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 with my bloke Ben. 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.
A young Jillaroo and I sitting on our bull buggies.
Driving a road train home from up north.
Standing on a bike, on a ute, on a mountain in Western Australia.
It seems like the majority of my posts are apologising for not posting often. Once again – I’m sorry. I promise I’ll make it up to you though!
Life is crazy in the Pilbara. I’ve now been here for 4 months and am loving it. It’s certainly an adjustment, but I do not regret coming over one little bit. A lot of people who live here are from the city and just come for the work. I often hear complaints on how it is so remote and has little to offer in the way of shops. However, to me it’s the big smoke! The last place I lived in had one pub and a post office/general store. What could be better than swimming, snorkelling and fishing in crystal clear waters, adventuring by 4wd to remote gorges and exploring this rugged countryside? I am a lucky girl!
A couple of weeks ago there was a ‘rodeo’ themed night at one of the pubs around here. They had been advertising it for weeks, saying that everyone was going to dress up and that there was a mechanical bull going to be there. I thought “You beauty! I get to wear normal clothes again!”
How wrong I was.
I pulled on my favourite Ariat boots, my ‘good’ wrangler shirt, my silver buckled belt and donned my dirty old Akubra – which has oil stains on it from hitting my head in the cattle yards so many times. However, I figured this wasn’t exactly a country town, so I wore some shorts to jazz things up. I walked into the pub. A hundred faces turned to stare at me – the only one dressed up. Here was Jess in her boots and hat, sticking out like a sore thumb, among the other women with their coiffed hair and heels. Not even the bar staff were dressed up! Lesser cowgirls would’ve turned around and gone home, but I saw this as a challenge! The few country people that were there came up to me for a chat. The most notable was a bull rider (who commended me on my mechanical bull riding, I must add), and a man in an RM Williams shirt with a very impressive mullet!
All in all, it was a great night, and I didn’t have to buy a drink the whole time… Challenge completed.
There’s not too many more Australian pastimes than exploring our beautiful country by 4wd. Every weekend, there is a trail fourbies (as we call them in Aus!) heading off into the parks and beaches in my region. This weekend it was Bean (of Adventures Of A Bean) and I, in ‘Heidi’, my blue Holden Rodeo – heading for Conondale National Park. Conondale National Park is 35,500 hectares, which is over 87,700 acres, and near Kenilworth Qld. I would definitely recommend you visit there if you are in the area!
Specifically, we were heading for Booloumba Falls, which is an amazing set of waterfalls and gorgeous gorges winding their way through the park. Despite the drought, the falls were still flowing well and the water was clear and cold. I have tried several times to get to the falls, but the track can be cut when it rains due to landslides. The track is for 4wd’s only as it steep and very rough in spots. Driving through the park is great fun though, and you can see and hear the wildlife as we go. The place was filled with the songs of Bell Birds, and you’d often see a Goanna or Lace Monitor scuttle through the leaf litter.
Bean and I spent hours out there, exploring and swimming in the different falls. We took lots of photos – enjoy!
Conondale National Park.
Our new home.
The ‘Bread Knife’ rock formation, and the pool we climbed down to.
One of MANY waterfalls.
It was a careful climb down.
Bean peruses our swimming hole.
At the top of the largest waterfall. I would guess it was 20-30m high.
Although very clear, the pool was too deep to see the bottom.
From the other side of the pool
We used this waterfall as a slide, was great fun!
Jillaroo Jess at the top of the biggest waterfall.
After feeding all the animals on the farm one afternoon recently, Jackaroo called me over to the pigeon cage. I looked inside and saw a big python curled up, with a suspiciously fat stomach. I quickly ran inside to get an old pillow case which we could use to put the snake in. Jackaroo could tell that it was a boy by the pattern on his scales. Since he was such a beautiful snake, and not overly poisonous, we decided to relocate it. It took a long time to get him out of the cage as he had barricaded himself between the roof and the chicken wire. He snapped at us as we tried to pull him out from his hiding spot. Since he had eaten one of our pigeons, though, he found it quite hard to get away – his stomach was just too round. Unfortunately, when snakes are stressed, their bowels are too… and therefore our noses. Man, snakes are putrid! I have attached a photo of me releasing the snake about 10 minutes down the road. You can see I’m trying to hold it away from my body so I didn’t get covered in his poo, as he was trying to wrap around my arm. He was about 6ft long, which is a fair size, but this species can grow over 10ft long!
This year, we only have had 3 Australian Stock Horse foals born on the property. It’s definitely quality over quantity though, they are beautiful. First born was a flashy chestnut colt with a big baldy face (lots of white) and 3 white socks who we named Coolrdige Kidman – after a famous Australian cattle baron. Next, a lovely little bay filly with a bucket load of attitude named Coolridge Karijini – a beautiful desert in Western Australia. Finally, a leggy black filly called Coolridge Khaleesi – I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones!
In case anyone is interested in Australian Stock Horses, and follows their breeding, all three are by Kooloombah Confidence, a very handsome red dun stallion. Confidence, and all of the mares are bred to Campdraft, which is an Australian horse sport with cattle, where you must first cut out a beast in the ‘camp’, then take it out into the arena and bend it around two posts and through a gate. These foals all have great breeding and we are looking forward to seeing their natural ability under saddle. I’m currently in the process of building a website for our horses and will have it finished in the coming months. Once breeding season is over I’ll have more time to get things happening.
Have a look at the photos attached, aren’t they just beautiful? I love coming home and watching the foals playing in the cool twilight. Enjoy the photos – I’d be jealous if I were you…
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!
A horseman pushes cattle across a bridge.
Cattle take a drink before they move on.
And this is the best photo I can offer from my time at home. Lol!
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.
The collies settle in for the night. From the left, four are ours – Storm, Zyrtec, Edge and Gemma.