Author Archives: Margot

May 30, 2010

All the way up hill …

Dreams are mixed and confused: in a blur I arrive in the wrong t-shirt, run 10ks before the race starts … and other crazy stuff.

Chris is up before the alarm.
He’s more worried about timelines than me!
4.55 am and we are on the road.
A nervous start, shivering in the cold, drizzling Sunday morning at Killarney.
I check out the other runners.
Am I dressed appropriately?
They are all wearing T-shirts from another event.
Mental note: next race I enter I must wear the T-shirt from this race.
Makes you look like a pro, ha ha.
7:15 am the race begins.
I’m well back in the crowd as we start.
The air is imbibed with energy and hype as the runners surge forward.
The race is on!
I turn up my iPod trying to focus on my own pace.
“Keep control of your breathing,” I tell myself.
Everyone is going so fast!
I tune my mind into the Black Eyed Peas and turn up the volume.

The race now well in progress, more and more people overtake me.
Stricken, am I now the last in the crew?
All my training, hard work and determination for what?
To come last? Nooooooo!
Not that I’d trained to be a serious contender. I’d trained for endurance, to complete the task.
But I’m not prepared to be so outclassed!
I cross the 4K marker before I notice any markers at all.
Great news … I’m nearly half way there feeling no pain … yet.
At last, I manage to overtake two other contenders.
Relief … at least I won’t be LAST.
I slog away along the bitumen exhilarated to reach the 5K marker – half way!
Keep focussed, the real work starts at the 6K marker. That’s where the 10% incline begins.
My mind replays my mental training: “Head down, hold your pace to ensure control of your breathing, don’t look up, listen to the music and just KEEP RUNNING.”
I manage to overtake two more contenders as the ascent steepens!!
Definitely not LAST now. Phew!
I’m in the zone, that great place when running long distance.
It’s hard to describe. My pulse is elevated; my body warm (despite the constant drizzle); I’m focussed; in a rhythm.
Looking forward to the end but feeling good.
7K … 8K … 9K Hooray!
It’s nearly over.
I overtake another, much younger than me. Woo hoo.
Finally, I cross the line.
I look for the camera to snap off my photo.
Oh … the photographer has already left. Boo hoo.
My eyes scan for the clock.
I’ve been running for 85.25 minutes … but I made it!!!!!
I slow down, exhilarated. I achieved my goal.
I approach the car and the waiting Christopher, grinning.
He didn’t think I could do it, but I did!

December 17, 2009

My Quad

I remember the excitement the day our two bikes arrived; Chris’s two-wheeler and my four-wheeler (Quad). We wheeled them off the trailer and started them up.  I figured it was just what you needed to do at 50 – learn a new skill like riding a farm bike.

After Chris took me through the basics we set out on our first run up Spring Creek Road to our other property, Cambren. We rode abreast and talked a bit as we putted along. We picked up speed as I grew a bit more confident. I remember Chris yelling to me laughing, “Where are the kids? Oh that’s right. They’re not around anymore. Ha!” We had to hold on to our hats as we zoomed along.

It was like we were teenagers again on a new adventure. We felt a new found freedom and tearing along on our new bikes was liberating.

At first I just wanted to ride on the road but gradually I ventured onto the tracks. We have tracks all over our 10,000 acres. They range from being suitable for a two-wheel drive vehicle in places to being almost indistinguishable amongst the re-growth and washed out gullies.

Creek crossings are the scariest, probably mostly because I stacked the two-wheeler early on trying to cross a shallow stream. I was going too fast and once out of control it climbed up the bank and into a tree. I sustained only minor cuts and bruises thank goodness. I remember Chris being really cross because I broke the headlight. But you should see his bike now – there isn’t much left of the original paraphernalia. Chris has stacked it too many times to count.

Sometimes I might be on the bike pretty much all day when we are mustering. We have such large paddocks and once you start a muster you can’t really stop until you have secured the stock. It can be a long way to the yards even up to 8 – 10ks.

You would laugh if you saw me get off the bike after being on it all day. I can hardly walk. It looks like I’ve just got off a horse, which I guess in a way, I have.

Though I mightn’t be able to do fish tails like Neal or burnouts like Michelle, I’m pretty confident on it now and can go pretty much anywhere.  Though I’m at my bravest when a recalcitrant cow or calf takes off in the wrong direction. I become fearless, tearing across the paddock to halt its escape.

But mostly when you are mustering, you are putting along in 1st or 2nd gear. We use it to run water checks, stock checks, put on pumps, get the mail and of course it provides endless entertainment for some of our guests.

It does a lot of work my Quad but for me it will always somehow be a symbol of the new found freedom I have with my life on the land.  I love it.

December 2, 2009

Its nice having visitors

It was a pleasant spring afternoon. The family (visiting for the week) were enjoying the cross-breeze and relaxing on the verandah in the early afternoon.

It was fun watching Michelle’s puppy, Gregorii, socialising with our three feral piglets. Though the pigs were small, they felt confident in their territory and numbers and thought it great sport to terrorise Gregorii. They would charge at her snorting and grunting before safely retreating under the house. Gregorii could only nudge her head under the bearers and stare and growl at them, waiting for them to come out and charge her again. It was great sport.

When Michelle noticed Gregorii’s barking turn a little frenetic she was quick to respond. Gregorii had discovered a big brown snake stretched out on the garden bed – another playmate!

“Oh my god! It’s a snake,” Michelle yelled and scooped up Gregorii and held her safe. The chit chat on the verandah came to an abrupt halt. Everyone jumped up to get a better view, peering into the garden from a safe distance.

I knew just what to do. Pulling on my gum boots I retrieved the rake and spade from the garden shed.  Not that I’d ever killed a snake before, but I thought I could handle it.

Lauren stood bravely near the garden bed, watching the snake in case it moved. We needed to know where it went, if it did move. We needed to chop off its head. I wasn’t sure which weapon to use first but decided on the rake – if I wasn’t successful in piercing his neck with one of the teeth, I felt confident I could pin him down at least.

Everyone was quiet, watching. I suppose they assumed I was experienced at this sort of thing.

Careful to get my footing secure, I aimed the rake. I paused holding it like a sword ready to pierce. I wanted my thrust to be powerful and sure. I meant business. Taking a deep breath, I rammed the rake down on his head. His body reacted to my attack, writhing. The rake’s teeth had not pierced him but I managed to hold him pinned.

“Here, Lauren. Chop off his head with the spade while I hold him.” I passed the spade to her with my free hand and leaned my chest into the rake, holding him firm. Lauren lifted the spade and brought it down hard on his head. “I got him,” she said.

“Don’t let him go,” yelled Grandma her voice tort with anxiety. “Hold him, hold him! He mightn’t be dead yet.”

Lauren lifted the spade gingerly. Still holding him tight with the rake, we leaned forward to inspect the damage. To our horror, his head moved.  It looked a bit flattened and he was stunned but he was definitely still alive!

“Here, you take the rake and hold him.” Lauren took over the rake, holding him pinned. His body was writhing fighting to get free. I took the spade and raised it ready to strike.

Something happened at that moment. I’m not quite sure what. I think the vision of our beautiful bull lying dead, a few weeks earlier filled my mind. Had a snake got him? I was pretty mad about that. Something came over me as I brought that spade down. I attacked yelling, “You f…ing mongrel! You f…ing mongrel!”  I was as one possessed.

But no matter how many times or how hard I struck, I couldn’t get that head off. He was tough. We moved him onto a rock to provide some resistance to my strikes. That helped. We succeeded. His head was off. He was dead. All heaved a sigh of relief.

But he didn’t look dead. His torso continued to writhe and slither in graceful purpose. It was eerie. In fact it was quite horrifying. I kept looking back at the separated head. He must be dead. We must be safe. But his body just kept moving – creepy.

Sure that the intruder was dead, Grandma came into the garden. “Now look here,” she said to me, the experienced snake defender. “This is what I do.” Taking the spade from me, she demonstrated bringing the spade down on the snake’s neck in one sure strike. “Then you hold it there. Hold it there as long as you have to. Hold it until you are sure that it is dead.”

NOW I knew what to do. The adrenalin subsided, the excitement passed.  The chit chat started up again.

We are never sure when the next visitor will pop up out of nowhere. My eyes scan the garden every day, just in case.

October 12, 2009

The Grief that drought brings

The Shrinking Dams

We are in damage control. What do we do with our stock when there is no water and no feed? We had opened every gate to every paddock to give the stock access to all the water holes and any feed left on the block. Then we had to close them again. The thick mud in some of the dams is too much of a hazard. We have to keep the stock out.

Too late to save

I found another cow stuck in the mud while out on a muster. She was nearly spent poor soul. She must have been trapped for a couple of days. Even her head was stuck as she lay on her side. She couldn’t even lift it up. Actually, she looked dead. But I watched carefully for a while and saw her ear flicker. It was alarming to see her still clinging hopelessly to life with no hope of relief. She couldn’t be pulled out, she was past it.

Chris shot off two rounds to give her some peace. The blood was surprisingly bright as it oozed into the dam.

Saving the cow

Chris had found yet another cow a few kilometres away in a similar predicament but she was in better shape. We decided to attempt to pull her out.

Chris backed up the Patrol as close as possible over the dam wall. We tied a strap around her neck and tied the other end to the tow bar. Her front quarters were buried up to the base of her neck. She must have been thrashing around for a while but only succeeded in burying herself deeper, like quicksand. But her head was up and she looked alert. She was aware we were there to help her.

Chris got in the car ready to drag her out. I stood watch to tell him how it was going as he couldn’t see the old girl. Pulling a 400-500 kilo beast out by the neck isn’t pretty. I kept stopping Chris as I was worried he would break her neck.

“I just have to try to pull her out. There is nothing else I can do,” he said as he got back in the car for the third time determined. He didn’t stop this time. I just stood and watched as the Patrol heaved and eventually “popped” her out of the mud hole. She didn’t even try to help herself.

We rushed over to get the strap off and to coax her to stand up. She didn’t look well. In fact, she looked worse. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head. She was really in distress.

I couldn’t stop the tears any longer. It was so upsetting to see her in such a state when we were trying to help her, to save her.

“Just like Ross said,” Chris cursed. “If the mud doesn’t kill them you really fuck them up when you pull them out.” But what else could we do? We couldn’t just leave her there to die. We had to try.

We decided to let her recover. She might stand up of her own accord. I had to walk away from the car to try to compose myself. The tears wouldn’t stop, the impact of the drought crushing down on me. We were failing in our duty of care to look after these animals.

There was no hope. We couldn’t save her. A few hours later Chris put six bullets in her head. She kept moving and I wanted her out of her misery so he kept shooting till finally she gave out her last breath.

The drought is such an emotional battle. How do you remain positive when you have to deal with such grief? It was a tough day.

Poddy Calf

There was one positive out the tragic event. We were able to eventually run down her calf. Now I have my first poddy calf. I’m calling him “Muddy”.  At least we saved him.

Its funny, but having a calf to bottle feed twice a day is making me feel like I really am a grazier.

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