Positive & Negative – with a brain injury…

So – so today my depression has me writing this piece in bed. I just had a shower – my first shower in 32 hours. My family are meeting at Rollingstone, and there’s no way I can bring myself to face anyone. I was born into the Sugar Industry in the Herbert and have been Sugar Cane mad ever since, but this year the season has broken me. This season has made me despise the Sugar Industry – amongst other things… and it makes me hate myself because of it. I feel so alone…

My husband has been home 9 out of the last 72 hours and I could cut the tension between us with a knife. The sugar cane season in the Herbert is set to finish over the following weekend and I’m telling you it’s a week too long. I’m all for making a living and working hard but I feel so neglected it’s not funny!

Today (the following day) I went training at Tweak with Louise (my trainer) and she can always put me in a better mindset. Georgia Satellites -Keep your hands to yourself was the first song that came on and it put my head in the game – I worked harder than most times I work out. The angry bird in me wants to come back BUT I wont let it.

This season has taken my head to some pretty messed up places – It got me thinking – There is no way I am the only wife in the industry that this has happened to. It sucks because I FEEL SO FREAKING LOST! I feel – I’m all alone… there’s no one here besides meee…

Yes – my sense of humor is pretty messed up, to the point where my father-in-law dropped in the other day and I said “Your lucky there’s no knives flying your direction!” He kinda gets my sense of humor – more than my husband most times.

Give me a month and I’ll be back on top of the game (of life) again. This is how it’s going to be for the rest of my life, It’s not I had… It’s I have a brain injury and I’m going to have to accept that. My best mate said years ago – “I admire your resilience, the way you bounce back.” Because I ALWAYS DO! BUT – I push myself. I am so hard on myself, I say things like “stop being a little bitch and get your head back in the game!”

This season has me thinking – maybe I’m not cut out for this, and that makes the way I’m feeling 100 times worse – Cause I’m dad’s little operator (well, not anymore) but that’s what my life would of been had I not had my accident. I think there needs to be support for the wives in the industry. Nothing to do with Canegrowers or QSL but maybe Wilmar? I still have to figure it out but I’ll have a chat with some of my contacts and see what we can come up with!

This is not – oh I want to kill myself, It’s actually far from it, and yeah – at times I’m selfish… but I would never do that to my boys if no one else. Shits bad NOW but I think I just need time away BY MYSELF – to get inside my head and reset… on a nice beach… away from this town for a night even… to see how good I really have it!

Stop being a little bitch…

Aquo Xx

Aquo was almost not even a thought… Almost…

My great grandfather Bertie Peri, my great grandmother Carmelina Peri and my grandfather Jack Aquilini and my grandmother Beattie Aquilini went up to Innisfail in the ute to look at purchasing a farm. They stayed overnight in Innisfail where they were ready to do the deal. In the morning when they woke up, my great-grandfather said something wasn’t right and he didn’t think they should go ahead with purchasing that farm. My grandfather agreed with him and they decided to come home to Ingham and forgo the 2000 pounds they put down to secure the deal.

Not long after returning home, Peter Alali rang to say Marcus Johnson wanted to sell his farm on Bruce Highway just south of Ingham. Something told my great grandfather not to buy that farm in Innisfail. Both grandfathers went Down to Mackay with their were looking at buying a produce agency.

While they were away, Peter Alali rang nanna and informed And informed her That Marcus Johnson wanted to sell his farm, it was late in 1960 and nonno and nanna moved into that MASSIVE farm house in January 1961 – nanna still resides there to this day! it’s been remodeled inside since those days, And my father and his brother built a big silver shed right beside it.

Nanna has been alone in that house for the last 10 years nominal passed away in 2010. My great grandfather passed away in 1974 and my great grandmother passed away in 2002. In all the years that Nanna has lived there she has done 37 years of fundraising for the Hinchinbrook Shire. Mainly for the Queensland Cancer foundation and the nurses quest The Endeavour foundation.

So there you go. Aquo was almost not a thought – ALMOST. How much sadder would this world be without me, like seriously!

Aquo Xx

My son – the farmer…

Farming has been apart of Jack’s life since he was born. Both myself & his father, as well as most of his grandparents and some of his great grandparents were also born into the farm life in the Hinchinbrook Shire – Being Townsville Road just past Andy’s Road House (BEST Hamburgers ever!), the Aquilini farm then out Warren’s Hill, Blackrock the Irvin farms. So yeah it really does run in our blood. I believe that’s why I personally, have an enormously large passion for the sugar industry in the Hinchinbrook Shire.

This may be the reason why since a baby he would sit in front of the TV and watch harvesting videos on YouTube and if you were to turn it off – God help you! Whenever we have gone out to mum and dad’s if dad is mowing Jack HAS to go mowing to. Dad still has the little 90 quad bike that he bought my sister and I when I was five years old. It has never been rebuilt and it still has the original tires on it – Jack just thinks it’s the best thing. There is no way I would ever let him ride it himself after everything that’s happened, but I have full trust in my sister and my brother, even though my sister is wayyy too overconfident at times, she’s always safe with Jack.

Jack can tell you what every switch and button does in dad’s harvester (John Deere 3520), he watches everything! He watches where dad’s hands are positioned on the sticks (and sometimes when nobody is looking the harvester mysteriously moves) and he makes sure the elevator flap is positioned correctly. I have no doubt in my mind he could do a full day in the harvester with Nonno. He loves it!

During the sugar cane crushing season, my boys go wild! All I hear is Harvester, Train, Haulout, Train, Bins, Units, Mill, sometimes it drives me insane… BUT I love it! This season when Andrew is in one of the Greaves, I take both the boys for a ride and they both don’t want to leave. It’s pretty cool how we can fit all four of us in there – AND there’s still room.

My dad has had Case Maxi-hauls since the early 2000’s and I’ve always thought they are the ducks nuts, they go faster however there is no way you could fit two adults, a toddler and a baby as well as all the crap you have cart along. AND THERE GREEN! Jack says “Greaves – not a Deere” Deere being for John Deere., it is possibly the cutest thing ever!

Harry is only six months old, but because his brother is, he will probably be sugar industry mad also. I’m unsure what the future holds for Andrew and myself, but he has always just wanted to be a farmer – so I guess that makes me a farmer’s wife.

Aquo Xx

Welcome to Ingham…

The place where there is more sticks of cane than people – yeah Ingham! My hometown, the place where the sugar industry is 8th largest sugar industry in the world and the place where if you stop to talk to every person you know in Woolworths, you will never leave! We have a population of 4,357 people in Ingham according to the 2016 census.

The world’s Sugar Industry

10 LARGEST CANE SUGAR PRODUCERS
(2016 – in mln metric tonnes, tel quel)
1Brazil38.991
2India24.792
3Thailand9.263
4China9.084
5Mexico6.095
6Pakistan5.616
7Australia4.627
8USA3.518
9Guatemala2.909
10Indonesia2.23

My hometown is the best. We are located in the Herbert River Valley just north of Townsville and just south of Cardwell. We have an awesome 360 view and some of the best barramundi in the world. Our local beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, Wallaman Falls, Hinchinbrook Island, Mungalla Station, Tyto Wetlands, Mercer’s Lane Mosaic, Broadwater National Park, Tyto Art Gallery, Crystal Creek, the must-sees are endless! I have lived in this district my whole life and to date I have never seen Mungalla Station – But I hear Jacob Cassady is doing amazing things for our tourism industry!

I love Ingham, because it is a small town with a passion for all that is homegrown, sustainable and community-oriented. We are famous for our Sugar Cane Industry, our fishing (The brainwashing started in grade 5 from my teacher, Mr Gori), our wog culture, our amazing art and music scene. Ingham is actually home to some wonderful musicians – Joe Geia, Paul Tabone, just to name a few. It’s got a rich history and is also a bit rough around the edges.

I love where I live because of the combination of the laid back lifestyle and the amazing fishing spots. I remember somewhere at the start of 2013, I was asked to go fishing and the fish were going crazy! I was put in charge of making sure we stuck to bag limit. We were fishing for barramundi and mangrove jack that both have a bag limit of five – so ten of each fish… awesome I can do that! Yeah – no. One of the others checked when we got back to the hut and there were 10 jacks and only 9 barras! 9! You had one job missy!

You can drive 20-30 minutes from the main street of town (yes – we have one main street) to almost anywhere in the district. Pretty much any delays to the traffic in this town is due to a derailment (bins full of sugar cane come off the line – sugar cane everywhere!).

Certainly your attitude about where you live makes a huge difference. Ingham is the sort of place where you can walk up to a complete stranger up the street and ask them where anything is – if they can’t tell you, chances are they weren’t born here!

This is why I love where I live…

Aquo Xx

Struggles of a stay-at-home-mum during the Sugar Cane Harvesting Season

So I started writing this article on the 19th August 2019, when the Sugar Cane Harvesting Season had only been running for maybe two months in the Herbert River District, I chose to write a little bit about the lifestyle and the struggles I have as an impaired stay-at-home mum. But, the truth is, every mother, whether they are fully functional or not, whether they work or not, struggle.

My Nonno – Jack Aquilini…

I grew up in a household where it was the norm from the get go. The 2019 season will be my dad’s 40th season, I’m so ridiculously proud of him! I remember mum always taking us places or doing something fun with us – It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I started to understand that it wasn’t just for us, it was for mum too.

This season, my husband has had to push much harder to get things done. That means there’s little time for the boys and even less time for me. This season I’m not handling it very well, which makes me angry because I always knew what the season was all about. I knew that it was going to be hard, I just didn’t expect it to be this bloody hard!

I guess what I’m struggling with most is the lack of communication and conversation between my husband and I. By the time my husband gets home at night, winds down, spends some time with the boys, helps put them to bed, I’m tired…. Nobody likes a tired Aquo… She’s a snappy (for lack of a better word) b.i.t.c.h!

This has been a way of life for generations…

From right back when I could first understand the world, I knew that when the season runs, the wives become single mums. I don’t mean that in a bad way, the season is long hours, mixed with a lack of sleep, mixed with frustration, and the list goes on. The wives do everything with the kids, and that’s really hard work. Hats off to all the single mums out there! I don’t know how I would pull it off – and I have an absolutely amazing support system!

Yesterday I tried something I never had before – I took both boys to Mission Beach with my sister, I just thought about the boys, how much they would enjoy it – I didn’t think of myself and how much a big day like that isn’t the best thing for me. Today, I’m in so much PAIN! I also have the blackest rings under my eyes – My eyes have never been that black before! I’m just lucky my big boy went up to spend the day with Zia and I have an Au Pair here helping with the baby (who was up more than I would like to let on last night) who is teething next level.

I start to wonder what it would have been like if I didn’t have my accident, then I stop myself – Because deep down I know my accident was a blessing in disguise. It has made me appreciate my family and friends so much more as well as life in general. Who knows, living life in the fast lane, I may not still be here to tell my story if my accident didn’t happen.

Our big boy loves harvesting with his Nonno…

It’s not personal, on any level, but more times than not, that’s the way we let ourselves think. I’d love to think, ‘Oh there’s only 8 weeks left’ – haha I wish! not for us! Harvest finishes then the spraying starts. So really, a 6 month season turns into 9 or 10. I do love my own company, but there comes a time where those little voices in my head start to play off each other. Those feelings make me scared, angry, confused, defensive, negative – and I really really dislike being negative.

Sugar Cane Harvest is the only way of life I know, I have always loved it. I really don’t want something I’ve been so passionate about for so long be something I begin to dread. You know that song – wake me up when it’s all over… yeah that’s where I’m currently at and I don’t like it one bit!

I might have to go see the girls at Ingham Travel and plan a well overdue honeymoon – alone, on a secluded island, with unlimited bundaberg rum!

Bring on the 2020 season! Here’s to a more positive, successful, flourishing season in the Herbert River District.

Aquo Xx

How sugar cane grows and how much fun growing up on a cane farm is…

Video by Farming Media – YouTube

In our house – our big boy when he turned one would carry on until we turned harvesting videos on and he would sit on one of his tractors or his harvester and would not move! Probably the reason why he drove nonno’s harvester last season. Dad was playing around with his GPS – next minute the harvester started moving. It was hilarious! Our German Au Pairs were amazed how he could tell them exactly what was happening and what everything is.

Sugarcane has been my life – since the day I popped out. Essentially sugar cane is the main industry that fuels our town. I’ve recently been researching the production process and things like that… I’ve got an idea, but I can’t explain it – so I teach myself, the internet is the most powerful tool in the world you just need to know what you’re looking for.

sugarcane is a tall tropical perennial grass that grows to between 2-4m high. It’s used to make heaps of different processed foods, drinks and things like molasses and golden syrup. The biofuel ethanol can also be produced from sugarcane which can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form but is usually blended with gasoline to improve vehicle emissions.

Sugar cane has heaps of nicknames like sugar bush, sticks, there are so many different things we call it. Sugar cane needs 1.5 m of rainfall each year if not more or access to irrigation to survive. Sugar is made in the leaves of the sugarcane plant through a natural process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis occurs when a plant, using energy from the sun, transforms carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20) into oxygen (02) and glucose (sugar).

The plant absorbs water through its roots and oxygen from the air through the pores in its leaves. Sugar is created when this process is combined with the help of a substance called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is green and gives plants their colour. It allows plants to absorb the sun’s energy more readily. In the same way that animals store fat, the sugarcane plant stores energy that is doesn’t need. This extra energy is sugar and it is stored as sweet juice in the plants’ stalks.

When ripe, sugarcane stalks are harvested (the fun part!) and taken to a sugar mill and converted into raw sugar. In the Herbert River district we have two sugar mills – Victoria and Macknade Mill. Victoria mill produced 3330 million tonnes of sugar in 2007 being the mill that produced the largest amount of sugar in Queensland.

In Australia, sugarcane can be seen growing along 2,100 kilometers of coastline between Mossman in far north Queensland and Grafton in northern New South Wales. Because of their proximity, many cane growing families spend their weekends outdoors riding motor bikes/quads and fishing. Cane growers go out of their way to manage the land so it is still in excellent condition for their children and grandchildren to enjoy for many generations to come.

I miss the days were we would burn cane in the Herbert. Black snow (ash) everywhere! I still remember the smell… I wouldn’t let mum wash my shirt for a week after it… #Farm kid. There is nothing better than growing up on a farm! I remember finishing my homework so quick so I could go mowing, ride the quad bikes/motorbikes or go and chat to dad in the shed. I remember my old headland bomb – cheers uncle Micky! My cousins and siblings helped me paint it – I strolled off to the shed – noone there, it’s all good, a drum of John Deere green paint, i’ll take that! We painted it with rollers and ended up banging it up pretty bad.

I can’t remember if I got away with murder or I just didn’t listen… You know – a regular teenager! I made friends with the kids that lived out my way and we used to run amuck. I remember one had a go kart OMG – so. much. FUN. Dad still has the same quad that we have had since 1997 – It’s never been rebuilt and it still has the original tires. I don’t know how it’s still alive – we flogged that thing… Good ole Honda.

Here are some of my favourite photos:-

My nonno (Jack Aquilini) back in the day with a python he killed – Photo by Beattie Aquilini
My nonno – Photo by Beattie Aquilini
My Nonno & Dad down in the Burdekin – Photo by Beattie Aquilini
Dad & Douggie – Photo by Beattie Aquilini
Cane fire south of Ingham – Photo by Beattie Aquilini
When the Maxis first came on the scene – Photo by Beattie Aquilini
When the Maxihauls were new and dad still had the ’97’ Cameco ‘Pac man 2’ – Photo by Beattie Aquilini
The transporter ‘Fat Boy’ in action – Photo by Beattie Aquilini
One of the days I went hauling back in 2012 – Photo by Amy Aquilini
Dad ‘Big Al’ – Photo by Amy Aquilini
During my recovery, this is where I loved to be – with my daddy! – Photo by Amy Aquilini
Sunrise at our farm – Photo by Amy Aquilini
My sister-in-law Katy Irvin and I at the field day – Photo by Allen Aquilini
John, Andrew & Jack and Allen & Amy Aquilini, Irvin – Photo by Amy Aquilini
The day my boy drove the harvester – Photo by Amy Aquilini
Our wedding day – Photo by Rachelle Angela
It’s in our blood – Photo by Andrew Irvin
My big boy and I – Photo by Amy Aquilini

Aquo Xx

A farmer’s life for me…

I’ve decided to write about a subject I’m very passionate about – farming. I grew up a farmer’s daughter and always knew I would end up a farmer’s wife. From a young age I lived and breathed sugar cane. My husband’s family goes back to when the sugar industry started in the Herbert River District, way back when in the 1870’s! My nonno got into the sugar industry back in the hay day after leaving Travagliato, Italy. The sugar industry became the Aquilini’s way of life, we have been here for four generations.

My dad started harvesting at a very young age, this year will be his 40th year in the high chair (driving a cane harvester), he’s only 54! So it’s safe to say it’s a lifestyle we were all born into. In the Herbert River District, the cane harvest season runs for about 5-6 months every year from mid June, weather permitting. From the early 90’s, when there wasn’t the technology there is available now in machinery, it wasn’t unusual to cop numerous 15 hour days every roster.

It wasn’t unusual to go days without seeing dad as a kid, I think that’s why I spent so much time with him in the harvester, and as I got older in the haulouts. I was used to having to go to events without dad, school do’s, things he would have loved to be at but due to break downs, late drops etc he just couldn’t. I couldn’t tell you how many times he came to school functions in his work clothes. In saying how much I love the season, it’s always been hard, mum has always done a lot! I have a lot of respect for mum in the way she always carried us four kids through the season with school, after school events, sports, socialising – you name it!

From the second we were born, we were raised to be very resilient kids, I think that’s why I have gone through my last five odd years with such a positive attitude (most of the time). We were always taught “you’ve gotta do what you gotta do to do what you wanna do”, and even then, I heard my mother saying that haha!

I was always helping dad with farm work, I would go disking, we would fix the roads and mow the farm, just to name a few. As a teenager, mowing was my job when I wasn’t working on weekends. I would have to cover a massive area, a few acres! Thank god we always had decent mowers! The four of us kids were bought up with a good work ethic. I landed my first after school job when I started high school doing a bit of office filing.

2005 was our first season with Case Maxi Hauls, I was thirteen, that’s when I knew I wanted to live in the Herbert forever and be a part of the sugar industry. I started spending more afternoons after school and weekends learning to drive, then on weekends I would occasionally do full days. The year before my accident I learnt to reverse fill (which is quite simple in those machines, but the female in me couldn’t quite get it)! Earlier in 2013 there was talk of me sitting in the seat permanently the following season, 2014, which was always a goal. For 6 months, the money is awesome and a massive plus is how passionate I about it! My aim was to own my own house by the time I was 25, I got there, but it would prove to be a lot harder than first anticipated.

I always wanted to own my own farm. I’m now part of a farming family that operates in the Herbert, although a lot differently to what I’m used to, and honestly, I struggle to understand it at times. But at the end of it all I married my farmer! I always knew I would!

It’s honestly a lifestyle I have had to really adapt to. I learn’t differently, Dad’s way of doing things, he was never home for days at a time, if we wanted to see dad we went to work, as kids, we loved it, my sister and I still do. With my husband it’s a different story, partly because of our situation (me, my health), partly because certain times of the year are quieter than others. I’m always asking “why aren’t you at work?” Not oh it’s nice to see you. I’M NOT USED TO IT! Haha.

From a young age, I came to realize being a farmer’s wife you come in second – and that’s ok! My mum is such a strong woman because of it. Think of it like this – do you want money? Yes, well your man has to go farming so that the money keeps rolling in. I love being an independent woman, it makes me feel great and it’s so good for my self-esteem!

I think growing up a farmer’s daughter, I have a better understanding than others that are, say, city kids of what sacrifices you have to make to live this trying lifestyle. My husband tells me that I have a better understanding out of any of his previous partners – I put it down to being the life I’m used to.

Aquo Xx

The Rolls Royce of haulouts at the time 2011

Aquo at midnight ready to head to Wilmar, Orient for a full day

My son heading to work at the farm with grandma ❤

Our son and daddy waiting for nonno to pull up

Daddy taking our son for his first ever harvester ride with nonno

Grandad, daddy & our son, nonno and mummy

Us after a morning with nonno

My son drove a harvester before me!

My favourite photo of my son & nonno!