Author Archives: Margot
Author Archives: Margot
The Overland Track, in Tasmania, is one of the World’s top hiking destinations. Fitness enthusiasts from across the globe tackle the six day hike to experience the isolated but breathtaking views of mountains, lakes, volcanic craters and spectacular scenery. However, the experience of absorbing this visual smorgasbord is inexorably connected to conquering the physical demands of the track and surviving the sacrifice of life’s little comforts.
Brigit Koerting, my dear friend, and I, were booked to undertake the track the first week in December. Preparation had been intense with weekly training regimes and regular rehearsals to ensure maximum preparation. Great motivation!
The challenging slopes of Mt Coo-tha were a perfect setting for our second major training exercise. Late one recent Saturday afternoon, we attacked the steep inclines with great enthusiasm, working to master our heavy backpacks. Any stress we felt from the steep climb was lost in the intense conversation – catching up on life at Virgin Blue! We reached the Simpson Falls’ crossing on the down hill run, not far from our first rest stop.
Birgit, sure footed and confident with her flash new hiking boots, stepped onto the rocks without hesitation. But before she could take a breath or even pause in our conversation, her right foot had slipped from under her and, to my extreme alarm and dismay, was disappearing down the waterfall on her backside!
“Jesus”, I cried (actually I think I yelled it quite a few times) before holding my breath, waiting for Birgit’s bobbing torso to come to a stop. But it didn’t, she just kept sliding and bouncing down the rock face! Finally, about 20 metres down, Birgit thankfully came to a rather jarring full stop.
“Ooooh, Aaaaar, Ooooh!” was all I could hear. Groaning and moaning, what wonderful sounds, she was alive, and conscious. I ripped off my back pack and scrambled down the slope after her hastily but tentatively, fearing I might end up on top of her. A young man, fortuitously approaching the falls from the opposite side at exactly the right time, managed to reach our distressed Birgit before me.
Broken bones? Broken back? A quick examination from a medical novice did not bring any comfort except to ensure that no bones were visibly protruding. The nice young man (I never did find out his name) was quick to ring 000, while I fumbled with Birgit’s Blackberry trying to remember how to use it – without my glasses.
By the time the rescue crew arrived (which seemed to take forever), I knew Birgit was OK, maybe bruised, maybe sore, maybe a fracture here or there, but OK. Especially when she confided, “You know, having a bit of extra padding comes in handy sometimes!” I knew the worst was over, her sense of humour returned. But Birgit, and all her gear, was still at the bottom of the waterfall. She was in a lot of pain. Her right ankle was distressingly damaged and it’s circumference growing before our eyes.
The rescue crew was matter of fact. It was business as usual for them. A quick medical assessment deemed it unlikely there were broken bones but night was closing. Birgit was not in a good state to walk out and the nearest vehicle (in fact there were two fire engines by this time) was some distance away, along a narrow, uneven and sometimes quite steep, track.
Bring in the helicopter! It was the only way to retrieve her safely from her precarious position. The helicopter, holding a steady position, created a mini hurricane in the forest. I had to hold on to a tree trunk to prevent being blown away. The wind was so intense and frightening that two of the rescue team wedged Birgit between them to prevent her being blown further down the waterfall. “I can walk out! I can walk out!” she cried to no avail; the decision made; the rescue unstoppable.
Fighting with the wind, I just managed to see Birgit disappear into the belly of the helicopter through the gyrating tree line – to be safely delivered to hospital minutes later.
Birgit’s attention in hospital was immediate – well, she had been brought in by helicopter! No waiting in public hospital queues for her. Fortunately, the x-rays confirmed no broken bones. We needed time to digest what had happened. The only way to end the day was with a bottle of bubbly…or two.
The end outcome? Our Overland trip has been postponed and we have both learnt an important lesson in basic safety, care and FOOT PLACEMENT! Birgit is working to heal her bruised and battered body. I know with her determination and good sense she will be back on the trail as soon as possible.
Remember the old Combantrin Mum used to give you when you had worms as a kid? Well cows are at risk of getting those worms plus other parasites as well.
We have to protect our 106 weaners (calves about 6-12 months old) very carefully as they are our wages. They seemed to have lost some weight lately and we were concerned about parasites such as threadworms etc. We ordered a “Poo testing kit” to find out for sure. (Faecal samples are tested in the laboratory for eggs which provide an indication of the severity of any parasite infestation.)
The testing kit arrived in the mail. Chris thought it was a good Sunday afternoon job, so we set out together on the quad bike with the poo collecting kit under my arm.
“The samples have to be fresh. REALLY fresh,” announced Chris. (I love how he shares this level of detail at the last minute!) Yes, you guessed it! That meant we had to stand around in the paddock waiting for one of them to do a poo. I was about to become more intimately acquainted with the bowel movements of a cow than I rather fancied.
As soon as we spotted a tail going up and a back arching, we zoomed over to inspect the steaming prize. We used a stick to scoop it up and squash it into the little plastic bottle – rather like a urine testing bottle. You could feel the heat from the bottle in your hand. A little disconcerting but … they had to be “fresh, REALLY fresh.” At least the flimsy rubber glove provided a meager sense of protection.
But, it wasn’t over. We had to collect 10 samples of course!! Those calves must have thought we were nuts –so intent on their bowel habits.
The next day we popped the samples in the mail back to the lab for testing. The postman delivers some pretty interesting things, but it had never occurred to me that he might be carrying so much shit around day-to-day!
Time for mustering again… Unfortunately we were lacking a key tool for this muster – the hand held radios. One had been missing since our last camping trip. We needed to move some stock that had been hiding during a previous muster. Though the spring season had just begun you could still feel the winter chill in the air, especially when at full speed on the bike (which isn’t that fast really).
We knew the lack of radio contact during the muster would be annoying but thought we could manage. Once in Terrica Hill (the paddocks all have names) we set off in different directions and agreed to meet at the dam with any stock we found. Many of our paddocks are as big as 3 or 4 city suburbs. I had, rather tentatively, agreed to check the hill. This was brave as Chris usually takes the difficult work. It was time to tackle the more challenging terrain if I’m ever going to pull my weight in this mustering farming game. Terrica Hill is quite steep and riddled with fallen timber and of course the inevitable stones and rocks that characterise trap rock country. Courageously, I set off to conquer that hill!
I found a few cows scattered grazing on the edge and pushed them along the ridge. The ridge followed the fence line to the gate into Sheehan’s paddock. This seemed an easier option than pushing them down the hill towards the dam. Well, the truth is, they decided to follow a cow trail and I felt brave enough to follow them and anyway, it was sort of in the right direction. As I pushed them along I could hear Chris beeping his horn along the flats below. We use the horns to get the stock moving. I felt a bit nervous because I knew I was getting further and further away from our agreed rendezvous point plus the cow trail was growing less and less traversable on the quad bike.
There was no easy way down that hill – at least that I was willing to tackle! So I decided to turn around and go back the way I had come to get down to help Chris. I was tearing along retracing my tracks when trouble struck! I was nearly thrown off the bike when it unexpectedly whacked into a stump and stopped in its tracks – stalled. The impact caused the right front wheel to “pop out” and point in a rather abnormal direction at right angles to the bike, a bit like a broken arm with a compound fracture. You find yourself in these predicaments from time-to-time in the bush – you get yourself into trouble and you have to learn to get yourself out. That is, if you don’t want to be seen as a … mere female. I am learning to be resourceful in a whole new context!
Though I tried and tried, I could not budge that wheel for love nor money! I tried with both hands. I tried to lift the front of the bike with one hand and pull on the wheel with the other. I tried lying on the ground and pushing the wheel with both legs bracing my butt against the rocks. It would not budge. Sigh. After numerous fierce, determined attempts, a very red face and a sore shoulder I had to admit it was just not going to happen.
The only option was to set off on foot to find Chris. It was steamy work scrambling down the hill trying to find the tracks. I finally found him not far from the gate on the opposite side of the paddock (about 2 kms). He was pretty mad, as usual, and grumbled such questions as “What have you done now?” and “Where is it?” I bit my tongue but did feel a bit worried that this was going to turn out to be one of those mere female episodes. He doubled me back to the injured bike.
Well, he pushed, pulled, swore and kicked at that wheel to try to get it back in place but he couldn’t do it. I have to admit secretly I was a bit pleased. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say …mere male … he did need my help! Together on 1, 2, 3…we managed to pop it back into the right position. No mere female today! Yay!
But that is definitely the last time we go mustering with No Bloody Radio!!!
This week Spring Creek undertook a serious muster. We needed to round up ALL the cows and separate the larger calves (i.e. over 90 kg). This meant we had to sweep every paddock to ensure we had found them ALL – long hard days mustering in difficult terrain. By the end I had such a sore butt I really wanted to get off my mechanical horse for a few weeks!
Aubrey and his family were visiting with us this week and helped put the calves through the yards – drenching, inoculating, weighing and checking the sex. We also needed to castrate the young bulls. Aubrey was quite interested to check this out. We had a friend, Neil, come and assist. He used a very sharp knife and threw the testicles into a bucket – a bucket full of balls! Yuk! Though, I must admit, now that I’ve been through the process a few times it doesn’t seem so gross. I’ve even touched them! Picked them up when Neil missed the bucket. I guess he was intent on withdrawing the next testicle. He took the bucket home for his dogs to eat. They will take a couple of weeks to heal.
Over these weeks we concentrated on getting our calf feeding setup complete. This meant design and construction of feeders for the calf crumbles and the sorghum stubble.
We also need to train the calves – get them used to a regular feeding process. This also helps them to adjust to being around humans. We call them in the morning “C’Mon” when we feed them. In the future we hope to be able to muster them by calling them. That’s the plan…
We now have our calf-feeding setup fully operational. Every morning we get up and feed them calf crumbles (which they scoff down very quickly).
We have over 100 claves in the house paddock who wake us up every morning around 6:30. I pat them while they are feeding and while they don’t particularly like it, they suffer it. Sometimes they sniff or lick my hand.