After more than one phone call from our neighbour enlightening us to the fact our cows were in their place once more, we set about rectifying the problem Saturday. With a five o'clock start and all hands on deck we tackled our farthest boundary fence. With the terrain so rocky and mountainous, it is impossible to erect a full boundary, with wires run as far as man can walk up the mountain, in the hope that cows will surrender and turn back before reaching the end of the fence-line. With the hills so steep and underfoot rocks so loose, it was actually quite frightening at some points. With steelies, wire and pliers in hand, unfortunately the camera had to stay on lower ground. The kids set about exploring, giving their nervous, height-wary mother palpitations as they meandered their way through rocks and grass trees like aboriginal wanderers.
As goes hand in hand with any out-the-back work on this here farm, damper and syrup were compulsory smoko-fare.
"Cookie, did you wash those hands???"
With these boy scouts on hand, it wasn't long before the smell of baking damper filled the air.
Mealtimes are a big part of any operation with this mob.
Even though this cowgirl looks as though she could do with a little more sustenance.
I can still see you!
Sarah acosted this poor young lizard in her true Harry Butler style.
Back on lower ground, with the assistance of the bike, wires ran out much more efficiently. With Wallace acting as the eyes in the back of Dad's head, on lookout for a wave from Mum if any problems arose with the wire feeding out of the spool.
Tied off at one end, strained at the other, girls than jumped into action tying wire off to steelies.
Sarah's shadow Ruby never too far away.
Meanwhile, Miss Muffet avoided too much in the work department but busied herself all the same.
Proud as punch, coming back into sight with a great collection of grass-tree spears.
"Be able to build some good stuff with these Mum".
Needless to say, all team members opted for an early night and slept soundly.
Early one Saturday morning a couple of weeks past we loaded our saddled horses and weaved westward en-route to a weekend of horse-sport revelry.
While Dad headed off in the truck, I carted my seventeenth load from the house to the car... swags, pillows, sleeping bags, towels, eskies, helmets, chairs, clothes, all for a one night sleep-over. I reminded myself time and again...
IT'S. ALL. ABOUT. THE. KIDS.
And so it was.
Sally had a ball. She was just smiling on the inside in this shot.
Horses were ridden, medallions presented...
a barbecue dinner shared, tall tales told, and we bunked down for a night of pillow-fighting, children giggling, sleep-deprived, mosquito-swatting pain frivolity.
The next morning, after a rather wet trail ride (did I mention the inch of rain that fell in a storm overnight), we headed for home, whereby I carted the now wet chairs, swags, sleeping bags, towels, dirty clothes, boots, eskies all back to the house and set about washing them, as Dad and horses made their way back across the range.
Somewhat of a milestone in my life came and went last week without too much fuss. Far more focused on forthcoming bullsales, there was no time for inward contemplation, no time for noticing the wrinkles around my eyes that are no longer only present when I smile, or the scattering of grey hairs that continue to appear between hairdresser visits. Instead my birthday was spent preparing for a trip north, feeding animals, checking waters, watering gardens, filling tanks. There was no clanging of cymbols, no ringing of bells, just some super-excited children who made me this beautiful necklace, picked me these roses and made my morning coffee for me. They also helped Nanny put this cake together for me, featuring the animals that are so much part of my daily life. Pigs. Cows. Horses. Not to mention the chook dome!
In a society where the process of ageing is possibly not valued, respected or appreciated enough, I can honestly say I have never had any qualms about getting older. I guess partially due to the fact that I've always considered myself to still be 27. But with forty candles appearing on last week's cake and now with plans well underway for my fortieth birthday party in just a couple of weeks, I'm realising the jump from 27 to 40 is quite a momentous one. Or not.
For nothing in my life will change. I'm blessed with great health, great family and a wonderful home.
At 21, if asked to describe my perfect life at age 40, I couldn't have possibly asked for more.
Looking forward to the next forty.
For those people in the bull-breeding business, this time of year is the 'pointy end of the stick'. We made a decision this year to take our bulls north to Charters Towers to market, and were quite satisfied with the results. In what was a tough sale, our bulls looked good and sold well.
The world's biggest bull sale, known as Brahman Week was conducted the week earlier, close to Rockhampton. An absolute highlight of the year, particularly for the social aspect, catching up with fellow Brahman enthusiasts, the kids were excused from school for the first two days of this term, and we headed down to enjoy the thrill of the sale. Nearly a thousand bulls pass through the sale ring over three days, and I'm happy to sit there and study every one. With catalogue in hand, prices are filled in, notes jotted down, genetics evaluated.
Not so, this year. My Brahman Week became more of a Brahman Half-day. Sally took ill about two hours into this year's sale. Lying with head on my lap in the over-crowded colusseum that is the CQLX Sale Centre, I watched her complexion change from peachy-cream to greyish-white, eyes glazed and belly hurting. I raced away, dragging all but one child, who decided to stay with her grandparents. Unfortunately I was not to return to Brahman Week.
All was not lost. The sale is taped and live-streamed straight to your desktop. So for the next two days I sat glued to my laptop, relaying any note-worthy results immediately through to Matthew who had been summonsed to Longreach on Day 3 of the sale. Amazing technology, I was able to keep up with sale results, while still doing washing! Amazing.
I got up at four this morning to help Matthew pack his car. I wasn't much help. By the time I fumbled in the dark looking for my missing shoe he'd transported hats, boots, grain buckets, the banner plus his week's supply of ironed shirts and jeans. All I managed was a sale catalogue. He's on his way to Charters Towers, via Emerald Sale which he attends every week.
After seeing him on his way, I seriously considered starting some ironing, then thought better of it. I went back to bed to be awoken by him ringing at about quarter to six. I'm usually up earlier, but this morning's sun couldn't quite make it through the heavy blanket of cloud. He was just letting me know our friend Terry, fellow bull-breeder and truck-driver wasn't too far down the road. A gentle hint for me to yard some bulls, fill out some permits and be ready at the ramp with a hot cup of coffee.
The bulls were loaded without issue, at least only as much issue as one would expect when eight bulls primed for work, positively overflowing with testosterone, are being forced to occupy a small truck compartment for an eight hour journey. It's a relief to see them gone.
Many, many years ago when I worked in the office of my Dad's building business I would often find myself rolling my eyes at many of the requests clients would have when creating their dream-home. Of course I'd never glaringly do this in front of them, instead nodding politely and agreeing that a stained-glass skylight in the foyer, a niche in the toilet, or a fourth bathroom would be a wonderful enhancement to their home and bring them much happiness forever more.
One of the most frequent requests, that at the time, grated on my nerves was the inclusion of a 'parents' retreat' in these newly constructed dream-homes. Many of these clients were young couples, yet to start a family, some had one or two children already, all seemed to have a need to 'retreat' from their offspring.
I, at the time, was mother to two baby girls, who I quite simply couldn't get enough of. I couldn't begin to comprehend why a parent would feel the need to lock herself at one end of the house, her children in their designated 'play area', and never the twain shall meet.
Now I'm beginning to understand.
Our home is a rather modest affair, first built in our small local town as a 'railway' house, housing railway employees transferred to this area. The previous owners of "Rock Wallaby" purchased the house and moved it to its current location some twenty years ago, adding a clothesline out the back, verandah out the front ...and an old rocking chair!
Rather small by modern standards, children share bedrooms, Matthew and I share an office and we take turns sitting on the loungechairs in the loungeroom. Located centrally with a doorway in every wall, it's nigh on impossible to fit a decent sized lounge-suite in there! Besides, I believe children are more than happy on the floor. Built before the popular introduction of open-plan living, the kitchen is a small room tucked off the back of the house, the place I spend a fair amount of my time. With inadequate bench-space, a detestable electric cooktop and a small non-fan-forced oven which often omits a slightly burnt odour from bubbling over lasagne, it still manages to perform its function quite well.
Most evenings, when Matthew is home, he joins me in the kitchen as I prepare dinner. Seated on the sink, he makes me a drink as I continue to stir, grill, fry, saute, call children in and out of the bath, the sandpit, the chookpen, provide direction as to where to find clean pyjamas, cast an eye over sentences, and share the day's events.
Of late, the pesky children have started to invade this parents' retreat. Like labrador dogs, they seem to need to be close. So more times than not, by the time dinner is ready to be served, there's one Dad seated on the sink, one boy child perched on the bench and three girls sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor. And no matter how much design process has gone into working that kitchen triangle workspace theory, there's not a lot of room left to move in my kitchen. In my parents' retreat.
Eight of these hens are now living in their dome happily scratching and munching their way through loads of compostable material I'm thowing at them every day. They think they're on holidays. This morning has seen the construction of our first compost pile. Just what I've always wanted. Happy, happy day.
Meanwhile, I'm feeling a tightening in my chest at the thought of school going back tomorrow. I used to feel the same way when it was me going to school, now I feel it for my children. Who probably don't feel a thing.
They've been basking in the glorious Spring weather we're currently enjoying, playing with dogs, chooks and of course the chickens that are again residing in the laundry.
You may notice our girls are going through a little bandana 'phase' at the moment.
Better than a dreadlocks phase I guess.
And far less expensive than Pandora jewellery.