Host: Yarrie Station
Written by Kelsie Coppin – Leading Hand and Josje de Bruin – Station Cook/Domestic, Yarrie Station.
Kelsie is Senior Station Hand and Livestock Leading Hand and has worked at Yarrie over the past ten years. Her family date back in the Pilbara for over five generations. She is a core part of the team and has a magnitude of skills required to be a senior part of the team from horse handling and shoeing to driving our road train, preg-testing the cattle, and maintaining watering points. In April Kelsie went on a trip to Indonesia and Vietnam looking at the live export supply chain in these countries.
Three weeks before the departure date I saw a notification on Facebook about a possible trip to Indonesia and Vietnam with DAFWA (Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia). The purpose was to see how things work and get a better understanding of the Live Export trade and how it affects the Pilbara and the Kimberley; I thought it would be a great trip so I “liked” it. The next thing I know my phone goes off and it’s from Annabelle, ‘Do you want to go to Indo on the trip and represent Yarrie?’
Yeah, sure, I thought. Why the hell not? So the next thing I know I’m organising flights and contacting Manus Stockdale at DAFWA. Look out! I’m going to Indonesia and Vietnam (my second ever trip overseas) with seven other pastoralists, an Elders bloke, and an MLA rep!! This could be interesting!!!
We flew into Jakarta late on the Sunday night, bleary eyed and not really knowing anyone yet. After a bit of sleep (in an unbelievably amazing hotel) we got to breakfast, started having a good yarn and getting to know one another. On our first day out we went to the Wet Markets, seeing just how much is used of a carcass and how little waste there is. We visited a local business, who were a major producer of Bakso Balls, which are a highly processed beef ball that sells cheaply and is a large portion of the Indonesian diet. Later, we visited an abattoir where we could see their facilities and also got some photos with some very shy but smiling young abattoir workers. After such a big first day we had started to warm up to each other a bit as well.
A few days later it was on the plane again and off to South Lampung for a day trip. The first stop was to the Elders Feedlot with some very large and completely content bullocks (and massive amounts of eight foot tall King grass that I would love to bring back and grow at home!!). Then we were off to The Great Giant Pineapple Company which has some 20,000 hectares of farmland dedicated to producing pineapples and some palm oil. A feedlot was incorporated into this business as they wanted something to use the waste product of their pineapples and as it turned out, Australian cattle turned out to be the perfect thing, because they could turn around and use the waste of the cattle to fertilise their pineapples.
Then it was back on the plane again and off to Hanoi, Vietnam. With a brief stopover in Singapore, which had everyone wide eyed at the cleanliness and symmetry of it all. We got to Hanoi and went to our hotel, yet another absolutely stunning feature and nothing like camping in the swag around the campfire at stock camp, before starting the next part of our adventure. We went to a couple more feedlots (including the Ruminant Research Facility), wet markets, and high end grocery stores to find our Aussie Beef all nicely labelled and there for everyone to buy.
Along with being very impressed with the availability of all the different types of greens, fruits, and veggies that we don’t have at home, the seafood available was equally impressive, but there was just that massive swell of pride in having our beef there, specially labelled, for people to buy.
Finally we ended our tour with the last night being dedicated to a late night bus ride to the Trung Dong Abattoir, where we saw our cattle professionally and completely humanely slaughtered and prepared for sale at the following morning’s Wet Markets.
Senior Station Hand and Livestock Leading Hand
“Life as the station cook”
Jo joins us from Holland this year to keep the Yarrie team fuelled with good hearty home cooked beef every day. She is very organised and takes extra care of all her team, she has a very warm smile and makes the place feel very welcoming for not only the Yarrie people, but also the vegie garden and all the animals that surround it!
If they’re going out on camp, the last thing I hear is the creak of the front gate, I see the caravan of cars moving in the direction of the river.
After the last couple of hectic days before the muster there is nothing better that the silence that’s around the homestead if everyone is out. I’m here with a dog, a pen full of chooks, a yard full of horses, the poddy calves, and a huge mess. So I just make myself a cuppa and do nothing for at least an hour.
Being the cook on a station is a rewarding job. But you are also the one that doesn’t do the exciting stuff. Although I’m not sure if being kicked by an angry cow or chased by a bull is something you should want to experience. Being the cook on a cattle station is nothing like I expected it to be, but it’s hectic.
And you know you are the cook on a cattle station in the outback if – you end up with an enormous pile of dishes without hot water and dishwashing liquid. If everyone who comes into the kitchen around 5pm doesn’t just want to have a chat. If you don’t have enough room in your one lunch fridge. If, even when you have 25 chooks, you keep running out of eggs. If you turn around and there is a line of puppy dog eyes staring at you – and it isn’t only the dogs. If four times daily everyone tells you they love you, a few minutes after you ring the dinner bell. If one roast a day for cold meat is not enough. If your standards of what is clean are significantly lower than they ever were. If you have seen more blood in a week than you’ve seen in your whole life. If your bible is the 52nd version of the CWA cookbook. If you love your walk in fridge more than you would ever love a walk in wardrobe and the day you get your stock order is the highlight of your week. If you don’t mind it at all being on your own for a week, in the middle of nowhere, while everyone is out on camp. If you, during that week, start to speaking a combination between your own and the English language to the dogs and horses. If the photo file on your iPad only consists screen shots of recipes, that you always at least triple. If what you serve at 9am isn’t for breakfast and you keep serving food every three hours. If you’re always catering for 20, even if there are only 10 people around, and you still almost have no leftovers.
So I boil a couple of kettles and get the vinegar and the bicarbonate soda out to do my dishes. I offer everyone that wanders into the kitchen something to eat. I keep stocking the lunch fridge a few times a day. I try to bake without eggs and let the horse push me to the feed shed while all the chooks follow. I make a couple of roasts every other day and read another few recipes in the CWA cookbook before I go to sleep at 9pm.
You know you are the cook on an outback cattle station if you’re the most popular around, not only by people but also by the dogs who line up in the kitchen, staring at me.
Josje de Bruin
Yarrie Station Cook and Housekeeper