Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Holiday, or Not

The time came for our family holiday. Two weeks in my parents' holiday home at Bremer Bay on the south coast.
But shearing was just finishing and harvest was under way. So there was no way that The Farmer could just pack up and go away on holidays. The kids on the other hand were champing at the bit and NO WAY were they going to miss their holiday. The fact is that we have never had two weeks summer holiday even though every year it is marked on the calendar. There is always farm work to do, and especially so when shearing is scheduled for January.
This year we decided that I would go with the kids for the first week and then Roger would join us once harvest was finished and he had drenched sheep to put into the stubble paddocks, and tidied up loose ends after shearing. My parents were going to come to stay at the farm and look after things while he went on holiday during the second week.
You would have noticed that I said "were going to" in that last paragraph, and you would have heard the saying that starts "the best laid plans..." so I don't have to tell you that my parents didn't get down to the farm. In fact my father spent several days in hospital suffering form food poisoning. I was glad it happened while they were in Perth and not while they were at the farm, and so far away from a hospital (although of course I'm sorry it had to happen at all.)
With Roger stuck at the farm I turned to and contacted a young French backpacker who was available to help me with the kids. Estelle caught the bus to Jerramungup and we drove 100kms to pick her up, and then she spent a wonderful week with myself and the kids at Bremer Bay.

We came back from our holiday yesterday, and boy do I wish I was back on the south coast again. It was close to 40C here today, and that sort of temperature just makes me melt. With more hot weather on the way it makes me wonder why we came home...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Feeding Sheep

Many people think that farmers are always wanting rain, so when two inches (50mm) of rain fell in December we should have been ecstatic. In fact rain in December is disastrous on a farm like ours. We had so much pasture in the paddocks which had dried off, leaving dry feed which could have sustained livestock for many weeks. Rain on dry feed leaches out nutrients leaving little more than fibre, and now, even though the sheep have dry grass to eat to fill their bellies, they cannot maintain body condition on such rations. So The Farmer (Roger) has started to feed out lupins to the sheep to give them protein.  

Yum, yum! Lupins...
Looking for food
All in a row
Following behind the feed trailer
lupins, good food for sheep!
Notice that the sheep have been shorn? And they have yellow on their backs. That is a chemical to kill the lice. Unfortunately lice have become a big problem in recent years, and we have had to treat the sheep after each shearing. If they are not treated they get in a very bad way, constantly scratching and itching, and they become quite unwell. I saw some sheep badly infested with lice last year on another property, and it was not at all pretty.

severely lice-infested sheep - poor animals...
Eureka Gold! The yellow spray kills lice on sheep.

Kids Helping

While Roger attended the fire on a nearby farm, the girls volunteered to get the sheep into the shed ready for shearing in the morning.
I took Hugh for a long awaited frog hunting excursion to a little soak in a paddock near the house.
We didn't even see a frog, but Hugh had fun "hunting" - until the cows came along to drink and scared us off. Then we went to help the girls and all ended up very dusty and dirty.

Hugh Jumping a small creek

Hugh with bucket, and my shadow...

The cows came down to drink

The girls' friend Imogen helping in the yards

Imogen again :)
Imogen, Hugh, Bonnie, Sophie and Odette
Heading home again

The Fear of Summer

What we all fear most in summer is the smell of smoke. We regularly scan the horizon for any signs of fire on hot windy days. Yesterday it was not too hot, nor very windy, but the plume of smoke on the horizon still sent shivers up my spine.
Smoke on the horizon
Roger went with his fire ute (ute with water tank and pump with spray hose), about 15kms via the roads but less than that as the crow flies. The fire was probably started by a harvester or machine, although that is just a guess on my part. It burnt some barley and other crop, and also a bit of remnant vegetation and bush. There were many fire units arriving on the scene from local farmers, who are all volunteer fire fighters, as well as aeroplanes dumping water  and the fire was soon under control; but the farmers involved will have fencing to renew, and they will need to monitor any trees that could reignite if a hot wind springs up.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Shearing and a change of schedule

Our shearing contractor had promised us that our shearing would be done in December, leaving January free to get things tidied up and to head off on our annual holiday. I say our annual holiday, and every year we have two weeks on our calendar designated to a holiday by the beach in January. But in reality, we have never had two weeks away for a holiday. Last year shearing finished so late (and we had to come back for my parent's golden wedding anniversary party), which left only five days for our holiday.
So even the best laid plans can be thwarted, and when you are a farmer it is often the weather that does the thwarting!
With so many days of rain and other delays at the end of 2011 our shearing contractors got way behind in their schedule. So instead of being finished in December, shearing at our home farm started on the 3rd of January.
And it is not only shearing which is late. We are still waiting for our harvesting contractor to come to harvest our grain.
This year I will be having a holiday by the sea with the children, while The Farmer keeps working. I hope he can make it to the beach for at least a few days...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Year of The Farmer

Happy 2012. In Australia this year has been designated "The Year of The Farmer".

I have copied this information (below) from the Australian Year of The Farmer website

About the Year

aboutAustralian Year of the Farmer celebrates the hard work of everyone involved in producing, processing, handling and selling products from 136,000 farms across the country. Australian farms and the industries that support them generate more than $405 billion each year, that's 27% of our GDP.
The celebration was conceived by Australian Year of the Farmer Directors, Geoff Bell and Philip Bruem. Geoff and Philip wanted more people to appreciate the fresh food and quality materials our farmers produce to keep us fed, clothed and sheltered. And so, the concept has grown into a national celebration, one which will reach every Australian – reminding us that our farmers sustain the Australian way of life and the economy.
Australian Year of the Farmer is about celebrating and enriching the connections between rural and urban Australia. We want you to take time out of your busy day to think about how farming affects your life, there's more to this agribusiness than meets the eye.
What are you going to do in 2012 to celebrate?
 "What are you going to do in 2012 to celebrate?" was the question asked.
And that made me think back to what my blog was intended to be - documenting our farm life. But we are just one farming family, and maybe in this auspicious year many more farmers would like to jump on the bandwagon (blogwagon?) and share some insights into what it is like to live life on the land.
So I am in the process of setting up a website that will bring together blogs of Australian farmers so that all blog readers can learn a bit more about what it takes to produce the agricultural products that we all rely on.

Do you know any Australian farmers who would like to document their year on the farm and share it with everybody online?