Recharge: taking a break from the farm

Shan and Shane Joyce

Image courtesy of The Australian Women's Weekly

Well folks this chapter in the story may seem to be quite ‘unconnected’ to our new farm, however in my view it is ‘connected’ very much.

On the 13th of May, I set out on a journey to Adelaide, SA to ride (bicycle) with a friend (Michael) from Angaston (Barossa Valley) to Blinman (just north of Wilpeena Pound) in the Flinders Ranges.

We were then to return to Port Augusta, and catch a bus back to Adelaide, flying home on May 23rd.

Why this ‘journey’ is so closely connected to our farming operation, is primarily due to the need for us all to ‘take a break’ from our work place!

In Covey speak, it’s ‘sharpening the saw’.


The ride...


I am now back at Kumbartcho, refreshed and with new enthusiasm for the job.

Let me then relate some of our experiences:

My cycling buddy hails from WA, we met some 6 years back on an epic ride from Port Augusta, SA to Karumba, Qld.

Since then we have shared many rides, and both clearly recognise the need to ‘escape’ the ‘noise’ of day to day work/life.

Back then to this recent journey. A friend (Wayne) in the Barossa lent us his ute to get from Adelaide airport to Angaston. Wayne had flown out the morning we arrived.

Michael and I stayed just outside Angaston with Brian and Sally on their farm. This to be our last night of ‘comfort’ in a warm house and with home cooked meals.

On May 14th we set out, provisioning up in Nuriootpa. I then had a back tyre blow out, and learned very fast that 26 inch bike tyres are a scarce commodity in Nuriootpa! Soon one was found in Toy World and we were on our way again. I now travel with no spare tube, as tubes with ‘French valves’ were non-existent in Nurioopta.

Our first day from then was uneventful (though tough).

We made Robertstown, where we camped.

Day 2 we had Burra as our lunch destination. The head winds just got worse as we went, and some seven and one half hours later we arrived, physically and psychologically destroyed!

We had covered 44 kilometres!

Let me digress to some ‘farm’ experiences over these 2 days so far.

The Barossa around Angaston is very ‘mono-cultural’, with the diversity being a rose bush at the end of each row of vines. The roses are used as an early warning of fungal disease. The native bush in this area is typical of much of our rural agricultural landscapes. Remnant trees are largely old and dying, with little or no regeneration.

As we proceeded, the landscape progressively got clearer and clearer. It appeared that ‘zero till’, had given way to ‘strategic tilling’ and stubble burning.

My view of these landscapes is that if we had set out to kill of soil life, drain of as much water as possible, and increase surface evaporation, then we have been really successful!

Back then to ‘the journey’. Michael and I chose in Burra to ‘head south’. That is to ‘go with the wind’. This for me was a real metaphor for application to farming/life/work.

In our plan to ride to Blinman, we had become very ‘destination’ focused. Two tough days forced us to ‘step back’ from our goal and re-access.

We are now on the Mawson Trail from Burra to Clare, and have a wonderful day cycling (cross winds), and the landscape begins to give way to more diversity.

Yes we were ‘sniffing’ chemicals, as some farmers (on the far horizon) sprayed out their fields. It is no mystery why there is so much disease in our communities, when agricultural practices like this are not only allowed, but also encouraged!!!

We are beginning to see the odd farm, where trees have been re-planted (shelter belts).

We are seeing more retention of remnants (thanks to Don Dunstan all those years back banning clearing).

In our travels we saw one property (a vineyard), where there was a real attempt at re-instating trees on the farm. The whole farm had rows of trees strategically planted right throughout.

In conclusion:

South Australia has the most amazing network of biking, hiking, riding trails. Well done SA!

And I’m back at Kumbartcho grateful for the opportunity to ‘take a break’.

Till next time farewell, and enjoy your break from work!


Shane and friend with their bikes