Blue Sky Produce

Mango Madness 2013/2014

DSC_0008 (1) IMG_2886 DSC_0003 IMG_2844 IMG_2868Just after lunch last Sunday saw Matt wrapping and wheeling the final pallet of mangoes off the shed floor and into the cold room which signalled the end of our first ever Blue Sky ProduceMango season – wahoooooo!!  This also brought our second quarter of farm life to a close (you can read about our first quarter here).  It is so hard to believe we have been living in Far North Queensland for over six months now!  Only another twenty odd years to go and we might be able to consider ourselves locals!!

These last few months really have been mango madness!!  We have to admit that this quarter saw some of the ‘gloss’ and novelty of our change to farm life wear off!  It has been hard work and a huge learning curve!  The days were very long (Matt turning the lights on in the shed at 5am and often not turning them off before 9pm!), it became stinking hot, it was stressful trying to logistically manage a new packing shed, something we had never done before – remembering to order boxes, stickers, plastic, chemicals, parts – the list is huge!  Matt also had to manage a team of twenty – thirty workers of which at least 17 were living here onsite, so it was like running a campground too – making sure toilet paper supplies were up to date, bonds were collected, rents were collected, cooking/washing facilities were all working, check-ins were happening – you get the picture.

Matt was tired and stressed, I was hot, fat, definitely pregnant, tired and grumpy, all of which was not helped by the fact that everybody else in the world was in Christmas holiday mode, ready to relax and get festive, oh, and we did of course have all the kids home too on school holidays and the incident of Jack’s broken arm on Christmas eve!!  I think we also got a big dose of back to reality (work, school, bills, responsibility!) and the post-trip comedown/blues at this point too, everything finally sinking in that our adventure so long in the making was all over in three short months.  But, we survived, we’re still here, with only a few minor meltdowns and snapping at each other and we didn’t jump back in the camper and take off for the road again (we got pretty close a few times though)!!!!

The side of our fridge became Matt' scheduling station as he worked out each night what workers were needed where.

The side of our fridge became Matt’ scheduling station as he worked out each night what workers were needed where.

It wasn’t all bad.  The start of the season was actually quite exciting!  It’s what I’d imagine a shearing season might be like, perhaps what it might be like here in a few years time – where you look forward to your worker’s arriving for the year and hearing what they have been up to, perhaps seeing some familiar faces back again from the previous season?  Our crew all started moving on site in mid-November, the day after our worker’s dorms were actually finished!

Camp Kitchen - Worker's Dorm

Camp Kitchen – Worker’s Dorm

Packing shed sparkling clean and waiting for the season to commence!

Packing shed sparkling clean and waiting for the season to commence!

Seeing the first few loads of mangos arriving on the trucks, watching them be unloaded with the forklift, hearing the packing shed turn on for the first time (the noise of the shed in action is a low hum – took me straight back to my childhood spent in the dairy!) and seeing the shed in full fledged work mode was quite a site to behold!

Matt welcoming the first crew to the Blue Sky Produce shed

Matt welcoming the first crew to the Blue Sky Produce shed

De-sapping crew - these guys were actually pretty good singers too!

De-sapping crew – these guys were actually pretty good singers too!

De-sapping is one of the hardest and most important jobs in the shed!

De-sapping is one of the hardest and most important jobs in the shed!

The grading girls - another important and tough job!

The grading girls – another important and tough job!

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All systems go!

The packing and sorting bench

The packing and sorting bench

Captain is not a fan of mango season - it means he's not allowed in the shed and there are no days spent running after the four wheeler through the orchard

Captain is not a fan of mango season – it means he’s not allowed in the shed and there are no days spent running after the four wheeler through the orchard

There were some other perks of the mango season ……………………………………………

Mangos for breakfast!

Mangos for breakfast!

Mangos for lunch and dinner and in between too!

Mangos for lunch and dinner and in between too!

We could put the kids to work - very cheap labour!

We could put the kids to work – very cheap labour!

And there were some beautiful Blue Sky sunsets

And there were some beautiful Blue Sky sunsets

We did also squeeze in a bit of time for a couple of things like ……………………………………

A lightening strike which started a fire behind our avocado orchard!

A lightening strike which started a fire behind our avocado orchard!

A swanky new sign installed out the front!

A swanky new sign installed out the front!

A laugh at the manager learning to drive the forklift!

A laugh at the manager learning to drive the forklift!

And even a Christmas BBQ and a trip for Matt to follow our fruit to the markets in Brisbane.

And we got a huge kick out of having photos of our fruit emailed to us from all over the place.  You might remember Malte who worked here before the season started, well he sent this great photo in when he spotted our mangos on his travels in New South Wales!!

Malte - an ex-worker with the Blue Sky mangos he spotted in NSW

Malte – an ex-worker with the Blue Sky mangos he spotted in NSW

All in all, it was a pretty good first season.  We learnt a lot, didn’t blow anything up or kill each other, were still welcome at the Family Christmas table, and we are hopeful that the growers who packed with us this year will be back again next year, hopefully bringing some other farms!!  So a big congratulations and thank you to all of the Blue Sky workers this year – we did it – wahoooooooo!!

 

Categories: Blue Sky Produce, Every Family Needs A Farmer | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Take Five Photo Safari

Tonight’s post is the overdue (eek!) assignment for Week 3 of my Blog With Pip course.  It seems nothing has changed since my uni days, I’m still an over thinking, procrastinator who always does the last minute/all-nighter cramming sessions or consistently has to grovel for extensions on assignments!  Anywho, I do always get there in the end, albeit late – story of my life!

So, our task was to take at least five photos over the weekend and write a post about them. Hmmmm, well our weekend was made up of working in the packing shed, netball, working in the packing shed, a playdate for Jack, working in the packing shed, the hockey sign on, working in the packing shed, Sunday lunch at Grandma’s (the highlight!) for the kids and I but not Matt, because, yep, you guessed it, he was working in the packing shed.

As you can see, there was not a lot of material in there for exciting photo opportunities.  So, my dear blog readers, you are going to be taken on a photo safari of ……………………………… wait for it ………………………………. it’s an adventure …………………………. Saturday Mango Packing – Blue Sky Produce shed style!  Wahooooooo – don’t get too excited now!

Seriously though, come and check it out.  Although not as adventurous as my classmate Julie’s weekend at Phillip Island or as giggle-worthy as this post by ‘Gloves Off” , you might find it a little interesting and learn something all the same!  Here we go!

Morning commences at 6.30am with 30 pallets of Keitts mangoes ready and waiting for packing!

Morning commences at 6.30am with 30 pallets of Keitts mangoes ready and waiting for packing!

Murphy's Law - of course all four trucks that are due to arrive at Blue Sky, manage to all turn up on the driveway at the same time, right on shed start up time!

Murphy’s Law – of course all four trucks that are due to arrive on Saturday at Blue Sky, manage to all turn up on the driveway at the same time, right on shed start up time!

Desapping work crew of five boys gets started dipping, snapping mango stems off and loading mangoes on to desapper.

De-sapping work crew of five boys gets started dipping, snapping mango stems off and loading mangoes on to the de-sapper.

Mangoes having a wash with citrus soap which breaks down the sap.

Mangoes having a wash with citrus soap which breaks down the sap.

View of mangoes from the top of the desapper

Bath Time!  View of mangoes from the top of the de-sapper

Mangoes getting a polish with the brushes.

Mangoes getting a polish with the brushes.

The Blue Sky Produce shed hard at work!

The Blue Sky Produce shed hard at work!

Mangoes getting weighed and sorted by size on the grading line.

Mangoes getting weighed and sorted by size on the grading line.

The quiet that is a break for lunch.

The quiet that is a break for lunch.

Blue Sky Produce Mangoes ready for market!

6pm Knock Off time – hooray!  Blue Sky Produce Mangoes ready for market!

Ooopsy, a little over the five photo limit, but I am always too wordy!  So what did you think?  Ready to come and be mango farmers/packing shed workers yet?

Categories: Blue Sky Produce, Every Family Needs A Farmer | Tags: , , | 15 Comments

Fealy Family Farmer’s First Quarter

598504_10151905301918171_601835493_nI have so many blog posts I want to write at the moment that I really don’t know which one to start with!!  Now that we have all three kids at school (holy moly – how did that happen!?!?!)

Fealy kids first day of school 2014.  Lexi in Prep, Toby Grade 1, Jack Grade 3

Fealy kids first day of school 2014. Lexi in Prep, Toby Grade 1, Jack Grade 3, with ‘Patches’ the farm dog – the newest member of the family

and I have a full school term until Fealy Bub No 4 arrives – I am really hoping to dedicate some time to blogging (and I guess I really should get our nursery and some things ready for Bub No 4!).  I’m even thinking about signing up for an online blogging course – I need to make a decision on that today, but decided to do an actual blog post first before I spent any money on a course!!

So, I’m starting with a bit of a summary of what life has been like as farmers for the last few months.  It is soooooo hard to believe that we have been here at Blue Sky Produce for five months now.  We are currently three quarters of the way through our first mango season, the Kensington Pride and R2E2 varieties have all been picked and packed and we are now just waiting for the Keitts and Brooks mangoes to ripen (who knew there were so many varieties of mangoes!). We are not far off from commencing our first avocado season and we have 17 workers living on site.  These last few months have been the most enormous learning curve ever for us all, but especially Matt!  He has gone from googling You Tube videos on ‘how to drive a tractor’ on the way here from our trip, to driving tractors, forklifts, operating mulching, spraying and fertilising machines, fixing all sorts of things from pumps to chainsaws and learning about all kinds of orchard insects, diseases and soils!!!

View from the tractor!

View from the tractor!

Fixing the foot valve on the pump in the dam - kids were on snake watch as legend has it a massive water python lives in the dam!

Matt fixing the foot valve on the pump in the dam – kids were on snake watch as legend has it a massive water python lives in the dam – kayak still comes in handy!

Getting to know the place!

Getting to know the place!

Plenty of beautiful sunsets!

Plenty of beautiful sunsets!

And sunrises!

And sunrises!

The first quarter on the farm was spent trying to do half a year’s worth of ‘off season’ orchard work in three months!  With the help of our full time farm hand Charlie (and his dog Captain!), 4 German Backpackers – Sarah, Malte, Sebastian and Julian, we pruned avocado trees, mulched avocado trees, commenced a spraying and fertigation program for the whole orchard, as well as a whole lot of slashing, weed and pest control work!

Mulching

Mulching – very dusty work!

Bale buster with Zetor tractor behind with spear on it to lift hay bale onto bale buster

Bale buster with Zetor tractor behind with spear on it to lift hay bale onto bale buster

Loading hay

Loading hay

Rolling hay bales out

Rolling hay bales out

Malte hard at work pulling the string off the bales

Malte hard at work pulling the string off the bales

Julian spreading hay

Julian spreading hay

Sarah clearing room around the trees for irrigation to come out

Sarah clearing room around the trees for irrigation to come out

Sarah & Malte after a hard day of mulching - not the most fun job!

Sarah & Malte after a hard day of mulching – not the most fun job!

The kids have taken to farm life like ducks to water!

The ducklings have grown!

The ducklings have grown!

They love going out on the four wheeler with Matt before school to turn the irrigation on, or after school on the tractor if Matt is not too busy.  It is amazing how much they have learnt about orchard farming already just from the bits and pieces Matt has told them or they overhear us talking about!  All three are pro’s at fixing sprinklers and spotting the different varieties of trees around the orchard.

Jack out late one afternoon helping Matt - one of my favourite photos!

Jack out late one afternoon helping Matt – one of my favourite photos!

 

Toby out on a morning water run - there are always hot air balloons out in the mornings!

Toby out on a morning water run – there are always hot air balloons out in the mornings!

This girl probably loves it the most!

This girl probably loves it the most!

Jerry racing the four wheeler - he loves the farm life!

Jerry racing the four wheeler – he loves the farm life!

Hard not to love it some days!

Hard not to love it some days!

It hasn’t just been all hard work.  We did have a few afternoons of quiet family walks around the farm and even squeezed in a lunch with all the workers for the Melbourne Cup in November – we were most disgusted that the electrician who was here working that day cleaned out our inaugural Blue Sky Melbourne Cup sweep!

Afternoon walk around the orchard with the dogs.

Afternoon walk around the orchard with the dogs.

Melbourne Cup Lunch

Melbourne Cup Lunch

German Backpapers tasting the first ever Blue Sky Produce passion fruit wine!

German Backpapers tasting the first ever Blue Sky Produce passion fruit wine!

Matt even found time to build us a chook pen - love getting our fresh eggs!

Matt even found time to build us a chook pen – love getting our fresh eggs!

Oh and nearly forgot!  We also planted 210 new lime trees during this time and did some pretty rigorous disease control on the avocado trees!  Matt is particularly proud of how straight our lime tree lines are – a little obsessive compulsive for a farmer I say!

Getting the ground ready for the new lime trees.

Getting the ground ready for the new lime trees.

Matt surveying their handiwork

Matt surveying their handiwork

Injecting the avocado trees to kill disease

Injecting the avocado trees to kill disease

Farmer boy after a hard day!

Farmer boy after a hard day!

So that was our first 3-ish months of farm life.  Not too bad at all.  I have been enjoying just being a stay at home mum, making breakfasts, lunches and dinners, baking and doing a bit of office work.  Matt does take me out with him from time to time to learn a little about the pump and how all the taps in the orchard work, but with a big pregnant belly growing I am not terribly useful for much more than that at present!  The next post on farm life will be all about Mango Madness 2013/2014 with lots of details of what our first mango season was like – it has been full on that is for sure!!IMG_3015

Categories: About Us, Blue Sky Produce, Every Family Needs A Farmer | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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