Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It's That Time of Year Again

Christmas approaches once more. All presents have been bought and wrapped. All but two. One is a combined effort between my mother and I and one I am painstakingly cross-stitching for my Nanna so it's guarunteed to be late. All christmas cards have been sent off but two. I've spent plenty of money posting presents off at the post office and spent long periods of time in the parcel queue like the rest of the towns population.
We're gearing up for the Christmas shut down at work by cleaning up everything and getting it all in order ready for the new year while still pouring plenty of concrete.
But as the holidays fall in the Wet Season it comes as no surprise the adventures I have had to endure just to get to and from home every weekend.
Weekend before last I didn't believe for one second the station had as little rain as Damian said there had been as I skidded to a halt at a 90 degree angle to the driveway in the mud. We spent all of Saturday putting out lick supplement for the cattle all over the property. A whole tonne on the station toyota and half a tonne on mine each time... till I got a puncture in the wall of my tyre. I ignored it till I got the lick bag off then drove back out onto the road to change the tyre. Couldn't crack the wheel nuts, it seemed like they'd rusted there. Went to go grab the jack, it wasn't there. That's when I remembered that months ago I had put my jack in Damian's ute after his went mysteriously missing and never took it back out again. So, there I was, in the heat of the day, with a flat tyre, no way of changing it, at the back of the station. It took Damian 40 minutes (I timed him because I had nothing better to do) to realise I hadn't come back and that perhaps I wasn't taking photos of random things like he thought I would be. I slept on the plastic off the top of the lick bag under the toyota in the shade. Pity the ground was so stinking hot. When Damian arrived the tyre was changed in less than five minutes and I took my poor Bruiser back to the house where I said he was staying till it was time to go back to town. I will not risk any more punctures! At least Sunday was somewhat of a day off.
But while running out all the lick I decided that Christmas wasn't Christmas without a tree. So I cut down a Lancewood tree which Damian looks at and tries to inform me "That won't fit in the house". My usual response? I'll make it bloody fit. After nearly taking out the ceiling fan getting it into the living area (what is it with me and ceiling fans lately?) I filled a tin bucket with sand, stood the tree in it then decorated it with what minimal Christmas decorations I had. Didn't look too bad if I do say so myself even if it does look a little bare.
Last weekend was fine. I relaxed, we moved the bore trailer so we could pump the house tank and made another small attempt at finishing the garden shed. And it rained all weekend and it was beautiful! I went out into the cooler paddock and backlined Capone, my bull and while giving him scratches and cuddles Charger raised his head and noticed me in the paddock. So with his head high he cantered over like he was king of the station then paraded around with his neck arched, showing off with his usual proud-cut granduer. A little while later Diamond came over in a steady trot to say g'day. I had to disappoint them both, I hadn't brought any feed with me. So then when they discovered that they didn't want to know me.
The driveway after a weekend of rain was a hell raiser on the way back to town. Slipping in mud despite being in High 4 had me sliding backwards while facing the way I had just come. I got to the aboriginal lands to find the creek had come up and I was not game to cross it without first getting the opinion of Damian so I took some photos and headed the 20km back home... sliding into a small tree on the way there. He followed me back to the creek and waded in to then give me the all clear.
"Low Range..."
"Well, der, you know, coz I was gonna roar through it in High Two..."
"Not too many revs or something something blah blah..."
So off I went, low range, steady steady till I got to the other side. After shouting goodbyes at one another from opposite sides of the creek I kept going back to the highway and he turned around and went home.
I didn't get very far till I discovered that the next creek was up too. I roared backwards, honking the horn, wanting the all clear for this creek too. I got out and waved and jumped around and honked the horn and watched him in the distance deliberating whether to come back and help or keep going. Eventually he made up his mind and.... kept going. Wanker! If I perish out here it's all his fault!
In the end there was nothing to stress about because the second creek was the same in condition to the first. But after all that I finally got to the highway where I unlocked my hubs. It took me two hours from the time I initially set off for town to when I got to the bitumen. One hour and twenty minutes too long!
It won't be long before my regular trips back home will make the driveway impassable. As long as I can get in I don't care if I can't get back out. But it will do well in annoying the neighbours :o/ Meh, apparently she doesn't mind being flooded in...!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Oh, The Monotony!

Week in, week out. Concrete to pour and boredom to deal with. Sometimes the tedium got so bad that we were fighting over the most menial jobs at work just to keep occupied. The boss returned from a bush job and things got quieter. Then this week happened. One 3am start to travel over 300km to a station to pour a shed floor. Normal day Tuesday. 5:30am on Wednesday to pour kerbing 200km away. Knock off for me wasn't till 9pm after a veeery long day trying to keep the concrete wet enough to pour it. Today was a 5am start but better than yesterday. Concrete was wetter and the day wasn't as near as long but when I returned to the yard I was greeted with a little note saying "TRB wants concrete onsite at 5:30am, start 5am :o)" Smiley face my butt! Seriously, I need a break! I wanted to be able to start at a normal time tomorrow. No catch up on much needed sleep for me.
At least last weekend was spent actually doing something I enjoy. I finally got back in the cattle yards for the first time since September. I drove up to the Douglas Daly to arrive just in time for the Development Committee dinner where I caught up with friends and other people I hadn't seen for a while and also met some new people. Despite my exhaustion from the drive and working all day I didn't get to roll out my swag till about 1am to get some sleep for a 6am start in the yards. But that's fine... because I was BACK IN THE YARDS!
The second day was all over the place. First up it was dropping fences and setting up gates, then finally process some more cattle. After smoko I got sent out to set up gates and push up the tail with Doug in the chopper in a beat up Hilux reminiscent of my Bonalbo days (ironic that) as well as try and stand up a fence buried under half a foot of mud. My attempts to pull it up had Doug flying over wondering why I had no shirt on. Well, you know, lateral thinking, make the most of what you have around you. No chain? No rope? Use your shirt! ... It ripped. I am down one work shirt. It seems that this particular week was full of me doing dumb and senseless things. Not thinking before doing or in the following instance being to lazy to do something with interesting consequences.
As part of a Facebook group I belong to we had decided to do a Secret Santa where we didn't buy something for the recipient but make it instead. After changing my mind three times I finally decided on making a patchwork quilt. I sewed and sewed for weeks then finally I came close to finishing. So close that I was determined to complete it in one night. So there I was, climbing onto a dining chair looking up at the ceiling fan telling myself "Don't get hit by the fan" because I was too lazy to walk over to the dial only 3 metres away to turn it off. I'm standing there, on the dining table, shaking the quilt down over the wadding when WHACK! I get hit by the ceiling fan. I recoiled in pain on top of the quilt in disbelief that I got hit... believe it or not. When reality kicked in I realised I could be bleeding and to get off the bloody quilt. Bloody it was. So was the tea towel I used to stop my head from bleeding. I took a short break and sat on the couch where I just began laughing at myself. As my Dad said only I could turn quilting into a dangerous craft. After bandaging my head I got on with the job, washed out the blood as best as I could and finished for the night. The next morning after having a second crack at washing out the blood I dried the quilt, wrapped it wrapping paper and later in the day posted it off to its recipient, mild blood stain and all.
It's obvious that I seriously need a break. The brain isn't working properly, the body can barely carry itself. I pine for Providence and get devastated each time I pass the turn off to head home. Oh, the monotony!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Lightening Strikes!

Wednesday was a crazy day. It was all over the place. We didn't get any calls for concrete till 11am so we spent the rest of the day moping about trying to look for things to do. When I finally decided to clean my truck, the boss pulls in and says I can knock off whenever I want. It was only 1:30pm! I had only had lunch half an hour ago. Whatever. 'At least if I leave work I will be occupied', I thought, so that's when I decided to make an impromptu trip to one of the stations I have day-worked on. When I pulled in no one was around. The purpose of this trip was to pick up a dog. In particular a dog for Damian. I decided long ago that part of his Christmas present this year will be a dog since he's always whinging and griping that all the dogs have all been mine. He won't be able to say that now! I brought a bag of working dog food with me in exchange for the pup which I then sat on for nearly an hour waiting for my friends to come back to the homestead after the days work had finished. I was just about to give up and organise an alternative means of transport for the pup when I heard a toyota rattling down the driveway. And didn't I scare the life out of Mal! Only Kylie was expecting me and that wasn't till tomorrow!
The initial pup I chose was sadly not available due to crossed wires but that's fine because the alternative is as sweet as pie. His name is Lightening! The couple loaned me one of their dog cages since they were a bit concerned the pup would go about his business on the backseat of Damian's rodeo. And too right they were because the moment Lightening went in the cage he relieved himself. Mal tied down the cage for me and pumped up my slowly leaking tyre. After chatting for a while I headed off to my old stomping ground.
Time was running out when I drove in to the town. I had a CWA meeting at 5:30pm and it was already 4:30pm. Me and my big ideas! I'd be pushing it to make it on time. I showed my friend, Sarah, the pup and her verdict went along the lines of "Awww, he's so cute!", no opinion on Damian's potential reaction. Next stop was the pub to show Warren. He just laughed in his less-than-sober state that Damian will now be regularly visiting him so that they can go pig hunting together. Not on my watch! But I hope that was all he was laughing at.
I lead-footed it all the way back to town at I don't know what speed because the speedo doesn't work in the rodeo. But I got there in about less than 45mins. It's 105km between the two towns so I'll leave the maths to someone else! Only 15mins late to CWA. I had one of my friends young daughter check on Lightening halfway through the meeting to make sure he was okay.
When the meeting ended I headed back to the town house where Lightening got an introduction to Yum Yum. It took a good half hour for the two to see eye to eye but soon they were lying on the tiles together like they had been friends forever. I tricked Lightening into being tied up since he'd previously only known cages and when he realised he was tied up, that's when the barking started after I had gone to bed. Afraid of keeping the whole neighbourhood awake I unclipped him and let him have the yard to himself since old Spencer was tied up due to the new addition and Yum Yum sleeps inside. I checked on him twice before I went to bed, just to make sure he was okay and he (as far as I could see because it was dark) was behaving beautifully, even when Spence did try and assert her authority. To this point, all signs have shown me he will be an intensely loyal dog especially since he has come up to me with a smile on his face.
The working week went by as slow as a snail on valium. Friday came and finally it was time to take Lightening to the vets for vaccinations. I had already had to re-book an appointment twice with the vet over the last two days to then be left to rock up near on closing time with the uncertainty of even being seen. Thankfully the vet was quite obliging and happy to see this sook-eyed pup. He behaved so beautifully as everything over the last three days has been quite a shock to him. After the vets it was another leadfooted drive home to the station with the dog in the cage.
When I pulled up at the house paddock gate I put a big red ribbon on Lightenings' collar and prepared myself to face the fact that I may have to spend the weekend standing between the dog and the gun. Lightening doesn't lead so I picked him up and when I got to the edge of the house, hidden by various bits of outdoor furniture, I asked Damian who was smoking on the verandah "Are you ready for the first half of your Christmas present?". I gingerly stepped up the stairs to reveal to Damian his new pup. I didn't receive anger, I didn't receive a guilt trip, I received a sigh of disbelief "A dog?".
"Well, you are always complaining that every dog has always been mine so now you have your own!"
It didn't take long for Damian to warm up to Lightening but it also didn't take long for me to warm down. Trying to learn his place in his new family, Lightening had a go at Lacey who had been placed on the top of the outdoor table for introductions. If he makes a habit of this it will be Damian standing between the dog and the gun! But punishment for his behaviour followed which momentarily divided Damian and I. Lightening had another two go's at Lacey on Saturday but by Sunday they were right as rain though Lacey was still reluctant to be around him and was cautious when she was.
Not only with the official arrival of Lightening, this weekend was the most happiest return to Providence I've had since I first begun my stint in town. I had many moments which brang a wide smile to my face from cuddling up to Capone whilst getting headbutted by him to riding my horse through a mob of soundly sleeping poddies to playing with Lacey and Lightening to shifting the chooks at midnight to their ignored enclosure for fear of Lightening making a meal out of them. The chooks in their pen did not last long and when the sun rose, so did they to the top of the shade cloth and free to the outside world after a bit of sea-sawing in between.
Saturday was spent mowing the lawn on the ride-on, waving at Damian who sat on the front verandah each lap because I'm a dag like that and going on a water run. It was so good seeing all the paddocks lush with fresh green grass, even around the troughs and seeing all the fat, rolly polly calves dance and buck about between drinks from their healthy mothers. Even a cow that had a year old weaner sucking off her looked like she was holding her weight well. This time of year is usually nasty on cattle and their condition so it was a welcome sight to see them all doing so well. A vast contrast from every other property I've been on over the last 7 years during the Build-Up. The early rains have been quite a blessing. The rest of Saturday was spent doing laundry including a desperate dash to pull all the dry clothes and linen off the line when the sound of rain hit the tin roof to only stop the moment I got inside with the laundry basket.
I started off Sunday gathering motivation to trim Charger's feet. My back was already killing me from driving trucks with seats that couldn't go all the way forward and shovelling aggragate. I prepared feeds for Charger and Diamond (the horse who wouldn't be found who is now finally found) and got down to trimming Charger's front, offside foot with the nippers. He didn't make things any easier for me by swishing his head around every ten seconds to shoo away buffalo flies. I was angry at myself that I didn't think to treat him before I got stuck into doing his feet. Nevertheless I got on with it. Nippers done, time for the rasp. I really need an old-man-stand for this part of the job so I gave up doing it the orthodox way and did it a way that I had to learn due to dealing with a very difficult horse. In this instance, instead of bring the foot forward, you kept the hoof between your knees with your back toward the front of the horse. Everything this way (my way) is done purely on feel and generally for me has come out with the same result and I also find it a little easier. But still, I want an old-man-stand. Hint! Hint!
After finishing Charger's front feet and letting him polish off his breakfast I put a bridle on him, lined him up alongside a feed trough and hoisted myself up onto his back. Halfway up he decided that I didn't require anymore patience from him and he started to walk off. Anyone who has seen me try and get on bareback knows how awkward it looks and due to my lack of coordination I can't pull him up when he walks off like that (something I need to improve on!) so I just hung in there with my right foot resting on his rump as he lumbered along with me wiggling around till I'm finally sitting correctly on his back. 200 metres later and I had got to my destination, the gate. I got off (not near as awkward for me) and let him go through the gates. And he just stood there. He wants pats? Gave him pats and cuddles. He wants the flies shood away? Shood the flies away. Still standing there. Maybe just my company? Nup. Hmmm. To be back with Diamond? Sook me opens the gate back up and he walks through it back into the house paddock. "He knows he'll get fed if he gets to stay in here," Damian-often-the-voice-of-reason. Whatever, your problem now! Hehehe!
The rest of my Sunday was spent relaxing, getting a start on my Secret Santa gift for a group I am part of on Facebook and reading my Stephen Fry novel. Oh, and of course sleeping. But four o' clock came round all too fast and after checking the car over and getting the usual grilling from Damian for NOT regularly checking the car over I made my unwanted journey back to town with less of a leadfoot.
At least when I arrived back at the townhouse I was greeted by four wonderful women who were celebrating two of their birthdays. Maybe this week won't be so bad? Maybe.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Morning Quiz

Last week on Hot100FM a discussion arose about a potential lion on the loose after someone in Darwin supposedly saw one crossing the road at Pinelands which made the paper. I decided to add my two cents to the discussion by texting in to the hotline "I'm Teagan. Maybe the lion escaped from Tipperary Station when Warren Anderson lost the place a few years ago". I got no response over the radio so thought nothing of it... Till this morning.
An incoming call from an unknown number came on my phone so I answered it "Teagan Speaking".
Voice: Hi, this is Joel from Hot100. You sent in a text last week?
Me: Holy S**t! Yeah, um, I did.
Joel: Awesome. Was just wondering, you know our morning quiz battle of the suburbs?
Oh my gosh! I'm going to be on the radio. I willingly accepted the challenge to represent Katherine against Anthony from Leanyer. After being put on hold a number of times finally we were on the air. This was Anthony's third day competing.
The first question asked was "How big is the croc on the front page of the NT News? We both sat there in deafening silence. "We're on live air here people!" prompted Joel so Anthony chipped in "Leanyer! 4.8 metres?" Wrong! My opportunity to get the answer right. "5.6 metres?" Wrong! Back to Anthony. "5 metres?" Ding ding!
Second question. Why was the coach of the Manly Sea Eagles sacked? How on earth am I supposed to know that! "Leanyer! Something, something, something along the lines of a right answer?" Ding ding! So at this point I've lost because it's the best out of three but Joel asked the third question regardless. "Who recently quit the Oscars?" and of course the response was "Leanyer! Eddie Murphy?" Ding ding! Well, there goes my 15 seconds of Australian fame!
Despite saying nothing more than a greeting and "5.6 metres" I still scored a Domino's Pizza voucher. I felt like an absolute knob but it gave me an opportunity to have a good laugh at myself and made my day a little bit more bearable. So for all Top Enders out there with radio service, don't be afraid to compete in the "Battle of the Suburbs" on Hot100. You can't make yourself look more like an idiot than I did!

Hot100 Darwin


Domino's Pizza


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Not Coming Home This Weekend, Too Busy Socialising

The working week was slow. Unbeleivably slow! Our average was 2 loads of concrete a day. But Friday I got to drive the new water truck to the weighbridge. Wasn't that scary! It was an automatic. Still had to put the clutch in to take off and stop but not to change gears. Every gear change could be felt and heard like someone was really changing the gears themself but it was all the trucks doing! It was like it had a ghost changing gears and I was sitting in HIS drivers seat steering. Even going down gears it gave that little rev to get the gears synchronised!
Friday evening was spent having dinner at the RSL with the woman I live with turning all heads in the bistro while showing off her new heels. I met some interesting new people one of which had the sorry job of welding concrete bowls together back in England before he migrated to Australia. The other an extremely tall Canadian that couldn't understand a word any of us said. I suppose the Territory Scrawl could be hard to understand sometimes! An old friend who I hadn't seen in two years also appeared and we had a good chat after his absence from the area. Our conversation regarding the gift of a dog got everyone thinking that we were talking about something pornographic and me having a massive giggling fit may have confirmed that. But no, the topic was of a dog. Just thought I might clear that up.
I tried to spend Saturday lazing around but no, it was time to get ready for the party. We shopped for food and arranged furniture in the backyard. I got creative and decorated the garage area with party lights. I made up little, colourful signs that each had a translation of the word 'toilet' and stuck them all over the outside bathroom door. And made a few more around the record player for the word 'music'. Well, it is International Night after all. Got to get into the spirit of things.
Mary arrived in the afternoon and while cooking her traditional dish of 'Sop Sop' from the Torres Straight Islands we sat chatting in the kitchen while smell of coconut permeated around the house. Velda had already made Spaghetti Bolognaise and when Kerrie arrived, she got started on Chocolate Fondue for dessert. By the time everyone arrived and sat down to eat we had mini meat party pies (Australia), fried rice and fried noodles (the Philipines), an Indian dip with Papadams, potato bake, salads, pork. Oh, if you went hungry you were an idiot! Dessert was of course Fondue, Scottish Mint Custard, Pavlova, Custard Ginger Pears, Fruit Salad. Time to undo the top button I think and bloat!
Rose brang round her karoke machine and a brave few stepped up to the mike. I sang 'Achy Breaky Heart' really badly with a giggling fit half way through because Mary made me hold the microphone. Yes, that's all it takes! I also sang 'Proud Mary' with her which didn't seem to go too badly but to get through it I needed a Pina Colada... so I stole Mary's... till I poured my own. Only a handful of others got up to sing, some very reluctantly. I guess that's what happens when the machine is set up right by the door. No passing till you've sung a song.
As the evening wore on and people began to leave we noticed something had gone horribly wrong. One of the dogs had at some point buggered off into the night. So we all went out there searching for her. Calling her name, checking the house again and again. I got in my car and drove around the corner into the next street up and there she was, scampering across the road in my headlights. I managed to catch her, the outside world making her wary of every object and everything that moved and chucked her in the back seat till I had her back home and the gates shut! Cheeky thing. She has never in her life done that before. But as much as I loved the party and the company, I almost couldn't wait for everyone to leave and go home so I could go to bed. I'm turning into a Nanna!
But my social weekend wasn't all met with happiness. Damian was ropable that I had decided due to lack of funds that I couldn't afford to come home as usual for the weekend. We broke out into an argument over the phone with me in the middle of the supermarket over the price of a brake caliper and my interest in knowing exactly how much rain we had out there. After swearing and carrying on at each other I hung up. A few hours later he rang to tell me one of my chooks had died from a feral cat attack and also that we had 4mm at home (I win). Another few hours later he rang to ask how to cook rib bones in the oven. All emotional war wounds healed. At least next weekend I will be home for its entirity but not sure how he is going to take the news about the weekend after...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Little Flutter

As only concrete could achieve my day started crap. The first job for the morning was to a concrete pump for a house that was being built. Houses that are built with Besa brick have concrete poured into the walls via a concrete pump to strengthen the walls. 'Score!' I thought as my job would be as detailed as sitting on my butt at the back of the truck keeping the concrete pump hopper full. No effort involved at all. Well this job required no effort either, just a patience for things that are really slow. First off, after being guided in and getting set up, the fins on the concrete pump wouldn't engage. This went on for at least 15 minutes. Over the course of the pour, every five minutes they were wanting me to add water to make the concrete more of a slurry. In the end I added 220 litres of water to the mix and it wasn't all that dry to start off with. By the way, my onboard water tank only holds 200 litres so for the extra 20 litres that they asked for had to be added with the dribble of a garden hose. After adding some water at one point, a gawky lad came up to me while I was accelerating the spin on the bowl to mix the water in to tell me not to spin it too much or it makes the concrete go off. Umm, hello? One, if I don't spin the bowl the concrete and water won't mix and in actual fact it WILL go off from sitting still and Two, the only 19 year old that can tell me what to do with concrete is a fat Italian boy who's been dealing with concrete since he was old enough to swing off a shovel and you don't look like no fat Italian boy! Then of course to make things take even longer their hose blocked up so I twiddled my thumbs till they cut the end of it off and got started again. When finally my truck ran out of concrete I went back to the yard and jumped in the next truck already batched and ready to go to return. Only 40 litres got added and straight off the bat this time. When they finished pouring into every wall I could finally go. In total, this pour took over 2 and a half hours. The last concrete pump job I went to we did four and a bit trucks in less time than this job.
On my way back to the yard the boss called to say there was a small load to take to one of the backpacker establishments. Batched it myself, checked the slump, lost a wheelbarrow load of it on the ground doing so and once all was good headed in to town. The owner of this little tucked away accomodation "guided" me in so well that he directed me into a wall (I had to reverse through a very narrow entranceway to get in) that pushed my passenger side mirror back so I could not see out of it and then directed me even further straight into a mango tree causing a nice big dent in the back passenger side of the cab. Oh me oh my! To even be able to get into the entranceway to start off with took ages because I had to wait for a decent break in the traffic so I could block off the street to reverse in and I swear that every other road user decided to drive even slower than normal because they could see a truck on the side of the road... an immobile truck with a very irate driver. The pour here didn't take very long. I got congratulated by the resident geriatric for being the first female truck driver he has ever seen. He mustn't get out much. Between wheelbarrow loads I texted the boss to let him know of my little disaster. He rang the second he got the message. It's fixable I tell you, calm down. I didn't wreck the cab but my desire to quit this job has increased!
Finally I could knock off for the day and get dolled up as only I could with limited nice clothes for it was Cup Time. The evening before I got a phone call from a friend, Lizzie. She had a spare ticket to a Cup luncheon at The Golfie (as it is affectionately known) and tells me I should ditch work and come and join her and Taryn, my colleagues daughter for the rest of the day. I told her I didn't think I would be able to but I'll text her when I know if I can or not the next day. Well good news at last rewarded me during the concrete pump pour when the boss rang to tell me if I wanted to knock off for the the Cup that I could. After washing the truck and locking the gates I screamed off back to the town house and put on clean new jeans and my new favourite blue and pink checked shirt. I had a shower in the form of a perfume bottle, no time for a real one as icky as I was feeling. I raced down to the shopping centre, dodged a salesman and headed to the sunglasses shop to buy a fascinator. The shop assistant pointed out the various displays of fascinators with me responding to each of them with a simple "Meh". The last one though had something that would actually match so I asked for him to open the case and I pulled out two identical headbands, one being light pink, the other purple, held them up against my shirt looked at him, looked at another female customer standing nearby. "Which one?" The shop assistant stood dumbfounded as the woman pointed to the purple and I put the pink one back. Done! "Gee, I wish all women could make up their mind that quickly when it comes to what to wear" the shop assistant reckoned. The power of knowing what you want before you even get to look at all options. Paid for it and raced back only to once again be bailed up by the salesman. "30 seconds of you time" he reckoned. I should have timed him! He was trying to plug a childrens charity called Plan, figure headed by Jamie Drurie. "But I already do Save the Children", it didn't matter, he still rabbited on so I shrugged my shoulders, filled in a form while he was still nattering on, randomly picked a child (Jemile from Ethiopia), he handed over some paperwork while still talking and eventually I made my escape. I hope I don't regret signing up down the track.
Finally, after being delayed to the luncheon by nearly two hours, I could sit down and enjoy myself. With Liz and Taryn were Bec and Claire. Liz also brang her stepson, Connor, who was very dapper and dressed better than nearly all of the men in the room in his pinstripe vest and pants. I'd like to add that he is only 10! But sitting at this table I felt like the odd one out. I was the only one without a baby. Liz had Harry, Taryn had Riley, Bec had Sophie and Claire had Caine and there's me feeling out of place while they talk of explosive poos and having baby food flung at them. But, then again, in a way it is kind of reassuring. They enjoy being mothers. The thought of me being a mother petrifies me. I'll stick to dogs...
During the approach to the race Liz and I placed our bets. I think she bet on a total of 6 horses and I bet on 2. Precedence and Manighar. Those two solely for their jockeys. Darren Beadman and Damien Oliver respectively. As the horses got loaded into the starting gates I started waving my betting cards around. It probably won't bring me good luck but what the hell. And they were off! The room fell eerily silent. I looked at the distance the horses had to cover, 3200 metres. "Someone let me know when we're getting close to the finishing post". At the last 200 metres I looked up at the television and witnessed the closest finish that I had ever seen. Not only placings for 1st and 2nd were photo finishes but for 3rd and 4th too. The entire crowd, including me, simultaneously gasped as slowed down footage of the horses crossing the finishing post aired. No one could have forseen that! It really is the race that stops the nation.
Not long after the race had finished, group photos were taken (I happily guarded purses and pushers) and the girls that did have a winning bet collected their cash we packed up our prams and baby bags (well, not me but they did) and headed off. Liz, who was wearing the most amazing dress, missed out on entering the best dressed competition because it was never announced. Connor was disappointed too as he also wanted to enter. None of the girls won the lucky door prize raffle but we did manage to score Connor a 'James Boag' top hat.
During the afternoon I waved hello to many people I knew. Didn't chat to any of them though except for the boss who was still worried about the dent in the cab of the truck. Can we worry about it tomorrow?
With good company and a good feed in my belly we all parted ways into the heat of the afternoon. Very appreciative that Liz invited me to escape the tedium of concrete for the remainder of the day and that the boss actually allowed us to knock off early. Thank God for the Melbourne Cup!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sausage Sizzle Anyone?

The one thing I have been looking forward to for weeks now is the CWA Open Day which took place this Saturday just gone. A very ordinary week was made brighter by the fact that I actually had just one thing to look positively towards.
Being the ultra-efficient person I often fool myself into thinking I am, I pulled out everything I needed to get baking on the Friday after doing a spot of shopping. I arranged everything on the bench ready for the next morning and sat down at the dining table optimistically writing out labels for each thing I was going to bake and attaching curled, green ribbon. I even pre-mixed all the dry ingredients to save time and covered them with clean tea towels to protect them from any insects over night.
At 5:30am Saturday morning my alarm went off. Snooze. Alarm. Procrastination. Eventually I scolded myself, threw on some clothes and started whipping eggs for coconut macaroons. 15 minutes later out of the oven I was looking at two trays of flops stuck to the baking paper. Well that sucks! Two less plates of baked goods to try and sell. Righteo then! Cocoa biscuits. Tediously topping every plop of biscuit mix with a Smartie. In the oven, out half an hour later. Not too bad an effort even if the Smartie dye ran into the biscuit a bit. Butter cake. In the cake tray and into the oven. How long will that take? Consult my little recipe book and nearly fall over backwards at the words I had written in there myself. 1 to 1 1/4 hour! Oh my goodness! It's 5 minutes to 7 already, I'm supposed to be there soon to set up the barbeque and the cake is going to cut into that time! I text message wildly to the husband of another CWA member: What's Heathers number? Got a kitchen disaster!... No response. Right, I'll try Trisha, I know she's going but not how early or for how long... No response. Text message the lady I live with who's hamming it up in Caboolture to get the number of another CWA member... 10 minutes later she pulls through for me. I text message Jacqui to let her know that the kitchen and I have not made friends, the macaroons were a disaster and am not bringing near as much as I said I would and I'll be late. Turns out she's experiencing the same thing but she's still ahead of me and on her way to the butchers to pick up the sausages.
After packaging two plates of cocoa biscuits and waiting for the others to cool while the cake still bakes I have a shower, dress like a bogan would not, load up some stuff needed for the day into a shopping bag till finally the buzzer sounds and my cake is ready. I let it cool for the longest possible time I have by tending to the dogs, washing my hands and text message replies to the urgent beeps of "Where are you? Are you still bringing the BBQ?" from Jacqui. I package the last of the cocoa biscuits and the butter cake, put them in another shopping bag, load up and head off.
When I arrive at the Open Day there are already passer-by's going in the hall for a look so I park in a no-parking zone, unload the barbeque and gas, run down to the supermarket for matches and try and say hello to everyone while trying to find an opportunity to move my car to the back of the hall so I don't get a ticket for really crap parallel parking in a spot I just shouldn't parallel park in anyway! After Jacqui and I figure out the temperamental barbeque and use a cork screw to hold one of the legs in place (nice to see Damian looks after his Christmas presents that I give him) I begin to calm down. Wow, I fumble under pressure sometimes!
Steady, steady people come in to the hall. We have local business women selling their wares and services. Everything from naturopathy to Tupperware, fitness to scrapbooking. They enjoyed the free devonshire tea. The kids had fun decorating their cupcakes for $2. The young daughters of some CWA members con people into buying freshly picked mangoes and most people couldn't resist. How could anyone say no to their adorable faces? Well I could because I'm allergic to mangoes and there is not a chance in hell I'm touching one for fear of the rampant rash that breaks out on my hands. Sorry girls. Jacqui and my faces light up when we see people walking out with armfuls of stuff they have bought and brochures they have picked up. We have odd bursts of people wanting a sausage sizzle. I even stand at the edge of our little alcove on the footpath yelling at people "SAUSAGE SIZZLE" as only I could do. I try and guilt them when they're not interested. Sometimes yelling at random people worked and they bought a sausage and sometimes a soft drink too. Sometimes it freaked people out and their pace got faster, desperate to avoid the short, crazy lady. Don't know what gave them that impression...
Damian rings to ask me how the breakfast went. "What breakfast? It's an open day with devonshire tea and it's still going and we have people lining up wanting sausages. Call me back after 2pm!" I discard the phone in the direction of my handbag to find that, an hour later, I'd actually landed it in the water tray of a pot plant and it had drowned and refuses to function like a normal phone should. Oh well, guess I'll get a new one.
By the time 1pm rolled around we were so relieved to turn off the barbeque and pack up. We all worked together to put the hall back in order so as not to annoy the Senior Citizens despite the fact that the hall is owned by the CWA. The monies were tallied and we were all amazed to find we had raised over $1600 and over $200 of that was from Jacqui and my barbeque effort. About 10 more members signed up making us even closer to our goal of 50 members by Christmas.
When I got back to the town house and finished all those homely chores one must do I collapsed in bed and had a good old nanny nap. It got interrupted by Damian ringing on my now dried out and functioning phone and in my sluggish state I couldn't decide whether I was going to come home or not. Eventually I made a decision, jumped in the Red Beast and roared that petrol engine at an unknown speed (the speedo doesn't work) Hell West and Crooked till I finally pulled in the gates of our homestead.
Our Sunday was spent checking waters and dealing with petrol motors. Damian tuned up the Red Beast so it didn't idle so high and I drained the old, dirty fuel out of the quad bike, flushed it and fuelled it up again so I could go look for Diamond, the horse that doesn't want to be found. In the middle of the paddock the quad choked down which left me trudging across the gilgis, feed bucket slung over my arm, back toward the house screaming "Oi!" amongst other profanities to get Damians attention to come and pick me up from the top of the paddock. Eventually he came out of the house but not because he heard me but because he wanted a cigarette but at least he did notice me and came and picked me up and saved me from walking across the house paddock too.
Hot fuel was the problem and I got back on and pushed on through the paddock. By the time I reached the fence it was surging so bad it felt like I was riding a bucking horse. Damian caught up with me in the toyota and we swapped and he put up with the dreaded thing all the way back to the workshop. All that walking earlier though had made me tired so back to bed I went till I got woken up by Damian who informed me it was 3 o'clock already, time to go back to town and put up with another week of bloody concrete.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Please, Please, Please Flood Me In

Every weekend that I drive out to Providence I pray for rain, thunder and lightening. I spend the weekends doing jobs. This Saturday was spent looking for an old coot of a horse that wouldn't be found and last Sunday was spent oiling the decking on the front verandah. This Sunday though was spent doing a very relaxing nothing.
We woke to the sound of rain pattering down on the lean-to at about 4am. A little bit of thunder adding to the serenity. As the sun rose we got out of bed. I'd never heard the rain on our roof yet and it was a bit loud to try and sleep to. It was lovely to look out the front windows and see the grass soaking up the rain, the poddies with their glistening backs feeding on the green pick that last weeks scuds had brought about. It rained then drizzled till about 10am. I measured the rain guage at 28.5mm and the prospect of me being flooded in had made me uncharacteristically ecstatic.
On the other hand, Little Donny, our only small poddy was not so happy with the cold rain. The other bigger poddies had abandoned him in the cooler paddock and left him on his own, too cold to move. Damian's binoculars weren't good enough for us to realize that it was him out there all alone in the middle of the paddock till my curiousity got the better of me and off I went to inspect. Poor Donny, so cold that his attempt at him running away from me (he is not a milk poddy by the way so therefore distrusts humans and is normally so spritely it would be difficult to catch him two times a day to feed him anyway) was met by him falling into a heap. Perfect time to grab him and throw him on the front of the quad bike for a bit of TLC at the house. He wouldn't eat the pellets I gave him but eventually he started moving about. The warmer it got and the more he dried out the more to his normal self he became.
My 1yo former milk poddy, Capone, did the big brother thing and came up to the backyard. Damian opened the gate and as Capone walked up the fence, Donny followed till he was out in the paddock with him enjoying a drink at the trough side by side. They even walked back to the others together with Capone stopping to check that Donny was still following every now and then.
The sudden change in feed is doing wonders for the bigger poddies (aside from the usual mild diarreah) but not so much for Donny. It has been harsh on his guts and as a result he has severe scours. Next week I will bring out a treatment called Scourban for him from the vets. I suppose then I will have to spend the whole weekend trying to catch him to give it to him.
After my adventures with Donny, the weather lulled me into sleep where I stayed until mid-afternoon, only waking to read a bit more of my book. Then the time came to leave and head back to town.
As usual, my Landcruiser had decided it didn't want to start. Damian had to push start me with the station Landcruiser. With the front wheels in lock I headed down the driveway with Damian following behind as insurance. I was devastated when we got to the Buntine Highway. I didn't want to have made it that far! The part of the driveway I was relying on to become bogged was only mildly soft. This means that I have to go to work on Monday and pour more bloody concrete. I am so over concrete!
For the last week it's been 4:30am starts everyday. I'd have to take power naps on the side of the road because I was falling asleep behind the wheel. I worked a 13hr day Monday with no lunch break and Thursday was much the same except worse even if I did knock off a couple of hours earlier. One of the concrete jobs I had to deliver to took over an hour and a half to pour. The concrete was going hard in the bowl no matter how much water I added. I queried over the phone to my work colleague who had batched it to ask if he had put in any retarder to stop the concrete from drying out so quick. Was the retarder line blocked again? Every now and then he would do things that he secretly hoped would make me look incompetent. I wouldn't have been surprised if this was one of them. I returned to the concrete yard drenched for the second time that day and still had one more load to take out. I batched it myself this time and made it to dry, when I got to the site I had to get a garden hose into the concrete bowl to wet it up more because I had forgotten to fill my onboard water tank (see what stress and frustration does to me?), then the truck stalled and wouldn't start again. I fiddled around with a few levers and eventually it started and stayed running but not before I rang my colleague again to wonder why my truck decided to crap itself all of a sudden. Finally I could knock off, go home and pass out after a shower.
I get so sick of either having no concrete to pour or having a crap time pouring it. Alot of concreters are hard to please and are terrible at communicating. I drove off with 1 cubic metre of concrete still in the truck because their instructions weren't directly to me and were unclear anyway. I got a phone call 20km down the road because they were wondering where their concrete was. They had caused me to run out of water (using it all up to wash their gumboots, wheel barrows and shovels as well as constantly adding it to the concrete mix) and it turned out there was no retarder in the concrete to stop it from drying out so quick (which is the main reason why I didn't think they wanted it anymore because once it starts to dry out that is it, it becomes extremely difficult to work with), something I didn't know till 3 days later thanks to the same colleague (the retarder line was blocked and he discovered that only 5 minutes after I left, never called me to turn around and come back so we could put some in, noooo, just let me keep going so the concrete would turn to shit). That day was a late knock off too and created tensions that didn't need to be there. Luckily on Monday during a return pour the concreter and I cleared the air but ever since then I was very wary of my colleague.
With those major examples of why I hate concrete truck driving it can be understood why every weekend I pray for rain, thunder and lightening. Rain in the hopes that I get flooded or bogged in. Thunder simply because I like the sound and for my heart to skip a beat occassionally. Lightening for the fire it could possibly cause because there is not a chance in hell that I would leave Providence burning with Damian alone to fight it by himself.
So here's a little prayer. This weekend just gone Lord, I got the rain I have been praying for (not just for getting flooded in but for pasture rejuvenation too) but next Saturday night/ Sunday morning may I please get double or even triple that? Amen.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

1 Week, 2 Weeks, 3 Weeks, 4

As I'm about to enter my 6th week living and working in town, I am still wondering what the hell made me decide to do this. I've had the worst day at work so far on Friday and I topped it off by backing the truck into a concrete block while reversing it up under the hopper. I got belted with a magazine by a friend who co-manages a station as she was disappointed that due to taking on my new job, I wasn't able to work for her for the last three weeks and she had to deal with backpackers and a friend who has alot of trouble concentrating on the job at hand. And to be honest I was disappointed myself in being too impatient waiting for more station work. Three weeks work doing something I love and I missed out because I went and got myself a town job.
But on the plus side, yesterday I headed out to the station where my cattle are agisted and worked there for the day processing cattle. The cattle there are being trapped, not choppered. So far only 11 of my heifers have come in. There's another four out there wandering around the paddock somewhere and it might be another week before they come in. But the 11 that have come in, 8 of those are pregnant which makes me happy and excited at the same time. Of the three that aren't pregnant, only one I'm not disappointed about because she's already a proven breeder and she would have still been recovering from the calf she has already provided with me when the bulls were in their paddock. As for the other two though, their futures are uncertain. The owner of the station is trying to push for me to sell them and purchase as replacements two of another agisters heifers that have been pregnancy tested in calf. As it took me five years to acheive my goal of my own breeder herd, I am reluctant to let go of the two unpregnant heifers and wish give them a second chance (or third, or fourth, or fifth...). In other words, I'm not about to let go of them in a hurry BUT that's not to say that I wouldn't buy the other heifers available to me to make up for it.
Leaving the station at the end of the day I felt happy that I was able to come out and help and sticky beak at my cattle. I was exhausted from beginning my day at 3:30am, driving an hour and a half to get to the station, running around up and down the race and in the back yards all day, helping out with other little odd jobs and eventually driving all the way back to town again. The drive back to town was made easier by the rain. Before I left the station it suddenly came in cool and windy and 15km down the road was evidence of a good dumping. I love the rain and it topped off a good day. And might I add it was an early rain being only the beginning of October.
When I got back I took my boots off at the door leaving little piles of yard dirt on the front verandah and the same when I exchanged jeans for shorts inside my room! I was head to toe in dust and felt satiatingly heavy from the work and the grime. When I looked at my face in the mirror I couldn't believe I left the station without having a bit of a scrub first! All you could see was the whites of my eyes!
And my day didn't end there, before I knew I was invited to a 21st party next door of a guy I had never even seen, let alone met before. I managed to hold enough energy to drink half a beer and thankfully the woman I live with said "When I finish my wine we'll go home ay?" though at the same time I was looking at the pool and how inviting it was. When she finished her wine we went home after she said goodbye to all these people who, for herself, had been strangers only hours before.
Even though falling asleep as I was was very appealing, I dragged my butt to the shower and washed off the remnants of the cattle yards and finally I hit the sack at 9:30pm. An 18hr day? I was out like a light!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Where They Are Now

It's amazing the people you meet and haven't seen for a long time and suddenly you find them again and they've come along way. Back in 2003 when I was a student at the Katherine Rural College I met Matt Wright. He was working as a ringer for CPC and also had his chopper license. He was a nice, genuine, easy-going bloke that enjoyed a good laugh and he left a good first impression.
Nowadays he's no longer working for CPC. Instead he's the head-lining star of National Geographics new documentary show "Outback Wrangler". He certainly has come a long way from choking on dust in the cattle yards. He's gone from throwing mickey bulls to wrestling crocodiles and toying with other wild creatures in exotic places like Borneo.
I wish him all the best for the future and for his show which airs its premiere tomorrow night at 7:30pm (October 4th) on Nat Geo WILD.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Jog

I did something completely out of character today, something completely unusual for all those that know me. I went for a jog. Well, the beginning was a jog till I realised how unfit I was and "restrained" myself to a walk.
As the sun began to set on Saturday evening on Providence, I donned my sneakers and jogged out the backyard gate. The poddies, who had never seen anyone move at a faster pace than a brisk walk rushed at the sight of me jogging and watched me as I continued my way up to the next gate, climbing through between the rails to venture onto the driveway. The pace slowed to a walk as I watched my little dog, Lacey, bound from one adventure to another as things that rustled caught her eye. So to did things catch my eye. I noticed foot prints in the driveways dust of various species, none more fascinating than the little bird imprints as they crazily stepped their tiny steps, unsure of which direction they were going and what exactly they were looking for. They criss-crossed in a haphazard fashion along the driveway till they petered out. Another set of footprints I noticed was that of a cows. She seemed hellbent on heading for the grid. Her determined steps sunk deeper into the bulldust than that of the other cattle. Did those hoofprints belong to the cheeky cow who has made herself a rather comfortable life eating hay with the poddies? The native grasses that grow on the station not a good enough staple in comparison to the improved pastures on which she was raised?
A wild dog lay dead on the side of the driveway. A chilling thought that it was so close the homestead. This could be the same one that months earlier would slink around the bottom of the house paddock despite another being dead and unremoved from that same area. I hadn't seen that wild dog since we first moved here, I thought the baits had got it long ago. But still, there it was.
Being out in the warm air, trundling along, gave rise to thoughts. I wish I still lived out here. If there was something I could do, working from the station, I would still be here. I like the fact that our nearest neighbours were a further 30km up the driveway. A short distance in comparison to other stations. In town my neighbours are only meters from me and although they are not disruptive, I still feel as though they're too close.
As my walk continued further away, the sound of the diesel generator chugging along droned out. My hands began to swell from the sudden increase in excercise. The same thing used to happen to my mother. She blamed it on having poor circulation, a thing she was born with, not something that occurred quite simply because she was unfit. I'm not about to kid myself like she, I know my hands are swelling because I am unfit although that's something that's unlikely to change. But it's true what they say, that excercise releases endorphins. I felt happier while going for my walk. And I even think that it will be something I make a regular habit of during my return visits on the weekends to Providence.
As my chosen jogging path took a bend from off the driveway on to the fence of the holding paddock, Lacey's adventures meant that she didn't notice me move off the driveway. I stood calling and calling her over and over till she figured out where my voice was coming from and bounded and bounced her way back to me, even challenging me as she sped past me to race her. It annoyed me that she took so long to come when called. I wanted to keep moving, I wanted to keep walking. It was invigorating! So as she created little billows of dust behind her as she skipped and ran down the fenceline I was happy to be ambling along behind her. The sound of generator soon came back into ear shot and the sun had completely gone leaving behind only whispy streaks of pink and orange.
That walk, so unusual for me, gave me lots of time to think. Reflection, pondering and reasoning. My skin was clammy, but the excercise had made me warm, it even gave me those warm fuzzies that everyone keeps talking about. Yeah, I think I will make a habit of this...