The Last Post

March 20, 2019

And yet another drought.

Kilcowera and Zenonie Stations are relatively small compared to the vastness of the properties in northern Australia.  They are situated in a fairly arid landscape in the SW of Queensland.  I have heard it called Heartbreak Corner on more than one occasion.  But I’m guessing there are many other places in Australia with similar nicknames.  My husband has lived out here all his life and I have been here now for  nearly 40 years.

During that time we have seen a lot of dry years and have been drought declared 3 times.  Being officially in drought enables us to access some subsidies from either the state or federal government.  The only one we ever found useful was the interest subsidy which was scrapped many years ago.

Early February 2019 has seen many parts of northern Queensland awash with far too much rain, roads cut, towns cut off, dams and rivers raging and cattle and sheep starving to death or drowning.  Conversely large parts of QLD have not received any rain at all for months and months and months.  Here at Kilcowera we registered just 91 mms during 2018- this is our sixth very dry year in a row.  We have been destocking year after year, only keeping a couple of hundred young cows.  It sure is a land of drought and flooding rain.  And dust storms and fires and flies and ants. 

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A fat happy cow in the good times.

We, at the other end of Queensland made the decision to sell all our remaining stock at the beginning of 2019.  Well, actually we had decided in late November that if there was no rain, they would have to go.  So in 45 to 47 degree heat we were mustering and processing, watering and feeding the last of our cows and calves, putting them on trucks and sending them to the first and second sale of the new year at the Roma Saleyards.  The young cows were all still in good condition and we were relieved to see them off the place, with no rain in sight and still months of hot weather they would not have gotten through the rest of summer.  There is not a scrap of grass, hardly any burr left only the Mulga and it too is dying in places.

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So we’re hobby farmers now with only a handful of cows and calves left and one bull.  The cows are scratching around out in a paddock that got a storm about a month ago and we have hay and molasses for them, so they will do ok.  But it will take us a long time to be back in business again. If ever.

There are different ways to handle drought and what each individual primary producer decides to do must suit them, how they run their property, the type of stock they have and even the type of country they have.  How far they are from markets, how far it is to cart feed or water for their stock, do they have adequate Mulga?  To push the Mulga or not?  Droving is another option or agistment if there is any feed to be had.

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Feeding out some donated hay, unfortunately it was not very edible, even to our hungry stock.

As I sit here writing this, yet another dust storm has loomed up from the south, taking and bringing dust and sand, making the house filthy once more and choking the dying Mulga trees.  Just another nail in the coffin.  But my Hubby has found a new rainfall chart for the year and added it to the last 40.  Let’s all hope that we get a chance to make a few marks on it this year.  I think this blog has run its course and this will be the last post I put up.  We have a Facebook page for Kilcowera and a website with its own blog so you can still keep up to date with all that happens down on the station.  wwwkilcowera.com.au  Thanks to those who have commented on my posts over the years!  Cheers from Toni at Kilcowera.

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The worst summer ever?

December 17, 2018

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38 years.  It’s a long time isn’t it?  But it has gone by so quickly.  That’s how long I have lived here at Kilcowera.  In those years I have seen the countryside go through so many changes.  The most enduring of these is drought – living in this part of the world one expects it to be fairly dry.  Visitors come here and marvel at the endless blue skies, the clear starry nights and the perfect weather.  We would be happier with a few more rain events!

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A dust storm from the nineties – they are still the same.

My morning walks have become  extremely tedious as I pass by dead bushes and trees, picking my feet up over the corrugations, so much bull dust and the constant flies keeping pace with me.  The huge dust storms are smothering the trees.  The dust gets in everywhere, I just clean the house from the last one and the next one is upon us.  Sometimes we wake in the morning to find our world is just blanketed by a white haze – dust from way out west somewhere.  Thank goodness I have my little dogs who bring me such joy and delight.  They don’t care about the drought, they’re just happy!  Must keep looking at them!

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Cardenyabba Lagoon and our airstrips

It’s much better for me to remember things like seeing fish and yabbies swimming down the road and Cardenyabba Lagoon full of water and birdlife.  The abundance of wildflowers after winter rain, the shield shrimp in the claypans, the dewy, sticky carnivorous plants that grow on the margins of swamps. Full dams and fat, shiny cattle. Going for an early morning fly around the property and seeing water everywhere and green on the ground. The way this country bounces back after rain is astonishing, the variety of grasses and herbage that springs up is mind blowing and then the insects and frogs follow to take up residence once again.

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I’ve got to remember that there are occasions when I am not constantly moving hoses around, watering lawns, trees and gardens. And that we are not alone in this horrible drought – that there are tens of thousands of other farmers and graziers doing it just as tough as we are.  I’m lucky that I at least have plenty of bore water to keep most of my garden and lawn alive.  And keep looking at those happy little terriers of mine because they make me smile.  But summer is upon us and it’s a very dry outlook, the next few months without any rain will be devastating.  Happy Christmas.

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Lucy and Maisie in, on the Lagoon

 

2016 nearly done and dusted.

December 23, 2016

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Another year draws to an end, that means I have lived on Kilcowera for 36 years, I’m  another year older and looking forward to the Australian Open Tennis!  It’s the one sport that I really like to watch.  Last Christmas we had one daughter, her hubby and toddler here to help us celebrate all the great things about Christmas time.  It’s nice to have family with you at such times.  Makes it more meaningful.  This year we have invited our elderly neighbours to come and share the day and some lunch with us.  No doubt we will also appreciate the air conditioner as it is predicted to be 39 degrees ( ooh only 39! )  That’s not too bad!

We have had a mixed year.  It started off really dry, so we sold most of our cattle then it started to rain and kept it right up through most of the winter which spoilt our tourist season somewhat as visitors couldn’t get here.  Or couldn’t leave when they did get here.  Then we had the most spectacular display of wildflowers for months on end.  I have had some broken ribs, Greg has had a buster off the horse but we did have a break away from the place each so that was nice.  We also have a new grandchild.  Our little plane suffered a mishap when a birds, big, mud nest fell onto it and put a very large hole in the elevator.

Our Carbon farming project inches forward with all the speed of a glacier in Antarctica in the ice age.  We have been hooked up to the NBN via the Skymuster satellite – I will reserve my judgment on that for the time being, it too has it’s ups and downs!  My lawn is looking fantastic, the garden pretty good too.  But all in all not a bad year at all. Best wishes to you all and thank you so much for being our friends, family, visitors or just interested people in our way of life in the Outback.  Bless you all and Happy Christmas!

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Paddock names

June 13, 2016

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Kilcowera Station Herefords.

As you are driving through the Outback did you ever think that all that country you are driving through has a name?  It has it’s uses, it’s very own history and potential?  Some paddocks are quite small, these are holding paddocks or maybe the horse paddock or the one where the killers run. The names come from all over, some are named after people who have lived on the property, some are named after the person who may have done the fencing or who put the tank or bore down in that paddock.  Others are named after a particular feature in the paddock and some around here have African names for some strange reason.

Some paddocks are better suited to certain types of animals, so they are usually stocked with the same cows or steers year in year out.  But then the paddock also needs a spell every now and then so the cows or whatever have to be put into another paddock which suits them just as well.  When you put your animals into a new paddock for the first time you have to keep a very good watch over them for quite a while as the first thing they do is go for a walk right around the paddock to check it out.  So all the fences have to be in good order.  You have to check the corners every few days as sometimes the cows, steers or weaners will sulk and hang in a corner and die there.

We also have to make sure the watering points in the paddocks are adequate for the number of stock we put in there.  If there are natural waters there in creeks or perhaps dams you have to check them frequently  because if they dry up we will probably have to move the cattle back to the man made waters as they may just stay there wondering where the water went. So the water in the troughs needs to be clean and taste sweet or the cattle will head out to a corner and sulk some more.  The troughs need to be cleaned frequently too as they can get a build up of yucky stuff in them quite quickly.  There you go folks – that is a little about paddocks!

Cattle Kilcowera Station.

Cattle Kilcowera Station.

Squash and corn relish, homemade at Kilcowera Station.

Squash and corn relish, homemade at Kilcowera Station.

Once upon a time we populated the west with Guinea Pigs!  Yes – we had 2 as pets when our girls were small.  Blackie and Blossom.  Whenever we attended any function we would take a little box with a guinea pig or two in it to give away.  The other parents tried to avoid us – but we were cunning – we made our move directly through the kids!  They were lovely little pets.

My vegetable garden is also producing very well these days. At the moment its zucchinis and button squash.  We have been giving away as many as possible but this is difficult when we don’t go anywhere much and they just keep piling up in the cold room.  I have made mention in a previous post about what to do with the zuchs now it’s the squash that are really multiplying!  And do you know – not too long ago I paid $4.99 for 4 little yellow squash at my local store!  Now I have about a hundred of them lurking in bags in the coldroom.

I also had a few ears of corn that didn’t look like it was going to be eaten any time soon so decided to make some corn relish.  Well, really, it’s squash relish with corn – my only hurdle was not enough corn to really justify using stacks of the squash.  But I managed to use about 15 of them, along with home grown capsicum, chillies and okra.  So all up, I am very pleased with the result.  Just as well that we both like hot and spicy food – cause those chillies have a bite to them!

From the bounty of my little veggie garden I now have numerous bottles of the following: Tomato Relish, bread and butter cucumbers, bread and butter zucchinis, pickled chillies, gooseberry and mulberry jam and now corn and squash relish.  Won’t be needing to buy any condiments for awhile!  🙂