Living Liveringa . . . a life of extremes

Host: Liveringa Station
Written by Karen O’Brien – Manager, Liveringa Station.

Jed can often be heard coining the phrase “living the dream” when talking about our life and work up here. I, on the other hand won’t repeat the phrase you’ll usually hear me use when describing our life! Yeah, yeah, yeah – it’s an adventure, it’s the last frontier . . . it is also all consuming and constantly challenging.

I was recently looking back over our 2013 ‘blog week’ and realised that we made Liveringa Station sound idyllic. Despite the unique experiences afforded by life in the north, the truth is it’s not always fabulous. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes staff members don’t actually like what they’re doing – or each other! The weather alone can be debilitating. Life up here just moves from one extreme to another with mind blowing regularity.

I think we’d been here less than a month when we experienced our first brief but crazy wind storm. We certainly hadn’t had our trampoline for long – and this particular day a storm had whipped up from nowhere and blew it right over the roof of our house. It was never the same after that – but survived until late 2012 when the same thing happened again. This is what our trampoline looked like after its second flight . . .

5.1

More importantly, the station suffered more severely. We had builders living here on the property with us, repairing the storm-damaged infrastructure for almost a year.

During the second wind storm, massive steel doors were ripped off sheds, roofing went flying, steel was bent and bowed and one of the massive centre pivots was tipped right over. Amazingly no real damage was done to our houses and no one was hurt.

5.2Upturned centre pivot.

Another significant, but potentially devastating threat is that of fire. Late in the year we are constantly on alert because it is now that the grass has had the entire “dry” season too . . . well . . . dry! There is very little moisture around because it’s been months since the last rain, the days are becoming significantly hotter and the weather is becoming more unstable – with electrical storms being common and regular during this time. Fires are often the result of lightning strikes.

5.3Both a lightning strike and a distant fire are visible in this photo.

In 2013 we lost hundreds of square kilometres to fire – which puts enormous pressure on stock which we have to somehow find room for elsewhere (often creating overcrowding/high stocking rates – resulting in rangeland degradation and cattle struggling to maintain healthy weight).

To battle fires, Jed usually leads a team of staff who take water units on the back of utes and communicate via two-way radios. A grader often attempts to ward off any spread by grading fire breaks around the fire in order to contain it. Similarly the staff will “back burn” the fire – controlling its path by limiting its fuel. On such a massive scale, it’s a pretty hard task though.

5.4Back burning the fire.

Apart from the obvious devastating result of the fires, there is also the loss of time “wasted” fighting fires. Wildfires generally arrive while you’re busy doing something else, but everything stops until the fire is under control. Meanwhile, deadlines still need to be met. Cattle need to be trucked and contracts fulfilled.

Just to ensure no one gets complacent or bored, the “wet” soon arrives to put a stop to all the fires, but of course, it brings its own set of challenges. Because we are situated so close to the Fitzroy River, we become inundated with flood waters once the river rises. The river doesn’t flood every year – but in the recent “big wet” of 2011, much of the station was under water.

This is ultimately good for the pasture, but (obviously) not so good for the cattle that now have significantly less standing (let alone eating) room! The Fitzroy River is quite unique in that it rises incredibly quickly – you can actually watch the water moving across the paddocks.

5.5These cattle were stranded on a dam bank and had to be mustered by helicopter to dry land.

Because of our close proximity to water, we also have a very healthy population of crocodiles on the property – mostly “freshies.” Whilst I’m not really sure that they need to be considered a challenge – they do add a bit more excitement to life up here!

We’ve had crocs turn up in all sorts of places in the few years we’ve been here – in the saddle shed, the pump shed, and (this year) in the generator shed. A young ringer apparently finds it hugely hilarious to use a freshie in some sort of practical joke . . .

5.6Just looking for a new swimming hole . . .

Another reptile that lives in close proximity to us is the brown snake. Snake sightings are a common occurrence in and around our residential area. This is possibly the only “challenge” I am seriously concerned with. We have four small children – at least one of whom is still young enough to deem patting a snake a really good idea. On a number of occasions a brown or king brown has slithered in to get closer to a leaking tap or a split system air con unit. Because we live so far from immediate medical assistance, a bite to one of my children is likely to be fatal. I spent my first six months here waking at night in a cold sweat at the thought of this occurrence.

There have been a few recent close calls on the station . . . two years ago, while out at stockcamp, Mariah (one of our ringers), left the door of her mozzie dome/tent unzipped for an afternoon. These days, most ringers sleep in a swag on the ground of their tent. Fortunately for Mariah, she chose to use a camp stretcher . . . because as it turns out, she spent the night with a seven foot King Brown in her tent.

5.7Mariah looking pretty nervous holding what appears to be a headless brown snake (similar to the one that was in her tent . . .)!

And as if all this wasn’t enough to put any sane family off, for at least five months of the year, the weather here is so hot that it is almost unbearable. During this time our bore water heats up even more than usual and pours out our taps at well over 40 degrees. My family is fortunate in that we have an outside bath – so we can fill this up then leave it for a while to cool down . . . but up at the staff quarters, the water is even hotter and the ringers can’t stand in the shower for long or they get scalded. All sorts of attempts have been made over the years to remedy this situation, but to date, nothing has really worked long term.

Am I sounding a bit whingey? Like I’m not really appreciating all the unique advantages of living ‘remote’? Hmmm, yeah, Jed tells me this all the time! I admit, I am probably exaggerating a BIT . . . but there’s no doubt that the natural world up here is constantly throwing interesting challenges out.

I don’t mean to complain . . . really . . . the extremes are what keep things interesting. Just when you think you can’t bear another day of the cloying heat, a massive storm will roll in and bring instant relief . . . and cause all four of my kids to strip to their undies and go running in the rain! Priceless moments . . .

Tomorrow I thought I might talk a little about the life my children lead out here – regardless of my attitude (which by the way isn’t always blatantly negative!) Liveringa is their home and I don’t think there is anywhere they would rather be.

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