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Penultimate Day

July 20, 2011

group290.jpgSaturdayOur departure day last year was marked by a lashing southerly wet wind blowing out of the Antarctic fridge, forcing us to huddle our farewells to Joy before hitting the road and sliding up the greasy track out of here. No such day to day. A gorgeous sunny, mild morning greets us. Rod has sorted most of the kitchen last evening so we have a head start this morning. Everyone is packed surprisingly quickly, Frank arrives when he said he would and we start rushing about to be finished by nine. The promise is a “shoot” if we are done by then. Read more

Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking

July 17, 2011

lizard2901.jpgFriday

The sun creeps up the wall through the pattern of the window frame shadow and I watch it for twenty minutes before getting up. Andrew has been awake the whole time but remained in his sleeping bag until my feet touched the floor at which point he launched into his new day.  Last night  the “idiot talk” went long into the early hours so there will be some slower starts this morning. Myself included actually. 

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Things That Go Bump in the Night

July 17, 2011

sunrise290.jpgThursday.

Damn. Thursday already. The place is slowly, oh so slowly stirring into life with the soft rumble of the kettle, the scratching whisk as Rod makes up the powdered milk for the day, the vacant slurp of cereal as the first half asleep (actually mostly asleep) crew ease down at the table and start to refuel and the stir of spoons in coffee cups. We have the most gorgeous winter morning. The sky is clear, there is no frost and no wind. Hard to believe it is winter actually. Last year we were treated to three or four degrees of frost each morning which then yielded to fine, clear days. This year the wind has been cutting us up. But this morning we are being thoroughly spoilt. A fine day means we will start with cactus killing. And its all the sweeter for starting with porridge drowned in cream and christened with brown sugar.

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Let’s Do the Time Warp

July 11, 2011

shed290.jpgMonday

Up  at o’dark o’clock. Crystal clear morning, steel coloured sky and fading stars. No frost but the breeze is up. I load up and head out looking for yabbie bait and something for the pot this evening. The search is futile and the team is gathered here at the end of the day cooking vegetable soup! Any protein running around this property managed to get away from me, much to my chagrin. Still, it has been a good day. We spent the morning emptying a time capsule of a shed so we could reorganize it and make more room for various farm implements and resources. This property was purchased in 1893 and there were fragments of  that original purchase scattered through the back of the shed.

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Cactus is Fractus

December 27, 2009

cactus2901.jpgWell, it is fractus (there is one for your Scrabble games) out on Miss Betty’s place, even if you do see it flourishing elsewhere in the state. Over the years prickly pear has been managed quite well and the family property is pretty much free of it. But given she is now managing it on her own a few plants have been creeping back. So part of our efforts in SA were directed at knocking these things off. First drive a hole into each pad and into the trunk of the plant. Just as Chris is doing here. Then fill the hole with undiluted Roundup. Then spray a mark on it – it can get pretty confusing out here and you don’t want to cover old ground. (It is a method a whole lot safer than the original treatment methods which involved boiling an arsenic mixture and letting the fumes drift into the weeds!) More than 200 plants were so treated, much to Miss Betty’s relief.

Apart from overrunning vast amounts of land the cactus spines get into the sheep wool making it a problem to handle come shearing time. In fact some shearers refuse to shear sheep known to be farmed in country with cactus. The spines will penetrate clean through a hand and leather boots are no protection. Hence Chris attacking this plant with a specially crafted spear – it allows him to stand off and drill the holes for the Roundup.

( A little bit of Prickly Pear disaster/success story in NSW here)

A Country Finger

December 26, 2009

driving-finger290.jpgRarely is the gesture of a single finger ever interpreted as anything except someone wishing the worst things to happen to you or your mother. Or both. Regardless of culture, language or age. Except in the country where a single, brief wave of a finger off the steering wheel is understood by rural folk to mean something completely different again. In some respects it is akin a secret handshake.  Read more

Sunrise at Bulyninnie

November 21, 2009

sunrise290.jpgThe hot night does not make for sound sleep and I wake in the dark. Again. It is 0430 but still dark outside, with no hint of light or noise. A little over thirty minutes later I resurface and I can hear the polite chatter of young galahs as they slowly chirrup each other awake. (they get a lot noisier in the evening). I pad out into the early morning and find the outside air fifteen degrees cooler than inside, and crisp and clean. The dust is talcum powder soft and cool under my feet. A pair of Blue Bonnet parrots change branches high up in the gum – I would not have spotted them if they had not moved. The first fly buzzes past, the lone reconnaissance flight preceding the teeming squadrons of them which will appear once the sun jolts them along. It pauses on my naked shoulder and all is quiet and still again. I leave him alone – knocking off one fly is a definition of absolute futility out here. He stands very still, as if anticipating all his busy work later in the day. As the light lifts I start to see the trudging march of sheep coming in single file out of the saltbush, plodding towards the dams and troughs for a drink. They don’t hurry but there is a doggedness of purpose in their step which is not something I usually associate with these dumb animals. But water is everything out here after all.  The sun finally lifts in a flood of silent light and the birds hush, the sheep pause and the fly rotates 180 degrees preparing for launch. The lull is over. In a few hours it will be too hot to stand on this earth and too hot to be doing any work. The signal is up – get on with it or stand down now. We have lots to do out here so I turn to head back to the quarters and find a couple of others standing there in silence too. We grin at each other, recognizing the magic of this time of the day will only fracture if we speak. So we don’t. But get girded for a days work.

South Australia Road Trip

November 8, 2009

day-one-ffbc.jpgIt is way past departure time (0600 was the plan) but everyone needs to be not only upright and breathing but actually awake. So walk in circles, wait for Nick to have his Macca’s delivered then get in cars and drive a kilometre down the road to buy petrol. Then get geographically challenged in the suburbs of Sydney before actually hitting the highway and pointing the car at 1500km of highway. More from here later in the trip – where we are going there is no such thing as www or 3G or anything except Don 10 telephone cable. And there is a blessing in that I am sure. The main crew headed out this morning but two of us are delayed as final exams are sat. Then we are hitting the road and catching everyone tomorrow. Couple more photos below. Read more

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