A New Resolution

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Welcome to 2016, I hope it brings you peace and happiness.

When I started contemplating this blog, what to write about and then which words to use for my wish to you and yours for the year ahead, peace and happiness were the first two to arrive in my head. As is often the case with me, my mind wandered to contemplating why those two words? Why not health and happiness, or joy and prosperity, or everything you want?

I pondered this question whilst mowing the lawn this morning (hence the late blog) and smelling the freshly cut grass, feeling the light breeze on my face, soaking up my dose of Vitamin D and generally trying to enjoy the early morning experience, rather than bemoaning the job and thinking it was just another chore that needed to be done. Perhaps that’s why those words, peace and happiness, popped into my head. Maybe it’s a sign that my perspective on “things” needs to change and the words were a message to me and one which I should be heeding myself rather than spruiking them as inspirational thoughts to be passed on to you.

Maybe it’s all the distressing events in our world and the unfiltered and immediate reporting of them which, even though it’s at ‘arms-length’, seems to bring conflict and misery closer than we would otherwise personally experience.

Around the globe millions have never experienced a world where there is not some sort of large scale conflict, misery or loss, on almost a daily basis. Each one of them must yearn for peace and happiness that stems from not living in fear. Something most of us take for granted, if we’ve ever thought about it at all.

Being able to grow a lawn to mow has just taken on a whole new meaning. The more I mull these thoughts over, the more I realise that even my earlier words about enjoying the experience were selfish ones.

I can’t say this is going to be a life-changing moment for me and I am too old to become a crusader for world peace, but maybe the proverbial inner peace and happiness is projectable. You know, like the concept of “paying it forward” (did you know there is a Pay it Forward Day – it’s 28th April 2016, see info here). I wonder if all my years of volunteering count.

If you’re starting to ask yourself “what is the point is to this story”? I have to say there really isn’t one, other than to allow my wild thoughts to escape onto a page and bore those of you unlucky enough to be reading it. I guess all I can do is challenge myself and you, to put thoughts and words into action by being less self-absorbed (says she who has spent the morning exploring her own thoughts!), start appreciating what’s really important and then actually do something to help another person experience them.

As Ronald Reagan said “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”

Who’s on your ‘to-do’ list?

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Goodbye Poppet

Many tributes and expressions of grief have flooded various media for actor and comedian extraordinaire, Robin Williams, since the news broke yesterday of his tragic death by suicide.  On behalf of the CWA we express our condolences to his family.

I would like to add our voice to the calls for those suffering depression, anxiety, or any form of undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, to please, please, please seek help, even if it is just to talk to your spouse/partner/friend/neighbour. There are many organisations offering support and help online, through helplines and face to face as well as some who offer mobile units that traverse rural and remote centres.

CWA has tried for many years to raise awareness of these issues and this year we have partnered with WorkCover to promote their Alive and Well Campaign which includes advice and support on depression and mental health. We are proud to be involved in this initiative to help farmers stay safe by sharing information, stories and tips.

It is terribly sad that another person has lost their battle with these often hidden and debilitating illnesses and it is incumbent on each of us to look out for one another.

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How Hungry Are You?

Magic Mixing Machine

Magic Mixing Machine

In 2002/3, which was when we last had to drought feed and when all the children were still away at boarding school, I was the 2IC (sounds better than gofer and general dog’s body) on the farm, including the daily feed run. Back then we used a modified A-84 header bin as our feed cart and it was my job to stand on the opposite side of the trough and open and close the chute, whilst trying to make sure I didn’t asphyxiate myself on grain dust or get barrelled by a hungry beast. Who needs bungy jumping for an adrenalin rush! We used our old tipper (no brakes) to deliver the hay bales and an empty 1000ltr chemical shuttle to deliver molafos (a molasses based liquid feed) into roller lick drums. All separate trips to different paddocks on different days whilst also checking to make sure stock hadn’t got bogged in a boredrain (water channel) and needed rescuing, or worse.

At the time we had, what we thought, was more than enough feed on hand in case we encountered a dry spell. After all we hadn’t had to hand feed stock since the ’65 drought, but you never know…. so through various means, including the offer of irrigated wheat stubble from Jeff’s best mate and some bartering, we were able to increase our stores of hay, as well as those of our neighbours who participated in the operation of harvesting, bailing and carting, hence the barter reference.

Since then we have capped and piped the boredrains and instigated (at our own expense) some drought preparedness measures which, like most farmers, puts us way ahead of current government solutions and invested in a feed mixer, roller mill (for cracking/crushing grain if necessary) and increased the amount of storage and feed we retain. The mixer not only combines all the necessary ingredients to produce a loose muesli bar type concoction that the stock just love, its chute magically lowers/opens from the tractor cab!

Magic Mixing Machine 2

As both our boys are now home and seeking to oust me from my 2IC spot, as well as the time I spend away from home in my role as State President, I have been a bit sheltered from the daily rituals and realities of the farm, especially drought feeding. At present though they are both away for several days, earning some off-farm income, so Jeff asked if I could “run the gauntlet” for him on the daily feed run.

I was, at first, a little perplexed because we have the whizz bang ‘triple m’ (magic mixing machine) and wondered why I would need to leave the comfy air-conditioned space I had become accustomed to now that we have “staff”… Unbeknownst to me, because of my now ‘cushy’ lifestyle, the cattle love their muesli so much they want to make sure they have a space at the trough (or belt), even if that means being run over by the tractor and the “m & m” machine!! So “running the gauntlet” involves driving our All Terrain Vehicle, fully loaded with barking dogs, in front of the tractor, to push the stock out of the way. Not difficult, bit dusty and noisy, but definitely safer (provided I keep a safe distance in front of the tractor) and easier than the last time my services where required for such a task. We also now feed everything in one place; sacrificing one paddock rather than all.

The Gauntlet Runner crew - Chip, Gemma (hiding), Sarge and Marv

The Gauntlet Runner crew – Chip, Gemma (hiding), Sarge and Marv

Please don’t think I am trivialising drought, being flippant or a “princess”, sometimes the only way to survive is to look for a positive. I also acknowledge that we are luckier than many with our reliable access to water and because we have not had to feed for anywhere near the amount of time that some have. But I also remember what it’s like to arrive in the paddock with a hot westerly blowing and the temperature already heading for 40°C, carrying feed for hungry cows who have decided that, to survive themselves, they have to abandon their young calves. There is nothing on this earth more demoralizing, for a farmer, than watching his stock suffer and try as he might, still be helpless to do anything.

Most disasters these days, no matter where in the world they occur, generate almost 24/7 media coverage with every outlet competing for the most sensational story and every person with a mobile device constantly uploading photos or video footage to social media.

Slow, insidious drought, affecting those of us with little voting power but which could ultimately affect millions, doesn’t seem to rate more than a 3 minute grab as a sob story. Angelina Jolie’s visit to Luna Park seems to be more important than what’s happening in outback Australia. Wonder if she could be persuaded to make a movie about drought…..

True to form though (and to try and end on a positive note) Aussies are good at helping each other, especially when there is no bureaucracy involved. Have a look at https://www.facebook.com/voiceofthebush to increase your awareness or share a story and http://www.thirstycow.org/ if you think you can help, or if you need it.

Breaky's Up

Breaky’s Up