Blaming Others

Most people know if they have a bad night or a good nights sleep, i find myself waking up most nights and chose to lie in the dark looking outside our windows. It is beautiful if there is a moon shine. we live in the country so we have no street lights, neighbours house lights, security lights that flicker on and off with the movements of cats and no road traffic. This no longer scares me I find comfort in the quietness most nights.

We do however sleep with the radio on, I have a night time moaner, talker and snorer and have on occasions woken myself up talking nonsense in my sleep. He is a snorer with tinnitus and can wake up asking if someone has left a machine running.

I know when I wake what sort of day I’ll have, I have woken with heart racing and teeth gritting together, my teeth will ache from grinding them in stress. How do you have bad days on a farm you may well ask?  Most people think country life is relaxing, and jovial, it is full of loving animals, lush green paddocks, endless beautiful scenery, hours to prepare fabulous meals, wearing aprons and or jeans, boots and hats.

In reality it is very different, if it’s too hot, all the waters need checking 3 times per day as cattle will die within a day if they do not have water. In winter when the grass or paddocks turn green the animals need checking 2 to 3 times per day for bloat, too much green will expand their stomachs (they have 4) and they will literally fall over legs in the air dead. we place magnesium blocks over the place so they can lick them to reduce the risk of bloat. In birthing they can and do require assistance. The farmer is amazing with how he can deliver live cattle and not hurt mother or calf, but it can look like a brutal process with great outcomes.

My biggest gripe is the gap between sale of goods, meaning beef or lamb and payment. We will pay all our local places before anyone else, we do not need another country business closing due to slow sales and bad payers. All country towns and associations try and fund raise for their associations, hospitals, children’s schools, individual causes. I chose my charities now based on how much of my dollar goes to the charity or how much they pay staff to get your dollar. Yet when everything doesn’t pan out who do we blame?

How many head to the blaming the Government? themselves? the Boards that run organisations? or just society in general? are you a doer, get in and help or are you a watcher that stands on the sidelines, never participates but whinges loudly when it fails, or are you the volunteer that gets in helps, works and promotes? I’m the doer, the volunteer, I can work hard and tirelessly to raise funds and awareness and sometimes this isn’t enough or is too much for people and they shut you down. I move onto the next cause. I don’t do it for the praise, me I would like to be thanked as most people do, how do you react when you’re not thanked and appreciated?

Be involved

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Stepping in manure

I live in Australia, an island of unique properties and places with vast distances of space. Driving from one end of the country to the other is an adventure undertaken with bravery (I have never done it nor do I ever plan to). I remember the first time I visited Darwin and I sat on Mindil beach and thought about the fact I was on the complete opposite side of Australia to my home town beach at Seacliff Beach, South Australia and I knew then how small I was in the scheme of land mass.

I loved living near the beach, I walked the Pete daily for years, not the weekend warrior kind, the devoted owner winter and summer kind daily. There was hardly a time I missed unless I was away. Being the Golden Retriever he would swim summer or winter he wasn’t fussed and I had to start bathing him weekly as he would get that smell of wet damp dog hair that sometimes is mistaken for a boy’s room smell. But we did it and loved it.

Then I met the farmer and moved to the country to live on the land and as much as I have loved it I have developed a love / hate relationship with it. Pete also loved it here, he had freedom, other animals to be with and dams to swim in. My relationship with the beach is one of love, it is a place I find peaceful and calming and I miss it. It’s like having to answer the “favourite child question” the minute it’s asked it’s an automatic “I love you all the same ” response and I know it’s not. I feel more at home near water than I do on the land and at times like long hot summers it’s hard on everything here, the land, the soil and the animals.

Being on the land means 24/7 with your partner / husband and this is another special skill one must adapt to. Many woman know that what gets said in the cattle yards, sheep yards or pig yards stays there, they is not for the faint nor soft-hearted. But sometimes one must dumb oneself down to get the right answer before it becomes the issue.  Let the cattle out of the cattle yards is not such a simple request as I found out today. I take the ute out to the cattle yards and there is 5 lots of them locked up in different pens, be careful as the gate may be electrified, only to be discovered it was live upon touching it that it as I got a shock. I noticed the cattle have turned on the tap and the water is lapping over the gate and electricity which is making it ‘live’. I took my shirt off so I could unlatch the gate without further shocks to myself, I have no clue how much shock the cattle would have felt staring at me in my bra and jeans but the tap needed to be turned off and this gate open so the cattle could go into this paddock out of the cattle yards. Once done I could let the cattle out, then realising they were in separate pens I knew I had to look for the farmer to ask the dumb question, do I let them all out or only some of them? A dumb question or smart one depending upon what they have been put in their for. I track him down 15 kms away and ask, sometimes it’s better than the alternative, letting them out and getting sworn at for not just ‘letting the cattle out of the yards’ confusing isn’t it? They were to all be let out, back I go and walk through them to do this, one panics and jumps over the 4 foot gate to get away from me, ‘good riddance I say. I walk back to shut one of the sets of gates and as I’m doing so I happen to tread in a pile of manure in my sandals, nothing like the slippery feel of fresh manure as it flows onto your foot.

My sandal is outside washed under the hose, my foot has been scrubbed of any evidence of said manure and the cattle all ran out of the yards without a look back to see if I was still there. It started this morning with a suggestion of a cooler rainy day and has ended hot and windy. Mandy the retired kelpi – lives on my office floor now and decided today was the day she tore up Pete’s old quilt to make it comfortable for her body and I let her. He has been gone 7 months I still look for him and now I see the same look of love and devotion staring back through Mandy’s eye’s and it lifts my mood.

I see the towels waving to me from the washing line, flapping in the sun and spinning round and round in the wind and I know they are not going to take themselves off the line. The chooks are off and pecking at my sandal near the tap, that’s the last time, I don’t put my boots on to go about the farm.

Mandy

Mandy

Shutting up Old Broads

The farmer didn’t like my post yesterday, he thinks I have no understanding of what we do here on the farm, when it comes to drought management and animal husbandry. Having been with him for 13 years (I know a long time) I have marveled at how he manages the farm, the cattle, the sheep and the crops. I have long stated I won’t have time to learn what he has forgotten when it comes to farming, business planning and management of animals.

Why did he take offense? because he’s thinks the work he does I don’t see and when I comment it’s a criticism of his abilities and it’s not. It is far from it, he doesn’t see that I worry about the animals that I can’t help with, other than the odd assistance or (slavery as I call it) I can help with lamb marking, putting rings on tails & testicles, whilst vaccinating them, I am no good at crutching or shearing. We rely on our great mate Ronnie to come and help pick up, put up and as a team we can do over 300 in a day. It’s hard yakka, bending, lifting, drafting (I can do this as well) we manage to work together and enjoy each others company (thanks Ronnie).

I can help with ear tagging the cattle, mustering and weighing, I can’t do the ringing of testicles as the size of these animals scare me and he gets to them young enough they are only about 200 kilo so it’s not so hard. When we ear tag them we have to put them in the race, head bale them (hold their heads with metal doors) whilst I grab their right ear and pierce it and put the legislated ear tag in it. Boy they can make a large noise as they bellow in protest, it’s the same as having ones ear pierced.

I have watched over the summer months as he has gone outside to check waters in troughs and dams, if they are out of water he has to locate the problem and fix it. We spent the best part of one Christmas day – missing lunch with my family to dig up water pipes clear them and wait for the troughs to fill over the farm in 40 degree heat (104 fahrenheit). Cattle and sheep can die without water in one day in this sort of heat.

I have watched him go out and feed hay to animals when our feed has declined, I see him jumping on and off a hay trailer whilst the ute is moving slowly so as to spread out the hay to keep animals fed. He does this every day maintaining the quality of our animals and their food source. I have watched him and gone with him checking things over our 5000 acres, I have taken him drinks and lunch whilst he is sowing, reaping, raking and fencing. We have spent weekends planting up to 3000 trees per year to give animals shelter belts and to re-vegetate tops of hills that blow with sand.

I have adapted to farming and I do have a deep love of what it is I don’t see and I don’t have the passion nor the drive for all of it like he does. I rarely criticise anything he does as I am aware he drives heavy machinery, he can build a shearing shed from plans drawn up with Ronnie on a scrap piece of paper,  he can swear like a farmer (as only they can) at anything and everything, he can care deeply for small animals which is why I am hand rearing 2 calves & a lamb currently.

How to shut me up – sorry Chris it won’t happen.

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Excuses one gives

I have an office that over looks the rear part of our house block, I could call it a back yard but I am aware it is bigger than my house block in the city. Our house is located on 20 acres but I couldn’t tell you exactly how much is back side or front. I wasn’t here when the farmer bought the house, moved it from the purchase location and built his home here, I came later.

All I know when I look out my lovely big office window is green grass, bush, dog compounds, grape vines and cattle of late. We have let a mob into the house yards as they are good a chewing down over growth, it’s good roughage and helps keep the bush from over growing and creating fire risks.

The cattle are quiet and they roam together eating, it sets the working dogs off, they love to ’round them up’ that is what they are taught to do, so on days like this when the farmer has had to go to town and get some things fixed, I leave them in their compounds. Don’t worry the compounds are approx. 4 metres by 4 metres, they have shelter and baths and they can watch things come and go. But they bark and with the cattle in the yard they bark day and night.

I sit doing book work, at the moment it’s BAS work and taxes time – yes I have to admit I ma late submitting this year. But I promise (my accountant) I’ll have this to you before the due date. I was chatting to a girlfriend on the phone when I could see a sprout of water being spewed into the air, surrounded by cattle happily munching and drinking it. They love fresh water, in-fact cattle drink 1 gallon or 3.7 litres to every 100 lbs or 45 kilos and as we have them ranging from 200 kilos or 440.9 lbs to over 600 kilos or  1322 lbs they drink a lot.

I raced to the back door, saying “gotta go cattle have turned the water on, last thing we need is the rain water tank drained, we have already pumped up from our emergency tanks”. I threw the phone on the couch and then pulled my boots on which I leave a pair by both doors and raced outside towards the spurting hose. I talk to the cattle as I go as they need to move on rather than run at me in fear. I managed to get the tap switched off, some of the cattle stood looking and they younger ones walked quickly in fear.

I figured that was the best excuse ever to get off the phone. Have a good hump day everyone.

yard bull

yard bull

Today is brought to you by the letter J

Farming by my definition is a complete juggling act and farmers are “masters of the ring” and the rest are spectators on the merry-go-round. Except sometimes it isn’t merry but still goes round and round way too much. The break in the season, no rain left in the season, sowing crops, calving, lambing, marking, harvesting, baling to name but a few farming tasks. I can see the carousel now, there would be the obligatory horses of course, we could have rain clouds, calf’s, lambs, dogs of various kinds, black & tan kepi’s, red kepi’s, border collies, cats, mice, birds and of course a scarecrow. It would be a ride of thrills going too fast and then slowing to a dead pace, no ride would be the same but it would be an adventure.

The juxtaposition in farming occurs daily, you can drive around your property and in the same paddock, sown on the same day, same calculated seeding technique and identify some growing beautifully and the next furrow that doesn’t. The contrast is obvious even to the untrained eye, it can be caused by many a different factor, sandier soil to name one. On the one property you can tell that rain can fall over certain areas and paddocks can remain dry for weeks, whereas the paddock next door will get rain, be planted to crop and grow.

There is a lot of joy in farming though, nothing more satisfying than assisting to deliver a calf and the mother & calf survive. During birthing season the farmer spends many an hour driving around with binoculars checking animals, keeping his distance until he has to intervene for the sake of the unborn calf or lamb to assist the mother. Seeing animals run freely on the farm is a sign of good farming and contented animals.

Farming is about commitment, dedication, knowledge and having the ability to cope when things get tough and enjoy it when things are good. I am not as dedicated to farming as my husband is and luckily he does not make me feel guilty for not wanting to be more involved than I am. I unashamedly admit, I won’t retire here, I will go back to a city where health care and hospitals have services and are accessible. Where going shopping for food alone is not a 2 hour trip, where working for women is not restricted or non existent. I am looking to getting paid employment again next year as I miss the independence.  Will I miss the farm? yes but not enough to stay, I won’t miss the constant 7 day a working week where getting off the farm is only for 24 hours.

I am heading down to the shearing shed to assist in getting it ready for the shearers this week so have a great day everyone. enjoy the cooler weather this Sunday.

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Today is brought to you by the letter C

This is the one that I know people are waiting for, I have been asked, how are you going to write around this? Well it’s easy really in farming you either are one or you’re not. Many people react to being called the c word and yes it can be insulting and degrading and it certainly needs to be defended when the title is aimed at you.

There are many things on farm and off farm that earn this title and it can be said out of the blue or sometimes on people’s faces you can see it coming. I have heard it slip out in general conversations and quickly glossed over with an apology or ignored. It brings shock to people’s faces regardless of the situation and the spruker.

Farming brings with it many a thing starting with c, I immediately think of our lovely cattle, they too on occasions have been known to be c’s. they can walk up the race wrong, they can jump fences, eat energisers, break fences, find their way back to their mothers and yell loudly when being mark and tagged (requirements under law). But they are really gentle curious creatures with whom we treat with kindness, compassion and slight fear.

We have the CFS whom are fantastic volunteers that risk their lives for others to help save property, animals and vegetation. My husband is one and we have been through two fires together on the farm that have luckily only destroyed fencing and crop. Croping is another c word that can bring out the ire in a farmer, on a tractor / air seeder / boom spray / day and night, sore hips, knees, necks and these things ache for over 2 to 3 weeks and those around them know about it. Then we can throw the combine harvester into the mix, this machine is used with the reaping of all crops and is a dangerous tool in the hands of amateurs and farmers. They can cause fires, catch on fire and cost large amounts of money to maintain them.

Lets not forget the cats & chooks who live on farms, useful animals, chooks for eggs and cats to catch mice, rats and company. We have 4 cats that have all been caught by my husband as kittens in the freezing cold of winter, the first 3 he used to use welding gloves to pick them up and pat them as they were so feral, now they are house bound and quite nice cats. Gatsby the 1 year addition to Caloundra Station (our property) never had the feral scratches he found warmth and food on his first night and decided not to go.

Today we are going out to plant 2000 trees and no doubt at some stage the c word will rear its ugly head. Regardless of what people say we live in the COUNTRY, the COUNTRY throws obstacles much like the CITY. Call me what you like but never a COUNTRY BUMPKIN, now what were you all thinking I was going to write?

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Country Living

Life on the farm can be very satisfying if you live in the country as you get to become multi-skilled and multi adaptable. There are many circumstances where you need to be able to problem solve, there are so many aspects to farming life that are so rewarding and there are so many that are not.

I came onto the farm about 11 years wide-eyed and impressed by my now husband and the work that he has done and continues to do. The work was overwhelming, the animals were beautiful and frightening, I had never been up close to cattle, and loving lamb (as a meal) I never knew how much work animals are to get them from the paddock to the plate.

I also never realized that being summer, winter, autumn and spring brought with them their own set of problems. As the partners of farmers one must get involved so that the burden of hard work does not always fall on the primary person (this could be male or female) I have learnt to drive tractors, use a front end loader, double d clutch on a truck, lamb mark, ear tag, weigh cattle feed out hay and numerous things in my life that I never dreamed I would even have to know, including fire fighting!!

I am the second pair of hands that assists when asked and when I can and also does the farm book work. We decided early on I should be able drive all of the machinery if for nothing else than if an accident occurs I should be able to grab something that may get someone (including myself) out of danger and or trouble. (pulling a bogged Ute for instance).

Whilst the rewards are good there is also negatives, animals need full-time people to care for them, to check them, to feed them, to move them be part of most aspects of their existence and this is the tie that binds people to farming properties. Getting away normally means 24 hours at the most together and if you plan a holiday it can require you to hire staff in to do the daily running of things, this brings its own problems. Most women I know in the country with children take the children away and their partners / husbands join them on and off for that period. The last time we have time away together and our second holiday together was 2009, we have done the odd night here or there but never more than 2.

Living on a farm also means one discusses retirement plans early on in the picture for the following reason. It’s all hard work

THE PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF FARMERS

Farmers were more likely to be male – 139,500 or 72% of all farmers were male, compared to 55% of all employed persons in 2010-11.

The age profile of farmers differs from that of all employed persons. In 2010-11, the median age of farmers was 53, compared to 39 for all employed persons. Seven out of ten (71%) farmers were 45 or over compared to four out of ten (39%) employed persons. The largest differences in the age distribution were apparent in the younger and older age groups. While 23% of farmers were aged 65 and over, only 3% of all employed persons were in this age group (graph S8.2). Conversely, only 2% of farmers were aged between 15 and 24, while 17% of all employed persons were in this age group. In 2010-11, farmers comprised a significant proportion of older workers – 14% of all employed persons aged 65 years and over. However, they made up a smaller proportion of younger workers – less than 1% of all employed persons aged between 15 and 34.