Thursday… finally a “day to myself”…

Bahahahahah! Yeah right!

First thing is utilise as much of the miniscule amount of sunshine we’ve had this week to get some bore water. Two loads for the tank as a back up for next week, and a third for spraying next Tuesday.

Naturally, things that I might think will take a short time take three times longer and at 2 pm I gave up on the water collection and moved on the the next task for the day: Sewing. I did some alterations to some mens shirts. I hav found it’s cheaper to but mens flannel shirts, get some extra flannel from Spot light and insert a “gusset” into the sides cos I have hips and guys general don’t…. and apparently women don’t need to be warm. Suddenly Wham! the day is done and I’m scrambling to get dinner made for the chef, put Lam-Lambs away and stay warm.

Getting the other side of the lambs to herd them into the yards.
The oats are taller than the dog
Rock-it demanding her dinner immediately: it was carrots.

My race home against the internal land division closures in Western Australia

Way back in march, I was out through a fairly anxious time due to the unfolding pandemic. I recorded my thoughts and feeling and have decided to self publish them here:

I took on an 8 week stint at Mount House station in the Kimberley. I’m recently married and living and working on our farm in the Wheatbelt. However, no employment for a year left us deciding to let me give station cooking in a relief capacity a go. Finding the Mount House job was a God-send.

I traveled with my dog (Nola). We flew up to Broome and the mrs manager picked us two up. So the return journey is that: drive to Broome; fly to Perth.
In February, Corona was still a joke in the station country. A virus named after a beer you need lime to enjoy. And when I first arrived, I honestly thought the virus, while serious would be like Ebola or sars… Australia will be right mate, we’re an island don’t you know. Anyway, in early March, I booked flights for April 5. As the pandemic unfolded, I started wondering if 5th April would be too late. So I developed a few personal plans for all the what ifs I (and my husband) could think of; Like what if I get stuck on the station all year. At what point should I jump, could my partner just come bore running up here?

However, We felt strongly that we needed to put a crop in this year, and my new family and my sister need us near by too. I discussed the situation with my boss and we agreed I would need to jump when the signs indicated a major lock down within Western Australia.

the zombie apocalypse came to the station:

We were starting to notice the pressure on the economy on the station. Mount House runs on a fortnightly truck delivery of all things fresh, frozen and pantry.
For the last 2 orders I had not received certain things like bacon, snags, cream, pasta.
While these items are still luxuries on stations, it’s not fun running out of bacon. We still had a fair whack of uht cream. But sometimes you just need the fresh stuff for whipping.

I basically switched over to rationing the limited stuff, and impressed myself when I made pasta carbonara using lasagna sheets. We were now completely out of pasta.

Mrs boss also started contacting her Perth distributors to order what she termed a zombie apocalypse order. About 3 weeks ago, the station owners decided to implement some really strict lockdown policies and she wanted a kind of big wet season order in like we station cookies all know about. Unfortunately even at that stage we were told there was stuff all tin food available.

And then came the beer restrictions… Mount house had literally just started a social club this year and all of a sudden, it looked like they couldn’t get grog. (Not that I drink much). A neighbours came to our rescue and is letting us use their license to order. This past week there’s now a restriction on smokes. Would anyone like to explain to either a black fella or ringer that they can’t smoke anymore cause they’re not allowed to go to town or order a week-months supply? I remember the moment the outbreak became very real for the men in the camp; just before the 500 people gathering rule and they realised that rodeo was cancelled. It was a Friday smoko time. They were not impressed but still a bit blasé about it. They know it’s real now.
The new cook arrived and was put in quarantine. We made it a game of cooties. The manager has also ordered chicks and veggie seeds. They don’t want to be caught with no veggies. The station has a full time gardener so it shouldn’t be too difficult to grow some. I hope their garden goes well. Frankly I’m glad I don’t have to be a station cook in this part of the pandemic.

The departure

Then came at big press release on a Friday: they are closing the land divisions within Western Australia. I read the rules, Mrs Boss read it and we both said it was time I jumped. I got on to Qantas and changed flights to the Monday, 30th March, including Nola. Truthfully, I had been quite anxious about it for about 2 weeks. I wanted to earn good cash. I wanted to hand over to the permanent cook in person. And knew I was going home to even less jobs available than before. But when do you jump? I honestly wished there was someone I could call to ask advice! Dr Norman Swan? ABC Radio? My local member for parliament? I had know idea so I just bottled it. And raged at every restriction placed on station workers that city people need but cripples station workers lives unnecessarily. And quietly freaked out about my family in other parts of the country. I might be in the safest place on earth but there is more to my life than just me.

On Sunday, I was sent a message that my flight was cancelled, that I was booked on an evening flight and then they messaged to say Nola couldn’t go please call this number. So I did. Only operational Monday to Friday, 9am Sydney time. I’m a bit panicky now. On Monday at 6 WA time, I call and join the queue for sorting out Nola’s flight. She goes as freight. We agreed to an afternoon flight. 2 pm.

Then 4 hours later, it’s another cancelled flight. So I call again and I’m relieved to here that Nola can fit the last flight out. Ultimately I had three flight changes before even leaving the cattle station. I had reached the point where I was preparing to leave my companion animal behind. I even shed a tear at the thought and I’m not a crier.

We left in the morning at 6 am. My driver, was not allowed out of the car for anything. She has to refuel herself out of a pod on the ute. And can only use the bush to relieve herself. So there I was. From midday, Sitting under a tree with my dog in the airport carpark, waiting for a 7 pm flight out. I know there are 6 cases of covid19 in the Kimberley and I figure they’re probably all in Broome, so I’m not going anywhere. I’ve checked in. It’s the last flight before curfew is enforced but I was anxious even this last flight will be cancelled and ill be lumped with trying to sort the paperwork to get home.

Then I boarded. Feeling anxious but grateful. I had just read that a plane in South Australia got turned back to it’s departure airport due to baggage handlers testing positive. My air hostesses have added a hand washing reminder to the safety speech at take off. And an assurance that Qantas takes our safety seriously. Meanwhile the passengers queued pretty close together when boarding. (I didn’t). I decided that best practice for plane travel was to maintain as much physical distance as I can. I only touched my seatbelt buckle and concluded that I didn’t need water or a biscuit from staff. I sat until most people were off. I wore gloves to handle my bags when putting them on the ute. And I showered as soon as I got home. I was both filthy from a windy day outside and exhausted after such a long and emotional day.

I feel really great to be home. And it’s good to be with my husband. So I’m actually grateful to have worked as much as I managed. I will now quarantine at home for 14 days because that is best practice.

11th -the weekly farm regeneration day

the peas are growing beautifully
Nola and I on the quad. She hates the quad. Her paw is on the spray pod.
Artsy shot of the salt patch
In the tree line, Adopted Dad is spraying Worm Poo tea in the hopes that we can see more growth there soon. He is on the Quad bike. In the foreground, salt scalded wash away that has some salt bush already established and both new and old straw covering a fair portion of it.

It was a special day today, a long awaited project was started in the salt patch. A solution of Worm Poo tea was sprayed into the tree area with the hope that is will kick start the soil microbes and we will see a general improvement of the area. We are hoping to improve the plant carrying capacity of the two and a half hectares with a view to using the mini paddock as emergency stock feed. The aim is to be able to have lots of fodder bushes and grasses and a general reversal of the salt scalding. By planting the various varieties of salt bush, we hope that the area will never revert back to being salty either. Then the soil microbes can get to work in keeping the less salt tolerant plants alive like gum trees, tree lucerne and grasses.

We think this is blue bush, a salt tolerant plant native to our area. It makes great sheep feed
Canola fields in the background peas in foreground, and one tiny black speck in the mid ground which is my cattle.

We’re in a rain event so we thought we’d spend a day working sheep….

10th August 2020

Water everywhere

Maybe it wasn’t raining ALL day. But waves of rain clouds kept rolling on by, drenching us before clearing to sunshine, then rain over again.
We recorded 29mm yesterday. There’ll be more to record today too. This creeks are gushing. The ground is squelching. Its Oilskin time for both of us.

Walking the sheep up the fence line with the quad
sheep hanging as far form us as possible in the sheep pen.
they really didn’t believe us when we said they were to go into the yards

Why did we work sheep today?
I need to take about thirty to the sale yards. drop of is on Monday, sale is on Tuesday. So it had to be done or wait a week.
We were pretty drenched afterwards including dog who was both drenched and covered in sloppy sheep poo. She got a quick shower before being allowed in the car and consequently the tiny house.

It was good to get the sheep off to market. it sure took a lot longer to get sorted than we would have liked. So we had half roast chicken for dinner as I was too late home to do a full roast.

7th, 8th, 9th of August

Or I got a job! However, I get ahead of myself.

Friday: The farmer loaded the ute early today and I did a load of washing in the old machine with the old generator on.
Parker has managed to sell sixty bags of wheat this week. That’s a ton and a half. So this ute is definitely earning its keep

I’m almost living in my wool poncho at the moment, Thought I’d capture a record of how long my hair is when wet.

Saturday:
I GOT A JOB!
Ok so its only one day a week for now, however its a start.
Also it’s working with my sister so we can car share to work. Very cool. This was the sunrise at work. I made a special: savoury or sweet scones. Cos I make good scones.

SUNDAY
It’s a wet day . Rain came falling softly on the tiny house. The loudest feature of the rain was the water gushing from the gutter next to our bedroom as we haven’t yet got tank to collect rainwater.

I enjoyed a morning on bed. Yep, on bed.the warmest, driest, and lightest lite place to be is in the bedroom, so there I sat and relaxed after a big day of work after a recently healing back injury. I am learning the art of healing times. The Farmer wandered up to his shed to use it in its originally intended function: a dry place to work on vehicles and farm stuff.

But alas my rest was shortened by an emergency call from a stranded damsel in distress and I was called to the heroics of big sisterhood along with her cat and my dog to get her car started and home once more.

It was then we discovered that the tiny house is definitely quieter than the shed. What a crazy idea that was… what idea? the notion we had of joining a family Zoom session on the Big Mac computer in the shed. Do you think we could hear any of it? not really. But it was nice to catch up with our siblings.

Not much else to report regarding Sunday other than were up to 17mm in the gauge with no sense of the raining coming to an end yet. I’ll give you the final measure tomorrow’s reading.

6th August 2020

A catch up day.
Let me think… I’ve been busy all week. Running to town, visiting people and sorting computer stuff. So there was one task I didn’t manage all week however today I conquered it!

Ok so it just the washing up but I was pleased to reclaim my kitchen.
I also spent time drawing in my art journal drinking tea with my sister and making crumbed steaks for the hungry farmer.

Most of my groceries for a week.
How I store cereal. I chose “low Fodmap” cereals and add lots of seeds and blueberries.
my view in the morning
looking out our current front door of the tiny house.

4th & 5th August…

Fourth:
I rise this morning mildly disappointed that today will not be the usual land care day: the family have another task to see to and so we are not planting, watering or spreading straw today on the quad bike. Not to worry! I head down to the tiny house to play with the shelves in the newly painted bedroom.

Then I take the quad bike for a spin anyway: all the cardboard from those shelves will be laid down in the salt patch as one more way to cover the hard, crusty baked and unloved land. We then add soil and straw over top. We hope this will help hold some moisture in the summer time.

I thought I’d share my current view when blogging. A big beautiful tree over yonder and a wide open shed door. I’m also freezing…

Yesterday’s canola field with blue sky

Nola and I went for a cuppa with a local friend. She lives diagonal farms away but 10 mins drive. Nola knows the trip well and insists on being allowed to run up the drive way to greet the dogs ahead of my arrival.

Just look at those trees.

Fifth
Did a job trial today…. more to follow.

Oh! And due to the fact that Parker and I made it home so “early” (and yeah all I really mean is that the sun was still up), we made the crazy decision to move our bed into the new bedroom.

excuse the untidy bed, but here we have a double bed hard up against the back wall. Its cool in here but there is no breezes or drafts.

Sweet Dreams everybody.

Third of August, 2020

Watching the paddock around us turn yellow with canola, while enjoying the growth of our own oats.
Deep grey blue of the storm clouds passing to the north, looking across the peas at the tree line where the salt patch is.
The neighbours crop as viewed from Brookdale Farm’s front gate.

It rained. I recorded 1.5 mm in the morning but the showers keep rolling in. The farmer reports that the gauge looked close to 10mm once the sunset and he came home. The final measurement will be provided later.

We really appreciate this drink. the Crops were just starting to look a little thirsty.

So far this year, our locality had reported a less than average year for rain fall. We are looking good for crops at this point however the question has been raised whether there will have been enough precipitation for stock keeping over summer. We have enough water to ensure the stock are not thirsty, but will there be enough grass?

Meanwhile, a mad dash has been going on most Tuesdays in the Salty patch of the farm. We are working at getting 300 plants into the ground: Oldman Saltbush, Silver saltbush, river saltbush, Salignas and Tree Lucernes. Mostly every thing is looking pretty good in there. The real test comes when it warms up whether we’ve planted everything where it can access ground water through it’s root system.
Tomorrow, I expect to be over there working with my local family members.

It definitely is a blessing to be able to continue the work. for a few months this year, they weren’t able to even come to the farm as there was a Land division up between us. I ended up not seeing anyone other than one sister and the farmer for weeks on end. So I had to take up the weekly grocery acquisitions, just to get out and look at some different faces for a bit, if only 30 minutes.
I worked out while I was at Alexandria, that I was fine living with the 10-20 odd people for 4weeks straight but I then needed to get off the property and go and visit someone fresh. Well here at Brookdale, I like having my second parents visit weekly, having Parker in the shed and my sister in her tiny house over yonder and fortnightly or so catch ups with a good friend and neighbour. I just wish I could purchase all the things I shop for in town online and have them ready for pickup when Parker comes home from town.

Western Australia has placed itself in a very precarious position. We have opened up significantly more than any other state. However, we are as safe as our boarder control is strong. One slip up and we’re gonnas. Done. K-splat. Poof. So I genuinely cherish having my weekly visits on the farm as I know we may not have them always this year. And I am grateful that I find peace and power in being a more solitary person. I don’t like to see my fellow mankind suffer under the burden of social distancing. all these hugs those people need from each other.

The first weekend of August 2020

The time has come for me to start documenting some of my experiences of the CoronaVirus Pandemic 2020. For the most part, the virus has had very little effect on me. However, as it lags on, I am beginning to feel somewhat disappointed that we have not yet got this under control in Australia.
I was genuinely hoping back in February that Australia would use our island boarders to our advantage. As a farmer, I had been closely paying attention to the destruction of the pork industry in china. Australia was on high alert fighting to ensure the disease affected the swine herds in the the northern hemisphere would not come to our shores or pass our excellent border controls.

2020 is not my year anymore: its ours; the whole world’s year.

And yet, I watched from a far remote cattle station as Covid-19 entered our shores, our schools, our work places and our nursing homes. My anxiety grew as I learnt that some of my closest relatives may be both out of work and at a high risk on falling quite ill if they contracted the virus.

Australia started responding. But it always felt too late. I knew we could never pull a total lockdown like the Chinese government enforced in Wuhan, but I expected we would need something as close to that as a democratic monarchy could legally enact. And I knew it in the early days of February.

Western Australia then got on board and the actions and decisions began flooding the news every day through March. I ended up racing home from the Kimberley just before the closure of our internal land divisions. For a short bit there I wasn’t sure both myself and Nola dog would make it in time. I could have ridden covid19 out on a cattle station if I had wanted, but its just not the life I pick now. I’m a farmer and a farmers wife in the wheatbelt of Western Australia first and a Station cook second.

April, May and June flew past and it looked like Australia had this virus in the bag. So I looked further afield to watch the world groan under the horror of a virus that loved to infect and transmit to all and sundry.

July came and rumours were floating about that Victoria was in trouble. But we struggled to contain it this time. Sure, I might be 4000 km away from the nearest case of community contracted virus, but my concerns are no different. No one in Australia is save while there is community transmission of corona virus anywhere.

So here I am. It’s August. My birthday month. And I’m looking at the probabilities of visiting my eastern states family this year: zero to none.

So it time to start recording some of it here. Lots of crafty social media influencers have been preaching about the need to document their every day stuff because “Folks, This is history in the making!”. They cottoned on to it in March. They also make a nice income from selling crafty products to the people stuck at home, so there’s that.

But my story is different. I have not really been “in lockdown” at all. Just a normal day on the farm, being my usual mildly antisocial self enjoying the isolation of living rurally.

However. I was hoping to visit family in the second half of this year. I was hoping more work would be available this year. I was looking forward to having the means to kick more goals out of the park this year. 2020 is a cool and easy to remember number so I was going to make it all mine.

Over the coming month, I will try for 5-6 blogs a week. I will also be sharing some of my thoughts, opinions and feeling in regards to this pandemic. Because I would like the personal record of this little bit of history. 2020 is now the globes year not mine.

Pics for interest sake:

Saturday Morning snuggles on the little two seater lounge with Nola dog who is feeling cold.
Painting walls white in the Tiny House by the creek
Couples Goals kicked out of the park: together we had this lot unpacked and set to this point shown in less than an hour. No arguments, just production line Efficiency
Lam-lambs in the morning waiting to get out to the green grass.