Another very chilled weekend! I had a motorbike lesson with Peter on Saturday. He laid out cones (witch’s hats as they’re called over here) so that I could practice turning and weaving – definitely not a strong point! Then I took the bike on a drive out to the mailbox and back. It doesn’t sound like much, but when the mailbox is 5km away, it’s actually a substantial drive. I still feel very nervous on the bike and find it so scary going downhill. We’ve left the bike down at the shearing shed with me now so that I can practice whenever I want.
Finished off my book and chilled out with Eric on Sunday. I brought him into the caravan, and he had a little sleep and then snuggled up next to me for a bit. Took the bike out again to the mailbox and back.
Spent all day on the tractor again today but loved it. Because there is quite a lot of dead grass on the land, occasionally the grass would build up under the scarifier which then starts to drag all the soil below, so you have to turn the tractor out in a big circle and lift the machine to let the build-up out before coming back around to follow the line. I just listened to podcasts and music all day, feeling so much better than yesterday.
I wasn’t feeling too good this morning, had terrible anxiety for some reason so called Peter and asked if I could come in a little later. Managed to go back to sleep for a couple of hours and felt a little better after that. I went up to the house to paint a couple of new eaves that had been put in out the back of the house. I was quite happy to be working on my own as I wasn’t really up to talking to anyone to be honest. I also painted the roof over the carport where the old chimney had been removed.
Next I had to clean out the combine. First, I had to scoop out all the unused seed and fertiliser and then vacuum the last bits and the dust.
In the afternoon I was back doing tractor work, but on this nice tractor this time! I really enjoyed driving around listening to my music, it chilled me out a lot. Afterwards, Peter and I drove into Wellington to do a food shop. Dom, the Canadian guy from the farm next door came over for a BBQ as he is going back to Canada at the weekend.
My first job today was to go and clean out the water trough in the sheep’s paddock. I drained all the water out and then used a paint scraper to scrape all the algae from the sides of the trough and a shovel to scoop out any dirt left over at the bottom before refilling. When I finished, I turned around to go back to the buggy and noticed a sheep lying on the ground. When I got closer, I could see that it had holes in it and had an eye missing but the poor thing was still breathing! I called Peter to come and put it down straight away. Apparently, it was the crows that had done this! And yes... this was the injured sheep from earlier in the week. How can an animal have such an unfortunate last few days alive? At least it’s finally in sheep heaven now.
Later, Shaun and I went to go and get the harrow machine, which is a huge machine used to prepare the ground for seeding. Since it hadn’t been used in a while, one of the tyres was flat so we had to pump it up before we could move it.
Then we went to move the cattle to a new paddock. Peter has always told me that the trick with cattle is not to put too much pressure on them. However, Shaun did the opposite! Using the buggy and the dogs, he drove around the cattle to try and gather them into one mob, however the cattle were being quite stubborn. Shawn we driving pretty aggressively getting right up close to the cattle, so close that at one point he actually clipped the back legs of one and it kicked the buggy, damaging the light on the front. I was happy to get back to the shed to be honest as it was pretty stressful.
This morning when I let Tom off, he shot off around the corner and next thing I knew a sheep came flying around the corner being chased by Tom! I shouted at Tom to stop but he carried on chasing it and it ran headfirst into a fence and got all tangled up. I presumed that one of the sheep from yesterday must have jumped the fence and not been taken back to the paddock.
I called Peter and he came to help me untangle it from the fence and took it back to the paddock. It was only when he got it out of the buggy that he realised it was the injured sheep from yesterday! As if it needed any further injury.
We spent another couple of hours picking up rocks from the paddock using the tractor and then I finished off the painting in the shed.
This morning we were doing sheep work again. We moved all the sheep from the paddock into the yards where we had to draft out the males. When we got to the paddock, we found one sheep standing totally on its own – not usual behaviour – and when we drove closer it didn’t move either. We realised that this was the sheep that had headbutted the gate during the shearing and obviously hasn’t made a recovery. We left it in the paddock to come and get later once the rest of the sheep work had been completed.
Shaun and I went to go and rescue the injured sheep and bring it back to the yard. Peter said that we would most likely put it down tomorrow, so I sat with it for a while and stroked it to give it some love.
The rest of the afternoon I went around a lit the bonfires of the stacks we’d made last week. Once the fire has been burning for a while, you have to go back and shovel the ends back into the fire to make sure that everything burns.
The last job of the day was to pick up rocks in the paddock which is next to be scarified. This time however, I was driving the tractor along slowly, while Peter and Shaun threw the rocks into the bucket.
The weather was lovely on Saturday, so I took Tom on a walk down to the river. We sat on a rock by the river and watched the kangaroos – until Tom chased them away.
Went for a BBQ dinner at the Curry’s farm in the evening.
Spent the rest of the weekend chilling out reading a new book called Vagabonding about the psychology of why people travel long term.
This morning we had to go and move a cow that had escaped from the paddock back to where it should be. I jumped on the back of the motorbike with Peter and we drove up the laneway to find it. It was a stubborn old thing! I jumped off the bike to walk behind it to try and get it to walk back down the laneway whilst Peter rode on the bike. I actually find the cows pretty scary to be on foot around, since sometimes they stop and look straight at you as if they’re going to charge. Eventually we got it back down the laneway and into its paddock, but it took some time!
Went back to my painting in the shed for a bit. Now that the primer had dried, I started with the topcoat on the frames.
The rest of the afternoon Peter and I took the chainsaw to collect fallen branches and stack them into piles ready to be burned.
The weather was still pretty stormy today, so we brought the red tractor into the shed to take one of the hydraulic rams off which has a leak and needs to be taken to town to be fixed. We then sprayed the tractor with de-greaser using the compressor and used a paint scraper to scrape off all the grease build-ups.
The rest of the day I spent prepping and priming the door frames for the two doors in the shed.
Peter was away today at a funeral, so Sean and I were on our own. We took the welder and some tools down to the sheep yard to do repairs. It’s surprising how many fences and gates were damaged during the shearing (sheep have a tendency to headbutt things!). This took up most of the morning. When we got back to the shed, I fixed the handbrake in the buggy which Eric had chewed meaning the button was getting stuck. I used a file and a Stanley to flatten the chewed plastic.
After lunch I went up to help Marilyn plant the big pots that we waterproofed yesterday. We planted 3 smalls trees in each pot. A big storm came in late afternoon, so we signed off for the day. Because of the bug in water incident yesterday, I was a bit hesitant to drink the water straight from the tap again, so I took the Landcruiser in to town to buy a water filter. I hadn’t realised quite how bad the storm was going to be until I was on the highway! The rain was so intense and there were huge strikes of lightning. Made it back safe and sound though – and I love my new water filter <3.
After a week of intense tractor driving, it was a nice change to be doing something different this week. With not much farming work to be done, Peter needed me to clean the car since he's going to a funeral. I washed and polished the outside and gave it a proper clean out on the inside too. Since we've finished with the seeding for the timbering, I the had to clean out the seeder ready for it to be put away until next time. First I scooped out as much as possible, then finished off by hoovering any remaining seeds and checking that there were not clogs in the tubes. After lunch I helped Marilyn up at the house with some new plant pots she'd bought for the front drive. I painted the interior with asphalt to waterproof them. I also wood-stained the front door which had faded and hadn't been stained for a few years. When I got back to the caravan, I noticed that in the water bottle that I’d been drinking out of all day, there was a strange wormy thing swimming round in there! All part of drinking rainwater I suppose...!!
Got the 07:19 train back to Orange and did a food shop in Aldi when I arrived waiting for Marilyn to pick me up. When we got back to the farm, the caravan has been moved back down to the shearing shed where I originally was until the water stopped running. Since that's now been fixed, and to give me more privacy/take precautions against the virus, that's where I'll be staying now. To keep me company we moved one of the working dogs, Tom, down in his kennel to live with my by the caravan.
When I got to Sydney last night I went by my work to surprise them as they didn't know I was coming down for the weekend. Despite only being able to have 10 patrons at a time, it was so nice to see customers outside again and there was actually a bit of a queue for a seat. I stayed for a couple of cocktails before heading home. Went for breakfast out at a cafe for the first time in more than 2 months which was amazing. And my god, have I missed proper coffee!!! Got a coffee and a chocolate croissant from one of my favourite cafes in Vaclouse and headed to the hill to sit and enjoy the views of the city. Met my new flatmates for the first time also, two English girls, and cooked a Sunday roast for us. Definitely a well needed break from farm life.
Finally a new job! In the paddock that needs to be ploughed next, there are lots of fallen branches from trees where there have been storms. We went round with the chainsaw where Peter cut through the big branches whilst I made a pile of all the branches ready to be burned. Once we’d collected all the wood, I set light to the fire. It burned so much quicker than I thought it would! As a bonus for the work I’d done this week, and because there wasn’t much going on on the farm this weekend, Peter suggested that I go down to Sydney for the weekend and so Marilyn booked me a train and dropped me down at Orange station in the afternoon.
Finally finished off the big paddock and moved around the gully to the other, smaller paddock. This paddock is much more intricate, it’s a strange shape and has lots of obstacles in, making it harder to navigate. I started off feeling like I was doing a good job but towards the end of the afternoon I was getting tired and hadn’t had any water all day. I hit into a tree trunk with the seeder which totally caught me off guard and sort of threw my concentration. I then took a wrong turn and felt like everything started going to shit. I had to stop the tractor and take 5 mins just to calm down and compose myself. I got back on and was determined to finish this job once and for all. I finished around 4pm and Peter then went around and finished off the corners whilst I… surprise surpise, picked up rocks. Celebrated finishing the job with a beer at the end of the day. Don’t want to see that tractor for a while now haha!
Another 8 hours on the tractor today, getting closer to the end of the paddock though. Once you get towards the middle, the corners get too tight for the tractor so you have to cut out the corners which then get covered at the end by doing diagonal laps up and down. Obviously the closer to the centre you get, the shorter the laps get so you don’t have to get off and check the seed each lap, you can do a few laps before needing to check. At 16:30 I ran out of seed so Peter said to just park up and I'll finish it off tomorrow. I assumed that I'd be done for the day as there was only half an hour left until we usually finish, but Peter asked if I wanted to pick up rocks for half an hour - the answer was no. Just ready to finish this job now – I miss the new tractor with air con and Bluetooth.
In the morning, I realised that not only had I lost my phone, but I’d also managed to lose my headphones somehow last night. Terrible Monday by all accounts! Went down to the shed where Peter told me that Jack from the other farm was on his way with a metal detector to try and find my phone. I headed down to the paddock with a rake to start looking in the meantime. When I got out the buggy where we’d marked out as the start of the section, I took a few steps in the other direction just to double check when there it was on the soil!! I couldn’t believe it! After all that stress yesterday I had taken about 5 seconds to find – I can’t even tell you how relieved I was. I went straight back up to the shed to tell Peter and to put it on charge. Luckily it’s waterproof so survived the night with no damage! The rest of the day I was back on the tractor (with my phone safely in a zip pocket) but with no music. 8 hours driving with only the sound of the tractor is pretty boring to be honest. I was absolutely covered in dust at the end of the day and still having covered only about half of one paddock.
Today was the start of seeding two large paddocks – about 400 acres. I was on the old tractor which doesn’t have a cabin so you’re totally out in the open. On a nice day you’d think this would be quite pleasant, but the tractor churns up the ground as you drive so there is so much dust. I hadn’t driven this tractor for a while so I’d forgotten how difficult it was to do tight corners without power steering. This paddock that I’m seeding will be there for 10 years with the crop that I’m sewing, so it’s vital that none of the country is missed with the seeder, or there’ll be gaps in the crop for the next 10 years! You basically drive the tractor around the edge of the paddock, pulling the seeder behind and a roller which helps bed the seed into the ground. Once you;ve done one lap, you have to line the seeder up with the line of the last lap to make sure that none of the country is missed. This is usually fairly easy as you can line the back wheel up with the wheel mark from the previous lap, however we are using a smaller roller on the back so we’ve had to close off two of the seeding tubes meaning the line was much harder to follow. I spent the whole day driving around the paddock. Every lap I had to get off and check my seed levels, evening out the seed in the compartments and topping up whenever necessary.
At about 16:30 I checked the seed and knew I didn’t have enough for a full lap but thought I’d do as much as I could with the seed I had. I got about ¼ of the way around and stopped to check the seed. It’s at this point that I realised I didn’t have my phone anymore!! I knew that I had it before I’d set off so I knew it had to be somewhere between the start of the paddock and where I was now. I walked back following the tractor marks but couldn’t see it anywhere. This is when I started to panic. I jumped in the buggy and did a couple of laps up and down but still couldn’t see it. I had to wait for Peter and Sean to come back in order to tell them I’d lost it. Naturally you’d think that you could just call it, or use find my iphone to track it – this would have worked if my phone hadn’t been on 1% battery and already died. We all did another walk up and down of the section but still couldn’t see it. We then lost the sun as it set, making it impossible to keep searching. I had to go back to the caravan knowing that my phone was out in the paddock somewhere. I used the computer in the house to check my insurance to make sure it was covered and thankfully it was, but Peter was sure that we’d find it in the morning.
Today was stressful. It was the first time that I got really frustrated with Peter and how he was doing things. I think maybe he was just having a bad day, but lots of avoidable things happened which ended up causing more work. We had to fill up the big combine with the seed and fertiliser that we loaded into the truck the other day. There are two tubes where the seed is pumped out by a motor. The truck needs to be in-line with the centre of each seed compartment in order for the tubes to reach and distribute the seed evenly into the combine. Peter asked me to guide him in the truck and tell him when to stop once he was halfway along. Before he got in the truck, I suggested that we move one row of the harrows (spikey metals things which drag behind the combine to help bed the seed) out of the way as they weren’t in-line with the others – my theory being that the truck would end up running over them if they weren’t in a straight line. Peter said it would be fine and so jumped in the truck. I was directing him to stop once he got half way, except he wasn’t looking in the mirror and so drove to far past the middle. When he got out I told him he needed to go back a bit, but he just turned the motor on to pump the seed out. As expected, this meant that the tubes couldn’t reach far enough to distribute evenly so we then had to shift all of the seed by hand down to the other end (a lot more effort than just moving the truck backwards a bit). Once that side was done, he started moving along to the second half of the combine, but I could see that the truck was going to hit the harrow so I shouted and waved for him to stop but again he wasn’t looking in the mirror and so the truck went over the harrow puncturing one of the huge tyres on the truck. Peter was furious as the tyres are relatively new and very expensive. I just wanted to shout, “I TOLD YOU SO!!”. Once we had finally filled the combine with seed, I was feeling stressed and ready to do something else... something other than picking up rocks. This is definitely my least favourite job on the farm. I find it demoralising as you can’t see any progress since there are endless rocks in the paddock. He told me to just dump them on a rock pile when I was done. When I was halfway through emptying the rocks on a pile, Peter then tells me that he wants them on a different pile. I could have cried with frustration. Luckily that was the last of our jobs for the day and I went home to chill out for the evening.
I was on my own today as Peter had to go to Canberra to pick up a set of draws for Marilyns art room. He gave me a couple of jobs to do which I knew wouldn’t take too long, so I started by cleaning the working dogs’ kennel area as it’s been looking pretty grubby for a while and I’ve been wanting to sort it out. I scooped up all their poop and cleaned both the water troughs out which were actually disgusting. I feel sorry for those poor doggos, I know their used to living outside but I hate that they spend most of the time on a chain.
Next I washed the Yamaha buggy as it needs to go for a service. It’s so much harder to clean than a car! But I think it scrubbed up nice!
I spent most of the afternoon fixing fencing all the way from the house down to the shearing shed and back up the other side. Whilst I was out of the buggy, Eric chewed the cord on the radio completely in half! Peter was worried that it had got wet the other day but I don’t think that matters anymore hahahah!
Next I went down to the shearing shed and properly swept it out now that its been a few days since we finished the shearing.
Because there’s no signal down at the shearing shed, once I’d finished I headed back to the caravan assuming I was finished for the day.. Took my shoes off and a text came through asking me to clean the motorbike – back down to the shed for me! It didn’t take long though and I celebrated with a beer.
Started off the day by backlining the remaining lambs that we left yesterday. As expected they were even jumpier than the sheep (although not as powerful so easier to tackle down). Peter asked me to move the rams up to the top paddock so I jumped in the buggy and slowly followed behind them guiding them to the right paddock.
Because of the rain last week, the ground in two of the paddocks is almost ready to be seeded ready for cropping. In order to fill the big combine, we had to fill a big machine on top of a truck with seed and fertiliser. We used the forks on the tractor to move 2 x 1000kg sacks filled with seed and fertiliser onto a truck to take up to the machine.
Once up there, we used the forks again to lift each sack above the truck where Peter then opened the bottom of the sack to release the seed.
I did all my washing but it was too late to hang anything out so my caravan is currently filled with washing hanging from every surface possible .
Had to be back down at the shearing shed for 7am again for a long and busy day! The shearers turned up at 7:30 and got set up. With 400 sheep to be shorn, the day was pretty non-stop. I started off helping the shed hands will the wool sorting. It’s so weird when you touch the wool as it’s still warm from being on the sheep, it also has an oily feel to it because of the lanolin which is supposedly meant to be good for your skin – my skin obviously was irritated by it though. My hands were all red and stingy!
There were different bags around the room where different bits of the wool had to be put depending on its quality. Once the bags were getting full, we used a wool presser to compress the wool down. Once the bags were totally full, they were sealed and screen-printed with the necessary logos and information.
Once a bunch of sheep had been shorn, we went down to the yards to sort them for backlining. The treatment is bright blue so that you can see if you’ve missed any of them. Again, my job was to grab the sheep who tried to make a break for it (which was a lot). Sheep definitely aren’t just these cute fluffy animals – they are mental!
We changed between helping out in the shed and then repeating the backlining process throughout the day. Towards the end of the day we had to backline the rams – I was so nervous and dreading it all day. Peter then told me that they had all been tranquilised in order to be shorn, so they actually turned out to be the easiest group out of all of them!
The lambs were last to be shorn and I actually had a go at shearing a little bit on one of them. Can’t say I was a natural! I was too scared of cutting the sheep with the shears that I wasn’t getting close enough to the skin. I passed the shears back very quickly haha, but at least I tried.
We left the backlining of the lambs for tomorrow as we were exhausted by 6pm! Peter, Steve (the wool classer) and I stayed down the shed once the shearers had left for a beer which was nice.
Today and yesterday the rain finally stopped, so we needed to finish treating the shorn sheep with lice treatment. Since the sheep need to be dry to do this, we put the rest of the shorn sheep into the yards ready to come back and treat them later on once they’ve dried out. We noticed that all of the unshorn sheep that we let out into the paddock yesterday had disappeared. They managed to get through a fence into a paddock with the cattle. We had to go and separate them and bring the sheep back into the yards ready to be put in the shed for tomorrow.
Once we’d got all the sheep back, we went along the broken fence and fixed all the gaps and broken posts.
After lunch, the sheep in the yards were dry and ready to be treated. We had to push as many as possible into a narrow section called the run so that they couldn’t move about too much. Peter then went along with a spray gun spraying 3 lines of treatment down their backs whilst I had to try and stop any sheep from jumping the fence… harder than it sounds! There were sheep flying everywhere. I didn’t really know what to do when the first one jumped, but after a couple I was a pro at tackling sheep back into the run. Once we’d back-lined all the shorn sheep, we put all of the unshorn sheep into the shed ready for the morning.
SATURDAY - So the dog bite has swollen up pretty big today and is very bruised. Because my last tetanus booster was about 4/5 years ago, I thought it was best to go and get another one since dog bites can get easily infected. I drove down to Molong hospital which is about 25 mins away. I was seen straight away by the doctor and was given a tetanus shot and a course of antibiotics for 5 days.
SUNDAY - Today we drove over to John Curry's farm (one of Petes friends who lives nearby). He has 15,000 acres of land and breads cattle. We had to drive around the farm and check the land to make sure there was enough crop for the cattle to feed on. On the hills there were hundreds of Kangaroos!! We saw a group of 50+ all jumping together, it was amazing. When we were driving back, a massive one jumped right past the front of the car so we got to see it up close. We stopped for coffee in the farm house and met his son Jack and their dog Snowy. John was showing us around as he's been doing renovations on the house.
This morning we went down to the shearing shed to try and sort out the mud. I managed to dig a small trench that allowed the water to flow out and we pinned the big doors open to let the sun dry out the ground.
Peter then showed me how to properly fix fencing and we went along from one end of the paddock to the other fixing all of the gaps that had been pulled down or broken entirely.
We finished fairly early and Ellen from the farm next door invited me over there for pizza. The have a woodfire pizza oven in their back garden so we had homemade pizza. Towards the end of the night I was stroking their dog Barney when he suddenly lashed out and bit my lip. I thought he’d just head-butted me at first but when I looked in the mirror I realised he’d broken the skin.
There was a huge storm in the night last night which meant I did not sleep well at all and had to be down at the shearing shed at 7am for a very busy day – or so we thought!
When we got down to the shed, I looked at the sheep under the shed and noticed that the ground looked very wet and muddy. I pointed this out to Peter and he thought that only the sheep at the edges had got muddy, however I could see that the water was all the way under the shed and that the problem was far worse than we’d imagined. Luckily, the sheep up the top were fine so the shearing begun anyway.
It was so interesting seeing how the shearers work. According to research, shearing sheep puts more stress on the body than any other job! Once the sheep had been shorn, the wool is laid out as one big coat on a wooden table with rollers on. The rollers allow for the shorter bits of wool (called second cuts), where the shearer has had to go over the same area twice, to fall through the gaps. The edged of the coat which is all dirty is then removed (skirting) and the coat is classed by a wool classer. They basically test the strength of the wool by pulling on a strand. If the wool breaks then the wool is of lesser quality. The wool classer decides which pile to put the wool on as each category is worth different amounts of money. Even the second cuts that fall through the gaps, and the dirty edges that we remove are all sorted and put in a pressing machine that compresses the wool into big material bags.
Once all the sheep in the top section had been shorn, Peter went down with a shearer to assess how wet the rest of the sheep were. It was then that we discovered that a pipe to the water tank on the roof had been blocked and so all of the rainwater had been pouring down under the shed, rather than into the tank. All of the sheep were wet and muddy and could not be shorn. We had to call off the shearing as a half day and postpone until the sheep had dried out again.
We spent the rest of the afternoon backlining the sheep with lice treatment. The shorn sheep we kept in the shed overnight, so they don’t get too cold.
There wasn't much work to do on the farm today except finishing tidying up the shearing shed. I fully faced my spider fears today as, to my horror, my job was to clear all the cobwebs from the shed to freshen it up. At first Peter suggest using a dust pan and brush, but there was no way my hands were going that close to those webs, so I used a broom to attack the webs. I actually managed quite well (just the occasional scream).I think it scrubbed up pretty well if I say so myself!
I spent the rest of the morning having a clean of my caravan and did my washing. After lunch Marilyn drove us in to Molong to get some groceries. The town is so small that there is only a Spar (which was a lot more expensive than my Aldi shop last week). Hopefully next week we can go into Orange again as I can't afford to shop in there every week! I wanted to treat myself to a nice coffee for the ride home, but the only cafe in the town was closed.
Came back, unpacked my groceries, and treated myself to a glass of red whilst I cook Spag Bol for tea!
I woke up at 5:55 and could see out the window that the sunrise was going to be amazing, so I got up and headed out with my camera. I set up my phone to do a time-lapse and used my camera to take pictures. It was amazing, there was a really low fog under the trees that slowly swept away as the sun rose above the hills making it look quite eerie. Went down to the shed at 8am where I watched Peter change a tyre on one of his vintage bikes. It seems super complex – wouldn’t want to be doing that on the side of a road!
Since sheep shearing starts on Thursday, we went down to the shearing shed to start prepping it. As it’s not been used in the best part of 12 months it needed a good clean out. We used the leaf blower to blow most of the dust and old bits of wool out, then gave it a good sweep and mop. It’s important for it to be as clean as possible so that the wool stays clean. Whilst we finished off, Sean (who works on the farm 2 days a week) went to go and bring the sheep down to the yards as we needed to treat them later for flies.
Watching the dogs round up the sheep was so fascinating; they were much more effective than we were yesterday!
Now that the sun had been out for a bit and dried out the calves, we headed down to the cattle yards where we were going to treat the cattle for flies (this is called drenching). We had to bring around 10 calves into the central pen where we could then pass them through one by one into a single-file section with gates at either end and scales set up in the centre to calculate the correct dose of treatment to give them. We had to open the front gate to let one calf in, take its weight on the scales and then spray the treatment along their backs (this is called backlining). Since the cattle get agitated and scared, they can quite often kick and try to turn around in the pen. It’s important not to get your arm trapped between the fence and the calf otherwise it can break your arm if they turn back or lash out.
We recorded all of their weights, so that next time we can see how much weight they have put on to make sure they are feeding enough.
After we’d finished treating the cattle, it was time to do the sheep. We used a similar gated area as with the cattle, except the fences were a lot lower to allow us to climb into the pens to grab the sheep that needed treating. Turns out the fences are so low that the sheep are also able to jump them, as I found out pretty quickly! When the sheep get flies, their wool goes black around their bums on the females, and also around their horns on the rams. In order to treat it, you have to get the sheep onto its back and then carefully cut their wool away with shears. Where the flies have laid their eggs in the wool, the larvae feed off the sheep’s’ flesh, and if left untreated, can eventually kill the sheep. It was really horrible to see how many maggots there were living on the sheep – I can only imagine how uncomfortable that must be for them. Once the wool has been removed, we poured a natural chemical over the affected area to kill any remaining larvae.
There shouldn't be any lambs until July, however when we moved the sheep yesterday we spotted one little lamb among them! We got the lamb out to mark its ear and I got to cuddle it for a little bit. He was sooo cute!!! This whole process took quite a while since there were 526 sheep (or there about – it was a little hard to count them when they were flying over fences left right and centre!).
After this, I went to go and fix some fencing and clean out the water trough with Sean as the cattle had knocked a few posts down near the shearing shed. Once the fence was fixed, we could let the sheep out of the yards into the paddock so that they’re close by for the shearing on Thursday.
The final job of the day was to feed the calves, after which I was knackered! A very big day! Peter and I celebrated with a couple of beers in the bike shed, exchanging travel stories. He has so many amazing stories of all the places he’s been. In his shed, all of the walls are filled with number plates from all the different countries he’s been to on his bike.
I wasn’t sure if I was meant to be working today or not so I got up anyway, made myself a nice breakfast as a Sunday treat, and headed down to the shed. We went to feed the calves again and then we went to move the sheep from one of the far paddocks up to near the house. The sheep were actually pretty difficult to move since we didn’t have Jess the border collie with us. I was on the Yamaha, and Peter was on a motor bike. We drove around the outside on opposite sides and then went around the back of the herd and tried to edge them towards the gate. The problem is that if one sheep darts in the wrong direction, the rest of them follow! With 500 or so sheep this is a bit of a nightmare. We eventually got them out of the gate and slowly creeped up behind them to keep them going down the track.
I felt so exhausted by lunchtime for some reason, so I had a little snooze after lunch. At around 3pm I went down to get the hay for the calves again, this time I used the forks on the tractor on my own. When we came back, Peter gave me my first lesson on a motorbike. I was pretty rigid and nervous at first as there was a lot of info to take in with changing gears etc, but I soon got the hang of it and felt pretty comfortable. It helps having a teacher that has driven around most of the world on a motorbike and has taught hundreds of people. I went up and down the main path a few times and practiced some turns (not too confident at this). Next time Peter is going to set up a little course for me with some cones so that I can practice turning. Afterwards, Peter showed me his book collection about the bike shed. He leant me a book to read about Australian livestock breeds and a magazine about the world’s best adventurers.
When I got back to the caravan, Marilyn had baked me a fresh loaf of bread straight out the oven! Such a treat!
Having a very early night tonight so that I don’t feel as tired tomorrow.
Being a farm, the weekend doesn’t mean that work stops, although I did have a later start and only a few duties to do. First, we started off by tipping a trailer that Peter had brought back with stuff from Sydney for storage. I put my Crewsaders skills to work and jumped on the back of the truck. We put everything into a large container by the shed. It was then time to feed the calves again – love seeing their cute little faces every day. That was me done for the day so I took the opportunity to soak up the sun whilst it’s still here and laid in the garden for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening, Dom, a Canadian guy who worked on the farm last year, came over to the farm for a couple of beers down at the shed with Peter. He actually wanted to return to the farm this year, but I beat him to it – woops!
Today I upgraded to driving the big boy tractor! In comparison to the first one I drove, this one had all the mod-cons: power-steering for starters, aircon and radio – luxury! The machinery that we pulled on the back today was called a scarifier which helps prepare the seed bed and also kills weeds at the same time. I found it much easier today, I was more confident on the route I needed to take to keep the lines as straight as possible and also found it much easier to keep the corners tight and leave enough space for Peter to go over and finish the corners (he said I did really well).
It took about 2.5 hours to finish off scarifying the paddock, after which I went to go and feed the calves again. I was much more confident with the trailer today, I managed to back into the yard so that it was easier to reach the trailer. It also helped that all of the cattle have now been moved away from their babies to a different paddock.
The next job was to swap the batteries over from one tractor to another in order to move it out of the way to reach the hay for the calves. I got to drive the tractor with the forks on to take a bale of hay down to the calves. Peter showed me how to drop the bale over the fence into the pen without squishing any of the calves (each bale weights 600kg so you wouldn’t want the falling on you!). When we got back, Peter asked me to back the tractor back into the shed – “just like reversing your car” he said. I was panicking at first as it’s a very tight gap and the tractor seemed to move very quickly in the gear I was set up in. Peter then showed me how to change down to 1st gear which made it much easier to control and I got it in no problem.
When we got back to the house, we had a beer in the evening sun with Marilyn.
Today Peter had to go into Orange so I was left to feed the calves on my own this morning. Having only pulled a trailer for the first time yesterday I was a little apprehensive to do this job on my own. I got down to the cattle yards where I had to drive through all the cattle to get to the troughs to put the feed out. As soon as I drove in the gate I had all the cattle following the trailer trying to get a snack out of the back. Once I’d parked up they all gathered around the trailer which made it really difficult for me to actually shovel the feed into the calves pen. Every time I went back to the trailer with the shovel I had to try and move the cattle out of the way to get the next scoop!
Once I’d finished putting the feed out I decided to drop the trailer back to the shed so that all of the cotton seed wasn’t eaten by the cattle whilst I did my next job. I jumped in the Yamaha and headed back down to the cattle yards to clean out the water trough. The first job is to turn the tap off which involves sticking your arm into a spider infested, muddy, poopy tank at the back of the trough – nice! Then you have to unscrew the bung at the front to let all the water out. I used a broom to sweep must of the muck out and shovel to get the dregs at the end. Once it was all clean, I put the bung back in and turned the tap back on. This was a surprisingly satisfying job, except you know that within minutes the calves will have pooped in it again!
I was finished around 11am so I headed back to the house to finish off the gardening that I started yesterday. Once everything was finished I had the afternoon off to sit in the sun and relax.
It was a beautiful morning this morning so I sat outside in the sun to have my morning coffee. At 8am we began the day by moving some more cattle from one of the far paddocks back down to the cattle yards. There were only about 30 cattle this time so the process was a lot quicker and easier. We first had to separate a bull from the group that has been with the cattle for about 9 weeks. Moving said bull proved more difficult than imagined, I ended up driving the yamaha along side it with Jazz, the working dog, in the back barking away! This did the trick and we got the bull into the paddock.
By opening and closing the correct gates along the route on the way up, its very easy for the cows to then make their way along the path down to the cattle yards, we simply follow behind slowly to make sure none of them turn back in the wrong direction. Unlike sheep, it's important not to put too much pressure on the cattle and let them walk in their own time. Once the cattle were back down to the cattle yards we directed them into the main pen. The first job was to separate one of the cows known as "the mad cow". When I asked about the nickname I was told "if she starts charging for ya, scale the fence as quickly as you can" - I didn't need to ask for much more explanation.
Once we'd weaned the calves from their mothers, it was time to feed them. First we had to load the trailer with their food, which consisted of cotton seed, and grain pellets. To get the grain we had to go to the giant silos where Peter had to climb in to scrape the pellets to the shoot since the silo is nearly empty. Cotton seed is very high fat and protein which makes it excellent food for the calves - just very expensive. It costs the farm $100,000 per year just to feed the sheep and cattle!
Once we'd loaded up the trailer we drove down into the cattle yards where we shovelled the feed into the troughs. This task was hindered by the pesky cows who thought they'd take advantage of a tasty snack from the back of the trailer. Once we'd finished, Peter got me to drive the trailer back to the the shed. Having never pulled a trailer before, my first experience being backing into cattle trying to eat from the trailer, was pretty stressful ha! Definitely need to practice my trailer skills but I got there in the end.
There wasn't much farm work to do in the afternoon so I spend the rest of the day clearing old grape vines from the farm house garden and neatening up the patio area weeding, trimming the edges of the grass and sweeping up the leaves.
There was supposed to be a meteor shower this evening with 18 meteors falling per hour, so I sat out under the stars in an attempt to see at least one. Unfortunately I didn't have the patience to sit out for long enough to see one, but the stars themselves were enough to feel satisfied. Because there is literally no light pollution, the sky is filled with stars, you can even see the milky way!
8am start again up at the shed where we used an electric cement mixer to mix up some more seed for the bands seeder. We took the seed up to the paddock where we left the tractor yesterday and filled up the machine ready for me to continue from where I left off. I felt a lot more confident on the tractor today, I finished off the paddock I was working on yesterday and moved on to a new section where I think I did a lot better. You basically start off in a large square going around the edges, gradually working your way in. As the square gets smaller, the corners become too tight for the machine to turn which leaves little patches of unsown ground. There are also obstacles that you have to work around, such as trees and patches of rocky ground where you have to pass the seeder as close to the edge as possible without hitting any rocks. One you get to the centre of the square, you have to leave 2-3 widths of the machine unsown, this is to allow space to run the machine over to the corners to cover the patches that are left without having to go over land thats already been sown. Since this last part is pretty technical, Peter took over for this part and I took over the job of picking up any large rocks that could potentially damage the machinery - not one of the funnest jobs, but certainly a good work out! Having been picking up the rocks straight from the ground, I went to pick up quite a big one so I turned it over with my boot first (thank god) and there was a redback spider on the back of the rock. This is one of the most dangerous spiders in the world, with one bite potentially being fatal. Weirdly though, I didn't find it as scary as the big hairy huntsman spiders that I've had in my bedroom before. I took a quick picture (being careful not to get too close) and then squished the bugger with my boot. Once Peter had finished off the paddocks, it was time for lunch and then a quick shower before heading back into Orange to do some shopping. It was a 6hr round trip in the end since the journey is so far, there is always a long list or errands to be run whilst there!
Got back at about 7pm and felt knackered (again) so I cooked some dinner and went straight to bed.
Met Peter up at the shed at 8am where we began setting up the bands seeder which is towed behind a tractor in order to sew seeds in the paddock. I had never really thought about the science behind sewing seed for crops but turns out there’s quite a lot! In order to calibrate the machine, we had to adjust the speed with which the seed is released in order to get to 8kg of seed per hectare. Getting to this figure involved a lot of trial and error. Once we were happy with the machinery, we took it up to the paddock where I jumped on the back of the tractor while Peter showed me how it worked. After a lap of the paddock it was my turn to drive the tractor. I was a little nervous at first as you have to ensure that the combine just overlaps with the previous line of seed so that there are no gaps in the seed distribution. It didn’t take long to get used to it though and I soon felt at ease driving the tractor. The day went so quickly driving around in the sun, and there was something so satisfying about seeing the lines over the paddock that you’d created.
At 5pm we clocked off and headed to the farmhouse to pick up a few bits for the caravan. Marilyn showed me around her art studio which was amazing! She does portrait drawings and paintings. She has some studio lighting which she hasn’t been able to set up yet which I’ve said I will help her with.
Peter managed to get the gas working in the caravan, so I managed to cook my first meal on the hob tonight – sweet potato and spinach red curry.
First night in the caravan was FREEZING! I slept with 2 sheets, a double duvet folded over for double thickness, a giant fluffy blanket, as well as wearing leggings, thermal socks, long-sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt and hoody – oh and I also had a hot water bottle!
Woke up at 6am, did a workout as the sun rose followed by a coffee and a banana in the sun – Felt like I'd quickly adjusted to farm life.
At 8am I could see Peter coming down the track on his motorbike. I followed him up to the paddocks where our first task was the gather the cattle and move them to the cattle yards (a large pen with interconnected sections used for sorting cattle). It turns out that gathering 250 cattle isn’t that simple. The technique involved driving the motorbike around the outside of the herd and me walking (a little cluelessly) up behind them waving my arms with a long blue stick in an attempt to move them in the direction we hoped.
We managed to get around ¾ of the cattle in to the cattle yards where the next task was to sort them. We had to sort 15 cows and 10 calves that belonged to the farmer next door, as well as separating the calves from their mothers. Once inside the yards, we moved around 10 cows into the central pen where Peter and Dom (the farmer next door) were then able to sort them into their correct pens.
Once all the cows were sorted it was time for lunch. Marilyn managed to find an old oil radiator for me to take down to the caravan, as well as a couple of old lamps – since the lights in the caravan don’t work.
After lunch Marilyn took me for a drive around some of the farm and down to the river. With 3500 acres of land, there's certainly a lot to explore! The river that passes through the farm is beautiful, I can see myself doing a lot of walking down here, it's so peaceful.
We took one of the working dogs, Tom, with us on the drive except we managed to lose him down by the river! Marilyn said it's not the first time it's happened and that he always manages to find his way home. I felt awful driving off without him though!
When I got back to the caravan it was time to cook dinner - slightly difficult when you don't have any gas for the stove yet, and only bought food that needs to be cooked on the hob. Well, after a quick google, it turns out that you can cook pasta in the microwave.. so I gave it a go. In the process of experimenting with the microwave, a lightbulb in one of the old lamps exploded scaring the life out of me. Not only did glass manage to go absolutely everywhere, but I now only have one little lantern to light the whole caravan (add to shopping list: lightbulbs).
Around 7pm I was on the phone to my parents when suddenly Tom came running under the caravan! He looked absolutely exhausted and promptly fell asleep outside the caravan. I called Marilyn who asked Peter to come and pick him up a bit later on. Just so glad he came home!
Since I'm down the other end of the farm on my own, it's pretty scary outside once it gets dark. Find that once I'm inside the caravan I find any excuse not to go back out again. I'm sure I'll get used to it though and not be such a scaredy pants.
The drive to the farm took about an hour but the time passed quickly getting to know Peter. When we arrived, Marilyn (Peter’s wife) was finishing cleaning up the caravan that I’ll be staying in here. Once the floor was mopped, we attached the caravan to the ute and towed it down to the shearing shed where it'll be parked up. This is a good location for me to be based since there are showers, toilets and a little kitchen that I can use. I spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking my things and making the caravan feel homely. I was given this Yahama buggy to drive around the farm on which is so fun! Wrapped up warm for bed, this is the coldest temperatures I have experienced in 6 months since I left England so not sure how it will be in the night.
Just before my stop on the train I saw something out the window in the corner of my eye - it was a group of kangaroos running along next to the train! I’ve only ever see kangaroos at a zoo, so I jumped up to try and get a video. By the time I’d got my phone ready, there was only one still running along beside the train which I managed to film. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire rest of the journey - it was like it was a sign that this is going to be an amazing experience. Orange is the nearest train station to the farm so I met the farmer, Peter, on the platform and we jumped in his ute (truck) and set off. We stopped off to get some groceries on the way since it’s an hour drive from the farm to the supermarket. I had to get enough to see me through until Tuesday, but it was hard to know what to get when you don’t even know what cooking facilities there are.
It was a very emotional morning saying goodbye to my 4 beautiful flatmates, 3 of whom are travelling back home to Sweden today. They waved me off in my Uber and I headed for Sydney Central Station to catch the 7:20 XPLORER train arriving in Orange at 12:51. The train had barely anyone on due to non-essential travel being cancelled because of corona virus. The trains only had 2 carriages, so I was ticked off on a register and checked into my seat by my name (no ticket inspection needed!).
The train itself was actually pretty nice – even though the usual train for this journey (the XPT service) was swapped for an older version the day before. There was loads of leg room and the chairs reclined pretty far too – useful on a 6hr journey!
The first part of the journey was travelling west out of the city towards the Blue Mountains National Park - somewhere I've wanted to visit but had to postpone because of the bushfires. Once we reached the National Park, the scenery was amazing - the train went right through the centre of the National Park. The further we went however, the more you could see the devastating effects of the bushfires. Saying that, there were little patches of green starting to sprout up again though!