Mandarin Madelines with Mandarin Curd

My home town is one of Queensland’s main citrus growing regions. In fact, the town is the “Orange Capital of Queensland! In fact there is a ‘Big Orange’ tourist attraction on the way into Gayndah where you can buy fruit during picking season and other local wares.

My parents are beef producers, not citrus growers, but I love supporting the local citrus farmers whenever I go home to visit my parents by purchasing boxes of oranges and mandarins to bring back & share with my friends and family. My parents also bring down lots of citrus whenever they visit too & last time they brought a box of mandarins with them!

While I love supporting the citrus farmers, I am a bit of a fussy mandarin eater. In fact, some might consider it painful how I eat a mandarin! Miss Six loves them however & Miss Three will drink the juice.

I decided that to get some use out of them that I would adapt a recipe from Rachel Khoo’s first book “The Little Paris Kitchen”.

Floundering on the sea on non-connectivity

I spend a lot of my time on the internet. Much of my work revolves around pages such as Twitter or Facebook where I try to share stories for farmers & consumers, along with catching up with friends. Simple things like researching places to visit for a tour group that I organised for work. Paying bills and keeping bookwork up to date. Keeping documents in the one location so that I can access or share them whenever I need to.

Most people in suburban areas would find doing these actions an easy, hassle-free task. Watching  the latest episode of your favourite sitcom on Netflix, no worries right! Live stream iTunes radio all day while you work, awesome, bring it on!

However, for many in rural & regional Australia it is a real challenge. One that holds them back from reaching their full potential in both business & in their personal lives. It is not an issue just in Australia either. Many of my rural counterparts in the US face the same battles and challenges in their daily lives.

It is not only the lack of reliable internet available, it is also the amount (or lack of) of data available to rural customers that is the issue. 25GB seems like a lot of data until you need to download programs required to run your business, upload 50 documents to the cloud so that they can be accessed by others in your team, regularly post updates to social media or pay your bills. I can’t even imagine doing all this and trying to educate your children via School of the Air or distance education.

Our whole lives are based around the internet these days, and for good reason. It has allowed us opportunities to build stronger businesses, share our stories & keep in contact with our loved ones.

My productive office, connected to internet through my phone as our home mobile broadband gets shaped after 10 or so days (25gb).

However, the internet is critical for the future of agriculture as it is where the next round of farm productivity gains are to be made.

Over the past 10, 25, 50 & even 100 years we have seen huge gains in yields in both crop & livestock industries thanks to better breeding, greater understanding of soils, better agronomy. Whilst gains will still be made in these areas, the digital era will allow fine tuning of all of these areas. Decisions will be made on very specific, location based information & with very little effort on behalf of the farmer.

Whilst our urban counterparts are enjoying NBN, cable or ADSL2, in rural areas we have a limited selection of mobile broadband or satellite connections, all of which are way oversubscribed leading to slow, unreliable connections that chew through data due to the constant reloading of pages or downloads.

How can we get past these troubles? How do we get decision makers to get real about making real efforts to increase services? It is something that has been weighing on my mind of late, here are some of my suggestions:

1. Encourage Start-ups in the internet access space

Surely someone out there has a great idea to provide internet access to rural communities. For a country to have all their internet hopes pinned on just one organisation to roll-out services with little to no innovation is insane. Go crazy & see what else might be out there to get the ball rolling!

2. Look outside the square
According to this news article, the USDA provides funding to internet service providers to ensure small farming communities can access high-speed internet. The USDA gets it. They understand that to keep their rural industries competitive they need to make investments in such technology. Get with the program Australia!
What else can be done to provide internet to small communities? There is talk of drones being used to provide interim internet to small rural communities in the US. Whilst not the best for aerial applicators – I shudder to think of the consequences during summer – it is a great start. why not utilise local grain handling facilities? Think of how great these could be – they provide internet to the surrounding farms & could be wifi hotspots too if they are a closed facility.

3. Get. It. Done.
Come on already. Yes, we all understand that it does take time to roll out these services. But it is extremely frustrating for a rural person to see NBN being rolled out in large towns & cities whilst they are being forgotten. I do hear the NBN are putting on extra staff. Show us how much quicker the services will be rolled out in rural areas!

I’m sure with further thought I could come up with more ideas & links. But I’d love to hear what you all think could get this job done!

Till next time, Meg

The Tragic Qld Floods

Things have been quite wet up here in ‘Sunny Qld’.  We were flooded in for a few days after Christmas & are again – although not as bad this time.  My husband has been able to get out through both flood events in his Landcruiser utility but we wouldn’t even attempt it in our Territory, but after about 24-48hrs we can usually get through.  Our cotton crops are ok at this point but will need many hot sunny days to get them growing so that we can make some kind of income out of them.  Some growers just 15kms away have lost 90% of their crop, plus had their houses inundated by the Condamine River.  It just started to look like we were actually going to have a bumper year after many years of drought & losing our winter crops to wet weather.  Also there is much damage to infrastructure such as dams, paddocks & irrigation channels – our expenses this year are going to go through the roof.

 Toowoomba is one of our primary towns for shopping (the other being Pittsworth), so seeing the images that came out of there on Monday was quite shocking for us to say the least.  A friend of ours works in the shopping centre that was inundated & where cars were washed away from when the torrent came through – many videos were taken from this centre, however she luckily had left just prior to the water coming through otherwise her car may have been one of the ones affected.  It took her quite a while to get home – normally it takes us 40 mins to get to Toowoomba, I think she was on the road for nearly 1 ½ hrs.

 My Brother-in-law was building a shed at Helidon which was one of the worst hit areas below Toowoomba, with many lives lost or missing.  He only just made it out, he came to a bridge where he was turned back by Police which he did & when he looked in his rear vision mirror a car that drove through from the opposite direction got swept away in the water… (Unfortunately the one that has been pictured on the news floating in the water with the occupants on top.  The mother & son survived, however no news as far as I am aware of the father).  He got home eventually after detouring all the way down to near Warwick & back up to Toowoomba, and they closed the road behind him – some days you can be so lucky.

 I think that all Australians feel what is going on in some way, whilst many will not be personally affected by these flood events, I think all of us , I will never forget how I felt watching the situation unfold in Victoria with the horrific events that happened there nearly 2 years ago.

 It has been really hard to get out & get into photography – partly because I just can’t get anywhere to get the shots, but also because we have nearly been glued to the TV keeping abreast of the situation unfolding across what is now much of the country.  Who could believe that this situation would now be affecting Queensland, New South Wales & Victoria, with some flooding I hear also in Tasmania, South Australia & Western Australia – along with their bushfires.  Plus the Northern Territory is coming into their wet season.  It is just becoming too hard to believe.

Below are some photos of the photos of the water around our house when the flood was at its peak (here) after Christmas.  

Meg K        

 

IMG_3231 – Clinton my husband driving a tractor up to our ringtank (dam) to make sure the walls hadn’t washed away – you can see slippage on the outside wall behind the tractor.

IMG_3243 – View of our house from the east when the water was at its peak just a few days after Christmas.

IMG_3244 – View of our house from the south west – water at peak.

IMG_3248 – Water running between our garage & machinery shed, the water was up to our knees, that’s my vegie garden in the middle..

IMG_3204 – Our driveway before the peak

IMG_3209 – The road to Toowoomba, we weren’t game to drive through this even in the Cruiser, to the right is one of our paddocks of cotton under quite a bit of water.  This is not the farm on which we live.

IMG_3214 – Our mailbox & driveway

IMG_3219 – the bottom left of this photo is where we drive up to our garage, a garden, sheds & machinery line up in background.

Trip to Workshops Rail Museum Ipswich

We managed to get out of our previously flooded property to spend a day in Ipswich at the Workshops Rail Museum with friends visiting from Western Australia.  And what a great day we had, although Miss G took a little while to get over her initial shyness once she got over it we were off!  So many interactive displays and a huge kids play area for burning off all that energy, we just wish we had more time to look around as it may now be quite a while before it reopens dependent on how it was effected by the devestating Queensland Floods.