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.

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Reflections

I’m sitting on the banks of a billabong at Corindi Park typing this. It’s almost 4pm and the birds are starting to come in for the night. This is our third (and last) night at this little oasis, and if this evening is the same as the past two evenings, the next two to three hours will see literally thousands of birds descend to the trees in and around the billabong. After the birds quiet down for the night, the stars come out, and if the birds number in the thousands, the visible stars must quadruple that at least.

What a camp spot - and tonight we have it to ourselves.

What a camp spot – and tonight we have it to ourselves.

Corindi Park is a private property of 22 acres. The owners obviously love and care for their property very much, and encourage a multitude of fauna to share their land. There’s several billabongs on the property, some with small water lilies and others with big lily blooms amongst the lily pads. Sitting outside our caravan as the sun goes down, watching the wading birds bobbing on top and around the lily pads, and listening to the evening bird song grow in volume as the visiting birds settle in for the night will make a lasting memory.

Roos sharing our camping space - check out the joey in the pouch.

Roos sharing our camping space – check out the joey in the pouch.

The billabong is so still, allowing reflections in the water to shine clearly.

Silver trunked trees surrounding our billabong.

Silver trunked trees surrounding our billabong.

Like a mirror.

Like a mirror.

The sun rises over the water hole opposite our caravan in the morning. In the afternoon as the sun sinks behind our van, the dying rays light up the trees giving them an orange glow that rivals the prettiest of autumn colours.

The setting sun reflecting on the trees.

The setting sun reflecting on the trees.

Today, we drove from here to Elland near Grafton and visited Abbey. Abbey is the gorgeous red heeler whom we had the pleasure of looking after along with her canine friend Riley, 22 cows, Charlie the rooster and his little harem of chooks, and several wild birds and parrots. For those of you who have been following this blog, you may remember our 6 – 7 weeks on the hobby farm. We remember it well, it was the stand out high-light of our first year on the road. Sadly, only Abbey remains of the two dogs and the chooks. It was around 120km round trip to see Abbey, testament to how special a dog she is. We wondered if she would remember us as clearly as we remember her. I think she did.

Remember Abbey.

Remember Abbey.

Both the hobby farm at Elland with the happiest domesticated animals i’ve ever seen, and this gorgeous property causes one to reflect on life in cities as opposed to life in both the oasis of Corindi Park, and the Nirvana at Elland. What comes to mind are words similar to those in the song by Dianna Ross, ‘Reflections of, the way life used to be’, or in this case, ‘Reflections of, the way life aught to be.’ Cares and worries have no place here, and one can feel their worries drifting away and being replaced by the most amazing feelings of peace.

We are so grateful that the owners of these two properties have allowed us the privilege of having a small taste of their little patches of paradise.

Free camping, and Koalas

Our stay in Robe ended up only being a one nighter. We were awoken around 2 this morning by the loudest clap of thunder and the most electric sounding bolt of lightening I’ve ever heard. Both struck at once, so I guess that means the storm was exactly overhead. For the next couple of hours the rain, thunder, lightening and wind was almost constant, and I don’t know how the awning managed to remain attached. The caravan felt like a small boat at sea in a storm, and I lay awake wondering if we were going to be capsized.

Morning came, and everything had remained in tact, apart from some towels which had blown to the ground and were sodden. It looked like the rain was in for the day, in which case we would have either been confined to the inside of the caravan or wandering the retail centre of town. We decided instead to move on a day earlier than planned. Robe is definitely on the agenda though for a return trip.

It was still wet and dismal as we headed through Mount Gambier so we didn’t stop to look at the Blue Lake there. It’s apparently amazing, so another place to see on our next trip to the area.

We’re now free camping in a lovely wooded area near Fitzroy River (Victoria), 25 kms north east of Portland. We pulled in and the rain stopped. After three months of caravan parks, it’s sheer bliss. We can hear the birds, the nearest campers to us are at least 20 metres away, and the nearest to them would be at least couple of hundred metres further away. Theres not a screaming child or scooter in sight. We’re happy. Mental note to myself: We must take advantage of more free camp spots, they’re good for the budget, but even better for the soul.

Free camping - the road less travelled.

Free camping – the road less travelled.

We made ourselves a coffee and then went for a walk. The smell of gums here is amazing. A few hundred metres up the track, a fellow camper told us there are Koalas around, so back we came for our camera. He was right. We found four, each one looking sleepily down in on us as we took some lovely snaps. Apparently it’s mating season, so come night time we’ll likely be kept awake by their mating antics.

What a cutie.

What a cutie.

Sleepyhead.

Sleepyhead.

Being from Western Australia where there aren’t any Koalas in the wild, it’s exciting to finally come across some. We’ve seen road signs warning of their presence, which has had me craning my neck out the car window to try and catch a glimse of one. Apart from one that caused a traffic hold up as it crossed the road a few car lengths in front of us, these are the first we’ve spotted, so we’re thrilled. If they keep us awake at night I don’t think we’ll mind in the least.

Leaving Grafton

The paperwork for our wheat silo jobs has held up our start date, so we were able to extend our time on the farm by a few days. Currently, we’re still not sure when we’re going to be starting, but have agreed to get there around the end of next week. The site we’re going to need us to start sooner rather than later, but head office (who doesn’t have to face the farmers) is dragging it’s heals with the paperwork. The idea is that if we’re there, the site managers can then try and nudge head office along. So, we’re now set to leave our lovely little farm on Tuesday morning.

Paul is thrilled that he has managed to get several of the cows eating fresh picked grass out of his hand. We’ve now been here long enough to start giving some of the cows names. So far we have Doe Eyes, Short Horns, Long Horns, and Blue (the four red cows). The two small brown cows we’ve called Murray 1 and Murray 2 – that’s because they’re both of the breed called Murrays I believe. The blacks are harder to identify with the exception of, Testie (so named because he has a huge growth that resembles, you guessed it, a rather large testicle), and the only female is, Missie.

Murray 1 and Short Horns enjoying a hand fill of lush grass.

Murray 1 and Short Horns enjoying a hand full of lush grass.

Short Horns enjoying a bit of a pat.

Short Horns enjoying a bit of a pat.

Sharing a kiss.

Sharing a kiss.

Murray 1, Short Horns and Blue all eat now from Paul’s hand. Some of the others do as well, but those three will always come up for a nibble. Short Horns up until today was tentatively letting let Paul give him a bit of neck rub. Today though he actually seemed to be enjoying it and was making his neck accessible without any sign of reticence. Murray 1 and a couple of the others are just starting to warm to him give their neck a bit of a rub.

We’ve been walking out over the farm quite often and have come across two huge rabbit warrens, both of which the dogs are well aware of, unfortunately. They’ve bought home two dead baby rabbits and two dead adult rabbits. We’ve told them off each time, but yesterday we gave them a right good scolding. We managed to catch Riley and severely scolded her while showing her the dead rabbit, and we put her in the old bird coop (which is now the ‘dog house’, for when the dogs need to be put into the ‘dog house’, I believe). Abbey slunk away and hid under our caravan, so she escaped ‘the dog house’, but not a good tongue lashing. They’re both very quiet today, so I think they’re still sulking a bit that their beloved minders got really cross with them. They thought they had us wrapped around their little paws.

I’m sure they’re only doing what comes naturally to dogs though. Riley, being foxy cross, is a natural for heading into the burrows to chase the rabbits out. And I’m sure Abbey gets excited by the thrill of the chase when one makes a run for it. But they do seem to look very guilty when they’ve forgotten themselves and dragged their ‘kill’ home for us to discover. Ratbags.

We’ve loved staying on the farm. It’s been an experience we wouldn’t have missed. So, thank you to Kaye and Paul for letting us have a share of your little piece of paradise. It’s only been for a short time, but the joy has been immense.

Animals certainly are ‘beautiful people’.

We’re still at the farm in Elland, and aren’t in any hurry for it to come to an end.

We use the kitchen and laundry in the house, but we sleep in the granny flat Most of our meals we eat out on the patio where the chickens, wild birds and dogs continue to entertain us throughout the day.

Some of the animals have real stand out personalities. Izzy, the smallest of the chooks is such a plucky little bird, (at the moment almost literally.) She’s the leader of the chooks in getting up to mischief, and we’re constantly chasing her out of the garden. She knows she’s not supposed to be there too. When she’s scratching in the garden, we only have to stand up and she’s running for her life. When she’s not in the garden, if we stand up, she’s more inclined to follow us to see if we have any tit bits on offer. She also taunts the dogs sometimes by approaching their food bowls. The dogs seem to have no problems with the chooks sharing their water bowl, and will happily share breakfast on the lawn with all the birds. Their food bowls though are seemingly, strictly out of bounds, again, something Izzy seems to know only too well.

But she does taunt them. She watches them as she sneaks up to their bowls, and one move from them and she’s again running for her life. Hence the almost literally, ‘plucked chook’, at the moment, I think she was a little too slow on one occasion, but that was before we arrived, (and I’m only guessing that’s how it would have come about).  Her feathers are now growing back, but plucky little thing hasn’t learnt any lessons. She continues to taunt the dogs. I fear one day she’ll get a little more than ‘plucking’!

The dogs too are so funny. They love to walk up the driveway and back with us, which we usually do twice a day (1.4 kms in total each walk). Riley, the little foxy generally seems to be ‘boss dog’, and Abbey doesn’t seem to have any problems with her designated place – most of the time! Abbey won’t touch either food bowl until Riley’s had a nibble. So, Riley nibbles first at one bowl with Abbey watching, then after a few minutes moves to other bowl. Only then will Abbey start to eat. They have a larger sized kennel, which was obviously meant for Abbey, and a slightly smaller one for Riley. Riley, though takes her pick, which varies from day to day. If Riley takes possession of the larger kennel, Abbey will squeeze into the smaller one without any complaint.

Abbey always carries a soccer ball when she walks with us, which Paul kicks for her to chase. And this is the only time where it seems Abbey becomes, ‘she who must be obeyed’. Riley’s clearly not allowed to participate in the game in any way. It’s fun to watch them though when Riley decides to put up a challenge. Abbey drags her by the ear, or the front leg, or the back leg, or the collar and neck away from the ball. Once Riley realises she doesn’t stand a chance with the ball, she’ll go and pick up a pine cone to carry. If she only carries, it seems to be allowable, but sometimes she drops it at our feet obviously intent on us throwing it for her. Then it’s on again. Mind you, Riley seems to love every minute of it, and just like Izzy the chook, she knows when and how to taunt Abbey to get the best reaction. I suspect the ball is Abbey’s game, and for Riley the game is to taunt her pretending she’s trying to get in on the act.

Abbey with her ball.

Abbey with her ball.

Having a friendly spat.

Having a friendly spat.

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So, the animals continue to amuse us. There’s a lot more here though than the animals keeping us contented and happy. I could write a book….. From early morning with the sunrise chasing the mist from the valley, to sunset with the sun again bringing a special life to the valley as it drops in the western sky – it’s all shear magic, and the type of place that must inspire poetry. This chapter in our ‘book of life’ will be always remembered fondly.

Early morning mist over the valley.

Early morning mist over the valley.

Housesitting a hobby farm

We’re now house/farm sitting in Elland on 120 acres, and I can tell you, dreams are on fire – what an inspiring experience so far. There’s a property similar in size nearby, with a nice house and outbuildings on the market for just over $500,000, so by WA standards, very affordable. But that’ll have to wait for another life-time, we already have other plans for this life-time. The dreams are pleasant enough though, and our short month stint here so far feels like it’s going to be an unmissable experience.

King Parrots.

King Parrots.

There are 21 cows which we feed, three chooks and a stunning rooster than looks out for them, a kelpie cross and a foxy cross. Along with the domesticated animals, are dozens of wild birds, king parrots, lorrikeets, magpies, butcher birds, babblers, white cockatoos, pink and grey galahs, and honey eaters. There are four bird feeders for all the wild birds in a huge poinsianna near the patio.

Charlie the Rooster

Charlie the Rooster

There’s a big fire pit behind the old shearing sheds with seats around it for night time fires. We lit a fire there our first night here and watched a full moon rise over the trees, and watched the stars come out while we slurped back a couple of bottles of red. More than we usually drink, but the atmosphere seemed to demand it, and that’s the story we’re sticking too…. A story we’ll be sure to repeat several more times too, I’m sure.

The dogs sat next to us, and it just felt like a ‘me and my dog’, experience. It felt like the way life’s supposed to be.

Each morning a small amount of dog sausage is cut up and scattered along the grass for the dogs, chooks, magpies and butcher birds. They all forage together in relative harmony for their breakfast.

The menagerie breakfasting on the lawn.

The menagerie breakfasting on the lawn.

The dogs appear to want to stay near us for the morning, but in the afternoon they take themselves off around the farm for a ramble. Abbey, the kelpie seems to like to go for a daily swim in one of the many dams on the property and always comes back wet for her dinner. They’re probably the healthiest and most content dogs I’ve ever encountered. But then, why wouldn’t they be, living the ‘life to Riley’. Which incidentally is the name of the foxy cross – Riley, after the type of life they owners knew she’d be living.

Abbey and Riley

Abbey and Riley