Thursday, November 1, 2012

Water Issues

I've been having one of those months.  You know the one, where you try to fix a problem and end up making it worse.  We have friends arriving tomorrow and only contaminated water to drink.  I think I went wrong when I filled the tank with town water.  The chlorine may have eliminated our precious little ecosystem within our drinking water. Has anyone else had this problem?

It started about a month ago.  We have three rainwater tanks and the one we were using for everything was empty.  The other two had been pilfered a few times already and were getting low as well.  We needed it to rain, but rain has been elusive this month.  Rain was predicted and by draining the last of the other tanks (one at the quarters, one which has a single tap in the kitchen) we could hold out for about a week.

I didn't want to fill our tank with the dam water again, because that would mean we couldn't drink the water plumbed into the fridge.  So I came up with the brilliant plan of getting council water from town. Thus it was organised.  We drained the rest of the water whilst waiting a few days for the truck.

All good, we had clean water to drink and in which to bathe.  About a week later it rained.  Not huge amounts but enough to top up the tank and refill the other two to about one quarter full.  The singleton tap in the kitchen managed a drizzle.

A few days later, our water supply started to go cloudy, then it had black specs through it.  Soon it looked like it had iron filings throughout.  I figured it was sediment from the bottom of the tank being stirred up, but it didn't settle. It got worse, then it began to smell like something dead.

We managed to get a sanitizer for the water which has eliminated the smell.  It hasn't changed the colour though, and we've decided against drinking it.  So we're left with the water with the one tap in the kitchen, except the level isn't high enough to get any pressure in the tap.  This problem was solved by pumping water from the other clean tank into it.  But now we have stirred up the settlement and the water has floaties in it.

So now we have two types of water, non-drinkable but sanitised black water and drinkable water with specs floating through it.  I'm sure my city-slicker dad and our American guests will be far from impressed.  Luckily the Foodstore is having a special on bottled water this week.

But what could have caused the water to go bad?  Is it that the chlorine did kill the good bugs in our water leaving only bad bugs.  Was it because the new water was diluted by the rain, thereby making the chlorine levels too low, and allowing algae to grow in the tank?

Next time we run out, I won't be so picky about filling up from the dam.  Who cares about a little yellow in the water?  At least it won't be black.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bull Cruelty at Warwick?

I was watching the news this evening when a report came on about the Warwick Rodeo.  They showed footage of a bull which had had its leg broken at the start of a bull riding event.  The screen-shots showed how they attempted to move the bull with a utility vehicle, but this failed when the bull charged the ute.  They then attempted to move it by bringing in more bulls so that they would herd together and all exit the arena.  This worked but in the process, another bull mounted the injured one, and drove it into the ground for a few moments.  After that, the footage showed the bull being loaded on a truck.

This isn't even news, but since they had the footage, the media decided to make it into a story.  The story presented outrage at the cruelty suffered by this animal. There was even an interview demanding explanation by organisers of the event. To a non-rural individual, I can see how easy it would be to get caught up in the hype.  I am visiting my parents in Brisbane this weekend and we saw the program during dinner.  My mother (the problem solver) started discussing what she thought should have been done instead.  It's what we do though isn't it?  We see something like that on TV and immediately put in our opinions of what we would have done or what they should have done, even though we have no experience whatsoever with the field in which we are discussing.

What would I have done?  So easy to comment from the comfort of my chair on the other side of the TV and after the event.  I'd have done exactly the same thing.  What are the alternatives?  Shoot the bull?  Then what?  Get a rope or a chain and drag the carcass from the arena?  That would have made an even better story for the media and would not really have been suitable for all the kids watching.  What about a tranquilizer gun then?  Again, how do you remove the sleeping bull without seeming brutal?

There was a problem, it was solved, no problem.  The media had a nice little story but it didn't even make the headlines on their website.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Education's next important step

I had this post on my other blog but I have decided to keep that blog for financial education tips only.  Now when I want to have a rant about the school education system in general, I'll be posting to this one.  Here's my issue:

I worked as a teacher aide in a city state school for two years and as a teacher in a country state school for two and a half years.  In my time at these schools I observed many children who our system deems "at risk".  These kids were not just slipping through the cracks, they had gone.  There was little left that the current education system could do for them.  They were practically illiterate, innumerate, had no self-worth and no motivation to try to do anything to improve their own education.

I also saw kids who were highly motivated, had a fabulous outlook on life and were getting exceptional grades.  It distressed me that these students had no real skills which would benefit them out in the world.  What I mean is, that they could use a formula, write a story, read a book and pass a test.  What concerns me is that they had no idea how to manage money and it didn't occur to them that there was an alternative to getting a job or going to university for further study to get a different type of job.  Even then, they don't have the interview skills to be able to get a job, let alone negotiate wages.

Within Queensland's Educational curriculum I was unable to help either of these groups of children.  The new Australian curriculum also does not allow for students to gain the necessary assistance.  Here's why:

1.   Students are assigned a grade based on their age.  This does not allow for gifted students or those requiring extra support to get the help they need to progress at their own level.  Teachers are unable to help students because they have to teach a certain level to this group as a whole.  Even if the entire class is  at a level lower than they should be, the teacher still has to teach the work at which they should be, because they have to report on that higher level.  For example, I might have a class of fifteen year old students.  They are in grade ten.  The grade ten curriculum requires that they learn algebra to a certain difficulty level.  The parents are expecting a report on their child's progress at this level from A to E.  To give them this report, I must assess the students at this difficulty level, to assess them, I must therefore teach this work.  No problem so far, I'm all for giving kids the opportunity to excel.  But if I teach everything on the year ten maths curriculum, I don't have time to catch these kids up on things that they don't understand that they should have mastered by grade 5.  And tell me, what is the point of standing up in front of a class and explaining pythagoras' theorem when the entire class of kids themselves think that 4.12 is bigger than 4.4?  They don't get it, they don't care and they're not going to do the work anyway so why not just teach place value instead?  Because I have to give them a test so that their parents know that their kid is an E standard in year 10 maths?

2.  The work the students are expected to do, conditions them for a world in which we no longer live.  Before computers, it would have been an advantage to be able to recall vast amounts of information.  A person who was good at learning facts could have gone far in a company.  Now there is no need to be able to recall huge amounts of data.  Science has shown that within days after learning something, we recall barely ten percent of what we have learned.  Even if we memorise something, unless we use the information regularly, we will forget it soon enough anyway.  So what is the point of the current forms of testing in schools?  Would it not be better to give students the skills to find the information they need rather than learn complex formulas and historical facts.  There is nothing in the world resembling the current form of "tests".  Even if people are given the data, and a time frame in which to extrapolate some meaning from it, they are given days or weeks, not mere hours and they have access to other research tools, other people's skill sets and opinions on which they can draw to gain an answer.  Instead of "Testing" our kids individually, should we not be encouraging and teaching teamwork, communication, negotiation, research and critical analysis of sources?

3.  The subject matter which is compulsory in schools barely gives students any skills which they will require on completion of their studies.  By all means, teach the kids to read and write and do basic mathematics, but beyond year eight, the conditioning process begins and students are only being prepared for a life of further study.  Think about what every person does when they leave school.  They have to earn an income in some way.  They have to drive a car.  They have to vote in government elections.  They are likely to enter a romantic relationship.  None of these things are addressed in school.  English, Maths, Science and History should take a back seat to new subjects which teach our kids something useful.  If they want to read Shakespeare down the track, or learn calculus, by all means, let them at it. But how about we teach our kids how to find work, both with an employer, and on their own merit.  How about we give them communication, negotiation and teamwork skills to be able to run a committee or speak to an employer in an interview.  What if we have an entire subject on responsible driving and get them all a car, bus, motorbike, heavy vehicle and powerboat licence before they leave school.  What if the majority of Australians were taught about our current political systems and were encouraged to speculate on its merits.  What if relationships and parenting were subjects taught over five years during high school?  Would our divorce rate drop?  What would the next generation of kids benefit from that?  Let's teach financial management as a subject instead of a brief unit in one strand of a Maths option (a perceived lesser option that the "Smart" kids don't take).  How would our country fare if everyone knew how to maintain a surplus monetary fund?  Our "A" students are not tomorrows leaders, they are tomorrow's followers.  They are fully conditioned to work hard, get a good job, not challenge authority, vote for the party representing the working class, and pass on these values to their kids.  How often do we hear that our leaders (I'm not talking political leaders) and wealthy people were school dropouts.

4. The school terms are not conducive to learning.  Let's argue for a minute that what students are taught in school is actually worth learning, and for primary school, I do believe that it is.   Our current school year is made up of four, ten-week terms with a fortnights break between them.   The first four weeks of each term is filled with productive learning.  The teachers are motivated and organised, the students are refreshed from their break and everyone is on top of their game.  Then we get mid-term testing and everyone breaths a sigh of relief that the unit is over.  After about week six, it's a hard slog for everyone.  Teachers are burned out and students are tired.  Lessons drag, and everyone is counting the days until the final week of term.  More testing takes place and student attendance starts to drop off during the last two weeks of term.  Whilst schools maintain a policy of teaching right up to the last minute, no real learning takes place in that last week.  Ten weeks is just too long... for everybody.  My suggestion is that we shorten the terms to six weeks.  You can fit six units of six weeks into the calendar year with two weeks break in between each one and a six week break at Christmas (our summer holiday).  You lose four weeks from our current model, but if the last week of term is just filling in time at the moment, what is the difference?  Spend the first five weeks teaching and learning and the last week completing assignments (not tests).  Have a break and begin again refreshed and revived.

I will be home-schooling my children through their primary years because I live in a rural/remote area.  I'd like them to be able to attend a high school for social reasons as well as resources that I do not have at home.  I'd like my children to be able to stand in front of a room of people and speak confidently.  I can't teach them that when there are no other students here.  But I will not accept that they be conditioned in the manner in which the Australian public is currently schooled.  I have twelve years, I guess, to write a new curriculum and start a new type of school.  I would appreciate any and all help in this crusade.  Please contact me by email if you have anything to contribute.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Animal Cruelty Witnessed

I've just spent one minute watching my cat play with a mouse.  I'm not sure how long it's been doing this or how much longer it will continue.  Poor little mouse.  I bet it wishes it was a cow about now.  It would have had a more humane death.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Farmer's Life

I'm in Brisbane now waiting for my new baby to arrive and I've been reflecting on the differences in lifestyle of the city person to the country person.  It came about whilst I was discussing the current education system with a friend of my mother's.  She commented about the stupidity of not being able to keep kids back a year if they were struggling at school.  I suggested that parents need to remember that it is their responsibility to educate their children, not the government's, and that schools are a resource that you do not have to use.  We then moved on to, "Who can afford to stay at home to educate their children these days?"

I wondered at this because it does seem to be the norm that both parents work these days.  My question is: is it really necessary for a family to have two incomes?  There are plenty of single parents rearing children on one income despite the laws regarding child maintenance.  So perhaps we need to consider our lifestyle expectations.

My city friends seem to live in modern houses with multiple bedrooms, study, media room or formal lounge with plenty of space.  They have the latest technology with respect to TV, Computers, IPads, IPhones, and copious amounts of toys for their children.  They have dual incomes.

In my district, the only ones with modern homes appear to be in my parents' generation.  The ones that have slogged away at farming for decades to save enough for a renovation.  Many of my friends live too far out of town to conveniently drive their kids to school and have no other choice but to home-school, making a second income from employment impossible.  When I look around at my fellow farmers and graziers, I don't see wealth, but I do see happiness.  Like many businesses these days, you have to work it yourself, for far longer than the standard 38 hour week just to survive.  Many farmers don't even take a wage for themselves and they certainly cannot afford to pay someone else the standard labour rates.

But our priorities are different I suppose.  We don't have the latest gadget or computer.  We don't even have windows that shut properly, or a decent paint job on the house.  We use borrowed or donated furniture.  Our kids are wearing hand-me-down clothes and share a bedroom.  We eat vegetables that we grow ourselves instead of buy at the shops.  But our lives are completely entwined with our kids.  We don't get babysitters for a night out, we take the kids with us.  We don't spend all day at work and see our kids for a limited time each day.  They come too. The children are just as familiar with the jobs that need to be done daily as we are and they are enthusiastic participants.

People out in the country prove daily that you can live on one income.  You can live on a fraction of one standard income.  It was not that long ago that people were happy just to have a roof over their head and food on the table.  Now many people think they have to live in a McMansion, have all the latest toys and give over the responsibility of raising and educating their kids to strangers and systems that will never value individual children like their parents can.

What are your priorities?  Are you happy?  Do you have time for a doll's tea party, or are you too exhausted from work?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All systems go!

Well, we've finally started.  After having to fix a head gasket on the loader, an oil leak and water pump leak on the tractor, the purchase of a post driver and inventing and building a wire-pulling device, the fencing project has begun.  Now we're on a mission to get the job done before the end of the financial year to get the grants that were the impetus of the whole project.

We're fencing to land type, separating the open country from the timbered country.  This will mean that we can use our paddocks more strategically.  The grass in the open country is always sweeter and will get eaten first before the other grass, but with the new fences, we'll be able to keep cattle in the timber to eat some of that grass and even out the grazing pressure.  The grass in the open country will not be eaten so badly that the good grasses disappear from the land and we're only left with poorer grass with less nutrients.  All in all, our new fences will help protect the land and give us better options for managing our cattle.  Enjoy your steak!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good to be home

We've just been to Brisvegas for baby scans.  All is good.  Being from the city myself, I was familiar with the hussle and bussle of city life.  But it's amazing what you get used to.  I now look forward to seeing horses in the paddock when I wake in the morning and not having to put up with lawn mowers and leaf blowers during the day.  I don't think I could ever get used to having a major highway outside my bedroom window again.  On my one afternoon off, I was surprised to find that wandering around Indooroopilly shoppingtown was not relaxing as it once was.  It's good to be home.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

June 30 deadline

"If you don't spend it this year, you can't have it next year." Our governments do not seem to know how to encourage good spending habits.  Why would you penalise a department for saving money?  Why would you not encourage common sense.

I hear stories about this all the time.  Whilst teaching, it occurred in our school.  Government funding was cut if you didn't spend your allocation.  I heard a story about our navy burning fuel so that they didn't have any left over at the end of the financial year.  My husband is now trying desperately to get a fence built so that he can receive a grant - he's already bogged the ute twice trying to get around in the wet.

And now we have no access to our closest town because our local council has decided to rebuild one of our major bridges during flood season.  The Eidsvold Station Bridge is out.  A sidetrack has been built to detour traffic around the bridge.  The only problem with that is that it is now six feet under water.  There are other ways to get to Eidsvold.  But the roads have been cut up by trucks trying to get around that way and they are boggy and impassable.

There is now no work being done to the bridge because the water keeps washing away the scaffolding.  There are no plans to finish the bridge or give us any alternative to get to town.  All because the money needed to be spend this financial year?  That's the only explanation being circulated at the moment.  How ridiculous.  Why else would you not wait until April or May to start the work?

So here we are: no mail, no groceries, no access for an ambulance to come through in an emergency.  I'm supposed to have routine medical tests done this week to check on the progress of my pregnancy.  I guess I'll skip these.  I'm sure my obstetrician will not be happy about that.  But what else do I do?  We're just lucky that we have half a cow in the freezer, a vege garden and some chooks.

Well done North Burnett Regional Council.  Here's hoping we don't need anything in town for the next month or so.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Take time to picnic

My husband has been working very hard to get a new stock fence built to a deadline.  He's not used to deadlines but with a new bub arriving soon and our other little one still in nappies and not yet walking, I'm sure he's aware that there's not much he'll be doing farming-wise once bub's born.

Our lifestyle here is fantastic, but when hubby is working out in the paddock from daylight to dark, I get a little crazy playing one-year-old all day.  I'm sure I'm not the first mum to experience this.  Luckily for me, there are a couple of paddock vehicles I can choose from to get out and break the monotony.  Miss One get's strapped into a car seat and away we go.  The first afternoon (around 5:00ish) we decided to get out, we ended up visiting Daddy who was busy with a chainsaw.  We didn't want to hold him up so announced that it was just a brief visit and we'd be on our way.  It didn't occur to me that our company was the highlight of his day, marred only by the absence of a cup of tea.  I've now learned my lesson, and since then, we have had daily trips out to visit the tireless worker, with a more elaborate picnic each time.  I've found renewed motivation for baking.  Beyond that, I recognise that this is really why we are here and what it's all about: Spending time with my family and enjoying the great outdoors.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Unwanted animals shot at birth... or...

This video about UK Rose Veal is inspiring.  I knew that to get milk, a cow must give birth to a calf, but what I didn't know is that most of the male calves are shot at birth.  Please have a look at this film, even for a few minutes to get an idea about how dairy farmers and the RSPCA in the UK have banded together to give these calves a chance at life.

What is the situation in Australia?  I will endeavour to find out.  If you are a dairy farmer, I would like to invite you to leave a comment to give us your perspective.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The moral dilemma

This is a continuation of the rant in my last post, if you missed it.

I was reading a book based in Nazi Germany.  A man had to prove himself to Himmler by killing another man.  He was told that if he killed the man, the man's three children would not be killed.  He couldn't do it.  In his belief, it was wrong to kill under any circumstances and Himmler, true to his word, killed the man and his three children.  The point was to emphasise that the man chose his own ego over the lives of the children.  What would you have done?  Is it right to kill one man to save others?

My thoughts on this are inconclusive, and we'll get to how this relates to the moral dilemma of eating meat in a minute.  But here's the thought.  Should the man have sacrificed his morals and saved the children?  I think not.  Because you cannot be responsible for another person's actions.  If Himmler was going to kill the kids, then that is his choice based on his moral standing and not the man he gave the ultimatum to.  Who's to say he wouldn't have killed them anyway.

It's like the woman who stays with her abusive husband because he threatens to kill himself if she leaves.  What other people do is up to them.  We have to live by our own moral code or what's the point?  We have a collective moral code called laws and legislation to prevent acts which harm others.  It doesn't always work as a preventative measure which is why we have courts and judges and disciplinary procedures.  This doesn't always work either.

But there has to be a modicum of free will doesn't there.  We can't police everything all the time.  Imagine if we did.  People would be afraid to go to work in case they accidentally did something wrong.  In my experience, most people spend too much of their work life covering their arses as it is.  Compliance with legislation is one of the main expenses of many Australian businesses which is sending them broke.  It's not just cheap labour that's sending them overseas.

You want to put cameras in all the meatworks and feedlots in Australia and have them monitored full time?  Who's going to pay for that?  Would you work for a company that had you on camera 24-7? What else will they be monitoring? What if you're late back from your 15 min break?

Is it right to kill an animal to feed a family? That's the moral dilemma I've been asked to justify.  If so does that mean that we deem animals to be lesser creatures?  I don't think so.  I believe that I can work with cattle and eat them but also give them respect.  I also believe that eating meat is a natural thing to do.  Other animals do.  If you think that eating meat is cruel to animals then don't eat meat.  I personally enjoy a nice piece of steak.  And I'm happy to argue the point with anyone who wants me not to.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Animal Cruelty

Since becoming an Agvocate, I have had to justify my position on the slaughter of animals for meat.  That's not really a news flash but when you buy your meat from the shop, you don't have to think about whether or not that piece of meat came from a beast that had a horrific end to its life.  You don't have images of cattle, sheep or pigs screaming in fear and pain floating through your head as you buy your bacon or rib fillet steak.

Yesterday I checked out my twitter account to see this link sent to me directly for comment.

And not long ago, a friend posted this one on facebook

Watching these images makes me really sad.  I don't blame activists from getting hold of these videos and doing their best to stop these practices.  It's really confronting.  It does make you wonder whether eating meat is the right thing to do.

But let me make a few comments to put things into perspective.  In both of these cases, the abattoirs were immediately shut down for investigation.  Why is this? Because Australia has standards for meat production and slaughter which are strict and uncompromising.  Any breach of these standards leads to swift action.  There is little room for tightening of this legislation.  We have legislated against cruelty, what we can't legislate against is stupidity and unprofessionalism.

If the workers in these abattoirs are incompetent, it is the job of the supervisors to train them or get rid of them.  But are they allowed to get rid of them I wonder.  I don't know of a single employer (and I know a few) who have sacked an employee in the last twenty years.  Because of unfair dismissal laws, it's too risky.  You have to encourage your employee to resign or somehow make their job redundant, give them a retirement package or some other creative way to get rid of them.  Is it even possible for people employing staff in these facilities to say, "Here's the standards, anyone seen doing otherwise is out."?

Okay, enough of that rant, here's another.  If our legislation is so tight, why does this sort of thing happen at all?  Let's put aside my personal opinion that the second video was staged.  Here's a question, why is there a sledgehammer helpfully lying around in the abattoir? Perhaps it is because, no matter how good your procedures, or equipment, things do stuff up and a few quick blows to the head would be the fastest (and most humane) way of killing an animal in an emergency.  Can you think of something better?

It's a shocking thought, I grant you, but only because we don't get exposed to death as much as others might.  I remember when I was ten, we took a trip to the country to visit some cousins.  Whilst driving with them, a small kangaroo jumped out in front of the car and we hit it.  My Aunt went back to see if it was dead and the poor little thing was lying on the side of the road with a broken leg.  I thought we were going to help it but when my aunt opened the boot, what she took out was a lump of timber and promptly bashed the kangaroo over the head and killed it.  It took me a while to recover from that, and I clearly still remember that standing out amongst other experiences I had that holiday.  But that's the reality of the situation.  Death is a part of life.  Everything that lives must die.  Here in the country, people seem to accept that better than those of us from cities.

So what more can we do about animal cruelty?  Do we shut down all meat producing businesses and go vegan?  I think that Animals Australia and PETA would have us do just that.  What would happen then?  We'd need more grown food to make up the difference.  All grazing land would have to be converted to farm land, be irrigated, and kept free from pests.  By pests I mean animals.  We don't have enough water to sustain our farming land now, look at the Murray Darling issue as an example.  And any animals such as Kangaroos, wild pigs, dogs and cattle would have to be shot on sight so that they didn't eat our precious crops.  What if you weren't a good shot and the animal was wounded in the belly.  That would be more scary and painful way to die than by stun gun or sledgehammer would it not?  And the meat would be wasted. Eventually, with the human population increasing in current proportions, there would be very little  animal numbers left in the world.  Look at all the native Australian bush creatures that we're trying to save from extinction.  Save the koala, save the bilby.  We're encroaching on their habitat now.  Imagine what would happen if all animals became suddenly useless.

Perhaps instead we could let all the animals roam free in designated forests and you can get a permit to hunt your own if you want to eat meat.  Of course that means you'd have to get a gun license and learn to use a rifle.  Again, what if you missed? What if you hit it in the leg and it ran off, not to be found.  What sort of horrible death would it have then?  What if all the cattle were wild.  They'd be subject to diseases like tick fever and worms that we prevent against now.  They'd have horns which they could do damage to themselves and fellow cattle with as they vie for top position within the herd.  The young would be killed and eaten by dingos and wild dogs.  That's not a pretty death either people.  Have you seen what a wild dog will do to a calf or lamb?  Or an eagle for that matter.  They pick them up and drop them from a height, then start picking at them whilst they are still alive.

Slaughterhouses might seem inhumane to you, even to me.  But nature is far crueller to animals than we will ever be.  We have legislation against cruelty to animals.  If we really consider the options,  farming our meat and slaughtering it within accepted practices is the best way to get our food to the table.  It suits city folk not to have to hunt, and it suits country folk to look after the land and animals.

Finally, I'd like to add that cruel people exist in the world and they will find a way to be cruel no matter what legislations are in place.  Unfortunately some of them will end up working with animals.  Others prey on people.  Some will abuse their own kids.  You can make up all the rules you like, but ultimately we have to rely on individuals having their own set of moral standards.  That goes for every business and every part of life and is not limited to abattoirs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fresh food

We've been eating corned beef every meal for a three days straight.  Not because there is a lack of other food, but it was a big piece of meat when it was cooked and you don't want it hanging around for more than a week.  It's one of our own.  Back in the old days (about ten years ago) my husband's family would butcher their own beef.  These days, you really can't get away with that unless you have your own cold room.  So every three months or so we send a beast into town and the butcher takes care of the rest. I've had to learn how to cook all of the different cuts of meat, not having eaten anything but rib fillet before.

We also have three chooks, of which two are laying at the moment.  So we have a decent supply of eggs. We were going to have a steak tonight, but when an accident occurred with the egg carton this afternoon, it was a no-brainer that tonights meal had been changed to quiche.  It wasn't my intention to finish off the corned meat but there you go, the fates stepped in.

It occurs to me, since I rarely buy meat and my veggie patch and chook pen supply a good amount of our staples, why is my grocery bill still around the $800 a month mark?  Methinks I'm going to have to start keeping receipts.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Rain Glorious Rain

It's flooding again.  Not at our place thank goodness, but in Roma and Charleville in central Queensland.  Last year we had widespread flooding all over Queensland and this wet season it's happening again.  It really is a game of pick-your-natural-disaster out here.  If you aren't up to your waist in floodwater, you're either fighting a bushfire or starting the bores because of the drought.  But why are our towns always going underwater? Why did Brisbane go underwater last year?

I would suggest that climate change is a convenient scapegoat, but the truth is that this country has always had these natural disasters. There are a lot of people who know the history of floods and droughts in this country.  How often do they get consulted on issues of infrastructure?  How are developers allowed to build on floodplains and fill in creeks and gullies?  Why are so many people losing their livelihoods and belongings every year? I do not know the answer to this but I have my conspiracy theories.  What's yours?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Coles brand

My mum did some shopping on her way home today.  She stopped in at Coles.  It's unavoidable sometimes, as the 7-11 just doesn't have the range of products you require.  After reaching for her frozen peas, she discovered that the packet she had selected had the coles brand on it.  She had to look hard to distinguish this from the name brand product.  After returning the product from whence it came, she found the McCain frozen peas and continued shopping.  The same thing happened in the cold meats section.  She said she's sick of it.  Not only are Coles products prolific through the store, their packaging is so close to the most popular branded product that it is easy to grab the wrong one in a hurry.  Mum decided not to reach back up to return the Coles packet of ham but dumped it back in the fridge (she said she felt like throwing it on the floor but didn't).  It sounds like a good idea to me.  Next time I inadvertently get the wrong product, perhaps I'll leave it in another part of the store.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vege Wars

They've done it with meat, they've done it with milk, now our big friendly giants are slashing the price on vegetables. Greengrocers are not a threat to the big two, but they'll strategically put them out of business regardless.  Until they have 100% of market share, these companies will not stop.  By then, nothing will be manufactured or grown in this country.  Yes, there is something you can do.  Shop at every independent store that you can.  Other than that, you'd better do some serious investing in Coles and Woolies, because you'll be competing with the rest of Australia for employment when we have no businesses left.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Aussie Jobs

Australian jobs for Australian workers.  There's been a lot of discussion about this topic over a long period of time now.  Our governments spruik about their Job-Creation exploits as our unions are beating down the doors of private companies demanding job security.  Our two big retailers, Coles and Woolworths are demanding that Australian suppliers provide goods at a lower price than they can produce their product and then buying in from overseas. Sadly, the cost of labour in this country is forcing many businesses to seek alternatives offshore.  

Fortunately, at this stage, we as consumers still have a choice.  We can choose not to shop at Coles just to get the discount on fuel.  We can choose to buy the brand name products so that our farmers and manufacturers can remain in business.  We can choose not to be sucked into marketing gimmicks like no-added-hormones and research the facts for ourselves.

There are alternatives to Coles and Woolworths.  Let the big two fight amongst themselves as we support our local businesses in the form of IGA, Foodworks and Aldi.  Sure, you may have to pay a higher price for food, but at least you and many other Australians will still have jobs in which to earn money for this.  

Unlike Coles and Woolies, Aldi supports Australian suppliers in their home brand products.  Aldi have a brand called Brookdale under which they have recently launched new flavoured toppings.   Not only are these products value for money, but they are also set at a reasonable price for the manufacturers.  This ensures that the Australian workers who produce the product can go to work tomorrow and not worry that the factory will pull up stumps and move to Malaysia.  Since the product is made mostly out of Australian sugar, there are jobs for our Australian cane farmers, millers and other workers involved in the refining process.

For those of you who may be feeling nostalgic, you may find it interesting that the family business who have lovingly made this topping for you are the direct descendants of the Tristrams of Brisbane who made such fabulous soft drinks all those years ago.  Yes the family is alive and well and still producing great food products (and crossing their fingers they don’t have to move to Malaysia).

So if you are interested in keeping Australian jobs safe, perhaps you could duck down to Aldi and buy some Brookdale chocolate, strawberry or caramel topping, a tub of ice cream made from Australian dairy produce and a handful of Queensland bananas and make yourself a good ol’ Queensland/Australian banana split.  Of course if you eat this every day you will have to join a gym but hey, your personal trainer needs to eat too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cakes don't grow on trees - they are mostly grass.

I baked a cake today.  This was my second attempt at the Day-To-Day-Cookery's easy chocolate cake and it turned out much better than the last attempt.  For anyone who's planning to have a go, one cup of milk is not nearly enough, despite what the recipe says.

I like to think I'm pretty good in the kitchen, but when it comes to cakes, I am yet to prove myself.  You probably think that making a cake is pretty simple, but imagine what it would be like if you had to prepare the ingredients from scratch.  Here's what your ingredients had to go through to get to your kitchen.

This starts off as wheat, which is essentially a grass.  It grows during winter and is harvested using a machine called a header which takes the seeds off the top.  It then has to be cleaned to get the stones and grit out of the crop.  Water is added to soften the grain and it is then cracked by passing through rollers.  The grain is then sieved to separate the grain into three parts.  Depending on what type of flour you use, you may have some or all of these parts.  More rolling and sieving refines the flour.  White flour has all of the bran and germ removed, while wholemeal flour uses the whole seed.

This is also a grass in its initial form.  The sugar is in the stem of the grass so it must be cut close to the ground.  Leaving the roots means it can reshoot and you don't have to plant again for next year.  The cane then needs to be crushed and is combined with water to extract the juice.  At this point there is still dirt in your sugar, a product called slaked lime filters this quite successfully. The water is then boiled off and what we have left is a syrup. When the water is sufficiently removed, crystals form.  The left over syrup is removed by spinning the product like in a washing machine.  This refining process is done a couple of times to remove the syrup (called molasses) and get different types of sugar.

Cocoa comes from the seed of a pod which grows on a tree.  Unlike trees I've seen though, this pod grows not from the leaves and branches of the tree but directly from the trunk.  It doesn't taste anything like chocolate at this point.  It is harvested by hand because machinery might damage the tree, and the pods don't ripen all at the same time.  The beans need to then be fermented and dried.  After this, the cocoa beans are roasted to crack and remove the shells and the meat is then sieved and ground into powder.

The vanilla bean is actually a cylindrical capsule which is the fruit of a type of orchid.  The flowers of this orchid are pollinated by hand because they only last for a day if they are not pollinated.  The fruit is harvested by hand also and then wilted to stop any further growing.  The temperature is increased to sweat the moisture from the bean so that it doesn't ferment.  It is then dried at room temperature and enclosed in boxes for about three months to produce the flavour.  Vanilla extract is made from soaking this pod in alcohol and water.  Vanilla essence is a more complicated process and the imitation vanilla essence I used in my cake today, is more difficult to determine.

Chooks lay eggs.  Only female chooks can do this.  Male chooks, also known as roosters, have the job of fertilising the eggs which should ultimately result in a baby chicken so they don't lay, just like men don't have babies.  Female chickens still lay eggs even if there is no rooster around.  These are the ones we eat.  There is no refining process.

Cows produce milk.  Only female cattle can do this.  The same way only women can breastfeed their children.  Cows must give birth before they can begin producing milk.  Same as us.  The cows are milked twice daily at the farm.  Milk is then sent to a factory to be homogenised (milk and cream are mixed together permanently) and pasteurised (heated to kill off germs). Other ingredients are added depending on what type of milk you buy in the supermarket. The resulting liquid is then bottled, and sold as milk.

Butter is made from cream, which is skimmed off the top of the milk.  Skim milk is left over.  The cream is then pasteurised and cooled into a crystalline form.  The cream is then churned to produce buttermilk and butter grains.  The buttermilk is separated off and the butter grains are worked into an even product.  Salt may be added to enhance flavour and acts as a preservative.

So there you have it.  All cake ingredients had to come from either a plant or an animal.  They do not just appear in supermarkets but must go through huge transformations just to become ingredients.  And you thought making a cake was easy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Curry Night

Isn't it amazing and wonderful, the variety of styles we now have for preparing food.  You can go down to your local bookshop and buy a recipe book which will teach you how to cook food in a Mexican style, French, Italian, Turkish or whatever you fancy.  I, personally, do not do recipes.  If I am looking for something inspirational, I may open a recipe book but only to look at the pictures.  If I see something interesting, I may go so far as to read the ingredients list but I tend to stop there.  Most of my cooking is a collections of styles gathered from people I have have lived with.  I was fortunate enough during my uni days to have a Korean, a Swede and an Indian living with me and so have collected some tips from them.

But as with everything, I tend to mix things all together to create my own style.  The inspiration for last night's dinner came from a book I was reading while my daughter was having her nap.  The characters in the book were preparing a curry. I don't remember how Mum used to make curry before our neighbour showed us a different style.  I think it was something like a beef stroganoff but with veges and sultanas chucked in.  After Mrs B cooked for us one night, curries became more complicated.  The meat was done separately in the sauce and side dishes were laid out on the table to be added whilst eating.  These included a mix or carrot-apple-and-sultanas, onion-and-tomato and cucumber-and-greek-yoghurt.  I didn't have any yoghurt but had I listened to my intuition when I was shopping this week I would have.  As I passed it in the aisle a little voice inside my head said, you should get that, but I dismissed the comment as I never use yoghurt in anything and at that point was not considering a curry as a culinary choice.

I'm off track, but if you'll indulge my thoughts again- Have you any idea how hard it is to grow carrots?  If you don't appreciate the phenomenal art it takes to grow a big healthy, straight carrot, I suggest you go get some seeds, find a spot in your back yard and plant some.  Perhaps after your first harvest, you won't be so picky at the supermarket.

Back to the curry.  I needed a third side dish.  In the book the characters mentioned banana and coconut.  Since I had both, that suited.  A previous flatmate showed me a way of making the sauce using coconut milk, and that's my standard method now, so I did that.  My Indian flatmate showed me how to make flat bread to go with it, so I did that too.  All up, I spent about three hours in the kitchen preparing this food.  Not an easy feat with Miss-Almost-One demanding my attention.  The whinging got so bad I ended up putting her on a stool next to me while I was rolling the pastry.  I'm surprised I didn't have to catch the little wriggle worm toppling off the chair even once.  But she was happy with her own rolling pin and flour which only added slightly to the cleaning up required.

So that was dinner.  I don't think I'll be making that much effort again for a while.  Not when I get better compliments with my bangers and mash.  But every now and then, you have to do something to satisfy yourself that you still can.

Do you have any cooking stories?  What inspires you in the kitchen?  Where do you get your style from?  Are you a recipe cook or a go-by-feel person like me? Or is it something else?  Leave a comment if you feel inspired.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mango Madness

Mangos are awesome.  I love the taste of mangos.  These fabulous fruit grow in tropical regions, typically north of Carnarvon, WA and Childers in Qld.  Orchards are dotted around the coast of Australia from these points.

The traditional way to eat a mango is to cut the sides off, slice these into cubes within the skin, then turn the skin inside out to display cubes.  A person is then expected to suck the cubes out of the skin.  A word of advice for the mango eater, take your shirt off first.  This is especially prudent for the kids.  Mangos taste fantastic and you don't want to waste any so peel the skin off the rest of the seed and suck the rest of the mango off the seed.  Trying not to get the juice all over your hands, face, and down your neck just makes it worse so have your mango then go for a swim (in the bathtub if that's all you have).

Here's some mango tips:

Wrap unripe mangos in newspaper and leave in a covered area out of the sun until ripe.  Do not put unripe mangos in the fridge as they will not ripen there.
Ripe mangos are great frozen.  Make them into ice blocks or simply store for future smoothies out of season.
Do not store mangos in plastic bags as they need to breathe.

Lastly do not spend less than $2 per mango.  Quality deserves a decent price and anything less means our farmers are working for free.  Farmers love the job, don't get me wrong, but they'd also like to eat.

For more about mangos, here are the sites I plagiarized:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


To a city person such as I once was, raising cattle may seem to be quite easy.  You put the cattle in the paddock and they eat the grass.  Done and done.  When it's time to sell, you get all the cattle out of the paddock and send them off to the meatworks.  How easy is that? Sit back for drinks on the veranda for the rest of the year.

Actually, there is a lot more involved.  I'll try to keep you updated along the way but for now let's talk about weeds.  I look at a green field and think, "Gee that's a lot of grass" but actually it may not be the case.  In fact, some grasses are even considered a weed.

Here's the rundown.  Lovegrass is a weed that is difficult to selectively spray for.  This is because it is a grass and therefore you can't just do a weed-n-feed type thing where you spray everything and the lovegrass gets got and nothing else.  Another reason it is hard to spot in amongst the other grasses.  It's germination cycle is very short, meaning that it grows from a new plant to an old plant with seeds quite quickly.  The cattle will avoid it then and it spreads while the other grasses are being grazed.  Other weeds such as creeping lantana grow in inaccessible places and are difficult to control because they are difficult to get to.  Some weeds, such as mother-of-millions are toxic to cattle and will make them very sick if not kill them.  Seeds can be spread in the wind, by birds, by vehicles and machinery or washed down creeks.

This all adds up to less grass in the paddock for our cows to eat so our graziers (farmers) need to do some serious management.  This usually involves plenty of mathematics.  They have to calculate the amount of palatable grass in a paddock and determine how many cattle can run in that paddock so that the grass can grow back before it all gets eaten.  They have to determine the cost of doing some weeding versus the amount of extra cattle that can be put in that paddock.  If you're at school and you think you don't need mathematics because you're going into agriculture, here's your wake-up call.  Farmers and graziers do maths nearly every day.

So the next time you see a grassy paddock, it may not be the low-cost, low maintenance farm that you envision.  It could require a lot more work than you think.

update 16/1/12 here's another devastating weed-grass

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Things I have learned from my vege garden

We're only seventy kilometres from town but it's still hard to get motivated to do a grocery shop.  It's not like you can wake up in the morning, discover there's no milk and go for a quick walk to the corner store to get some, still wearing your pyjamas.  For the 70k trip, you have to psych yourself for a 45 min drive in, 45 min drive out, and the hour long pick-n-pack routine.  That's 2.5 hours if you don't speak to anyone.  But this is a country town.  You can't feign anonymity here.  Inevitably you'll get chatting to someone or many someones.  A grocery shop is a full days activity regardless of what else you have to do.  I get to town about once a month, if that.  Needless to say, my fresh veges, if not eaten within a week will have gone off anyway leaving us without for a good three weeks, maybe more.

So I started a vege garden.  Never having been a gardener, this was somewhat of a challenge.  Luckily for me, my husband (a grazier, not farmer) has had some farming background and he helped me plant my first seeds.  I'm not going to tell you the proper ways to plant a vege patch (you can google that yourself) but here are some things I have learned about vegetables since I started.

Silverbeet is difficult to kill.
One silverbeet plant seems to be sufficient for all of my spinach requirements throughout the year.  It can be pruned right back to nothing and still sprout again. I learned this when some cattle got into our house yard.  It is also impervious to frost and as long as you keep the water up to it in summer, it will handle heat as well.

Tomatoes grow from seeds dropped the previous year.
I haven't planted any tomato plants this year but I had heaps last year.  So many in fact, that we couldn't eat all the tomatos and they were ripening on the vine, promptly getting eaten by birds and seeds and skins were dropped back onto my vege patch.  This season, I have half a dozen tomato bushes with plenty of tomatoes for our needs.  These always frost in the winter but it is good to know they come back.

Pumpkins grow in summer.
I always thought these were a winter vegetable.  I probably sound like an idiot here.  I never intentionally grew pumpkins before.  Last summer, during the floods, a single rogue seed sprouted under our verandah and took off.  We picked the pumpkins around March this year and we haven't had to buy a pumpkin since.

Sandy loam is not the best soil to grow lettuce.
It's almost impossible to wash the sand off.

Shallots never die off.
I have had the same shallot plants for four years now and it is growing like a weed. At the end of winter, the stalks are really woody and seeds grow on the top, but after that, the stalks separate into smaller parts and new shoots grow.  By spring you have many more shallot bushes. I can't eat them fast enough.

There's more.  I'll keep you posted when I think of them.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The truth about hormones in beef

It has been a year since Coles went hormone free with its beef products.  How are you feeling?  Did you notice the change in your bodies?  Are our young girls reaching puberty at a more appropriate age? Was there a significant difference in your menopause symptoms?  Are you feeling less fit? more fit? less cranky?  Chances are, you haven't thought about it since January last year.

There are still many people who believe that hormones in our food is bad for us.  Thus, we have stopped treating our cattle with Hormone Growth Products (HGPs). We used to use these hormones (which were made from Estrogen) to enhance the growth of our cattle in a smaller time frame.  This also served to make their feed go further as they grew faster on the same amount of feed.  We could sell our cattle early, freeing up paddocks for the new generation.  Now, we still sell our cattle early but to feedlots instead of the meatworks where they spend the rest of their lives in cramped conditions instead of happy grassy fields.

The truth is, you've all been the victims of some very effective marketing schemes and nothing more. Like the remarkable Angus craze, the hormone free craze is just a gimmick.  Do you really think your minced Angus is any more tender than other minced meat when you eat it on a Maccas burger?

Here are some stats about the hormones found in food you eat compared to what your body naturally produces:

4 oz. beef from steer given hormones: 1.6 nanograms of estrogen
4 oz. beef from untreated steer: 1.2 nanograms of estrogen
4 oz. beef from non-pregnant heifer: 1.5 nanograms of estrogen
4 oz. raw cabbage: 2700 ng estrogen
4 oz. raw peas: 454 ng estrogen.
3 oz. soy oil: 168,000 nanograms of estrogen
3.5 oz. of soy protein concentrate: 102,000 nanograms of estrogen.
3 oz. of milk from cow given rBST: 11 nanograms of estrogen
3 oz. of milk from untreated (non-BST) cow: 11 nanograms of estrogen
Average level in a woman of childbearing age: 480,000 nanograms/day of estrogen
Average level in a pre-pubertal girl: 54,000 nanograms/day of estrogen
Average soy latte (one cup of soymilk): 30,000 nanograms of estrogen 

These stats compliments of the website

In an article produced by the MLA (Meat and Livestock Australia) it is stated that "one egg contains about the same level of oestrogen as 77kg of beef from cattle raised with HGPs."   

So there you have it folks, no need to worry about hormones in your food anymore.  If anyone wants to argue the point with you, please direct them to this blog or the following websites for more information.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Getting out and about

Sometimes you just need to get out of the house.  We're pretty lucky out here, no traffic noise, no lawn mowers or leaf blowers to disturb the peace.  But even with all this space, a long walk or a drive around the watering points isn't all that motivating.  Luckily for me, I have a wonderful husband who just took me for a dinner out at our local pub  - a twenty minute drive from here.  I feel renewed and refreshed.  For anyone who has not been to the Cracow pub, you are missing an experience.  But that is for another blog post.  Today is about getting out and about.

The cattle feel the same sometimes.  No matter how good the fences are, if a beast wants to go visiting, there's not much that can stop him or her.  There are various reasons for this - the grass is greener cliche is one.  Another reason is simply that they want to go home.  I don't know if there are any mothers reading this but I can say from personal experience that when I was ready to have my first baby, no other town or city was going to be good enough - I wanted to go home to Brisbane and that's what I did.  Cattle are not much different.  When they are ready for their calf, we often find our heifers back in the paddock in which they were born.

But sometimes, you just need to go and visit the neighbours to be sociable.  Only problem is, if you walk all that way, someone has to go and pick you up and drop you home.  That's what we were doing today.  We borrowed a truck from LN, drove to CP, picked up 9 of our visiting cattle, came home, dropped off the cattle, reloaded the truck and made a pit stop to CR for a drop off, and the remainder were taken back to LN.  We would also have brought cattle home from CR but they hadn't had a recent muster yet and our cattle are still in their paddock.

So there you have it.  Sometimes you just need to get out of the house.  For determined cattle, barbed wire fences are merely a challenge and not a barrier.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Peanuts - pea or nut?

Apparently, before I came on the scene, my new family used to grow peanuts.  Now I always thought that peanuts were a nut.  But I've been informed that they are actually a pea or part of the legume family if you will.  There are many different types and they can grow on a bush or a creeper.  But unlike peas, peanuts don't actually grow on the bush, they grow under it.  They grow in the soil, but not as a root like potatoes or carrots.  The flower which is on the plant, is pollinated and then a stalk which comes from the flower imbeds itself in the soil and a peanut pod grows with between one and four peanuts.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Make hay while the sun shines - or else!

I haven't seen my husband for 24 hours.  He's at his dad's place helping to bale a field of hay.  My father-in-law had tirelessly ploughed the paddock, planted a lucerne crop, irrigated it and watched it grow.  When the time was right (he thought) he went back out with his tractor and cut the hay.  Ordinarily, he would then bale the hay and store it in his shed until it was sold to those requiring hay for horses or weaners or other purposes.
Not so this time.  The time was apparently not right for cutting hay.  The night that he finished, an unpredicted storm swept through his property and the hay got a good soaking.  So what? I wondered.  Apparently, this meant that the entire crop of hay was ruined.  My husband explained to me that the goodness leaches out of they hay after it has been wet.  If only my father in-law had waited just one more day.  We haven't had rain since.  But the weather forecasts are not so good as to predict exact rainy days or nights and our good farmers take some huge gambles every time they plant a crop.
So now the entire field of hay cannot be sold.  My husband is in there baling because what else can they do?  He is going to bring the hay here today and we will use it, for whatever feed value is left.  I will certainly have enough mulch for my veggie garden for years to come.
So that's my farm fact #3 Hay is ruined after one shower of rain. That's about as much of "Farming" as I know.  Can you contribute your own farm facts?  What crops do you grow?  What are some gambles that you take when you plant or harvest?  Isn't it really such a miracle that we get to eat at all?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cows are just people - in cow bodies

When driving around the paddock, I am often amazed at some of the similarities cattle have to people.  They appear to have similar social groups to us. Here's a farming fact for you.  Cows have a gestation period (length of pregnancy) of nine months - the same as people.  After the calf is born they have similar behaviour to us in a social sense.  It is not uncommon to see small groups of cows hanging out together watching their calves play with each other.  I call this playgroup.  We will also see one or two cows watching over up to ten calves while their mothers are off in the distance grazing.  This is cow kindy and our working mums.  They also seem to seek out friends of similar race.  We have Brahmans, Santa Gertrudis, Herefords and mixtures of all of these breeds but even as little fellas, the cattle seem to seek out their own kind and hang out in these groups.  Grey cattle over there, red cattle over here.  I haven't seen any overt racial discrimination at the water trough but you never know how subtle a cow can be.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Farming Facts

Well it's day two of 2012 and I've just had a friend visiting who was telling me some very disturbing stories about what her friends knew about food.  Apparently, after telling her friend how fresh her carrots were (dug out of the garden that very afternoon) she was met with the comment "Eww that's disgusting." When told the milk she was drinking came from the cow over the fence, her friend replied with, "I hope you washed it." What? The cow or the milk?  Another friend, she argued with at great length, because garlic could not possibly grow in the ground because it is white.  Laugh if you will, but clearly, as farmers, we have failed to educate the public on some very important issues.

Since this is the Year of the Farmer, and I have not much else to do, I have decided to assist in the education of the public on some facts about food.  I know a little about cattle since I have lived on a cattle property for the last four years, but, alas, I am still city born and bred and know precious little about the rest of the farming world.  In fact, my husband feels compelled to correct me every time I refer to our place as a farm.  Apparently it is not a farm as we do not grow crops.  We are graziers not farmers.  And while we're at it "Cows" is not a generic term which includes all cattle.  At best, it refers to all female cattle but if you want to get into semantics, it does not refer to any beast which has not born a calf.

So these are my first farming facts.  I'm happy to enter into discussion with anyone whether you agree or disagree with me.  As I said, I'm really a city kid playing farmer...sorry, grazier and I know not much.  If you would like to leave a comment, please do.  If you would like to be a guest blogger or contribute your own farming fact, please leave a message for me on my twitter account @fathappycows.

Join me on my quest for knowledge and my crusade to educate the world, as I plan to put up a new farming fact as often as possible.  Let's see if I can find one for each day this year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 - Day One

Well here we are again at the beginning of a new year.  Like many others, we are enjoying a good season with plenty of green grass and fat happy cattle.  It is officially the year of the farmer and we're going to make it a good one.  But the year of the farmer is not just for people in the agriculture industry.  We can all celebrate by having a nice piece of steak or enjoying some fresh fruit.  Why not make this year, the year to take a further interest in agriculture by heading to the outback and visiting a farm for yourself.  Treat the kids to a weekend away to find out where their food really comes from and get involved in the farming process.

Be warned though, farming experiences may ruin your usual city recreations.  I certainly don't apologise for it, but my own brother used to really enjoy going on the odd trail ride.  Now he sees no point in getting on a horse unless there are cattle to muster.  For that he must come and visit.  Poor soul.

So come out and give a hand to fix a fence or grease a windmill.  I'm sure that many farmers will be happy to provide these experience for free, as long as you bring the beer.  Remember it's not work if it's not your usual job and the splinters you get to keep to show future generations the character building you experienced on the farm.

You can find more inspirational farming stories in blogs on my sidebar, check out what some other farmers have to say.

Have a happy new year everyone.  Make it special by starting to fulfil your dreams TODAY.