Rural Reflections #30

This is my first Rural Reflections of 2020 so a photo to depict my year gone by and to capture the sheer determination, resilience and hope that farmers try to maintain in drought.  Our personal strength to endure the battle of drought after 2 years and to still have the vision to sustain agriculture into the future.  Livestock that depends on you to feed them and fulfill their nutrition levels and to maintain future productivity.  This photo captures the true essence of WHY we do what we do.

As we head into 2020 with 2 years of drought now under our belt, our motivation is struggling, we have become weary, yet our resilience is bold.  Every single day without slacking off, our cattle need a daily ration.  Without grass in paddocks to satisfy them, their dependability is entirely upon us to ensure their wellbeing is preserved with drought feeding.

It takes time, energy and money to feed our remaining 260 head of cattle.  260 hungry animals need quite a lot of feed to keep them not only alive but productive to produce next year’s calf.  Farmers possess this tenacity to take charge and do what needs to be done with a vision to see their business operations in years to come.  Debt is heavily incurred to ensure the core breeding herd survives.  Sometimes life gets a little hazy with the burden, but with a deep breath and a reminder of WHY we do it… usually is enough to kick us back into gear.

Water is provided from a bore to fill troughs as dams have been dry for a very long time.  Daily checking is required to ensure maintenance is not required and their access to clean water exists for their health.  Farmers care for the wellbeing of their animals as they have a job to do and each breeding animal is producing their progeny for a future purpose.

Today I share with you this photo specifically to capture the trust that our breeding animals have in us, the persistence that exists in farmers and an appreciation for the courage that it takes to endure the tougher times.

This photo was taken by Peter Hardin from an article written by Carolyn Millet from The Northern Daily Leader in December 2019.  This single photo captures so many feelings, experiences and reality below the real surface.  Tough times express a heartfelt reality for my husband and I, which is depicted in a single photo when they visited our property.

What do you see in this photo?  Perhaps a couple on their property with some cows.

Rural Reflection #30…

30 Leader

Photo Credit: Peter Hardin 071119PHF008

Look beyond the obvious to understand.  Yes, a couple on their property with some of their cows is the forefront of a deeper observation.  This photo depicts so much more:

  • A farming couple who passionately preserve an agricultural purpose and a love for the industry.
  • Mutual trust between the breeding stock and farmer.
  • Desolate farmland that won’t survive without moisture.
  • Farm production for future years.
  • Eyes that mask feelings of angst, uncertainty and emotional torment from within.
  • Gratitude that people care about farm production and farmers.
  • Farmers overcome with physical exhaustion and tiredness but masked with a friendly look or smile.
  • Financial strain taking its toll on the farm business and threatening the farmer’s mental health.
  • Decision-makers with an optimistic vision.
  • Quiet Hereford cows doing their job and loving the extra attention while drought feeding.
  • A couple committed to animal wellbeing and missed celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with a canceled holiday so they could take care of their livestock.
  • Farmers in need of some time out and a little enjoyment.
  • Big hearts and a love for each other, their cattle and for sustaining the agricultural industry.
  • An appreciation for others who show they care through kind words, letters, cards and encouragement.
  • Hope for a better future.

This dry working environment is tough, unpredictable and overwhelming at times.  Yet farmers see their role and the value they bring to supplying food and fibre for our nation.  We have a love-hate relationship with farming during this time.  The depressing feelings can be overwhelming with the physical and emotional struggles during times of drought.

But farmers have a huge WHY within them.  They love what they do and the variety of tasks that they do on the farm.  They see value and purpose in what they do.  That is WHY they do it.

So spare a thought for each other.  We all have our own interests and serve our own purpose in a variety of ways.  Accept all differences, acknowledge everybody’s value and be kind to everyone.  How you treat people is a true reflection of you… and it is important that we try to bring out the best in each other.

Take care, Karen.

“Photography is an art of observation.

It has little to do with the things you see

and everything to do with the way you see them.”

~ Elliot Erwitt

How to Feel 10/10 about Mental Health Day Now?

That dreaded phrase that we hear over and over again.  MENTAL HEALTH.  Why does that term make us cringe somewhat?  Lack of understanding perhaps?  Mental health is NOT mental illness

Mental health is where we want our minds to be… this is the good place to be.  So mental health is a positive phrase that we need to make part of our lives.

Today is declared World Mental Health Day… October 10th.  Today we need to feel 10/10 on this 10th day of the 10th month.  Let’s extend that… and learn all that we can about good mental health.  We can also be aware that sometimes life gets too tough… feelings of overwhelm can take over… leading us into depression or anxiety.

In Australia, 1 in every 5 people are affected by mental illness, yet so many people do not seek help because of the associated stigma attached.  We must all drop this perception and shed a more positive light on mental health.

If you had a broken leg, a gash that needed stitches, or an unknown rash… you would seek medical help without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable.  If you need some help with your mind or thinking processes, seek help… there is no difference.  It is our responsibility to the people of our nation to drop this stigma and support everyone regardless of what medical help they need.  We can all make a huge difference by talking about it positively.

In the farming industry we are built pretty tough, sometimes show a lack of emotion and live by the “they’ll be right” or “no worries” attitude.  The mental health phrase is getting tossed about everywhere we turn at drought support events.  The Government is pumping finances in, to support farmers’ mental health.  Is that what farmers really need right now?  Perhaps… perhaps not.

As a farmer in drought, suffering the physical, emotional and financial strain… life did become too tough for me for a while last year.  Life changes and medical conditions piled on top of that, tipped me over the edge.  I did seek help starting with my local GP and I was diagnosed with depression/anxiety.

Everything around me proved that I was losing control.  This was when I found a way to take back control and to chose to develop a new mindset strategy.  I finally understood that we had NO CONTROL over the weather, the forecast… and relatively little control over our own business and finances during this drought.

But we do have control over how we react.  When we understand that we control our reactions to certain events, especially when things go wrong… life is easier to accept.  Concentrate on those things that you can change.

I chose this option.  Hitting rock bottom allowed me to find a new path… I found a new passion and developed a new business as a supplementary income to farming.  It keeps me going when I concentrate on good mental health and being proactive and positive… despite sometimes feeling that everything is against the odds.

It is important that we think about prevention rather than cure.  But deal with where you are at.  If you need help or support, ask for it.  Talk to your family… talk to your mate… just talk to someone.  Your health, and your family’s health and happiness depend on this.

Each of us deserves to feel 10 out of 10 about our mental health, so today is the day for you to make this happen:

  1. Take Care of Your Mental Health – Being healthy also means to have good emotional health.  We must be mentally healthy to be able to handle the challenges that are presented to us in our lives.  We must learn to be resilient and build strategies to move forward.
  2. Take Care of Your Body – Eat healthy foods to nourish your body, improve your mood and energy levels, making it stronger.  Exercise regularly to allow your mind more clarity and your body to become fitter.  Ensure you always speak positively about your body with your inner self-talk.  Get enough quality sleep to allow your mind and body to heal and refresh every night.  Sleeping well helps you to feel energised, allows you to focus and will protect your mental health.
  3. Embrace Your Emotions – As humans, we are designed to feel different emotions.  Sometimes we will feel sad, angry or frustrated.  Acknowledge how you feel and be aware of each emotion.  Talk about your emotions and then allow yourself to move on, letting new thoughts develop.   Don’t dwell in a state of negativity.  Learn how to manage all emotions… positive and negative.
  4. Think Positively – The way we think can have a powerful way of influencing how we feel.  Think positively every single day to teach yourself new mindset strategies.  When speaking to others, talk about the positive things in your life.  You will start to see the positive side a little more, when that is where you place your attention.
  5. Nurture Your Family and Friends – Form and maintain good relationships with others.  Nurture your family and teach your children how to manage through difficult times.  Foster your friendships and make a point to meet up regularly for social time.  Ensure your relationships are positive and meaningful.  Spending time with your pets is also great to help strengthen your mental health and wellbeing.
  6. Practice Gratitude Every Day – Write down or say something you are grateful for every single day.  Anxiety cannot be felt when gratitude is being expressed.  If you regularly practice gratitude, your mind will start looking for things to be grateful for daily.  This is great for children too.  At dinnertime, every family member can say 3 things that they were grateful for today.  This holds so much power to cope in challenging times.
  7. Focus on the Moment – Appreciate the small things in your life.  Allow yourself time to see the beauty around you.  Don’t get caught up worrying about what could have happened or what might happen.  Put strategies in place and keep making decisions.  Live in the present moment… not in the past or the future.
  8. Open Up to Someone – Find someone that you can trust to talk it through… a family member, a mate or your GP.  Talking about the tough times as well as the good times will enable you to become more resilient.  Attend social events and functions.  Share your load… and connect with others… you will probably find the load ‘magically’ becomes less heavy.  A mutual understanding becomes very supportive during tough times.
  9. Good Habits and Routine – It is important that we identify our own routine and be consistent.  We need to make an effort to structure our days and priortise our own time.  Good habits help us to learn and fuel our minds.  Find support if you need to be pointed in the right direction.  Keep doing the things that you love to do.
  10. Take a Break – We are all so time-poor… juggling work, business and family life.  Don’t forget about yourself.  You can’t be there for anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.  Schedule some time out every week… every day… to focus on something you love.  Whether it is a walk in nature, meditation, read a book, listen to music, craft or journalling.  Find what it is for you… to be able to relax and re-fuel your mind and body.

Good mental health and well-being will give us a sense of fulfilment and connection with others.  It allows us to live our lives in a positive and meaningful way.  We become more resilient and can cope with life’s changes and challenges upon our paths.

Take care of yourself and your mates.  Accept that it is OK to not feel OK.  Seek the support you need and adopt strategies to manage stress and keep you physically and mentally healthy.

Take care, Karen.

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“Don’t believe everything you think.

Thoughts are just that – thoughts.”

~ Allan Lokos

 

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

The Heart of CWA in the High Country

After enjoying a High Tea at Guyra yesterday, catching up with some former CWA friends, celebrating with new friends and listening to the powerful inspirational stories of the guest speakers… my soul has been enriched.  The dynamic force that CWA brings to our rural and regional communities is so very compelling.

The largest women’s organisation of Australia, the Country Women’s Association (or CWA for short), never ceases to amaze me through their support network and advocating to improve the lives of women and their families.  The newly formed CWA Guyra Evening Branch has proved to be a friendly, inspirational, youthful-toned and welcoming bunch of ladies.  My good friend and I travelled to Guyra to celebrate NSW Women’s Week in the high country on the Northern Tablelands with these mighty women.

A beautiful old-fashioned High Tea table layout with modern touches, made for a visually appealing morning tea with good friends.  Ceramic teaware just delivers that special something with each tasteful sip and delicious morning tea was in abundance before us.

Laughter, support and fond memories were on the menu at each table.  CWA members from many branches were in attendance from the Northern Tablelands Group and we were welcomed in from outside the zone, representing Tamworth Evening branch, Wanthella Group, along with new friends that were tantalised with what CWA membership can offer them.

We also listened to 2 inspirational guest speakers that delivered life enriching words.  These 2 wonderful women are members of CWA Guyra Evening Branch, and truly are very empowering and uplifting to all of us fortunate listeners.

Firstly, Marni Hietbrink a psychologist from Peak Psychology in Guyra, spoke about mental health in rural areas, healthy emotional wellbeing, happiness and the challenges that stress brings to our lives.  I really liked her analogy about how stress works, as each stressful event forms layers upon us, one on top of another… and how that stress needs to be relieved by doing something essentially in the form of self-care and something that is a passion.  She explained if we don’t look after ourselves that those layers of stress will get to a ‘breaking point’ and tip us over the edge… a place we all need to avoid.

She also explained how, as women, we try to be the best possible person we can in all facets of our lives.  But by trying to be the best at everything, which is really an impossible and unrealistic task… these thoughts and actions cause us to feel an unecessary failure in many aspects of our lives.

Her friendly, bubbly personality… made for an informative and understandable speech that all women could relate to.  Thank you Marni Hietbrink for your knowledge, compassion and meaningful words.  CWA Guyra Evening branch and the Guyra community are very lucky to have such a strong, capable and caring person like you, with such knowledge in the industry.

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The second guest speaker was Kylie Woods, a down-to-earth mother that shared her personal emotional story with us about the trauma with her young son and his eventual diagnosis of ‘Type 1 Diabetes’.  Her comprehensive knowledge of ‘Type 1 Diabetes’, the indiscriminate kind, opened my eyes to an enormous challenge exposed to children and their parents alike.  Her story was emotionally heartfelt which engaged us all with overwhelming compassion for her, her family and all those families that suffer these incredible health and financial challenges for the ongoing management of Type 1 Diabetes.

I really enjoyed her honest open story as she allowed us into her world for these brief moments.  I can already see the need for a CWA Motion being formed for State Conference next year, to support the many people in need with the financial challenges faced every day to manage this incurable disease.

I spoke with Kylie Woods afterwards, a shy, but incredibly strong woman.  I do not think she even realised the extent of the powerful effect her emotionally-charged personal story, had upon the listeners.  She also shared in conversation with me, her 2 business ventures, Glenella White Suffolks (sheep) and Ram’s Head Bats (cricket bats).  She is an avid supporter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and Breast Cancer Research.

A truly remarkable woman, a great asset to the CWA Guyra Evening branch and a passion for significant causes worth noting.  Thank you Kylie Woods for sharing your heartfelt family story with us all and giving us a means of understanding Type 1 Diabetes.  Also thank you to your daughter for her assistance with the slideshow.

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My good friend and I really enjoyed our day out at Guyra, the friendly conversation, the delicious morning tea and the inspirational guest speakers.  Personally, my spirits needed a lift, so this day out was perfect as I was surrounded by friendships and optimism.  My soul has been refreshed and I have been reminded of the real value of friendship and support.  Thank you CWA for being the true essence of harmony, delight and support.

Take care, Karen.

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world

cannot be seen or even touched ~

they must be felt with the heart.”

~ Helen Keller

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

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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

 

Farming: A Passion or a Burden

What a challenge to be farming in Australia… with the current heartbreaking drought and then the recent Queensland flood crisis.  It is with heartfelt empathy, understanding and support of strangers that farmers value the care within the community.

This week I have been speaking about farming, the challenges with extreme weather events and the kind generosity within the community.  I had my first speech assignment at Tamworth ToastMasters on Monday night, and then on Wednesday at C.W.A Wanthella Group Council Meeting at Uralla.  Two organisations and two speeches later… agriculture and the environment has been the topic and is still at the forefront of my mind.  Now I shall share my thoughts with you too.

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Agriculture is all around us and a part of everybody’s lives… from the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the water we wash with.  The agricultural industry is an industry worth sustaining for the future food security of our beautiful and clean nation.

Drought is nothing new, but a normal challenge that farmers experience over certain years.  But this is the worst drought in 100 years.  Not only the severity of the dry spell, but the length of time that farmers have endured to date.  The problem is that this drought is so widespread across our country, that farmers options have become far too limited, so their structured “Drought Management Plans” fail to deliver.  Agistment is not an option in this drought, due to the widespread effect, so farmers are forced to sell their livestock or feed the remaining core breeders.

Sadly the ongoing drought is devastating for Australian farmers, as they struggle daily to keep up with the physical demands of feeding their remaining livestock and carting water.  Farmers are working 7 days a week, are feeling exhausted and families are suffering.  Farming has temporarily become a burden, rather than a passion.

The financial strain is consuming our farmers, with increasing farm loans to purchase feed (which has more than doubled in price), the cost of updating or maintaining water infrastructure, machinery maintenance, livestock husbandry costs… let alone the general living expenses and medical bills of their families.  All with no income.

When farmers do not have the money to spend in town, the drought then impacts the local businesses.  The devastating effects of drought, may first consume the farmer… but like a domino effect… everyone is suffering.

The mental anguish torments farmers… as they worry about keeping their stock, not only alive, but productive.  Stressing about how they will pay that next feed bill without any income.  Wondering how to keep strong for their families sake.  Of course mental health is going to be a concern.  Farmers are mostly resilient and somehow manage to cope… but there are organisations that are available to farmers when needed.

One of the main things keeping farmers sane… is seeing the kind support of the Australian community.  The empathy and compassion shown to farmers, has been incredibly uplifting.

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The Australian culture is to naturally help people in need.  Our community spirit and generosity has emerged during this prolonged drought crisis… and it is this that gives farmers the strength and motivation to survive.  We have seen community groups, businesses and individuals… rally for our farmers and support the future of the agricultural industry.

It is the emotional support through these action, that motivate farmers to stay focused despite their livelihood and future being so uncertain.  The monetary donations have assisted farmers financially or the few bales of hay may feed some livestock for a few days.  But the real value is multiplied… knowing that people care about farming… care about our future food security and care about the industry as a whole.  It is just knowing that people do care and want to help.  Farmers are sincerely thankful for this.

Everyone sees photos of hungry stock, parched farmland and stressed farmers in the media…  but the farmer lives it every day, still putting on a brave face.  Farming is a gamble that does rely heavily on the weather.

My heart goes out to the Queensland farmers with the recent flood crisis.  Struggling with drought for many years… then the devastation of flooding.  Nobody could have prepared for this.  More than 500,000 cattle were killed as a result of the Queensland flood and another 150,000 struggling to survive.  With the flood, the cold weather, the mud and no feed… many cattle faced their last moments filled with fear and panic.  Farmers care about the welfare of their livestock… so this has been an incredibly emotional time for them.

Nobody expected the onset of the much-needed rain… to turn into a major disaster.  As the water dried up… just imagine the catastrophe that unfolded.  Farmers feeling helpless as their livestock are washed away due to weakness.  Fences washed away completely or needing major repairs.  Scattered livestock, bogged in mud and dying.  Farmers having to put down some of their livestock to be humane.  Dead animals everywhere.  The emotional task of cleaning up is enormous and overwhelming.

Rain does not normally produce sadness, it is usually welcomed by farmers.  But not in excess causing such devastation.  Once again, Australians rally together to support our farming communities in dire need.  Their compassion, assistance and kind support come unconditionally.  Sometimes the farmer’s gratitude remains unspoken, due to embarrassment or strength of character.  But farmers are truly thankful to the community for their true Aussie compassion and support.

Farmers do have an underlying passion for farming and a commitment to secure the future of the Australian agricultural industry.  We are all connected through agriculture and we are all in this together.  It is the community trust and support, that has become the real saviour.

Farmers are finding the strength and determination to continue to feed and clothe our nation into the future.  One day their resilience will allow for the burden to lift and the passion to be restored.

Take care, Karen

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“A kind gesture can reach a wound

that only compassion can heal.”

~ Steve Maraboli

 

Rural Reflections #10

Drought is draining us all on the land.  Farming has temporarily become a burden rather than a passion.  Our physical ability is feeling strained to keep up with the on-farm tasks and everyday feeding of livestock and carting water for their basic needs.  The financial burden and commitment to pay interest on the increasing debt, upgrading water infrastructure, medical costs and general living expenses has become overwhelming.  The mental anguish torments us within… wondering how we will pay that next feed bill without any income… wondering how we keep strong for our families sake… and still remain sane enough to feel grateful when the community empathises in support with us all.

I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed this morning and finding a way to clear my mind to appreciate farming life once again.  Most probably due to the fact that we are out of tank water again.  Why does that always happen on a weekend and at night-time just when you need a shower?  Getting ready to wash up last night… and then it hits me… I really fall apart when we have no running water.

I am horrible for a moment… I unfairly speak harshly to my husband… why did he not check the tank a few days ago when I asked him.  Then I feel guilty because it is not his fault that the water runs dry right at this very moment.  He has so much to do every single day on the farm… tank water probably was furthest from his mind.

Fortunately, we pack up a few things and drive to my son’s place just so we can have a shower and brush our teeth last night.  Lucky he is very close-by.  It is frustrating when you run out of tank water on the farm.  Short showers are the norm anyway and saving water in buckets as the shower water warms up, has become a habit… every drop is so very precious.  No water to not only cleanse after a hard day’s work on the farm… no water to flush the toilet or wash our hands.  We then revert to a few bottles of drinking water in the fridge… feeling almost wasteful to wash our hands and brush teeth this morning, with our clean drinking water.

Hoping another load of water is delivered very soon and trying to keep sane in the meantime.  I am staying in the office today and avoiding anything outside.  It will be good to catch up on some office work, when I get my head in the right space shortly.  My poor husband will be left once again to feed and water the livestock by himself.  He seems so much more resilient than me.  He doesn’t freak out when we run out of water, unlike me being overcome with anxiety and worry.

So today I would like to share this photo with you… of what I will be avoiding today… the usual drought feeding ritual.  As my husband sets out to feed up and satisfy these hungry cattle in an effort to keep future production on our property… these trusting animals calmly await his arrival.

Rural Reflection #10…

10 Swanvale Kerry Maid P823

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This photo was actually taken in July 2018 when the calves were very young and the mothers struggle a little more to be able to lactate to meet their babies nutritional needs.  Now, this calf has grown up into an 8-month-old calf weaned from its mother, facing life as a replacement heifer in our herd.  A heifer is a young female cow that has not born a calf.  She is a beautiful Hereford calf and her registered name is SWANVALE KERRY MAID P823.  She will grow into a lovely cow one day, producing calves of her very own.

I really like this photo because of the bittersweet image it depicts.  It shows drought feeding which has been an emotional and physically tiring journey, but of significant importance.  But it also shows a beautifully-marked calf with inquisitive trusting eyes.  I also like the little twig of hay protruding from her cute little mouth, quite casually, but looking almost staged.

Despite the stress and hardship farmers suffer in this drought, the reason we keep going is an underlying passion for farming and a commitment to secure the future of the Australian agricultural industry.  It is the trust that the community holds in us all through their support, mateship and empathy… that gives us the strength to persist in a tough industry.  So thank you Australia for your trust and support!

Take care, Karen.

“The support you receive from others throughout life is essential.

It is like the right amount of oxygen to keep the embers of a fire glowing.”

~ Alexander Bentley, Poet

Toastmasters Proves To Be Life-Changing

Who cringes at the mere thought of public speaking?  ME for one!  It is Toastmasters International Week.  The week to reflect upon and promote the intense personal improvements that are waiting to be unveiled for all.

Toastmasters is a self-development group of people that are aimed at helping members improve their communication and leadership skills.  Toastmasters was established in 1924 and now operates in 52 countries with more than 200,000 members in over 8,000 clubs.

Only a few months ago, I joined Toastmasters International and ever so quickly… my life has improved, in confidence and my public speaking skills are starting to emerge.  Despite feeling anxious and somewhat overwhelmed at speaking publically, Toastmasters has incredibly helped me overcome my initial fears and is helping me develop some insight into the art of speaking.

I wouldn’t say miracles have happened in this very short time, but my involvement at Toastmasters has certainly improved my confidence levels and ability to not “run away” at the mere thought of speaking to an audience.  I like the structure and opportunities presented at each meeting.  I also like the supportive members that assist and guide with their friendly natures and mutual desire for personal improvement.

Our level of confidence improves with our ability to control our nerves and overcome the fear.  Toastmasters helps you to overcome that fear, control your nerves and increase your confidence.  Leadership skills are the great underlying strength in Toastmasters with their structure, organisation and operation.  Toastmasters can help you improve your ability to think more quickly, learn meeting procedures and have an evening of fun and enjoyment.

For me, I like to speak from the heart and give an emotional authentic style of speech.  My problem is I like to write, so of course, I can prepare an engaging speech of some sort.  But presenting a speech is my struggle.  When I stand up, I lose the words, I don’t know what to say.  This is my challenge to overcome and I have enjoyed the journey to date.

I attended my first meeting to check it out and observe as a guest.  Then I joined up on the spot, despite thinking that “I am way out of my depth here”.  I believed I could never speak in front of people like this, even though it was only a small audience of about 12 people.

But I was on a recent mission to challenge myself and gain personal growth.  Nevertheless, I joined up because I knew that would make me return and I would not give up without even trying.  I am really a scrooge and money is very valuable in farming… so in my mind… if I paid the membership, I would have to return to get my money’s worth.  I know… I am a little eccentric… but it worked for me.

Toastmasters has produced a new program called Pathways that allows members to choose their own unique path, subject to their own aims and desired outcomes.  I find this very personalised and more dedicated to the individual.  I also enjoy the online opportunity of my pathway.

The new program Pathways was introduced in 2010 with 5 core competencies:

  • Public Speaking
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Management
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Confidence

There are 11 different Pathways to choose from, based on your own objectives and to develop those skills as you embark on this new experience and journey.  Through answering questions about my aims and purpose, several Pathways were suggested.  I chose “Innovative Planning” and was guided to the tasks and their purpose.

So I was keen, although nervous, at the next meeting to present my first 5-minute speech the “Ice Breaker” which is all about introducing yourself and learning the basic structure of a public speech.  I would normally have quit before I even started… because I feared public speaking so much that I would even refrain from asking questions for the lack of words.  I have recently managed to shift my mindset, so I was very nervous yet very eager to begin and get it over with.  Surprisingly under the nerves, I actually enjoyed presenting my speech and my passion in life to the small audience.

As part of my new challenge for self-improvement, I elected to take on the assignment of the “Inspiration” segment at the next meeting.  My short speech entailed Christmas and the festive season and an inspiring poem.  I also enjoyed doing this, despite the nervous energy within me.  I am still amazed by how a supportive group of people with a mutual interest in improving speaking skills can encourage me to be so involved.

At following meetings, I have continued to take on an assignment role where needed, in an attempt to make myself step outside my comfort zone.  This has lifted my confidence and improved my ability to speak and find those words somewhere within.  I do feel empowered to explore and enjoy what Toastmasters offers in developing my communication skills.

My next big speech will be in a few weeks, so I have been thinking about where to begin.  The topic can be about anything of my choosing.  I would like to talk about drought in Australia, the mental health of farmers, the empathy of strangers with drought support and the unspoken yet heartfelt gratitude of farmers.  As a farmer, this is quite an emotional topic, so I am not sure how it will come together and be presented.  I would like to try presenting a speech without having it written on paper, word for word.  But I am fearful that my true message will get lost when I forget all the words and I will feel disappointed.  I must talk to some more experienced fellow Toastmasters to get some advice.

Toastmasters really is a supportive and positive learning environment with opportunities for members to develop communication and leadership skills.  This leads to self-confidence and personal growth.

Anyone over the age of 18 can join Toastmasters… male or female… from any career or background.  I encourage you to make enquiries at your local Toastmasters Club as you will be amazed by this incredible life-changing experience that will improve all areas of your life.

Take care, Karen.

“The thing you fear most has no power.

Your fear of it is what has the power.

Facing the truth really will set you free”.

~ Oprah Winfrey

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Launching…My Journal ~ Inspiration for Inner Strength

It is now available.  My first heartfelt gift created for family or friends.  I created this unique Journal to inspire the holder to find their own inner strength.  I have used my own self-motivating quotes that inspire passion in life.  I encourage the holder to believe in themselves and give gentle guidance in finding the happiness that is contained within.  It allows a welcoming personal space for one to express their inner thoughts, during their own personal development journey.

I am really proud of this book “My Journal” and the purpose it has been created for.  Writing in a journal provides a means to express yourself, resulting in mental clarity and a personal connection to deep inner thoughts and feelings.

Journals are used worldwide for a variety of reasons.  Some people like to record their daily happenings, celebrate accomplishments, overcome frustrations, break down their goals into actionable events, capture brilliant ideas or divulge in words of wisdom.  For whatever reason one is able to express themselves in words… it becomes a self-healing, self-motivating or restoration of self-control.

For individuals to combat your struggles with daily stress, depression or anxiety… writing in a journal can help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health and well-being.  There is no better place to start than right here, right now.

Stress… stress… stress… it is all around us, it is consuming us every day.  An overabundance of stress is damaging to our health… physically, mentally and emotionally.  It has been proven over many years, that journaling is the most widely used and most effective stress management tool.  Writing about stressful events can help you bring mental clarity and help manage stress in a more healthy way.   

Writing in a Journal will improve your mental clarity, can help you solve problems in your life and will improve your overall focus and goals.   Basically, it is a tool to clear our mental clutter.  By writing in a Journal, it gives the opportunity to transfer the problem from your head to the paper.  And it works!

So today I am excited to bring you “My Journal” with a powerhouse of my personal quotes to inspire you to make a difference in your world, give you focus and believe you are worth it.  For only AUD$14.00 you can share my passion and inspiration with a loved one, a friend or a gift just for yourself.  To preview “My Journal” or order a copy, please visit Blurb.

I do hope you or the receiver of this gift… enjoy “My Journal” and the inspiration it will bring.  I am so happy to be able to share my passion with you all and hope you all find that inner strength in your life and the happiness within… reigns upon you.

Take care, Karen.

My Journal

“Who you are

TOMORROW

begins with what you do

TODAY.”

~ Tim Fargo,

American Author & Keynote Speaker