Meet some outback characters.

December 19, 2008

Jilleroos on Kilcowera Station - Outback Australia
Jilleroos on Kilcowera Station – Outback Australia

Penny for his thoughts.

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Wednesday – Mail Day

December 17, 2008

 

Kilcowera Station Homestead - Outback Queensland

Kilcowera Station Homestead - Outback Queensland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up early – just before dawn, it’s the nicest time of day to sit on the front verandah, have yummy coffee, listen to the birds and plan my day.  It’s 4 days since we had a bit of rain -16 mls, very nice!  But time to start watering gardens again both here at the house and at the shearers quarters.

 

 

 

Greg is packing himself up to do a days work on the dozer clearing a fence line between us and Currawinya National Park.  It’s a 30 km drive out to the dozer before he can start so he sometimes camps out there for the night to save time and fuel. This is him on the way out.

 

 

                                      Greg in Station vehicle on the way to work - Kilcowera Station - Outback Queensland

 

 

Wednesdays and Saturdays are our mail days and the mail person brings the stuff right to our front door.  The mailman has a contract with Australia Post to deliver mail to the stations along particular runs twice a week.  Our mail run would be about a 300 km round trip and includes 6 stations.

 

Our head honcho mailman drives up and down to Brisbane a couple of times a week in a fairly big truck to supply Thargomindah and the surrounding district with goods.  He delegates the smaller runs to his wife and assorted other drivers.

 

 

To supplement the money from Australia Post the mailman also brings goods out that the station people have ordered from town.  He or she could have anything on board from groceries and cold goods to fuel, beer, chooks, feed supplements, parts for machinery, vehicles and bikes, plants, Christmas presents and visitors.  He brought my Christmas ham out last Saturday from our nearest butcher 300 km away.

 

They usually do their mail runs in traytop Toyota Landcruisers or Hilux’s  (utes).  Most people drive Toyotas out here as they are about the only vehicle that won’t fall apart on our roads.  Toyota also has many dealerships and service centers in outback Australia.  Sometimes the run is done in a truck when someone has ordered something big like steel for fencing or yard building, tanks or troughs, machinery or building materials. 

                          

 

                                        The mailman coming in our front driveway - Kilcowera Station    

                                            

 

 Further west where the stations are a million plus acres, mail, groceries, bread and small parcels are taken in by plane right to each stations private airstrip.  Some of these bigger places are a hundred or more kilometers from their nearest neighbour.

 

 

Our current mail man is a remarkable man of about 80 who has been in south west Queensland most of his life, mostly on the land but he is semi retired now.  I think he is retiring completely in 2009.  We will miss him as he is one of nature’s gentlemen.  All the best Jack.

 

                                          

 

                                           Mail bag ready to go at Kilcowera Station

 

 

                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       
 
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Don’t Knock the Weather!

December 13, 2008

We don’t get a lot of rain, Kilcowera is supposed to have an average of 10 inches or 250 mls per year but we have not achieved that lofty figure this century.  Instead we are in our eighth year of drought.  It would be nice for a change to say that we are in our eighth good season!

 

My husband Greg is out on the motorbike checking to see where the rain fell, if it ran into any dams, ran any creeks, if there was more or less rain on different parts of the property.  We have several rain gauges around the place.

 

Dam filling - Outback Queensland - Kilcowera Station - Farm Stay

Dam filling - Outback Queensland - Kilcowera Station - Farm Stay

 

People say farmers, cockies and graziers are always whinging about the weather but it plays such a crucial part in our day to day lives.

 

 Last year just after our general muster I had to tell a potential visitor to the place that he could not use our main airstrips near the house as they were closed due to the drought. The red sandy soil of the airstrips was so dry and fragile that planes would likely get bogged in it and certainly not be able to get enough pace up to take off.  I had been using them during our muster and there were some wild variations of a straight take off roll as I tried to keep the plane on the harder ground to get up to speed!

 

Dust storm approaching Kilcowera airstrips.

Dust storm approaching Kilcowera airstrips.

 

All of our local roads are dirt or gravel, if we get 20 ml the local council is likely to close roads in our area causing travelers to be stranded in places that they get sick of quickly.  The council don’t ring up the landholders and tell them the road is closed though, so it has happened that we might decide to go to town for supplies only to get there and see a sign on the town end of our road saying ROAD CLOSED!  Thems the breaks!

 

If there has been lots of rain we stay home and don’t use the roads unnecessarily as we don’t like to cut them up with all the wheel tracks.  Our roads are only graded occasionally so if we mess them up we have plenty of time to repent.  That’s most of us -there is a certain neighbour or two who seem to have a burning desire to hit town straight after it rains!

 

Last year some of our roads were closed due to bull dust.  When it is so dry for so long we have to think about destocking which leads to much more action on the roads from the monster road trains taking sheep and cattle away to sale, agistment, the abattoir or another property.

Loading cattle at Kilcowera Station - Outback Queensland

Loading cattle at Kilcowera Station - Outback Queensland

 

It’s an awesome sight to see these big trucks thundering along our outback roads sending up billowing clouds of dust.  Pretty crook if your stuck behind one too.  But when they are on the dirt roads constantly they break through the top surface of the road and create large patches of bull dust which just get worse and worse until the road gets a liberal application of water.  Send her down Huey!

 

We got a distress call on the UHF radio a few years ago from a truckie who was bogged in bull dust on the Hamilton Gate road near the New South Wales border.

 

I was up in the plane mustering when this strange voice came on the radio saying “truck driver to the pilot on channel 39”.  So we had a little chat and I was able to call another station closer to where he was and ask the owner of that place to send a grader out to pull old mate out of the bull dust.

 

Road train on the Dowling Track, Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland

Road train on the Dowling Track, Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland

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Saturday Morning at Kilcowera Station

December 12, 2008

 

 

My beautiful little girls in the early 1980s

My beautiful little girls in the early 1980s

 

 

 

Life on Kilcowera Station

 

 

We have owned and cared for Kilcowera (49,210 ha) since 1980.  In that time we have raised our 2 girls, teaching them primary school at home with the aid of Distance Education and School of the air, they went to boarding schools in Toowoomba, 1000 kms away at the age of 13 for further education.

 

Through the 80’s and 90’s we ran both Hereford cattle and Merino sheep on the 2 places (we also own Zenonie next door, 32,634 ha). After 5 years of drought in the early 90’s we joined OBE (Organic Beef Exports) and commenced the certification process with NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia) for organic accreditation.  We were certified organic right up to 2004.  Unfortunately we found ourselves in the next drought and even though we sold all our sheep and two thirds of our cattle we had to supplement the remaining cows with a product that was not acceptable to NASAA.  So we had to relinquish our organic status, however we still run the 2 properties in the same sustainable way and do not use any  chemicals, HGP’s or antibiotics on our pasture fed cattle.

 

                                             Hereford bull - Kilcowera Station - Outback Queensland.

  

                                                                Hereford bull

                                            

 

The eastern boundary of Kilcowera abuts onto Currawinya National Park which was gazetted as a park in 1991.  Our western boundary is the Dingo Barrier fence, the longest fence in the world at 5400 kms.

 

We started our foray into tourism in 2001 with the encouragement of the local Tourism officer who felt we had a special place that people would want to visit.  We thought so too, even though the thought of dealing with a multitude of strangers was a little daunting.  That first year we hosted the Cobar Rotary Club on their annual rally.  There were 40 odd vehicles, 85 people, beds made up (and showers!) in the shearing shed as well as the quarters, with blankets, mattresses, chairs, tables and portaloos, borrowed from neighbors and also hired from various places for the event.  My Mum, one daughter and a sister-in-law drove down from Mt Isa to help us cook for the multitude and keep them all happy.

 

                                            Organising breakfast for 85 Cobar Rotary Club Rally people.

 

                                                         Organising breakfast.

 

We all had a great time, they stayed for 2 nights and when they left the following morning, the organizers said they would be back and so they have been in 2007!  It was a pretty full on introduction into the hospitality industry.

 

Our little tourism business is steadily growing; we feel we must be doing something right as we have repeat visitors who appreciate the improvements we are constantly implementing around the place.  We do not aspire to be too commercial or expensive but want to retain the outback feel and continue to offer guests our time, hospitality and knowledge of our place and the local area.

 

This area has had a run of bad seasons and so we sold all the sheep in 2002 and have progressively lightened our cattle numbers in order to maintain a core breeding herd.  We currently have about 700 cattle on the 2 places. 

 

We do our mustering about April and use a small plane to find the cattle and then the stockmen muster them on motor bikes and either put them into smaller paddocks or into the cattle yard to be sorted out.  The pilot and the stockmen are in continuous radio contact.  In order to do the job properly great skill is needed by all as each person is a member of a team working together.  The stockmen need to have a good sense of direction, stock sense, an ability to track the cattle, to be excellent bike riders and to have a cool head when cattle are going everywhere and they are tearing through the scrub at 60 or 70 kms an hour! 

 

The pilot needs similar skills as in a good sense of direction and stock sense, also the ability to orchestrate the whole muster and get everyone together with the cattle at the end.  Sometimes it’s hard flying too, low and slow with very tight turns, big paddocks and just trying to keep finding the cattle and the men in the scrub.  Stamina is called for as the pilot could be flying for 7 or 8 hours in a day.

 

And as this is my first time blogging I’m finding it really difficult getting any help in how to upload an image or two here.  But I will persevere there must be a way!  Had 18 mls of rain here yesterday afternoon as well as gusts of wind up to about 60 kms an hour and a dust storm.  Thems the breaks! 

 

 

 

 

Me back in the 1980's sitting in Toyota

Me back in the 1980's sitting in Toyota

 

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December 7, 2008

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