Adventure is the name of the game.
It was decided before we left we were going to step outside our comfort zones and experience new things as often as possible. This was, especially for me, true in regards to work and career as well as traveling. So as the numbers in our bank account got closer and closer to the “its time to get a job” threshold we had a fortuitous meeting with our young German friend Laura, who is mentioned in a few earlier posts.
As part of her time in OZ she worked on a station in the Northern Territory. She regaled us with many stories while we were camping together and we both thought it sounded like the perfect way to learn new things, see and experience something that is uniquely Australian, have another adventure, and make a bit of money. We began applying for station jobs within days, and despite the fact that we had no relevant experience, references, or even a resume, we found ourselves a station owner looking to hire a couple and landed ourselves a job. In our minds this just proves, once again, that we are awesome and most every one just instinctively knows it.
Our boss, a wonderful fellow and naturally talented teacher, goes by the name Nathan. He was born and raised by a family in the pastoral industry, like many who are actually successful in such a difficult business, and has spent most of his life working as a stockman in one form or another. He is a proverbial font of useful information and skills, and once we get to know him a bit better, will probably have some great stories as well.
His mom and dad own a block a ways south of the station, and he owns a block of about three thousand acres that shares a fence with his parents place. This little station is called Boree Park, and it was where we met him and got our first taste of the pastoral industry. We spent the first three days of on the job at Boree Park. We got our feet wet on two jobs that are essential to a station, fencing and mustering.
His parents run a feed lot, which essentially buys cattle from other stations, then fattens them up for a year or two, then re-sells them for meat. Their property is located within irrigating distance from a river, which allows them to plant and grow good feed for the animals. The better grass and hay is perfect for the final pre-sale fattening of cows. They also do a little racehorse breeding. They had a paddock that they wanted cleared so they could re-plant and irrigate it for the upcoming season, so they offered to let Nathan use the paddock to graze some of his stock.
Sheep, being smaller and much more excitable, require a different sort of fencing that cattle and horses; it needs to be much closer to the ground so they cant shimmy out trying to get at any grass that might be on the other side of the fence. We spent a solid 10 hours our first day on the job shoring up the paddock fence to handle sheep.
We ran something like four kilometers worth of wire about fifteen cms (6 inches) off the ground through metal stakes. Before running the wire we had to walk along the fence and remover any tumble weeds or plants, mainly Africa box thorns which are quite thorny, that would be in the way of the wire. We both ended up getting blisters and ripping off skin on our hands. It was a long day, but we got it all done.
The hardest part of our time at Boree was putting square link fencing over the horse gate where the creeks ran under the fence. The fencing was on a rather heavy roll, and had to be rolled out, cut, and the put up against the fence. We then had to tense it and attach it to the horse gates using pieces of high tensile steel wire, which did not twist or cut easily. We sweated and fought with the wire mesh for hours getting it to fit right. It was a huge pain in the ass. We have since had a few conversations with Laura and Nathan, and the general consensus is fencing sucks.
Our timing happened to be quite good in one way. The Sunday we arrived was Nathan’s dad’s birthday. Though we were not invited to the party, we did get the leftovers for lunch Monday. Nathan’s mom was a lovely lady, and she made us a fantastic lunch with tea. We both had a couple slices of left over pork and a delicious salad with home made dressing, of which she gave us a jar to take with us. To top it off, she gave each of us a rather generous helping of cheesecake. We were happy campers when lunch was done and we headed back out to finish the fencing.
The mustering was actually quite fun. We hopped in the old land cruiser Matilda, and set about moving the lambs from the pen Nathan had them in, to the yards where they could be counted and looked at by the man who was to buy them. Then we went back to the house and moved the ewes and rams to paddock that would be their temporary home. Truthfully, mustering was by far the easiest job we had. It took 2-3 hours to complete, but for the most part we sat in the car and putzed along behind the mob of sheep to keep them moving. It was good fun and we got an easy first go at mustering.
The final bit of stock work we did Wednesday morning before heading out. Stock move best in the morning, and the weather is nicer, so we started work about 6:30. We headed over to the yards where the lambs had been put the day before to meet the truckie and help him get the lambs loaded.
Getting the lambs to run single file down a race then up a ramp into the truck was not the easiest thing to do, but it was quite fun. You get to yell and make whatever silly noises you please to help move the sheep along. The only hard part is they frequently try to turn around, at which point one has to reach over the fence, grab the sheep, and physically turn it around so it is again facing the right way.
When they are moving, they tend to follow each other and it is quite easy. If a couple of them stop and turn it becomes a much more difficult process to get them all turned and moving again. Dusty work, but we both enjoyed ourselves.
We learned quite a bit in our first few days at Boree Park. It was a great introduction to our jobs and we got to know Nathan a bit. If things continue the same way, it will be a challenging and fun couple of months.