bilateral kellerberrin

April 28, 2005

Thursday April 28 2005

Filed under: keller dailies — Lucas @ 11:38 pm

Anne and I drove down to Cunderdin, perhaps for no decent reason. We talk pretty good while we’re driving along together in her noisy old van. I like the way you sit right up front, the windscreen vertical in front of your face, all her junk on the dashboard, the wind whistling through the passenger window which doesn’t close properly, and the left side lurching strangely like it needs a wheel alignment. Sure, it’s so loud you can’t listen to tapes at speeds of more than fifty, and having a conversation leaves you hoarse. But it feels like you’ve really gone somewhere.

Not that we actually needed to go to Cunderdin yesterday. I thought it would be a good idea, to nose around and do a bit of research, to look at the town layout, walk the perimeter a bit. When we arrived we went to the museum. It’s housed in the old pumping station, a cavernous red brick number with a sort of smokestack at the west end of it. I wanted to get a town map. Nancy (who I later found out is the Honorary (ie voluntary) curator) dug around and got all flustered cos someone had shifted the maps, printed on beige card. Eventually she found them. The museum is in the midst of a redevelopment, and will be closed for six months as of this weekend. They have an earthquake simulator there, which I’m pretty keen to check out. Cunderdin is next door to Meckering, which had the big quake in the fifties or sixties. Shit, I am so bad, let me check my facts… ok, got it, 1968. All you wanna know is here:

But it was getting on, and we thought we should nose around the town a bit and come back to the museum next day. I wanted to walk, not stand in a building looking at old stuff. We headed up the south road past the school, and soon enough we came upon a massive piece of farm machinery pulled out of a field by a tractor. I had seen this kind of thing around a bit, a huge brightly painted fold up wheely thing. It’s hard to describe, but basically, if you folded all the wheels out, they would stretch a huge width, like 30 metres or something. A machine for planting seeds. It was coming out of the same field that Cristina and I had filmed burning a few weeks ago. Anne and I went to the edge of the dirt, to see what kind of effect the machine had had on the soil. Churned furrows had turned dark rich soil to the surface, neat parallel lines marked the land. Next to the field was an old couple pottering in their garden. That must be the farmer, we thought.

We waved and went over to say gday. Turns out this farmer was one of the ones who was doing ok. He owned that planting machine. He had recently been buying up more land. His operation was growing. Anne asked him whether he was planning to do any more stubble burning. He told us we’d just missed his big final burn that morning. A wall of flames six feet high sweeping across the paddock.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the farmers burn in order to clear the “stubble” – the remnant of last year’s wheat harvest – which can get clogged in the blades of the planting machine when putting in the seeds for next year’s crop. Also, apparently burning sterilises the soil, although the jury is out on whether it sterilises it “too much” (ie good bacteria killed off also). At the very least, it makes the whole district smokey for a month. But it’s beautiful to look at and crackley to listen to. This farmer, whose name I neglected to ask, was putting in astro turf in his tiny garden next to the wheat field. Growing grass was getting to be too much trouble, he said.

Burning the stubble has all but finished everywhere. Everyone is expecting a big rain in the next few days. “The opening rain”, Pauline called it, when I bumped into her in the street outside IASKA tonight. It’s the first big rain of the season, it falls soft and long for two whole days, no run-off, and it soaks right in. Then the seeding begins in earnest, and the moist soil gives the wheat seeds a good chance to take hold.


Pauline had come to find us, to let us know about these med students from Notre Dame Uni who are in town right now. Keller has 32 of them, Cunderdin 16, and Merredin another 32. They are postgrad medical students and they get sent on these rural placement programmes to experience what medical care is like outside of the big city. Pauline said that things are pretty bad in the wheatbelt, health-care-wise. It sounds like a good programme to me.

The killer, though, is that UWA, in turn, sends out three anthropology students, to study how the medical students get on, interfacing with the rural community! A study of a study! And Pauline wants me to host em to dinner on Sunday night (the anthropologists, not the doctors) – so I’ll be able to do a meta-meta-study. What a hoot.

In addition, tomorrow morning I’m going to give a short talk to the medical kids (I’m being facetious, many of them will be older than me). Apparently they work through a programme of “problem-based-learning” (PBL), whatever that might be. I spoke to their teacher on the phone, to arrange the talk. I didn’t even get a chance to ask what PBL means, but I was so tickled by the term itself I forgot to ask. I don’t really care, though…whatever it is, it’ll be good. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

It seems they’ve been hearing the perspective of many different folks from round these parts, what it’s like to be a farmer, a vet, a doctor, etc, in the area. And Kellerberrin is unique in that it has a cultural centre: a “cutting edge” contemporary art space at that. So I guess they’ll want to hear a bit about that too. And: what it’s like to be an artist from Sydney spending a few months here. Also, she mentioned blogging: they were interested in why I was into blogging! I love it. Can’t wait to see where this goes…

One Response to “Thursday April 28 2005”

  1. x-o Says:

    Hey Luco,
    Getting some feedback from anthros sounds really exciting. Would love to be a fly on the wall for that one. Look forward to reading about it.

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