And still the drought is hurting us.

You would think that selling your farm, giving up the only life you have ever know – saying goodbye to farming to escape the drought would bring it all to an end.  It doesn’t.

Months have passed and we are yet to have sold our Versatile or Header, in fact over a year has passed since our clearing sale.

So we sit and wait, and wait. There has to be someone out there who needs them?

In our new location it had been over 5 months without rain.  Five months?  I can’t believe it.  I thought the earth had forgotten how to rain…..but then, this Anzac weekend, it rained.

Thank you for the rain!

53mm we got, FIFTY THREE millimeters!  Water is running everywhere, puddles up to my middle – are every where!

Here’s hoping you got the rain too.

Here’s hoping this damn drought is breaking, that the life of  the Aussie farmer returns to normal, that the heart break ends.

Here’s hoping that someone will now buy our machinery.

It rains here

where we are living now.

In fact, over winter, it rained almost every day.  It was amazing.  With each drop I smiled for us, but in the back of my mind was knowing that thousands of farmers were still looking, waiting and praying for rain.

I know in some areas the season started out great, those opening rains falling, giving the earth back the much needed moisture.  Blokes out there, happily going round and round for hours on end.  I know my husband was feeling the pull, missing that solitude, that endless driving, the love of open space.  He didn’t say much, but I know.

He misses having all that land to call his own, what we have now is ‘just a pocket full’.  Those thousands  of sheep, the dust, the constant work.  No weekends, no holidays – just work…and yes he misses it.  He misses being his own boss, the feeling of satisfaction when completing a job, finishing the shearing, the end of seeding.

Versatile air seeder and hopper

The tractors, his ‘toys’, we still have the two not sold at the clearing sale.  They sit and wait for a new owner.  The calls don’t come though, Australia is scared, farmers are scared.  Why buy machinery when the rain might not come back?

It may have rained where we are now, but the rest of the country still suffers.  Those crops, sown with the opening rains got some good follow up rain, but then it stopped.  Now the weather is too warm in some parts for this time of the year.  The crops are thirsty, the hotter weather knocks them around, they suffer…and so do the farmers.

I’m only a Farmer

Those were the words my husband said when I told him that he would easily find work when we moved.

He was worried that no one would employ him, the words “I’m only a farmer” ringing loud against the silent room, me stunned that he would think he was only a farmer.

I wonder if farmers the world over think the same? Having only been a farmer, worked for himself, never that outside world letting him know just how skilled he is.

He couldn’t see it then, back before we moved, but he can see it now.

He is skilled, and highly skilled at that. The amount of skills, once listed, are immense. He had never stopped to think about it really, never thought that doing the thing he loved day in and day out was actually providing him with the skills to work in so many occupations.

When we first moved my husband joined the local CFS within the first week. He has always been a member so naturally would join where ever we ended up living. People asked questions – Where you from? What did you do up there? The next night after his first training at the new group, the phone calls started.

There was an experienced farmer moved into the district!!!

My husband had planned to take a bit of time off when we moved just to chill out. Perhaps he should have waited a week or two before he mentioned what he was 🙂
There are people lined up waiting for him to work for them, its great not only work wise, but great for my husband to know that YES he is highly skilled and that people like him are sought after and needed by others.

So yes he is ‘Only a Farmer” but a bloody highly skilled sought after one like they all are.

The Move

Moving house is hard enough, moving a farm is even harder especially when your heart is tied to the place.

The packing up had been going on for weeks. My husband took 6 months to get ready for the clearing sale. At the same time getting things we were keeping ready for the big move. There was over 100 years worth of stuff here that had to either cleaned up, sorted, thrown out, scrapped or sold, and going through it all bit by bit takes a bit of time.

Slowly we got there, the farm was all packed up and ready to go. The house almost empty, the children running from room to room squealing and yelling, excited at the echo their voices produced – oblivious to the meaning to why the house was empty.

We did numerous trips over a month to move it all. I suggested a removalist in the beginning, “NAR” said hubby in that she’ll be right sort of voice, “we will do it on our own”. Ask him now, after we did all that moving, if he would recommend using a removalist……I think his way of looking at it all may have changed after having to do it!

I kept up the jokes telling him after his third, fourth, fifth and tenth trip back to the house, cursing and swearing about how he hated moving, that he’d be right as he could always get a job as a removalist! Oh did I get the evil eye LOL
We had a few calamities (as my husband would call them) along the way, but now we can look back and laugh.
The wind blew the double bed mattress off the trailer, whilst husband went to get the ropes, right into a muddy patch. Yes a muddy patch. It’s Murphy’s Law. It always rains when you don’t want it to.

Rain happens……..

-In the middle of shearing, for most of shearing. Dragging out 7 days of shearing into three weeks of off again on again shearing.
-When you finally have washed the car/tractor/ute. Ask my husband about this! He washed all of our machinery for the clearing sale and then it rained, the wind blew up and all the dust that wasn’t yet mud blew onto and stuck to the newly washed items.
-When you are loading up to move, the wind still blowing, kaboom mattress meets mud!

The night before the final morning for me and the kids was strange. My husband was to come back and continue moving farm related items we had kept and all his workshop items over the following week, so this night was not his last night at our home.

We were camping in the bedroom, the house empty except for us and a few small items. I lay there thinking about it all, still thinking that it wasn’t real that perhaps I could wake up in the morning and everything would be back in it’s place. I thought of the kids, our 9 year old understanding what was going on, the two younger ones once again oblivious to it all. Our 9 year old cried, cried about how she missed her room already, she missed her best buddy, she missed her life as she has only known it.
My heart broke for her, our sweet little one having to have her life turned upside down and inside out. It’s so unfair.

Morning came all too quickly after a night of tossing, turning and worrying. Kids up, breakfast had, time to go.

I was to drive the family car with the canopy trailer bursting at the seams, parts of our lives packed tightly inside, towed behind. My husband was driving a truck, our furniture, our household carefully packed and placed ready for the long trip.

The butterflies came back as I sat in the car and turned it on. I had walked around the house, fingers running along the walls soaking up the memories, smiling to myself as the memories from each room came back. In the hall there is this wonderful drawing, done by our then 2.5 year old in permanent red marker, his wonderful piece of art left behind. The kitchen and bathroom we designed together and turned from a dream into a reality, the whole house and its memories. Sitting here now writing this down has me in tears.

It is amazing how much life and love you put into a house, just like those 28 years my husband put into his farm, his love his life.

As the car warmed up I looked back at our house, our beautiful garden, put the car into gear and started to leave. I was holding up ok for the first 100 metres, but with every 100 metres that passed the lump in my throat grew bigger and more tears flowed.

This was the last time I would leave our home, there was no going back, it was so final.

As I reached the end of our driveway and turned onto the main road, I was crying hard. The kids and I sang out goodbye to our farm, our three year old yelling out goodbye to the sheep, goodbye to the birds……goodbye.

Goodbye Farm, thank you for one of the most wonderful experience of our lives. x x x

The Case Loader

I never thought I would cry over a tractor.

Today the bloke who bought our Case Loader turned up with his Semi and Low loader to take it home with him.

My heart leapt when I went outside and saw the loader on the trailer, the new owner chaining it on, making sure it was safe for the trip to it’s new home.

I have a love for this tractor.

Back in July last year my husband shore a sheep that was slightly fly blown in the neck region. As the rest of the flock were in the paddock just up behind the house, once shorn he put it out and followed behind it on foot, heading it in the right direction.

Between the paddock and the house we had recently put in new water tanks, these in a race way area and they had not yet been fenced off. The sheep decided to run in behind the tanks. Sheep being sheep (and suffering from three day madness due to just being shorn) got all confused and scared. My husband managed to corner it, straddled it and was holding its head with his left arm trying to direct it out from where it had cornered itself.

The sheep had other ideas, which as I have come to realise, sheep do. It’s a sheep thing.

The sheep decided to try and head the opposite way, my husband had a strong hold but that didn’t stop the sheep taking off in the opposite direction, taking my husbands arm with him. I heard a yell from outside, but as my husband didn’t come to the house I thought everything must be right.

He came into the house ten minutes later, cursing the sheep, telling me that the sheep had hurt his arm but he’d be right, he done this before and it’d right in a few weeks.

He went to shower. As he took off his shirt over his head the cry of pain that came from the bathroom was shocking. I ran in to make sure he was fine, he said he was but I knew he wasn’t.

We got in the car and drove to the nearest hospital. The doctor there checking it out and insisting we had to travel to Adelaide asap and get it looked at by a specialist. Hours and hours later, after much driving and waiting, we had a diagnosis. He had torn the bicep muscle off the arm down near to the elbow. He would require surgery and a lot of rest for the arm.

Now the time that this all happened we had 1500 sheep that we were maintenance feeding. My husband due to his injury and pending surgery was out of action for a few months. He had a good set of legs and one good arm, not much good for driving, let alone lifting and doing general farming jobs. This is where I stepped in and became friends with the Case Loader.

The sheep were being fed grain one day, hay the next.
The grain was fed out from a grain bin mounted on the back of the ’79 Land Cruiser. A wonderful car, but without power steering. Those first few days my arms were so sore, but they became used to it quickly and before I knew it I didn’t notice the heavy steering.

The grain bin had a drop down arm to which the grain would flow out through into the troughs set up in the paddocks. There were four paddocks, each set up in the same manner. My first go at lining it all up, feeder arm, grain flowing, driving forward- thinking I was going straight, was a disaster. I think I got more grain on the ground than in the actual troughs. I actually stopped and laughed out loud it was that funny. Lucky the sheep didn’t mind a bit of dirt mixed in with their grain.

By the second paddock I had it all sorted, had worked out the pace and steering and did a wonderful job. Something about oats though that makes them stick, so half way through the second trough I would have to -shut of the flow – jump out shovel the grain – get down start the flow and drive on again. Then it was back to re-fill the grain bin and finish the last two troughs.

I learnt how to use Augers and about the joy or shovelling grain from inside a flat bottomed silo, and now know why my husband curses those flat bottom silos!

On the second day the hay would be fed out. This is when I learnt how to drive the Case Loader. Three paddocks of the sheep would have a half bale, one a full bale. We had those rectangular bales, around 400-450kgs in weight.
I would take the loader to the hay shed, removing two bales at a time ( I eventually mastered three at a time). The hay would be placed ready for me to load one at a time onto the flat tray trailer which was hitched behind the Hilux.

When I first got in and drove the loader the swivel action in the centre threw me, but once I got used to that I was fine.
I quickly mastered picking up and placing down the bales. It was just a matter of a flick of the fork tilt either up or down a little to make sure they didn’t pull the hay back off the trailer when I reversed.

I must admit, I loved it. I loved being in control of a large machine, the fact I could do it easily. I secretly wished that people would pop in for a visit and see me doing it so I could hear them be impressed that I could!

The hay was then driven out to each paddock, the Hilux put in low gear and I would use a hay fork to push off hay sections as the car drove slowly along. I was pretty crap at the first half bale I did. Once again I just laughed at myself and tackled it a different way. I didn’t have the strength in my arms, so centred the handle of the hay fork at stomach height getting my legs into action as well to help with the pushing. This worked well.
I won’t tell you how long it took to push off that first bale, but the car almost hit the end of the quite large paddock by the time I finished. Oh well nothing like a bit of space around each hay section, the sheep weren’t crowded at least.

I thought that driving the ’79 land cruiser hurt my arms, but the hay pushing almost did me in. I knew I had no choice, so kept at it and the soreness only lasted that first week. I sure got strong!

That’s the story behind why I love the Case Loader. I love the feeling it gave me whilst driving it, and it is such a wonderful machine to drive too.

Goodbye Case loader, I hope your new owner enjoys you as much as I did.

Sale Day

has been and gone.
I woke Wednesday morning, after a terribly restless nights sleep. The nerves were all ready in action, the day had arrived.

My husband was long gone from bed, getting up at 5am to finish the last laps of placing his farming life in the front paddock. I could hear the 4 wheeler rushing around, back and forth, sounding almost as if time was running out.

One thing about my husband he is a perfectionist, especially when it came to his farm machinery. Everything was cleaned, serviced and neat as a pin when put out in that front paddock. This is how he is with all his machinery. Everything is cared for in the most amazing manner.
I believe that due to this care of his machinery, it made a huge difference on sale day.

I did the school bus run at 8am, cars were already coming down the long dusty drive even though the sale was still two hours away. My nervousness hit a new level, it finally kicking in that today was the day, this was real and I wasn’t in a dream. At the bus drop off point there was the sign – CLEARING SALE – pointing back towards where I had just come, another reality sign.

At 10am we went an stood at where the bidding was to begin. Our old red truck loaded up with smaller items on the tray, having been picked over for hours already. The auctioneer thanked everyone for coming, told them that this was one of the most well organised, best presented and well done clearing sales that they will have ever been at.

Then the bidding began.

My heart stopped for a second, this wasn’t real was it? One item gone, the next started, how quick it was happening. I turned and had to walk away as the tears were coming. I walked towards the sheds, running into my sister-in-laws, this being their original family home. I was met with tears from them. Together we all walked out into the paddock, escaping the sound of the auctioneer, his voice the reminder of why we were all here today.

We decided to go and see the old Vickers tractor, childhood memories abundant for my sister-in-laws. We stood there talking, them remembering playing for hours on it, how it had always been there in that same spot and now here it was about to be ripped from it’s home.

There’s a lot of people affected by the sale of our farm. Not only my own family, but the brothers, sisters, Aunts, Uncles, nieces, nephews and the list goes on. Then there is the community, the loss of children from the school, the loss of trade as yet another family leaves due to the drought. Can these small communities continue to survive if one by one families leave. Are we going to see new ghost towns cropping up in the future?

The bidding continued, the walk to the tractor helped a lot. The talking helped even more.

People crowded around, watching, listening, bidding. Oh and they bid! We can’t be sore at the prices we got, these wonderful people knew their stuff, knew they were getting lovingly cared for machines. I wonder if they knew that they were helping us so much with just a raise of their hands, each one helping to get us back, fight back, against the drought.

It didn’t take long to get to the big stuff, even though it was quite a few hours. Time seemed to fly, or perhaps it was just that my head was all over the place that time wasn’t registering. My nerves reached that peak again, knowing that this was the stuff that we really needed to sell to get us out of strife.
The first few big things went well, but when we got to the header and versatile, things stood still. Not a bid was recorded on either.
My heart sunk, the tears welled, the crowd moved on.

The bidding finally ended, we did really well, selling all but the two large machines. I have been reassured that they will sell, maybe not just now. I hope, I hope so much they do.

Anyone in need of a header or versatile, let me know. They are well cared for machines, better than new as they have our memories living within them.

Sheep and being 3.

We had to start selling our sheep a few months back. We sold them in groups, bits at a time, with still a few here to sell.

The first two groups of sheep were sold, a the truck turned up to pick them up.

3 year old son, his ears pricking up at the sound of a truck bustling down the dusty dry road to the farm, running to the window excitement in his voice – “Mum it’s a truck, there’s a truck coming”.

From behind the house yard gate he stood and watched, watched as they loaded the sheep, filling the top deck then down to the lower.

“Mum, where are the sheep going?”. I stop and wonder what to say, will he understand? I tell him we have to sell the sheep, that another man was taking them to his farm to look after them as we did not have any more feed for the sheep. He looks at me, the sadness crossing his face “He can’t take my sheep, they are my sheep and I am going to get them back.”

I swallow the lump that has grown in my throat not knowing what to say, I mean what can you say to a little one like him who has farming in his blood ?

I am dreading the day, the clearing sale day, when he sees all ‘his’ farm machinery being taken away.

I wish it had rained.

The sale of our lives.

As I sit here writing this my dear wonderful husband is outside driving back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

He’s not moving sheep or carting grain or any such thing, he is out there driving back and forth, putting his whole life – the last 28 years of work out in our front paddock.

It’s not his fault, nor mine nor anyone we know, it’s the bloody weather.

Two years running we’ve had failed crops, had to use our money to save our sheep to keep them fed, hoping and praying that it would soon rain and save us.

Our land was sold last October, all of it. The land that had taken years to acquire, blood sweat and tears. The clearing sale is on Wednesday, the reason why my husband is driving back and forth, back and forth. Piece by piece they are lined up waiting for the eager buyers trying to snatch up a bargain. Piece by piece parts of our lives are put on show.  Remember the truck bought back in 1980, the first Land Cruiser back in ’79, the new Header bought in ’03 – they’re all there with the rest of the machinery, lined up waiting silently for their new owners, ready to say farewell to the one who cared and looked after them so well.

We got a tease from the rain early last year, wonderful opening rains, tempting us to sow our crops – work those long long hours, slave to the tractor, the tractor he loves. I wonder if he knew it would be the last time he’d sow a crop? I wonder if he ever thought that it would come to this, that the world that he loves, the only world he has ever know would come to an end, all because of the bloody weather.

I can’t begin to imagine how my husband is feeling. I know I am numb, that the tears well in my eyes when I think of how it is all ending, how the farming life that I have grown to love is about to come to an abrupt end. I think of the smile in his eyes when he knew he’d be out on his tractor for weeks on end. The happiness in his voice when talking about his crops, the joy of gliding through them with the Header. He’d bounce out of bed at 4am eager, with a spring in his step.

They say farming is in your blood and I believe this to be so. Before I met my husband I would have laughed at the thought, but not now, not now knowing is pulses through his veins, the love of the land, the openness, the everyday coming and goings of being a farmer. Then an end to it all like that, no rain, no crops, no life. But still we go on.

Will our children suffer not growing up as farm kids? Will they remember the blue sky’s, the contrasting red earth, the joy or riding on dad’s lap as they go yet another round of the paddock in the header?

At shearing time, the smell of the shed, the laughter at dinner time when swapping yarns with shearers. Lying in the wool, sheep bleating, dogs barking the drone of the shears.

Our life continues, even though right now most of it is sitting out in our front paddock. Come Wednesday the new chapter begins. Through the tears and heartache we will struggle, fighting back the feelings of hopelessness, the total loss of what was ours. It will be a sad day, I know I will become more numb. I will stand and be strong for my husband as to me he is the one who is losing so much.

Just remember that we are the fortunate ones even though right now it doesn’t seem so, we are.

Love to you my dear husband x x x