Please Sir, I want some more…

How on earth can we say that after all that we have been given already.. It sounds so ungrateful..

Allow me to explain, the last couple of days has seen our family inundated with gifts, help, and most of all encouragement!
From emails and prayers from friends and strangers, gifts of huge amounts of food for our family-flour, fruits, veges, even handcream for our dry and cracked skin, a man who drove 660km round trip to deliver a small VW truckload of lucerne hay-specially instructed to be fed to our cows only, (the milking cow is having a ball, thankyou sir!) to the 7 men who just left today after working their hearts out in 40+ temperatures to give us what we most desperately need right now.

WATER!!

These 7 men, and others drove as far as 5 hours to be with us for a few days, working as hard as men can to build what is becoming jokingly known as the biggest windmill in the southern hemisphere. 50 feet high, over a 1800 meter deep artesian bore.

We have had this bore for ever, but it has never been particularly useful, and flows only just enough water each day to give a drink to 46 cows. We have been carting water from our drying dams trying to give everyone a drink. But now, with this windmill, standing tall about our bore, still not fully equipped yet, but within 3 weeks at most, it will be providing enough water to slate the thirst of 500 plus head of cattle, plus sheep, and native wildlife such as kangaroos and emus.

Our house dam is now empty, and Dad is today working to change the supply to another dam, which is only slightly less dry, soon I will go out and get in a truck to cart water to more thirsty dying cattle, my sister will pick up and go to work mixing feed for the cattle in a hot and dusty shed-a long sweaty job, my little brother will pick up his rifle and go searching for cattle in distress. My brother in law is here, doing mechanical repairs that Dad does not have the time for at the moment

But for now, we are sitting, on the verandah in the shade, eating cake and biscuits made for us with so much love, laughing and sharing stories about the antics, the jokes, wondering at the gifts, our spirits are high, despite water and feed levels being so very low.

It is the most amazing thing to know, and to feel, that people we hardly know, care so much for us. They suffer with us, and celebrate with us too.

The Windmill standing tall in the sun, is going to be a permanent reminder of the love and affection given to us by these wonderful people, the ones who came and worked on it, sunburnt, hot, thirsty and sore, and those who sent gifts of food, cooked a meal for us, sent a letter or a card, or said a quick prayer for us.

So far the mill is bare, it has not yet got its wheel spinning around, but when it does..

It will pump hope up out of dry barren earth, and remind us forever of love from unlikely places..

When we stand and say, we want some more, it does not mean we are being greedy, because we are so full! But it simply means we look forward to the rain that will fall one day-hopefully soon, but until then, we find ourselves encouraged and energised to go and fight some more.

We are still in drought, and we are still struggling, and until it rains, our dams are still dry, our paddocks are still empty. There is so much work still to be done, but we are humbled by the help, and this is one little step towards preventing thirst in the future.

For now, we turn our faces to God, hold out our overflowing bowls, and say ‘Please Sir, we want some more… rain that is’

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All For Want of Water

Its Friday afternoon, and I am sitting in the hot un-airconditioned cab of an old acco truck trying to read a book. I say trying because there is a hauntingly sad image in front of me, the bleached dried skeleton of an old scrub cow. I knew her by sight, sure she was a wild/feral cow, but we never begrudged her some cottonseed when we were out feeding-she would die without it.. Well, she died anyway, and its upsetting me as I wait in the hot dusty cab of the truck.

Why am I waiting? Well, I am waiting for the old green tank on the back of the truck to fill with water from the nearly empty dam, the one that the old cow died in.

45 minutes to fill, drive to another dry water point, 45 minutes to empty, return, repeat.

At least while the truck is emptying into the tanks and troughs around the property I get a better image to focus on, that is the image of our cattle that are still alive, crowding around for a drink of that precious life giving water.

Without this old acco truck, and the even older green tanker, these cattle would all be dead of thirst.

Although it sounds easy, carting water is one of the hardest jobs to do. Emotionally and mentally it exhausts you, and physically its hard too.

Lifting the pump on and off the back of the truck along with all the pipes needed to move the water around is no small feat for a girl of my size.

Today, I burnt my hand on the hot exhaust pipe of the pump when I tried to unscrew a pipe, I ripped my hand away, and as I did, one of the rings I was wearing caught on the pump, and it was a tug of war to see which would win, the searing heat of the metal, or the ripping sensation of my flesh as I tore the ring off my hand.

The heat won, and I fell back cradling my hand, swelling and bruising was immediate, and I plunged my hand into the muddy water of the dam, burying it deep into the cooling mud.. Crying is not an option out there all alone, so I just sat, waiting for the pain to recede, and the pump to cool before I gave it another go.

Lift it onto the truck, and begin the rounds once more…

I spent all of friday in the truck carting water around, all day. And at the end of the day, I know that around 250 head of cattle will have enough water-for 2 days. We have 600 head of dry thirsty cattle to cart water to.

Carting water is a continuous slow dusty and horrible job. But the reward is in seeing the cattle, old seasoned breeding cows, and their young calves alike enjoying a cool drink of water.

Without this old acco truck and the old green tanker, we would be ruined.

Mentally, emotionally, financially. Ruined.

Some paddocks we can cart enough water to last a couple of days, others that are less set up, we cart water twice a day to. 1000 litres in a tank on the back of the ute, sounds like a lot of water, but often the thirsty cattle waiting around the trough drink it as it flows from the tap. It doesn’t last long, so we go back with another load an hour or so later.

At least with our tanker, we have a hope, it can hold some 40,000 litres, enough to half fill a tank, or a turkeys nest. Whilst ever there is a dam with water still in the bottom we can carry it around to the cattle, sharing it around, rationing it out in some paddocks, but making sure everyone gets a drink. Its hard, but the alternative is worse.

At this time of year, some people look forward to an imaginary red sleigh, with reindeer, its their favourite thing they say.

Well, for me and my family, and our beloved cattle, our favourite thing? Right now? Its the old truck, and its green tanker, the roar of the engine brings cattle running. The slosh of water in its belly, better than any fake sack of goodies in any imaginary sleigh.

This truck, carries life. Carries hope. Carries water.

Because for the want of water, everything would die.

Praise God, for the water he gives us everyday… You never know when it might be gone..

And with only 3 usable dams left in 80 square km, that day might be sooner than we think…. That day for us could be less than 2 weeks away.

Pray God for water, Pray God for strength, Pray as though lives depend upon it. Because in our case, they do.

~ Jillaroo

The Bright Side of Life

Drought is heart wrenchingly difficult for farmers to go though. To see the grass slowly dry out and wither, to see the livestock you love and work for slowly starve to the extent that they have no strength left and die, to hear rain forever predicted on the radio only to be disappointed time and again, not knowing which will happen first – rain or financial ruin, for feeding thousands of sheep is costly and it will all be for nothing if it does not rain. But it’s not all doom and gloom, even in times of drought! We learn to look on the bright side of life in order to cope.

What are the bright things, you may ask? The first thing is the rewards of the country life and your hard work. Feeding stock the way we do is very very hard work, but to know that you are saving their lives by giving them the food they need is the reward! Without us they would be dead by now. Yesterday it was hot, it was soo hot, over 40˚C, that I felt like I could not shovel out one more load of beans without bursting into flames, wishing that I was sitting in a ute load of ice cubes instead of hot beans warmed from the sun. But I did it anyway (and thankfully no spontaneous combustion occurred) and the sheep came running over even in the extreme heat and eagerly ate it all, giving them the sustenance they need to keep them and their lambs going a bit longer. Its a good feeling! Thinking that way about things helps us to get through the everyday jobs. On a side note the bad “bean” jokes run rampant here and someone is always making a pun about them, all we can do is smile, groan and shake our heads about it every time it happens.

Another bright thing is the way the community bands together in times like this, because we are not the only ones suffering in drought, it is the whole community and often large portions of the country. When I go to our local town, to the rural supplies store, there is often a whole bunch of graziers in there yarning about the rain (or lack thereof), the market, the things they’ve been doing. They get moral support from each other which really does make a huge difference, to know that they are not alone. Because the country life can be lonely and it can sometimes feel like you are all alone, and a drought is a huge burden to carry all by yourself. So, if you are a lone drought stricken farmer then getting in touch with people can be of great help. But you are probably not a lone drought stricken farmer (because they don’t tend to read blogs on the internet) but you can help if you know someone in drought, just by letting them know that you’re thinking of them and praying for them because it really does make a huge difference.

The third bright thing is just having fun with things, there is alot of work to be done and it is easy to feel like you are snowed under. A good sense of humour is essential out here and we learn to see the funny side of everything. Like my brother (and he will hate me for telling this story!) was riding along one day on an old ag motorbike (and he tends to ride fast), and he must have been off in dreamland or something because he didn’t even notice the boredrain looming up ahead of him. For those who don’t know – a boredrain is a big ditch with water in it, used for watering the stock. He had completely forgotten that it was there and he hit the boredrain at full speed! He came out the other side okay but the poor old ag would never be the same again. The back suspension was shot to pieces and he rode it home with the back end practically dragging on the ground, but instead of cursing over the broken bike we all laughed about it. The worker we had here at the time saw the whole thing and it was hours before we could get the story out of him, he was laughing so hard! It still comes up in conversation sometimes, when my Dad forgets something and my brother starts ribbing him about it he usually comes back with “well who’s the one who forgot about the massive boredrain in the middle of the road?!” and my brother has not been able to live it down to this day. It was actually a happy day for him when the boredrains dried up, and that is truly looking on the bright side of life!

~ Rouseabout

New Facebook page!

New Facebook page!

Woo Hoo, ok everyone, we have finally finished our face book page, so invite you all to like the page and keep updated of new blog posts, and also the photos that we will be sharing in the future!!

Send us a message if you want to, we will try to reply to each one if we can.. But bear in mind we are working girls on big cattle and sheep farms so it might take a day or two to get back to you…

If you have a question about farm life or something you would like to see addressed in our blog let us know, and we will do our best.

Cheers and have fun all 🙂

~Jillaroo

She’ll Be Right Mate..

The iconic Australian saying.

It used to always bring to my mind some old bushie talking, with his battered akubra in hand, and an experienced eye, overlooking a bad situation and seeing the positive in it.. Knowing one day, it will be all right.

A few years ago though, I saw a news story about a farmer, 5th generation on the family vineyard, up to his eyeballs in debt, bad season on bad season, terrible prices and then disease ravaged his vines.
He was losing his farm, his business, his children were about to be turned out of their home, he had nothing to offer his wife,and he was standing there, being interviewed for national television. His face was torn and ragged, and his eyes red from holding back tears he just couldn’t let fall… And when the interviewer asked what was he going to do, he gave a broken half smile, and said ‘She’ll be right mate’

Why?

I never could understand why this man insisted it would be fine, his whole world was falling apart around his ears, and yet, ‘she’ll be right mate’ was all he would say..

In the old days, they used to say when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and they meant it. Today, many people commiserate and say, its too hard, just give up, do something easier, go somewhere where people appreciate you, don’t put up with those conditions…

On our farm, when the going gets tough like it has right now, the whole family stands tough together and gets going.

We cope with what we have to do, because we do it together, as a family, and support each other through it. And when the worst happens, someone cracks a very very bad joke with extremely poor taste, and far too often has one of those ‘slaps your forehead with it’s stupidity’ sort of puns, and then we all find the energy to laugh, pick ourselves up again and go once more.I believe a sense of humor is essential out here, and I think it applies that the drier the country you live in, the drier your humor gets..

Even my older sister, married and living in Brisbane is an essential part of our ability to cope, our weekly phone calls, where the phone is set on loudspeaker and we all gather round the phone to talk over each other and share stories gives us an amazing amount of energy.

The thing is, even when things are unbelievably bad out here, the love we all have for this amazing land, and the opportunity that we have to spend the time together as a family still means I would not choose another life if I am given the choice. There really isn’t that many jobs where a father can get up and his children share his work day, and hopefully have a bit of fun doing it..

A few weeks ago, Dad gave me some leftover barley, it was a bit rotten, and bit weevilly, but still, he gave it to me and said, you can have that for your horses, I’ll get some new stuff for the cattle.
Sounds a bit second rate, but I was delighted! Barley! Wow, over 100kg of it too! I had plans to boil it up and feed them, and it would give me a break from buying feed, for one week at least. The next morning I danced out of the house, set up the outside broiler, and made my way to the enclosure where it was stored, wrapped in a tarp, I had my bucket in hand… And found that feral pigs had broken in, torn the tarp and tossed it about, and eaten every last grain. I had to sit down and cry. I might also have kicked my bucket too..

I wandered back and told my Daddy, and his strength came through, and lifted me up. Instead of throwing our hands in the air, now every night we set a trap up, and every morning we spend 10 or 15 minutes before the grind of the day begins, the feral pigs caught in our trap become the real life pigs in our real life game of angry birds. Someone releases the pigs from the trap one at a time, and the rest of us ‘git em!’
Its not much, but its a few minutes of fun before our day of hard work, toil and sadness begins. And we are actually doing our cattle a favour while getting revenge for the loss of my horses barley. When cattle get weak and fall down, the feral pigs dont wait for them to die before they begin to chew on them, they attack baby calves, and take and destroy what they wish on the place. Getting rid of a few here and there is quite rewarding.

Its a way of approach to a problem, and a mindset you will find anywhere you go when you get past the city limits, its a different way of dealing with things.

The work we do is hard, heartbreaking, and backbreaking, but it is also good honest labour. At the end of the day we may fall into bed exhausted, but we know that every day we have done something meaningful, whether it is building a fence to improve the property, or helping a young cow give birth to her first calf. 

Today we have been mustering in the cattle to try and choose some for sale, I had to ride a horse that is also drought affected, but the sheer courage to work in these animals moves me to greater effort, and greater strength.

Our faith in a greater purpose in this life shows us that nothing we do is futile,  we lost 2 cows today, weak from drought, they walked too far into a waterhole, and could not get out. Dad was merciful to them and helped end their suffering before it became too great.
But we also have a tiny baby heifer in our house yard, born in the wee hours of this morning, rejected by her mother, found by my brother and brought home, we saved a life today. And that tiny little life, is so very important right now. Every tiny spark of life shows us that hope can be found everywhere.

The help we have been offered, the help we have been given, men who gave up their time to begin to build us a windmill, to ease our water woes, the man who paid a big bill, and bought milk for our orphaned calves, the prayers and messages from complete strangers around the world..

Yes, now I understand why that man stood with his broken heart, and declared to the world ‘She’ll be right mate’

Because that saying isn’t about it being right, right now. The saying is about one day, knowing that it will be, if we give it the chance to be. We can walk away, we can give up, we can let it be too hard, too much. But walking away is a choice, so is staying put. The only difference is if we walk away, we will do it knowing that more animals will suffer and die, because we didn’t have the strength of character to get out of bed in the morning. If we stay, one day we might just get to look back and say ‘look where I have been’

I worry every day that one of us will give up, or give in, but in the end. What would be the reward in giving in? Where is the reward in walking away? We stay, we fight, we live, and we learn. And one day, hopefully in the not too distant future we will stand victorious… Or we wont.. But if we give up now, we will never know what we might have achieved.

So tomorrow, I will get up, get on a horse, and muster in our remaining cattle, help draft out the few that might make it to sale, and put the rest in the paddock, feed and water them, and pray for rain.

But first, I have to buckle on my spurs, coz its a tough game out there in the big wide world.

~ Jillaroo

What Drought Means

My name is Iana, and my story is something similar to Charlottes. I live on a property in South West QLD with my parents and my two younger brothers. I am doing a university course by distance ed but my main job right now is feeding the livestock.

We mainly have sheep, and a few hundred cattle and about 50 goats of my own. There hasn’t been any significant rain here for a very long time. There is precious little grass and the sheep depend on us for their food and survival, but even with all our efforts they are still getting steadily weaker and bonier. Many of the sheep have the added stress of having lambs at foot, and many of them abandoned their lambs at birth knowing that they did not have the resources to support a little one. Driving around the paddocks at that time it was common to see abandoned little lambs, still alive but with their eyes and tongue picked out by the crows. The most humane thing we could do was to give their suffering a quick ending. Now the lambs are older and somewhat able to battle on if abandoned, but it is now the grown ewes which are too weak to get up and the scavengers take full advantage of that. It is made especially sad by the fact that sheep are such gentle creatures, and completely unable to defend themselves.

Every day, we load up the ute and trailer with cotton seed or beans, drive out to the paddock which needs it most and shovel it out bit by bit so that all the sheep can get a fair go at it. They recognise the ute now and when we beep the horn they come running because they know its food time. My brother is unable to do much heavy work right now because he has a shoulder injury so I have been pulling a double shift to take up the slack for him. I am tired, my hands are blistered and splintered from the shovel handle and my shoulders ache but still it is worth it just to see the ewes and lambs eating the food they need so enthusiastically. Yes, lambs are cute and they always manage to put a smile on my face no matter what the situation!

For us, it is so important to try and see the good things and stay positive about life, because it is absolutely true what Charlotte said – this place is our work, and it is also our home. There is no escaping it so we just have to cope the best way we can. My Dad likes to say that every morning is a new day, and every day we only focus on things we need to do for that day and not look too far into the future, because the future looks bleak. We know that we cannot keep this up forever, that financially we will run out of money for buying food for the livestock not to mention money for providing food for ourselves. That physically this work is taking its toll on our bodies and we will become exhausted, and food for livestock is becoming increasingly difficult to source in these hard times. And that mentally the whole picture is horribly depressing, watching our beloved sheep which we have worked so hard to keep alive become increasingly poor and die day after day. It is so very heartbreaking and difficult to cope with. Just writing this little article is a good outlet for me. In times like these the suicide rate in farmers is very high, and without a greater hope it is no wonder. It doesn’t bear thinking about so we simply don’t. Every job seems urgent but we prioritise as best we can, we do what we can in a day, we go to bed and sleep at night, and then we do it again the next morning. And that is what every day of our life will be like until the drought breaks. Hopefully it will be soon.

Every day we hope and pray for rain, we are at the mercy of the weather. Without rain our livelihood and everything we have known will not survive and there is nothing we can do about it except pray that it won’t come to that. I know that it is difficult for some people to relate to this, but I hope that this article helps people to understand what the drought means to us here in the country.

“How do the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.” Joel 1:18. So true.

When it Rains

When it doesn’t rain.

I live on a cattle property in Western Qld Australia, with my Mum, Dad, and younger sister and brother.

We breed composite beef cattle for the domestic meat market, and right now, that market is fallen through the floor. Cattle prices are at an all time low, and costs are at an all time high. The live export market has effectively been shut down by anti farmer cruelty propaganda, and bad government. It is tearing our market apart with an oversupply of cattle bred to go overseas, and the same anti-farmer activists are working within our own country to tear down and destroy the domestic industry as well.

And besides that, it hasn’t rained at my home now, for a very long time.

I was asked what is the difference to us, to my father and why does it upset him so much to see his much beloved cattle die in the paddock, when we actually breed them to be slaughtered anyway. Why does drought affect us at all.

The answer is too huge to really tell in one short letter, but allow me to try.

When the rains stops, grass doesn’t grow, water holes begin to dry up and the cattle get very thin, when the rains stops suffering begins, no it doesn’t happen overnight, but little bit by little bit the cattle get thinner, and thinner, and weaker and weaker.

We feed them as best we can, but with no income due to the extremely low market it is very difficult.

Allow me to expand on that point, next week we are trucking cattle to market, normally we pray that we get ‘good’ prices for them, this week we are praying that someone bids on them, and that we do not have to make that horrible choice of do we truck them home again, or do we shoot them in the yards.

Lets drive this home further, the lack of feed right now, is to the point where many of our cattle will die during the 2 ½ hour drive to Dalby to sale, most would not survive a return journey, to euthanase them could well be what we must do.

Feeding the cattle takes up to 5 hours every day, sometimes more, and it is a 2 or 3 person job, my younger sister Emily (21) is in charge of this job. Every day she mixes up grain, mollasses, salt, and minerals into a big container and then drives around the property slowly hand feeding it out to the cattle along the way. She carries a large calibre rifle with her in the ute to put down any sick cattle she finds along her way. Either Craig my younger brother is with her for this task, or Ivan our part time farm assistant.

When Craig is not helping Emily carry out licks and feed to the cattle, he is on his motorbike, also with a large rifle slung over his shoulder. The job is to check every single watering hole on the property, and search and destroy any sick or dying cattle he finds along the way.

Dad is frantic with work, not only does none of the normal farm work happen at this time, but so many jobs come up that must be done and all as important as each other.

Aside from the stress of not knowing if there will be enough money in the bank each week to provide for his family, he has the horrid job each day of buckling on a 30-30 pistol designed and purchased especially for the humane destruction of the cattle that he loves so very much. At the moment Dad is torn between so many different jobs, I see him turn around in circles, both metaphorically and literally, confusion and despair are close by, which job must he do first, go dig the cow out of the bog and try to save her life, go fence a dam which has fallen to a dangerously low level, cart water to the 200 head of cattle that will die without it, spend a few minutes inside the house desperately trying source fodder for our starving cattle, try and dig another dam deeper so next time we are in drought it wont go dry..

I worry each and every day for his health both mental and physical, and I know that without his faith in God, for certain I would not have my father today. I have known far too many men who have taken their own lives during drought, over heartbreak from watching their cattle die, I have seen my dad sitting on the ground beating his head in his hands, not knowing where to go or what to do.

I watch him in the morning pick up that pistol, and pray God he never turns it on himself, I watch my baby sister carry her rifle out the door, and pray she never gets that desperate, or my little brother all of 19 years old walking out the door with his 308 rifle, to search for dying cattle just like he has been doing ever since he was 7 years old riding around on his pee-wee 80.

I see Mum every day fighting desperately to save the lives of our orphaned calves, she fights for those babies like a mother lion fights for her cubs and when we lose one she weeps like a part of her soul has been lost. She tries so hard to keep the home fires burning, and to have an oasis in the desert for Dad to come home to each day, but with no water it is getting harder and harder to do. We have no garden, no lawn, and our shower at night is a muddy brown colour because our dam for water for the house is so low it wont clear.

We are carting water from our house supplies to water cattle who will die of thirst without it, so much more important to us is the life of one cow, than a clean shower at night, or a green lawn to come home to.

My role in this drought is minor, I work off the farm so it affects me least of all the family, but even so, the stress and tension I see in my family is upsetting at best. My income is tiny compared to the average working girl, and I wish I made more not so I could buy that new iPad that everyone is talking about but so I could buy more food for my family, to ease the pressure on Dad and Mum. I am the only ‘horse person’ on the farm, and at the moment 100% of my income is being spent keeping them alive, I have one 6km from home, he broke his leg while I was riding him during a muster, and I am not able to get him home. I have one in the yards on medication and isolation trying to fight off an infection which the vet tells me is critical and life threatening, another is in our house paddock, with an injury on her hind leg that needs daily care. The other two horses just need constant feed to keep them alive.

It is my job to care for these animals, and to be a gofer for any other jobs around the farm. I will do town runs for Dad, to pick up machinery parts or mineral licks for the cattle, because I am the dispensable one, not needed for any particular job its easy for me to do those runs and get those things when we need them.

I always wish I could do more, take the strain off Dad, help Mum more, stop Emily from having to come home in tears covered in mud and exhausted from draggin another cow out of the dam, trying to get her to walk, them having to shoot her out of pity. But there is nothing more that I can do. There is nothing anyone can really do, at least, not til it rains.

Drought is a horrible destructive thing, it brings man and beast to their knees, and doesn’t let go until there is no moisture left anywhere, no water in the dams for stock to drink, and no tears left in your eyes to weep.

To say the cost of drought is only financial is to underestimate the desperation of the man behind the akubra.

I know many people do not understand drought, and how it affects us out here. But take this one thing if you can, in the city, you get up leave your house and go to work, and at the end of the day leave work and return to your home for the night. If work sucks you can leave, if you don’t like your home you can move.

For a farmer, for my family, we get up in the morning and our home is our job, its our life and our livelihood. If work sucks, you cannot escape it, if things go bad you cannot leave. We have no place to go, and even if we did, what could we do with all our beautiful cattle? If we leave now, if we abandon those gentle creatures who depend upon us, they would die, they would all suffer terribly and die.

We cannot afford to stay, but we cannot afford to go.

Everything we are, everything we have is tied up in this horrible, beautiful place we call our home, the land we live on.

The land we love.

It might not seem like much, but when you say your prayers at night, please pray for rain. Because when it rains… The land will smile again.