Wonderful is waiting lets go out and find it

In the words of Ronan Keating (with a little tweak)

Life is a rollercoaster. So don’t fight it. Just gotta ride it

How big a roller coaster life is often depends more on the choices you make rather than fate and all choices have good and bad consequences and some choices will be smarter than others. You can spend your life beating yourself up over your poor choices but I believe life is too short to do that.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting round the table with a number of like-minded people who have followed diverse career paths at Zoe Routh’s World Leaders Round Table. It was very heartening to see and hear the other people in the room like me struggled at times and continually questioned their capacity to pull off their vision for a better world.

Using Joseph Campbell’s Heroes’ Journey as an analogy. Once I had a cause

“I have a vision for a respected, profitable, innovative, cohesive, and collaborative agrifood sector. A philosophy I hold so strongly that I am totally unwilling to accept defeat,”

that meant more to me than anything else and the mentors arrived in my life I was very excited to cross the threshold


ht Zoe Routh – Source: http://alifetothemax.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/the-hero_s-journey.jpg

But I have always and still do struggle with the ‘threshold guardians’ who form part of the tests and challenges in the graphic above.

The well-meaning one’s (usually family and friends) I understand and appreciate but the henchman aka the Nancies amusingly explained in this Glove and Boots video really occupy my head space far too much

To the ‘Shadows’ I say bring it on. They are the ones who white ant you at every opportunity and in my case I want to thank them. They are the ones who (despite what they perceive they are doing) throw wood on and stoke the fire in my belly when I start to doubt myself

At the moment I am truly enjoying and been inspired by the highly frivolous but beautiful new Myer’s add and when the henchman fill my head space, my other voice comes along and says ‘Wonderful is waiting lets go out and find it’

The add is beautiful and I love clothes and shoes. As you can see from this story in the Weekly Times in Miranda’s column “The glamorous face of farming’


My fav shoes at the moment, including the red ones mentioned in the above article.   

According to Sustainable Fashion academic Professor Kate Fletcher

Fashion feeds our emotional needs- its sets us apart or helps us along

The overlaying of emotional needs on physical goods fuels resource consumption, generates waste and promotes short term thinking as we turn our gaze from one silhouette, hemline and colour palate to the next in search of the next new experience

It also leaves us dissatisfied and disempowered, as physical goods no matter how many of them we consume can never truly satisfy our physiological needs’

I can imagine the Myer add is making Kate cringe and OMG in my endeavours to reduce my footprint on the planet walking away from my love of fashion shopping might be the hardest thing I have ever attempted

Wish me luck. I can’t guarantee it will be on my 2015 New Year’s Resolution list but Jane Milburn has definitely made my list of heroes for 2014

I do want to make a difference in this world like a lot of other people but in this case I am taking one step a time and Myer is doing their very best to be my clothes and shoes fetish henchman but they have given me a wonderful new voice in my head.

Loving this.  Never be afraid to show up before you are ready

ht Fleur Porter

BTW What is my definition of a hero? A hero to me is anyone who makes a commitment (and walks the talk) to add value to the lives of others beyond themselves. As you can see by my definition the world has many many heroes

The things that you find in your loo

I have a frog who lives in my toilet.  To be polite I wont spend too much time talking about the ramifications of that. All I will say is I pay of a lot of attention when I use that room and it certainly is heart starter I can do with out when you don’t see it and it jumps out of the bowl at you when you flush. You can imagine my piercing screams

I was part of a Facebook conversation recently with YFC’s Kylie Stretton and Bron Roberts that clearly showed living in the country often meant you shared your home with diverse array of animals that you would preferred stayed outside where you didn’t want to see them either.

But aren’t frogs fascinating My frog likes to come up the loo and make his/her way  up the hall to my ensuite which is tiled with beige travertine. Sometimes I know the frog is there because it croaks and keeps me a wake at night. Amazingly the frog changes colour to the match the travertine  and most times I don’t see it until I put my shampoo bottle accidently on it and it screeches. Far too many heart starters in my house 


The frog who lives in my bathroom ( when he is not living in my loo)

Cat looking for frog

The cat spotted him and the chameleon capability came in very handy as a life saving tool 

Wow fancy being able to change colour at will when the mood takes you

Color changes like this are created by special pigment cells called chromatorphores. Inside these cells, grains of pigment cause color changes by shifting their distribution. When the grains are packed together in the center of each cell, the frog is light colored. When the pigment grains spreads out within each cell, the frog’s color darkens and intensifies. See http://www.exploratorium.edu/frogs/mainstory/frogstory3.html

And believe it or not humans may soon be able to change colours of their clothes to suit the ambiance of where you can be just like a chameleon?

This could soon be a reality as a textile designers have now come up with an interactive electronic fabric that can change colours in seconds using a number of electronic devices. See more here

OUT OF THE OFFICE aka Get a life

No-one has ever received an I’M OUT OF THE OFFICE office email from me. That’s because I am never out of the office (see footnote) and if I was there is no-one to replace me. Poor me (please send flowers)


Thank you for this great little infographic

Truly – How is that for work life balance?  Not an impressive badge of honour to wear and I don’t recommend it to anyone. Not that this is new.  Its now fifteen years since I worked for some-one else and all I can say is I am glad smart phones didn’t exist then because even when I left the office (which was usually a 90 hour per week gig) I never relaxed nor was I much fun ( and kudos to my family and friends for putting up with me)


Now I am not alone in that there are plenty of people kidding themselves who email back within 5 minutes of me receiving the original OUT OF THE OFFICE message. I will kid myself here and say that’s because I am really important.

Just to show you the how the connected world is keeping us very connected I am finding LinkedIn a great tool for identifying potential Young Farming Champions. To reach as many people who can identify rising young stars I have been building up my LinkedIn connections. Last Sunday I sent 30 Connect with Me requests to agribusiness professionals at 5.30am. Sixteen of these people had replied by 7.30am. Does the agribusiness sector ever turnoff – me thinks not?

So 2014 is the year I reach my ideal weight and get an office assistant and a life work balance, meet new exciting and energizing people and have fun

You will be pleased to know I got off to a reasonable start and I did however manage to find some me-time over the last 3 weeks to relax

That involved making good use of my Kindle iPad app and my new Apple TV ( love it) catching up on all the movies I’ve missed in  the last 3 years ( I mean who doesn’t go to the movies for 3 years – pathetic Lynne) and spending lots of idle time on my front verandah reading


Love my front verandah – all it needs is me and a glass of wine

Now my friends all tend to have very diverse reading habits with only my sister having a similar penchant from crime novels to me. So where does one go to find book and movie recommendations and inspiration from like minded souls. All I can say is thank god for DR Google

Search “Best Books for 2013”

Search “Best Crime Novels for 2013”

Search “Best movies 2010-2013”

and a special thanks to all those bloggers out there who share fav movies and books

So I am going to do my bit (note to book publishers – please send your appreciation reward to my “get a life” fund)

Here’s my list of recommendations and BTW I do read other things beside crime novels but starting with Crime Novels ( note some a lot darker than others )

Now I read anything by Jo Nesbo with Police being a highlight for 2013, Michael Robotham ( Watching You was good ), David Baldacci (note if you are like me and over the Danielle Steele genre – BEWARE every now and then he brings out one of those gut wrenching power of love and determination and miracles story), Robert Goddard, Michael Connelly, Karin Fossum, Nicci French ( loved the trilogy Blue Monday, Tuesday’s Gone and Waiting for Wednesday – bring on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday I say), Camilla Lackberg and a fair bit of Jodi Piccoult stuff.

I love Ian Rankin, am bit over Val McDermid, still fond of Elizabeth George, don’t mind a bit of Grisham every now and then and there are lots of great Scandinavian crime writers of the ilk of Stieg Larsson like Arnaldur Indridason, Ava Larsson and Hanning Mankell

My 2013 highlights have been


Police by Jo Nesbo ( me thinks this has been his best yet)


The Rosie Project by Graham Simsion is an absolutely hilarious, feel-good novel. I read this on the plane.  How embarrassing just couldn’t help myself from laughing out loud and if you have ever heard me laugh you would know what I mean. Whilst the ending is a bit lame I cant wait for the movie.

Thriller with a nice mix of humour

When Will there there be Good News by Kate Atkinson –  I love her sense of humour, ( not for reading on the plane) her sharp eye for the quirks of human behaviour and tales of dramatic events with unexpected twists

The Cuckoos Calling by Undercover J.K. Rowling, aka “new” crime writer Robert Galbraith is a very entertaining move into a new crime novel genre for Rowling.

Very Very dark ( for me anyway)

The Gillian Flynn Trilogy with Gone Girl being the highlight


Sister by Rosamund Lupton  This is a confusing emotive and compelling crime novel that really appealed to me yet I couldn’t get into her next novel Afterwards

Historical Fiction

The Aviators Wife by Melanie Benjamin

This is the story of the relationship between Anne and Charles Lindberg told from her perspective. This book was beautiful. It was raw, and heartbreaking in places; but beautifully done.

A review of the book I related to

It was real. It never tied itself up in a neat little bow. It was complex, and deep. It was unfair, and unresolved. It was life. I liked the stream of consciousness narrative. I fell in love with Anne, the main character, as she copes with the unexpected ups and downs of marriage, fame, and life, while trying to find herself, and figure out what it means to be a woman.

Motivational –  don’t normally read this sort of stuff  but then again it was a year of doing things I don’t normally do

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In Lean In,

She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”  She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.
Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

A Way Through – The Rick Farley Story by Nicholas Brown and Susan Bowen ( I will write a separate blog post about this book )

Bit of fairly serious Chick lit

In a Moment by Caroline Finnerty is a very emotional read, be prepared to go through all the stages of grief, Denial, Anger, Depression and then Acceptance.

A Beautiful Death  by Fiona McIntosh sees drop dead gorgeous DCI Jack Hawksworth and his team venture into the murky world of human organ trading.

Still on my list of Must Reads is

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, who is of course the bestselling author of truly wonderful and gut wrenching The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns,

Paris Wife  by Paula McLain, which according to the reviews is in a similar vein to the Aviators Wife and a

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Love to hear what your fav book is and why


When getting a life means I venture beyond my front veranda for more than 24 hours apparently the most polite and most popular Out of the Office email should look something like this

Thank you for your email. I am out of the office from [DAY, DATE] to [DAY, DATE] and unable to respond at this time.

I will review your message following my return on [DAY, DATE]. If you need immediate assistance, contact [Name, phone number and email address].

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

Your  Name

I personally would prefer

“I have been kidnapped by my friends until <insert date> . They are holding me hostage, but treating me well. A condition of my release is my full surrender of all technology and complete cooperation…I will respond as soon as I am home safe and sound.”

PS Victoria I know you said you couldn’t be friends with anybody who didn’t like Canada by Richard Ford. Please make an exception for me. Whilst this book got rave reviews (you have plenty of new found friends) your current friend Lynne just found this book was all dark and no light – so depressing far too much ‘dirty realism’ for me

Victoria please remember I am with Marlene Dietrich ( and I am very, very confident you are too)

“It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”

Moo2Ewe and friends

Now I live on a dairy farm where as you can imagine there are a lot of cows who certainly pay their way. A number of diverse animals alive and life like also live on the farm. Some of whom are sometimes a little bit too friendly and eat far too much food 

Last night I answered a knock at my back door but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting

Clover Hill  Sheep  (17) 

I had not one but two visitors who were quite determined to come in

Clover Hill Sheep  (18)

and cute and cuddly as they were

Clover Hill Sheep  (32)

Running round and round the house playing 

Clover Hill  sheep (30)

Visiting Dorper sheep admire the garden 

Clover Hill  Sheep (34)

but I wasn’t too happy when I saw this

Clover Hill  Sheep (25) 

Note the pots of salad greens which were quickly spotted by the sheep

Clover Hill Vegies no more   (70)

and gobbled up. On top of that I would say there is about one hour’s work involved in cleaning up the back laundry where they had obviously spent some time before they knocked on my back door

Clover Hill  Sheep Poo (65) 

Then early this morning I had a visit from some of my rainforest friends.

Clover Hill  (1)

Does it get much better than this. Early mornings and late afternoons often see my house visited by swamp wallabies

and you will notice my very colourful life like cows friends on the verandah have now

Clover Hill Calves (56)

been joined by a cow I am very happy to have ‘living’ in my garden.

Clover Hill Desert Pea  (45)

At least I can be confident she wont be eating me out of house and home


BTW Those who read my previous post will be as pleased as the locals to see the rain has blessed us and we now have grass. My thoughts go out to farmers in NW NSW yet to be receive rain and  those in a similar situation in Queensland

Feel the energy

coffee shop (11)

Yesterday saw the Archibull judging move to the Rouse Hill Town Centre where the cows in the Baulkham Hill Shire have been on display for the last years in the library.

The judging was quite full on with judge Wendy Taylor talking to young Picassos from the schools and assessing their masterpieces

It was great to hear people going past saying “look the cows are back” and popping in to get a sneak peak

Next door was a buzz of activity, music and people having a lot of fun

coffee shop (9)

and we took the plunge and stepped in.

coffee shop (7)

The Coffee Emporium where the website claims

You will be transported to a truly European style coffee house.  Your eyes will be entertained with glossy marble, contrasted with warm timbers subdued lighting and polished glass.  Your sense of smell will be teased with the aroma of freshly ground coffee and a sweet and savoury food menu. Your ears will be delighted with the steady hum of conversation, the hiss of the barista working their magic on the coffee machine and delighted customers returning for more of their favourite coffee.  With just one taste you will know that you have arrived at the home of the “perfect coffee”.

and they were right we could definitely ‘feel the energy’

coffee shop (3)

The Rouse Hill Coffee Emporium is owned by Chadi Issa.  Chadi had worked as a casual at a number of coffee shops over the years in addition to his “day job” as a Sales Rep with a major clothing retailer and always wanted to have his own business. The Coffee Emporium gave him that chance and he opened his store at Rouse Hill in March 2008.

I believe that energy makes a good coffee an outstanding coffee, I do everything with love and passion and my team are trained and operate exactly the same.. Positive energy beams from the shop, because we’re all doing what we love. I don’t see this as work which is why we have so much fun..

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Now the pictures only tell part of the story Check out this footage I took to see just how entertaining Chadi is

An apple for the doctor

I like to think of myself as a glass half full person but I can tell you I spent quite a bit of time first thing this morning doing my damndest to find the bright side

Day 2 of Archibull Prize  judging ended up with me in a hotel in Sydney where I found myself in a disabled room. Often this a good thing, The rooms tend to be larger and for a blind person like me its much safer when you don’t have to climb in and out of a bath to have shower. Though as a tall person the sink at knee level isn’t always ideal.

This room however was a definite after thought with the bathroom being modified by  replacing the bathroom door with a wooden architrave and a concertina curtain door that was not handling the battering by wheelchairs (and to be perfectly honest those wheel chair drivers deserved medals for even fitting the chair through the door)

This morning I got out of the shower bent down to pick up a towel and went ouch, Damn I thought I had caught the side of the architrave and broken a nail. So I grabbed the emery board as all us girls always have at our finger tips and popped on the glasses and was just about to file and noticed the nail was still in place but their was nasty chunk of wood poking out the top.

Just what I needed when we were on a tight schedule visiting four schools in Sydney on day 3 to judge the Archibull Prize before heading up the central coast for day 4 of judging

Now the bright side of all this despite the increasing pain ( trust me it was painful) did surface. As it so happened I had to take a quick detour before I headed out to Menai High School to hook-up with the art judge Wendy Taylor.

Fortuitously (is that the right word here) I had a bit of surgery last week that required having stitches out this morning and if ever I needed ready access to a doctor today was the day.

Then the nurse says I think we may need the surgeon to pull this out (a bit of overkill I thought) but he might not be available for a couple of hours. Scream

Anyway she was my hero and got it out without me fainting and what a relief that was I can tell you

I took a picture  and what do you think the first thing I thought of when I saw it was –  Oh my goodness look at those ratty cuticles

Splinter IMG_8487

You will be pleased to know the rest of the day was filled with glass overflowing moments.  Wow have we got some outstanding Archies this year

Here is just a taste of what we saw today

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Shame on you Woolworths set to sell sex toys in the milk isle

Newspapers pay people whose sole job is to come up with headings for news articles that will motivate people to buy newspapers. Woolworths latest foray into innovative fast moving consumer goods must be a dream come true for them. Despite the temptation to use the tongue in cheek clever line from Brian Dodd @bushboywhotweet that Woolworths maybe ‘artificially screwing dairy’ I wont go there in the name of good taste.

What I would like to do this morning is reflect on this article in The Conversation Worried about Coles and Woolworths – then look in the mirror  and in particular these comments from the author

The greatest public concern has been the treatment of Australian farmers, particularly since the introduction of ‘one dollar per litre’ milk. So we should not be surprised that the major supermarkets have moved to stock more local produce and to set up supply arrangements that clearly benefit local farmers.

When customers complain, even retail gorilla’s listen!

Coles and Woolworths behaviour, however, highlights the underlying source of their marketing and their market power. The customers.

The two supermarket giants reached their current positions because people choose to shop at them rather than the competitors. We may rail against the closure of a small retailer when Coles or Woolworths opens up nearby, but the real cause of the closure is, well, us! As consumers, we choose to buy from Coles and Woolworths rather than the retail alternatives. We may complain but the low prices, the product selection, the convenience or whatever else, draws us in to buy at the major supermarkets and, in so doing, we slowly but surely push the retail competitors out of the market.

This is not anti-competitive; it is the very nature of competition. Businesses who best serve customers win. But when we complain, we should look in the mirror. Because it is our choices as consumers that decide who wins and who loses in the retail wars.

Put simply, Coles and Woolworths have succeeded because they are so damn good at giving us what we want!

…………. The major supermarkets are no angels. But they do respond to customers’ demands. So if you want more small grocers, you have the answer. Shop at them. But do not call on the politicians to make that decision for you.

On my previous post Coles Show Some Respect the very wise Greg Mills commented

What I found interesting about the Coles presentations was the issues management cycle slide. Coles had a ‘process’ and they stuck to it. Farmer objections where just an ‘event’ in the cycle to be dealt with. Which makes me think about what is the farmer ‘process’ to deal with these and other consumer issues. I suspect that there may not be a ‘process’ to deal with these issues by farmers and the food system, but rather the response is simply a number of events..

While I may not agree with Cole’s tactics I have learnt from this presentation and their FOCUS – Follow One Course Until Successful. I thinks it a good thing that this presentations is out there and being talked about. I hope that it gets some discussion going about how to deal with issues in the longer term.

Greg is right and I will be blunt it is not just consumers who have to take responsibility for their actions and stop expecting the government to be their white knight. Its time for farmers and Australian agriculture to convert supply chains into value chains.

Its tough out there dealing with the big 2. Is there a better current example than the latest very sad case of How private labels helped bring down Tasmania’s Tamar Valley Dairy

This company make yogurt to die for. I love it. It is divine and it appears working with Coles may have been their downfall

As Associate Professor of Marketing at Melbourne Business School Mark Ritson says in his article on Tamar Valley Dairy in BRW .

…. while around 25 per cent of all grocery sales in this country are now accounted for by private labels, in dairy categories that figure is closer to 50 per cent.

Given this proportion, it would be almost impossible for a dairy producer like Tamar Valley to grow revenues without manufacturing private labels and they aren’t alone. Almost every major branded manufacturer in Australia now makes some private label products for retailers or is trying to get a contract to start. In the case of Tamar Valley the company had clearly become extraordinarily dependent on this kind of trade supplying Coles, Woolworths and Aldi with private label yoghurts. The scale of its dependence was revealed last year when Tamar Valley’s founder and managing director, Archie Matteo, acknowledged that around 40 per cent of the dairy’s planned growth was built on a single, newly signed contract to supply Coles with private label yoghurt.

Unfortunately, manufacturing private labels is a very tricky strategic business.Private labels depend on a winning combination of prices that are 25 per cent to 30 per cent less than their branded competition but which usually return at least the same profit per unit sold to the retailer. That means that although the volumes involved in a private label supplier contract are gigantic the margins on such products are extremely tight. The nature of supermarket negotiation also means that no matter what the initial agreed supply price, there will always be future discussions on reducing it further ….

The margin pressure on private labels also means that retailers are constantly on the lookout for alternative suppliers who can offer the same quality commodity product at a lower supply price. And as private label penetration grows, more and more companies are offering their excess capacity for exactly that purpose.

The other big problem with supplying private label is the strategic schizophrenia it creates at the heart of a branded manufacturer. Tamar Valley Diary, like any other branded producer, should have had several clear strategic priorities that drove their business. They should have been focused on understanding and responding to the tastes of Australian consumers. They should have been working on product innovations to propel their Tamar Valley brand past its rivals on the shelf. And, most important, it should have been investing in and building the Tamar Valley brand to build brand equity, create differentiation and protect its market share.

The problem with private label supply is that it runs counter to all these principles. Producing private labels means manufacturing large amounts of commodity product, at the lowest possible price, without any innovation or branding considerations It also means focusing on one or two giant customers (the supermarkets) rather than the ultimate consumer for the product (you and I). As private label supply becomes an increasingly important source of revenues for a company its switches focus from branded innovation to commodity production. Its brands consequently begin to wither and fail making the company more and more dependent on private label supply to stay afloat. But, as Tamar Valley Dairy learnt this week, that’s a very fickle business to depend upon.

It would be naive to suggest that any supplier should avoid any and all private label supply. But it would be equally naive to become as dependent as Tamar Valley Dairy to sustain your business. Any company that builds their business on significant proportions of private label supply is making an enormous gamble in my opinion.

Very smart man Mart Ritson. I  would love to sit around the table with him and a group of like minded farmers

In reality just how do we deliver the change that agriculture must have? For farmers this will mean working beyond traditional boundaries and challenging the conventional thinking of primary industries and individuals. It will require a paradigm shift in thinking and a collaborative re-allocation of resources and responsibilities amongst all stakeholders in the value chain.

It will require deploying agriculture’s young people into schools to build relationships with the next generation of consumers. It will need innovative and fun ways of engaging the next generation of consumers in considering the issues affecting sustainable food and fibre production.

I have set up Farming Ahead of the Curve to do just that with a a suite of programs, training and networking opportunities that will change the way farmers and consumers interact, increasing value across all sectors.

These programs will provide a supportive environment, professional development, access to inspiring leadership, first class mentoring and training.

The legacy of these programs will allow farmers of all ages to participate in, and extract greater value from the fibre to fabric and paddock to plate supply chain.

I don’t know about you but I have had enough of others defining my future for me. I say its time to take control and get my dignity back  and farm ahead of the curve


For Bessie Thomas life in the outback is often Clear as Mud

Today’s guest blog comes from the very talented Bessie Blore city girl and journalist and now wool producer and Australian Wool Innovation Young Farming Champion.
Bessie writes the very popular and often very funny blog  Bessie at Burragan. Bessie recently attended her first YFC workshop


Whilst Bessie

anticipates many obstacles along the way: rain, muddy roads, missed flights, inflexible bus company policies… But in the immortal words of Unique II “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride.”  I will take the motorbike cross-country through the mud, if it comes to that to share my farming stories with the world.

IT IS EASY to feel isolated when you live 110 kilometres from the closest small town – or even if you live in those small towns. It’s true that things like phones and Facebook combat the loneliness, solitude and other mental aspects of isolation. But as one of the 11 percent of Australians who don’t live in “urban areas” – that’s cities and towns of more than 1,000 people, according to ABS – it’s still reality to sometimes feel as if you are out of sight, out of mind, and out of touch.
Of all the various issues surrounding living on a relatively remote sheep station, when Shannan (ST) and I first moved to Burragan I was most constantly anxious about the possibility of being “rained in.” There’s about 35 kilometres, give or take, of dirt road between the Burragan house and a bitumen highway, and although 35km isn’t much in the scheme of things, the thing about dirt is that when it rains it turns to mud. And the thing about mud is that it’s pretty much impenetrable by man… or woman. So when it rains you either get out quick (not always an option), or bunker down at home in preparation for a period of house and shed-bound jobs.
ST always alleviated my fear by telling me that if we ever simply had to get out after rain, we could take the motorbike cross-paddock to the highway. Over time my anxiety eased as I became used to this plan, and when people asked what happened when we were rained in, I simply answered, “We really could get out on the motorbike, across the paddock, if we needed to.”
In my mind this was acceptable. I would never be totally trapped. Obviously I hadn’t given it much further thought. You know, about, like, exactly what happens when we get to the highway and only have a motorbike to travel on and are still 80 kilometres from the closest town? Yeah, that bit… hmmm… interesting you bring that up… I hadn’t really thought about that bit.
So it was part traumatic and part wild adventure last month when we had 50 millimetres (that’s 2 inches for the oldies out there) of rain overnight and I was due to catch a flight out of Broken Hill. Then the true physical issues behind the motorbike-cross-country plan finally became clear… much clearer than mud – yet still with the exact same colour, consistency, and chemical structure. So yeah, pretty much as clear as mud – except actually clear. Are you with me?
I was due to catch this flight to Sydney because of my #3 Super Exciting Amazing News that I’ve been busting to tell you about for months now. I’ve been chosen as a 2013 Young Farming Champion to represent the wool industry as part of theArt4Agriculture and Archibull Prize programs! (Insert claps, cheers and wolf whistles here!!) If you haven’t heard of this, then let me explain…

Art4Agriculture is the brain child of Illawarra based dairy farmer Lynne Strong. At its heart Art4Ag aims to bridge the divides between food and fibre producers and consumers, through awareness and participation. Just one aspect of the program is the Archibull Prize, where participating schools are provided with a life-size fibreglass cow statue to decorate in the theme of a particular primary industry (think cotton, wool, beef, dairy etc). The Archibulls, along with blogs and video projects, are then entered in the annual Archibull Prize competition against all the other schools. Part of the program – and this is where I come in – is to train up young farmers as champions for their industry, and partner each school with its own Young Farming Champion to help inspire their themed Archibull entry, but also to teach students all about how fun, innovating and exciting Australian agriculture is as a whole. Doesn’t it sound great!!??
So, there I was, at home, due to catch this flight to Sydney for my very first meet and greet with this year’s fellow Young Farming Champions (there’s a few of us –check us out HERE) and our initial training workshop. We’d had a little bit of forecast rain the day before and the usual protocol here, when no more rain is forecast for the immediate future, is to hope for some warm and windy weather to dry out the roads. With 24 hours still to go before I was due to leave for my 4pm flight from Broken Hill, we decided to enact this kind of watch and wait plan. And while I went to bed hoping for a windy night to harden up the muddy track to the highway, ST, I’m sure, was secretly hoping for a heavy 5inch downpour to fill our drying dams.
As I lay in bed I heard the rains tumble down. In June.
Fifty-millimetres had fallen by the time we woke. And it wasn’t warm and windy and dry. It was cold and still and wet. ST was delighted. I was anxious… and a little bit peeved. And feeling extremely traitorous for not being delighted.
But everything would be OK, because we could just push out through the paddock on the motorbike, right? Right. Except, then what? Our bikes are only ever used on the property, so they’re not registered for use on main roads. It would be illegal, not to mention highly dangerous given the amount of fuel (and my luggage) we’d need to strap on for the trip, and too slow going anyway, to take the motorbike all the way to Town. And asking a friend for a casual old lift to the airport is just a fraction more than your average favour when the airport is 330km away.
Plan C? ST braved the freezing rain on his motorbike to check the state of all our roads, to see if there was any possible way of me making it out to the highway in the car. Now that is love; having one billion other things to do and dropping everything, to ride 70km through mud and slush, in awful weather, all to make his new wife hap… Hang on a minute – it has just come to me that all this time I thought he was doing something super-sweet, when really maybe that’s just how much he really, really wanted to get rid of me for a few days!? Hmmmm…
Anyway, ST returned two hours later bearing bad news. The road turned to soup closer to the highway and it was more than likely any attempt to escape by car would end with me stuck not only a long way from the airport, but also a long way from the house.

Plan D? Call all the neighbours for a road report on all possible access points through their properties – perhaps I could make it the back way? But as I rang around the neighbours, the time was a-ticking. With at least three and a half hours of travel between Burragan and Broken Hill I was going to have to leave soon, or risk missing the flight altogether. Of course, the neighbours were just was rained in as we were…
Plan E? Helicopter? Ours was still at the mechanic, being serviced. Damn! (Hahaha, I wish!)
Plan F? As it slipped passed midday and I lost my window of opportunity to reach the departure gate in time for take-off, I was left with no other option but to call the Art4Ag crew in Sydney and apologise in advance for missing my flight. I disappointedly began dialling.
Plan G? Plan H? Plan I, Plan J, PlanKPlanLPlanPlanPlanlanananannnnnnnnnaaaarrrggghhh!!! Plan Z?
There was ONE other option ST and I could come up with. Every night a bus stops at the local roadhouse on the highway about 50km away, journeying from Sydney to Broken Hill. If my flight could be changed to the following day, there was a possibility I could somehow catch that bus and make it to Broken Hill, stop over at a friend’s place for the night and be at the airport early the next morning.
It was going to be risky, first relying on the possibility of changing the flight at such late notice, then relying on the availability of seats on the bus, then being able to make it all the way to the highway on the quad bike – with my luggage – without being covered in mud by the end of it, and then the dilemma of making it a further 15km on the highway to the roadhouse, given the aforementioned dangers and illegalities of riding on the road. It would be a battle of determination and strength, a test of will and cross-country quad riding skills, a trial of friendship and mud-proof luggage wrapping abilities, a journey of epic proportions, a story of courage and undying lo… Oh, have I gone too far?
Following the all clear for the flight to be changed with the proof of road closures from the Road Traffic Authority (easy done!), I rang the bus company to see if they could make an exception for me and stop at our turn off on the highway. They said no. I didn’t argue the point. Instead, I calmly hung up and I may, or may not, (but most likely may) have cried at this point. It was beginning to look like the universe was trying to tell me something, and that I was not supposed to make it to Sydney.
But I had one final card up my sleeve, or more accurately, business card stuck to my fridge door. I phoned the owner of the local roadhouse and begged for a favour. If she wasn’t too busy, if it was not too much trouble, only if she had the time, would she please, pretty, pretty please be able to meet me at our turn off at sundown and take me back to the roadhouse in time to catch the bus? I’m fairly certain I heard angels singing in the background as she said yes.
And so ST and I prepared for battle, fuelling up the quad, donning 70 million layers of winter clothes, and wrapping my luggage in plastic bags, before setting off through the paddocks, highway headed.

True to her word, the lovely roadhouse owner ferried me to the warmth of the roadhouse, where she fed me delicious cappuccinos and hot chips as I waited for the bus for two hours.
And then I sat on the bus for three and a half hours while my feet numbed from the cold, arriving in Broken Hill around midnight.And then I sat in the airport for three hours the next morning while my flight was delayed and eventually diverted via a longer route.
Oh Sydney, you tried to avoid me, but ain’t nobody gonn’ stop me! You can attempt to delay me for approximately 24 hours, but you will never evade me completely! I showed you! So I eventually made it to Sydney, and loved my first training weekend alongside a fantastic group of fellow Young Farming Champions. I am really looking forward to my time with them and in schools across the country.

This is an opportunity I am embracing with both hands, not only to excite urban audiences about Australian agriculture, but also to break down the barriers between those who grow our nation’s food and fibre and those who eat and wear it…
To traverse that gulf, between you and I…

And to fade that feeling of isolation, for the 11percent. It can take us a little longer to make it to where the action’s at, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying hard to get there.
I anticipate many obstacles along the way: rain, muddy roads, missed flights, inflexible bus company policies… But in the immortal words of Unique II (because I think we can all agree the original Matthew Wilder version is just a little too weird), “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride.” And I warn you, I will take the motorbike cross-country through the mud, if it comes to that.

Are we clear?

Editor’s Note: Yes, I am aware the next line of the song is, “Nobody’s gonna slow me down,” and that that contradicts my previous statements about delays/interruptions/lags/minor hold ups etc… But for the sake of me really needing to end this blog, can we allow some poetic licence and let it slide?

Happiness is Music in the Dairy

Eighteen months ago a dedicated group of passionate rural people created the Facebook page Ask an Aussie Farmer which has been very widely embraced by both urban and rural communities. I have personally witnessed the commitment of the team as 3 of them are Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions


Ask an Aussie Farmer 

This question to the team on dairy cows and music caught my eye this morning

Dairy Cows Music

I know a number of scientific studies have been done in this area and had previously read this article Music to my ears by US vet  Anna O’Brien and enjoyed it so thought I would share it with you this morning. (BTW I personally have no problem with country music)  

Music Dairy Cows

Edette Gagné, music director and conductor of the Coast Symphony Orchestra, leads a quartet of classically trained musicians in a performance of Mozart numbers for dairy cows at the Valedoorn Dairy Farm in Agassiz, B.C. See footnote

Music to My Ears by Dr Anna O’Brien

I have a confession to make: I don’t like country music. In fact, I can’t stand country music. This is relevant because a vast majority of the farms I visit play this type of music incessantly. I’ve noticed that most barn radios are connected to the lighting system, so whenever the lights are on, Garth or Reba is pouring his/her heart out, much to my displeasure. Most dairy farms have electricity running in the milking parlour around the clock, so even when the lights are off and it’s not milking time, the sad, sad tales of lost girlfriends, the drinking blues, and the good ol’ days fill the otherwise quiet aisles.

One special exception to this rule is a particular dairy client of mine. A grazing dairy with mostly Holsteins and Holstein-crosses, where the cows are on pasture all year and not fed corn or other concentrated, high carbohydrate grains, this operation plays classical music. And it’s music to my ears.

I find it extremely relaxing to stroll into this dairy, no matter if it is to pregnancy check their cows or repair a prolapsed uterus. Beethoven, Mozart, and Brahms are there to greet me and help out when a particular cow is ornery or a calving just isn’t going well. When asked why they opt to play classical rather than the seemingly standard country music, the dairy farmers just shrug and say they just like classical music better. Me too.

Interestingly, it appears cows may have musical preferences as well. Studies have shown that musical selections have an impact on cow behavior in the milking parlour. One study conducted in 1996 assessed the impact of music on cows’ behavior in a dairy with an automated milking system (AMS), in which the cows herd themselves to the milking machines. This study showed that when music was played specifically during the milking period for a period of a few months, more cows showed up to the AMS than when music wasn’t played at all. In other words, music encouraged more cows to be ready to milk than no music. The abstract of this study does not mention what type of music was played and in my mind, indicates behavior similar to Pavlov’s famous dogs that were trained to salivate at the ring of a bell. These cows associated music with milking and this influenced their physiology.

Even more interesting is a study done in 2001 that showed the tempo of music affects milk production in dairy cows. In this study, slow tempo music, like Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, increased milk production by 3 percent. In contrast, harsher, faster music had no effect on milk production. The theory behind this physiologic response is that faster music increases the cow’s stress level, and increased stress has been repeatedly shown to negatively impact milk production. Other studies have shown that yelling at cows and aggressive herding dogs decrease milk production.

Although this study did not show a decrease in milk production due to fast music, the increase in milk with slower music is significant in my mind. A 3 percent increase in milk over a year is an easy financial gain for the dairy farm — no investment needed, just change your radio station to “easy listening” or “smooth jazz.”

Admittedly, this study didn’t prove that overall, country music is bad for cows, but it does suggest that fast country music is bad for cows. Perhaps I should simply recommend soothing ocean waves or a soundtrack of the pitter-patter of raindrops in the Amazon to all my dairy clients?

Dr. Anna O’Brien

Footnote: The Music Makes More Milk contest, invites members of the public to compose songs for cows in order to naturally increase milk production. According to the association, it is a common observation among dairy farmers that cows respond positively to music. The winning contestant will receive a trip for four to the 55th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. (BC Dairy Association)