Just Get Off the Farm to Chill With Men of League

A sense of gratitude displayed today, as farmers with a genuine love for the industry, gave themselves some time out, with the generosity and kindness from the Tamworth Men of League.

A Farmers Grill & Chill Re-Run held at the Calala Inn today has left farmers feeling supported, cared for and new friendships have been formed.  Strength has been restored in the local farming community, by easing the pressure of drought through the sharing of a delicious meal, sharing stories and having a good laugh.

The Tamworth Men of League hosted a free lunchtime meal and drinks in the beer garden of the Calala Inn, near Tamworth NSW.  As farmers enjoyed a cold one, smiles returned as the drought load was lightened in simple conversation with old and new friends.

The Men of League Foundation is an Australian rugby league charity providing support and assistance to men, women and children from the rugby league community who have fallen on hard times.  The Tamworth Men of League have once again expanded that support to the local farming region.  They invited local farming families to the second Grill & Chill event, following its success last year.

This was the first event that my husband and I have attended.  Feeling a little awkward at first, for just allowing others to show their support, yet quickly we were made to feel welcome and very comfortable.

We shared friendly conversations with other farmers that we had just met, feeling an instant connection and relatability to issues within our lives.  The positive discussions lifted spirits and recharged our inner batteries.

The chefs at Calala Inn provided a delicious cooked meal including steak, sausages, vegetables and salad, on behalf of the Tamworth Men of League.  The tasty meal was served buffet style.  The staff behind the scenes made this happen.

It enlightened me, to see the selfless acts of kindness in organising such an event to support farmers in a time of need.  Industry support with a personal touch, was at the grass-roots of the event.

Sponsors provided a variety of valuable lucky-door prizes for farmers to all enjoy.  The many sponsors generously provided these prizes, so to hear their names reminded us of the businesses that supported this hospitable occasion.

I was fortunate to meet exceptional people today… those that so kindly put this event together and their thoughtful family members, as well as those strangers that became friends ever so quickly, through mutual understanding or compassionate connection.

Thank you to Kevin and the Tamworth Men of League team for your thoughtful acts of kindness, your support and your gracious hearts in our local community.  It is empowering to see the difference you make in so many lives.  Today was not only a  simple meal, drink and a prize being provided… but rather the analogy of an outstretched arm of support and a gentle reminder of the good people that exist in our community at large.

It is in these tough times that we have seen so many selfless acts of kindness be revealed.  And it is with this supportive shining light, that gives farmers the strength to hold onto their passion in sustaining the agricultural industry into the future.

Take care, Karen.

“Sometimes we just need someone to be there for us.

Not to fix anything or do anything in particular,

simply so that we can feel we are supported

and cared for during the hard times.”

~ Author Unknown

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CWA Conference Aspires Leadership & Friendship from Albury

Country Women’s Association of NSW (CWA) members bring an abundance of knowledge, energy and inspiration into Albury NSW for this year’s Annual State Conference.  From business meetings, honourable guests and informative workshops… to social activities, historical tours and State Committee displays… there was never a dull moment.  And I have caught it on camera, then compiled a video to share with you today.

I had the privilege to attend as a Delegate for Tamworth Evening branch along with my friend Kylie and a group of ladies from our region.  Women from all walks of life coming together with their unique backgrounds, experiences and expertise to seek a mutual resolution of motions.

CWA aims to improve the lives of women and their families through their democratic process of a policy-setting agenda and an extensive range of activities.  Many opportunities lie within all levels of CWA to be involved and seek the support of local issues of grave concern.

Starting with a combined Ecumenical Service and raising $2,884 for the Albury Wodonga Cancer Research Fund, members once again unite and connect socially.  The Official Opening entertained and inspired members prior to the Business Sessions commencing.  The keynote speaker was Her Excellency The Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC Governor of NSW.

The CWA Medical Research Fund has raised $34,000 to donate towards endometriosis.  A debilitating disease affecting many women with symptoms of pelvic pain and fertility issues.  An interesting medical presentation has identified through research the importance of potential protein biomarkers of endometriosis.  CWA members have voted to continue supporting endometriosis through their Medical Research Fund for another year.

Interestingly CWA has opened 12 new branches over the last year; 11 Evening branches and 1 Sunrise branch.  CWA is now appealing to younger generations and working women that have a desire to become involved, having an opportunity to attend meetings that are more convenient.

Women join CWA for a variety of reasons such as friendships, social connections, educational opportunities, sharing of experiences, learning cookery skills, creating handicraft items, to discuss local agricultural concerns, the policy-setting agenda… and the list goes on.

International information was shared on the CWA Country of Study for this year which is Papua New Guinea.  Other cultures are interesting and CWA members have the ability to learn new and fascinating information.

Business Sessions continued throughout the Conference where policy motions were discussed, amended as needed and then voted upon.  A diverse range of topics arose in the scope of agriculture and environment, health and social security, transport and telecommunications and Constitutional changes.

Important resolutions were sought from CWA branches and successfully made CWA State policy for topics such as rural crime, improper use of drones, travelling stock routes, food safety standards for meat and milk, erecting a wildlife overpass, dairy industry issues, public cancer clinics, post mortems, supporting nurses, health industry pricing, drought relief funding, scoliosis, Automated External Defibrilators, horse traffic road rules, and truck-specific rest areas.

CWA, as the largest women’s organisation in Australia, plays an important role in lobbying the Government for change and improvements across so many aspects of our lives.  I am very proud to be a part of such an hounourable and progressive organisation.

As a shy individual, with the thought of public speaking terrifying me all of my life, I chose to step up and speak at this year’s State Conference.  This decision aligned well with my current journey of personal growth and challenging myself.

I spoke against a motion and explained my reasoning, without falter, in front of 500 other members.  When a Past State President asked for me (and another member) to assist in the re-wording of the motion to incorporate the relevant concerns, it felt amazing to be part of this process, working together for the desired result.  The motion was to review a weed classification, educate and research.

Another highlight for me, was winning 3rd place in an annual essay competition presented by the Honorary Editor of the CWA Journal.  This was the first time I had entered a CWA competition, so I was very excited.  The essay topic was “In modern times, do we have the capacity to harness the power of empathy for one another?”  I found this topic very engaging and relatable, therefore very passionate to write about.

Socially we had a very entertaining week away, with plenty of laughter, great meals, dancing and friendly conversations.  I also caught up with some old friends and was delighted to see them again.  CWA brings a great bunch of women together with big hearts, thoughtful personalities, compelling stories and a myriad of experience.

Since the drought has been ever so heavy upon my shoulders, I valued my week away so very much.  I spoke with my husband every night, checking that all was OK on the farm, and appreciated the time out with CWA members and the uplifted feeling that had surrounded me.

I would like to share my amateur video with you all reflecting on the fun, the engagement and the memories of the happenings with CWA State Conference in Albury… through my eyes.

Take care, Karen.

 “Don’t let anything defeat you.”

~ Governor of NSW Margaret Beazley

Video Credit: YouTube and Karen Weller

Rural Reflections #19

Opportunities are all around us to get involved with our community, seek new connections and make a real difference in this world.  To see the bigger picture and what you can offer… will also bring you personal contentment.

The Country Women’s Association of NSW (CWA) gives me a strong sense of community with valuable knowledge, friendships and a mutual commitment to improving people’s lives.  Today marks the start of another Annual State Conference, this year held in Albury NSW on the Murray River.

With the drought over-powering my strength on the farm and a need to so something more purposeful at the moment and restore a sense of life control… I arrive here enthusiastic and ready to be enlightened.  The opportunity to be a delegate at this Conference and represent our region with the policy-making decisions of a strong women’s organisation… is an honour and something I look forward to.

As I left home feeling somewhat excited about the CWA business meeting events to follow and connecting with a larger community… I also felt a little sad to be leaving all responsibilities upon my husband to solely deal with drought-feeding livestock and the hopeful anticipation of rainfall.

Fortunately, I do have a supportive husband and he encourages me to take these opportunities within my life.  He understands what makes me happy and allows me to grow as a person.  I do know if I feel strong, in control and have a sense of purpose… then I can be supportive to the rest of my family.

I always think of that image of a “jug of water” representing our own self… when we run out of water, we have nothing left to give another.  We need to refuel first, so we have something within ourselves to give to the other person.  Knowing when you need to look after yourself, seems to be the forgotten issue, especially for women.

The photo I share with you today, reflects upon my escape from farming life as I travel down the road heading for another opportunity.  The photo was taken about 10km from our property heading towards town.  Every time I go to town, this is a part of my journey.

Rural Reflection #19…

19 The Road to Opportunity

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I like this photo because of the beautiful coloured sky with the blue, pinks and mauve.  The sky looked so lovely that I stopped to capture this image.  I also like the contrast of the cultivated paddock and the dry grass along the roadside.  The cloud configuration reflects the beauty of our natural country landscape.

So as I anticipate my involvement within the CWA State Conference, I also appreciate my roots back home.  An appreciation for our beautiful country, the support of family and the new opportunities that await us all.

Take a look around you… acknowledge and appreciate what you already have in your life and have the courage to pursue personal growth by accepting new opportunities that spark your own interest.

Take care, Karen.

“Alone, we can do so little;

Together, we can do so much.”

~ Helen Keller

 

Rural Reflections #17

All work and no play in the farming game.  With the daily ritual of feeding livestock, paddocks being cultivated (and hoping for rain), mustering cattle and repairing fences.  The work is just never done.

But we did fit in a casual stroll with the Hereford bulls… heading down to the stockyards today.  I find mustering bulls quite interesting… as they are full of testosterone and become very playful when they are heading somewhere different from their usual paddocks.  Dirt… bare dirt just fascinates them… or other cattle in the distant paddocks will spark their curiosity and a sudden urge to play, run and jump around… just like children.  Simply fascinating!

As a part of our farming enterprise, we breed Hereford bulls to sell for reproduction purposes.  A quiet temperament is predominant in the Hereford breed, as is the feed conversion rate on grass.  Their unique white faces give them character, which is a reason why they are my breed of choice.

Today I have spent my time, with my husband and youngest son, as they share a mutual interest and a passion for cattle breeding and farming.  I love to see how much joy the agricultural industry brings to both of them.  My entire day was spent assisting them, taking plenty of photos and a lot of watching from the sidelines.

So I share this exclusive photo with you all, from a brief moment taken from my day… as we muster a few bulls to take them to the stockyards.  I enjoy the calmness and the playfulness of these large animals as they interact with each other.  With so much strength and power… yet so placid… they simply amaze me.

Rural Reflection #17…

17 Hereford Bulls On The Move

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With our recent rainfall, the tropical grasses in these paddocks have been growing well and very quickly; bambatsi, panic, rhodes grass & premier digit.  These summer growing perennial grasses amaze me with how well they respond to rainfall.  However, they are in need of another shower to keep them growing.

I also like this photo as it shows a couple of paddocks that my husband cultivated this week in preparation for growing winter fodder crops.  A few late nights and late dinners until the paddocks were finished.  Farming is seasonal and the day ends when the job ends.

There is no nine-to-five routine.  Farmers just work as is needed.  Some work continues into the night.  But farmers understand that they must feed and clothe our nation, so they do what is needed… when it is needed… to produce the products we all know and love.

Farming is such a gamble… possibly the biggest gambling occupation one could so passionately choose.  Farming relies on rainfall… and consistency of rainfall is very important to grow crops and pastures to feed our livestock.  Rainfall puts water in our dams for livestock survival.  Without rainfall… farming becomes a burden rather than a passion.  Without rainfall… farming is in turmoil.

Farmers never know if they have made the right choice, when they rely so much on rain.  Some crops may fail… which means money gone down the drain.  In February last year, we had planted 3 paddocks with the forecast for good rain coming.  We didn’t even get a drop.  Sadly the crop was a complete failure and did not come up at all.  The cost of seed, fertiliser, tractor fuel and hours of labour…. just burnt up in the heat.  Just wasted our time and money.  It is always a gamble in farming… fortunately, we do get some good times to make it worthwhile.

So with the hope of follow-up rain, we have made this choice to prepare these paddocks for planting.  Now it is a waiting game… waiting in hope for the next shower of rain to give us relief before the winter season arrives.

Despite the tough times presented to us, farmers keep the big picture clear in their minds… the need to produce fresh Australian produce into the future.  The farm work is tough but the satisfaction makes it worthwhile.

So even though, I did not have the weekend off… I found many times within my day that I felt uplifted.  If you allow yourself to see the beauty around you and appreciate the important things in your life… you will feel much more content and whole.

Take care, Karen.

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops,

but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

~ Masanobu Fukuoka,

Japanese farmer and philosopher.

Rural Reflections #15

Reminiscing about what precipitation will do to our farmland and our mental health.  A beautiful drop of rain bringing us into the weekend was graciously received.  The best rain we have had for over 2 years… and what joy this precious moisture has stowed upon us.

From about midnight Friday, a few light sprinkles briefly intrigued us.  But at 3am… the clouds opened above us and lightened our heavy hearts and cleansed our minds.  In the early daylight hours, we lay in bed listening to the beautiful sound of rain on a tin roof and watched the rain through our bedroom window.  The sheer delight as time rolled on by and the workload waited.

Drought feeding cattle could not start in the rain, so we rested our weary bodies and calmed our minds.  After a busy and tiring week, a lazy morning was perfectly timed.  By 9am Saturday morning, excitement overcame us… as 72mm of rain was tipped from the gauge.  72mm of pure gold to the parched farmland surrounding us.

Dams that had been empty for over 2 years, finally had water in them.  Some dams were even full.  This was the most rain we had received in 2 long years.  The heavens had finally delivered the relief we greatly needed.  The hard cracking ground soaked up the moisture quickly.

The drought may not be over, but the hope is alive and well again.  With follow-up rain, we may just get a chance to round that corner and get back on track.  It seems almost magical… that rainfall can simply change your thinking and lighten the load mentally.

This weekend following the rainfall, I blissfully enjoyed listening and watching the altered demeanor of my husband and youngest son in discussions.  The stress had subsided somewhat, the fun had returned, smiles became more apparent and conversations were more relaxed.  That rainfall really did cleanse our souls and prepared us for life once again.

Today I want to share with you, an image of what this hope truly gives us.  It reminds us of normal seasons on the farm and more effective farm production.  This photo was taken in July 2017 on our property, in the middle of Winter in north-west NSW, Australia.

Rural Reflection #15…

15 A Stormy Grey Sky Brews in the North

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I love this photo for the simplicity and colour contrast.  A few young Hereford heifers quietly watch in awe.  The stormy grey clouds are brewing in the north yet the sun is still shining upon us here.  The tender lush grasses provide the nutrients for the livestock and is usually the norm.  The white box tree depicts the natural environment around us.

This recent rain is hope for a fresh start, to put the horrid drought behind us and allow our pastures to sprout again.  It will take time, but the aspiration has returned to us and we await the desired prospects.  This rainfall has lifted our spirits immensely and given us the much-needed inner strength in our lives.

Always find that little flame inside you and remember your passion and what is important in your life.  There is always hope for better times.  That is the thing about life… we have to go through the tough times to really appreciate the good times.

Take care, Karen.

“I don’t think of all the misery

but of the beauty that still remains.”

~ Anne Frank

Rural Reflections #14

It may have only been 10mm of rain, but an overall feeling of contentedness… as the rainwater temporarily heals our minds and replenishes our soul.  What is it with that unique fresh smell after rainfall that makes our hearts lighter?  That noise as each drop falls, cleansing our thoughts and easing our worries.  We see an image of freshness and passionately see a vision of hope.  The smell with a crispness in the clean air as the dust is washed away from our hearts.

Diverse landscapes are a common feature across the New England and North West region of NSW in Australia.  This region is located in the north of the state and west of the Great Dividing Range.  This region covers a total area of about 99,145 square kilometres or 12.4% of NSW and is home to 186,200 people.

Agricultural land in the New England and North West region occupies 79,364 square kilometres or 80% of the region.  The agricultural sector in the region includes important commodities, based on the gross value of agricultural production, were cattle ($687 million), cotton ($650 million) and wheat ($482 million).   These commodities contributed to 60% of the total value of agricultural production in the region.

Rocky ridges are very common in this region along with rich basalt soils.  Our property alone has quite a diverse array of landscapes, vegetation and farmland.  From red and chocolate basalt soils, river loams, to a few granite outcrops and steeper vegetated valleys.  The Australian agricultural regions can be very divergent.

Today I share with you a photo taken last week following 10mm of rain.  The only rain we had seen for almost 2 months.  This is a part of my view from the kitchen window every day.  I like this photo as it fills me with a sense of hope that the rain in the eastern hills may come again.  This is a rocky ridge near the boundary of our property.  The large rocks in this bull paddock show how disparate our terrain can be.

Rural Reflection #14…

17 March 2019

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There are 2 Hereford bulls grazing after the light shower of rain that settled the dust.  This photo also overlooks a part of the neighbouring property and shows horses in a distant paddock in the background.  We did not receive any more rain this week, but the feeling and smell of rain were temporarily relished.

This morning I have spent my time baking cakes and a slice for a CWA function.  I do always enjoy my view from the kitchen window even when it is dry.  I always find the beauty within an image and appreciate the smaller things in life.

I imagine myself sitting upon that large rock protruding from the earth… relaxing and appreciating the beautiful views around us.  One day… the drought will break and nutritious green pastures will surround us again.

Until then, I will still focus on the beauty that remains within my life.  I still have a wonderful family to love, a passion for writing to share, a motivation for personal growth and a vision to inspire others every day in their lives.

Take care, Karen.

“Rain has healing powers.

It can wash away your worries

and cleanse your soul.”

~ Author Unknown.

 

Rural Reflections #13

Rain seems to be a figment of our imagination lately.  2018 was a very tough year with only 369mm of rain, whilst our annual average rainfall is 673mm.  Despite receiving only 55% of our usual rainfall, we have managed to keep our remaining core breeders in relatively good condition, by implementing a full drought feeding program.

After receiving 37mm of rain in December 2018, we hoped for a turnaround… but no, just a temporary break to catch our breath.  With no rain at all in February, the grass failed to grow and we started full feeding the livestock once again.

As farmers and primary producers we do focus so intently upon the weather and weather forecast, as a means of farm business management, livestock feeding, land management and cropping.  It is sad but true.  Drought feeding takes its toll on us all physically, mentally and financially.  At what point do we say enough is enough?  I wish I knew the answer.

From a national economic stance, it is important that not all farmers sell all of their livestock, as the end result will be far too detrimental to our agricultural industry.  Livestock that are sold during this drought, will not be sold for breeding purposes.  Livestock numbers across our nation will be drastically reduced, thus affecting the future production of our red meat industry.  We need to have breeding stock still alive when this drought breaks and producers will need to re-stock over time, which will take several years.

Drought feeding is very costly, yet a necessity for remaining core breeders on farming properties.  Most primary producers are borrowing funds to feed their livestock with no idea when this will end.  But tough decisions are made, right or wrong, for each individual farming business and the future of our livestock industry and red meat production.

I have been avoiding the drought feeding routine on our farm lately and feeling a little guilty… leaving it all in the hands of my husband.  But today I did go with him and I took the camera.  We were checking the cows out the back in the pine country.  I was surprised that we have managed to keep up their condition score quite well.  These Hereford cows are pregnant, producing a calf to be born in only a few months.  Since cattle only produce one calf per year, we felt it was important to ensure their condition was maintained as to produce their progeny without fail.

So today I share with you, a photo taken this morning.  The photo depicts a green Kurrajong Tree amongst the pine trees with a small mob of Hereford cattle resting in the shade.  There is no grass for feeding livestock, so they rely on us to provide their feed rations and nutritional requirements.  But as you can see, the cattle are in good condition to ensure their farm productivity.

Rural Reflection #13…

13 Kurrajong in the Pine Country

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I like this photo because the cattle calmly watch us encircle them with satisfaction upon their faces.  The green Kurrajong Tree is prominent and a saviour when drought feeding.  I felt content to finally see something green today… the colour alone lifted my spirits.

The branches of Kurrajong Trees can be lopped for livestock to feed on, in times of drought.  The green foliage can be a real saviour to drought-stricken cattle.  Then during the better seasons, they are great shade trees and are quite attractive in appearance.  Farmers value the importance of Kurrajong Trees on their farms.

So today I am reminded that we need to look beyond the image of drought and find beauty in our breeding animals and our environment.  It is this that will keep us focused and capable of battling each new day.  Look for beauty in your life today!

Take care, Karen.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down,

it’s the way you carry it.

~ Lena Horne

 

 

 

Rural Reflections #12

Why do we do what we do in our business or working life?  Why do farmers battle the current drought despite the significant implications upon their physical and emotional well-being?  I am here to tell you why!  Put simply… a genuine passion, a love for the agricultural industry and a determination in the viability of producing food and fibre to secure the economic future of Australia.

I was raised in a family in a rural area, with a father that had farming blood in his veins and a mother that supported this lifestyle entirely.  Hereford cattle and horses were a dominant part of our upbringing.

Then at the age when love determines our future choices, I married a man that lived for farming.  25 years later his passion is still burning… for breeding cattle.  Similarly, this genuine passion now resides with our youngest son.

This is the same scenario for many farming families… generation after generation.  This burning passion for the rural lifestyle and scientific business of breeding and trading livestock or growing commodities to feed our nation into the future.  This passion is what motivates farmers to battle the tough times of drought and rebuild following natural disasters.  The focus on the good times is what gets us through.

So for my family, we focus on times when pastures are rich and livestock are at their best production.  Financially, farming is always going to be a rollercoaster, a cycle of ups and downs according to seasons and markets.  That is something that all producers understand and are willing to embrace.

The drought has become an enormous burden for us at the moment, just like many farmers across the local region and beyond.  Without a drop of rain last month and 2mm of rain last night… we continue to find the strength to believe that one day it will break.

The remaining cattle and sheep on our property will all rely upon us a little longer… to feed them hay to meet their nutrition requirements and provide clean water.  Livestock welfare is the top priority in a drought and producers do what needs to be done, regardless of their financial constraints.  Animal health programs and biosecurity is at the core of our farming businesses, through all seasons.

Today, I would like to reflect upon the Hereford cattle industry specifically.  Although I have been involved in farming all of my life and our farming enterprises have changed a little over the years, Hereford cattle has always been at the centre of our business management.

As I attended a meeting yesterday with fellow Hereford breeders across the local region, I am reminded of the mutual passion and commitment that these producers bring to our livestock industry.  Good-hearted, kind, caring human-beings… all fighting their own battles, yet can come together, plan and move forward in our industry.

Our focus was on the organisation and planning for the Glen Innes Annual Hereford Bull Show & Sale on 25-26 July 2019.  These producers have many years of breeding genetics tied up in producing Hereford bulls, so this drought may provide a big hurdle, but the future of the industry relies heavily on ensuring production continues.

Hereford cattle are renowned for their quiet temperament, excellent feed conversion, high fertility rates, hardiness and growth rates.  Cattle producers across the nation, value the effectiveness of Hereford cattle for productivity, performance and manageability.

As 3rd generation Hereford breeders, our primary focus for the last 25 years has been breeding commercial Hereford cattle with the introduction of stud females purchased in 2005.  Our business is Swanvale Herefords and our enterprise focuses on breeding both horned and polled Hereford cattle with a quiet temperament, good weight for age, carcase and maternal traits.

Our fundamental aim is to produce soft easy-doing cattle with structural soundness and long deep-bodied cattle with plenty of thickness.  We also focus on producing cattle to perform well on grass, to ensure that they will perform well in any herd under any conditions.

Today I share with you, this photo… that truly symbolises our passion in this business.  It was taken back in April 2017, in a good season.  It shows young Hereford bulls relaxing on the green pasture and contently growing to become future sires in the industry.

Rural Reflection #12…

12 Young Hereford Bulls Relaxing On The Green

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I love this photo for the contrasting colours and the representation it brings to our business.  The docility of the young Hereford bulls as they contently watch us drive on by.  The rich red colour in their hides and the clean white faces giving them all a unique look.  They lay upon the green flat, comfortable and at ease.  The blue sky above with its pure white cloudy ornamental pattern… makes this photo very appealing to the eye.

The science of using our breeding genetics to produce the type of animal, that will benefit other producers herds and increase their revenue… is the motivation behind our business.  It is this passion that all Hereford breeders possess and a desire to improve the bottom line for all cattle producers.  The Hereford industry uses genomics and DNA technology in the breeding process and production of their animals.  This technology gives us genetic merit and ensures the performance of Hereford cattle into the future.

Although the season is dim and our hopes are limited, we know that the future of the livestock industry must be sustained.  As Hereford producers breeding future stud sires, there are years of genetics and work input to produce these efficient animals.  We must look beyond the present situation in the effort to continue our production for the future of the livestock industry.

For more information on Hereford cattle, see Herefords Australia.

Take care, Karen.

“Unless you have bad times,

you can’t appreciate the good times.”

~ Joe Torre

The Power of Positive Thinking Is Just a Facade

Why do we believe we need to be strong in all that we do and all that we face in life?  For some reason or another, we feel we must be OK, at the top of our game at all times and in total control.  Well, I am here to tell you ladies and gentlemen… it is OK… to not be OK.

I used to think that if I looked as if I had it all together and told people I was OK… that I would be… with the power of positive thinking.  But then I did crash and burn.  I was too strong for too long.  Something had to give.

My mental health declined with the pressure of drought, physical tiredness, financial challenges, changes in life, medical concerns and my focus to keep strong.  I thought I was weak if I could not function properly.  I thought I was weak if I was not in control of my usual daily life events.  I avoided this misguided “weakness” within my mind.

But then one day, my health was failing severely.  Physically I was losing control of my normal sleep functions, breathing became so much effort and I was terrified that I could not hold it all together any longer.  I fell in a heap… and felt so ashamed.  I had lost the grip on my usual control within my life.   A usual control that I was renowned for.  A strength that was the norm… now out of my reach.

Despite the love and support of my husband, I knew it was time to stop being so reluctant and frightened to seek medical advice.  For me, it was more about admitting to myself that I was not OK and letting my guard down.  Trusting my doctor was the first step… then laying it all out on the table was the next.  I was distraught that I needed help… as help is something I don’t like to receive.  I am very independent and like to think I can do it all… even though we all know that is just impossible.

Much to my surprise, my doctor was very understanding and had seen this many times before.  My diagnosis was depression/anxiety and I was treated with medication.  I was so embarrassed at first, that I never even told my mother for many months, despite our close connection.  Sadly I believed it was a taboo subject… something so personal and I felt humiliated to be viewed as “weak”.

It is now, one year later and still on anti-depressant medication.  I know now, that it is not about being “weak” at all.  Although I am feeling great and feel I am back, the drought is still taking its toll on me, so medication will be needed a little longer.

But I can honestly say, that I am proud of myself for having the strength to know that I was not OK.  I am proud that I reached out for help and I am not ashamed to admit I need medication as I keep depression at bay.  There is no need for any of us to feel like we have everything under control.  It is OK to not be OK.  We just need to know that we have options for help.  But your doctor is the first port of call.

I had received a lovely surprise phone call this morning from a dear old friend.  A friend I had not spoken to for far too long.  It has made my day entirely.  As we discussed my health, changes in life, family and CWA… I was reminded of how special this wonderful lady is.  I miss not seeing her and feel bad that I have not made more effort to keep in touch.  I promised myself now that I will phone her regularly for a friendly chat.

The power of caring people and friendships in our lives are so important, yet under-estimated.  The kindness, the ease of sharing personal experiences and her beautiful nature… has overwhelmed me this morning and made me smile.  She is truly a beautiful soul and I forgot how happy her words in conversation make me.  We all need more people like this in our lives.  Appreciate those beautiful people that care for you, care for your well-being and make you smile.

The stigma around depression is only within each of us personally.  If your loved one or your friend was not OK… this does not make you think any less of them.  Naturally you would advise them to seek some help and love them no less.  So when it is you personally, it does not change who you are… you just need a little guidance.

What I know now… I wish I knew back then.  Depression/anxiety is just another challenge in our life that some of us will experience… and it needs a little help.  Just another medical ailment that can be treated effectively.  There is no need to feel embarrassed at all.  It is OK to not be OK.  Find the strength to reach out to your loved ones and medical practitioner.

Avoiding depression is not about positive thinking at all.  Positive thinking does not control depressive feelings.  Admitting that you are not OK and seeking help or advice… will give you back the power to find those positive things in your life once again.

We all deserve happiness and we all have the power to control our own thoughts and actions.  Depression/anxiety is not a death sentence… it is another medical ailment that needs treating, no different to any other medical ailment.  The real strength you find in this process will amaze you… and the struggle will only be a temporary hurdle.  The power of positive thinking is not the answer to which you rely upon… rather the strength to reach out to seek help to get through it… and in no time the positive thinking will return.

Take care, Karen.

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“The struggle you’re in today

is developing the strength

you need for tomorrow.”

~ Author Unknown

 

Rural Reflections #11

Farmers are true believers in their industry, thus leaving them emotionally and psychologically exposed.  As the challenges consume us in this current drought… it is more important than ever… to reframe our way of thinking and believe we will get through this again.  We must first accept we are in a drought and find a way to move forward by focusing on the important things in our lives such as our family and our health.

On Friday, my husband and I attended a Community Forum on Drought and Mental Health held in Tamworth.  “The Big Community Muster” presentation covered 11 locations in 6 days and was a very informative and enjoyable event on rural health and resilience.  A dedicated team entirely decked in brightly-coloured Trade Mutts work shirts attire and designed to be a conversation starter… was the visual highlight.

Guest Speakers included:

  • Gerard O’Brien – RSM Australia Director.  He had a comprehensive understanding of the rural issues faced by farmers in this unprecedented drought event.  Gerard shared information regarding the Rural Assistance Authority drought loans and applications as well as the DroughtHub resource.
  • Alister Bennett – NSW State Agribusiness Manager for ANZ.  He works with farmers across the state regarding farm business financial management.  Alister provided information regarding agribusiness managers and encouraged farmers to have a good open relationship with their agribusiness manager in both good times and bad.
  • Dennis Hoiberg – founder of Lessons Learnt Consulting.  He is an organisational consultant and a key public speaker on emotional well-being and resilience.  Dennis spoke in a practical and humorous way to engage farmers interest, yet still managed to get the important message across very effectively.

The key message of RESILIENCE is not about being tough… it is about being whole.  It is not about bouncing back, it is about bouncing forward.  Resilience is not just about thinking happy thoughts, it is about action.

Dennis reminded us that it will NOT be the drought that breaks us, it will be minor issues in our lives.  These issues will affect our relationships and health.  Resilience is about being able to accept the drought situation and finding a way to move forward.  Dennis Hoiberg’s book The White Knuckled Ride provides thoughts, experiences and strategies to help people become resilient.

This day was effectively presented and farmers walked away with some positive information in moving forward, despite the stress and hardships they are suffering.  With a determined hope, farmers were reassured that they will get through this.

This has reminded me to appreciate all that is around us.  The drought is only the situation… a situation we must move through… and we will.  What is important is our relationships, our children, our families and our friends… those that we share our life journey with.

So today I will reflect on the current drought situation and share a photo from our farming property.  I usually prefer to show you an old photo of green grass and happier times.  But this is the situation and we are in DROUGHT… but today I CHOOSE to show you the BEAUTY within this frame.

Rural Reflection #11…

11 Look for the Real Beauty

image subject to copyright

This photo is taken only a month ago and things are no better with the weather situation now.  But I choose to look beyond this.  I accept we are in a drought.  I know finances are in a terrible state.  I know feeding stock has become the norm.  I know physically we are wearing out.  I know mentally we need to protect what we have.  So I look beyond the dry parched land.

  • I see the rich black fertile soil awaiting a better season and I feel grateful that we have this soil beneath us.
  • I see a clear blue sky and appreciate that I can breathe this clean air every day.
  • I see a pretty pink haze, remnants of the bushfires from a distance and feel relief that farmers have protected their environment without casualties.
  • I see a mob of Hereford cattle that we have managed to keep productive and I appreciate their quiet natures for breeding stock.
  • I see a few Kurrajong Trees on the left and understand their environmental and feeding value on the farm.
  • I see the vastness on our property and am thankful that we are lucky to live in a beautiful agricultural environment.
  • But more importantly, I see my youngest son riding his motorbike to check livestock and I recognise his real passion for agriculture, his passion for cattle breeding and his passion to make our lives better.

With the stress of dealing with the drought, we sometimes overlook the most important things in our lives.  We start to focus so much on the negativity and the struggles we are faced with every single day.  We worry how on earth we will get through this.

But it is our husband, our wife, our children, our parents, our siblings and our friends… that we need to re-focus on.  They are the ones that really matter in our lives.

I am so lucky to have a caring husband that I admire for his true passion in this industry and I value his love and support.  I am lucky to have 2 wonderful sons that we have raised to honourable young men, leading their own unique lives and paving their own way.  I am lucky to have a beautiful mother that has been my inspiration to make this a better world and see the beauty in everything.  I am lucky to have a sister that tries her hardest in all that she does and is raising 3 beautiful children in the process.  I am lucky to have a few friends that I hold close to my heart and I value their friendship and support.

We all have to look at what really matters to us and where the real value is in our lives.  The love we have for our family and friends is what will get us through this drought.  Let’s make a plan to survive this tough time, accept what we cannot change and move forward wherever that may be.

Rather than see the depressing effect of drought on the land and our finances… choose to focus on the real beauty surrounding us.  Look beyond the surface… find the beauty… and enjoy the little things in life.

Take care, Karen.

“I cannot always control what is going on around me,

but I can always control what I think about what is going on around me.”

~ Lucy MacDonald