Challenges of Farming - 6. CoF Ch 6
“I have no idea where that is, so how close is it to my farm?” I asked, “That we do not know at the moment, we just have to wait till they get some aircraft in the air to assess it, and wait for a report,” Malcolm replied.
“Well once I have done the milking and feeding, I am going to jump into my tractor and with the harrows that I found, I am going to grade all of my northern boundary fences,” I commented.
“That is a very good idea. How about you leave the milking to me, and you can get onto that right away, and I am sure my husband here is capable of cleaning gutters,” Loretta said to me, and I looked to Malcolm, who frowned then smiled. “Yes, off you go now, we will be able to deal with all of this,” Malcolm said to me.
I handed over the keys for the sheds and gates, before going into the shed, and I jumped in with Jack following me in, and after attaching the harrows, I set off down the driveway to the gate, where I would start along the southern inside boundary fence, and followed along the eastern boundary.
Without asking the lease owners, I graded the boundary around the vineyards, before continuing on northwards to the northern boundary of the original farm, which I did twice, to make sure it was clear of any burnable material.
While I was doing this, I called Malcolm, and asked him to make a trip into the city, and to go to the irrigation and pump company, and purchase a portable water pump, a 50 metre long pump hose, a 100 metre long pump hose, all the connectors required, and a heavy duty large sprinkler.
I also asked him to buy me an inverter generator that has 24 volt and three phase outlets along with a ten metre three phase cable, and two 10 litre red fuel containers of petrol to keep it running. By the time I had finished running a firebreak along the river side of the properties, I was happy that I had done my best to protect my land.
When we arrived back at the main shed, there were a number of vehicles parked at the shed and I could see Loretta speaking to the visitors. “Here he is at last, Mitchell, these gentlemen are the farmers on the other side of the river, who lease your land,” Loretta said as I climbed out, and when Jack jumped down, I told him to sit.
Once I had been introduced to the three men, I was asked what plans I have in regards to protecting their lease properties, which caught me by surprise, that they were expecting me to do the work for them. “Do you have ploughs or harrows?” I asked and all three shook their heads no.
“Do you have tractors?” I asked, and one farmer said no, while the other two said yes, with one of them adding that he had a grass slasher, that he uses for slashing the pasture for hay and I knew that it would be of no use. “I suggest that you load up my harrows, and use them to run along their inside boundaries, and to return the harrows in one piece and if damaged I expected them to be repaired.
Once they had left, I let out a loud groan in annoyance and Loretta laughed, “I thought I was a basic farmer, that lot have no clue at all,” I commented, which Loretta nodded in agreement, just as her mobile rang. “Hello… yes I will pass that on to the farmers around the Hay River region, as that is where I am at the moment helping a friend… ok thanks Bev, bye,” I heard Loretta say.
“Is that good news about the fire” I asked in hope, and Loretta smiled, “Yes, for now anyway, the wind has changed, so the fire is heading westwards away from here, and the fire as running along the north side of the Mitchell River Fire Break, which is a lot closer than we had originally thought? It is only about six kilometres from the northern boundary of your land on the other side of the river.
Apparently they have started a back burn from the fire break now that the wind has changed, so that if it does change direction again, the fire will just run into already burnt bush,” Loretta announced. “Well I am very pleased about that, but does it put other property owners at risk?” I replied.
“As far as I can gather, the fire fighters will be back burning, as it continues westwards, following the fire break, which goes to the Denmark Barker road, and continues west through into the Mount Frankland National Park which will protect all farmland to the south of the National Parks,” Loretta said.
“Wow that is fairly risky isn’t it?” I asked, “Not if it is done properly, it all depends on the wind direction mostly, so as to burn away from the fire break, thus creating a bigger fire break with burnt ground,” Loretta replied.
“Sounds like you know a bit about this sort of thing” I asked Loretta, who smiled, “I should, I am the honourary secretary of the local volunteer fire brigade,” Loretta replied. “That is good to know,” I commented, as we headed over to the house, to wait and see how the fire travels.
When Malcolm returned from the city, we tested out all of the new equipment, to make sure that it all worked well, before Malcolm and I started to work out a way of having it on the back of my vehicle, which is a little more modern than the farm vehicle, which is a ten year old 4 x 4 single cab Toyota Land Cruiser.
The vehicle I bought before moving to the farm is a three year old Burnt Orange 4 x 4 twin cab Holden Colorado, which I bought at an auction, and works perfectly after spending three months working on all of the problems that it had.
After some thought, I decided to follow Malcolm and Loretta back into town, so I could collect a few more items from town, and also do some food shopping.
When I arrived in town, Malcolm was already speaking to the store owner of the local hardware store, and I joined them, while Loretta went somewhere else.
“G’day again Matt, I seem to be coming to your store a bit more often now,” I said to the store owner as we shook hands, “That is not a problem, I am happy to help you get what ever you need,” Matt replied smiling and I chuckled at this comment.
“I have been helping out Mitch out at his place with this fire emergency that we have at the moment, and he has recently bought a water pump, hoses and an inverter generator, which Mitch is thinking of setting up on the back of this vehicle, as his farm vehicle will be towing the farms fire fighting tanker and pump,” Malcolm explained.
“I see, so are you thinking of maybe having it set up on the back, so it can be easily removed when not in use?” Matt asked me, “Yes, that is about right, I also have a couple of those stumpy 20 litre fuel containers which I need to be able to store safely, and after some thought, I may have an idea on that, with using one of those poly plastic cooler boxes,” I replied.
“Well I can tell you that the bright orange Frost Bite brand is one of the best, and as it happens it matches the colour of your vehicle, come inside and I will show you,” Matt said to me, as we walked inside and down the aisle where the cooler boxes are located.
Less than half an hour later, I had a 75 litre ice box and a low and flat 100 litre ice box on the back of my Ute, and I had also bought a 10 litre yellow fuel container, in case I need to have diesel fuel, especially since my vehicle is a diesel powered vehicle, and using that container as a measure, I worked out that I can fit all three fuel containers into the cooler box, which is what I wanted.
My vehicle already has a UHF two way radio, a roof rack with spotlights, snorkel, roll bars, tinted windows, side steps, front bull bar, front winch, tow bar, heavy duty suspension, under body protection plate, as well as a sports cargo lid.
Matt suggested that I should get a recovery kit that should include a set of wheel boards, with the main kit containing the straps shackles, chains and protection straps, when using trees as an anchor. I said that I would consider them in the future, but for now, I needed to concentrate more on the safety of my farm from an out of control bush fire.
For three days, I worried about the bush fire, which was still running wild, and had changed directions a number of times, but once it had crossed over the Denmark Barker Road, I started to relax a little, knowing that there was a extremely small chance that my farm would be affected by this fire.
Loretta came to collect the keys from me, which I had an extra set cut, so she and the lad could clean the two cottages, but I was too busy working on the farm and the fire to think about the guests coming early next week, and when she returned with the keys, I paid her the money for the lad and her for the cleaning they did, which took them all morning to complete.
It was well after they had left that I remembered that I should have asked if the lad liked the small cottage, and I made a mental note to call Loretta once I have finished the afternoon chores. When I parked the farm Ute in the main shed after finishing the chores, I could hear the home phone ringing, but I didn’t bother to rush to get it, instead, I grabbed the basket of eggs and the canister of milk and walked out of the shed, locking it behind me before making my way to the house.
The phone began to ring again just as I had served Jack’s dinner, and I walked over to answer the phone. “Hello, Mitchell and Jack’s house,” I said into the phone and I saw Jack lift his head when he heard his name, while there was laughter on the other end of the line.
“Nice intro Mitchell, was Jack there to hear it?” Loretta asked, “Yes, he is and he raised his head from his feed bowl when I did, I am glad you called, I was going to give you a call when I got in,” I replied. “About Myles I am presuming? He is a very hard working lad, I was very impressed with his work today,” Loretta commented.
“That is good too hear, did he say anything about the cottages, while he was working with you?” I asked, “He did actually, he asked me why the cottages were been cleaned up, and I told him that the larger cottage was been leased for holiday guests, and I said that I was not sure about the smaller cottage.
That is when he stated that he wished he could have a place like that to live in, and I nearly said something about your plans, but managed to keep my mouth shut,” Loretta answered, and I laughed at this comment.
“How does he get around and about?” I asked, “He bought a scooter, which Malcolm helped to fix for him, and we helped him to get his licence for it,” Loretta said. “That is very good of you both, ok so if he can get to town and back on his scooter, then he will be ok to live in the cottage then?” I asked.
“Yes, I am sure he will be fine, and I am sure that he will really enjoy living on a farm,” Loretta said, “Ok then; can you bring him here after college tomorrow for a chat, if he isn’t at his other job?” I asked, “Yes, that will be fine, I don’t have anything on in the afternoon, so we will be able to get there by 3.45,” Loretta replied.
The following day, I made sure that I was back at the house in plenty of time to clean up a little and to go and unlock the front gate, which I left open for Loretta, and I had just returned to the shed, when I heard her vehicle approaching.
“Myles Archer, this is Mitchell Wilkins the owner of this farm, which includes the cottages that we cleaned yesterday,” Loretta said making the introductions, “Nice to me you again sir,” Myles said nervously before accepting my hand shake, and I saw Loretta smiling.
“I have been reliably informed that you are looking for some part time work, when not attending agriculture college in Denmark,” I said to the lad, “Yes sir, anything that will get me out of my family situation,” Myles said, and his eyes went wide when he said that.
“Relax, it is alright, like Malcolm and Loretta I am very open about different lifestyles and relationships, so you are in good company, and in a safe environment,” I said and I saw him instantly relax. “How would you like to work for me, and live in that small cottage that you cleaned yesterday.
You can have your evening meals with me at my place, which is the house just behind us, and I can pay you $12 an hour for starters, plus you can refuel your scooter here, so you can get to and from college each week day,” I said to Myles who smiled broadly.
“I accept with heartfelt thanks sir, it will be awesome to live and work on a farm,” Myles replied, “My name is Mitchell not sir, and on weekday afternoons, I will get you to help with the milking of the cows, collecting the eggs and feeding the goat kids and poddy calves.
I will give you plenty of fresh milk, eggs as well as bread, preserves, cereal and bacon to keep you well fed each morning, before you go you college, as well as making your lunch. On the weekends we can work out a timetable for you,” I informed Myles.
“That will be awesome thanks… Mitchell, when can I move in?” Myles replied happily. “Well I have some guests arriving tomorrow, so how about Wednesday after college,” I suggested, and I saw a flash of disappointment, before he smiled, “That will be great thanks,” Myles said to me.
“I will get my husband to come and collect you from college along with your moped bike,” Loretta said to Myles, who smiled and nodded his head in acceptance. “Here is a set of keys to the cottage and gate for your family arriving tomorrow,” I said to Loretta as I handed over the keys, “… and this set of keys is for your cottage, and front gate,” I said to Myles as I handed him a different set of keys.
Myles handed them to Loretta for safe keeping, and she added them to her collection, before they both said farewell, and after locking the gate behind them, I headed over to the milking shed, to do the afternoon chores, with Jack at my side as usual.
The following morning, as I finished off my morning chores, I looked to the north west, where there is still a lot of smoke from the bush fire, which is still burning fast in some very rugged bush country, and I was worried that it would change directions again, and come back towards the farms or directly towards the Denmark township.
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