So excited the cows are back

I was so excited when I woke up this morning to see the cows were back and wow what a picture they made.

Clover Hill Dairies the cows are back 

Mystical Jamberoo Valley after the rains

For too many eastern seaboard farmers sadly last week’s rain was a calamity. For us it was like we had won lotto. My office window overlooks this paddock and every 14 to 21 days up until 6 months ago I could reliably look out the window and for three mornings straight watch the cows strip graze their way down the hill. It has been so long since the cows were in this paddock I had almost forgotten how magical it was

As you can see this morning they were already well down the hill and there was no strip grazing fences to be seen as there was only enough grass for just one feed from the whole paddock

But there was grass none the less and it wasn’t long before the water trough beckoned and I could see the gorgeous girls up close and personal

the cows are back

Below in the distance you can see our young girls grazing on the fresh new shoots on one of our lease properties

Clover Hill Heifers

The girls wandered off to the midday milking

Clover Hill stroll to the midday milking

and it was all action – men and machines everywhere 

Hive of activity at Clover Hill

Making the most of every opportunity to grow the next round of lushest, sweetest grass paradise can deliver to produce nature’s perfect nutrient cocktail for 50,000 Australians every day  

Bowling Greens

Maybe even in the not too distant future it will look like this again

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and as HT said its just great to feel like you are farming again

Strangling the host

Here in paradise we have some superb, vulnerable and endangered species of native rainforest and woodland trees

There is nothing more spectacular than the strangler fig and this one is just divine.

Figtree Corner

In the rainforest the strangler fig germinates only in the branches of a host tree from the seed deposited by birds. Many roots are sent down and they gradually envelope and strangle the host tree leaving the fig in its place. The root structure of this one is quite compelling isn’t it

We have called this area you guessed it Figtree Corner. The cairn in the front is a tribute to Ron White one of our neighbours who was the chair of our Landcare group at the time of his passing. We are growing the native bleeding heart just in the front of the fig. It is one of Erin’s favourite trees.

Native bleeding heart

The strangler fig trees have adapted by starting their lives off as epiphytes, as at the ground level of the rainforest there is little light and a huge amount of competition for water and nutrients meaning that the majority of plants that start off on the ground have to adapt or die. The strangler fig has adapted by using other trees to get itself into the canopy where it is lighter.Strangler Fig Garvins
Once the strangler fig sprouts roots, it begins to use them to strangle the tree. as well as this it competes with the host tree for nutrients and water, then the strangler fig has a large growth spurt like this one in another spot on the farm, and once it begins to grow leaves they are very large and they tend to cover those of the host plant.

This Morton Bay fig recently lost one of its branches in a storm and it was splitting down the trunk. We thought it would die so one of the neighbours has inserted a “baby’ in a pouch on the trunk which seems to be doing very well

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These trees are making me feel old I can remember when I first spotted the Figtree in the third picture and it was no more that a foot long. Scary 

Got my walking shoes on today

With my 2013 mission to live everyday as if it was your last, today Michael and I joined forces with our good friends Bev and Don to do the magnificent 6km section of the Kiama Coastal Walk from Kiama to Gerringong.

Loves Bay to Werri Beach Lagoon

Bev and Don are doing a walking holiday through Spain and Morocco later in the year so now looked like as good a time as any to get fit.

Loves Bay Kiama Coastal Walk

And before you knew it we were off – looking pretty confident at this stage considering all four of us had major surgery during the year

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Our section of the walk took as on a ‘dramatic, coast-hugging route between Kiama Heights and Werri Lagoon’.

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A popular spot for taking out the tinnie

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Looking back to Kiama

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The boys were keen to set the pace. Check out that work boot tan

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Sadly there were far too many fisherman playing Russian Roulette on the rocks without lifejackets

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and illegal squatters Tut tut

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Kiama’s very own ‘apostle”

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The Kiama coastline at 8am this morning – just divine

Michael Strong

says Michael

A little bit of history for you from the brochure ……….

“The Kiama area was once dominated by a vast rainforest known as the Long Brush. By the time the cedar-getters arrived in the Kiama area in 1815, the local Aboriginal people would have been aware of the impending changes to their way of life. Strange and deadly diseases would have already arrived and the spread of the destruction of the bushland was certainly feared.”

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By the 1820’s Kiama was supplying 9/10ths of the Sydney Cedar Market. The round insert and reference on the map shows the tiny patch of coastline that still supports the rainforest. As you can see from the first picture the cows in the pastures along the coastline would welcome the return of some trees

“As land grants were taken up, the traditional owners were forced from their lands.”

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“Before long the magnificent forests were cleared to provide timber for the new colony, expose the volcanic soils for crops such as potatoes and wheat, and clear the way for dairy farms”*

Kiama Co-op Butter Factory

Kiama Pioneer Butter Factory – Australia’s first Dairy CO-OP opened in 1869

At the half way mark we were all starting to feel pretty confident we were going to make it

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Lynne and Michael Strong

Lynne and Michael looking confident

Bev and Don Coltman

as did Bev and Don

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When you see these magnificent cliffs you know have made it and you can pat yourself on the back.

Werri Beach Lagoon

Before we knew it we had reached Werri Beach Lagoon

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and Kerrie was waiting to take us to breakfast

Sea Vista

and how lucky were we to avoid the queues we saw as we left ?

Breakfast at Sea Vista (1)

after tasting the food. (Which dairy farmer chews his nails????)

Breakfast at Sea Vista (2)

and drinking the milk shakes and lattes

Werri Beach

and taking in the view at the Sea Vista Cafe, Gerringong, we could understand why people were prepared to wait 

Such a special day, so many wonderful natural resources to appreciate and along the walk you may be reminded of days past,

or you may just enjoy the rolling hills, boulder beaches, sea caves, rock platforms and exposed cliffs that create the dramatic scenery and from May to June and September to November, the walk provides great vantage points for whale watching.

Michael Strong and Bev and Don Coltman

Well worth a visit we can guarantee you !!!!!!!

* BTW  You can read the history of dairying in the Illawarra here

Picture Perfect

Recently the farm hosted Rural Press journalist Matt Cawood ( @matt_cawood) and I have discovered he is an awesome photographer ( he did have a pretty impressive camera with him)

You can read Matt’s story in The Land here

So I thought I would take this opportunity to share with the you some of beautiful photographs he took at the farm

Lynne and Paradise Chime 2

Firstly me with the absolutely adorable Mandelyn Paradise Chime. Chime was a twin who came out backwards and I raised her from the day she born  and she is just so friendly and she just loves having her ears scratched.

Louise

This is Louise bringing the cows home for the midday milking.

Chrissy in the Dairy

This is Chrissy in the pit milking the cows at midday milking. Note the very curious cows in the background 

Calves in front paddock

The calves in the front paddock. Wow how fantastic is that view

Picasso Cows arboretum

Picasso Corner which 5 local schools revegated in 2008

Desert Pea

The entrance to the dairy

and look at these two divine photos

Bluebird 

How special is this one

Bluebird 2

and last but not least our drum art which are hosting some of our endangered or vulnerable  species trees

Barrels

Matt is an very interesting story himself and there are some wonderful insights here “Australian agriculture reporter leaves isolation for London’s meeting of minds” which includes this quote that I like

“Agriculture is the most fundamental human activity. Without it, we don’t have cities, the Internet, cappuccino. And we are quickly realizing that how we conduct agriculture determines the health of the planet.”

All photos by Matt Cawood .Thank you so much Matt  for sending them to me

Farmers and the Community maintaining the rage in the Milk Price Wars

The Farmer’s Angel Alison Fairleigh has gone into to bat for Australian dairy farmers. You can read the full version (snapshot below) of her fabulous blog post here

Someone described consumers to me the other day as “notoriously dense”. Just like sheep, we have a herding mentality and the large supermarkets (Coles & Woolworths), with their multi-million dollar marketing budgets, play on this mentality perfectly for guaranteed market share, mega profits and shareholder satisfaction.

Let’s take a look at $1 per litre milk as an example of how well the duopoly pull the wool over consumer eyes.  People purchase the so-called “discounted” milk because it’s cheap, because food budgets are tight and because they feel they are making a small saving on an item that is a staple for most families. But are they really saving? As this infographic from Dairy Defenders portrays, they are paying for it on other items.

supermarket

Our dairy farmers are continuing to maintain the rage too with Milk Marian Marian appealing to Curtis Stone’s sense of community in this thought provoking blog. Marian is appealing to Australians to email Curtis as she thinks he maybe he’s” blissfully unaware of the damage” to Australian farmers and the threat to Australian food caused by his highly successful marketing campaigns on behalf of Coles. Marian says “I intend to appeal for help by emailing him at contact@curtisstone.com and am sure he’d love to hear from you, too”

I will be emailing Curtis too and inviting him to visit Paradise.

Clover Hill Dairies

Perhaps he might even like to stay the night so he can get up and help milk the cows and meet all our wonderful young staff whose jobs and futures are under threat by the fallout from the supermarket milk price wars.

He can meet some of our cows that we have nurtured from their first breath.

Emma and calves

He can meet Peena the lamb. I am sure he will find her just as fascinating as the cows do

Peena the Lamb

He can meet Nick and Emma who are looking forward to bringing up the 8th generation of dairy farmers at Clover Hill

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It will be interesting to see the response to my invitation. I am confident Curtis would love to come but will Coles let him?. My impression is they are just not interested in seeing the real story.  I have probably got more chance of getting Bill Gates to visit my farm than Coles allowing Curtis Stone to come.Coles management just don’t get it and sadly I don’t think they want to get it. Management have short term targets and short term vision and all they care about is getting their bonuses and appeasing shareholders.

As farmers we get up every day to do our very best to live up to the promise of best outcomes for people. animals and the planet. As a result of the milk price wars there are now hundreds of farmers receiving prices like 12c/litre for their milk. It is ridiculous that Coles just don’t understand this is not enough money to fed cows, feed your family, reduce your footprint and deliver best environmental outcomes and spend money in your community or employ people, let alone all the other things on farmer wish lists. Something has to give and just how do you chose and live with the decisions you make.

Maybe the only answer is to become as detached from reality as Coles appears to be and if that is the only option one thing I know at Clover Hill we wont choose to ever stoop that low

Come and visit paradise Curtis and see for yourself. We will show you our best country hospitality as we are very #proud2dairy

Follow us on Twitter @chdairies

One of those days that makes your heart sing

We used to host lots of school visits which was pretty full. These these days we restrict the tours and host extra special children. Sometimes that’s preschool tours for children of our staff and friends and overseas visitors with children. Today we hosted an extra, extra special group of students and they were super excited as Win 4 were coming to and they were all going to be on the news

Well yesterday we got 18 mm of much needed rain and today we all woke up to perfect sunshine.

There were some really special moments

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As you can imagine Peena the lamb didn’t just fascinate the cows

Look at this shot of the cow licking Peena

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The kids had a great time feeding the very well behaved calves

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Peena assisted the camera man whose name was Attila and yes he got teased at school

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I got interviewed

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We visited Picasso Corner and Megan and Renae got interviewed

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and the cows on the hill made a superb backdrop

Well done Emma who does a great job of making all this happen smoothly and here is the WIN 4 footage

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Its winter at the dairy farm

Its winter in paradise and the deciduous trees have their lost their leaves and look forlorn. 

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But the view never ceases to amaze no matter what the season.

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and the ever reliable roosters never fail to wake at 3am

Roosters

Pretty aren’t they but I wish they didn’t find my front veranda steps so appealing. Chook poo in all the wrong paces. Let me warn you boys I am not impressed and may need to take aggressive action sooner rather than later 

On the farm we are in the middle of a green drought and what that means is even though it looks green we haven’t got enough grass for our cows. This situation is a direct result of months of extended rain events that stopped us seeding our winter grasses on time. This means we have to feed the cows something else equally as delish and nutritious

So this means lots of this stuff – prime quality lucerne or cereal hay IMG_1287

gets carted around the farm to feed our heifers (young stock) our dry cows (period between milking and calving) and our babies.

We have enough grass to feed the milking cows once a day.

Cows in Sproules Gully

Its steep on them there hills

And twice a day the milkers rely on Michael or his brother David carting this machine around to feed them.

Mixer Wagon

Michael parks his current mode of transport at back gate to call in for breakfast

This is a mixer wagon. You can fill it with all sorts of goodies which it munches up into “delish and nutrish” for dairy cows and you feed it out like this so nothing gets wasted (or as little as possible). 

Winter can be depressing cant it? Gardens often look so bleak. 

The Garden Room

So I have filled my winter garden with bulbs and annuals that flower under the deciduous trees

 

and lots of camellias to brighten our day

 

Lets hope next year brings better milk prices and less large Autumn rainfall events and the grass looks like this in every paddock in winter. One can hope 

Greener than Green

Welcome back grass

Fruits of the Forest

In partnership with Landcare Illawarra we are opening the farm to members of the community on Saturday June 23rd 2012.

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On hand to answer the community’s questions and conduct guided tours will be a range of representatives from organisations we work with such as Landcare Illawarra, Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, Conservation Volunteers, Small Farms Network as well as local project officers, bush regeneration officers, and landholders to give you a guided tour through the property and discuss the range of techniques used in working with native vegetation on private land.

One of those people will be the fountain of all knowledge on The Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest Project Richard Scarborough who was at the farm today to collect seed from our Yellow Ash and found a plethora of fruits of the forest.

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On the left we have Native Jaffa, some blue gum seed and some orange thorn, with the yellow ash on the right. At the top of the photo is celery wood seed. 

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Also on hand will be the gorgeous Erin who has had an integral role in us playing our part to help increase the genetic diversity of plantings in the Illawarra and potentially increase the level of fruiting of individual species.

If you would like to join us please contact Megan Rowlatt at Landcare Illawarra by email communitysupport@conservationvolunteers.com.au or by phone on 02 4229 7526

Farmer Gets a Wife

It was a very big day at the farm yesterday our only son Nick got married to the gorgeous Emma

a Bridal Waltz

The Bridal Waltz

So here are my favourite photos from yesterday – Yes I ran around with a camera.  It kept me busy and meant I only shed a few tears rather than buckets (thanks to Annie B for the shots in the church)

The official photographer had at least six cameras and a similar size team of photographers and hot chick whose only job was to hold the flash and I am highly confident I will do another post when they arrive. (Forgive me in advance) 

Emma Entering Church

Emma entering the church

Emma Back of Wedding Dress

The back of the gorgeous dress

Colour

The bridal party

Nick and Emma Reception IMG_2283

The Reception

a Cake

The Cake

Bouquet

The bouquet

Bridesmaid Bouquet

Bridesmaid’s Bouquet

Gabby 3

Gabby – Emma’s sister

Natalie

Natalie – Emma’s best friend and Chief Bridesmaid

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Next Gen Heart Throbs

Farm Day Oz comes early in Paradise

Young Farming Champion Heidi Cheney has just landed a new job with Pfizer Animal Health and scored the dairy industry as the key area in which she will work with farmers.

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Heidi’s mum and daughter Pippa get an early Farm Day OZ experience at Clover Hill Dairies

So where better to get hands on dairy farming experiences – well Paradise of course.

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Autumn tones at Paradise

Heidi grew up on her parents beef and sheep farm but her children Hunter and Pippa are like most kids these days they learn where yoghurt comes from through pages of a book or the TV screen .

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Pippa and Hunter just aren’t just yogurt fans, they love cheese and milk

So Heidi took the opportunity to bring Pippa and Hunter and her mum Lynne with her  so they could learn first hand where milk comes from. So whilst Heidi worked alongside Nick and Emma to get an inside look at dairy farm and cow management. Pippa and Hunter got friendly with the chooks

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First Hunter decided he should collect all the eggs and was eyed off by this rooster

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Heidi in the meantime was checking out the dairy

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Where she caught up with Emma and they went through our procedures for drenching and vaccinations

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Emma has just done an evaluation review of all our procedures with the team to ensure all our information is up to date

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She is very pleased that task is almost ticked off

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Then it was time for the whole family to see where their milk comes from

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Farmer Nick has a soft spot for little kids and enjoys showing them how the dairy works

Heidi and Hunter MG_1832

Then it was off to visit the baby calves and see how the robotic calf feeder works

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Pippa and Hunter soon got the hang of it and made great friends with the baby calves

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The weather forecast says its going to rain in the next couple of days and so Michael is putting out some nitrogen fertiliser to see if we can get this recently sown pasture to get a wriggle on. Hunter was pretty taken with the really big green tractor.

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But then it all got too much and Hunter says its time for a siesta

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The sun goes down in the trees.

I enjoyed sharing paradise with Heidi and her family  as will many other faming families with their Farm Day OZ visitors this weekend

I am also pretty confident cows will get due credit for the dairy products in the fridge at the Cheney household from now on  

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