Monday, 22 April 2013

"The Gourmet Farmer" meets "The Apprentice"

We have been working with Matthew (the Gourmet Farmer) and Sadie at both their home farm and their new farm for two weeks.  As with all our volunteer work we have learned a lot.  There have been challenges, like helping host 16 corporate people from SBS for a 4-course lunch at the farm, splitting a few tonnes of firewood (if you saw the episode where they built the smoker, we split the parts of that tree they didn’t turn into planks), and holding an ewe that was trying to escape the yard while we were trying to get her onto a trailer.
Our accommodations in the "pickers hut"
And despite my belief to the contrary, getting up on those cold mornings have been challenging.  We are staying in an uninsulated, unpowered, unplumbed and unheated pickers hut, and it has made for interesting night time discussions along the lines of:
“Is it too cold to get up and go pee?”
“I don’t know, how much do you need to go?”
“Quite a bit, I shouldn’t have had that cup of tea after 9pm.”
“You know that always makes you need to pee in the middle of the night.”
“Yes but it isn’t always this cold!”

And this goes on until the person caves and goes outside to pee.  OK, who am I kidding?  Until I go outside and pee.

But it has been great as well.  We have learned a lot about rare breed pigs, about milking cows, and about rotational grazing (management intensive grazing using electric fences that are moved regularly).
Oh yes, and we have been taking these cute little guys off to the abattoir too
And Chuck the Truck is being used for what he was meant for.  Towing trailers, lugging timber, four-wheel driving across paddocks, carrying fertiliser and straw.  And in one case towing a porta-loo! Which I certainly never anticipated using him for, but he is like Chuck Norris in Walker Texas Ranger, whenever people need him he is there to help.

Meeting some of the people who Matthew works with has been one of the best things that we have experienced.  He has a great network of people and they all have a unique energy and approach to life.  We are very lucky to get to meet some of them, and even more lucky to work with them.
With a work environment like this, it's no wonder we want to be farmers!
Now, onto the property situation.  We started looking in earnest this week.  We have revised our previous plans somewhat.  First, the size.  You see, quite a few people we have met have started with 10 to 20 acres and then had to buy additional land to accommodate new plans when livestock come onto the scene.  The fact is that 10 acres, after putting a house, a garden, some fruit trees, a dam or two and a shed doesn’t leave much space for grazing animals.  Trying to put half a dozen cows or pigs onto the remaining space creates an overgrazing situation and a horrible mess in winter.  So we have upped our planned area to 50 acres, and are struggling slightly with the consequences of this on our initial property budget.  We will keep you posted on how this works out.

Secondly, the house.  We were talking about getting a place with an existing house on it, but this feature appears to add at least $200K to the price of any property.  The problem is that no house we have seen is actually up to scratch in terms of design or insulation.  Most are weatherboard places built in the wrong part of the block with no scope for grey water reclamation or solar energy utilisation.  To retrofit one of these houses even slightly would add significant additional cost and negate the usefulness of paying that $200K premium in the first place.  It would therefore be much better to build a new passive solar, straw bale, double glazed house, despite the significant grief that this would cause us.  And by grief I mean having nowhere to live in addition to the much trickier matter of dealing with Tassie tradies.  Cue a number of late-night conversations regarding whether Cor would be prepared to live in a caravan on a building site or, as Matthew is pushing, a converted shipping container.  This chat is normally over before the peeing conversation starts.
Our source of warmth..... when we can wait for it to get going!
And finally, we have had the surreal experience of watching an episode of the Gourmet Farmer sitting on the couch with the Gourmet Farmer.  Very odd indeed, kind of like turning on the director’s commentary feature while watching a DVD, except this one is brilliantly interactive.

So that is where we are.  We will be back in Queensland in June for my sinus surgery and a biopsy of my cheekbone, but in the meantime we have another couple of weeks of work here, then onto another farm for more learning for May.

Until next time, dream of the Good Life!
The mornings that make it all worthwhile

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