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??

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Looking down our longest airstrip, most of  those little plants are woody weeds.

Looking down our longest airstrip, most of those little plants are woody weeds.

Not long after Greg and I tied the knot in 1980 we did the prudent thing and put an airstrip in – it was about 900 meters long, wide enough and did us well enough for the first 10 years or so.  Then we decided to learn to fly and buy a plane, so a second strip was put in – a cross strip for the first one.  This one was 1200 meters long and very wide, to really comply with RFDS standards.  Now both of these airstrips are in the most mongrely sandy country and 10 mls of rain renders them unusable, but that’s where they are and that’s where the hangar is so that’s that!  We have put another on in about 10 kilometers from the house on much better country and so far I have used it a couple of times and visitors have used it as well.  It’s east – west and about 1300 meters long.

But back to the original ones, when we put the second strip in I had this 1200 meters by about 30 or 40 wide to pick up sticks from!  So every day I would put an hour or two in marching up and down with a rake and buckets doing the stick trick.  Our two girls were aged about 8 and 6 and woe  betide them if they ever said they were bored or had nothing to do!  Off we would go to the airstrip, picking up sticks, telling stories and making up riddles to jolly them along!

Also our flying instructer seemed to have a hatie on the big long strip and even if the wind favoured it, he would often insist we land on the shorter one.  I think it was because it was so long we really didn’t have to try too hard  to land in the first quarter of the strip and pull up in a timely manner.  We could just plonk her down halfway along and still have stacks of room in front of us.  They like to make things hard for the poor little trainee!  But still my first solo flight ranks right up there in my top 4 life experiences!  NEVER forget your first solo, do you?  Just looking over at that seat next to you, that is empty, makes you feel very alone!

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But the maintenance of our airstrips is never ending.  We very rarely grade them as the country is too sandy and we would just end up with an enormous gully, but we do drag them with an assortment of things – old steel, wagon wheel rims are the best thing.  We try to do this just before it rains, so that they “set” nice and hard.  But as often as not it doesn’t rain and all we get is wind and then it’s heartbreaking to see the airstrips just blowing away and the more this happens the lower they get compared to the surrounding country and erosion by both wind and water is a very real problem.  Also during very dry times we can’t let visitors use the strip as they would more than likely bog their planes in the dust and dirt.  I still use it but my plane is very light and I know just where to go and where not to go on the airstrips!

After we get rain the woody weeds and the paddy melons come up all over both of them, so I’m out there with axe, shovel, and poison trying to control them ( kill them!!! ).  And that’s where I am at right now, there are gazillions of little woody weeds out there that I have to eliminate.  The smaller they are the less poison I’ve got to use ( it’s very expensive ), it’s just finding the time to do the enormous job which is difficult.

Up, up and away!

 

 

 

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 most important bit of water infrastructure a station can have.

The most important bit of water infrastructure a station can have.

As you would be aware water is vitally important to us who live in the more arid parts of Australia.  I know it’s important everywhere, but city people do tend to take water for granted except when water levels in dams start making the nightly news.

Not only do we need to take particular care of our stock watering points but our bore water needs special consideration if it is going to do the job domestically too.

The capped  artesian bore situated at our Shearers Quarters was put down in 1962 , the depth is 368 meters , it comes out of the ground at 47 degrees at a rate of 79,200 gallons per day with a pressure of 51.5 PSI.  I know the mixture of imperial and metrics is quaint, but that’s the way it is!

Now in summer that’s way too hot to comfortably have a shower under, so there is a big roll of poly pipe, full of water, underneath the Shearers Quarters that is then attached to two cold taps in one bathroom.  So the first ones to have a shower do get a nice cool one, subsequent bathers will find that the water gets hotter as the pipe refills constantly.  During winter, guests at the Quarters are asked to water the lawn before having their showers!  It gets the water moving through the pipes so they can then enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the 47 degree hot artesian water.

It’s a different story at the homestead which is a mere 1.5 kilometers from the bore.  Water to the house is piped up from the bore in more poly pipe which is buried in the ground about 2 feet down.  During summer the water is far too hot to shower in despite  the pipe being buried, so we have a 500 L cold water tank with a pressure pump attached to it so we can have a cool shower.  In winter we have a solar hot water system because as the pipe is buried the water is cold!  In winter only.  Also in summer when I need lots of water for my garden I find that I have very little pressure or water as the cattle in the next 2 paddocks are slurping away at the water in the troughs.

The outback would be a ghost place if anything were to happen to spoil or contaminate the water of the Great Artesian Basin.  Not only would there be considerably less water for the kangaroos and wallabies, the sheep and cattle industries would be decimated and places like Kilcowera would be unviable and not worth living on.  Hundreds of thousands of people wouldn’t  have jobs as many outback towns depend on the water from the GAB as well.

Camping at Kilcowera on Cardenyabba Lagoon

Camping at Kilcowera on Cardenyabba Lagoon

This is Cardenyabba Lagoon, just east of the Shearers Quarters ,the creek that fills it is running very big after a wonderful 104 mls of rain over 2 days.  We are very happy people.  The lagoon has gone from bone dry to chocka block full!  Fantastic for visitors who want to bush camp.  The 2 little dogs and I walked down there this morning to check it out.   Sooo happy!!!!!  I was kinda glum about no water in it after having it full for 3 years, our visitors love camping there!  And who wouldn’t when you get sunsets like this one?

Sunset at Cardenyabba Lagoon.