Growing Up On A Farm

I recently drove past the farm that I grew up on near Griffith and it just reminded me of just how lucky my brothers and I were to grow up of farm. We were able to experience a range of things that you just don’t get to experience when you grow up in town or in the city. It also generates a wealth of unique experiences, memories and stories that couldn’t occur elsewhere like when we proudly showed a family friend our poddy calf “Clarabelle” who by that stage resided in the freezer (I’ll get to that later).

The freedom and ability to explore the farm is one of the great things about growing up on one, we were able to wander off (under supervision) and explore, learning about farming, the natural world and how the two interact. We could take the billy cart that dad  built us from a few bits of steel, some wheel barrow wheels, half a plastic drum for a seat and a bit of chord on the front axle to steer with. Then take it out to the gully behind the house, all three of us would jump one (one in the seat steering, one between the seat and frame and one on the back), give it a quick push start and be flying off down the hill only to reach the bottom and pull it back up the gully to start again. We’d catch yabbies in the channels that ran through the farm and around Griffith, have yabby races or cook some for lunch. The ability and freedom to do these things is something my city cousins could never enjoy living in Sydney and were always amazed by what we did when they came out to visit us.

All Three of Us

All Three of Us

We learned firsthand about the beauty and harsh reality of the natural world, from the blight of rabbits and the bitter dry of drought to the joy of rain and green growth it brought we saw it all. We saw and learned firsthand how the introduced rabbit excavated the landscape destroying pasture and how truly devastating it could be when it was coupled with drought. But also saw how quickly the dusty landscape could be transformed to a lush green with rain or how irrigation could bring life to the paddocks in the driest of seasons (when there was a water allocation). But by far the thing I cherish most from the farm was the memories.

Rain

Rain

The unique farm life gave us farm kids of great memories and stories that I have cherished since. Memories of us riding in the tractor with dad as he prepared the fields or how we would sit in the back of the parked ute and watch the Ag Plane sow the rice bays. The day first got on a horse, only to be thrown off over the front straight away and helping dad in the yards with the sheep. Then there was the two hour bus trip to school, we’d get up a six to make lunches before walking down the driveway to the mailbox, getting on the bus at seven and arriving at school in time to start class at nine. Occasionally when we’d get home from school (at 5pm) I would have to get on the motorbike and ride to wherever dad was on the tractor taking him his lunch.

Checking Things With Dad

Checking Things With Dad

But our most famous story would be that of our poddy calf “Clarabelle”. Carrabelle had been given to us by an old drover, bottle raised the young calf and it soon became the family pet. However like with all cattle the time soon came when it was time for the now heifer to go to the slaughter house but us kids bailed up saying it was the family pet and couldn’t go, so Carrabelle was saved for now. Then a few weeks later we returned from a New Years Eve party to find that Carrabelle had somehow let herself into and then back out of the house leaving cow dung in the hallway, urine by the TV and the PLASTIC Christmas Tree half eaten. The next day a meeting was held with a unanimous vote, Clarabelle was going and steak was for dinner, there was no forgiveness any of us kids as Clarabelle had gone too far.

The Infamous Carrabelle

The Infamous Carrabelle

Growing up on the farm is really what made me what I am today and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I’d grown up as a ‘towny’ or in the dreaded city. Its where my passion for Agriculture, farming and flying came from, the things that have made me who I am.

 

Back Aain

Back Again

 

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They Used to Pay Me to Do That

This post has no pictures of the other day but just a few from the NT and plenty of memories.
Last Tuesday was one of the best days that I’ve had since leaving “Humbert River Station” in the Northern Territory to go to university.

While I work on a cotton farm there are cattle that run wide and live in the flood country, the farm doesn’t really do anything with except for about once a year when they try and muster them to cut out anything that might make a decent return. Recently the dry weather has brought them out of the flood country and into cotton where they graze in between the plants for the weed Nut Grass, they knock off a lot of the squares and bolls in the process.

We were just about to head home when the manager called us up and said to get the quad or the Yamaha Viking ATV, instead of taking one of the work vehicles I opted to use my Postie bike. I’ve been riding the Postie to work lately to cut down on my fuel bill as I’m able to reduce a $70 a week bill for the ute to $16 for the Postie, despite it having road tires and being servilely underpowered I thought it would be the better choice as it would be more manoeuvrable as well as easier to weave in and out of the scrub in the flood country.

And then I was back there my mind was in the NT, flying through the scrub chasing and turning the scrub bulls, micky’s and feral cows back to where they needed to be, the only differences were the distance was a lot shorter and there was no helicopter hovering above my head. Even the Postie’s lack of power didn’t kill the mood, in fact the only time it struggled was when the cattle ran up the wall and into a dry dam.

After we had pushed them back into the floodway, I said to the manager “You know they used to pay me to do that” he then said “I thought you enjoyed that”. With any luck we may end up mustering them between rounds of irrigation so they’ll no longer cause a problem in our cotton.

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A Good Week

We’ve had a lot of wildlife encounters lately with me running a Koala and Common Tree Snake this week, a goanna the last week along with flocks of whistling kites and hundreds of pelicans.

Last Sunday while travelling back from a friends 21st in Port Macquarie I came across a Koala sitting in the middle of the road I quickly turned around pulled over along with another passer by. I looked at the Koala for a moment then approached it head on to gauge its reaction, it appeared to be a female and unhurt which was great, but it didn’t move as I approached. I then circled around behind it hoping this make it feel vulnerable and it’d remove itself from the road. Unfortunately it didn’t move so I walked up to it a picked it up taking care to keep as much of me away from it as possible, while Koala’s look cute and fluffy they are wild animals with a serious set of claws and good set of teeth that can put you in a lot of pain quickly. Luckily for me my care in picking it up paid off and I put her safely in a tree with only a slight scratch on my arm and nick in one of fingers.

Little Nutsy on the edge of the road

Little Nutsy on the edge of the road

My week of wide life continued today when I came across a Common Tree Snake (also know as a Green Tree Snake, not to be confused with the Green Tree Python) while rolling the driveway. He slithered across the road in front of me and gave me a excuse to get off the roller have a look and take a quick photo. The Common Tree Snake is a long but thin wiry snake that feed on frogs (plenty in the nearby drain), the non-venomous but may produce a terrible odour if they are picked up or spooked. So I just took photos.

Common Tree Snake

Common Tree Snake

Other animals we’ve come across recently include a Gonna that resting in a tree and the birds, hundreds and thousands of birds. As the farm’s dams and channels have become drier birds have been flocking to them for a easy meal. The other week we saw what we believe to be between 500 and 1000 pelicans in the farms main dam, I took the photo below but its quality is poor and only shows about 1/3 of the pelicans on the dam. On top of that I saw more Whistling Kits sitting in one locating than I have ever seen before, resting by the side of channel and feeding on the fish in the quickly drying waters.

1/3 of the Pelicans that were on the dam

1/3 of the Pelicans that were on the dam

In other news we had 14mm of rain at the shed yesterday with similar amounts falling in other places around the farm, while it is not a large amount it was enough to delay irrigation for a couple of days and allow the driveway to be graded and rolled finally knocking out all the corrugations making it smooth and my shocks a well needed break.

Otherwise not a lot has been happening as we’ve just been irrigating while doing other tidy up jobs between irrigations, so until next time I’ll leave you with some of the recent wild life pictures I’ve taken.

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Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Unbelievably we’ve had both of these events off this year as we’re running out of water and had to stretch out irrigations. The farms dams were filled in the 2012 floods and helped put in a full crop in the 2012-13 season, unfortunately there hasn’t been significant rain since then and the dams are running. While the farm has six bores they only pump 25 mega litres a day in total which is enough to run a 100 bays at a time which is far from practical as 100 bays is a standard change in a field. While there is just enough water to see out this years crop the 2014-15 season will be very small unless there is a lot of rain between now and then.

The 40 + degree haven’t been helping the water shortage as the plants start to use more water as the days get hotter, the backpackers are also feeling the heat. Having come from Holland where it can get down to -10 this time of year the Aussie sun isn’t being kind to them, at about midday its like the hand break is pulled on and they slow down.

On the lighter side I’ve been working night shift during which keeps me out of the heat but makes the siphons harder to start as the cool air makes them stiff and they don’t bend over the bank, but they don’t burn your hands either. Night shift can get a bit tedious between changes so when I spotted a fox in a supply channel while driving around checking levels I thought I’d try and catch it. I end’d up catching it and got a photo before it bit my hand and got away.

Until next time kick of your next year with a bang.

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The Fox that Got Away

Earth Moving

Since harvest finished we have been levelling out and restoring the slight slope to all the fields that had chickpeas in them, all the fields lose their level and slope over time from irrigation and other farm processes like ploughing. These particular fields were also flooded in the 2012 floods causing a large amount of silt to dumped in various spots over the field destroying the slope.

To restore the slope and level of the field the first step is to go over each field with the grader board to knock out the stubble, level the hills and flatten out all the little bumps and ditches. The grader board goes over each field twice at different angles going across the rows to get the best possible level on it.

The Grader Board in Action

The Grader Board in Action

After the grader board goes though the surveyor enters the field and takes survey heights every 50 metres in the field, these spot heights are then laid out on a map and the slope is worked out. For each height on the map the desired height and the difference is written out on the map to determine whether that height is lower (fill section) than the desired height or if the height is higher (cut section).

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Map of Field 9 with All The Spot Heights Marked

The data is then loaded into the laser, the laser is put in the middle of the field and sends a signal to the bucket that tells it to lift or lower the bucket depending on the height it needs to make that area of the field. When the bucket is full they dump it over a fill section to get it to the level that it needs to be at. After the field has been levelled by the laser bucket the grader board goes back over it to give it the final trim and join up sections that may have been levelled to different heights.

While this process sounds pretty quick and simple it took 8 days for the two laser buckets to do the one field in the picture above, for a video of the laser bucket action see below.

Harvest

The New Holland header arrived on the farm at 6pm last Thursday ready to start the chickpea harvest as soon as it could, by the time I arrived on the scene the following morning it had already done 30 acres during the night empting the header straight into the field bins. I was on the chaser bin, it goes into the field to unload the header and take the grain back to the field bins where it waits to be collected by the trucks and taken to town.

The Office

The Office

The harvest got off to a rough start with the header blowing a hydraulic hose and being down for a few hours while the operator tried to source and fit a replacement part. After the hose was fixed we were up and running again for a few hours before stopping to blow down the header, the header is blown down with air from a high powered air compressor to remove plant dust and help prevent fires (Chickpeas have a reputation for fires). Unfortunately our efforts were in vain as the operator smelt smoke a couple of hours later and rushed to put out the fire. He initially found smouldering chickpea dust behind the battery compartment and worked to put it out with his water bottle while I brought the water tanker over to header (luckly we keep it close by just in case). We soon found that it wasn’t just behind the batteries and was actually over most of the header, after soaking it down and blowing it down again we continued into the night.

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Unloading the Header

The following day we had another two fires that caused us to stop for a bit, the first was during the day and soon dealt with but the second occurred late at night and by the time it was detected it was hot enough to bubbled the paint on the side of header. Fortunately these were the last fires that we had.

On Sunday a second header arrived, a John Deere to work along side the New Holland, this kept me going flat out trying to service the two headers with small eight ton chaser bin and its slow moving auger. We also had to get another road train out to empty the field bins as the second header had doubled the pace of the harvest and one road train wasn’t enough to keep up any more. But come Monday we were back to only one truck and still with two headers.

The Big Bin Jammed its Auger

The Big Bin Jammed its Auger

These problems were only made worst when one of the field bins had its floor auger jam under the weight of the full load, this left us with two smaller usable field bins as rushed to empty the large field bin, removing the weight and unjamming the auger. To do this we opened the slides on the bottom of the field bin and used a portable auger to empty it directly into the truck, once we a had removed enough of the weight in the bin we manually moved the floor auger back and forwards to try and get some movement in it. Luckily we were able to free it up and getting it going again relativity quickly and the harvest was soon over.

With any luck a video from the harvest will up on YouTube soon  and should appear at the bottom of the post.

Catch Up

Its been almost a month since my last post and apologise as its been a bit of a hectic month with uni exams, a Young Farming Champions (YFC) workshop, work and now I’m on holidays until Saturday, so its given me some time to catch up on a few things.

When I wrote my last Animals Australia were about to launch their Coles bags campaign and were attempting to create a few twitter  storms around Live Export without success. The bags were pulled from sale three days into the campaign by Coles after they received continued  pressure from the National Farmers Federation, suppliers and farmers. While this was a achievement for those who were opposed to the campaign, Animals Australia went onto attack the National Farmers Federation as well as Australian farmers describing them as bullies who against improving animal welfare. Rumours have also been circulating that Animals Australia made a small fortune out of the failed campaign as their regular donors tripled their donations.

I find it ironic but unsurprising that Animals Australia would label farmers and the National Farmers Federation as bullies seems as they were the ones who brought the Live Export trade that to a stop overnight, cutting off the main source of income as well as the foundation of many rural communities. I believe it just shows how disconnected some people are for them to try and shame us for supporting our industry and trying to prevent them from funding another attack on Australian agriculture. Animals Australia also went on to claim that our opposition to their campaign meant that we were supporting battery hens and sow stalls, however its the bigger picture that we are opposed to. We did not want to see a major retailer supporting a group that actively works to undermine Australian farmers. While they claim that they want to improve animal welfare standards yet their actions and website seem to contradict that claim, for start they are a lobby group and do nothing to physically help any animals. The other issue is that they don’t say there’s some things here we don’t agree with you on so lets work together to improve this, instead they just say we don’t like this lets ban it. We believe that this is not productive and will only provide people from non agricultural background with the wrong information about farming practices.

So to anyone who may be supporter of Animals Australia or those who just want to help out and contribute to welfare of livestock and the farmers who care for them, then I would suggest that you get on board with Aussie Helper “Buy A Bale” campaign. Go to www.buyabale.com.au where you can donate money towards the purchase of feed, diesel as well as gift cards to help make the lives of those doing it tough a bit more bearable.

Anyway in other news the picker went into the last of the dry land cotton this week, the crop had been starved of rain early in the season but really caught up late in the season, very late as it turned out but its still a great looking dry land crop. Hopefully I’ll have written another post by next week on the first YFC workshop.