Host: Glenforrie Station
Written by Margareta Osborn
Catch up on part 1 here.
Our return to the station after the first few weeks baptism of fire was wrought with new challenges. A contract mustering crew took over the week-to-week mustering schedule. It was now my husband and son’s job to cart cattle from the temporary stock camps back to the station yards, where our daughter and I worked with an all girl crew to process the thousands of cattle. The boys also did the windmill runs; traveling for hours to check and repair bores and solar pumps, water being the lifeblood of any Australian rural grazing property. Thankfully my husband is one of those incredibly talented blokes who can fix pretty much anything with whatever he has to hand. He can also ride a motorbike like a pro, a talent that came in handy for the long hours spent mustering with the contract crew.
Besides working in the homestead yards, drafting and processing cattle, my daughter and I ended up pretty much in charge of feeding everyone each day. Whilst breakfast was a help yourself affair, it was up to us (with input from the boss and a hand from the other girls) to provide a savoury smoko, ensure there was food for lunch, sweet baking for afternoon tea and a main meal at the end of the day. A reasonable cook, I still learnt so much, like one hundred and one ways to cook with only beef, the ability to revamp leftovers over and over (garlic & fresh herbs are my new wonder ingredients) and how to cook a perfect loaf of bread (It’s the oil and bread improver, I tell you.) Living so far from town with limited power and thus freezer space, most things had to be made from scratch. You also had to eat what was put in front of you or go hungry, a great lesson for the kids.
Despite the yard work and cooking commitments, mustering still featured in our weeks along with droving cattle to and from the homestead. Horses, motorbikes, bull wagons, trucks – you name it, we rode or drove it. Our daughter got so adept at cattle work she was as good as many of the grown-ups and her work ethic astounded even us, her parents. Cattle work and cooking, looking after the chooks, the vegetable gardens and poddying calves, that child did not stop.
And our son can now change buckets on a mill, pull a bore or give you the run down on the workings of a solar pump. His sense of direction and observation skills were honed to geographical weigh points, like a star picket sitting out of place, a change in gravel texture on the track or a particular cleft in a rocky outcrop. On half a million acres with little sign posts of note, these were the things that counted. You didn’t want to get lost.
The other love of our family, working dogs, was also well catered for in the west. Our friend, Teesh, runs a team of kelpies as does another mutual friend, Courtney. Time spent with these two gorgeous and talented trainers gave our son and I – the keenest of the family – valuable skills to return home with. It also gave me my very first trained working dog, a beautiful five-year-old girl called Ange. Subsequently there were two dogs in our trailer on the return home (yes, thanks Hon, another dog cage please?).
When it came time to leave the station after our three months was up, we were changed people. I think we are even happier and more ‘together’ as a family unit. We are fitter and I know, I for one, am more willing to just take each day as it comes. To deal with whatever gets thrown at me without getting too stressed. If it can’t be fixed today, there is always tomorrow.
We have made some beautiful friendships and our children have grown from the experience immeasurably. Our daughter is choc full of confidence without being cocky. Our boy, as one relative said on our return, has matured into a man. And I have so much hands-on research and material for a new book or perhaps books it’s going to take a while to work out a plot. Authenticity is a key factor when you write novels like mine and you can’t get much more authentic than going out and just doing it yourself.
But I will give you a few pieces of advice, if I may, should you decide to uproot yourselves on the spur of the moment and go mustering with your family in the Pilbara, like us.
- Take comfortable boots, jeans and long sleeved lightweight cotton shirts.
- Pack a good sleeping bag – it gets cold at nights sleeping under the stars.
- Buy a five-litre water bottle, fill it, drink from it often and guard it with your life.
- Chap sticks – essential lipstick even for boys.
- If you’re a girl, take LOTS of face moisturiser. Smoothing it on at the end of a long, hot day is heaven.
- And chocolate. Take a box full. You’ll need it. Energy and comfort are a good mix especially when you’re swimming like hell.