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...