A Roo hole in one of our fences - Kilcowera Station
A Roo hole in one of our fences – Kilcowera Station
  The cook also had to branch out a bit in the smoko department or the grumbling would start and the sandwiches would come back all pulled apart as the shearer’s checked them out for anything interesting….. just the odd bight out of them and the rest thrown back in the dish.  In contempt.  So I learned to make bacon and egg pies, sausage rolls, fancy savoury scones and pizzas.  You had to be careful not to give them too much of a good thing or they expected it all the time though. (Sound familiar girls?)

Wildflowers - Kilcowera Station - Outback Australia


I gradually weaned them on to stews by the cunning use of dumplings as allies. Then curries, but not too hot.  Matter of fact they liked a sweet curry with lots of sultanas, apples and chutney in it.  By the time they picked up their eating irons they mostly had splashed so much tomato sauce over their meal, they really wouldn’t have known what they were eating any way.  Tomato sauce seemed to go with everything. To my disgust.  

As my confidence grew in the kitchen I became cheeky.  One day I didn’t make gravy for the roast leg of mutton. “Where’s the gravy love?”  Asked the shearer, to which I innocently replied “ Oh tomato sauce will do you today”  He,he,he,he.  Black looks though. 

They were enjoying my meals I think, there was never much food left anyway so I decided to try the shanks that previously had been sneered at and given to the dogs.  Out came my trusty mutton cookbook and I whisked them up Thelma’s Lemony Shanks, served with mashed spud and carrots and peas.  After much initial grumbling and grizzling about eating the bloody dog food they ate it, tossed the plates on the kitchen table and marched out as per usual.  There was none left, the family said it was a nice meal so I figured I had a win up there.  

 Lamb shanks were on the menu, but I still had to get them to eat the flaps as they called them, this was the sheep’s ribs.  I would bone the flaps out and make mini roasts out of them or have them as spare ribs with honey and soy etc.  I even got rid of the sauce bottle occasionally by snatching it off the table and saying “You won’t need that it’s already seasoned ,you bastard!” to the offending party.  When in Rome……. 

They came around eventually when they realized I wasn’t trying to poison them and that the Cocky’s missus wasn’t short changing them by not providing enough food. And we were only going through a sheep a day instead of 2.  Much easier on my husband.  The dogs missed out a bit though.

Shearing Stands at Kilcowera Station - Outback Queensland



Shearing at Kilcowera Station
Shearing at Kilcowera Station


 For the first 10 years of married life my little family lived in the shearers quarters here at Kilcowera.  Shearing time was a major drama for me as I had to share my home with 9 or so extra people for up to a month at a time.  My kitchen was taken over by a stranger and strangers also thumped and lounged all over everything that I had tried to make homely in the previous 12 months. 

So to take back some semblance of control I decided to do the shearers cooking myself with some child minding help from my mother in law.  A bonus was that I would get paid for doing this as I would be working for the contractor. Including the family and musterers I would be cooking for about 14. 

The cook was not allowed to spend too much on luxuries for the men, whatever luxuries there were to be, the cook made them.  After all the contractor had to make a quid out of the shearing and sheep were cheap and groceries weren’t. I think we were allowed to buy sausages, bacon and mince once a week.  The rest of the time it was mutton. 

I had been horrified at the waste of meat by the cooks in previous years.  The shanks, necks and quite often the shoulders of the sheep were just thrown in the bin, given to the dogs or chooks and the shearers just seemed to live on roast leg, boiled leg and chops. Also Greg had to kill the sheep and cut them up for the cooks, he’d do such a good job only to have half of it thrown out! Those cooks would go through 2 sheep a day! What a waste of food.  But still these were blokes who had never seen a zucchini and regarded a curry as suspect. I also learnt that the cooks weren’t looking to make their job any harder than it already was by boning out shoulders. 

A full cooked breakfast including porridge was to be available at 6.30, then the clean up of pots, pans, frypans etc. Cakes and biscuits and sandwiches had to be made for smoko at 9.30.  All in the wood stove remember!  Someone would come over to the kitchen and help me take the smoko over to the shed.  A big urn of tea, cold water, cordial and oh yes  –  the shearers did like toasted sangers for at least one smoko. 

Back to the kitchen, another clean up and the finishing touches to lunch at 12pm.   They always had to have dessert at lunch time so I would make a super big one and the leftovers would be for tea.  Desert was optional at tea time but mandatory for lunch.  Clean up and another smoko over to the shed at 3pm.  The afternoon smoko didn’t need to be quite as elaborate as the morning one. 

They would finish work at 5.30, bolt half a dozen beers down, have a quick shower and be ready for tea about 6.45.  And while they all toddled off to bed or outside for a smoke and a rum, me and the family would be cleaning up again and trying to do some tomorrow jobs just to keep up. (Cutting up chops, buttering bread, peeling vegetables, carving meat for sandwiches)  God it was a lot of work and honestly I had never seen people eat so much food.  More to come on this subject………………….


Coolibah Trees reflected in the water at Kilcowera