Category Archives for "Life on Spring Creek"

Posts about my transition from city to remote rural life. I talk about the challenges of grazing, the frustration of primary production and your vulnerability when facing the elements.

Mustering – is it Fun?

Is it fun because I’m burning around the paddock on my quad bike?

Courageous bounding logs and rocks and narrowly escaping stump holes,
Chasing reluctant cows and pestering inquisitive calves when it’s time to move them on?

Is it fun because of the great Aussie bush myth?
The romantic idea of the fearless cowboy … the muscle-bound jackaroo?
Is it a connection with our historical roots, the Aussie bush pioneer who shaped our nation?

Or is it fun because of our sense of dominion?
The cows exist at our behest, grown for the sizzling steak on the great Aussie barby.
We breed them, feed them, herd them, wielding our power hither and thither?

Is it fun when we force them into the yards?
They know what’s coming, their reluctance evident in their stubbornness,
The battle more and more difficult the closer we get (our uniquely engineered funnel doesn’t trick them anymore).

Is it fun when we yell and curse and crack the whip?
Nearly ramming their backsides in our persistence and shortening temper.
We push, we prod, we yell … but … we never give up.

Is it fun because we rule supreme?
Eventually their wills give way and they jostle and push through the gates.
Captured at last in the yards, waiting to endure the day’s work.
There is no escape now.

Is it fun because the muster home is always so much easier?
It’s almost too hard to keep up as they race away, eager to get back.
Except the Mum’s that have left behind their young.
They moo and turn and moo and turn.

Is it fun because it is that battle of wills?
Us and against them, human against beast, predator against prey.
Is it fun? I’m not sure, but when all’s said and done, I’ll be back on my bike to do it all again.

October 31, 2012

Insane Muster

I’ve said all along that I like mustering but our muster last Friday would have to rank as the best experience yet.

We had a very large (700 kg+), aggressive (and not very productive) bull roaming around CAMBREN for several months. Needing to get him to market, we managed to put him with our first-calf heifers for a few days. Last Thursday we set off to muster them all into the yards so that we could take the bull to sale and give the rest a vitamin B shot.

Well, that was the beginning of a very long day. That naughty bull must have been up to some mischief. We don’t know exactly what he did but whatever it was, he gave our two young bulls a very big scare. So much so that they pushed through the fence in several places into the large paddock next door called Back Hops (with a horde of compliant heifers in tow) to escape him. What should have taken only a morning to do, took us all day and we still had to return the next day to push the herd back to their “home” in Hops (without the naughty bull who was by then in the yards at Spring Creek).

I had been unsuccessful running down one of the young bulls in Back Hops the day before, so we decided to get him together.

That’s when the fun really started …

I managed to find him close to the back boundary … and so the chase began. Our normally lumbering sedate young bull (son of Ramesees who we used to pat on the head) had turned into a terrified charging beast. But I was on his tail, tearing across the Traprock, leaping logs and rocks in chase. Smart young bull that he was, he took for the heavier country and had me bush bashing though thick Peach and Rosemary. I laid a significant trail behind me, I have no doubt. But I had no time to look back. I had to keep that bull insight. I was in full chase.

Somehow I managed to steer him towards our goal – the gate into Hops (where he was supposed to be). Whether that was by good fortune or my skillful mustering ability, it’s difficult to say, but I prefer to believe the latter.

Chris joined me, thank goodness, just as he disappeared into a heavily timbered forest where neither the quad nor the two-wheeler could go. But he didn’t take off, he just stood and watched us … and waited.

And so the next part of the chase began …

Chris, on foot, managed to steer him out of the forest (the stock don’t really like forests) and from there we were either on our bikes fighting the throttle to keep pace, or on foot pushing him out of gullies or stacks but all the while working to steer him towards the fence (a great way to stop a running bull). In such a chase you loose track of where you are, especially in such a large paddock but we knew we were heading generally towards the fence. Once against the fence, it is always easier to push the stock in the direction you want.

It seemed to take forever to find that fence. But finally we came upon it and No. 99 stopped short and began a more gentle stroll towards the gate … he must have been buggered after all that running! We didn’t quite make it to the gate before he pushed through a weak spot in the fence but he was finally in Hops – where he was supposed to be. I eased my hand off the throttle, pulled up the quad and sat back feeling very satisfied as I stilled the adrenalin flow.

We got him!

August 27, 2010

The Rescue Mission

Having my daughter-in-law, Lauren, visiting was an opportunity for a pleasant drive to checkout the dams at Cambren. We have been enjoying such an unusually wet winter and we wanted to see the water levels and show Lauren around. Fortunately, we had morning tea and water with us when we set off.

We had only looked at the first dam when, on our way back to the track, Chris drove over a rather unassuming stick. It made an alarming noise and Chris immediately turned off the vehicle and jumped out. Something bad seemed to have happened!

A quick check under the bonnet revealed quite startling devastation. The apparently unobtrusive “stick” had managed to disconnect the power steering cable, poke a hole in the radiator and shatter the radiator fan! A piece of the fan was lodged in the underside of the bonnet. Ouch! What now?

Fortunately I had pulled on my hiking boots that morning as Lauren was wearing my work boots. So I volunteered to undertake the rescue mission. I set off with a bottle of water. It was about an eight kilometer trek back to the house.

My pace was fast at first and I even jogged a little way in my enthusiasm. I love to hike and the excitement of the rescue made it all the more fun…until I reached the creek. Our usually dry rocky creek bed was now a raging torrent! It looked more like a river!

Scrambling along the edge of the creek searching for a suitable crossing point, I finally found a spot reasonably narrow with a number of large rocks which could be used as stepping stones. I found a branch to help me balance and embarked on the crossing gingerly; balancing carefully on each rock and leaning on the branch once a stable spot could be found to plant it. When I could see I was only a couple of hops away from dry land, I made a dash for it. Oops! I lost my footing.

Plop! Both boots were now submerged in the raging waters. I scooted up the bank. No time to squeeze out socks. I had to resume my mission! At least now I was going to find out what it was like to hike with wet socks and boots. I could hear the water squelching each time I planted my foot but nothing was going to deter me. My grandson was out in the sun with no hat on!

It was a relief to get to the road where I hoped a passing vehicle might speed my return. No such luck. At least I didn’t have to worry about navigating the remaining creek crossings. I just barged straight through!

Head down, bum up I took each squishy step in determination and made it to the car parked in the Shearing Shed in record time. Once in the Navara, I zoomed back down the road crashing through the creek crossings. Lauren and Chris waved from their spot by the creek as I approached. Back at last. It had taken me an hour and a half.

How tough it had been for them waiting. They were enjoying a lovely picnic in the shade by a babbling brook while I slogged down Spring Creek Road in wet boots!

Sigh. At least it was all over now and I could take off my saturated shoes and socks. Or so I thought!

But it wasn’t just a matter of picking them up and taking them home. Chris was quick to shatter my sense of “mission accomplished”. He informed me we had to take the injured vehicle with us too! That meant I had to drive one of them; either the towing vehicle or the vehicle being towed! Both seemed terrifying to me.

I opted to steer the broken Nissan Patrol while Christopher towed. He couldn’t help but grin. He, as usual, was enjoying the challenge.

Lauren and Laird came with me for moral support.

The snatchy strap in place the tow began. I sat on the edge of my seat. The ignition was off, the gears in neutral. All I had to do was steer and break if needed. No problems, except of course there was no power steering and we had to cross 7 or 8 creeks, uphill and down dale. I was terrified I would crash into the back of the Navara.

Poor Laird was subject to some rather inappropriate language lessons from Granny! But the funny thing was – he loved the whole affair. He just watched it all with great interest and grinned at me whenever I looked back to make sure he was okay. He even gave a little chuckle from time to time. Such a boy!

What a relief to pull both vehicles into the driveway next to the house. I was so glad to get out of that car safe home; all rescued.

It was time for a glass of wine by the fire and to put it all behind me; maybe even laugh about it. At least I got my exercise for the day…or maybe it was for a week! But really, it was just the usual challenges of living in the Traprock. Sigh. At least now I know nothing much happens when you hike in wet boots. It was just a little uncomfortable.

But I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to do that again anytime soon. I hope…

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.

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