Our local grocery store in Thargomindah.

Our local grocery store in Thargomindah.

Standing in the line at the checkout of a major supermarket recently I couldn’t help but compare the lack of service to times long gone by.  There I was with three other customers in front of me, only 1 other manned (womaned) checkout open because most of the well programmed customers were checking out their own groceries at the do it yourself checkouts.  All those jobs lost just so the supermarket can trim a bit more off its operating cost.

Compare this to the service that we experience from our little local towns.  I can ring or email my grocery order through to my local store whether it  be in Quilpie, Thargomindah or Cunnamulla and the staff will collect all my stuff, pack it properly in boxes ( yes boxes! ) and either tape them up or tie the boxes up with string and send them to me via my mail man twice a week.  The bottles will be wrapped in paper, the fruit and veg will also be wrapped to protect them as will any cold articles I order.  It is generally speaking a pretty good service. For my part, I keep the string and the nice white paper used to wrap the fruit and sometimes have a bit of a read of the newspaper that has been used to pack the bottles!

Thinking back to when I was a little kid growing up at Eight Mile Plains in Brisbane (which was the sticks back then!) we had a little shopping centre within walking distance of my home, bush all around us and even a creek at the bottom of the hill where we could catch yabbies.  Milk, the newspaper and bread was delivered to our house daily and anything else we needed was purchased from the local shop.  The lady would ring the item costs up on the till and a boy at the other end of the counter would pack the stuff in a big, solid brown paper bag and put it in the car for us.  Mum had a big drawer that was used for keeping all the bags, bits of string, rubber bands and the occasional plastic bag for recycling – even though I bet she didn’t call it that!

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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??

Medical chest at Kilcowera Station

Medical chest at Kilcowera Station

Most properties have a medical chest which is issued from the nearest Royal Flying Doctor base, in our case it’s Charleville. In the event of an emergency or someone getting crook we ring the RFDS and speak to a doctor who can prescribe drugs from out of the chest. We go through the contents twice a year and send an application off for any drugs that have reached their expiry date.

The RFDS is a truly wonderful service for not only us who live on the properties but for many of the small towns who don’t have a resident doctor. The Flying Doctor and various other nurses and specialists do clinics several times a month in those little towns for both the locals and visitors to the area.

We are also never far from medical assistance as the RFDS flys to properties in emergencies and takes the patient straight through to the nearest suitable hospital – in our case either Brisbane, Toowoomba or Sydney.

The first drawer of the chest

The first drawer of the chest

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!