Our eldest doing the mincing, no electrics here!

Our eldest doing the mincing, no electrics here!

During a recent “cool spell “we went and got a killer.  By this I mean the freezer was nearly empty and so we drove out into the paddock, selected a fat little Hereford heifer who wasn’t a particularly good sort, shot her and cut the meat off her. The Hereford’s eat so much better than anything with Bos Indicus in it.  In our opinion!!!!  Probably got a lot to do with what they are eating themselves. We then loaded the meat onto old shearers stretchers on the back of the Toyota and brought it home and hung it all up in the coldroom.  Very satisfying to see the shoulders and the back legs, the rumps, sirloins, rib fillets, neck, briskets and the rib bones all hanging up waiting to age a little, then to be cut up a little more and bagged and then into the freezer.  It also occurs to one that one is going to be doing a lot of butchering in the next week or so.   With those blunt knives.  The magpie family is happy as there are lots of scraps for them and the 2 little dogs are beside themselves with the smell of all that divine beef. They are heartily sick of Chum and My Dog!  The big dogs can also expect some delicious bones and scraps.  It really hurts the hip pocket when we have to buy meat and sometimes we do for various reasons.

We make up a big tub of brine to corn the meat in ( silverside, sometimes some rib bones, brisket etc) this lives in the coldroom for about 10 days, long enough to cure the meat.  We mince certain cuts (with an electric mincer) and also make sausages and rolled roasts.  The shin is diced for stewing meat, some cuts are used for crumbed steak and so we are right for meat for about the next 6 months.

It’s a far cry from when Greg was a boy and all they had was a meathouse to store the meat in while it cooled down and a couple of Kerosene fridges.  Then if they killed a beast it was only ever in the winter and after about a week of having fresh meat they had to salt the rest as the only method of preservation.  The meat was cut into chunks of about 1 or 2 kilos rolled in salt and kept in corn bags in the coolest place they could find. Sometimes hung up in trees.   It also had to be inspected every day to make sure that the flies or ants hadn’t found it, sometimes they would wash the meat and resalt it.  I reckon you would get fairly sick of eating corned meat all the time!  Occasionally they would buy a sheep off a neighbour and kill it for a change in their diet – nice leg of roast mutton would have been a real treat!

Back then meat was the staple in the diet; veg consisted of potatoes, pumpkin and cabbage and maybe some carrots.  Salads were a bit suspect – the ingredients for them were very hard to obtain anyway.  With the exception of tomatoes and onions the rest of the “Salad” usually came out of a tin:  beetroot, peas, corn, bread and butter cucumbers, and for special occasions – asparagus.  Oh, potato salad was also very popular!  Sometimes there were fresh vegies if they had a vegetable garden going, but back in the 50’s and 60’s Australians were a very conservative bunch – there was no multi cultural stuff happening in the food department out here and not much in the cities either unless you happened to have a Greek, Italian or Lebanese for a friend.  So what did they grow in the garden?  Tomatoes were prized as was lettuce and cucumber and then there were the old staples – pumpkin, carrots, silverbeet, beans, peas and beetroot.

It was still very much like this when I came out here in the late 70’s, but we did have a large gas freezer that we checked twice a day to make sure it was still a goer and there were no bits of fluff around the naked flame underneath it.  At least we were now able to freeze the beef instead of salting it.  And we did have a great vegetable garden too when we lived in the Shearers Quarters and also when we first built our house and now I have another one.  Back at that the Shearers Quarters!

We probably still eat more meat than the urban population but it is about 35 % of our diet now not the 70% that was once common.  That’s in my household anyway!  Not the same everywhere I’m sure.


Our little old meathouse at the Shearers Quarters.

Our little old meathouse at the Shearers Quarters.

Silver Turkey Bush, Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.


We’ve had a great spring for the perennial wildflowers.  However there are very few annual wildflowers, as we didn’t get any follow up rain after the 55 ml we received in July.  And so far this spring all we have had is dry storms which have started bushfires.  About 30,000 acres of Zenonie has been burnt out.

The top picture shows Silver turkey bush which flowers profusely in late winter, it’s colours range from dark purple through to a nice lilac colour.  It’s very good at staking motorbike tyres!

Cassia or Broom Bush, Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.

The Cassias are next and they flower for months, this one we call broom bush or punty bush.

Then the Eremophilas start, the prettiest and showiest of them all is sturtii, common name in our neck of the woods is False Sandalwood.  Also Eremophyla maculata is pretty nice too.

Eremophylla sturtii, Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

The colours range from a pale pink through to dark lilac. When they get to the end of their flowering period the ground around is covered in blossom and the bush still has white bracts all over and looks like it has been frosted  This bush is considered to be a woody weed but redeems itself for a month or so each year by the display it puts on.Kilcowera Station, Thagomindah,  Eremophyla sturtii.

Eremophyla maculata, Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

Eremophyla maculata is poisonous to stock, but the birds love it!

Then the acacias start flowering and they are always spectacular.

This one is Acacia victoriae.

Acacia victoriae, Kilcowera Station, Thargomindah, Outback Queensland.

And this one we call dead finish, it’s super prickly and Zebra Finches really love building their nests in them for protection from predators.

Acacia tetragonophylla,  Kilcowera Station, Thargomindah,  Outback Queensland.

Other trees and shrubs flowering are the Leopard Trees, Whitewood, Needlewoods and the Bloodwoods should start soon.  All this means lots of food for the bees, insects and birds.  We also have an abundance of Bearded Dragons, Goannas and Emus around.

Lucy in the wildflowers, Kilcowera Station Outback Australia

Lucy in the wildflowers, Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.


Camping at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland. Camping at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland. 

Hungerford Field Day is on every second year in the tiny little town of Hungerford on the NSW, QLD border.  The permanent population fluctuates between about 5 and 7, however every second year the metropolis comes alive in June with visitors from all over the country showing off their wares to an appreciative local crowd.

This year there was Jane the chook lady from Cheepie, bulls from somewhere way down south, rams from somewhere else, kelpies from Cooma along with displays from National Parks and Rural Fire Services.  The NP people had live snakes, bilbies and lizards.  Our youngest daughter was there with the South West Natural Resource Management team showing off their state of the art fishing boat and also various weeds that we all have to be on the alert for. They also had their Sun Oven going, providing smoko for visitors to their display, then they put some chicken pieces in for their lunch.  All very handy considering the caterers for the event were flat out for most of the day.  The chook took ages to cook and they were all starving by the time it was done, the four of them looked like a pack of little cannibals tearing into their chicken pieces with their hands.  No bread, no salad, no serviettes.  Bless their little cotton socks!

There was a display selling all things electrical for the home and office and UHF radios, another with plants, there were work clothes, leather goods, cosmetics, a hairdresser, a business selling steel,  another with tools and gardening implements,  2 wheel motor bikes and quads, locally made jewellery, an opal display,  water pumps and generators, a craft display and haberdashery.  The stock and station agents were there as well trying to drum up a bit of business .

This year I was in the market for a new motor bike unbeknownst to the MOTH, after all my one and only bike in 30 years of wedded bliss and love of the land had turned up its toes two years ago.  So I found a pretty red Honda and bought it.  Just as well I had insisted we go down in the ute, wasn’t it?  He, he,he.   And it was the only thing I bought all day apart from a feed and a beer.

Toni's pretty new motorbike.

Most people drive to the field day but some choose to fly in and there were about eight planes lined up on Hungerford’s beautiful bitumen airstrip. 

 The local publicans, Moc and Sherree provide the all important liquid refreshment during the day.  Thank God for light beer because the incumbent coppers get the breathalyser out and do just about everyone leaving the grounds.  There’s a booze bus for those who have had a few too many but lots of people camp at the grounds for the night and so, have no worries about getting picked up. 

Early in the evening there is the big auction for the RFDS – all the exhibitors donate something to be auctioned off with all the proceeds going to keep the Doctor flying.  It raises a lot of money too, as everyone is pretty happy by the start of the auction and ready to bid.  Then the band kicks in, playing on the stage which is the trailer of a truck.

And so the night goes on with some kicking their heels up in the dust, others valiantly drinking on in the freezing night air while standing around the firedrums, arguments, tall stories, plenty of yarns, some trying to sleep  and lots of sore heads guaranteed in the morning.  Nothing that a good big greasy breakfast won’t fix.  But hell, that sunlight is bright first thing in the morning when you stick your head out of the swag!

 Years ago we won a fruit tray at the field day and carefully put it near our swags which were also carefully put inside a post and rail yard originally intended for horses.  We put all the rails up, so no horses could get in and just knew we would be safe that night, tucked up in our swags after the auction and the nights socializing.  No cars would run over us, no horses could stand on us, we would be safe, even if a little inebriated!  You have to plan ahead with this sort of thing! 

 Morning comes around and we can hear munch, munch, snort, munch but don’t really want to put our heads out in the freezing cold to see what’s making all that noise.  We eventually discover it is the local town pony helping himself to the fruit tray and  it’s nearly all gone.   Rules don’t apply to pets such as him – under the fence, stepping delicately around the comatose beings in the swag and into the apples, mangos and pears thank you very much!

Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

Some working dog yarns.

July 27, 2010

This is Lucy an Australian Silky Terrier, she would like to be a working dog!
This is Lucy an Australian Silky Terrier, she would like to be a working dog!

Quite a few years ago we found a top bloke who did contract mustering.  After years of just about begging blokes to come and work for us for a few weeks we had found a man who would organise a whole mustering plant to arrive at Kilcowera and stay for a month or so and do all our mustering in one hit.  Peter and his team were much appreciated.

The first year he arrived with 2 other men, trucks, utes, horses, dogs and bikes.  They took a fair bit of settling in as there were about 40 dogs that had to be tied up, fed and watered.  The horses were not actually going to be used on Kilcowera but they were part of Peter’s plant and went everywhere he went.  Our cattle had not seen anyone on a horse for many years and would run a mile at the sight. 

The mustering started next day and each man is on his bike with 2 dogs on the back.  Now some of these dogs were very good workers and others were either learners or useless.  To witness the good ones doing their job is really fantastic but seeing the stupid dogs chase everything in sight including the cattle can bring out some of the most colourful and descriptive language ever heard. 

Working dogs at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland. 

This day we were out on the National Park trying to get some of our cows back, there were also some pretty wild, feral cattle in amongst them making the job that much more challenging.  One of the fellas, John, had picked up some likely looking dogs from the local pound and had one of these with him and the other fellow Roger also had some untried hounds. We were trying to get the cattle together and there were dogs running under them and through them, chasing roos and generally getting in the way of the few good dogs.  I believe there was a lot of language floating about along with the bellowing of the cattle and the revving of the motorbikes and a few yelps as the dogs were eventually brought under some sort of control.  Unbeknownst to us there were a group of tourists nearby who had been attracted by all this unaccountable noise going on, on the National Park. After they made themselves known to the men one tourist admiringly said “what a wonderful display of dog handling and stockmanship!”

Eucalypts with their feet in the water after good rain on Kilcowera Station. 

Now you might wonder why they needed so many dogs, but the attrition rate is pretty high for the dishlickers.  If a dog is running around after cattle for half a day that’s just about enough for most of them, so you need to change dogs if you are working all day. The dogs do get lifts on the motor bikes so they are not on their paws all the time.  They can be kicked by a beast, run over by a bike or car, fight amongst themselves, get heat exhaustion or just run the pads clean off their paws.  But the good ones love to work.  Those who are left behind in the mornings howl for hours at their misfortune. 

There were kelpies, blue and red cattle dogs, border collies, coolies and mutts.  Some like the cattle dogs were only used when a hard biter was needed to control the more aggressive cattle.  Others were used as lead dogs to steady the mob down and then some dogs were all rounders.  

I remember once we were mustering a mob down a creek, the cattle had a long string on them, probably 3 kilometres from the lead to the tail, the men had no hope of getting to the lead to slow the cattle down due to the rough terrain.  So this little black dog was sent to go to the lead. I was in the plane up the front trying to steady the lead myself so was able to watch this little dog gallantly and intelligently run past all these cattle until it got to the lead and blocked the cattle up.  One little dog blocked up about 90 hot and bothered cattle and kept them there until the men could catch up.

Rollie, a legend in his own time.  Kilcowera Station, Outaback Australia. 

Another episode involved Rollie, Greg’s best dog at the time.  He was quite a well bred, long haired, border collie that came to us as a fat little puppy in the summer time.  Well he was so cute he was spoiled and allowed to live in the house yard while he was small. He would just  mooch around the place and go for a swim in his water dish every time  he got hot.  When he started digging up the garden and eating the seedlings, socks and shoes he outlived his welcome and was put out of the yard to live outside.  Well he went around and round the fence for 3 days trying to get back in, crying all the time. He was pathetic. 

As the months went by he learned how to ride on the back of the motorbike and was introduced to cattle and work even though he was usually kept on a long lead so Greg could get him back.  He was so exuberant, so much energy and personality and still cute too.  On one of his first forays of his working life we had gotten a mob of cattle together at the southern end of the paddock ready to take them to the yards in the northern end, about 6 kms away.  Greg made the mistake of taking the lead off for a minute to untangle him from a tree.  That was all Rollie needed, he joyfully took off after the cattle and stayed behind them for the whole 6 kms as they galloped across the paddock.  Greg was yelling at the dog to come back and riding behind him to try and get hold of him and that only made the cattle and Rollie go faster. A man up the other end of the paddock heard all the commotion and saw the cloud of dust coming but had no idea what was going on til he saw Rollie hard on the heels of the cattle.  He called up on the UHF radio, “ Has this little black and white fluffy dog got an off button?”  At that stage he didn’t.

The dogs can be wonderful and nearly always make the job easier.  A good dog is easily as good as having another man most times. But they can be vexing.

It gets pretty cold here, we had 3 days in a row when it was -5 in the mornings.

A lagoon on Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland
A lagoon on Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland

We’ve been quite busy here for the last few weeks, had a delightful young couple here for a month to help with some general station maintenance.  She was french and he an australian, they had a month to fill in before they flew to India where his mother owns a hotel, so they decided to see a bit of the outback.  They did all manner of things including cleaning grids out, mustering and branding cattle, helping with our visitors, gardening and cooking.  Our french – english has improved somewhat, her english certainly did. 

We have been able to buy in 2 mobs of cows since my last post and the latest lot is in the cattle yard at Zenonie right now.  These ones are all Herefords but the first lot was a mixture of breeds. 

I took a nice South African couple on a tour of the place a few days ago and was able to show them the pelicans nesting on the island at the southern end of Lake Wyara and the many more thousands of birds also nesting right along the southern shoreline as well.  There are plenty of other water birds on the lake and also on Benanga creek.  We had a fantastic look at 8 Bourke’s Parrots at Murderer’s Bore.   A stroll through the grass flushed out quail and the chestnut breasted quail thrush. Some other guys claim to have seen the cinnamon quail thrush as well. 

On one of the last stops for the day we went into Rustlers Roost and I spied an unusual looking vine growing between the rocks.  Closer inspection proved it to be Hardenbergia violaceae or Sarsaparilla vine, a rare plant, last seen here 15 or 20 years ago.  We also have the beautiful Carpet of Snow flowering at the moment (Stachhousiaceae  Macgregoria racemigera )  Cop that mouthful!

Carpet of Snow or Stackhousiaceae growing on the margins of a swamp at Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

Carpet of Snow or Stackhousiaceae growing on the margins of a swamp at Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.
Our new second hand bus gets its’ first major run next Sunday when we have 11 people flying into Thargomindah for us to pick up, show them around town, have lunch, bring them to Kilcowera and give them a bit of a look around here.  Then the evening meal and tip them into bed for the night.  A cooked breakfast, back to town and onto their plane for the next leg of their journey.  The tour operator is Young at Heart and they do tours through out the world.  Going to be busy, our daughter and her boyfriend are coming down from Quilpie to help over the weekend.  Bless her little cotton socks. 

The local council has been working on our road in the last few weeks and it is in pretty good condition in most places.

A typical outback road.  Just joking.  Really. 

A typical outback road. Just joking. Really.

What a morning!!!  Decided to do some baking (biscuits, cakes etc) so I’m listening to talk back radio and cooking when a largish red helicopter starts  buzzing around the place and then goes.  Many hours later this English sounding lady rings up and asks if they can land near a big swamp to the north of us and camp the night.  Whatever makes them happy I suppose.  Then a truck arrives driven by an old gent of about 90 bringing some fencing material for us.  Greg and a friend unload that and old Mac goes back to Hungerford. 

  Then a bloke rings up from Sydney wanting some info on Pelicans in the area.  He wants to do a wildlife documentary and has heard there are pelicans, there aren’t pelicans, they’re breeding, they’re not breeding. I said there’s about 15,000 of them on Lake Wyara and I didn’t think they were out there swapping comics.  Often these overtures come to nothing so we don’t get too excited about them anymore.  Not until you see the whites of their eyes.  

We had another one last week wanting to film a commercial on a clay pan. 

Even though I obligingly went out and took photos of a claypan and sent them to her I have heard nothing back.  And lastly a visit from a never before seen black goanna on my front veranda which had Lucy in a total frenzy.

Black goanna at Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

He’s old mate, cute isn’t he?