The sweet sound

Host: White Kangaroo Station
Written by Sarah Streeter – Manager, White Kangaroo Station.

Stock water and the pumps we rely on for delivery of this life-giving entity, are the bane of my existence as the dry season drags on. Check fuel, switch on, choke on, pull. Ahhh . . . the sweet sound of a motor firing. Well, that’s what is supposed to happen. Go check the outlet, ear to the tank, hear the gush of water running from the float valve. Ahhh . . . an even sweeter sound . . . This all happens on a good day.

With each passing day, knowing that a reasonable expectation for a break in season is still counted in months, the surface water that sits in small pockets of creeks begin to recede back almost overnight. Dams which appeared to hold at an unchanging level suddenly drop with each day passing, brought on by a combination of increased evaporation and a higher demand of cattle for water with the hot weather arriving suddenly. I don’t know why it is, but when things go wrong with water, everything seems to go wrong. Doesn’t the saying go something about things happening in threes?

I drive around the usual lick (supplement) and water run, which can take up to three hours to complete the full circuit of paddocks, tanks, and troughs. My little boy chatting away beside me, working his way through the small esky of food and all is good in the world. That is until I hear that empty hollow sound as I tap the next tank. Even worse, an empty trough, which means that cattle are already thirsty and I’m on the backfoot. My heart sinks to the bottom of my work boots. Sigh. Here we go again . . . I’m trouble shooting in my head as I drive the line, checking tanks as I go, trying to find the missing link. At the same time working through water availability to paddocks on the line. Who has water where? Is there still water in that hole that was holding? How long will the remaining water last each mob? This is greatly influenced by mob size, proportion of lactating cows and how hot the days are. Sometimes it can be an easy fix. A broken pipe gushing water over the ground is an easy fix. And the look on a small boy’s face is priceless when he sees a mud puddle that would make Peppa Pig squeal in delight. I can enjoy the sound of him gleefully making a right old mess of himself while I go to work at fixing the pipe, a skill that I am becoming quite proficient in but which is likely to be of no interest to my professional resume.

3.1 copyReid helps dig around to find the patch of pipe that had split.

3.2 copyComing across a poly tank that had split was the icing on the cake of a tough week for water problems. Reid took great delight in it and, at the end of the day, what more could we do but jump in the muddy puddles.

Sometimes it is not such an easy fix. I have had ongoing problems with a pipe becoming blocked by mineral buildup somewhere within a 3km pipe line, most of it underground. Where usually I can divert the supply by bringing water from a solar pump on a dam to service most of the paddocks, plans are quite quickly brought to a halt when I find a red light flashing on the solar pump right next to the word “fault”. . . Great timing. So it is the back up for the backup that is required. A fire fighter pump needs to be put onto a dam and attached to the water line. This is a short term fix to bide some time. It is amazing where you can find the strength to lift a pump which is an extra 15kg above your regular gut-busting lifting limit, in order to get water to animals that will soon be very thirsty. The pump hasn’t been used in about eight months and I realise that it will require a service first. I have a small shining light of satisfaction wash over me as I realise that I can give this a fair go. I drop the stale fuel out to replace with fresh fuel, check oil and top it up before giving it a pull. If that pump had a soul I would bless it as she fires away. The seconds stretch on as I wait there, holding my breath, listening for the change in tone of the motor. Ahh . . . the sweet sound of a pump dropping a few decibels, an indication that it has water running through and is “working”. I’ve relied on that little fire fighter many times over the dry months.

3.3 copyIt’s into the dam for me to unblock a foot valve on a pipe pumping water from a dam. Fortunately the water is always warm enough for swimming in north Queensland.

These days, for this time in my life, there is no sweeter sound than that of water going where it is needed. Oh, except for the sound of rain on the roof. Now, there’s nothing sweeter than that.

3.4 copyPulling a pump off a dam for repairs.

3.5 copyChanging pipe fittings on a fire fighter pump I have set up on a dam for emergency water supplies.

Kids take everything in. Reid immediately taps a tank to check the water level.