Author Archives: Margot
Author Archives: Margot
In making the leap from the corporate office to running a cattle property, I had to go through numerous adjustments … as you can imagine.
My work at Virgin Blue was implementing change at the corporate level. I was bumping heads with strong-willed general managers. It was extremely intellectually challenging to navigate their ambitions yet change their ways of working to help consolidate a young, fast growing company.
In coming to Spring Creek, I missed the fiery, stimulating intellectual debate my relationships at VB had afforded me. I’ve had to look for new avenues for intellectual stimulation.
It’s not that living in the bush isn’t intellectually challenging at times. You are more often than not drawn into significant problem solving – the dozer stuck in a dam, the fallen windmill that has to be re-erected … and these are more frequent occurrences than most would like.
But … it’s different.
Then I discovered MOOC’s (Massive Open On-line Courses)! They are brilliant. They are delivered over the internet, they’re free and they’re university standard.
I’ve just finished my first one: Neurons, Synapses and the Brain. I sat in my remote farm house, looking out across the paddock, listening to a cute Jewish professor instruct me on the intricacies of neuroscience – at the perfect level for my current understanding. Brilliant!
Discovering www.coursera.org has definitely filled a hole for me. I now understand the current thinking and research on the workings of the brain. Why do I want to know about that, you ask?
Of course it isn’t just for the pure fun of it … it’s research for my second book, Mind Minders.
But overall, I guess it’s about finding my way in a remote, isolated community. I still want to grow and develop and learn. I want to think along new lines and explore new avenues such as … do we really have free will or are our actions dictated by the neural networks in our brain? Now that’s an interesting debate and has sparked a few conversations.
Can’t wait for my next MOOC and to see where that will lead my thinking!
As I’ve often mentioned, there are lots of emotional challenges running a cattle grazing property. One thing I don’t really look forward to is … weaning time!
Each year, just before winter, we have to take the calves away from their
Going into winter, our dry season, is tough on all the stock but particularly lactating mothers. Mums need to eat a lot of grass to sustain themselves as well as feed a 250kg calf. Cows can quickly lose condition when the protein store in the grass depletes.
It’s better for cow and calf to be separated so we can provide the best care.
Having said all that … they don’t like it all!!!!
It’s very noisy…
The mothers stand around calling and calling to their calves and their calves call back night and day.
The cows glare whenever you come near, their eyes pleading “Please give me back my calf!”
And the poor things … their udders are bursting.
But after three days and three nights, it’s all over. The mums give up and we muster them to their winter paddock. The calves stay in the yards for a bit longer to make sure they are quite calm. Then they are released into a paddock near the house so we can keep a watchful eye on them.
All in all, it’s a rather traumatic experience for all concerned and I’m always glad
when it’s over. It’s hard to sleep with all that racket. At last it’s done … until next year. Sigh!
It’s tragic when you come across one of your cows struggling to stay alive. Such was Rikki’s mother when we found her – too late, her afterbirth not released had become septic. There was nothing merciful to do but shoot her. She could barely stand.
But what of her little calf – just a few days old? We managed to run her down, catch her, take her home and name her. She was terrified the poor little thing.
Though she was depressed for about a week, she adapted quickly and learned to suckle the bottle the first day. She bonded with us too and was most upset when we retreated inside the house. She would stand at the back door, trying to get in.
Being empty-nesters, both Chris and I embraced the opportunity to look after someone again. We’re quite pathetic really, LOVING having someone dependent once more. The twice daily feeding regime was no burden at all.
But we couldn’t maintain her emotional dependence on us … tempting as it was. So we relegated her to one of the paddocks near the house holding some of last year’s offspring. She could make some new friends.
Each morning, Rikki would stand at the gate bleating, calling for her bottle. But it was never enough. She always wanted more, her sucking reflex so strong, driving her. Also, you had to be ready for her reflex to nudge the udder (which normally would release her mother’s milk). A sharp, sudden head butt could catch you off guard in awkward places (particularly for Christopher!).
Though it’s probably socially improper to share this with you, some of her new friends liked to take advantage of her sucking reflex. Some quickly switched on steers, would stand close by waiting for the end of her feed whereby she would happily oblige them by finding something else to suck … I’ll leave it to your imagination! These are the realities of living at close quarters with wild beasts who exhibit none of our social constraints!
Though Rikki is more independent now, we still love her. It’s nice to give her a hug and she loves having her belly rubbed. I’m glad she wasn’t a young bull as we will be able to integrate her into our breeding herd eventually. Young bulls (once turned into steers) go off to market at the appropriate weight. That would have been a sad day.
But then I always feel a little sad when the young steers and heifers go off to market. Life as a grazier is full of emotional challenges but, I guess, saying goodbye to your well-cared-for stock, is a minor one when all things are considered.
At least I won’t have goodbye to Rikki … not for a long time anyway.
A fan of heavy metal? Me neither. In fact I hate it so much I usually want to turn it off within a few minutes. But Chris has been a dedicated fanatic, following Ozzie Osborne’s career forever. It’s interesting that after all the years of listening to Black Sabbath blaring in the CD player while working in the paddock, the kids and I have actually developed a deep affection for them!
That’s why it was so exciting when we heard that Black Sabbath was coming to Brisbane! The kids chipped in and the tickets made a great Chrissie present. Chris would get to see his idol, Ozzie Osborne, LIVE.
He was a bit nervous though, I have to say. $160.00 a ticket hurts on any account but it wasn’t just the price; he was concerned about the band. Let’s face it, like us, they aren’t getting any younger! And the band members have been hard on their bodies and abused themselves severely over the years with drugs and excesses. Ozzie is an old man. Would he and the guys really be up to it? Would they give us our money’s worth?
Well, on Anzac day we went to find out.
What a night! It’s hard to describe in words our experience. We sat at the back of the Boondall Entertainment centre, amongst the black t-shirts and dread locks, looking down on the mosh pit and the press of fans (it was sold out).
The band took stage. I couldn’t help but marvel at how two guitarists, a drummer and one singer could manage to create such an explosion of music and sound and, well … life, which filled the massive auditorium. It even made my tummy vibrate.
As well as the sound, the stage was electric with light works, video projections and enigmatic performances by each member of the band. We were in the presence of majestic talent and we were absolutely enthralled by every living precious moment of it. There was something magical and mesmerising about watching the performance of so many songs you have listened to over the years, unfolding before you … LIVE.
We didn’t want it to end.
We watched Ozzie worshipped by his fans and he gave his all back. He commanded the stage as he always has. His pitch may have been off slightly in one or two songs with a register now too low for his aging voice box, but he nailed it just the same.
Did Chris enjoy it? Well he’s got the tickets stuck to the wall next to his desk in the office, wanting to keep the memory fresh for as long as possible.
But there is something about the visceral, ephemeral nature of a live performance that is captured for that moment, then lost. Though, I can say that even today, the memory lives within me. I don’t want to forget it. I won’t let it go.
For a few hours I was young again and I LOVED it.