Biting Off More Of The Elephant Than I Can Chew

Wow! What a start to the year!

For those of you who read this,  here is the explanation.

About the middle of last year I had an epiphany.

I was listening to Dairy Connect CEO Mike Logan talk about the changing face of the business of dairy and what skills will be required for farms to grow or for employment on farms in the future.

I quickly relised I had none of these skills!

I can rear calves, with a 100% survival rate for over 2 two years.

I can pick ill health in cows and can easily figure out what I can treat and when to call the vet in.

I can fence. I can do manual work. I can think on my feet.

What I can’t do is read or prepare a profit and loss statement, prepare a budget, understand assets = liability + owners equity (aren’t assets owners equity????), in fact anything financial!

This is something all farmers should be able to do. It’s what helps you get loans, or refinance them. Or apply for finance for a new tractor. Or to apply for any assistance from Centrelink.

My next thought was, how do I get these skills?

I started looking at business degrees through universities. I decided the course fees might be a problem. As would the fact I’d need to do the course online and that would take years. I’d have to deal with people getting a bit antsy about my sitting in the house for at least four hours 6 days a week when there was both farm work and house work not getting done. Motivation would be an issue. No face to face contact would be a problem because I knew I’d need help! In fact the whole thing was nearly thrown in the too hard basket.

I also managed to loose sight of exactly what it was I was meant to be looking for. So I emailed Mike and asked him to clarify.

Not only did he clarify, he suggested where to start looking.


For those of you who don’t live in Australia, TaFE stands for Technical and Further Education. It is where those of us who didn’t get a good enough score for uni, are older, or are looking for skills rather than degrees can go to learn.

It is also a less expensive alternative for tertiary education.

I think I fit all these categories!

A lot of the courses you do can be counted as recognized prior learning for other courses at TAFE or even university. This could come in handy in the future.

I was still undecided when I was talking to the Dairy Youth coordinator for Dairy NSW, Jess Jennings. I was asking him about leadership and mentoring opportunities within Dairy NSW for my friend and fellow Blogger Lorna Sixsmith. I asked him how someone like myself could possibly get anywhere with my workload – to be honest I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I had bought the cake for my pity party. Jesse’s advice was that sometimes  you need to bite off more than you can chew, then chew like crazy!

So I hope you don’t mind me writing with my mouth full!

This is week three of both Certificate III and IV in Accounting. This is a full time course, four days a week for the first semester. That means 18 weeks of absolute chaos around here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings! The campus is 50km’s away on mostly narrow 80km/hour roads, which means I have to leave before the kids for school and this is a real stretch! I still have to get the calves fed before I go. We are currently feeding about 60 in five different spots. I think I’ve succeeded twice! Thank goodness for our kids, Dean and Jessica!!

Next semester the course is only one or two days a week.

And to add to the chaos, hubby has developed a heart issue, which has meant he is out of action for at least ten days. Then light duties for a while. He really isn’t coping, as those ‘Farmers Wives’ among you will understand.

I am grateful I have somewhere else to be!

So why am I pushing myself – and my family – this hard?

  1. Someone needs to understand how the financial side of this business is or isn’t succeeding
  2. To save money. Do you know how expensive accountants are?
  3. To show my girls you can do anything you put your mind to , no matter what stands in your way
  4. Because I can!
  5. The location – Tuncurry is beautiful!!

So far I’ve learnt about double entry accounting. We are doing this manually before we get to do it on MYOB so we understand how it works. This is about the gazillionth time I’ve had this explained to me and I admit I was worried I wouldn’t ever understand it! I’m not sure I do yet either! But I also have enough – ahem – maturity now to know I am eating an elephant, and the best way to do that is one bite at a time!

Argh! All these food analogies!!

One of the good things are I am meeting new people and reacquainting myself with my friend Karren, a fellow dairy farmer who I met when we first started dairying all those years ago. She isn’t doing the same course, or full time, but Monday and Thursdays we are in the same classroom and get to giggle like school kids!

It is also interesting to see the difference our lives make on how we look at things.

Our first few lessons together have been about workplace health and safety. We had a lot of fun when we were looking at how to deal with bullying and conflict in the workplace! Our answers didn’t go on the assessment paper!

This is the year we stop seeing this farm as a lifestyle choice and start treating it more as a business.

From now on, just covering the bills isn’t a option. We will start to make a profit.

And the first step in achieving this is to put my head down and my bum up and finish this course.

For those of you who still don’t understand double entry book keeping, here’s and amusing YouTube video I found that explains it all!

Compromised Immunity

Updated version…..

Its the end of mental health week 2014.
I was listening to Macca – a national program aired every Sunday since forever on ABC radio. A woman called the program from a mental hospital. I’m sure there’s a more PC name, but that’s what she called it. The woman, a solicitor, was in there on a detox from all the prescribed drugs she is on to figure out what side effects went with which medication.
The woman rang because it was mental health week, and because it tends to be non or recovered sufferers that talk about it. Not those in the thick of it.

She had a point. If we can’t tell our story as it’s happening, the truth about mental illness won’t get told. And it won’t get told because of the stigma associated with mental illness.
I thought maybe relating mental illness to something less difficult to accept might create a different understanding and show how ridiculous this stigma is.

Your immune system. You do everything you can to keep it healthy, but because its continually bombarded by germs, occasionally a gap appears and you get a runny nose or headache. Mostly that gap closes before the next gap appears. When multiple gaps appear, that’s when you get really sick. Most of us wouldn’t hesitate seeking help with such a compromised immune system. Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to help those who get really sick, and their families, due to a compromised immune system, without judgement.

Your brain is the same. You can do everything in your power to keep the germs from taking over, but you can’t always win.

Sometimes, leaving a germ filled environment for a more sterile (supportive) place can compromise your immune system. When you go back, the germs are stronger than your immune system.

Some people and events are like shopping trolleys, covered in things like staph that get into your blood and stay there, leaving a permanent gap in your immunity, bubbling to the surface in puss filled lumps when you least expect it, causing complications when you’re injured.

Sometimes, all of this combines to cause you pain nobody else can feel, see or understand. Some even believe its attention seeking.
And, like the ultimate in compromised immunity, cancer, it sneaks up on you, taking you by surprise.

I will relate a very recent experience of mine using this immune system analogy.

If I’d been diagnosed with cancer last week, I’m sure I would have received the care from those closest to me I needed. Including me. There is far less stigma associated with cancer. It is not my intention to belittle cancer. It, like mental illness, can be deadly if not treated. And even when treated, some never recover.

My environment had become infected with negativity and aggression. There has been little immune support. From any of us. Gaps in my immunity would appear, I’d work hard at closing it.
The last six weeks seemed worse than normal.
Evil thoughts of causing myself pain slowly became a daily occurrence. Like a runny nose dripping away.
Events that bordered on full on panic attacks occurred more frequently. Think of these as a fever.
I kept telling myself I could handle it.
I had reason last week to be in a sterile environment, where immune support was prevalent. My immunity fell. I had to return to my infected environment with my compromised immunity.
And so it happened Friday that the last defense of my immune system was compromised by a barrage of bad news germs.

My runny nose and headache were symptoms of a much larger problem that, when ignored, became far worse than it should have been.

I have spent the last two days locked in my bedroom, trying not to spread my disease or make it worse.

For some reason, every man and their dog decided Saturday was the best day to come visit. Had it been any other sort of illness, my weepy red eyes and disheveled look would have been acceptable. The stigma kept me locked away. Some members of my family told the visitors I’d lost the plot and was just chucking a tantrum. An opinion I’m sure would have been different if my problem has been even a cold.

I don’t like the fact I didn’t have the guts to stand up and tell everyone what was going on. This perpetuates the stigma in my opinion.

I realised toward the end of day two that I have a history of these ‘tantrums’ this time of year – my own stay in the mental health ward of the local hospital happened in October – and put what was left of my mind to figuring out why.
It occurred to me my beloved Nan died this month. Its amazing what a search engine will tell you. October 3, 1990. I loved my nan. Her and I were very close. She understood me and the only reason I didn’t follow the usual path of Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers is her. They say BPD runs in the family, and I think she had a sister with it and could see my future. She taught me how to live, and made it OK. In short, she was my rock.

I was 16 when nan died. By then BPD had taken hold. Because any trauma felt by me was internalised, people thought I didn’t care. And I was treated badly because of it. I really didn’t get to grieve. I was made feel like I wasn’t acceptable to others. It was brought up during screaming matches for years after.

Nans death wasn’t a one off sadly. A bit more of a search reminded me of David Wall, a classmate who was killed when his motorbike ran into a truck. That was June 15 the same year. That death was handled very badly by the grownups in my life too.

So, there’s the staph infection, completing the circle.

How I deal with that knowledge, to make it less likely I’ll have another episode like this next October, I do not know. I think I need to let the dust settle here first. Maybe I need to try to mend the family rift that widened with this ‘tantrum’.

I don’t blame people for thinking the way they do about me and my mental illness. They know not what they do.

Another quick point I want to make is this.
I had absolutely no desire to call any of the phone numbers given out in case of mental illness emergency’s. None at all. Or to talk about it with my friends. Some of whom I feel I may have frightened this weekend and for that I am very sorry. I’ve told nobody of my suicidal thoughts. What I’m trying to say is don’t ever feel guilty you didn’t see the signs. Its not your fault. It worries me a little that there’s a huge emphasis on seeing the signs.

And if you know me and you’re reading this, don’t worry. I know what I need to do. And I don’t need to cause myself any more harm. Suicide is not on my to do list. Like a flu, two days in bed have done me the world of good.

I hope this has given you a new perspective on mental illness, and maybe changed the way you think about those around you going through this.

After reading this blog with some clarity, I thought I should clarify some things.
1. Hubby was absolutely beside himself. He had no idea what to. He wasn’t sure if he should call someone or let me be. That wasn’t my observation but that of a couple of friends. On top of that, he still had the farm to run.
2. It certainly wasn’t hubby being so horribly negative about it all.
3. The negativity that has been growing quietly here has been discovered and we have taken steps to fix the problem.

I saw this meme yesterday

How to improve the culture at your office
Rule 1: Be happy
Rule 2: Be awesome
Rule 3: Help others with 1 & 2

This will become a mantra on this farm….

Thanks Greg for that one.

Daily Prompt – Long Exposure

Among the people you’ve known for a long time, who is the person who’s changed the most over the years? Was the change for the better?

I went to an agriculture college after finishing high school. There’s a saying that goes “It takes all types to make up the world” and I’m pretty sure they were all there!

One of the first people I met was Adair.

She had a friendly face, gentle kind eyes, and a welcoming smile.

And she was a little odd.

We were immediate and firm friends.

Adair was from a life of privilege, though you’d never pick it.  Her parents doted on her, she longed for nothing.

Adair was at ag college to learn about farming so she could run the farm daddy had purchased. By farm I mean under 100 acres in the hills behind the Central Coast of NSW.

From the start, Adair had a different view about animal production for food. She was already vegetarian, and would go vegan later in life.

Adair never said ‘I don’t want to know’. She wanted to know everything. Even when the lesson included some distress to the animal, she was there. She did question the why’s and what ifs, but I thought that was great. I had always struggled with castrating male animals, cutting lambs tails off and intensive pig and chicken farms. It was nice to have someone with the same ideas.

But you could explain the reasons behind these practices, and in most cases she’d accept it.

We would do a lot of very strange things together.

One of our favorite things to do was go into town after dairy duty in two day old dairy clothes.

Another was to put her mums maternity dresses on with our work boots or better still rubber boots and go to the pub.

We were always there for each other. She defended my mood swings, I defended her views and vegetarianism.

After college, she went back to the farm and basically isolated herself. She did have a few friends, most of them living an ‘alternative’ lifestyle. I did keep in touch for a while, but my work made it near impossible.  This was the time before mobile phones.

A lot of years later I found her on Facebook.  I was so excited to find her. Of all the people I’d met in my life, Adair had been one of the few to encourage my eccentricities. I needed that acceptance again.

The first thing I noticed was she’d become an animal rights activist. In my naivety I thought it was great, and wondered how I could get on board.

It wasn’t long, after reading her posts, I figured out not only did I  not want to be involved, I wouldn’t be accepted anyway.

We continued an uneasy friendship for a while. I asked her to clarify some activist positions. She tried to tell me my chosen career was terrible. But we still got on.

Until one day.

She posted an absolute lie. She said drinking milk causes arthritis and brittle bones. I stated that of all the health issues the elderly  dairy farmers I know have, they weren’t among them.

That was it for her. She followed the usual activist line and told me I’m a cow rapist and I force my cows to be pregnant for financial gain, that I rip baby calves off their mothers and murder the boys, and that I personified everything wrong with the world and I should hang my head in shame.

The Adair I remembered with an open, questioning mind and morals, not that much different from me, had turned into a hate mongering member of an agroterrorist organisation hell bent on stopping the use of animals for food production.

I was devastated. Absolutely devastated.

I cried and cried.

It was like she had died.

I knew we’d never talk again.

I knew I’d  never see her again.

That was about 12 months ago. I still have days…

Adair is the person who’s changed the most. And I miss the old Adair dearly.

Local Pleasures

I live on the beautiful Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia.
It is, in my opinion, one of the most picturesque spots in this country.
It is home to one of Australia’s major river valleys, the Manning.
It have spent all but about 10 years of my life in this valley.
Where I grew up is where it all starts.
The Nowendoc River is the headwaters. Into it runs the Cooplacurrapa. It then runs into the Little Manning, then the Big Manning. It then runs out into the ocean through two entrances, making it the only double delta (like the Nile) in the southern hemisphere. You can read more about it here.
I love the river and am lucky enough to have a friend who lives on the north entrance arm. I went to visit her yesterday.
It has been a while since I last visited either entrance. I’d forgotten the smell! That fantastic salty mangrove aroma you can nearly taste! 
These are the pictures I took. I really need a camera not attached to my phone! But they’re OK.






I am glad I live so close to so much beauty!