Host: Noreena Downs Station
Written by Kate Paull – Owner, Noreena Downs Station.
For those of you that don’t know what stock camp is it is where everyone packs up and moves to a distant part of the homestead and set up camp, allowing the mustering team to muster distant lands and cut down on the morning commute to the cattle.
So after weeks of preparation and packing we were on the road and heading out to a part of Noreena that I had never been to, Peadonah. The boys had been coming and going from stock camp for a few days preparing the site ready for us to move to. Things were about to get a whole lot more basic!
Stock camp consisted of a large caravan where people could store stuff, radio batteries could be charged, loo roll could be stored, and tinned/package food found its space on a shelf. Behind the caravan was a row of fridge and freezers where chilled and frozen food would be stored. We had two ‘shower’ blocks one for the guys and one for the gals which were made out of corrugated sheets, a pallet, and half an oil drum with a valve on it (you get very good at shower timing with limited water!) To go with the two showers we also had two oil drums on stands which on a daily basis I had to fill up with water and light a fire underneath so that everyone had warm water to shower with.
We also had a mini outdoor workshop for fixing tyres, bikes, buggies, and general stuff, an oil drum bucking bronco, a twin tub washing machine and everyone set up their swags in various places around the outside of the main camp. The camp was centralised by the main fire and kitchen area where I would cook the dinners in camp ovens.
Due to our now even more remote location we had some portable yards that were set up not too far from the camp. On yard days this meant that everyone was close by, on days when everyone was out mustering I’d be alone at the camp all day and would fill my days with cooking, washing, cleaning, collecting fire wood, and food prep. Once a week I would head back to the homestead so I could pick up any food that was needed, and carry out any cooking or baking that couldn’t be done at stock camp. It was also I great opportunity for me to check Facebook, catch up on emails, and any news Tubby might have.
It was here at stock camp that I became a parent for the first time when one day Kate came home with my new foster calf who I named Cassie. As far as caring for an animal goes I’d had a rabbit and a fish previously so having a calf was going to be an interesting learning curve but with some guidance from Kate and the team I managed.
Before too long Cassie had become my shadow and when the team were out all day it was great to have her following me around the place, without sounding totally mad I even started talking to her! Feeding time was always an interesting moment as before too long I was running the Noreena Downs Calf Nursery and had four calves to look after with milk going here there and everywhere and endless games of chasing, they would all eventually be fed. Kate sent me some pictures the other day of Cassie who is now quite a bit bigger than I remember and expecting her first calf – proud parent moment coming on!
Depending on the day generally my day would go like this
- 4.30 – wake, get ready and start the fire.
- 5.00 – start to cook breakfast and put the Billy cans on the fire to start heating up the water for everyone’s tea and coffee.
- 5.30 – pack up that day’s esky with lunch and smoko for the guys.
- 6.30 – by now everyone was ready and the team would ride off for the days mustering.
- 6.30-7.30 – I’d normally have a bit of breakfast or catch 40 winks whilst waiting for the sun to rise fully.
- I would the spend the rest of the day cleaning around the camp, getting dinner ready, doing everyone’s washing and getting ready for their arrival back at stock camp.
- 4.30 – Light the fires under the drums of water so it’s nice and toasty ready for everyone’s showers.
- 5.30 – After a quick shower I would crack on with dinner and wait for everyone to come back
- We would then sit around the fire have a few beers and catch up on all the stories of the day, who had fallen off bikes, who had managed to find the biggest bush bull etc.
- 6.30-7.00 – We would all sit round and have dinner, then after dinner I’d wash up pack away everything and relax until 9.00 when we generally all fell into our beds tired.
Stock camp was potentially my favourite part of being a cook at Noreena I honestly didn’t think I would last longer than a week but I soon adjusted and fell in love with it. Yes the days were long sometimes and there was red dirt everywhere you turn but the sense of calm and quiet was overwhelming. Before too long I’d forgotten my UK life which was filled with non-important busy-ness and having to wear the right outfit, being at the ‘in’ place and I quickly realised that all you need in life is good company and the right attitude. Sadly I am now back in rat race and have more to do now than ever before, I often sit back and remember Noreena and what I learnt there and wish my life in the UK could reflect this a bit more . . . suppose I will just have to come back and do it all again!