Sunday, 28 July 2013

I'd LOVE a Smartphone! - But, perhaps we'd need mobile phone service first? Do ya think??!!!

The continuing saga of lack of mobile service is an ever present thorn in my side!

At our house on the farm, (most of the time) we can receive text messages if we leave our phones sitting on the window sill of the back room of the house! 

I think maybe the clothesline in the background is acting as an aerial and that's why in this part of the house we have a level of signal. 

I can often hold a call on the mobile if I leave the phone in this window sill and talk to the caller on loudspeaker - hardly professional! 

The old faithful Nokia 6120 is our phone of choice. It's not even a country rated phone but does a much better job than Telstra's 'country rated' bricks!

Both our phones are old and in a derelict state and we need to upgrade - but to what? How on earth do you work out which mobile phone aerial to buy, some are illegal, some are not. Telstra offer one for $700, but if it's only as good as their country rated phones, they can keep it! Whatever you buy, will it even work? Who do you believe when trying to optimise the access your farming business has to digital technology?

Everyone calls the mobile these days, it's just become second nature for 'others', they always bypass the landline supplied and go straight to the mobile number. If we have the mobiles on 'vibrate', when someone calls, they fall out of the window sill onto the floor and immediately lose service (hence the blutack in the photo holding the phone in place!).

I don't like to whinge about what may seem a miniscule issue, but rural people are being left behind in the technology stakes. They are already behind before we even start. Over the 10 years I have lived here on the farm, I have been astounded at the lack of computer skills within my district. In a wealthy country like Australia, it's an absolute tragedy!

We recently swapped from our standard Satellite Internet to the NBN Satellite. While it's quite a bit cheaper and we have more download available to us, overall it's not any quicker than what we had previously! We still get 'rebuffering' when trying to watch Ag Machinery videos on uTube and listening to music on ITunes. Are we being led up the garden path here? Will it be quicker one day? How long will we have to wait?

For a 9 month period last year and early this year, we had trouble with our local landline exchange. We had 17 days over the 9 months where we had no landline, it was up/down/up/down. Some of my neighbours don't get any level of mobile signal so we had to resort to email contact via satellite internet to confer that all our phones were down again! So there I was, speaking to Telstra on loudspeaker in the window sill trying again and again to report the fault, repeating myself each time. 
When I tried to report my neighbours landline numbers that were also out, the Telstra person said "well they'll have to ring and report it themselves'! 
Well lady, they fu**in would if they could!!! 

After screaming like a banshee several times over that 9 month period, Telstra finally enabled their crew's to fix the fault. None of this stress was necessary, but the lack of understanding from Telstra phone operators only exacerbated the situation.

What do I want to see from our governments:
  • Bring back the Liberal's Black Spot Program for mobile service
  • Enlist the skills and expertise of a company able to communicate with farmers (and other rural folk), to advise and supply aerials and other advice on the best way for that particular family to have optimal access to technology
  • Install a rebate for expensive Landline plans for those without access to any mobile service
  • Actually start digital education, on mass, in rural/remote areas, not the closest town 2 hours away, localised lessons in layman's language
  • Don't waste money on yet 'another study', the need is there in truckloads, accept it, stop procrastinating and do something about it
 Put that in yer pipe and smoke it Kev!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

$50k Gamble on Weather Forecast

We've had some lovely rain in the last few weeks, and as we are dryland farmers (we don't irrigate) it's been perfect for our crops, it's the best start to a season that I can remember (which is only the past 10 years!). Last year we didn't even manage 300mm for the year, hopefully this year will be better.

I thought I'd explain some of the reasons farmers watch the weather forecast so intently at certain times of the year.

We wanted to spread Urea (fertiliser) on the Canola and the Barley. In order for the Urea to do its job, it needs several millimeters of rain (preferably 10) to wash it into the soil after the granules are spread, otherwise it goes through a process called volitization, which basically means it evaporates.

You might wonder 'whats the big deal?' - Well for us (a small farm of 6000 acres) it would be $50k worth of Urea down the tube! Gone! Wasted!

Luckily for us, the predicted rain did eventuate, although the boys did have to pull an 'all nighter' to get Urea spread in time. 

Grain farming is an expensive game, it is gambling. To purchase a Header (Harvester) in Australia with no 'trade in', you're looking at around $650k! (Depending on exhange rates etc). 

With the rain comes the mud!

Our roads have held up well over this last period. But the wetter they get, the mudder they become. 

It's sometimes like 'running the gauntlet' on dirt roads. You just hang on and ride with it if you start to slide. 

But, our roads are nothing compared to the dirt roads in the northern areas of Australia. Ours are great compared to that.
Needless to say, we don't wash the car very often during rain events, it's a waste of time until the roads dry out a bit.