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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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

Making Tomato Sauce

Making Tomato Sauce

Along with the joys of harvesting my own fresh veg and some fruit comes a bit of a reality check!  I’ve got to process all this stuff!   For instance for a good part of the last year we have been having a bumper tomato crop.  Now we really appreciate a good red, ripe, tasty tomato as opposed to the things we buy at the shop – all they are good for is slicing and putting on the top of the macaroni cheese just so you have something red there.  Come to think of it paprika does a better job!  So along with tomatoes in the salad and grilled tomato for brekky, the gravy, stews and curries usually have a tomato or two lurking in there.  They are also good on top of the roast to stop it drying out, I’ve made many a batch of tomato soup, Bolognese sauce and I tried drying some and putting them in oil but they were too crunchy.  Don’t know what I did wrong there.

The pantry is now home to many bottles of chutney and tomato sauce and a neighbour friend told me that you can simply freeze whole tomatoes for later use in stews, so there are quite a few boxes of tomatoes festering in the bottom of the freezer.

The finished product.

The finished product.

We’ve also had a lot of zucchini and squash.  As we speak I have thinly sliced zucchini and onion draining in a colander in the cold room, ready and waiting to be made into pickles.  We’ve had zucchini slice, zucchini fritters, stuffed zucchini and zuchs in the stews and curries.  Any other ideas folks??  They are mounting up in the coldroom!

I’m managing to keep up with the eggplant – but only just.  They are the little long skinny ones and have been delicious – even the horrible white grubs think so.

But I think I am going to be snowed under by the okra.  There are about a dozen okra bushes, I dotted them all about the veg garden to provide shade for other plants and they are really starting to produce!  They go into the stews and curries too and I fry them up with lots of different herbs and spices and we have them both hot and cold.  I’ll hit the internet for some new recipes for the okra I reckon.

And lastly the fruit – well we haven’t been drowned in it, but we could be if 8 large watermelons all get ripe at the same time!  One melon busted open when the temperature reached 48 last week, luckily I was present, rescued it and popped it into the coldroom.  It’s a very nice, tasty 6kg melon.  How do you know when to pick them!!!  I know they should make a drummy sound when you tap them – but they all sound sort of drummy.  And yesterday I picked a 9 kg one, will cut it open today, fingers crossed it’s going to be yummy!

Then there are the rockmelons, they too suffered in the heat and the chooks ended up with 3 last week, (they sort of just cooked inside).  But there are more that I have high hopes for, picked 4 good sized ones this morning and ate one for lunch!

As cattle producers we are eating more F&V than lean beef and my halo just might choke me.  Even Greg, when confronted by all the nice salads that I am making, eats more vegetables than meat these days!

Delicious Okra from my garden.

Delicious Okra from my garden.

 

 

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