The Shearer’s Cook Part 1

June 4, 2009

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

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