Living in dirt

Host: Farrcombe Contracting
Written by Raine Pugh – Owner, Farrcombe Contracting.

As one can imagine, living in a temporary camp for the majority of the year can often be a challenge in itself. We have no Internet, phone service, television, and for several hours of the day no power.

Our staff members simply live in swags, in tents or in the back of their cars. Potter and I think that we have served our time living like this and now spoil ourselves with a gooseneck, complete with a queen size mattress! Depending on location and the job we are attending to, our kitchen will vary from either being an outdoor kitchen setup under the awning of the gooseneck or in our camp kitchen van. Of course this does not allow for a very sterile environment as the dust storms, ants, birds, and wind all test us.

3.1 copyOur outdoor kitchen. We use a BBQ as our oven, cooking everything from cakes to roasts.

Mother nature often tests our skills. Last year our crew returned to camp after a weekend away for Easter. Our camp was set up on a black soil flat at Police Hole Yards on Auvergne. Potter sent me ahead with the crew to check the road and ensure that it was suitable for the truck to follow. Upon inspection I radioed Potter to inform him that attempting the road with a load of horses on the truck would probably not be ideal as some light showers had made the dirt track quite slippery. Potter, Ben (friend turned crew member) and the truck stayed the night at the homestead in the hope that the road would dry out.

Well the rain really settled in . . . the crew dragged their swags and bags into a small shed erected at the camp site and had to share their space with the generator, bikes, dogs, dog feed, and horse feed. Boredom was our greatest challenge. We had one book between the six of us and not a single magazine or deck of cards. We sat around in our rain coats under the awning with the water swirling around our feet. Each day we would go for short walks to assess the road in the hope there had been less rain elsewhere.

After about six days we were getting low on generator fuel and meat, it was often raining too heavy to send a helicopter in with supplies. Lucky for us, the manager managed to winch himself in with the Toyota and dropped off supplies . . . it was a relief to see another human being! A day or so later it was then dry enough to tail the horses in while leaving the truck at the main homestead. It is weeks like that you wish you lived in a house!

3.2 copyCrew members Min and Mick killing some hours while we wait for the rain to cease and the road to dry out.

But rain isn’t the only element to descend upon us. In September last year, we were based at Mt Doreen Station in the Tanami Desert, probably one of the most remote places I have ever been to. We moved our camp from bore to bore as we would spend a week at each set of yards (located at each bore) to trap and process Hereford’s. At the end of the day we would often return to our camp site to find that a sand storm had completely covered our belongings in fine red sand. We would shake it out and dust everything off and try again for another day.

3.3 copyA view of the Tanami Desert from the cabin of the truck, nothing but sand and burrs seemed to inhabit our swags.