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!

 

 

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.

 

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.