Hay to be unloaded at the cattleyards.

Hay to be unloaded at the cattleyards.

Well, it’s mustering time again and that means buying some hay to feed them as we move them through the yards and into new paddocks.  The newly weaned weaners stay in the yard for a week or so and get taken through the yards 3 or 4 times to educate them and get to eat some yummy hay every evening.  The cattle that we will be selling also get fed in the yards for a few days until we have enough of them to fill the truck.  We usually buy our hay from St George which is 600 km away so the freight is super expensive as is the hay.

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We had a bit of a quandary this time – the trailer was bigger than usual and so there was a third layer of hay stacked up.  How to unload it????  The poor old Fordson was not up to the challenge – the hay was just too high and too heavy at 600 kg per bale.  Soo, it was all shoulders to the hay ( except little old me ) J  Apparently I’m a bit of a light weight……..

Feeding the hay out for the weaners at Kilcowera Station.

Feeding the hay out for the weaners at Kilcowera Station.

……..  Anyway the job took most of the day, rolling the hay off and the using the old tractor to stack it up, then an electric fence around it to keep the passing trade out.

 

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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

Mustering at Kilcowera

August 17, 2013

Hereford cattle at Cardenyabba Lagoon

We start our next round of mustering on the first of September, what a great way to to get into spring!  The helicopter is booked, the musterers are booked, the plane and bikes are ready to go –  horses too.  This muster is really about trying to find all the naughty little weaners who did not stay in their new paddocks when they were put into them in April, they went everywhere!

Yarding up cattle at Kilcowera Station.

Yarding up cattle at Kilcowera Station.

 

Kilcowera airstrip in Calenso Paddock

Recently, I was on our newest airstrip, the one above, walking up and down the sides poisoning the small mulga trees that were, and are, attempting to take it over again, when thousands of feet above a jet whizzed by.  It got me thinking, all those people up there drinking scotch, coffee, a beer, reading, eating, watching movies, chatting, keeping their kids happy, admiring the flight attendants – does the thought ever cross their minds that down in all that emptiness beneath them, lives are being lived, jobs being done, life and death issues are being dealt with in the small towns and on the stations, that people are earning a living down there in all that nothingness.

I love the fact that Kilcowera is open for visitors so they can see firsthand what it is like to live and work in our fairly harsh environment.  But these visitors usually have some idea about life in the bush already, they have travelled all over Australia looking at, out of the way spots such as ourselves and they keep searching out more places off the beaten track to go to.  The majority of Australians live on the coastal strip and never drive over the big hill and I reckon it ‘s these ones who would be surprised at  how much is going on beneath them as they wing their way over the continent.  Lucky ducks!

Kilcowera airstrip

Just in the last month in my area we have had major bushfires with many spotter planes and water bombers in the sky, the Royal Flying Doctor has been called in to airlift an injured volunteer firefighter ( a young girl ) to Charleville hospital and 2 vehicles have been destroyed in the blazes. Many people spent Christmas day and New years day and all days in between, out in the heat, day and night, 24 hours non stop, trying to stop the fires.

Other people are on the ground on motorbikes and horseback mustering sheep, cattle and goats, the road trains are driving back and forth with their loads of stock or freight for the towns and stations.  There are also hundreds of oil workers in the outback at any given time.

The kids are back on holidays from their boarding schools or hostels, they are on their ponies, or motor bikes or driving around in something on the place, cause all station, and most town kids can drive by the time they are 6 or 7.  And these kids are out helping Mum and Dad with the fencing, mustering, checking the waters, climbing and oiling the windmills, cleaning out troughs and wells, changing tyres and working on the cars and machinery.  There’s always plenty to do.

Spare a thought for all the people down below toiling in their gardens just to make a little oasis in the outback for themselves and their family and all the other inhabitants of the Outback – there is plenty going on down there!  Happy New Year!!

Our house at Kilcowera Station

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.