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.
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.
Although very clear, the pool was too deep to see the bottom.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!