Good morning fellow Jillaroos and Jackaroos. I’ve been rather quiet on here the past few days, as I’ve had 4 days off work (aka the day job). Thursday was the public holiday for ANZAC Day. If you’re not from around these parts, ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It’s a day to remember the fallen soldiers and appreciate what they’ve done for us. Since Thursday was the public holiday, I took Friday off too so I could have a 4 day weekend. Not that I ever seem to get a day to relax though. I was busy as ever on the farm and around the countryside.
I’ve only just brought my filly, Perseverance, back into work. Last year she went out west mustering with Jackaroo for a few months. Then, due to the drought and flooding, she lost a fair bit of weight, so I’ve been trying to feed her up for the past few months. She’s still got some weight to put on but is looking a lot better! So on Thursday, I took her down to the campdraft ground to work her. A campdraft is an Australian sport where riders cut out a cow and then push it around a course – it’s what I plan to do once Percy is old enough and strong enough to do it. She is only a baby, at 3yrs old. She is the horse I’m laying on in a previous post. When I was walking her around the arena, she stumbled and ended up on her knees. She then took a few bites of grass, and laid down while I was on her. Was very funny! That will show me for teaching a lazy horse to lay down! So I worked her for a while and then went and picked up hay from a property further out.
On Friday I went to the Widgee Mini Music Muster with the Australian Institute of Country Music crew. We interviewed a few artists such as Travis Collins, The Webb Brothers and Graeme Jensen for a podcast that will soon be put together. I am hoping to post the podcast on my blog as well. Country music festivals have the best atmosphere. I fell in love with the atmosphere long before I started liking country music. The people are friendly, and it’s easy to get interviews with the artists. I’ve previously been to festivals to interview artists for the radio show a friend and I used to host. One day I’ll be on stage.. Until then, you’ll have to put up with my ramblings on here. Oh who am I kidding, you guys will be some of the first to hear of my adventures!
On Saturday and Sunday I took Percy mustering on a property not far from us. Jackaroo rode his stallion, Confidence, the first day and then another 3yr old filly, Sardonyx, the next day. We mustered the cattle from the mountain, across the road into another paddock and finally into the old cattle yards there. They haven’t been used for a while, I kept getting my spurs tangled in the chest-high grass and stumbling. Classic gumby Jess (slang for uncoordinated). It can be real rough riding through the bush looking for cattle. Some bits are really densely treed, and you are continually ducking and diving from branches and big fat spider webs. In Australia we call this ‘scrubby country’ or ‘the scrub’ – where all there is are forms of eucalypt trees and weeds like lantana bushes etc. I dodged one spider web yesterday which stretched 2-3m, and had a massive fat-bodied spider in the middle of it. I’m not sure what type of spider it was but they are common in the bush, their webs are actually bright yellow in colour. At least it makes it easier to see them! We certainly are one badass country.
When you spray cattle for buffalo fly, all the flies end up on you! This is only a few compared to what it has been before.
The joys of having good dogs. They keep the cattle following you.
Perserverance and Sardonyx.
The old dairy on the property.
“Bogey!” The dogs cool themselves down in a waterhole.
Jackaroo and his dogs.
In the bush, you rarely have anything other than a barbed wire fence to tie your horse to. These aren’t high-strung show ponies, they know what to do.
When Google-Imaging ‘country and western pop culture’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there is none. I found a picture of a person made to look like roast chicken, a close-up of Homer Simpson’s eye, a unicorn and other non-related images. It is at this point I realise that writing about the changes in country pop culture is going to be more difficult than I thought. I’ll break it down for you (wikka wikka wo-OWW).
If you look at old black and white photos of cowgirls and cowboys, you will notice a few differences. Yes, they still wore button up shirts and jeans, but the jeans were pulled up to their armpits. Even today, many people in the country community – even young people – choose to wear high-waisted jeans. This is generally how you siphon the legit country people from the rest. If you have ever tried riding a horse in hipster jeans you would understand. So it seems that changes in country and western wear are more subtle than other styles. There’s nothing dramatic like going from baggy pants with chains to jeggings (eww) in a decade. However, if you look at old photos of barrel racers (a horse sport) you will notice a huge change. From normal looking station women, to ones that look like their wardrobe has thrown up on them. There’s ‘bling’ everywhere- shirts that you need sunglasses to look at and buckles which were bought, not earned, that could double as dinner plates.
Country music now has a broader range of styles than it used to as well. Though it may have a little less of a tinny twang these days, they often still seem to sing about losing everything to their ex-wives. Yet you still can’t beat some of the older artists like Johnny Cash or Kenny Rogers. Even though Kenny is trying his best not to look like an ‘older artist’… Or maybe the wind just changed when he was doing an impression of a wax model, of himself. I don’t know. All I do know is that he should’ve played The Gambler at least 17 times more at the Gympie Muster last year.
Unlike the movies, country people don’t generally chew tobacco or sunflower seeds and then spit them a tin. Nor are they as dim-witted as often portrayed. Chances are they can out-math you – try counting hundreds of cattle at a time rushing through a gate, or planning materials for kilometres of fencing. So even though their culture may seem a little different to you, at the end of the day, country people are just normal people like you.
I remember when I first heard the saying ‘working like a dog’. I was young, naive and from the city. ‘Work like I dog?’ I’d think, ‘Dogs only laze around, eat and pee on things.’
How my world has changed.
My first introduction to working dogs was when I visited a soon-to-be neighbour’s property, where a handful of collies were tied up to trees around the house. I was told not to pat them… So I went and greeted each personally. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to play with them, and definitely couldn’t understand the rule of not keeping a dog who didn’t earn his keep. Now I do, and have to run, and feed, hoardes of the critters each night.
Some people would have you think dogs who don’t sleep inside and eat scraps off the table are mistreated. Hearing ads from the working dog rescue programs on the tv makes it sound like working dogs are mistreated and unloved. They certainly aren’t desperate for attention, they get to play with lots of other dogs twice a day – numbers of city people pay for their dogs to go to ‘daycare’. These dogs do what they love and were bred to do- work livestock. No heart attacks from being fat old house dogs here, they are athletes and kept in prime working condition.
I’ve been thinking about this all a lot lately since I’ve been looking for an Australian Shepherd puppy. There are few breeders in Australia who actually work their dogs on sheep or cattle. Most seem to be show dogs or house dogs. There are so many rules when purchasing one of these dogs. Some breeders insist that the dog be sold within so many km’s of them, so they can take them back and breed or show them. There are breeding contracts, registration contracts etc. It does my head in! When I buy a dog, I want it to be mine. I want to breed puppies from it if it’s a great worker, I don’t want to send it back to the breeder to show. I just want a dog, a good worker and a friend. Better just stick with collies I guess!
What colour is that in the back of my photo? Is that grass? GREEN grass? For the past 8 months or so, the paddocks have been bare. Then in January the flooding rain came. The grass grew like the clappers! Day 2 of the rain and the grass was longer each time you walked outside. Now look at it! Tall, green, lush grass. Lucky I don’t have to mow the lawn. If I did, I’d just put a mob of horses in the yard. There’s much nicer things to do in this lovely part of the country than mow the grass.
The photos attached are of a property we were going to muster over the weekend. The rains interrupted our plans, unfortunately. Maybe next weekend 🙂
Definition 1 – Noun: Cockatoo. A large crested bird found in Australia, and Indonesia (thanks wiki!). Often found in large flocks in the Australian Outback. There are many different colours and can live up to around 80 years old.
Definition 2 –Noun: Farmer. This started in the early days of European settlement due to the farmers making homes on the edges of permanent waterholes just like the bird of the same name. Variations – ‘Cow Cockie’.
Just a quick one today! The other weekend I went down to the river to check out the water level and damage from the Jan/Feb floods. I took one of the 6 month old collie pups, Opera – named for her Phantom of the Opera shaped white mask on her face. I love dogs. It’s great watching them play. Especially Opera! Down by the river she was digging up shells and throwing them – then catching them. One of the happiest dogs I know. Check out that face!
I wasn’t born into a farming family. Rather in Brisbane – to a bank teller and a boilermaker. I’ve always loved horses though. In fact, I got banned from using the ‘H’ word from a young age. It’s only been the past 6 or so years that I’ve immersed myself into everything country. When I’m interested in something, it consumes every thought. I often plan what I will do when I get a property, what cattle and horses I’d stock, the dogs I’d use and how I’d manage the paddocks.
I know that I can’t do some things, that some farm tasks are beyond my experience or ability (since I have a dicky knee!). However, when it comes to effort and enthusiasm – there’s not too many who would surpass me. Making mistakes is not an option when I start out – however I often end up with a dirty backside! I am usually pretty capable though, and keen to prove myself. If that charging beast is to be blocked, send old Jess. She’s got cajones (apparently it’s Mexican for balls).
A few months ago I visited my parents in the Pilbara, Western Australia. To get home, I had to take 3 flights. The first from Karratha to Perth, the next from Perth to Melbourne, then from Melbourne to Brisbane. Because of problems with the plane, about 25 of us missed our connecting flight from Melbourne to Brisbane. We were put up at a hotel in Melbourne for the night. We were also given free meals at the hotel restaurant for our stay. During dinner I heard a couple of the ladies talking about this girl named Jess, from the same town I was from, and that she had been working on a station. I had been speaking to an Aboriginal ringer on the last flight and wondered if they had overheard. I thought they were talking about me! Turns out they weren’t… I was curious who they were talking about though, and decided to find out.
The next day, we all made our way for our rescheduled flight. I sat down, stuck my nose in a book and waited for the flight to be called. I could just about smell her before I saw her. A girl about the same age came and sat next to me. It was obvious she was the Jess they had been talking about the night before. I introduced myself and we got chatting. Turns out she was working on a sheep station out woop woop. We got talking about working dogs and the likes, until she asked what I do. At that stage, I was hoping my knee would hold up enough to go mustering full time. Her eyes widened when I told her what my plans were. She looked me up and down. From my painted toes, to my plucked eyebrows. Conversation died after that. Apparently the way I looked affected my working ability. Painting my nails made me too prissy, a wannabe, or a rooey bastard if you will (read older posts for definition). Maybe I should’ve walked outside, rolled in some dirt and then sat back down next to her. May have earned some respect then!
Really, the nail polish doesn’t stop me from working… It just hides the red dirt beneath them.
[In my opinion] I am the best co-pilot ever. Is it my continual guide-like commentary of everything we pass? Is it the way I give directions 2 streets too late? Maybe my angelic voice, singing most of the way? Some may call this annoying. I call it a ‘youthful exuberance’. I just loooove driving! Just rattle the keys and I’ll jump in the ute.
The Thursday before easter, Jackaroo and I drove 11hrs from muggy Queensland to freezing Central Western New South Wales. We were heading down to pick up his prized new colt, who I like to call Big Pete. The trip down there was great. Despite having to leave in the early morning, we were both excited to get down to Dubbo, where we had planned to stay the night. It’s amazing how different most of the properties down there are. Most seemed to be sheep properties with long tree-lined driveways, just like you see in the movies. Unlike Queensland where the driveways are lined with rusty old Holdens and obsolete farm machinery! We even passed a property where the 50 or so head of sheep had rugs on! I assume they had fine wool, and the rugs kept it clean (feel free to correct me in the comments if you’re in the know). Apart from laughing while my brother got chased by a ram once, I’ve never had anything to do with sheep. It would be interesting to learn about the animals, and the methods they employ to manage a sheep property. Though I still think I’d prefer cattle! The old shearing sheds look beautiful set in the granite boulder studded countryside. Would be amazing to explore.
As a whole, the New South Wales countryside seems a whole lot neater than its Queensland counterpart. The paddocks are neater, the towns are cuter, the roads are smoother. New South Wales does, however, seem to have the most quirky and seemingly silly names for towns and properties! We passed Wee Waa, Binnaway, Goonoo Goonoo, and my personal favourite – Dunnedo, which is pronounced Dunny-Do (dunny being Aussie slang for the toilet). Childish of me, yes, but as I said earlier – ‘youthful exuberance’. Queensland does have it’s fair share of strange names too. Down the coast from us we have Mt Mee – a place where the locals cop a bit of slack from their choice of residence.
We stayed one night near Dubbo, packed up the new colt the next morning and headed to Tamworth to see some friends. Would’ve been great to be able to have more of a look through the town. Alas, early next morning we had to leave again for home.
After 24hrs of driving – a 2200km round trip – we were exhausted and keen to hop into our own bed and sleep. However, chose to go to the pub instead. Typical Queenslanders.