Friday, 18 October 2013

... all I can think of ...

by Simone McPherson

The other morning I shot two Eastern Brown Snakes at the house with my single barrel shot gun.  My routine in the mornings are fairly standard.  Run around like a chook with its head chopped off till El Ranchero gives the announcement that we are “moving out” – that is to say we are leaving right ‘Now’.  There is no waiting on El Ranchero’s behalf.  There is no margin for me to finish one of my little chores that I do in the mornings … yeah you get the idea just the norm.

Well that morning I was not feeling the best – a trip into town and I had picked up something – ‘it’ no longer is just a cold with a cough and a runny nose – ‘they’ have mutated so much that you don’t really know what is going on or what is happening to your body. 

I had the morning off.  I was rather slow in getting my bits and pieces done.  El Ranchero had left early to meet the Dozer driver as we are organising a boundary fence and ... is in country that you slide down on your bottom and then you are on your hands and knees to climb back up to where you started from – in other words very steep!

 I have this thing were I empty out my old cooking oil over a bank between the house and where the dogs are chained up near the water tanks.  

While watering my little garden before it got too hot.  I could smell this strong smell it is rather hard to describe a pungent, mouldy, rotting meat smell.

I have smelled this ‘stench’ before on a number of times when I have passed or seen a snake.  Snakes here give off an odour, the odour can be foul.  So I kept an eye out, and though I was not expecting to see a snake let alone two and for them to be Eastern Brown Snakes, well! – now when one is put in a position where one has to be calm, cool and collective, especially when there is no one else around and one has to make a decision one goes into this place of total quietness – it is almost as if everything has been slowed down and all one can hear is the sound of one’s own breath, that is where I went.

Now Eastern Browns are fast-moving and aggressive snakes well known for their bad temper, along with other Browns, they are responsible for more deaths every year in Australia than any other group of snakes.  Not only is their venom ranked as the second most toxic of any land snake in the world (based on tests on mice), they thrive in populated areas, particularly on farms in rural areas.

If disturbed, the Eastern Browns raise their body off the ground, winding into an 'S' shape, mouth gaping open ready to strike. Its venom causes progressive paralysis and stops the blood from clotting, which may take many doses of anti-venom to reverse. Victims may collapse within a few minutes.  

So with that in mind you can understand how I was not going to have these snakes around our house and ...

 ... around our working dogs which we put a lot time and effort into with their training so I made a decision calmly and rationally.

You see for the past three weeks with this unseasonal hot weather that we have been having we have never seen so many snakes we see at least three a day.  And they are aggressive and very irritated for they are all looking for mates to reproduce with.   

Our local Gunsmith in town even ran out of cartridges for shot guns, which is what we use for snakes out here.

Today we went out to see how the Dozer driver was going in a far boundary paddock called ‘Creek’.   

 We had a few showers overnight which was fantastic after all that hot weather and they say more rain to follow – though looking outside it looks pretty clear.

We drove out to ‘Creek’ paddock with Maxi and ... 

... walked the dozed boundary line it’s another world down there in the creek country.  Of course the weather did change and we got stuck in a Thunderstorm complete with claps of lightning over-head.

Then on top of it all the Landrover dropped its 4W4 and we could not get out of where we were.  El Ranchero then had to walk back to the boundary fence and get the Dozer to pull us out.  Mean time Maxi and I are getting soaked. 

Now when there is thunder and lightning over head the last place to shelter is beneath a tree, we have a number of trees at our property that have been struck by lightning and blown to smithereens.  So there we are Maxi and I sitting in a clearing just away from the Landrover in the pouring rain as the lightening and the thunder breaks over us.  Maxi then suggests to me this is not a good place to be either so we agree to get back into the Landrover at least it is earthed if lighting hits us – the tyres I tell him, he just looks at me with water dripping off his nose.

Then we hear a crashing approaching through the trees – thank God it’s the Dozer driver with El Ranchero running behind him.   

 The Dozer driver comes down to us in the pouring rain wraps a chain around the Landrover and we are pulled up the hill ….. We thank the Dozer driver ... 

... I have another three gates to open and all I can think of is a warm shower and a hot cup of tea, ah! the life in the ‘Great Outdoors” would not change it for quids …


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

..they are there early each morning ....

by Simone McPherson

It has been terribly, terribly dry, now that the summer months are setting upon us.  And the wind from the West has been abysmal; 

I may as well turn on my hairdryer and stand in front of it as it would be a lot cooler than the wind outside.  We seemed to have missed out on spring? not sure where it went?
So we have been keeping an eye on the cattle, making sure that they have enough feed at these times.  And the other morning we were out by 7am to.... 

 ..... walk the creek-bed of a paddock called ‘Little Up’s’ as the majority of the water had dried up, we were on a mission to find  some water holes further up the creek.  So off we went with Maxi boy.
We walked and walked, I took the ‘high road’ well cattle track ... 

 ..... and El Ranchero took the ‘low road’ my goodness it was dry, and to think that a couple of weeks ago it was flowing.   

 Then after half an hour or so we finally come across some water holes and thank goodness, the 84 Heifers should be right for the moment.

For the past couple of days we have started building – laneways – I, for one was under the impression that fencing had come to a finish, silly me what was I thinking?  You see it is only El Ranchero and I, the horses and the dogs that is the sum of us all, taking care of over 500 cows and 26 Bulls and we are not quite as ‘springy’ as we used to be so the easier it is to get the cattle from A to B the better.

 I started to think, as one does while waiting for El Ranchero to break the hard ground with the crowbar ... Oh! by the way that fence line is switched OFF! otherwise we would be in terrible trouble 10,000 Kva are passing through those wire lines!

 ... then I will clear the hole with my shovel.  Well I did start to think how many Kilometres of fence had we done to date? 

I asked El Ranchero this pondering question, with a little hesitation he came upon the figure of ‘seventy’?  ‘Gee’ I thought that is pretty good going for a man and his offsider, that’s me.   

And there is an art to fence building, there is definitely an art to fence building.
Let’s see – firstly you have to clear the old fence line ... 

 ... which too is an art in its self, El Ranchero even creates these beautiful ...

 ... Sculptural pieces with the old barb, wire, and posts and anything else that is entangled into the mess.

There are the star pickets – steel posts - hundreds upon hundreds of them.  

In sections we use barb that too consists of miles and miles of the stuff as we do a five wire in the barb.

On the electric lines we only use a three to four wire.  

Then there are the porcelain insulators which are fixed to the steel posts with two clips, a nut and a screw … 

... thousands upon thousands of them, which I may add have to be threaded before you fix them to the post and as you tie them off at each end .... 

.... with more insulators though these are called - end insulators for obvious reasons, I am to presume ...... though I do know that if you did not have these insulators the consequences would be that upon one unlucky person who was to touch a gate to undo it would be sent flying - in my case to Hospital ....

There is the insulating cables that pass under the gates to carry the electricity from one paddock to the other all the way.  

There are the clamps used to hold the cables onto the wires.
You will also need assemblies and corner posts too – these are made from timber that we have on the property, we only use the Narrow-leaf Ironbark trees as they are not only hard but wonderfully strait.   

El Ranchero cuts and trims these trees down to posts, rails and braces, I debark them with a crowbar … 

... on occasion when we have left the bark on the termites move in or even the little local Orchid will move in …

Finally the gates are hung and that too is a wonderful thing to watch being done as it is an art as well.  You have to make sure that the gate will swing but just enough … 

... too much and you may end up in trouble and stiff as a board well when you are on the horse it is no fun trying to open a stiff gate especially when you are in a hurry!

 We have also taken to giving out some “Wild Parrot Mix” for the Pretty-face and the Wallaroos that visit us at the house, which they appreciate at this time of year – it puts a bit of fat and protein into their diets which they are searching out.  They are there early every morning waiting for El Ranchero along with the finches, the wood pigeons, the beautiful grass parrots, warblers and the odd galah ……. 

 Which reminds me, I had better go outside and give those lovely little marigolds a drink of water before the heat of the day approaches ........

Monday, 7 October 2013

...and there you go

by Simone McPherson

The days have become warmer now and we had some rain only a few days ago and with that rain came the time that the ‘Matrons’ – that is the cows, start to ready themselves for calving.  You see I am told by El Ranchero that it is an instinct that goes back eons – as the rain will mask the smell of the cow as she is giving birth to her new Bub-ba from all those wild predators out there.  

Well really that does not exist out here anymore, to a degree.  We do have a lot of problems here with ‘Wild Dogs’ and there are millions invested each year by Government bodies to try and control the problem as they have become quite dangerous and fearless.

With the summer approaching I have started to get my ‘little gardens’ in shape for the coming season.  So at the first opportunity I managed to talk El Ranchero into going down to Front paddock to check on the electric fence line that crosses the creek.  Of course I had an ulterior motif to go down there – soil.  

So I loaded the Landrover up with all my necessary tools, old chaff bags, and my trusty shovel 
and ....

 ....Lily-pup too, she loves to explore and swim.  Once down there I looked around to see where the wild pigs had been digging for grubs and roots – as they are wonderful indicators as to where the best hummus soil is to be found.  It wasn’t long before Lily and I found some marks.  

So while El Ranchero was adjusting the fence line – phew just as well as it had washed away in the last down fall.  

I set to work filling up the eight bags I had brought down Lily on the other hand decided a swim was a better idea so she was off and in the Creek.

On our way back from the creek we made a pit stop at one of the cattle troughs where the cattle get their sugar fix so that I could gather another three bags of cow poo too! 

And we also stopped at one of our dams on the way back to collect some more clay to hold the moisture in the steel drums.  I have come to the conclusion that my ‘Great Thought’ of building the gardens out of old ‘Steel’ containers was not as good idea as I first imagined it to have been.  You see they heat up! Pretty obvious I guess, so I have had to do some ‘tweaking’ so as not to make them such an oven over summer for the roots of my lovely plants.

So now to clean out my little garden beds, my new hoard of soil, cow poo and clay was combined along with Lucerne hay that was swept up from the horse shed to make this wonderful earth that smelt like the rain forest floor, I’m sure all my new little seedlings would be very happy in their new abode. 

Then planting begins; first the layout the tallest in the middle and then to the front the smallest once grown.  This year I did not vary much to the year before.

There is Rocket, a collection of lettuce’s, English Spinach, Italian parsley, Basil and I got in early another collection of Pansies just before it became too hot and some white Salvia along with Marigolds and a mixed punnet of Lobelia for colour over those hot days.

A decision was also made that we now need another paddock close to the yards.  Firstly we need to finish reading the Stock reports without interruptions, not so much from me but my selection of music in the mornings.  I love to listen to something uplifting being the start of another day, perhaps some Cesaria Evora? or some Flamenco music, though not the choice of El Ranchero at that time of day? 

There are a few things to consider when creating another paddock in this sort of country.  The most vital – Water – the life giver for without it in this landscape you are doomed.  

Then there are weeks and weeks of watching the cattle seeing were they like to travel, where they like to camp, where they like to ‘Escape’ too and following their cattle tracks through the Bush.

Then El Ranchero and I hop into the Landrover with Lily pup on an Expedition into the Scrub, into one of the paddocks that are close to the yards that we will be dividing, to create another Holding paddock – ‘Little Horse’ – as the paddock is already called –‘Horse’ – so the division will be named -‘Little Horse’ – logic on my behalf.

Though it is not so much a driving Expedition, it is more of a walking Expedition looking for areas that are reasonably cleared and not part of the “Vegie Map” – areas that we cannot touch as they have ‘Old’ growth seed trees in them – as we do not want to bring in the Dozer at this stage not viable for a Holding paddock of this size, though it does depend on the availability of Water.

All the water that we come across in the washouts and creek holes is winter water, for when hot summer months set in, all that ground water evaporates and what is left travels underground at about three to four feet which is not of much use to our Stock, we need surface water.  

The other issue in this part of the property is the ‘Rock’ there is plenty of it and you cannot shift it.  So we keep walking, and walking, and walking ……

Lily pup has a wonderful time exploring every nook and cranny, swimming and in general having fun skipping over all the rocks and putting her nose in all the holes she can find.

And then all of a sudden, after five days or so El Ranchero decides on an appropriate place and paces out some star pickets .....

 ....and we get on our way and before you know it, there’s our new paddock – ‘Little Horse’ waiting to be fenced ….. we have another fence line to build ...

...a few gates to hang ...

....and then hook the whole lot up to the electricity and there you go another paddock called ‘Little Horse’ ……..