Rural Reflections #27

Reflecting from the rural coastal region of my hometown of Coolongolook NSW watching the smoke from bushfires in the distance near Forster/Tuncurry NSW.  Here I am spending some time with my Mum and preparing for a speech at the local Primary School tomorrow.

It is beautiful to see some green foliage within the scene and beneath my feet for a change.  My Mum loves her garden… from shrubs and flowers… to growing plenty of fresh produce to make into jams and relishes.  The coastal region does attract a lot more rain than our western area.

Today, it is a beautiful day in paradise and I am appreciating my beautiful surroundings.  Roses in full bloom, flowers sprawled across garden beds and healthy vegetables growing in abundance.  This morning I helped my Mum pick fresh blueberries and strawberries before breakfast.

We then enjoyed fresh fruit with yoghurt and her variety of home-made jams on toast.  Whilst my Mum and visiting Aunty are working hard in the garden, I have been catching up on some work and preparing for my speech tomorrow.

I have been invited to Coolongolook Public School… to speak about my childhood, my life, my businesses and to inspire these young students.  It will also be Grandparents Day with special visitors.  This is where I attended Primary School many years ago, so I am very excited to return as a guest speaker and to see the changes first-hand.  My intention will be to motivate my audience, encourage their confidence and dreams, and to inspire success.

Travelling down the mountain yesterday, heading towards the coast, I noticed very thick smoke on the horizon and high winds which would be causing havoc and spreading the fire.  The bushfire is in the Forster/Tuncurry region, with people sadly losing their homes in nearby areas.  Volunteer firefighters are doing what they can, around the clock, trying to keep people and their properties safe.

The smoke is not blowing in this direction, so cannot be smelt at all where I am.  My hearts goes out to those victims and those in the vicinity of the bushfires.  It doesn’t matter where you live… you never like to see fire threatening lives nor belongings.

So today, I share with you this photo, showing the smoke in the distance and ask that you spare a thought for the NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers protecting others and working in harsh conditions of heat and thick smoke.

Rural Reflection #27…

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I like this photo because it depicts my upbringing with my family, the beautiful surrounds and Mum’s passion for gardening.  The gazebo was an addition that Mum erected later in life, that has a special connection to a family friend and is indicative of life and death.  That special friend was taken far too soon as a result of a farm accident.  For me, this gazebo is a symbol of him and the value of family friendships.  His memory will always live on through his beautiful family.

I also appreciate having some time out here today at my Mum’s place admiring her garden and the effort that her and her good-hearted sister put in to keeping it so beautiful.  I do not have a green thumb so lack the expertise and passion this involves. But I certainly do grasp the beauty here, and understand that water in our environment makes all the difference.

What better place to feel motivated and inspired?  I feel like I can breathe here and relax.  Admiring the beauty around me, whilst holding my family close to my heart.

Take care, Karen.

“We might think we are nurturing our garden,

but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.”

~ Jenny Uglow, Author

Rural Reflections #7

Something a little different today, as I travel for an appointment this weekend… I will be reflecting on a farming area in central-west NSW.  I have snapped this photo, as we travel through Coolah NSW today.  I am reminded of the Sir Ivan bushfire only 2 years ago in this area and the devastation that was thrust upon those many farmers and home-owners.  A destructive blaze that destroyed their homes, businesses and livelihoods… yet their strong will and resilience have somehow seen them through.

The Sir Ivan bushfire started at the small rural locality of Leadville and burned about 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres) of land near Dunedoo, Cassilis and Coolah in February 2017.  The blaze destroyed 35 homes, farm machinery and killed about 4,700 sheep and 500 cattle, which cost the region millions in damages.  Tragically many of their dogs were also lost in the inferno.

Due to the enormous scale of this disaster, the charitable support and working volunteers from BlazeAid and the NSW Rural Fire Service… were a great savior bringing assistance and hope.  I recall BlazeAid volunteers stepped in to help rebuild boundary fences and other farm structures that had been damaged or destroyed.  BlazeAid volunteers worked in the area for many months, helping individual farmers, families and the local community.  I remember the Country Women’s Association (CWA) members driving down from Tamworth to cook meals for the voluntary workers and farming community and to help lift their spirits.

Meanwhile, the Merriwa-Sir Ivan Bushfire Appeal were fund-raising to help the victims of the disastrous bushfire, by asking people to donate cattle or funds that could help purchase cattle.  Through wider community support, 515 head of cattle were sold and the appeal had raised $835,000.  This appeal was focused on rebuilding more internal fencing, sheds and water infrastructure, as a medium-term initiative.

Sadly these farmers haven’t had a chance at a full recovery, because they have gone straight from a catastrophic fire… into drought conditions.  These producers need decent rain to allow pastures to make a comeback and the natural vegetation of trees and shrubs to possibly recover.

Today, I share with you this photo as a symbol of the strength and resilience of farmers.  In a time when farmers were faced with a natural disaster… they found the strength to rebuild their lives and continue farming in the agricultural industry.  In a devastating time, when “giving up” seemed the best option… they didn’t.  Somehow they found that inner strength… to get up again and overcome the pain and loss incurred.

Rural Reflection #7…

07 Lucerne Flats to Arid Rocky Hills at Coolah NSW

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This photo shows a lucerne paddock in the foreground, struggling in drought somewhat, but recovered from the bushfire.  It seems this region has been fortunate in receiving some of the recent storm rain, which has helped, but plenty more rain will be needed to break the drought and retain moisture in the soil for future crops.

The gentle hills behind, provide livestock with shelter, which has not properly recovered, even after 2 years since the devastating bushfire.  The bony hills have had all the natural vegetation burned out and has not recovered at all.  I like this photo because it shows the extreme variation of farmland, terrain and soil structure in Australia, which depicts the Australian rural landscape quite well… from the productive lucerne flats and undulating hills, up to the arid rocky outcrop.  It also is a symbol of survival through adversity and optimism for the farming future.

I do find this natural diversity of land very interesting… with 51% of Australian land being used for agriculture and only 10% is arable or suitable for growing crops.  Land use has a major effect on our food production, natural environment and communities.  In Australia, food security is regarded very highly as high food safety standards are implemented.  Factors that affect land management include climate change adaption, population and urban expansion.

It is not uncommon for rural families to be forced to travel some distance to other regional cities to see medical specialists.  When we travel, we tend to choose a route for a rural deviation as a means to avoid traffic as well as take the opportunity to view other farming areas.

It is a farmers passion for the rural industry and in recognising the need to sustain the future food security of our country… that they find the inner strength to persist and endure the struggles.  The hope for their future is also supported by many Australian communities through reputable charities, whether it was in recovering from the devastating bushfire or this horrid drought.

Take care, Karen.

“In the end,

some of your greatest pains

become your greatest strengths.”

~ Drew Barrymore

 

 

What is WAGS?…Women In Agriculture Gaining More Skills

A relaxed and informative “Summer Session” earlier this week at North West WAGS.  Women In Agriculture … an initiative provided by the North West Local Land Services (LLS).  The WAGS program facilitates technical upskilling in the agricultural industry and agribusiness management.  It provides a welcoming space that women can ask the “silly questions” without feeling awkward or embarrassed.

All women are invited to the free bi-monthly workshops, events and agricultural based days throughout the year.  WAGS have a range of women from inexperienced to the more experienced in agriculture.  A variety of topics are chosen, with direction from the women in the group.  The workshops offer an opportunity to share and gain skills and knowledge around topics such as ruminant nutrition, plantings and drought resilience.

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Our last event was about “Surviving the Summer and an end of year get together” so was very relaxed yet very informative.  Useful topics that were covered included:

  • Being Fire Safe
  • Being Farm Safe
  • Summer Management of Livestock
  • Summer Sowing Options

We learned where the “safest place” is during a fire on your property and how to handle the incident.  The most important thing is to have that family discussion, so everyone is aware of the plan.  We were given a guide for making our own Bush Fire Survival Plan.  I feel more confident now, on what to do if faced with a fire on my farm or near my home.  For more information see these links:

  • Bush Fire Survival Plan – to get your free plan for your family.
  • Fires Near Me NSW – an iPhone “app” providing information on bush fire incidents in NSW.  There is also a “Fires Near Me Australia” app.

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NSW Rural Fire Service also requests that you monitor the websites of your local fire and emergency service for bush fire information.

A WorkCover presentation provided us with information relating to on-farm quad bike safety.  Interesting and informative.  Current rebates were discussed for improving safety on the farm.  For more information, see these links.

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Information was provided regarding sowing options, forage sorghum varieties and changes to herbicide 2,4-D noting to check the safety data sheets.  In the current drought hay has been purchased from interstate, so there will be new weeds introduced to our properties.  We are advised to bring in the weed to LLS to be identified or take some photos.

An abundance of information was presented regarding livestock management in drought, feed nutrition and water quality.  We also heard about the trials on tropical pastures.

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There was a representative from RAMHP – Rural Adversity Mental Health Program – a program to inform, educate and connect people with appropriate services.  This is an important initiative in times of drought.  Information was provided on mental health and managing stress during drought.  For more information, see link RAMHP.

Not only were we provided with so much knowledge and information sheets, the Loomberah Hall Ladies provided a delicious morning tea and lunch.  As I was leaving one of the ladies gave me a beautiful envelope donated by a city person to a farmer in drought.

When I opened it, there was a little personalised note with $25 requesting it be spent on something nice like flowers, hairdo or chocolates.  I have not had my haircut for ages, so that is what I will do.  How kind and thoughtful of this lovely lady… it really made my day.  Small gestures go such a long way.  Thank you so very much.

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This drought has reminded me that there are really kind and caring people in the community at large.  Farmers are even finding strangers connecting with them, making way to new friendships.  We are surrounded by a lot of generous and thoughtful community members.  Thank you all for supporting our farmers.

Topics that have been covered on other WAGS days in the Tamworth area, have included:

  • Using and Training Working Dogs – with Tony Overton, a well-regarded dog handler and stockman from Walcha.
  • Using the LPA and NLIS websites – with practical use on laptops.
  • Feed Testing Results – important in drought times.

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Just one day away from the farm, can lift the spirit and you get to enjoy the company of other women and share stories.  It is an enjoyable way to learn and grow your skills, especially with the challenges faced with the drought.

The WAGS program is facilitated by Naomi Hobson, Kate Pearce and Sally Balmain from the North West LLS Ag Extension team and has engaged with over 100 ladies across the four WAGs groups based around:

  • Tamworth
  • Narrabri
  • Walgett
  • North Star

For more information about the WAGS program:

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Similar programs are “Ladies in Livestock” facilitated by the Northern Tablelands Local Land Services.  Groups are based at:

  • Guyra
  • Inverell
  • Tenterfield
  • Walcha

For more information about Ladies in Livestock, contact Georgie Oakes at Northern Tablelands LLS on 0429 310 264, as well as the Ladies in Livestock Facebook page.

Take care, Karen.

“When women support each other,

incredible things happen.”

~ International Women’s Day 2018

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