Juries back – thumbs down

Less than four weeks into our station experience and we decided it wasn’t for us. We were in it for the experience, but when the experience wasn’t proving to be a good one, we saw no point in slogging away at it for pay that worked out to considerably less than the minimum Australian hourly rate. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t in it to earn big money, we weren’t even in it to earn good money, but we had hoped for a pleasant experience for fair money. Neither were evident.

Not all bad though. Station life was something we’d wanted to have a look at,  so we’ve ticked off that box (even if in this case it’s more a big red cross than a tick), at least we’ve had a snap shot look.

Paul managed to get a few more snaps. The cows, although timid in station numbers, are quite beautiful. I’m sure in a very small numbers they’d make gorgeous pets.

Looking healthy and contented.

Looking healthy and contented.

Yum, lip smacking good 'cow lick'.

Yum, lip smacking good ‘cow lick’.

I had always thought the best sunrises and sunsets were evident over oceans, but  we’ve seen some incredible sunrises and sunsets inland. We were treated to some on the station that makes those over the ocean pale in comparison.

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Gorgeous sunrises

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And bright sunsets.

We had decided on Wednesday that we would leave. We were going to see out the week-end but it rained Wednesday afternoon, and with rain comes slippery mud, and with slippery mud, the ringers can’t work. So, work was off for Thursday and Friday. There seemed little point in hanging around, so we waited for the muddy roads to dry out enough to allow a safe and sure exit, and we left.

Leaving.

Leaving.

We’ve been enjoying a few days of down time in Mount Isa, which I’ll tell you about soon. I must say, it’s been a treat to start the days with a lovely ‘lie in’, enjoying a cuppa in bed as we peruse the internet. Yes, we’re back to full speed internet and phone cover – what a pleasure!!

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Long awaited photos

We have today off, so have driven into town so as to be able to catch up with internet things, one of which is a quick a blog update with some photos from the station.

Before I get to those though – Paul’s dad? Last we heard Social Services were trying to get a care package in place for his discharge from Shawside, either last Thursday, or this coming Monday. We’ve asked to be notified. As we haven’t heard anything to the contrary, we’re presuming Social Services didn’t get their act together for Thursday, so we presume dad will be going home tomorrow – but we’re not holding our breath.

Monthly internet gets updated at the station on the 14th of each month, and runs slightly more efficiently for the first couple of weeks following the update. More efficiently, means we can almost guarantee we’ll be able to get emails through at some time during a 24 hour period, but it may mean going on line around 3am when no-one else is on line. After the first two weeks it goes really slow, and for the last few days before this months renewal we couldn’t get anything at all, at any time of day. Our mobile phone doesn’t get any cover at all, so for anyone trying to contact us, please use email, eventually we’ll pick it up.

And now onto some photos:

A few of the 28,000 head of cattle.

A few of the 28,000 head of cattle.

And a few more.

And a few more.

You’ll notice most of the scenery is miles and miles of wide open spaces, baron and brown. But there’s dams and water holes dotted all around, and the Flinders and Norman Rivers that provide water. With the water comes trees, with the trees comes birds – and with water, trees and birds, and no people for miles and miles comes a peace and tranquility that’s almost spiritual.

The murky, but tranquil Flinders river running through the property - croc habitat, so didn't get too close.

The murky, but tranquil Flinders river running through the property – croc habitat, so didn’t get too close.

The wondrous beauty of the Australia outback. But – would I like to live there forever. I appreciate it’s beauty, but it’s a bit too isolated for me for any real length of time.

Now – onto life at the station. Juries still out I’m afraid. I love the job itself and Paul’s okay with what he’s doing. However, we’ve often said we don’t care what we do, as long as we’re doing it for, and with a nice crew. And there in lies the problem.  We’d thought with only a small crew of around 15 all living on the station that there would be a bit of family type atmosphere with a bit of jovial comaradie. It’s not like that at all. There appears to be a big divide between the managers and the crew, and it doesn’t make for a particularly good working and living environment. It’s looking more and more unlikely that I’ll get to say, ‘what a pleasure’, and being a bit hedonistic, we like our pleasure. That doesn’t mean we don’t like the hard work, we don’t mind that at all. We don’t mind the low pay either,  but the atmosphere has to be right. There seems to be an undercurrent here of discontent, sometimes surfacing into full blown battles, between either management and the boys, or the managements off sider and the boys. Everyone’s unhappy, and the atmosphere gets  heavy.  Shame, it could have been good. But for now, we’ll wait and see. It’s still a bit early to make any knee jerk reactions.

A broken record

Another frustrating weekend as we try to deal with the UK Social Services debacle. We don’t mention it much anymore because nothing changes and we just end up sounding like a broken record.

Now though with the technology limitations here at the station, individual emails aren’t feasible, so the best way of letting everyone know what’s happening with Glyn is via the blog.

Dad was transferred from hospital to Shawside a little over two weeks ago. Social Services bi-passed Paul who has Power of Attorney and went straight to Glyn for approval to admit him to what we gather is one of the most expensive care facilities in Oldham. They had Glyn sign a two week contract whilst he was in hospital being treated for pneumonia, a UTI, and resolving delirium with hallucinations. The two week contract expired on Friday and he should have been sent home.

We went into Karumba to stay overnight on Saturday so as to phone him at home. After several unanswered phone calls we called Shawside – he was still there. Paul spoke with him. He sounded ok, but had no idea why he hadn’t been sent home. No-one seems to be informing either him, or us of anything that’s happening.

We phoned back and spoke to the ward matron enquiring as to why he was still there. Apparently after Social Services obtained his consent they dumped him at Shawside and have made no contact since. This isn’t supposed to happen. Shawside, having assessed him found him fit to return home, but with some daily support. They kept trying to make contact with Social Services to arrange a home care package, but Social Services wouldn’t respond. Showing a proper duty of care Shawside felt they had no option but to keep Glyn in rather than sending him home unsupported. Apparently this isn’t an unusual occurance lately and Shawside sound like they they are about as frustrated with Social Services as we are.

So, another sleepless night worrying about what can be done followed by another morning sending emails to the relevant people to try and make sense of it all. This time I’ve located the complaints department for Social Services and have lodged a complaint. I’ve located the Ombudsman for follow up, should that fall on deaf ears, and if all that fails, I’ve found a UK lawyer that specialises in lawsuits against Social Sevices for negligence. An awful path to have to go down, but I think we’re running out of options. Poor Glyn. I just wish there was something we could do to make his life more comfortable. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve – and did!

Not much to report yet on our cattle station experience. We’re both still settling in, and haven’t as yet had a chance to take any photos.

For me, I’m enjoying being back in a kitchen, especially a kitchen as well equiped as this one. The cool room alone is bigger than most commercial kitchens I’ve ever worked in. The only complaint I could make about the equipment is that the oven doesn’t get up to temperature, and in fact sometimes barely gets hot at all. But I have a good electric frypan and a good deep fryer – both of which came to the rescue the other day when the oven went decidedly cool in the middle of my first roast dinner. The next day, the oven was fine again, so I guess it’s a bit temperamental – not unlike myself.

Pauls on a big learning curve, driving a few sorts of machinery he’s never driven before. He’s out in the heat, and still finding his feet, but he thinks he’s going to like it. I can see he’s enjoying being back with boys. The comaradie men at work seem to enjoy.

Technology, or rather, lack of technology is going to be the hardest thing to take. I’m only able to write this as we have the week end off, so are staying overnight in Karumba. We”ll be catching up with emails while we’re here, and Paul will phone his dad tonight. At the station we don’t have any phone cover at all, and email is appalling. At the beginning of last week we were managing to download emails, but each one was taking around 20 minutes to fully download. By yesterday nothing would come through at all. I believe the Internet at the station is renewed on the 14th of each month though, and runs faster just after renewal, so hopefully we’ll have a couple if trouble free weeks coming up.

We’re both still definitely finding our feet. The money – if converted to an hourly rate is woeful. Neither of us can remember a time when we earned such a low hourly rate. But, then again, we can’t spend anything either, and our keep is included. So, we can’t remember a time when our outgoings have been this low either.

At the end of the day, it won’t be a monetary job worth writing about, but taking incoming and outgoings into consideration it’ll even out ok. The biggest thing for us is that at the end of our days – when we’re looking back over our road travelled, it’s going to be a Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve experience, that we will be able say,  yes we took that opportunity, we did that! One of life’s little experiences that will have helped us live a full, rich life, and that’s what’s it’s all about.

Juries still out though as to whether or not we can actually say, ‘what a pleasure’. Watch the space – I think it’s coming….

The work adventure begins

What a learning curve – what an awakening….

This will be just a brief introduction into the initial stages of life for us on the cattle station. We haven’t had time yet to take any photos. Hopefully by our next weekend off ( which I think will be next week-end) we’ll have photos, and a better idea of whether we’re coming or going. I mean that literally. Our settling in, (or should I say my settling in) hasn’t gone that smoothly, enough said…..

I must say, getting up at 5am and working till nearly 8 pm has been a bit of a shock to the system. We haven’t done those sort of hours since we owned the cafe 21 years ago. Not to mention that we haven’t done any work at all for the past two years. So, we are both tired and a bit ‘shell shocked’. But the work will get easier.Our backs and feet will adjust, as will we.

The cattle station is 670,000 acres (yes, my dear UK readers, you’ve read that correctly, 670,000 acres) , and has 28,000 head of cattle. By station standards, Glenore isn’t a big station, but it’s nothing like a James Herriot, Yorkshire cattle farm. There’s a population on the station of around 17, not 17 thousand, not 17 hundred, not even 17 dozen, just 17.

My day starts at approximately 5.15am when i drag myself out of bed to commence breakfast for the station hands. They either come in at 6am or 6.30am. Yippee to the 6.30am starts, I get an extra 1/2 hour in bed. I put cold meats, cheese, bread etc out, and the guys and girls make their own lunch if they’re going to be out for the day. For those remaining near the station house I make morning tea and lunch, feed the chooks and pigs, burn the kitchen rubbish mid morning, clean the kitchen and dining room, and cook dinner. Dinner is at 7pm. Then there’s the after dinner clean up, so my day finishes between 7.30 and 8pm.

Once I’ve settled in, I’ll get time off after lunch, but for now I have too much to learn, so by choice, aren’t taken much of a mid afternoon break. Perhaps a mistake though as tiredness makes everything that much harder, and makes me a bit of a cranky pants. But the hardest is now hopefully behind me.

The main thing I have to learn and get comfortable with is how to make big station type cuts of meat resemble the cuts of meat I buy from the supermarket. The head stockman does the kill and initial dissecting. The cuts then get hung firstly in an air conditioned meat room for a few days to set, then the meat trolley is wheeled into the huge cool room. I have a lot to learn, but am looking forward to learning it.

Paul has been out with the Borerunner doing something with solar panels to operate the pumps and bores. Apparently there’s water provided at distances of no more than a 6km walk for any of the cattle, as 6 kms is the optimum amount of distance cattle should be travelling in any one day. Next week though I think he’s going to be delivering cattle lick – we gather that’s some sort of food supplement booster. He’s hoping he doesn’t get lost. There’s a big map of the station with all areas on the station named and posted in the map. Only trouble is, when you get to a place it’s not signposted. Apparently all clear to the station hands, but to greenhorns like us, about as clear as mud. His truck will have a two way, and he’ll have water, so should he get lost, I’m sure he’ll get found again.

We have very little in the way of Internet at the station, and no mobile phone coverage. So emails sent and received are very hit and miss, as are blog posts. This post is only able to be posted because we’ve come into town, almost a 300km round trip.

Keep watching this space, hopefully the next blog will have photos, and hopefully we’ll have settled into the rhythm of station life and be enjoying the experience. Hopefully I’ll be finishing off with, ‘what a pleasure’.