Fire can’t keep team down

Daily Mercury - - TALK OF THE NORTH - with John “Ando” An­der­sen john.an­der­[email protected]

IN es­tab­lish­ing their Nat­u­ral Evo­lu­tion Foods, Rob and Krista Watkins have walked the mine­fields of bu­reau­cratic red tape, cyn­i­cism from de­trac­tors and worst of all, the big­gest mon­ster of the lot – self-doubt.

There were times when they asked them­selves what the heck they were do­ing. But, they never thought they’d have to face a bush­fire.

Sum­mer cy­clones are al­ways a threat. They are al­ways on the mind of trop­i­cal coast hor­ti­cul­tur­ists dur­ing sum­mer, but a bush­fire?

You just don’t hear about ba­nana plan­ta­tions be­ing con­sumed by fire. Rob and Krista lost their 5000 la­dyfin­ger trees at Walka­min on the Ather­ton Table­land last week to a bush­fire. These are the trees they rely on for the fruit that makes their highly val­ued flour. The trees they lost were planted in

2015.

They might never have thought their trees, which are

90 per cent water, could burn. When the fire hit the plan­ta­tion, the water or sap boiled and the trees ex­ploded.

Rob and Krista over­came the hur­dles and built what is now the amaz­ingly suc­cess­ful Nat­u­ral Evo­lu­tion Foods busi­ness, built ini­tially on green, la­dyfin­ger ba­nanas. It has ex­panded and achieved in­ter­na­tional fame. When I spoke to Krista this week she was philo­soph­i­cal. They are al­ready re­group­ing and re­build­ing. One fire can’t keep a good team down.

LIV­ING OFF-GRID

DID you read the story this week about Ka­reem Bahlawan, the post-grad­u­ate stu­dent from Le­banon who lived off-grid as a Long Grass stu­dent at James Cook Uni­ver­sity while un­der­tak­ing his stud­ies?

Dar­win has its Long Grass peo­ple, the home­less fringe dwellers who live in the long grass on the edges of the city. Ka­reem was JCU’s own Long Grass per­son.

Ka­reem lived rent-free at JCU, sleep­ing first in a ham­mock and then a swag in the scrub. In the hot sum­mer months he oc­ca­sion­ally bunked down in an air-con­di­tioned lab. How awe­some is this bloke?

He has fin­ished his course work and is now in Dubai fin­ish­ing off a Mas­ter of Science. His days as the Long Grass stu­dent are over. At JCU it was sort of like life on the run. I wanted to know what he ate. How he planned his day. Did he light a fire and cook food? Did he have wire snares set for pos­sums and wal­la­bies? What did he say when peo­ple asked him where he lived? The truth is it all sounds pretty civilised.

He ‘snared’ his food at the lo­cal IGA and did all of his cook­ing on mi­crowaves in stu­dent and staff rooms in uni­ver­sity build­ings. It had to be done by 10pm.

His day started early. “I’d get up at 6am be­cause of the sun. It would be so hot. I’d make break­fast (in the staff or stu­dent room), ex­er­cise and then shower and get ready for class.” And he pre­sented like a clean­cut model. “I had six t-shirts and four pairs of shorts. I didn’t need jack­ets. My clothes were al­ways clean. I washed them in the bath­rooms where I show­ered,” he said.

Why did he do it? Why did he choose to live like Daniel Boone? It was for per­sonal rea­sons. “I just wanted to prove to my­self that I could do it.”

He is Le­banese-Cana­dian and is presently stay­ing with his par­ents, who live in Dubai, while he searches for em­ploy­ment in the science-en­vi­ron­men­tal sec­tor. He broke it to his par­ents on Tues­day that he had been liv­ing rough on cam­pus in Townsville. They didn’t take this rev­e­la­tion well. In fact, from what Ka­reem told me, they took it badly.

They told him they would have sup­ported him to stay in an apart­ment, but as far as Ka­reem was con­cerned that wasn’t what it was about. He just wanted to see if he could do it. And he did.

And now the grand JCU ad­ven­ture is over. The Stu­dent from the Long Grass is in Dubai look­ing for a job.

VET­ERAN STILL HAS SENSE OF HU­MOUR

RAVENSWOOD lar­rikin Woody Pi­gram was hav­ing some tests done at the Townsville Hospi­tal last week. Noth­ing un­usual about that.

Woody, a Viet­nam vet­eran, has a few is­sues that the doc­tors and nurses are help­ing him sort out.

He had most of his right leg re­moved in 2013 due to a blocked artery. He lost a leg, but he’s never lost his sense of hu­mour.

He was in the hospi­tal’s PET scan fa­cil­ity last week when one of the nurses went look­ing for his thongs (note I said “thongs”, not thong). He only needs one, but the nurse wasn’t aware he only had one leg.

She was down on her hands and knees look­ing un­der Woody’s gur­ney for what she thought were two miss­ing thongs. Af­ter a few sec­onds she flung one hand hold­ing a sin­gle thing tri­umphantly in the air and shouted, “I found one, but I can’t see the other one”.

This trig­gered laugh­ter from the PET scan op­er­a­tor who was in on the joke and then Woody chimed in. It wasn’t un­til the nurse looked up and saw that Woody was short of a leg that she re­alised there was no se­cond Chi­nese rid­ing boot. There was laugh­ter all around. Woody, by the way, is a huge fan of ev­ery­one at Townsville Hospi­tal.

Woody is still the caretaker, self-ap­pointed David At­ten­bor­ough and re­la­tion­ship coun­sel­lor at the Ravenswood show ground camp­ing park (all ad­vice is free). Drop in and say “howyagoin­woody­mate­wan­taVB”? Ask him to tell you a joke. You’ll be sorry, but the pain is worth it be­cause no­body in the his­tory of hu­mankind has ever had a worse reper­toire of jokes than Woody. I’m sure he will take that as a com­pli­ment.

CAT­TLE TRAV­ELS 1000KM FOR SALE

IN­DIGE­NOUS-OWNED Morr Pas­toral Com­pany’s Delta Downs Sta­tion north of Karumba runs 45,000 head of cat­tle on more than one mil­lion acres. It’s in the land of big rivers like the Gil­bert and Smith­burne.

The sta­tion’s western bound­ary com­prises creek and river es­tu­ar­ies and the Gulf of Car­pen­taria coast.

This week man­ager Paul Ed­wards, over­seer John Kerr and plant su­per­vi­sor Rowan Bee­z­ley, came to see 753 of the sta­tion’s cat­tle sold at the Char­ters Tow­ers sale. Agent Dar­rol Crouch, along with agents Queens­land Ru­ral, sold the cat­tle to a num­ber of buy­ers in­clud­ing Chris Le Feu­vre from Reid River.

Two hun­dred and fifty-six of the steers grossed $192,202.

Mr Crouch said the cat­tle trav­elled 1000km to the sa­le­yards from Delta where they had a Meet and Greet in the form of a run through the dip and a feed of hay cour­tesy of sa­le­yard con­trac­tor Leanne Philipson.

It’s a great suc­cess story for this re­mote sta­tion.

AG COL­LEGES TO CLOSE

THAT great in­sti­tu­tion, the Bur­dekin Agri­cul­ture Col­lege, did a fan­tas­tic job train­ing fu­ture cane, beef and hor­ti­cul­tural farm­ers.

It went into de­cline in the mid­dish 90s and by the 2000s was stag­ger­ing along. The State Gov­ern­ment put it out of its mis­ery in 2009. And now the Palaszczuk gov­ern­ment backed by Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Mark Furner has dropped the axe on the Emer­ald and Lon­greach agri­cul­tural col­leges.

The gov­ern­ment claims the col­leges were not meet­ing modern de­mands. This is not what AgForce and other ru­ral lobby groups like Mar­tin Bella’s Green Shirts are say­ing.

The State La­bor gov­ern­ment prob­a­bly sees these col­leges as fer­tile breed­ing grounds for fu­ture LNP vot­ers. La­bor strate­gists take no pris­on­ers. They know they can shut down these farmin­galigned col­leges in the safely held in­land LNP seat of Gre­gory without los­ing a sin­gle vote at the bal­lot box.

The only peo­ple hurt are teenagers want­ing to train for a ca­reer in pri­mary in­dus­tries. They’re the ones left in the lurch.

Photo:

CHEAP FUEL: This was the price of fuel this week in Mt Gar­net – Gate­way to the Gulf – 466 kilo­me­tres north-west of Townsville. If Gar­net can do it, why can’t ev­ery­one else?

Photo:

LIV­ING ROUGH: Marine Bi­ol­ogy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Science post-grad­u­ate stu­dent Ka­reem Bahlawan lived un­de­tected in bushes on cam­pus for two years.

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