Sunday, 21 July 2013

Winner winner, bacon dinner!

Since my appointment disaster, we have been “pissed in paradise” and trying to get as much done in North Queensland as we could both to tidy up old loose ends and prepare for our new life in Tasmania.
Oh, and Cor has been baking too!
However while out doing some shopping Coreen and I were intrigued to see some frozen rare breed pork and goat being sold in a local fish shop.  It seemed like an odd product choice for a fish shop until we talked to Dominic, the owner.  To our amazement it transpired that we have a couple producing free-range rare-breed pork and Boer goats right here in Ingham!  I asked around and no one had heard much about it, apart from some gossip about the couple possibly being involved in the re-opening the old Taylor’s Beach abattoir.
So Cor and I got their phone number, and after some phone tag got in touch with Jules of Backfatters to go out and find out what was fact and what was fiction.

And what we found out was that not only were Jules and her partner Shane raising rare Large Black and Berkshire pigs, they were driving the development of a whole new form of agribusiness in an area traditionally dominated by sugar cane production.  On arrival at their farm we were met by some beautiful Maremma dogs, and I thought “here we go, we are in the right place”.  Maremmas are traditionally used to protect stock from predators (dingos, wild dogs etc) and if properly socialised are also excellent with people.

Jules told us the story of how they became “accidental pig farmers” when their boar got out one Christmas and mated all their sows, giving them (3 months 3 weeks and 3 days later) a massive number of piglets to get rid of.  She shared their experiences trying to get their animals humanely dealt with, and the sheer frustration and tyranny of distance that led to them to try to reopen the Taylor’s Beach abattoir.  She explained how government bureaucracy initially made it impossible, and how it was only a message on Facebook to all their market customers in Townsville saying that they were “going out of business” that galvanised a team of savvy loyal customers to help them fill in forms, prepare reports, document procedures and secure the necessary permissions to reopen the abattoir.
Backfatters also have these cute little guys!
She was open about the challenges they face, and proud of their achievements (try getting your new farm to survive Yasi, a Category 5 cyclone – yikes!).  Their produce is so good, they were finalists in the Delicious magazine produce awards and attended the finals in Sydney last week.  And they now have people from all over north Queensland sending them their animals for slaughter and processing.  If you can get your hands on pork or goat from Backfatters, do it, you won’t regret it.

Cor and I were overwhelmed.  To find yet another couple of people, 20 minutes from where I grew up, following their dream (or at least that of their boar), was absolutely brilliant.  The road beckons tomorrow as we start our long drive south, but the information that Jules and Shane were prepared to share with us made us feel like this thing we are planning may not be such a lonely road to travel after all.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Pissed in Paradise

It is a beautiful day outside.  It must be rocking mid 20’s C in the middle of winter, blue skies, a real picture of paradise.  And I am very pissed off.
See?  Paradise!
Let me rewind a little….

As our regular readers know, our car accident a few years ago left me with a pretty smashed up nose, which has been giving me general grief for years (leaking, sinus headaches etc), and specific problems since a bout of sinusitis last year ruined our plan to climb Mt Kinabalu and threatened to scupper our dive trip of a lifetime (see this blog post).

What I haven’t told folks is that in December when I went to have the nose looked at it turned out that I also have a benign bone tumour in my left cheek.  It is something that will likely keep growing for the rest of my life, and which I will have to have shaved back periodically to prevent it putting pressure on my left eye.  In a way, the car accident which led us to re-evaluate our lives has also led to the discovery of this growth.
You can see the tumour - that white patch on the right
In December I went on the waiting list to have the sinuses drained and the cheek bone biopsied (to confirm the nature of the growth), and in March, I got the call up.  The only problem was that Cor and I were in Tasmania working with some wonderful people and looking for our new home.  So I gave up my March appointment on the understanding that they would reschedule me for when we returned to North Queensland in June.

And now I am pissed off.  It transpires that they did not actually reschedule me (apparently the people who told me that weren’t the people who make the ENT appointments), and now I won’t get seen by the doctor for at least 1-2 months.

So here we are.  In North Queensland, in paradise as it were, pissed off.  There are a few things we can do, sure.  We are spending some time with family, doing a spot of fishing, sorting out a few things to take with us, organising Cor’s Australian drivers licence (she has to do the test!), and doing some prepatory reading for our new life as farmers.  But would we much rather be in Tasmania, enjoying the cold days out working in the paddocks, the nights in front of a fire, and looking for our new property?  Absolutely.
I know I don't look pissed.... but it is hard to be angry when you are fishing.
So the plan for now is for Cor to do her driver’s test in the third week of July, and shortly thereafter head back down to Tassie via Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, seeing some good friends, picking up some of the stuff that has been stored for 12 years or more on the way.  When I get the call for the operation I can leave Cor with the truck and fly back north to get it all sorted.

It all sounds good, but for now I am still pissed in paradise.
Cor is certainly making the best of it.