Host: Boreelum Station
Written by Adam Coffey – Station Owner/Manager
So, moving on from our last post where Jac introduced us and gave you a brief background, I thought I’d fill you in on our new home “Boreelum” and what we’ve done with the place since we purchased it almost two years ago.
We often call Boreelum our “little renovators delight”… Essentially it’s 2,500 hectares of pretty good dirt in an 1100mm average rainfall. The property was previously owned and operated as a managed investment scheme – in this case a timber plantation. Boreelum was one of 22 properties in the general area that had been purchased some 10 years ago. These were some of the best beef cattle producing blocks around and were converted to grow hardwood timber for woodchip export. The short version of this is that the investment failed and the company went into receivership which is where we came along. At the top of our wish list was that we didn’t want (ok, couldn’t afford!) to pay for somebody else’s improvements. Well we certainly found a block that fit the bill!
Plantation timber from the air.
Now I should mention at this stage that we managed to get early occupancy as part of the purchase deal. This was a necessity as I had recently been accepted as a 2016 Nuffield Scholar and the looming travel deadline of the 7-week Global Focus Program was fast approaching! So after we packed a road train full of trucks, bikes, trailers and a sea container with all our worldly possessions we hit the road with mixed feelings as we left the North for the foreseeable future.
Ready to roll.
Setting up camp on the Barkly.
Arriving at Boreelum we found no drinking water, power or flushing toilet. We bought a 25,000L poly tank and eventually found someone to half fill it. Ergon had a bit of work to do to the pole to get power connected and I managed to get a flushing toilet – what more does a girl need? So having got things ship-shape I jumped on a plane and headed overseas for 7 weeks! A common theme I found amongst Nuffield scholars is that none of us really had the time or space to be doing it but that there was never really a good time which we can certainly relate to!
Having not been actively managed for cattle for some 10 years you can imagine the state of the infrastructure on Boreelum. Many of the fences were either gone or stuffed and the old timber yards were so overgrown that I didn’t even realise there was a calf race in there until I hit it with the front-end loader. On top of this we had around 400ha of plantation timber to deal with that was in pretty poor shape. Jac and I thought we’d find some sort of value in the timber, at least a break-even scenario where we might get our paddocks back. Unfortunately, the plantation timber was a sterile hybrid species bred specifically for pulp and was no good for anything else, environmental value included. The woodchip market had fallen in a hole and it soon became apparent that the closing canopy was starting to impact grass production. We’d had some pretty good out of season winter rain and there happened to be some contract dozers pretty close by so after a quick negotiation with the bank we decided to knock them to the ground.
Once the timber was on the ground we could work out a little better what we were dealing with. We decided that once we could afford to we’d start stick raking (raking the timber into rows so it could be burnt) and in the meantime shifted our focus to the house as after nearly 2 years living in a caravan with 2 small boys we were ready to get out! The house really was a 50/50 renovate or knock down/set fire to proposition. We knew that a new house wasn’t a viable option so decided to renovate the old house ourselves. Thus commenced plenty of googling such as “How to renovate a bathroom”… Having never done a whole heap of building work we soon found ourselves well in over our heads but battled on with the kind help of the ladies at Bunnings Gladstone where I soon found myself a regular attendee at the Wednesday morning tradies breakfast! 3 long months later we had a house that was ready to move into and although a little rough around the edges we were pretty pleased with the result. By this time anything would have looked good other than a damn caravan!
The rest of 2016 seems a bit of a blur. We moved into the house, sold the van and started to concentrate on plans to make some money rather than spending it. I left again on another 8 weeks of individual study travel to South and North America for Nuffield while the kids and Jac held the fort. In many ways it was a very difficult time for me to be away but in another sense we didn’t have many cattle on and were still settling in so it probably suited well. My Nuffield report has now been published which felt pretty good to get done with everything else going on.