Time flies when you’re having fun!

Apparently it’s been two years since I’ve posted on my blog. How horrifying. I thank my loyal followers for still hanging around, and I’m pleased that people still drop by daily to encourage me.

A lot has happened in these two years. I’ve driven tractors for harvest season on one of the southern-most towns of Western Australia, driven road trains and had a ball. I’ve loved and lost love, lived and witnessed too much loss of life.

While I’ve kept my Jillaroo Jess Facebook page going, I felt like a phony writing as ‘Jillaroo’ Jess yet driving trucks. Recently, however, the tables have turned.

I am excited to announce that I have landed a job overseeing a cattle station in the Pilbara region of Australia. Almost a quarter of a million acres of desert located on the beach. Does that sound like paradise to you? It is. If you count the 50 billion flies and 2 snakes who live in the cutlery drawer in our 120yr old stone house.

Stay tuned for grand tales of my truck driving and harvesting adventures, as well as my new adventures working in this incredibly unique and wild corner of the world.

 

Introducing – Kora!

After months of much anticipation, I’ve finally met my new pup! Her name is Kora, and she is a beautiful Border Collie. She came from a Border Collie stud called Mukkerdowns, which is located near Orange in New South Wales. Kora has so much personality. The more time I spend with her, the more I love her. She is around 5months old, I think, I’m yet to find out her birth date. Over the weekend, I took her for a walk down to the creek, which winds itself through the property. On the way down, we came across a small mob of cattle. Kora looked at them and within seconds was trying to run around behind them, before I called her back. We will start her on sheep or calves, so that she doesn’t get hurt for her first time herding. It is amazing how much the instinct is in these dogs, despite the majority of her brothers and sisters being city dogs. When we got to the creek, to my delight, she dove straight into the water. It seems she loves the water as much as I do! She hooned through the water, and mud, taking in every new scent and sight as she could. She rolled in the dirt and leaves on the side of the creeks and dams, each time falling into the water. She makes me laugh!

Then yesterday I took her for a drive down to the river. She swam after me as I floated through the slow-running water. Every time a leaf or stick floated past she would be after it, snapping her jaws as she swam. The funniest bit was when the leaf went underwater – she stuck her head underwater too! I was amazed that she knew to breathe out while underwater. Such a strange dog! Love her to bits! Anyway, I didn’t have long to write much of a story for you, apologies, but enjoy the photos 🙂

Working Dog Fashion

Hi everyone! I am so sorry that it has been so long since I have last posted. Breeding season is always busy on the farm, before and after I go to my full time job, I’m breeding next year’s foals! Well, assisting – I don’t do much. Hah!

I will put up photos of our Western Australian adventures soon, but firstly I thought that I would show you photos that Jackaroo has sent me of some of his dogs in the high-vis jackets I made them. They look great, I am very proud of the effort. In one of my past posts, I wrote about how bad a lot of drivers are around working dogs and cattle. There’s no chance of not seeing these dogs now! I wonder what the cattle think? Enjoy 🙂

Edge
Edge
Gemma and Edge
Gemma and Edge
Gemma
Gemma

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 🙂

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!

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!

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.

Back Outback

Some of you may have read my post on when I went contract mustering at the start of the year. Well not long ago we were called back up North to the station for the next lot of mustering. Minus the backpacker this time though, it was just the boss, Jackaroo, myself and a thousand head of weaners. Unlike last time, where we branded and marked these 1000 head of calves, this time we we weaning them – aka taking them off their mum.

Last time when the backpacker was helping out, he rode one bike, Jackaroo rode one bike and I took the cruiser round the paddocks. This time I was on the bike. As much fun as I had on the bike, I would be a happy Jillaroo if I could just stick to horses! Some properties use bikes and some use horses. It depends on what the owner wants, and what the cattle are used to. Most places you can’t just chop and change when you want. Believe it or not, a certain amount of education goes into cattle when they are weaned. They get taught to obey dogs, bikes or horses.

There was one paddock in particular which previously had a lot of trees felled and just left there. These are quite sizable gum trees that are now just laying in the paddocks. It wasn’t so bad when we went there at the start of the year when we were in drought and the grass was short. This time, the grass was covering the hundreds of logs laying in the grass. Some were small enough for you to hit at speed and bounce over, only 12 inches or so in diameter. Others… Well… I couldn’t see how big they were while I was flying over the handlebars, my apologies.

At one stage we were bringing 400 head of cattle along the fence in this paddock, taking them back to their home. The lead of the mob started to peel off the fence and run for (what they though was) their freedom. Long story short, I (attempted) to race up to turn them around, only to flip my bike 4 different times and eventually break the clutch on the bike. I was so frustrated! It takes a lot to get me angry, but I jumped up and kicked the nearest ant hill. Stupid ant hill. Haha! Next minute, Jackaroo comes hooting over to see if I was ok, and almost stacks it on the same obstacle I did. I better just add – it’s Australia, the animals are almost as crazy as the people. Ant hills are huge out west, rock hard and can be bigger than cars. This one was only a little one at just under half a metre tall and wide. I’ll get some photos next time I see a massive one.

My whole body ached, and that night when I stripped off for a well-deserved shower I could see that both of my legs from top to bottom were a rainbow of ugly, puffy bruises and scratches. Jackaroo got off pretty easily, though when I wasn’t stacking my bike, he was – and eventually ended up breaking the gear stick on his bike. I thought it was great, I got to get out of working on that paddock while I babied his bike home to get fixed by the station caretaker. Score!

I guess we were pretty lucky. No broken bones or worse! As I usually say; if I got a good story out of it, the pain was worth it.