From Hyde Park to the Pilbara

Host: Yarrie Station
Written by Susan Lymbery

I’ve enjoyed the most amazing outback experience by getting involved in the development of Yarrie Station’s Great Sandy Desert garden, an innovative project to explore viable and sustainable uses for native Pilbara desert plants. It is a joint project between Yarrie Station and Outback Trees, and covers area of approximately 600 square metres on Yarrie Station has been fenced and irrigated and planted with a variety of native trees and shrubs endemic to the Pilbara. The purpose is to trial growing native plants under irrigation on Yarrie to look at commercial options in the future including but not limited to forestry, seed production, bush foods, and cut flowers. During my visit I planted some new trees around the homestead and cattle yards that will hopefully be appreciated by future Yarrie generations and mustering crews.

As a city dweller involved in urban tree management with little experience in the outback, it’s been fascinating to witness the complexities of station life and the animal welfare and land management strategies employed at Yarrie. The mustering process involves so much more than I ever imagined. I was really impressed to see how gentle the crew were with both their horses and the cattle, and how well they worked together to keep the mob calm while walking them to and from the yards. When I arrived I didn’t realise that the mustering process is as much about checking the welfare of the cattle and getting them used to being handled, as it is about separating out the cattle to be sold and that so many of the cattle mustered each year are walked back out to the paddocks.

Yarrie uses horses, motor vehicles (buggies), and helicopters to muster their cattle, and of course an extremely competent crew. This year two helicopters were used, piloted by Annabelle and Stuart, with five girls – Ann (Annabelle’s mum), Alana, Loz, Ebony, and Martha – on horses, Dave on a motorbike, Tara in the buggy, and Chris in the fuel vehicle. From mustering, drafting (sorting), feeding, watering, branding, castrating, ear-tagging, weighing, vaccinating to managing vehicle and equipment maintenance and so much more, everyone knew their role and all aspects of the muster seemed to run smoothly (to an inexperienced observer anyway).

It was fun to watch the crew’s anticipation of the Marble Bar Ball and Race day. The young crew (mostly girls) ordered new dresses and shoes and were very excited when their new purchases arrived. Of course, they all (including the boys) scrubbed up beautifully for the occasion. This year the crew decided to put together a nudie calendar and so at every opportunity they stripped off to take their photos. One of my funniest days was when I joined three of the girls while they walked a small mob of cattle back to their home paddock. I was just driving along daydreaming when next thing I know one of the girls (not mentioning any names) strips down to her hat and boots and gives me her clothes to me while she finished the rest of the ride naked. It was quite a sight to see “Lady Godiva” leading the mob!

I camped out with the crew during a few stages of the muster. It was my first time in a swag and I loved camping out under the stars at the temporary camps and holding yards and sharing dinner around a campfire. Food is a highlight in the day-to-day lives of the mustering crew. It plays a vital role in keeping everyone happy and I was impressed to see the quality and quantity of the food that was always available both at the station and at the temporary camps. The sheer size of the station was hard to get my head around until I joined Tim and Caz, who manage the Spinifex Ridge (Moly) minesite located on Yarrie, on some of their mill runs, criss-crossing the property to check if windmills and solar panels were working to fill the many water troughs scattered around.

The other interesting aspect of station life is the constant stream of workers, friends and acquaintances who come to visit and are always offered such wonderful hospitality. It was not uncommon to have over 20 people for dinner. I believe good people are the key to the success of any business or organisation and this is certainly true of the Yarrie crew. They’re tough, competent, and resourceful.

It’s been a privilege to work with the 2017 Yarrie crew and a pleasure to get to know them. Many thanks to Annabelle for her generous invitation to visit Yarrie. It’s been every bit as good as I’d hoped and I’ll forever treasure the memories.

A naked “Lady Godiva” leading the mob.

Me weeding the desert garden arboretum.

Hiking the Six Mile hill and back to the homestead. 17 kilometres isn’t bad for a Sunday walk.

Through my time at Yarrie, I’ve planted trees at Yarries main yards Jinacarlie.

More trees have been planted around the homestead, here in Annabelle’s garden.