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.

 

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

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.

Nail Polish Hinders Performance?

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.

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Dirt and blood from cutting calves on a station in Central Queensland. I wear gloves most of the time, but not while cutting!

Professional Ringer

So she’s back – from outer space!

Ok, so not quite outer space, but near enough! Working on two stations in Central Queensland without phone reception made it a… quiet time. I often call my phone my ‘pacemaker’ as, like most of this generation, it is on me at all times. It was all worth it though, and since I’ve now been paid from TWO different companies, I’m officially a professional ringer. I wonder if I can get some sort of badge for that? Heh. Heh.

It was a long trip to the first station. What should’ve taken 8hrs, took 14hrs or so. Thanks to the recent floods we’ve experienced in Queensland, the roads were very damaged and we had to do many detours, and saw many a flooded, mosquito infested dead end. Eventually though, we got to the station. We unpacked, watered the 5 working dogs, and finally got into bed around midnight. We were up at 6 the next morning. Oh the humanity. Have you ever seen a zombie in wranglers and an Acubra? I have. She was looking back at me through the mirror that morning. Lucky I didn’t have to go shopping, they would’ve asked to check the bags under my eyes for stolen goods, they were that big! I must confess, I do quite enjoy/require a sleep in.

The next morning; got dragged out of bed by Jackaroo. Moped around feeling sorry for myself. Ate some toast with just butter, since we forgot the Vegemite. Met the boss – ‘Old Mate’ we shall call him. Old mate seemed nice enough. He had picked up an English backpacker the day before, a similar age to us, and funny – especially when he swore with his posh-ish accent. It was hard not to laugh when he swore at the ‘fooking cattle’! We then set out into the paddocks to bring the cattle in from the cooler. The day before they had been mustered by chopper, and left in smaller paddocks for us to push back to the main yards. Though we generally muster on horses, this property only used motorbikes and the landcruiser to muster. Having not been experienced on a bike, I was hooning around in the cruiser hollering out at cattle to move their fat behinds. After many hours, we finally got the cattle to the yards, and drafted some of them them. We needed to separate the calves from their mothers so we could brand, castrate etc. It was dusty work pushing cattle around the yards. It was such an unladylike relief to be able to *ahem* remove the caked dirt from inside my nose. Finished drafting the cattle, and finished up for the day. Was late in the afternoon, and we cleaned up had some tea and slept like babies!

Damn gurrrrl. They some fine legs.
Damn gurrrrl. They some fine legs.

Slightly brighter after a good night’s sleep. Wake up, breakfast, let dogs out for a run. Head down to yards early to start working through the calves. We finished drafting the rest and then branded, castrated, dehorned, earmarked and needled these little fellas. Was hot, and hard work. I do believe we processed about 350 calves that day, just with old mate, backpacker, Jackaroo and myself. That day I got kicked by a cow on my left leg. I hope that beast ends up as mince. Another beast pushed through a gate that hadn’t been locked properly. It slammed against my side. Hello more bruises. Once we’d finished the cattle that day, Jackaroo and I went to go check fences that had been affected by the floods – on the bikes! I learnt how to ride one that afternoon – and how to fall off. Add another bruise to my already black and blue legs. I don’t mind. The brusies have good stories!

The rest of the time at that property was the same. Mustered one day, processed the cattle the next. By the end of the week, we had branded almost 1000 calves. After holding the backleg of the calves/weaners for old mate to castrate them, I must say. The guns are looking amazing. Des and Troy are back. Ok so maybe my right arm is a lot better than the left… That’s just from working on this property, I promise!

After a week, we move onto another property nearby for just a couple of days. We mustered on 4-wheelers this time! Much better than the 2-wheelers like on the last property! So we drafted and branded etc then took the cattle back to the yards. I even got to cut a few (now) steers! It was an exciting moment for me. Felt like it was a milestone in my life.

Finally we headed home. Was great to be able to sleep in our own bed, not in the swags. Was also AMAZING to have a nice clean hot shower, and clean under my nails! Although it was hot and hard work, I loved it, and wish I could do it full time. Alas, I cannot. Lucky for you lot, otherwise my stories would be even more few and far between! Where will my adventures take me next time…

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Our Land of Flooding Plains

Once again, the Gymp has been inundated with cloud tears. The river swelled up and flooded the town and approximately 130 homes and businesses. After 4 days without electricity, we just got it back. How did people back in the old days survive?! Though it was quite a novelty showering like a hippie – lathering up with soap in the rain, then having a bucket of water tipped over you!

On Saturday, we headed to the local pub in the courtesy bus for the Australia Day festivities at about noon. When I was ready to go home, my jackaroo borrowed a ute to drop me 2kms home. In 6 or 7 hours the water had risen to a height which was unable to be passed in this ute. I then had to hang out at the pub until closing time – thinking we would have to stay at someone else’s place. Let me reiterate – I was stuck at a pub for 12 hours. 12 HOURS. Tyra Banks would’ve been scared of my fierce! Hehe. Anyway, luckily just before the pub closed, someone turned up in a cruiser, so we chugged our way through the flood waters. (I am not encouraging driving through flood waters. There was 10yrs of flood driving experience behind the wheel).

The waters have almost receded, and the clean ups have begun. The grass seems to be growing before our eyes! Which is good, as the horses are look very hungry! The dogs love the rain though, especially when they plant their muddy noses or paws on my clean work skirts. I’m sure I get some looks sometimes, with foot prints on my uniform, or lucerne in my hair.. Ah the trials of being a bumpkin. Wouldn’t change it though! 🙂

I’m hoping to have some more interesting stories for you lot soon. This weekend I will be heading up to Middlemount, QLD, to muster on two different stations. It’s been postponed for a few weeks due to the rain, but finally we’re going! I’m so excited! Even bought a few new work shirts to go. How’s this?: I tell jackaroo that there’s some pretty work shirts at Saddleworld for sale – $40ea. (I know they are pricey, but they were so pretty for work shirts! :D). He looks at me with raised eyebrows.. “What? As if you’d pay $40 for a work shirt.” I slink away.. Feeling slightly chastised for being so easily conned by pretty colours.. The next day I go and have a look at St Vinnies and Red Cross. I pick up 2 work shirts for $12, barely worn! BarGOOOOON! I take my proud purchases back to show jackaroo. “Eww, you’re going to wear other people’s old shirts?”. Men, hey? *shrugs* 🙂 xx

Our Flooded Road
Not quite at the peak of the flood – somewhere under there lies our road.

Hello, I’m Mute.

Wow, been a long time since I’ve written something! My deepest, heartfelt apologies for the emptiness I have caused you all to feel.

A lot has happened lately, from injured horses, to getting a puppy, being sick.. But by far the worse was the Laryngitis! I lost my voice for 4 days. My own silent hell. Anybody who knows me knows that I can talk under wet cement, so this was a struggle. Unfortunately for my jackaroo, he was working up north for a few weeks and didn’t get to enjoy the silence haha. But he might be home this weekend. Yay! It’s hard being apart for 6 or 8 weeks at a time, but it keeps things interesting. It’s always great when he gets home. It’s like banging your head up against a wall – it feels good when you stop. While he’s been gone I’ve been spending a lot of time with my dog, Pierre. He is a Border Collie and the funniest little thing. I took him, (and a 6-pack), down to the river the other day and he went straight in the water. What a little champ.

Yes.. I realise this blog is a little dull. However, it should get a little more exciting soon, over Christmas we will be breaking in a mob of young horses! I have halter broken, driven and handled them from the ground, but hopefully this year I’ll be able to give a couple their first ride! Also, I will be going on my first mustering job with my jackaroo in January. Will be heading to a station 8hrs north of here to muster and process cattle for a week. So exciting! I wonder if I should take my hair straightener? I’m sure the cattle will feel more comfortable being handled by someone who takes care of themselves, right? Lol.

What are your Christmas traditions? It’s hard when your family lives on both sides of the country! Everyone demands time from you! Means I don’t get to spend Christmas with my fella. Sigh. Got him a genius present too. I wonder what he’s getting me? Apparently it’s expensive… Yay! HAHA. I’m sure you lot will hear about it soon enough…

Anyway. Better keep moving. No rest for the wicked(ly awesome). Ciao for meow 😉

Smile, Pierre!