Our local area.

Our local area.

I hope that lots of our potential visitors have a look at this blog, cause it could save them a bit of grief!  See that little track that appears to come up to Kilcowera from the south? Well – I’ll let you in on a little secret – it doesnt exist anymore!  It’s actually on a neighbours place, is a private road and only leads to a windmill.  It is also literally clearly marked with signs as being a private road with no access to anybody.

So there you have it – the ONLY way into Kilcowera is the access road in from the west!

Triops australiensis appear in our swamps and claypans after suitable rain.

Triops australiensis appear in our swamps and claypans after suitable rain.

I have been trying to recollect some of the strange items of interest that I have seen since I have lived in the bush.  Here are a few of them………..

Fish magically appearing in isolated waterholes even though those water holes had been dry for years and were not connected to any permanent water.

Yabbies and crabs swimming down the road during floods.

Shield Shrimp or Triops australiensis  and clam shrimps magically appearing in claypans after suitable rains.

The back leg of a kangaroo half buried in the dirt in the middle of a paddock and only bird tracks around it.  Bear in mind we don’t have a wild dog problem, so it was probably a fox that killed the roo.  Still, little fox, big roo.

The gorgeous little Crucifix Toads survive buried in the ground for the longest time and dig their way out after sufficient rain.  We had a nine year drought earlier this century and those little frogs survived for that long buried in the ground. When they come out they bob around like iridescent little yellow marbles and ping pong balls.

Not to mention the many different frogs that just appear after suitable rain, they must all live deep in the ground only to surface when the time is right.  The night time chorus when they are all out and about is glorious!

The cute little Crucifix Toad at Kilcowera Station.

The cute little Crucifix Toad at Kilcowera Station.

The neatly gutted bearded dragon lying in the middle of the road, it was totally intact except its underside tummy was eaten.

 The big white ant eggs all out around the meat ants nest at 4 am.

Hundreds of bees all clinging to the tree trunk just outside of the hole in the tree which was the entrance to their hive.

 Snakes with ticks on them.

One extraordinary night I swear I saw the southern lights from my verandah.

Another night there was a light just bobbing around in the distance for about half an hour, then it just disappeared.

Sometimes when there is humidity around and the possibility of rain, we can smell the pungent odour  of the Gidgee trees, but apart from  about 4 trees on our place the nearest Gidgee is about 60 km away.

During and after rain the enormous Bogong moths come up out of the ground leaving their cocoons sticking out of the holes.

One day we flew home from Cunnamulla and were putting our plane back in the hangar when out of the blue 2 blokes just appeared out of the bush chatting to each other like it was the most normal thing in the world.  This was way back, before we started having visitors to the place.

Roley, a little Border Collie that we had was pulled out of his kennel and pulled right out of his collar and mauled by a wild dog one night.  He survived.

When I first came to live out here we had a diesel generator and it was not uncommon on winter mornings for the diesel to freeze in the tank and so we could not start the generator til about lunchtime.  This was when we learned that you could actually buy a winter mix and a summer mix of diesel!

Another interesting thing – there used to be all these flagons filled with water lying around under bushes all over the place.  Everywhere!  I learned these were strategically placed to quench the thirst of the musterers who rode horses back then and could not carry much water with them.  Someone had to drink all that Muscat in the first place though!  No wonder they wanted a drink of water the next day!

And lastly, not long after we were married Greg had to go to town one day for something.  There he was in his old holey, sweat stained Akubra, torn T Shirt, short stubbie shorts, hairy legs and Redwing boots halfway to his knees asking if I would like to go to town with him. Oh and a 3 day growth on his face.  I was horrified!  He looked dreadful and there was no way I was going anywhere with him looking like that.  I had been a city girl you see.

A nice big burrowing frog   at Kilcowera Station.  Cute, isn't he??

A nice big burrowing frog at Kilcowera Station. Cute, isn’t he??

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.

 

Full moon rising over Cardenyabba Lagoon.

Full moon rising over Cardenyabba Lagoon.

This came to me via the Westprint Friday Five, a weekly newsletter that shares all sorts of stuff about life not in the cities.  Written by a bloke called Michael in Toowoomba.  Thanks Michael, I love your thoughtful description and can really relate to it.

My definition of the “OUTBACK”

Although I’m only half way through my working life, still in my baby cradle as some may call it, I like to talk to people (older and younger) about their travels, domestic and international.

I have a friend who is a vet. You don’t know where she will be from one day to the next. It’s nothing for her to buy a plane ticket one day, pack her bags that night and be in another country the next day without too much thought or worry. I would be a nervous wreck and would need months of planning.

New Zealand was a huge leap a couple of years ago but now I feel I could just pop over for the weekend without thinking too much about it because I have been there before. If only we didn’t need money of course.

Another point is the normal routines we have – example – going to the shops to buy groceries. Some people do it every day and it takes 15 minutes – and that’s the time it takes to get in the car, drive to the shop, get your stuff, drive home and pack the stuff in the fridge.

We go about once a week but when I grew up west of Rockhampton; we would go every 6-8 weeks. Yes it’s embarrassing walking out with 5-6 trolleys to feed your large family. Especially when we had our own meat, milk, vegies and fruit that was grown on the property. What did we put into those trolleys? Spaghetti, baked beans and out of season items.

For others it’s a full day event – or even overnight. You drive the 6 hours or more, go to the doctors, pick up the pallet of barbed wire, cattle spray, some new boots, get that hydraulic ram fixed, have a chat to a neighbour because he lives so far away and you haven’t seen them for a while, etc. Then the last thing you do is pick up the groceries,pack the groceries into eskies then travel home at night when it’s cooler so that your items don’t spoil. When you get home at midnight you have to pack those 5 trolleys of groceries away in the cupboard. Too busy tomorrow to have time to pack it away then.

So my point? The outback for me is a road that I haven’t travelled, a road that you can drive where you haven’t seen anyone else on the road for a least half an hour. A road where you had to look at the map to find where it starts and where it finishes – even though it could be 500k’s between those points. A road where you need to watch out for critters sleeping on it because the bitumen is nice and warm. It’s the places where you can pull up and have a chat to someone without them wanting to leave in a hurry – because apparently they have something else better to do.

A road where you most likely come across a cattle drive and pull up to talk to the rider on the horse. Watch out for those patties – they stink when they a squashed and are usually sloppy because the cattle are excited about the new grass. A road where someone is on a tractor in the paddock and you wave to each other as you fly by – a friendly acknowledgement. He’s probably been on that tractor for a couple of days now and going around in circles is getting a bit boring. A road where it is single lane bitumen and you have to drop off the edge to pass a car with the fear of blowing a tyre on rough bitumen.

A road where you have to get right off the road because a 120 tonne road train is coming. Let’s face it – he’s bigger and will fall over if he gets off. That’s a messy sight you don’t want to see.

Don’t get me started on gravel roads, corrugations are similar to the rumble strips on the bitumen white lines they keep you awake. Don’t worry, the grader will be through next year after the wet. The ground is just way too hard at the moment.

The outback is house driveways that are more than half a kilometre long -the cattle yards and work shed look better then the house. Watch out for all those dogs. The outback is the fenced 50 acres around the house, usually called the house yard and your children get out on Saturday mornings on the two ride-on mowers to mow it.

I thought Cape York was remote bit I couldn’t get out of the dust from all the other vehicles flying by. The outback is when you hit a bump so hard you hit the roof and bite your tongue – and your nuts that you were holding (the ones that you eat off trees, shrubs and out of the ground) fly everywhere. It’s amazing the nook and crannies these things get into.

The outback is somewhere you can set up your tent, caravan, swag without someone using you tent pegs on the other side of your tent because they are so close. Whispering in the tent next door still sounds like normal talking. Outback is when you realize there are stars in the sky.

In summary – the outback will depend on someone’s travel experience, where they live, if you need to look at a map to find out where it goes and if you need a full tank of fuel and food to get there. The outback stops becoming the outback when you don’t need a map, you have travelled that road a couple of times and it seems to be another street going through another suburb to get to the shops – even though that shop is 300k’s away.

Did I mention that the outback would most likely be a little hotter?

So I guess I don’t know where the outback starts or finishes either. I would class the outback as the unknown and untravelled location. Maybe a perception, not a location.

Michael. Toowoomba

Fuel drums at Kilcowera Station

Fuel drums at Kilcowera Station

The new VIC, Library, coference centre and Coffee Shop in Thargomindah

The new VIC, Library, conference center and Coffee Shop in Thargomindah

Thargo just never seems to look back, its workforce works mainly for the local council or one other entrepreneurial business in town and it’s a little town that just keeps growing and growing in both size and population.

The streets get bigger, the footpaths get wider, more and more lovely little houses get built, there are 2 caravan parks, a pub, a motel and restaurant, the community centre, a Toyota dealership, a roadhouse and lots of other businesses.

The new Administation building is taking shape in Thargomindah

The new Administation building is taking shape in Thargomindah

 

And now the Bulloo Shire is building a new Administration building and has just recently completed the new visitor information centre, library and coffee shop.  Another 25 blocks of land are also to be developed and put up for public tender in the near future.

Coffee shop for Thargo

Coffee shop for Thargo

It is an interesting town where visitors can see lots of dogs, horses, some nice old buildings, a demonstration at the older town bore, have a great coffee at the new shop OR one of the best burgers you’ll ever eat at Fergies Roadhouse!  The locals are generally friendly and helpful, showing typical outback hospitality to nice visitors.

A great feature of the town is also the colourful display of flowers in the middle of the streets and around some of the buildings.

The visitor info centre has plenty of comfy chairs!

The visitor info centre has plenty of comfy chairs!

The VIC is a bit light on for info still but I was told they are waiting for some more shelving to arrive so as to put more stuff out.  A little observation from me, the girls at this new center were lovely and obliging but they all would look soo much better in some sort of uniform! NOT cut off jeans, T shirts and thongs.  Just a bit smarter to reflect their surroundings.