Bridge Over Untroubled Waters

All is well on the stock route, Jackaroo sent me these photos last night. They’re currently stuck in a stock reserve for a couple of days while, one again, mobs ahead sort themselves up. Normally you have to move 10kms per day along the stock route, so a stock reserve is a designated area where you can rest your cattle for a day or two. It has water there, but no cattle yards there. This one that they are in at the moment, is fenced on two sides, with a road and the river as a natural boundary.

The cattle moved really well over the bridges apparently. As you can see in the first photo, when working cattle, you push smaller sections at a time rather than try to push the whole mob at once. If you are trying to guide more than a handful of cattle into yards or over a bridge, pushing the whole mob won’t work as you don’t have control over the front. The front could head off to one side or plant themselves in one spot, sending the middle of the mob back around you. It’s hard to explain, but there really is an art to working cattle – it can be tough!

I’ve also attached a photo of ‘Kitty’, the cat that thinks he’s a horse, walking along the old cattle yards at home last night – since I have nothing too interesting to say haha!

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A horseman pushes cattle across a bridge.
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Cattle take a drink before they move on.
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And this is the best photo I can offer from my time at home. Lol!

Latest pics from the stock route.

I have got a couple more pics to show you! Jackaroo sent these yesterday. Storm got himself lost the other day and spent the night at the yards, back up the trail a little bit. Luckily, Jackaroo found him the next day.

He had few stories to tell, it’s been pretty slow going so far. However, he did mention how stupid some people can be around mobs of cattle and horses on the road. Any horse rider will know, if you’ve ridden on the road, some people just don’t understand how dangerous it is when they screech past you, or slam on their brakes just before they get to you. Make sure you take it easy on the road with horses and cattle. For your safety, and for the riders.

On a positive note though, Jackaroo was telling me that some older man drove up to them when they were stopped onto the side of the road and offered him a Country Life newspaper. Unfortunately, Jackaroo was on a young horse and it mightn’t have ended well if he opened the newspaper up while riding him! Still, it’s nice to see that there’s good people out there.

Sunset on the stock route.
Sunset on the stock route.
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The collies settle in for the night. From the left, four are ours – Storm, Zyrtec, Edge and Gemma.

Jackaroos Only

Hi everyone. I received these photos from Jackaroo yesterday. They have been stuck in the same area for a few days now, and will be for a couple more while they wait for a big enough gap between them and the mob ahead. (You can read more about the history-making drove here). Having such large groups of cattle moving down the stock route, food is becoming scarce. So they are trying to create bigger gaps between the cattle. Not that it probably makes much difference since we’re currently in a bit of a drought! Then again, when isn’t Australia in a drought? It’s either flooding or dusty haha!

Anyway, there have been few hiccups along the way, apart from earlier this week when a few horses escaped. The horses are currently having to be hobbled during the night, as the other morning they were found 8kms from camp! Naughty nags. Apparently one of them was my beloved Perseverance. No… That can’t be right!

Enjoy the photos, I hope to have some more photos or stories soon πŸ™‚

The cattle graze as they walk.
The cattle graze as they walk.
Feed time at the yards in Naribri.
Feed time at the yards in Naribri.
Believe it or not there is 2000 head there!
Believe it or not there is 2000 head there!
Morning on the stock route.
Morning on the stock route.
A storm rolls in to camp while the men prepare for the night.
A storm rolls in to camp while the men prepare for the night.
Storm, one of the working collies.
Storm, one of the working collies.
Camp. Definitely a lot more comfortable than back in the day!
Camp. Definitely a lot more comfortable than back in the day!
An electric tape holds the horses for the night.
An electric tape holds the horses for the night.
The horses on their days off travel with the cattle.
The horses on their days off travel with the cattle.
The horses and cattle are tucked in for the night.
The horses and cattle are tucked in for the night.
A drover on his horse.
A drover on his horse.
You have to be prepared for anything, if 2000 head of cattle had spooked at this plane coming in, there would've been some major dramas!
You have to be prepared for anything, if 2000 head of cattle had spooked at this plane coming in, there would’ve been some major dramas!

While the Jack’s Away, the Jill Will Play

Yesterday was a beautiful day, the weather was perfect. A friend and I, her name is Jess too, went for a swim with a couple of horses in the river. It was great fun swimming with the horses and jumping from their backs. I’m a lucky girl to live in an area with such a beautiful natural environment. After we went for a swim we prepared lunch. We had brought a small bbq down to the river with the intention of cooking up a nice bit of steak for lunch. However, since we forgot a lighter and cannot start a fire with sticks, that didn’t quite work out! We ended up just eating ‘rabbit food’ and a couple of neenish tarts yum yum! This is the perfect time of year!

I received some more photos from Jackaroo last night. Am hoping to have them up today or tomorrow – stay tuned!

Jealous Jillaroo – Jackaroo Joins the Largest Drove In Aussie Memory

Something very exciting is happening in eastern Australia at the moment. Well, not for me, I’m stuck at home taking care of the farm. Jackaroo has been lucky enough to be involved in the biggest drove in Australian history. A ‘drove’, is moving cattle/sheep from one place to another, feeding them along the way. They can be very long and hard distances traveled. Often, drovers live on the road, going from one job to the next. Cattle baron Tom Brinkworth has taken advantage of the drought and bad cattle prices by buying 18,000 head of cattle from the ages of 8months to 2yrs old. These cattle are being taken down the TSR (Travelling Stock Route), or ‘The Long Paddock’ to their new properties, some 2500km away (over 1500miles). The herd has been split up into 9 mobs, and are travelling 10km a day. There is about 80km/8days between the different mobs of cattle. There are many stock routes in Australia, but some of these cattle are being taken from Queensland to as far as South Australia. It was estimated that it would cost Tom $1,000,000 to truck the cattle to his property, the same cost as taking them down the stock routes. However, considering it will have taken 6 months or so (and 70 drovers!) to do this, and the cattle are getting fed along the way, by the time the cattle get to their destination, many will be ready to be sold – very smart! Droving is a part of Australian life that has been forgotten by the majority of Australians in recent times. This is evident in many of the routes currently being closed, having cattle or sheep permanently on them, mainly due to drought.

Just the weekend past, Jackaroo and I were packing his stuff and getting the horses ready to go. He has taken 4 horses with him and 5 dogs to help them on their journey. The night before he and his fellow drovers were ready to leave, I was busy sewing reflective jackets for the dogs, so they don’t get hit by cars while the travel the roads. As soon as I get a pic of the dogs in their jackets I’ll share them with you! When I spoke to Jackaroo last, he had arrived in New South Wales, and they were taking care of 2000 cattle. He sent me the photo I have attached to this post. Jackaroo is a man of few words. When I get word of his adventures I will pass them on, since I’m not having any adventures at the moment!

However, on the 23rd of October we will both be heading for the Pilbara in Western Australia, where my family lives and works. I am very excited to show Jackaroo and you how beautiful it is over there in the desert. After we come back, Jackaroo will head back droving again.

2000 head of cattle, and working dog 'Storm' in the foreground.
2000 head of cattle, and working dog ‘Storm’ in the foreground.
Watering the mob.
Watering the mob.

The First Time I Visited a Cattle Station

I was looking through the photos on my phone this weekend, and came across some old photos of a station I visited a while back. It was the first station I ever visited, and is about a 8hr trip from where we live. (Or 10/11hrs depending on whether you get lost… Whoops!)

When I visited, it had been raining for the past few weeks, which meant the roads weren’t always passable. I had to park my car at the closest pub (about 1hr away) so Jackaroo and his mate came and picked me up in one of the station cruisers (Toyota LandCruiser). Jackaroo had already been working on this property as a contract musterer for 6 or 8 weeks, so I jumped at the chance to go visit. It’s not in me to turn down an adventure!

I stayed for a week on a soggy cattle station where the freezing winds bit at whatever skin was left uncovered. For most of the week Jackaroo, the rest of the mustering team and the station hands were unable to work due to the rain. They worked in the shed, building and fixing whatever they could, to pass the time. In case you’re wondering, the difference between ‘contract musterers’ and ‘station hands’ is that mustering is all that contract musterers do. They are called in for 6 or 8 week stints a few times a year to assist with bringing in the thousands of cattle at branding or weaning time. Station hands are full time on the properties, and help out with all farm tasks such as fencing or fixing bores etc. I seemed to have been given the role of camp cook, baking scones and other meals/snacks for the crew. I didn’t mind, I was happy as Larry inside in the warmth, playing guitar and eating butterscotch scones. Station life was easy, I thought. Little did I know…

Anyway, I thought I’d share these photos with you. My favourite is the one where the boys are surfing on the hay bale!

Playing Possum

Jackaroo took me to one of the old sheds the other day for show and tell. There was a big grey possum with beautiful dark eyes looking up at me. I quickly ran inside to cut up some apple to feed it. I wonder if it is a boy or girl, I thought. I guess this answers it! Here is the latest addition to the farm, an adorable little joey holding tight onto it’s mother’s back. I wonder if it’s a boy or girl…

FYI – ‘Playing Possum’ is Aussie slang for ‘faking it’ or ‘pretending’.

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Love and Loss on the Land

Everybody knows that as rewarding as life on the land is, you have to deal with death more often than folks in the city. Whether a dog gets trampled while working cattle, or a horse breaks a leg, there is always a chance something will go wrong.

It is a year ago this month that I lost two of the most loved animals I’ve ever had – both in the same week. Even after a year it is still hard to write about them, let alone talk about them in person. Although I am usually trying to put a funny twist on my adventures, I thought I’d share this story – mainly cause they were so beautiful I just want to share their photos!

Just before Christmas 2011, Jackaroo and my second Christmas together, he took me shopping to get me a Christmas present. After suggesting a couple of things that I wouldn’t mind receiving from him, he decided he didn’t like any of them and we went home empty handed. I was devastated, thinking that I wouldn’t be getting a Christmas present from him. ‘Worst Christmas ever!’, I thought, moping around. I had spent weeks looking for the perfect gift for him. Anyway, when I woke up Christmas morning, he was jollier than I expected. I walk into the kitchen to get some breakfast. Jackaroo walks up to me with his hands behind his back, his eyes sparkling. He passes me a plain envelope. I open it up, inside is a registration certificate for a beautiful little red dun Australian Stock Horse filly that had been born a month earlier on the property. I literally jumped up and down and cried, just about suffocating him with my hugs. She was the most beautiful foal I’d ever seen, and I had spent a lot of time down the paddock just sitting and watching her eat. She was the best present I have ever received and I named her Warratah, after the red native Australian flower. For those of you who have never seen a red dun coloured horse, they are similar to a normal dun in the way that they have the dorsal stripe, darker coloured points and stripes on their legs – but they are red!

Warratah was smart, and I loved hanging out with her down the paddock. When it came time to halter break her, I was very excited! I had high hopes for this little girl. She was in the yards for about a week, getting taught to pick her feet up and tie up without pulling back. After we were satisfied that she and the 7 other 2011 foals were handled enough, we led them down to the improved pasture, so that they could grow big and strong so that one day we would be able to break them in and ride them.

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Warratah, my Christmas present on Christmas Day.
Warratah at about 6 months old.
Warratah at about 6 months old.

A couple of months later, Jackaroo and I went to look at some dogs. They were 3/4 Border Collie and 1/4 Kelpie. As always, they were adorable! We picked up 3 boys – a blue and white for a friend, a black and white pup for Jackaroo and a chocolate tri-colour for me. My pup was a handsome and smart little fella, with one green eye and one blue eye. I’m a sucker for different coloured eyes (even Jackaroo has different coloured eyes)! When we got home I spent days deliberating what to name my pup. One day I was singing the theme song to a tv show that was on when I was a kid – FeralTv. I ended up naming my pup Rattus, after one of the characters. It suited him perfectly, due to his intelligence he was always up to no good and we got along great! I got Rattus when I still lived in town, not on the farm. This was also a time when Jackaroo was working away on cattle stations for stints of 6-8 weeks, coming home for a week and then leaving again. I took him everywhere with me. He helped with the loneliness of living in a town without my family or partner. I taught him many tricks, and by the time Jackaroo came home after the first 8 weeks he could sit, shake, drop, hop up and I could send him off about 10m away from me, make a hoop with my arms and he would leap through them. He was my best friend.

Rattus and I head for a station about 10hrs South West of here.
Rattus and I head for a station about 10hrs South West of here.
My beautiful boy, Rattus.
My beautiful boy, Rattus.

Now for the sad bit… The first tragedy was with Rattus. He was looking off one day, and was off his food. I didn’t think much of it, as with humans, sometimes things just don’t agree with your stomach. The next morning I went outside to check on Rattus. I called and called him, could not find him anywhere. I finally find him, still alive but very weak and bleeding from both ends – which was attracting ants. He tried to hobble over to me and I burst into tears then yelled to Jackaroo, who quickly collected his gun and took Rattus out of my earshot to put him out of his misery. We suspect that he had either eaten some dingo bait or rat bait. Although we had not baited for dingos, the worst trouble is that sometimes birds will pick up a piece of meat that has been baited for dingos and drop it into your yards. The love that he had in his eyes, despite being in so much pain is something that I’ll never get over. RIP Rattus.

A week later, Warratah and her brothers and sisters went through a fence. Being so young, when something spooks them they just float like a flock of birds. All of the foals had a few scratches but only 3 of the 8 were bad enough to require medical attention, and another one which I could handle. Mowgli had cut his leg down to the bone, Upendi had skull showing and a huge gash on her knee and Justice had a chest puncture. Warratah, however, was unable to be fixed. She had slashed her eye in half. It was so sore, and made my eyes water when I looked at her. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t have been worth much as a broodmare, not that I could afford the operation to have her eye anyway. Jackaroo was working away on a station at this time, but I called him for advice and he organised his brother to ‘take care’ of Warratah for me. He took her down the paddock and put her out of her misery. I hid down another paddock, found a nice spot by a dam and cried for hours. I’m very lucky to be building a relationship with another beautiful filly, Perserverence. Warratah will always hold a special part in my heart though. RIP Warratah.

On the Catwalk

I better quickly explain my joke. (Yes I made a funny!) The ‘catwalk’ is a part of many larger cattle yards – mainly saleyards etc where you can walk above the yards checking out the cattle – in one of my last posts you can see one in the photos I took at the sales. I can guarantee you won’t see Elle McPherson walking one of these…

Back to the point… I was browsing through my photos yesterday and came across this photo of me, on one of our mares, Cnedra (aka Neddie – don’t ask me where Cnedra came from!). It was a little while back, and if I remember correctly, we had been looking for some clean skins (unbranded cattle) for hours. This is a terrible picture her, but Neddie is a really beautiful Australian Stock Horse mare. She is currently in foal, due in November, and I can’t wait to see how her foal turns out. I’ll definitely be putting photos up of the foals later in the year!

Anyway, I thought I’d share this photo as it seems some of you like these glimpses into my world. Especially since I follow a fair few equine blogs – some of the pictures I see of manicured horses, and their equally manicured riders put me to shame! When you’re working on a station, or out mustering cattle there isn’t much style about it, just comfort. This photo of me is actually pretty good compared to the other things I rock the paddocks in. The shirt, although a hand-me-down from Jackaroo, has no rips in it and isn’t white from sun-bleaching yet, surprisingly, neither are the jeans. Might’ve been trying to dress up a bit, you know for Jackaroo. Haha!

Jillaroo Jess on Neddie
Jillaroo Jess on Neddie, with Gun the blue dog.