200. Sunday 10th July 2011. Another week at Finch Hatton and the Census is a little closer…

As always, please remember the photos can be enlarged to 4 times their size by clicking on the image then a further click to enlarge a second time.

Monday 4th July 2011.

Independence Day in the US of A.

No celebrations or fireworks here in OZ. Just another regular day.

Sort of…

Donnis had an Orientation Day at CQ Nurse so I dropped her off at their office at 9am while I took the Terios to Bob Jane T Mart to have them check on a slow leak in one of the tyres. It turns out there was a nail in the tyre and we need new tyres on the front.

Darn!

When I went to collect Donnis, two fire and emergency trucks passed with their sirens wailing. Donnis and all the people from the building were standing out in the street as the emergency alarms had sounded and everybody was evacuated. The fire trucks had also arrived. It may have been an electrical fire or fault for although we could not see any smoke we could smell burnt plastic.

From there we went to North Mackay to have additional flaps sewn onto our awning ends. I have a plan to enclose the awning ends and to make it, if not waterproof, at least water repellent especially over WWWGO door. As usual the guys at True Blue Canvas were less than helpful and their attitude needs a good dose of humility. I have dealt with them, on and off, for around 20 years and they have always had a superior attitude.

Their web site has not been working, at least for the 4 or 5 weeks I have tried to access it.

I digress.

In the morning, while waiting for Donnis and the tyre repair, I took a stroll down Victoria Street in Mackay. Imagine my surprise when I bumped into Gurdeep as he was delivering satchels of papers. He works as a courier driver. We worked on the recent Qld Transport Survey. He took time out of his busy morning to have coffee with me. I asked him many questions about his background and learned something about him and his home region of Punjab in India. We spoke about food. He is a chef and loves his food and on the basis of our talk I have decided to make a chicken Tikka Marsala this week.

When camped at Finch Hatton, we are about an hour away from Mackay. Whenever we have real shopping (as opposed to just needing a litre of milk) we go to Mackay. It ends up being a full day of going to various shops and having lunch. Normally we share a Subway and a coffee and that costs us around $8.00. Today Donnis had a craving for Sushi. That alone was $13.00 but then she felt like Honey Sesame Chicken – another $10.00. Next time we are going back to Subway.

Tuesday 5th July

At 6am this morning the sunrise was a giant blood red glow across the eastern sky. From our vantage point looking down and over the sugar cane fields the sunrise had a counterpoint of mist sitting in the hollows between fields.

We had a few jobs planned for today, including washing Terios to get the Diggings Road mud and clay off and a few loads of washing. Just as the first load of washing was underway and I was washing Terios, Donnis phone rang. She has been offered a short shift with Qld Nurse on a Respite Care job. By the time she got showered and dressed it was time to head off to work.

I managed to get the other tasks done and sent her off to work with a clean car.

Today was like a summer day with temperature around 31°. I spent much of the day in just a pair of shorts.

Spoke with Melissa tonight. She is out of hospital and staying at Innisfail and should be well enough to travel home tomorrow. I offered to cook dinner.

Wednesday 6th July

Another blood red horizon at sunrise. Donnis was leaving for work and I heard her exclaim “WOW” as she walked to Terios.

I rode Virago to Finch Hatton to deliver my Census test papers to the Area Supervisor who was not home so I slipped them under the back door.

While out and about on Virago I rode around some of the back paddocks and watched part of the harvest going on. After a sugar harvest morning I thought I might mention a little about what happens at this time of year.

Harvest usually begins mid-June and continues on until October or as late as November depending on weather. Most farmers still burn the cane before harvesting. This burns off the “trash” but not the cane itself. It seems that cutting burnt cane is easier on equipment but does have a downside of floating embers and fallout of blackened cane fronds landing on houses and particularly any washing still on the line. Burnoff is carried out at twilight when winds have died down.

The day after the burn a harvest begins and tractors towing “bins” move into place beside the harvester.

A harvester and accompanying tractor with bin are in full harvest action. Enlarge to see the cane blowing into the bin and the trash being ejected at the harvester from end.

Once a bin is full, the tractor tows it to a railhead for collection while another tractor with bin moves in beside the harvester. This goes on all day and sometimes at night. The bins are collected by a cane train and taken to the nearest mill for crushing. It is not unusual to see a train towing 150 bins. I have seen one train with 300 bins behind it. The train tracks criss-cross all over the Pioneer Valley and reach far out farms or railheads.

Virago is a good scale to show the size of cane. This cane is not partiicularly tall but is a good example of the everage height.

This is the time of year to be especially vigilant when driving on the roads in the valley as there are many crossings, some are on blind corners or where heavy growth can hide a train approaching a crossing.

Tonight, while waiting for Melissa and Steve to arrive we witnessed a cane fire across the street from the stud. The cane paddocks, no more than 200 metres from the house and just a narrow dirt road from the property boundary were erupting in flames.

Although a little out of focus the photo of a cane fire conveys the excitement most people feel when they see this spectacle the first time and every other time thereafter. It becomes mesmerising.

This fire is no more than 200 metres from the house verandah. Burning embers drifted around for 10 minutes. Next morning Terios and WWWGO were covered in black ash.

The horses in the paddocks took fright (as you would) and galloped to the furthest corner away from the flames.

This photo, taken in fading light and on full zoom is a little out of focus but still shows the concern of the horse as they galloped to a place as far away from the flames as they could get. Note how they are all facing the fire.

The noise of the crackling fires, horses hooves as they galloped and their whinnying added to a sense of apprehension. The fire died out within 10 minutes and the horses gradually drifted back to where they started.

I roasted a chicken in the turbo oven for dinner and baked a chocolate swirl butter cake to welcome Melissa home.

My chocolate swirl butter cake. Welcome home Melissa.

She is in a great deal of back and hip pain.

Tonight was also the final game in the 2011 State of Origin Series. Steve is a staunch New South Wales supporter and becomes annoyed if they are losing. Tonight his team were down 24 nil so he left the room to “look after the horses”. While he was away New South Wales scored two quick tries to make the score 24 to 12. When Steve returned he felt happier as there was a chance his team would score again after half time or even win. After half time my team scored again so Steve went to bed in disgust. Shortly after he did, his team scored an eight point try but were eventually beaten 34 to 24 and Queensland went on to win the series six years in a row. A record for origin rugby league.

Thursday 7th July

Donnis worked and Melissa n Steve drove to Mackay for her MRI and doctors visits. I stayed home and weeded around the house, then emptied all the horse troughs, cleaned the mung n drool and weed n grass from the bottoms and cleaned out the drainage then re-filled all of them. As well I mucked out the three stables and carted the manure away down one of the back paddocks to a lemon tree. All this was done in 28° heat (remember this is winter) so I was feeling kinda tired by 4pm at which time I started preparing for dinner. I made a large meatloaf with plenty left over for sandwiches.

Friday 8th July.

My first training day with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the 2011 Census team. We discussed our respective area of delivery and collection and as I expected, my area, geographically, is larger than anybody else. Mostly it is farming properties and they are well scattered. I have now named my area Texas. One of the other collectors, Murph has offered to take part of my area as I have to drive through her area to reach Eungella Dam. As well, she has agreed to spend a day with me driving around my area and pointing out where each of the properties is located and indentifying my boundary.  Thank goodness for that bit of help.

The team, including a reserve, are all women and all known to each other and all selected by the area supervisor.

Saturday 9th July

Just a day doing odd bits n pieces around WWWGO and the farm. Melissa is still shuffling around in pain and is hanging on to a comment, made by the MRI Technician, she will be OK in three days. That comment was made on Thursday and the three days is up tomorrow. Unless a miracle occurs overnight I think she will be shuffling in pain for a few more days yet.

Steve left this afternoon to return to work at Moranbah but will be back Monday afternoon. We fed the animals in the evening and I cooked a chilli chicken and vegetables in a coconut cream for dinner and Donnis made an apple crumble for dessert.

This afternoon I chopped a few small logs for the fire. I say a few as that was the number I chopped before most of my back began to protest. Oh dear! I thought my back problems were, if not gone, then at least improved. Not so, it seems. Each evening, just before dark, I have been lighting the fire and we keep feeding the split logs until yawns begin to overtake – usually by around 9pm. Tonight was no different. Melissa still cannot sit at a regular chair at the table so she sits in the leather recliner with our stable table and eats there in reasonable comfort. (http://www.mileskimball.com/MilesKimball/Shopping/ProductDetail.aspx?TID=_MilesKimball&CID=MKOfficeandBooks&SCID=MKDeskandComputerAccessories&P

Hmmm! With Steve away at work for a couple of days I am going to have to do a bit more wood chopping if we want a fire each night.

The days this week have been just great. Fine n sunny with temps up around 27° and even reaching 31°. Once the sun sinks behind the mountain range behind us, the temp plummets dramatically.

Sunday 10th July

A bit of a lazy day for a change. Melissa still in pain and barely managing a shuffle. I did a little preparation work for the census and planning my route around Texas. Donnis did a bit of tidy up in WWWGO and found a few things we have not used and which Melissa has no use for so in the bin they went. Animals got fed about sundown. Donnis cooked up a thick n hearty vegetable soup for dinner.

See yo all next week.

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