Adventures out of the kitchen

Host: Alexandria Station
Written by Jess – Station Cook, Alexandria Station.

There’s a game we like to play in my family back in Sydney. Each of us choose an animal that we would like to be and explain why. My old man would regularly choose a Sulfur crested cockatoo, ’cause in Sydney they fly around mad, upside down, almost backwards swooping through the heavy traffic, looking like they’re having the time of their lives. We don’t get too many cockatoos here at Alex but we sure do get galahs! 100s of the blessed things squawking, grazing in the long grasses round the station, taking flight into the extensive sky, mapping out DNA helixes as they flee the little pet dogs chasing them.

Time flies like a galah here on the Barkly. I can hardly believe it’s already the middle of the year. It gets to feeling like we’re flying from one social event to the next, one campdraft to another.

There are days went I sit and think about the thing I did last weekend . . . and realise that only seven days have passed not 7 weeks since I went to town or cooked for 35 people. Sure it might take us longer to do simple things like going to town . . . but there’s always a list of things that need doing in my notebook and very little time to do them.

So I survived a year on the Barkly, in fact I thrived on the Barkly and have come back to cook again this year with a few strange goals considering I’m a station cook – learn to weld and learn to ride, wear something pretty on the weekend, and, live healthy.

I did a little bit of graphic design for a contract builder at Alex in exchange for a welding machine. So I’ve been down at the shed pestering our truck driver JR for lessons, he says I’m pretty good at learning. I’m not so sure . . . I think my welds are somewhat ordinary but hopefully with practice they’ll improve and then I can make some cool stuff like a hat stand.

That leaves horse riding. I was very lucky to start learning halfway through May. And I love it! There’s not much better in this world than developing a connection with an animal. To trust a creature to race across the paddock with you in a saddle is exhilarating. Being on a horse that already knows what to do means you’re in for an adventure on your first trip out to walk some young stud bulls into a holding paddock. He knew just what to do when one beast strayed from the mob, away we went pushing him back in. Although it’s a none-too-pretty sight watching me get on the horse . . . Gonna need to work on that.

As for the wear something pretty and eating healthy goals I have no fun stories to share but it is part of my personal journey to continue thriving in the bush. I guess it’s a way of affirming to myself that I am not just anybody, I am somebody.

I’m fortunate enough to share a house at Alex and this means I can have a little companion dog. But the little menace was getting out of the yard! Sure I was fairly cross with the situation but then I figured “Woo hoo,” an opportunity to learn a bit more . . . So I mended that fence . . . and bought myself some fencing pliers to do the job independently. A cook buying fencing pliers from Kent Saddlery made old Lyle laugh.

Recently I got to head into Tennant Creek for the Emergency Medical T Course. I really enjoyed it for a few reasons: Firstly, I was out of the kitchen – sure cooking is good fun, but it’s true, change is as good as a holiday. Secondly, I was learning to stick a saline injection into an orange (give a injection when required by the Barkly doctors). I used to be a disability care worker. I may never go back to that industry, but it’s good to engage in a bit of memory recall. Also, I got to hang with one of the other cooks from our outstation and socialise with a few ladies from the neighbouring stations like Brunette Downs. Here at Alex, we are so far away from everywhere, it can take a lot more time and effort to make friends outside of the station especially if you tend to the more introvert personality. So courses like the EMT one help to break down those inhibitions by giving us a common goal.

This year’s discoveries in the kitchen:

  • Porridge is good for brekky (I didn’t know they’d like to have it till the crew asked for it) and sausages are also yummy crumbed.
  • Corned beef can be turned into shepherd’s pie or a curry
  • Even if there’s a sign on the food, one clueless ringer is bound to ask “What’s in this Jess?” To which my standard reply has become “Kidney!” cause they don’t like kidney.
  • Handmade bread is not something to fear . . . yep I feared it and now I don’t, I am quite capable of making fruit buns for smoko.

It sure is fun imagining different animals I could be. A galah could be fun, I’d enjoy being a dolphin, or a dog too. But I think I’d rather be me. Then I can appreciate the life each animal around me has and enjoy the fun I’m having right here.

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