was one of three huge farms and it was where the boundaries of these farms met that the town of Goondiwindi was founded.
This farm contained a small settlement that was the mail stop before Gundy was a town. Little is left of the original settlement except a tiny graveyard which still survives on the property.

Moving day arrived.

Would the Gore Earthmoving job at South Callandoon start or would it be delayed again after huge 80mm rainfall over Easter?

We doubted very much there would be a start, however, since we hadn’t heard anything we decided to proceed as planned and move and if the job was delayed again it would at least give us a chance to get set up properly.

It took us a couple of hours or so to pack up the Aussie Wide and hook up as this time we were taking desks, all computers, 4 large monitors and even a few hydroponics for fresh garden herbs.
A bit of a concern sprung up when a squeaking noise appeared from somewhere down near the water pump of the Nissan so we were prepared for a bit of drama on the drive between farms which thankfully didn’t eventuate.

We arrived at the gates of South Callandoon and met Jim a grain cleaning contractor and James the farm manager.
They were a bit surprised to see us as, due to the rain, they couldn’t see the job starting within the next week.
James was happy for us to get set up though and was most helpful and welcoming.

The silos and Gore Vans. The site of our first set-up.

The silos and Gore Vans. The site of our first set-up.

We decided to set up next to the grain silos where the two Gore caravans were already set up because the live-in farm hand, Andrew, had meticulously cleared and sown grass seed around the camp and that, coupled with the soft ground after the rain, made us decide we didn’t want to start our relationship off by digging up the yard getting the caravan in.

The accommodation has four bedrooms on one side a breeze way through the middle. On the otherside of the breeze way is 2 bathrooms/laundry, lounge room and kitchen. A really nice set up.

The accommodation has four bedrooms on one side a breeze way through the middle. On the other side of the breeze way is 2 bathrooms/laundry, lounge room and kitchen. A really nice set up.

So after hours of work we had set up and were completely done in.
Poor Kerrie was howling for painkillers and I felt like I’d expended the last bit of physical strength I had left.

What a sight it must have been, these oldies setting up!
There was a pile of pellets nearby and James the Manager said we were welcome to use them as we wanted to make a floor under the annex to prevent the floor getting wet if it rained again.
This would be our office for the next 3 months or so and we needed to protect our valuable computers.

Well here we were, Kerrie on one side and me on the other dragging these pallets (pallets are bloody heavy).
We must’ve looked like a couple of old Draught horses on the last job before the knackers yard!

After meticulously placing these pallets and manouvering them in place and placing the mat over them it soon became apparent we’d need to go into Gundy the following day and get some timber sheeting or we were going to have a serious accident when the wheels of the office chairs met with the empty space between the pallets.

This didn’t stop us setting up the computers and finally all was made ready enough for us to knock off for the day.

After washing down some painkillers with a couple of scotches I was ready for bed and Kerrie looked completely over it. It was funny because the whole thing didn’t really FEEL right!

I suppose it didn’t help that when we went to take a shower. The water we’d plugged into (from a quite old tap we found) had a strong smell. Now Kerrie can put up with most things and she has since we’ve been on the road but she really likes to have a nice shower at the end of the day. This one wasn’t so nice.

Also earlier when we were looking for the best place to set up we walked over a cattle grid. Kerrie was behind me and as she put her foot on the grid a large Red Belly Black snake slithered away just under where her foot was. Needless to say she failed to complete the journey over the grid!

To top it all off there was NO INTERNET! Nooooo! We can’t have NO Internet! Part of the attraction with these jobs is being able to work on the programs through the day.
Were we supposed to be here?
Did we make an error of judgement?
These questions beset us as we drifted into a pain wracked sleep.

We were awakened at midnight by the sound of thunder and we realised we’d left the annex flaps open so as I threw on a dressing gown and dashed outside the heavens opened and freezing rain bucketed down over me as I fought against the wind which was howling like a banshee and was threatening to blow the annexe clean away.
Kerrie rushed to get the computers inside and that’s how we spent the first day and night at South Callandoon.

A rethink was necessary!

In the morning Jason, the Gore Earthmoving project manager and James the Farm Manager turned up and made the decision that they would look at the job on Friday and make a decision about starting but that nothing would happen before then.
The Gore workers had been temporarily stood down.
We were told we were welcome to stay and move anywhere we liked so we decided to go back to the original plan of parking the van next to the accommodation block.

Of course this meant packing the whole deal up again and moving. We tested the internet over at the accommodation block and found that although it was quite poor it was better than where we were.
The large steel silos we were next to may’ve been distorting the signal.
Also the water at the camp was great with no smell.
It would also be easier to get to work at 4:30am in the mornings as we’d be right there. We weighed up the benefits against the effort and decided to do it, just bite the bullet, tear it all down again and move.
It must have once again been amusing to all on the farm as we had all our stuff piled outside while we hooked up and moved. Andrew the young farmhand took pity on us and moved the 8 heavy pellets with the forks on a nearby tractor and then he helped me lay them in place.
He was a Godsend.

We took off to Gundy to get some timber sheeting for the floor and a few other things and then moved the van. It took all that day to get sorted and we were still not finished when tiredness and pain once again caused us to collapse into bed.
At least we got a wonderful hot shower with no smell. The next day saw us finish off the whole deal and by the time we were able to stand back and look at it we had to admit we did the right thing!

The caravan set up beside  our new work area.

The caravan set up beside our new work area.

There’s heaps of room for the computers, the floor is stable with no gaps and the view from our “office” is awesome!

The new "Office" for the next couple of months.

The new “Office” for the next couple of months.

The view from our office, we can see any cars going past, cows and other wildlife...very nice.

The view from our office, we can see any cars going past, cows and other wildlife…very nice.

We cooked a roast dinner and invited Andrew to thank him for his help and ended a much better and rewarding day.

Even the satellite dish is picking up 80 TV channels – something we couldn’t get at Koramba or Belah Park. The best news was when the boss phoned us to see how we were getting on. The rain over the last few days had ignited a renewed hope throughout the whole area and he’d been on the phone all day arranging workers for farms.
There was understandably a bit of a negative feeling in the town as things got dryer and dryer and it was great to see how quickly these tough people bounced back at just a small hint of change.

This morning we awoke to a cool but magnificent morning and after throwing back the flaps on the annexe I was able to get to work overlooking a magic view in a wonderfully comfortable office.
The office and the van are filled with the aroma of Kerrie’s fresh bread being baked again and a routine has already begun to evolve. Yes we did do the right thing, South Callandoon is a great place!

We like hot fresh bread for lunch.

We like hot fresh bread for lunch.

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.

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?