Life gets busy, don’t it.

Have you ever heard that song, ‘Life gets Tedious, don’t it.’ Well, sometimes I wish for a bit of tedium, or at least a chance to get just a little bored. No such luck – an extra hour or two in a day, or an extra day in the week wouldn’t go astray. Not to mention what I couldn’t do with a second life time…..

Since we returned to our summer house early in September, it feels like we haven’t had time to scratch ourselves. So, what’s been occupying our time:

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Frolicking on the beach

As you know, a big part of our time is now taken up with puppy training, and puppy exercising. We take Mr Tilly to the beach most days. He loves it, and so do we. The beach is like Doggy Heaven to a puppy, and having Tilly with us as we wander along adds an extra dimension to our own walks.

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Raiding the neighbourhood Mulberry tree on the way home from daily beach walk

Then there’s been the garden to organise. We’ve removed half of the front rose garden and have had a guy in to pave that area. To get matching bricks, we removed some of the bricks from the rear paved area, and decided to add a contrasting paving to the back garden. The front garden is almost finished now with its initial tidy up – less garden to maintain, and more space for visitors to park. We’re happy with it.

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More parking space, and less garden. The annuals are planted but aren’t showing yet

The rear garden has now had the contrasting paving added. It’s only been laid for a little more than a week, but that’s been time enough to tell us our choice of contrasting pavers has been a big mistake. The ones we chose are plain coloured and show every little mark.

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New plain coloured paving – big mistake

We’ve already put plans in place for them to go….. but it probably won’t be this summer. One things for sure, by summers end we’re going to be well and truly over our contrasting cream pavers!

Never mind, what’s life without change, and now we can see clearly the solution to the disliked paving is also going to solve another problem we have.

Although we live in a quiet little estate, our house is at the entrance point. Consequently we border busy Bussell Highway with just a wide verge of natives between us and the road noise. We’ve been looking for additional  ways to either block out, or distract from the traffic noise. The wrong paving choice has shown us the way. Our intention now is to remove the pavers so as to extend the garden bed at the side of the shed, and plant the new area densely with bird attracting natives. Hopefully, the bird song will provide a pleasant noise distraction. So, next years garden job is already in the planning stages. We always seem to have a list of jobs waiting…. our own worst enemies as far as cramming goes!

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Paving which will be lifted to make way for a native garden

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Grevilleas to attract the birds, some already planted, and more to come soon

Just like our last dog, Sophie, Mr Tilly is clearly going to try and get himself into any photo we take. It’s not intentional I’m sure. He just wants to see what’s going on, so follows us around like ‘a puppy dog’.

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Just checking to see if anything’s going on

We’ve both commenced a little shared job. We’re cleaning one of the schools in town, doing the primary and pre-primary classes. It’s intense work, but is only for three hours five times a week. We can choose whichever hours suit us, any time between the end of the school day, and the commencement the next school day. Sometimes we clean in the afternoon, and sometimes we go in early the next morning. The flexibility is great, and the money helps our savings stay in tact a bit.

Then there’s the planning – we always have a multitude of plans going on. Our plans are usually lose and flexible, but extent for many years to come. Currently underway is our plans for next winter’s trip, and an updated rig to make it in. Yes, we’re marketing our much loved Travelhome. It’s a slow market, so I don’t know how long it’ll take us to find a buyer, but when we do we’ll most likely replace both our cars with just one, and it’ll be one I’m happy to drive as well. The manual Hi-lux really is very much ‘a man’s car’, so we’re thinking most likely a Ford Everest will replace it, and a smaller, normal type of caravan will replace the Travelhome.

So, that’s a bit about what we’ve been doing. Paul mentioned this morning that we’ve been back for two months now, and as yet he hasn’t had a chance to take his bike out once. Yes, we’d love to have a chance to get just a little bit bored. There’s always so much to do – the puppy, the garden, the beach, catching up with friends, and making plans for the future; we enjoy it all….. A lot of the little pleasures that make for a busy, busy life.

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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!!

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.

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’.

Yeh hah, the news we’ve been waiting for.

I don’t know if any of you remember what happened when we last applied for work on a cattle station,. What an experience that was. The agency we went through virtually told me the cooks job at Anna Creek was mine, and the manager would phone and confirm it within a few days. That was more than two years ago – and I’m still waiting. Then the mad dash from the NT to the Qld/NT border for similar station jobs, only to be told by email the day we arrived they’d employed someone else literally hours before we arrived. After which getting employment on a cattle station seemed like a bad idea.

BUT, about a month or more ago I put a short advert in the Grey Nomads on line magazine asking for work for Paul and I and briefly outlining our skills. I didn’t really expect to get anything worthwhile from it. Least of all did I expect a call from a cattle station. We’d no sooner arrived at Mataranka when we returned from a swim to find a message on the phone from a cattle station.

A few days later, and the necessary checks have been completed, and we’re packed up and ready to move off at first light tomorrow, heading back up the road a bit to Queensland and up to the Gulf of Carpentaria. It’s times like this the old Aussie Country Mile comes into play – the ‘just up the road a bit. It’s actually 1700 kms up the road – but that’s nothing in the scheme of things in this big, vast, wonderful country of ours. In fact we’ll leave Mataranka and turn onto the main highway after around three kms. Then we only turn two more corners I think before we turn into the station. I think we’ll hit a couple of sets of traffic lights in Mt Isa , but that’s about it for traffic lights. I guess that’s hard for my UK readers to comprehend. Its what gives Dorothea MacKellar’s poem about this big sun burnt country it’s meaning, all the wide open spaces. I love that poem. For those of you not familiar with the poem, please google it, I think it’s called, My Country. It sums up Australia perfectly.

Anyway, details of the jobs are still a bit sketchy. I know I’ll be cooking for around 15. I think Paul is going to be a station hand/handy man. The job will last for the season, and will finish up before the wet season sets in at the end of the year.

We’re both excited. Paul will be pleased to be using some of his life/work skills. I think he actually misses his trade, so I think he’s hoping they’ll be in need of some welding repairs around the property, but even just to be out and getting ‘work dirty’ will be good enough. For me, I’m really excited to be getting back into cooking. And I couldn’t think of anyone better to cook for than appreciative hungry men with good appetites. At least I hope they’ll be appreciative, but I’m sure I’ll win them around once they realise I’m not going to poisen them, and they’re going to bed with a full, contented belly.

If any of you remember a scene from Forest Gump – the one were Bubba is talking about all the different meals made with Shrimp…. That’ll be me in a few months, only it’ll be beef instead of shrimp.

We don’t know the details yet. The station manager will phone us tonight.  I do know it’ll be full on, possibly hard, hot and dusty work for Paul, and possible long days for me. I’m sure my feet will feel it for the first week, but after that, I have no doubt I’ll settle into it well.

Despite  having worked the past 10 – 15 years in the tax office and in office administration, I’ve never felt like an office worker. I’ve always referred to myself as a cook as far as work goes, and I’m really excited to be going back to it. Hopefully it’ll work out well for both us and the station, and as we’re planning to be up in the top end around this time for the next few years, maybe we’ll be invited back. But I’m getting ahead of myself, we’d better wait and see.

One thing I know is, Internet and mobile phone coverage is sketchy there. We’ll endeavour to check each at least weekly, and update the blog when time and technology allows. So, please watch this space…..

Last day working for Viterra

LOL!! check out the

We managed another week or so after my last post, and are finishing up today. Paul’s currently in the middle of his last 11 hour shift, I have a five hour shift this afternoon.

It has been an experience, some good, and some not so good. It’s been pleasant to have seen our bank account change direction for a short time. Compared to the rates of pay we’ve been used to in WA, the pay isn’t great by any means, but we both knew we’d left the good money behind when we left Perth. Anyway, this hasn’t been only about the money, and the small amount we’ve earned, together with being occupied and therefore not able to spend anything, has been better than a ‘poke an eye with a pointed stick,’ that’s for sure.

We have met some lovely people here, and we’ve had a snap shot look at some aspects of crop farming, albeit from the distance of wheat silos. The girls I’ve been predominantly working with in the classy hut are from the town. They’ve all finished school and are going to uni in Adelaide next year, and are working to get the money for that. They’re really nice girls, and clearly demonstrate a town that looks out for it’s people. To all the girls and particularly Ellen, whom I’ve probably worked the most with, it’s been a pleasure!

When asking them if they have any interest in settling down in Pinnaroo, not one of them had any obvious distaste at the thought. They’re all wisely open to going where the future takes them, but they have all enjoyed and appreciate the support they’ve had from the town as they’ve grown up. None of them seem to be ‘busting to leave’, that I can see. That says a lot for Pinnaroo – so Pinnaroo, you can be proud, your children do you justice.

The farmers bringing in their crops have all been friendly and pleasant. Our bosses, Troy and Karen, have also both been really nice. They’re both kind hearted and try their hardest to ensure the work is enough to provide reasonable wages, whilst at the same time trying to get sufficient people to cover shifts, without it being too many people with not enough to do. Unfortunately, the nature of the job is that the latter is hard to avoid. Boredom isn’t usually a feeling I’ll subscribe too, as I can usually find something worthwhile to do. However, this time it’s beaten me, and dare I say it – yes, I’ve been bored.

Would I do it again. Probably not. But for people who want to earn a bit of money on their travels, it’s an easy way to do it. At times the work out on site is hard, but most often I believe it’s not. The weigh bridge and classy hut work is not hard at all. If there were to be three times as many trucks, the work would be enjoyable, and some sites perhaps have that. So, for anyone considering it for short term work, I’d say – give it go. You’ll earn a bit of money, you won’t spend much while you’re working, and driving past wheat silos will never be the same again.

Where to next for us. We considered going up to the Riverlands before heading into Adelaide. But we’re both hanging out for sand and surf. So, we’re heading into Adelaide tomorrow, and can’t wait to get into bathers and feel the sand between our toes. By tomorrow afternoon we’ll have washed most of Pinnaroo’s dust off in the Southern ocean. What doesn’t wash off there will blow away with the sea breeze as we walk off one or two too many delicious blueberry scrolls from the Pinnaroo bakery.