Written by – Kylie Savidge, Owner, Southampton Station.
After reading our story you may wonder why the heck do these people continue to do this, to stay in a place that often brings heartache, challenges your very soul, and quite regularly rips away at your emotional borders.
Why? Because it is a beautiful land, it captures you with the space and freedom, vast areas of open country that are so very beautiful and yet at the same time so very harsh and unforgiving.
I love the changes of the seasons, where it goes from the bright, dry harshness of the summer into the gentler shades of winter, stark and cold as they sometimes are, this land captures you, heart and soul. The colours of our country are a sight to behold, the bluest of blue skies, the harsh bright reds of the ground, the deep greens of the gum top box leaves, blue grey colours of the mulga tree, the diamond stars in the blackest of nights grab hold of you and never let go.
The smells that abound, from flowering sandalwood to the damp scent of wet earth after rain, the dusty smells of cattle yards that linger on your clothes, the smell of branding smoke in your hair, the scents of spinifex and gidgee that come on the southerly wind after a change in the weather. Smoke from the lunchtime camp fire or the stump fire where we all sit around in the winter and tell tall tales. This is what feeds your soul. For us who live out “bush” these things are all part of what keeps us going. These are some of the reasons we get out of bed before dawn when it’s already 30 degrees, and climbing, or minus two and bed feels so warm.
The summer of 2013-14 with its weeks of over 40 degrees celsius, the hottest day being 49 degrees, yes that was harsh. Now the winter, this has been mild ’til now, with our first really cold week being the first week of the school holidays, down to – 2C, with ice and frost all over things. Yes, it certainly hasn’t been that cold and it has, in past years, been much colder but we take it as it comes and appreciate the beauty it presents.
Summertime is a busy season, early starts to beat the heat, and if really lucky a midday siesta, (only if the power supply keeps up to the demands of the air conditioners). Late afternoon brings little relief from the heat but the blazing sun is beginning to slide and work can be completed or jobs for tomorrow can be planned or prepared for. Quite often the temperature is still in the high thirties at 9pm, it certainly makes you appreciate the hardiness of the pioneers of this country.
As we work by the sun, regardless of the time, daylight savings has no benefit or meaning to us. There are no hours we can save, what needs doing is done whatever the time may be and getting in at 9pm and having to then prepare an evening meal, tidy the house, do washing, prepare lunches, answer emails, return phone calls, or cook cakes and biscuits for smoko the next day leaves us little time to rest and relax.
Stock work is kept to a bare minimum in the hot months, too stressful on both animal and human. When we have been forced to work stock in the heat, careful planning is required well prior to the event. Water drums and dishes (troughs) are positioned at strategic points along the route where cattle may be walked to allow for drinks or wet-downs. A support vehicle with additional water, plus a tucker box and shaded cages often tails, (following at the back of the mob), the cattle providing an “interchange bench” for the dogs and a lift for young calves who tire quickly in the heat. Working dogs on very hot ground can result in them blistering their pads on their feet.
Wintertime is the perfect season for all the maintenance jobs that are required to keep a working property operational, i.e. fencing; cattle yard repairs/improvements, scrub clearing, or even dam de-silting. The days are shorter, mornings are later, and afternoons earlier. It is time to recharge your batteries and prepare for the Summer ahead.
There are also the rewards you get when you see contented happy cattle camped under shady trees around dams, chewing their cuds and watching their calves at play.
The native wildlife that abounds; birds and mammals become your friends on your daily trips around.
The swan that was dubbed Mr Lonely Swan, he turned up on the house dam one year, stayed for two years, left and came home with his mate. When you would go to start the pump on the house dam to fill the tanks he would cooee out to you and swim over quite close and watch with keen eyes your activities in getting said pump to start. But once Mrs Lonely Swan turned up she would scold him the whole while, telling him how dodgy those humans were and to come away RIGHT NOW!
They hatched a brood of cygnets and once they were grown, left us and we have not seen them again.
There are our two resident pairs of brolgas that live along the watercourse and hatch out two young per pair each year. They stalk regally along keeping a close eye on us when we are mustering or doing lick runs, never coming overly close but always just there.
The pair of Sea Eagles that come in good seasons and nest in the same tree every time.
The whistler ducks, black ducks, and grey teal that arrive in hundreds, on the watercourse, literally the day after the rain stops falling. How do they know? Where do they come from? How do they know to come here? They just do. It leaves you in awe of nature.
The little wallaroos that live in the area near the bore pump that watch you closely when you come to start it up late in the evening, never afraid but still cautious.
All of this and so much more is why we keep going, day in, day out. If you don’t love what you do then you cannot be happy in doing it. We love it.
A huge thank you goes to my proof readers and editors, without their help I would be still trying to write these entries. I hope you enjoyed reading about Southampton in 2014.