The retiree’s report

Host: Abingdon Downs Station
Written by Trish and Keith Ganzer – Cook/Maintenance Man, Abingdon Downs Station.

Keith and Trish Ganzer (Anita’s parents) drive some 6,000kms, usually bi- annually, from Geraldton, WA, to Abingdon Downs to be here when mustering usually starts. They help out where they can and fill in when needed. The typical go-fers!

Being an “on-call” voluntary cook and maintenance worker on Abingdon Downs has giving us a taste of the station life, the hardships, and the joy, all rolled into one.

Employing staff can sometimes be a challenge, but being family and retired made it easier to help out when needed. Usually we help out where we can when we are visiting but one year we got a call from Anita who (half joking) asked if we could come the next week as the cook had to leave and she had no-one for camp cooking. Three days later we left home to make the 6,000kms, 10 day journey to Abingdon. If no cook is available come mustering, then we can help. General Maintenance is a job for my husband, as he can do the jobs that get put aside during mustering.

Each station I’m sure has different set ups for camps away from the main homestead. We enjoyed Abingdon’s camp set ups at Harry’s Camp, and 16 Mile camp. When I was cooking at camp I didn’t lose the privilege of electricity, water, flushing toilets, and cooking appliances used with preparing meals. We were able to have our caravan as living quarters which added to our comfortable life at camp. Having a lagoon right by the camp gave me lots of bird life to photograph, but the thought that there could be snakes around the lagoon always made me nervous. Whilst the staff are out mustering you have the whole day to prepare meals, keep the campfire going, (that’s a challenge in the high 30s temp) and maybe read a book. There is no sight of another human being, but always knowing that you have the CB radio for contact, if needed.

3-1-black-cockatoos-copyBlack Cockatoos.

3-2-black-cockatoos-in-flight-copyBlack Cockatoos in flight.

You know the staff have had a good day mustering when they all come back to camp, shower, freshen up, and sit around the camp fire talking about their day in the saddle, or joking about the random snotty cow in the yards that nearly rolled so and so. All in a day’s work. Then someone will pipe up and ask who took my sandwich? Each staff member is responsible for making their sandwich, wrapping it in newspaper, then putting it in their saddle bag. But when they forget and leave it behind, then they go without. I have often found a wrapped sandwich left on the table and know there’s nothing I can do as mustering could take the workers many kilometres away from the actual camp and I can’t get it to them. Of course eventually they learn to double check they have their lunch all packed up.

3-3-harrys-camp-fire-and-kitchen-hut-copyHarry’s camp fire and kitchen hut.

Station life is not always easy, drought years make it even harder, isolation is tough, fires are heart breaking, internet service is so very important, but doesn’t always work. Then it rains, and there’s smiles on the owners and everyone’s faces. The dams and the lagoons are filling, and the rivers are running. The bird life are moving out away from the sprinklers around the homestead. Then the damn cane toads take over, and by the hundreds. My biggest hate.

There’s the joy of seeing a foal being born, and the sorrow of watching a vet do surgery on a horse with cancer, the vets having to travel 500km to get here.

3-4-a-precious-new-foal-copyA precious new foal.

3-5-a-swamp-cancer-victim-being-treated-by-the-vet-copyA swamp cancer victim being treated by the vets.

3-6-old-duster-getting-his-teeth-done-copy Old Duster getting his teeth done.

Meals are sometimes a challenge. Deciding what to cook using just beef and veg, variety they say is the spice of life, that’s when you need to think about what dish to make. A good curry sausage on the campfire is great, but can be very hot with temperature in the high 30’s. Steak and vegies is always a winner as is good old fashioned roasts. Corned beef is a staple for sandwiches.

We do a lot of traveling around Australia and have seen many places. We always love coming to Abingdon and seeing the old staff and meeting the new. It is very inviting and there is always something happening. Never a dull moment. I am always taking photos. My last photo is of a Bower Bird’s nest and his collection of shiny nuts and bolts he has stolen from the water shed. Although they are usually ground nesters this bower bird built his nest on top of a stable roof. We are doing a little experiment with him at the moment. We cleaned his nest out a month ago and we will see how long it will take him to fill it back up again. Definitely a busy little bird!

3-7-a-bower-birds-nest-with-his-collection-copyA Bower birds nest and his collection.