It’s the Saturday morning of Easter at the farm. We have a big kitchen with an eight seater, old school timber table in the middle. The even bigger window faces the east and the sun is starting to come up; it floods in as I eat my breakfast. I love the first morning at the farm in the kitchen. Cereal, tea and toast, talk of farm stuff, tractors and the like, the new foal gets a mention as does the pig ‘Boris’ who is continually out of his paddock.
There is a big day ahead – we have 12 family and friends staying in the house this weekend, 22 for dinner tonight and 18 tomorrow night. I’ve borrowed a spit for the occasion, thanks to one of my mates from town who organised it for me. The loan cost a phone call and a case of beer. We go to pick up the spit and it takes four of us to get it off the ute – it’s huge. We get it home, put the pig on and before long it’s time for the guests to arrive. The girls have done a mile of work in the kitchen, and the boys have dodged the girls all day. The arrival of the guests brings peace to the house.
Farmer Charles and Alice turn up, a couple more neighbours, and we talk around the spit about a few things before Charles tells us about the floods in the western country, where he had some cattle on agistment. Keeping an eye on the weather, and knowing the low lying flood country his stock were occupying, he rang the farmer enquiring on the rainfall and the river flow. The forecast indicated there would be a week or so before the flood water started to arrive, and they needed to move to higher ground, so Charles made preparations to leave and move the stock. The next morning at first light his house phone rang, “There has been 10 inches at Narrabri, it’s been raining heavily all night right across the catchment, you’d best get out here quick,” said the farm owner. Needless to say Charles was in his ute quick smart, picked up a local stockman and drove straight out.
Now there is commitment and there are the committed. Once out there it was obvious the quad runners they had taken were out of their depth; the water was everywhere. This is a situation when country people get together. They borrowed horses and saddles from a bloke they didn’t know. They got help from two teenage daughters of a local farmer who swam their horses through flooded irrigation channels to help them get the cattle to higher ground. They saved the majority of the cattle but there were still some missing. In this type of country the dark soil is boggy when wet and it was some six weeks before they could get out and look again; and then the second flood came through. Buggered for another month, Farmer Charles’ thoughts were still with his missing cattle so when dry enough, he hired a helicopter with another farmer and with six bikes and four others on horse, they brought home another 40 cattle.
The story continues to this day with more cattle found in yet another trip. And really, that’s what it is all about. When you farm animals you are responsible for them and their welfare, and for the committed farmer you will do whatever you need to do to help the animals you are responsible for. Admittedly not every farmer hires helicopters, but I did learn that night that the SES have been hiring helicopters for months following the flood waters as they travel south, with the sole purpose of animal welfare, animal rescue and fodder drops for isolated animals.
Good on you guys, and good luck with the rest, Farmer Charles!