May 2011 -
We’ve been here at this 220000 acre cattle station in Western Queensland for nearly 5 weeks as work continues and we’ll probably stay here longer as required. Murray and Dave made and positioned the new water tower in four days and lifted the tank up, connected up the pipes and have fixed up the old tower. Also on the agenda has been mustering, both on quad bike and horseback (made DC very happy), branding, ear tagging and castrating (wince!), sourcing parts and fixing the various vehicles here (trucks, motorbikes, cherry picker, loader; (Once a mechanic – always a mechanic); putting out new troughs and doing the plumbing, feeding poddy calves (orphans) boiling up mung beans to give to the cows as a distraction while the poddy calves feed, fixing dodgy septic tanks, etc.
There are certainly some “characters” here!....
“The Bosses” – two colourful, very hardworking characters and their 10 yr old son, BJ, who is a very capable member of the mustering team ( a good horseman), drives the bobcat, and would much rather be doing farm work than stuck in the school room with “L”.
“L” – a very likeable, young Englishman who
is the current Governess (or should I say Governor) for the 10 year old son. His Dad was head of security for Princess Diana.
“H” – their retired German friend who is staying for a few months and fixing up this and that – and yes, we have mentioned the war, and yes, he has his theory on Nazism.
“B” – a retired teacher who is visiting for four weeks, and giving voluntary tuition to the son on reading using the Duffy Method (not the NZ Duffy books-in-schools man), which concentrates on looking at the end vowel first, then working from the end of the word towards the beginning, and it seems to be working wonders!
“The Honeymooners” - a young couple who are working as farm hands, and are living next to us in the “donga” (workers quarters), who said they had two dogs, but actually have ten including seven pups. The two pig dogs are bitches and one is co-parenting and has had a phantom pregnancy and is producing milk for the pups too!!! However, she is very protective and actually attacked Dave twice the other day. He fended her off with a tent
pole and his boot. It also tried to attack Chris and I twice.
“L” – a semi- retired grader driver – who is happy to go off grader driving all day, rather than listen to all the “bullsh*t” back here! All the farm tracks need to be graded after rain, especially after the wet season, so that the paddocks are accessible again.
“K” – another young farm hand who, along with the Honeymooners, loves pig hunting. His horse took a tumble, and so did he, breaking his hand and receiving concussion – so he has since left, and may possibly come back.
The Rooster is a vicious character. He keeps one eye on his brood of hens, and his other eye on anyone who might be a likely subject for an attack. Dave has felt the pain of his spurs on his back as he sat on the grass fixing the house pump, and so have several others dealt with his wrath using a boot, a bucket or anything that is within reach. Needless to say, I keep a very wide berth, and have been safe so far. We have suggested a bit of lead poisoning between
the ears but the hint goes unheeded!
Also there are about 12 turkeys, 13 farmdogs, over 40 horses, pigs and piglets, a few emu and kangaroo, numerous lizards and frogs, toads, etc.
Then there’s us, who for 3 weeks prefered to live in our tents, rather than in the donga ??? (We figure it’s more peaceful).
One day a group of army soldiers arrived to assess and measure the airstrip and other bits and pieces - maybe they are expecting an invasion? Young BJ cooked them all some tucker - pancakes, and he received, in return, an army kit with food rations and a jersey.
Chris and I have been keeping ourselves busy and do anything we see is needed….like lots and lots of laundry, always a pile of dishes on the bench, and meals to help with. We are fully kept, so there is not much else to do. D seems to like to make the dinner herself, even though there are between 8 and 15 to feed every night. She is amazing, works so hard and does everything on the farm as well if not better then the men do! .. and organises her
BJ and L
After the muster
With the dust, and the moths and bugs that fly in every night to the lights, it means you have to wipe down and sweep daily if you want to keep things tidy – but we won’t give up! We are co-habiting and coping nicely with the big green frogs in the toilet bowl, (rather disconcerting having these big black eyes looking at you as you sit down); the cane toads that hop around in our torchlight at night as we walk back to the donga, and the big grasshoppers that whack you in the face.
Chris and I have had one major project, and that is driving around the station tracks over the 220,000 acres, with the GPS, with the intention of converting the data to software that will produce an up-to-date map of the property. The first day took over 4 hours to do 110 km, but it is interesting and we now know what bores and dams and tanks the others are talking about.
Our daughter, Sharon’s, suggestion for Mother’s Day - “Tell Dad it still applies in Aussie and to make a picnic and ride on horseback to some picturesque scrub
amongst the red dirt”....
My reply – “no such luck - Dad was in the scrub with a lot of females (cows and heifers) and he now has a red beard again from the dirt - mustering all day while I stayed home and cooked the roast beef!” – Thanks Shaz and Jeff for your kind thoughts, and I did have a good day.
We have a good laugh every night when the 4 of us retreat to our little camping ground behind the workers quarters, and discuss the day’s events – who did what, and who was abused and sworn at today (not us of course, as we are intelligent Kiwis who just get on with it and don’t pretend to know everything). The 10 to 12 hour days are busy but enjoyable, and now it is a bit cooler and has dropped from low 30s to low 20s with a gusty southerly. No rain since our last wet night before Easter.
Yes, we are all good here and Dave has recovered from a bout of suspected food-poisoning. Last week the Honeymooners left, and the grader driver left for a week’s recovery from a broken rib (caused
by a cow crushing him against the rails). So we have had the donga to ourselves and were very quick to move out of our trailer tents and into the donga and make it home. Chris and I spent a good 2 or 3 days scrubbing and cleaning as it was a bit like a Scarfie’s Dunedin flat.
Well, DC was one happy man, as he went off on a ride on Mary, AND he managed to get up into the saddle without using a ladder or the back of a quad! This gave him practice for helping with the last two of the four musters over the last two weeks, spending a couple of hours on horseback one day they brought in over 1500 head of cattle into the yards. Chris and I went over and watched from a safe distance with cameras, as this massive, noisy movement of sirloin steak on legs arrived in a cloud of dust and was pushed into the yards with lots of whooping, yelling, swearing and chasing those that took off out the back of the mob. There were 4 people on quad bikes and 6 on horseback, plus Murray in a
truck towing a horse float bringing up the rear to carry any new calves too young to walk the 30+ kilometres. Dave was grinning from ear to ear, and young L was as well, as he’d been given a ride in the mustering helicopter during the day.
Chris and I were introduced to “BJ”s friendly bull, Rocky, and had to give him a tentative pat on the shoulder, with a nervous grin on our faces.
So, life’s not dull!!
It is quieter here now, mustering has finished, the numbers have diminished down to 8.
Chris and I have finished the GPS driving, have transferred the info onto the laptop and have printed out and laminated the map. This has proved to be quite popular, especially those not too familiar with the property and future newcomers who may have become lost without it.
The men have had a half day off in the last 29 days. “Why have a day off? There’s nothing else to do”. We did all go to Mt Isa for the day - work related picking up parts and other stuff for farm vehicles and photocopying and laminating the map we
have finished. But we managed to sneek in a nice lunch at "The Coffee Club" (popular like the Fishbone) - larger but not as noisy, and a beer at the Buffalo Club before returning back.
Our half day off was spent with Dave sleeping off his tummy upset, and a drive to Camooweal. This is a small town 13km east of the Northern Territory border. Of course, we were forced to have a cold beer at the pub and we visited “The Drovers’ Camp” a “National shrine to acknowledge the contribution to Australia's cattle industry development by stockmen and stockwomen”. The camp turned out to be a great place to visit – very interesting. Every year they have a festival there to celebrate the Droving days, there being a reunion of the old drovers on the first day. Most of them are now in their 80s and 90s now as those days of the long droves have gone, partially because a lot of the bores are not functioning, and the upgrading of the highways and the introduction of road trains. The stock routes are signposted and still used sometimes, but available water for the stock is the main problem.
"Hey, wake up, campers!"
"Neiigghhhhh" Just dropped in for a mornin' cuppa"
Four days off for a trip to Lawn Hill National Park is planned for the weekend, which will be a relaxing break. It is about 250km north of here.
BTW - thanks for the great comments, readers, it's really nice to get feedback.
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