The real deal

Frank SmithCountryman

Although they have only four hectares at Muchea, Chris and Jodyne Greig can make a living, thanks to a lot of help from off-farm wheeling and dealing.

The Greigs have been on the property for six years and began part-time contracting soon after they moved in.

For the past three years they have had a full-time contracting business they call Jostian Farming, which must have the snazziest website you are likely to see belonging to a small block owner.

“I did a fencing job for Mike Barnett, the son of the Premier, and we did a deal, ” Chris said.

Mike Barnett is a professional website designer.

Doing a deal with customers seems to be part of Chris’ philosophy.

Half of their herd of 20 cows are agisted with a customer at The Vines.

“The customer had this paddock shoulder high in grass and wanted to get the block eaten down, ” he said.

So Chris offered his cows as lawnmowers.

In another deal, he scored several loads of peat, which he applied to one of the small paddocks and attempted to grow watermelons.

The melons grew large and juicy but were hard to find among the kikuyu that survived.

His clients include some large operators, such as bauxite miners, the Swan River Trust and Water Corporation as well as many small landholders.

“This year we’ve only had a couple of jobs for small block owners, but most of the fencing work is on small blocks, ” Chris said.

Other activities include preparing and seeding pastures, spreading fertiliser and manure, hay making and baling, deep ripping as well as general farming activities such as slashing, firebreaks and rotary hoeing.

They also work on mine site rehabilitation, revegetation of eroded areas and tree planting.

“I don’t do spraying. I used to, but now you need a licence, so when spraying is part of the package I bring someone in from outside to do that part of the job, ” Chris said.

Rural at heart

Not only do they do the work, Chris and Jodyne’s considerable practical farming experience is available to owners not sure how to manage a small block or hobby farm.

Chris and Jodyne come from rural backgrounds — Chris from a farm in New South Wales and Jodyne from the family’s former grape-growing block in the Swan Valley.

“We moved up here for the lifestyle, ” Chris said.

Muchea is ideally situated for them — close to intensive farming operations and the metropolitan area, but also on the small farm circuit. Chris said he was so busy he couldn’t keep up with the work.

They both work in the business, although this is about to change. Jodyne has taken maternity leave from her part-time job with the Disability Service Commission following the birth of their son, Devon.

They also employ one full-time and one part-time worker in the contracting business.

The home block consists of four hectares which are about half sand from an old dune system and half peat in the swales. Three quarters of the land is reticulated and the rest is naturally moist through the year.

It grows a thick carpet of kikuyu which keeps a very mixed herd of beef animals occupied.

The Greigs’ cattle consist of two Devon, two Murray Greys, two Charolais, two Belted Galloway and two Angus in the paddock, fattening.

“I kill my own beef, ” Chris said. “I do it all myself. We have a cool room, a bandsaw and a sausage maker.

“I am a self taught butcher, but I’ve become competent in all sections and joint the carcase properly.”

They also incubate chickens both for themselves and for friends.

Other livestock include a father and daughter pair of Rottweilers, which in spite of the breed’s formidable reputation are more likely to lick visitors to death than present any threat, and an uninvited flock of ibises harvesting earthworms and insects from under the kikuyu sward.

They also have a pet kangaroo called Sugar which was found when Chris was shooting for dog meat and Jodyne insisted on rearing her.

Now the roo hops around the yard and paddocks.

They also have occasional visits from a male kangaroo that Jodyne reared and released several years ago.

“Our aim is to pay off what we owe on the property, then we would like to retire to our own farm, ” Chris said.

“We are doing everyone else’s work now and I would like to do my own.”

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