1000 Ways to Die, a kiwi’s story

A few weeks ago our family was very happy to welcome into our home a Kiwi, and city born chap, to show him a taste of the aussie bush.

Despite my protests that he should wait til it was cooler and wait til after it had rained, to be able to experience the bush, the way it should be experienced, he insisted on coming while we were in full drought.

So, for his very first experience here on the station, Kiwi got to see very few of the positives of lliving life in the bush, as he watched (and helped) us desperately trying to feed our starving cattle, the early mornings and the very late nights. He helped us work on our windmill, and learnt how to put an animal down when it was suffering.

Its hard work for one brought up in this land, mentally, physically and emotionally, I can hardly imagine what drought must look like through the eyes of one who has not grown up with it. Someone whose experience of death and suffering is limited to what the city is able to provide. Don’t get me wrong, I am not by any means belittling city life, but I do have ultimate respect for someone who came out with very little idea other than what can be conveyed in writing and words on a sheet of paper. 

So when Kiwi offered to write down a little of what he experienced through his own eyes, I leapt at the chance, and after sending back too many very interesting but altogether far too long attempts, here is a taste of what bush life in drought is like through the eyes of a city boy.

(edited heavily from 8 pages, to about 3)

~Jillaroo

 

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Home: Downtown Auckland New Zealand
Average yearly temperature: 15 degrees Celsius
Maximum temperature recorded temperature since 1853: 34.4 degrees Celsius

So, what is this doing on a farm girls blog?
It’s a long story and believe me, I’m going to TRY and keep this short.

Let me introduce myself and I’ll give you the back story what influenced me visiting their farm in the first place.
Firstly, I am not a girl. I have not had much to do with farming in any way and I am in fact, a born and bred New Zealander AKA: Kiwi.
I have lived in downtown Auckland for many years and I met a young couple at a conference held in one of the northern most cities in New Zealand.
They were polite, extremely helpful to everyone they met and exceptionally courteous towards the elders of our group.
Talking to them, I found their outlook and behaviour different enough to get me to start to wonder about what culture, what background could have nurtured them.
I was intrigued but, all I knew about them at the time was that they came from a country full of dangerous creatures and lived in a city that I’ve already visited a few times.

I learnt that the wife was originally from the countryside when she met her husband from the city.
We added each other to our various social networks, as I would any other person, and I got to know them even better. Through this medium I met the sister of the young wife..
Enter: Jillaroo.
After many exchanges, I learn the lived on the farm and she worked every day with her best friends.
Actually, calling them her best friends is an insult. However, for the rest of society where values are so twisted, I believe that is the best way for me to convey just how close their family is.
But if you’ll stay with me here, I’ll touch back on this point a bit later.

I was curious as to what she does since I wanted to find more of such people.
Questions abounding, she; with all the colourful descriptors, creative use of humour and with the delightful wit that she has – obliged me with answering every.single.question I had about life in the harsh countryside conditions of Australia.

Eventually, plans to visit the farm were made so I could see for myself

I downloaded an ‘app’ that listed most of the poisonous creatures in Australia. It even gives medical advice should I come across anyone that needs my help or worse, should I need to seek medical help myself.
In my bags, I packed as much protective gear as I could think of. Most of which are things to ensure my fair city skin remained as unblemished as I can keep it.

When I arrived in Brisbane, I caught up with the young couple.
Jillaroo’s Brother in law just came back from off the farm. He was to help erect a 50ft windmill on the property.
Much of it has been completed but, even with his help, the windmill still needs a fair bit of work before it’s ready to do its task and pump water to some of the property.

Before leaving on the bus, I checked out my social pages and saw a message from my Mum.
She was worried about me and was telling me things to look out for. Knowing that she’s still in worry mode, I also took the chance to give her assurance that I’ll be okay.
Having read her messages, I started questioning whether I really stopped to think how many ways I could be killed.
If I work on the windmill, I could fall.
If I walk out at night I could stand on a snake. My app actually says that 3 of the 5 most deadly snakes in the world are around this area.
A few days earlier I saw a video about some particularly nasty spiders too. ALL of which existed in the area.
My Mum told me about a family friend who actually nearly died with fluid in his lungs somehow because of the heat in the city I was already in. Given I was going to a place which gets about 10 degrees hotter, I thought there was a very real possibility that this too could be my fate. Especially given that I’m not going to have any hospitals nearby.

The bus was heading west, and I made sure I was wearing appropriately safe clothing: heavy hiking boots, a long sleeved shirt & long pants that have an elastic corded ends to allow me to reduce the gap from the boots… Everything I was wearing was my ignorant attempt to protect myself from Australia’s most dangerous of wildlife.

At the end of the bus ride, I see a car waiting by the road.
I honestly was thinking the worst as I approached but, after tapping on the windows, I realised that the bus was quieter than we realised.
It’s Jillaroo in there. And when she comes around the side of her car, I see she’s dressed all in pink and I quickly turn her attention to her not wearing shoes. We are on gravel road but, I can feel the heat through my shoes and was concerned that she left her shoes in the car on my account.
Turns out, she’s used to the heat and her feet are a fair bit tougher than mine. Right then, I make a sort-of new year’s resolution to toughen up the skin on the soles of my feet. Really not too sure how well I can do that.

She takes me for a drive down the road travelling next to her family’s property.
It is by far and away THE largest property I’ve ever seen.
I’m told that it’s not particularly large by Australian standards and that a couple of kilometres on one side is not unusual.

We eventually pull up to the yard and as I look into the yard and Jillaroo explains that the animals there are the “critical care/intensive care” babies that I’ve heard so much about in her letters.

We meet her Mother inside and who meets me with a smile.
Having already met 2 of her daughters, I can tell you now that if I was to bump into her in the busy streets of New York, I’d still be able to tell that she was their Mum.
She had a quiet effortless grace about her as we conversed.
She showed me to the room and asks me if I wanted to give a call to my Mum to tell her I arrived ok.
Now, I work for a Telephone company so, being as far out as this family is from any city and, seeing that it was going to be an international call to boot, I knew that it can’t be a cheap call to make. So, I did say that my own Mum was quite savvy on the social network so, a message to her might suffice.
However, their Mum gives me a “are you kidding me look” as she gives me the phone. You know that look. The look that says “Mums know better” and she said that my Mum should know I arrived. She’s right of course and I make the call.
She tells me later that the internet is “iffy” at the best of times but I don’t think that was why she told me to give my Mum a call.

Later on, I meet the Dad by their ute,
He’s a “bloke’s bloke” for sure and although he speaks at a normal volume and even though we were roughly about the same height, he still had the presence of a towering leader. I’d imagine that people gravitate to him all the time.

The youngest sister was by the gate and I get introduced. She gives me a firm handshake and I could see that she’s trying to figure me out already. There’s a personable intelligence there that seemed a bit more pronounced on this one. It was almost a quizzical look to say that I might be too “city” to survive out there in the countryside.
Her warmth of welcome was very obvious though, and I already started to feel completely at ease.

After these introductions, we make our way to our first job of transferring water from off the water truck to one of the dams.
These dams are HUGE. Or at least I thought so.
They looked capable of holding roughly 3 to 4 times the water held in an Olympic sized swimming pool but, without exaggerating, what water was left seemed nothing more than a small pond.
This far out inland, it was obvious that a person should attempt to stock up on as much water that is humanly possible and, that was the hope of these dams.
The water left is now an extremely precious commodity meaning that wild and feral animals are now even more desperate to get these waters and they’re becoming an ever more increasing danger to all life on the farm. Not only do they drink what precious little water there is, but they often carry with them ticks and diseases. Far too risky to expose any of the stock to further risk when the animals are already fighting to survive as it is.

When we arrive back at the family’s home and I meet their brother.
I give him a firm handshake and we each size each other up as we say hello, He’s young but, seemed very much a “bloke’s bloke” already. The connection between him and his Father could not have been more obvious.

Even though it was late, I still felt like I was cooking out in the heat. The Brother tells us that their thermometer hit 52 degrees C earlier that day. 52!! A new record for the area since records began and three times that of what I was used to.
My mind wonders back to my families’ friend… I hope that won’t be me.

As the night draws into a close, I witness the family’s close bonds as they send each other to bed.
The love and affection for each other was so obvious and I could not imagine a better send off.

Mornings start early just after day break and begins on the veranda.
A bible chapter is read and then discussed with the family first. This is then followed by breakfast.

On my first day there, Jillaroo takes me for a small walk maybe covering 2 square kilometres.
I get to see that the property stretches beyond my view. I see some of the equipment and buildings and get a brief overview of what the cattle can and can’t eat.
The beauty of the land was awe inspiring but, evidence of the desert was strongly showing through. Try as I might, it was difficult to imagine the land as once being green.

We start making our way up to another dam when all of a sudden, Jillaroo lets out a sudden “ohhh noo” and she’s looking directly ahead towards the water.
To me, I could only notice the muddied water and the trees surrounding it. There’s bits of tree debris around but I just couldn’t spot what it was that made her heart sink.
She sort of half runs across the dried mud to a small dark sport in the water.
She reaches in and pulls out the body of ‘Busta’ – one of the families much beloved pet and working dog. He had been heat struck the day before and went to the dam for a swim, where he must have collapsed in the water.
Having seen their love for their animals in her letters to me, my stomach wrenched as my mind seemed to wipe itself blank from the shock. I was stunned to silence.
I look to her and she’s got her face in her hand. She was trying to keep quiet but, the muffled sound of a woman crying was unmistakable.

When we eventually make our way back to the house, there was a heavy sense of purpose with everyone’s movements there.
It turns out; one of the cows has got itself stuck in the thick mud next to one of the dams.
Their Dad and brother goes out for a rescue.
I felt helpless but, there’s little I can do in this situation.
After a while, I could start making out the twinkle of lights through the trees way out in the distance.
Their Mother laments “Ohhh they needed the crane” as she looks at the clock. I could tell that she’s worried for them and for the poor animal that needed such a rescue. It was obvious that it was going to be a good while before they’d be coming back for dinner.

THIS was all on the first day!

In my first draft of this story, I went on to describe the highs and lows of most of my days there.
It was a week worth of learning and I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of what they experience every day.
In fact, imagining that I’ve even scratched the surface seems to be too much of a boast at this stage.

Yes, there was devastation in almost everywhere I looked there but, that was through my city eyes.
There, in the space of only one week, I witnessed the full gamut of life and it was something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. And they deserve all the thanks I can give.
There, they showed love to a near complete stranger who entered their home with only 3 bottles of wine. They gave him food, shelter and even the water of which they have little of.
They showed great love for their family, their land and love for their animals. These animals which themselves cause great heartache every time one of them dies.

As a person from the city visiting the farm, I think I’ve gained some perspective.
Outside the farm, we worry about what’s happened to our cell phones, why the busses are late, whats the holdup at the traffic lights and wishing that there was more to do in our spare time.
Inside the farm, the normal working day is literally from sun up to past sundown and spare time is something that they need to make and not a luxury that they simply have.
Inside the farm, you hear of complaints from animal rights activists demanding that farmers help their cattle more and protect the predatory animals. Ridicule from outsiders about farmers abilities and even persecution of the knowledge passed down through many generations.
It all seemed like many people felt like they knew enough about farming without actually being there and so, being a person who was once about as far removed from the farming scene as possible, I felt a great honour in being there with them and truly humbled that they shared what they had with me.

What I’m trying to say is that, it was so obvious that they love without need or want for reward.
In fact, the entire time I was there, I felt and witnessed nothing but love. And love that was being tried and tempered through the toughest imaginable times.
What’s more, it is likely to be tried again and quite likely it’s going to be tougher than ever.

So, what have I seen us as a people giving the farmer in return?
From safe havens where we demand water and free money, protection from the government, animal and pest control, I see people demanding that our primary industries slice their earnings and increase their expenditures. We have faith that the government is doing something to help and yet, do not question it or seek proof.
We dare not venture out to see for ourselves what else there is to where our food comes from or put even care to put a face to those that support us.
If anything, we threaten our countrymen that feed us by looking to foreign food suppliers with questionable ethics.

I am a proud New Zealander. There is no question about that, but I am not so proud as to boast that our farmers go through tougher times. They go through tough times – yes, tougher than Australian farmers – No.
In fact, I feel a fair bit of satisfaction knowing that as Kiwis, we’re better connected to our farmers. The rural news is not something we avoid and we do actually take an active interest in it.
As neighbouring countries, I know we enjoy our ANZAC relationship. We  take pride with what we can each country can accomplish and even more pride when we see what can be accomplished when get together.
Together, we are pioneers, world records setters and have a relationship that is the envy the world over.
That said, it just eats at the soul when I see Australia neglecting that which makes them grow. Australia should be better than that and I know it once was.

Now, if you read from the start, you’ll see that most of what I set out to do was to learn more about human decency and caring. To seek out chivalry and virtue.
I found that. And I found it in abundance. All in a place that I expected to threaten me with 1000 different ways to die.
But, as we reach the end, I can tell you that I did not once fear for my life. In fact, the most danger I’ve felt in the last few weeks was in downtown Auckland by a man threatening to punch me for not giving him more money for his bus.
I’m sad to say that all that preparing and all the stories did not prepare me for the true hardships of the Australian farmer.
The family I stayed with have given me so much, and I know I can never pay them back.
It’s time that we, as a society support our famers. It’s time we question our government and demand that our money is spent properly to support the country that we choose to live in and live from.
As countries, we depend on our farmers more than we know and I can only hope that we all pull ourselves together to give them the support that they so richly deserve.

 

 

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Reign

Growing up on the land, country people are often surrounded by many animals. They become so attached to the animals they see each day, whether it be a cow in the paddock rearing calves for profit or an old dog, done with his use, but spending his days of retirement happily kicking around the house paddock.

Because of their attachment to the animals, farmers will often do whatever necessary for an animal that is sick. Even if that animal can give very little to nothing back. With the hardship of drought, and bad markets, you have to have a genuine love of the land and the animals you work with to stay out here. If you just wanted the money, a day job in town would be far more logical.

I would like to share a story, from July 2013, which depicts just that. When an animal is sick, we do everything we can to help it regain health. Obviously there are times when the kindest thing is to put the animal out of its misery, but if there is hope, we fight for it!

Being self-sufficient is a dream I have had most of my life, so I was after some good milking goats to help with that dream. The reason goats were chosen over cows was they are better suited to our country and are less messy to milk. The particular breed I chose was the Anglo Nubian, for their high cream content.

So when I saw a mob of does advertised, all in kid to a purebred buck I jumped at it. My husband and I drove down and picked up four. We checked their teeth for their age, made sure they seemed healthy, and took them home.

The first doe to bag up was my favorite, and I hoped so much that she would produce a girl. The morning the kids were born, I came out to find she had had twin girls. A fantastic way to build a great little milking heard! Unfortunately, it was not fantastic at all; instead it was a sight of devastation.

There was a sickly grey kid staggering after its mother, whose bag had obviously not been sucked, the kid’s eyes were off focus, and it was weak. Her sister was still lying where she had been born; she was still wet and covered in mucus. She was bleating for help, and seemed to be paralyzed and could not lift her head. I went straight to her, and felt for broken bones. My mind was racing, trying to come up with an explanation. Her neck caught my attention. It was bent, like a ‘C’. Had the mother trodden on her neck just after birth? I felt for the break, however it was solid, as if there was only one bone in the neck.

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This is a photo of the kid after I dried her out and placed her on a mat in the sun to warm up. She could not lift her head, and I rolled her over to the other side every few hours. I milked out her mother and hand fed her colostrum from a bottle. In the meantime, trying to fit in other property work and the animals, as it was while my husband was away working, I was also web searching her symptoms, only to come up with wry-neck. I rang a goat specialist vet in Melbourne, who when I told her what was wrong and described the sick kid, asked me if I really wanted to try to save her. She had no solution, but said to massage the neck as I was doing and to keep going with the colostrum.

Devastated, watching her move her little hooves and her eyes, she was just so helpless and really, so was I. I decided the only option was to put her down. She could not enjoy life paralyzed the way she was. Her sister wasn’t in a very good way either, although she could walk, she wasn’t improving, she could not suck from her mother and I was caring for both of them.  I could not bring myself to do it that day however. I have had to put down many animals on the property that are too injured to help, but I thought I would give her just a few days, to see if there was the slightest improvement.

The first night of the 2 kids lives, I made a bed of towels and shirts in a quad tyre in the living room. I heated a hot water bottle and left them there. I set my alarm for 2am, as it was winter and this is when it gets cold. At 2am, I re heated the hot water bottle, fed them both and went back to bed at 3am with the alarm set for 5.

The next day was the same. Trying desperately for a cure for the poor black kid, and why the grey kid was so weak and sickly also. I started advertising for goat experts on the Facebook buy swap sells, saying I had a kid with a bent neck, unable to stand and if anyone had ever seen this. Amazingly, people had, some had reared the kids with the bent neck and they had eventually learned to walk, some had goats with bent necks of 4 years old! I was shocked. It was final, she would not be destroyed, if there was hope of her walking and enjoying life, I would fight for her to have that chance, even if there was no cure.

That night was the same as the night before, with a 2am feed and bottle re-heat. The next day, someone had posted that she had goat polio, and needed a B1 injection. A CURE!! I was so excited, though I didn’t have a B1 injection, and living 2hours from town, I asked the lady if it were possible to give her berocca, the soluble vitamin supplement. “Yes” was the awesome answer. So I started dissolving Berocca in the little goats bottles.

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By that afternoon, the little goat whom I named Reign, could put her head up.

The grey kid, whom I named Storm was getting better too. She was starting to run and jump, like a normal goat kid. Considering the does had all came from the same place, I assumed the rest could be deficient, and result in kids with the same problems. So I made up syringes of berocca and drenched the other does who had yet to kid. I did not want to have to deal with 3 more sets of twins this ill!

That night was incredible, while Storm was exploring the house with her new energy and better health, Reign started to try and sit up. She started with trying to get her legs tucked under her. I was beside myself with excitement, and sat near the tyre, wanting so much to help her, but knowing she had to do it on her own. Once she struggled with her legs, that had been starting to respond to her more and more throughout the day, and had them under her, she wanted to get up. She pushed her front legs out in front of her, and pushed herself back until she was against the tyre, then, as she pushed, her rump slid up the tyre and rested over the top. She was almost standing! Her front legs where supporting weight, while her back legs dangled. It was so incredible. I thought I would see improvements slowly, over the next couple of days. I began to cry as I stroked her. She was so amazing, her tiny body was starting to listen, and her determination pushed her to do everything in her power to live.

My 5am start the next morning, despite I was starting to feel extremely tiered, was very exciting. She had stood with her rump sitting on the edge of the tyre for her bottle at the 2am feed. I took her out into the sun after her breakfast with Storm and lay her near my guinea pig cage. Reign was at it straight away, pushing herself backwards, trying to get up. Each feed of berocca milk seemed to be improving this kid so dramatically I wouldn’t have believed it if I had not witnessed with my own eyes.

Then, that morning, 4 days old, Reign stood, unassisted. It was very emotional for me, after the long nights and toiling with if I should even try to keep her alive and trying to find what was so wrong with her.

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This is Reign standing. As you can see her neck is quite bent. As she learnt to walk, this often put her off balance and she would fall regularly. She would always be struggling back to her feet and trying to walk again. The improvements in Storm where also fantastic, she was drinking off her mother now, and the mother took her back as her own, despite I had kept her inside out of the cold and bottle fed her for 3 days while she was sick.

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Reign drinking her bottle, her twisted neck affecting her less and less with the more vitamins and strength she had.

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Reign and Storm with my dog, Shadrack, as they explored outside the house yard fence.

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As Reign grew, the bend in her neck became less pronounced. I continued to feed her berocca daily, and it was evident that she would possibly end up with the normal form of a goat.

The other goats had their kids, and although they were slow and not completely healthy, none where as sick as Reign, I gave them all a first feed of Berocca and their mothers reared them with no more complications.

As someone with plenty of goats, including 100 odd paddock goats and 20 milkers (including Reign and her siblings) I am a strong believer in supplements. For the past 4 years on our property, we never leave a paddock without a trace element lick in it so that if the animals need it they can get it. We also regularly check our stock for signs of deficiencies, something I do automatically when I see an animal in the paddock. If one animal looks B12 deficient, chances are, the others aren’t far off, and its time to muster and inject. With this drought, we have had a lot get sick due to vitamin A deficiency, with watery eyes, dull coats and bad eyesight. We have had to inject with an ADE injection into the muscle.

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Today, Reign is a healthy 6 month old Kid. She lives with the other goats, always friendly to us and loves attention. We are still unsure if this will have affected her fertility. I hope not, it would be nice to have little Reign kids, but even if she can never give us anything saleable for the effort put into her, she provided an invaluable learning experience. She will be allowed to live out her days with us, regardless of what she can give back.

~Breaker

Breaking point; from a Breaker’s point of view

When my husband and I set out on this hard working adventure to earn our own land, we were well aware of many of the hardships we would be battling. The horrendous cost of infrastructure, the task of developing the land, stocking costs as well as choosing the best breeds of sheep and cattle for the land we bought.

 

Drought, flash floods, disease and deficiencies are all things you are aware of when you have lived on the land, and you do as much as you can to prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best.

 

One thing we were not completely prepared for, was just how much the Government and the Shires would pull together to make our journey so much harder and more draining.

 

I am not 100% if all the costs we face are the same as other states, but I will give you a couple examples of the ridiculous ways the government rips off the hard working Farmer.

 

Our property had not been farmed or lived on for 20 years when we bought it, it was run down and the fences were all flat on the ground, no house and no stock yards. There was an old access road up the back of the property that we could only find on an old Google map, it possibly had not been used for 30 or more years and was definitely not accessible any more. We have to pay rent to the government of over $400 a year, on a road that is no longer there. We can buy it, after putting in an application and then paying $4000, so we no longer have to rent a road that doesn’t exist and cannot be used.

 

Another cost, in the tax on the livestock, it is about $1.50 a head per year. This isn’t the worst of it; we also have a tax on the potential stock we possibly could be running in a good season. So for the ¾ of our property that we have not yet been able to afford to fence and therefore use, we are still paying money on the livestock that could possibly be there!

 

Should I even go into the garbage collection fee in the rates, when the closest the garbage truck comes is over 60km away?

 

These are just a few little costs of injustice that we personally face, As do many farmers. The little things that make important development like laying Polly pipe for a good watering systems, near impossible. The amount of bills that come in each year, to drain us of any hope to stock up on feed when prices are low, to fence more paddocks so we can rotational graze to improve the land.

 

Often on the land, you feel you are climbing up a cliff, with no safety harness, and at the top of the cliff you have the Greens, the government and big animal welfare groups hurling rocks and boulders at you, often hitting you and making you fall back to the bottom. So many farmers are starting to give up. And why shouldn’t they? The support is getting scarcer and country troubles are being pointed at them so frequently.

 

Only yesterday did I hear of any news of the government having a plan for drought assistance. Maybe I have been too busy battling the drought to have heard earlier, but until then, I thought they had forgotten us. While helping other countries to secure allies, they had forgotten to support the legs they stand on.

 

We have been offered rebates here in NSW, $2000 for yard upgrades and $2000 for water set up to help with the drought. Its no good to us however, as we have to spend the money on the materials, then apply to get it back and it is not guaranteed. If we had $2000 to put into setting up water, we would have done it months ago.

 

So many cattle graziers and farmers are in the same boat, offered rebates, only after they have spent the money they don’t have, and given no guarantee of getting that money back, and no time frame it may be given after the application is submitted.

 

Up until 3 weeks ago, our spring fed dam was holding up well, the spring was filling it each night and our main concern was feed. However, the day I saw the dam had not risen during the night I felt my heart sink. If we run out of water, it will be over for all out current stock.  We will have to put any animals we cannot sell to sleep. And we will have to leave. There is no other option.

 

Until I saw the comments and how many followers we have on this page, I honestly thought that the rest of the population of Australia was with the government and Greens, throwing rocks at the people who provide food for their families. Now I have seen that there are people out there that not only have compassion for the sweat and tears we shed, but actually want to help. This has touched my fellow country girls and me. To know that there is someone there at the top of the cliff that will try to throw a rope, to aid the farmer that is battling the cliff of bills, heart ache, starving animals and feed costs too high to even consider.

 

The unfortunate thing is despite there is no income in the drought, when the market flops, the bills don’t stop.

 

Not only will we loose the farmers that have had to destroy all their livestock, and had nothing left. But we will lose the farmers that can no longer pay their bills, and instead of being shown understanding and compassion, they will have their land taken from them by the banks. Leaving them nothing for the years and years of hard work they have put in.

 

Thank you to everyone who is following our blog, and for the kind comments and words of encouragement.

 

I hope the drought breaks before we see another farmer fall.

 

-Breaker

Save the Working dog in Victoria!

<a href="Save the Working Dog in Victoria Petition | GoPetition” title=”Save the Working dog in Victoria!”>Save the Working dog in Victoria!

Working dogs are iconic, they are Australian, and they are an irreplaceable part of farm life.

What a dog can do on four paws is more than a man on horse or bike can achieve and I know on our farm with our 9 working dogs, they are more valuable than words can express.

We love our canine mates and care for them deeply. The training Dad puts into them, the love he lavishes them with. If nothing else, the company they give us while we are doing lonely jobs on the farm-the value is above words!

And now, I have been made aware of a new ‘code of practice’ that legislates against us in so many ways! These laws if they come into effect will make criminals of every man who uses the loyal kelpie to muster his stock! It will affect the welfare of dogs in rural Aus, and destroy an icon.

Right now, they are only talking Victoria, but how long before this takes over Australia? sign and share this petition for the sake of the working dog in our country.

 

~Jillaroo

Objective Achieved

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Yesterday I posted a rant on our facebook page about the mental suffering of grazers and all farmers alike in this terrible drought we are enduring at this time. To illustrate my point, I used a photo of my gorgeous kelpie blue dog cross, Lolli. She was and is suffering from an unknown illness, one that looked like it would take her very life-and still could. This morning she is much improved though, and hopefully she continues to do so, after extremely valuable advice received from Breaker. She even finished her milk this morning, and smacked her lips with a little more life in her eyes.

My point in yesterdays post is that you really cannot know the amount of hardship, and the terrible choices that must be made on a farm in drought unless you have physically been there yourself, and made those choices.

its almost impossible to explain with words the trauma of a decision where your choices are bad, very bad and just plain awful. But one thing I learnt, (the only useful thing I have learnt) from animal activists websites and facebook pages, while I was trying to fight the anti-farmer movement, is this- take a picture, give suffering a face, and people can empathise.

I saw many photos of cattle, maybe a single brahman steer, lovely and quiet looking, they gave it a name, one I know they decided to call ‘Jacob’ and then told a story about how he was brutalized and cruelly murdered in some overseas abbotoir.  Then they point the finger at Australian farmers and say ‘its all their fault’  This is not the point of my post today, but its very easy to see how people get so upset about Live Export with such a visual motivator.

So yesterday my motivator was the image of my own wonderful dog suffering, and people have responded! The response has been greater than imagined, although after the response we got from the picture of Bustas empty collar should have given me some sort of clue, seen by over 90,000 people, liked and shared so many times! I wish I could tell our mate how many people have grieved for him.. It would blow his humble doggy mind.

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I have turned down many many offers for financial support, people who want to pay the vet fee to save my little dog, and I so appreciate every single one of them! I am not turning them down out of pride, or some misguided sense of martyrdom.. I say no, because I am only one person, only one insignificant farmers daughter in a country filled with people more needy, the grazier who is so broke he cannot afford to buy hay to keep his 5 year old daughters pony from starving. The sheep farmer who has to make a choice to buy more drench for his dying sheep, or putting food in his childrens mouths for one more week.

The man who with $100 left to his name, must decide if he will buy one more bale of hay for his favorite cows, or a carton of bullets to put them all down. Its no wonder so many of these hurting broken men turn the rifle on themselves after the grisly job is done.

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If all I can do is share the photos of the things which break our hearts every single day, then see these pictures. A baby lamb named Choppa pulled from a bog hole, the only survivor out of 7 sheep, and 15 kangaroos, Choppa died after 3 days of love and care in the houseyard.

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A calf called Geoff, pulled from a dam, where he was stuck beside the dead body of his mother, and named after a wonderful man, born malnourised, he looked more like an 80 year old POW than the 2 week old baby he was. We fought for him so hard, only to lose him 3 weeks later.

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An old cow, struggles to stand, she was a much loved old girl, one of our special ‘MJ’ cows.. One day she stood up, the next I helped her up, the day after my little brother dragged her body away. My brother is 19. Why should he have to face that sort of thing, when others his age are partying and living life to the fullest? Other boys are travelling, having fun, getting first jobs and going to uni. My brother is a man beyond his years, he has seen more and suffered more than most men twice his age.

My sister is 21, girls her age are going to the beach and debating whether or not to wear that dress. My sister, doesn’t care what she wears, so long as she doesn’t have to see another animal in distress today.

If seeing these images hurt you, or make you feel sad, only imagine what it does to the minds and emotions of the men and women who see them in real life every day, those who fight to change the inevitable, those who work against all odds, to save a life, or to help an animal who is suffering.

Its difficult enough every day, but to do it with debt, or no money like so many graziers are trying to do right now? impossible. My fathers voice when our pet cow comes to him for food in the paddock, and he rubs her neck and apologises to her softly, ‘I’m so sorry girl, I cannot feed you today’

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There is emotional damage occurring in the bush today, and if you can spare a moment, spend a moment.

Buy locally grown, support Aussie beef, Aussie lamb, pay an extra dollar for something direct from the grower.

And most of all, Thank God for the Aussie producer. They do it tough, they feel forgotten, and misunderstood. But every day I see more people standing up to say ‘hey, we see you, we appreciate you, we support you’

That is something we as farmers thank God for.. That encourages us.

 

~Jillaroo

Introducing… A new countrygirl!! :D

Well ladies and gents, Jillaroo and Rouseabout are rather proud to announce and present the first of what might be a series of guest posts, from friends and family.

Meet Breaker, our dear friend (even though she does live in New South Wales) One tough mudder, this countrygirl is going through drought in a different way to us. Often alone on her farm, with far too much work to be done, and too little time to do it in. And unlike Jill and Rousie she doesn’t have her family close by to help with all the work She is a expert horse handler, hence the tag line, Breaker, and we hope to make her a permanent contributor to our little space, so please make her feel welcome. Image

 

 

Hi everyone. My experience as a farmer is a little different from most. My husband and I didn’t inherit our land, but instead, are in the process of buying. It’s a struggle to get even a house of your own with today’s market, let alone buy a property (even a small one like ours) and try to fence, build a house, set up water, build yards and stock the property. My husband has put everything he has into making this work, he works away for over 2 weeks of the month, then works flat out on the property to try and make a dent in the mammoth job we have to get it going.

At the moment here its a full time job feeding livestock, checking fences and frantically watching the receding dam level…

There is no grass left, very little water and the long term forecast shows no rain for at least 6 months. To sell our livestock now would be making a huge loss, but to keep them would be a far greater loss. We have no back up water, so even if we could get feed, the water issue leaves us little options.

We hope like heck the rain comes soon, that would end our water issue, and we hope it ends the water issue for all farmers. But it won’t end the feed issue, not quickly.

Even if we get 4 inches of rain tomorrow, there will still be no feed, and we will have to continue to provide feed. And a week after that, when all the green pick starts coming through, most of the animals will lose even more weight as they run around trying to get all the new shoots of grass to restore the vitamins lost during the drought. There’s no quick fix for a long, heart wrenching drought. But some good steady rain to soak the ground and fill the dams would end this week beautifully

~Breaker

Married to a Raincloud.

So, I’m sitting on top of a tank, pumps going beneath my feet and I’m watching the water as it sloshes into the tank. My hands are dry from the mud that I work in, my face is sunburnt, and my shoulders are sore from lifting the pumps and pipes around. (My foot is pretty sore too, because it seems I am continually dropping the pump on it these days)

Just in front of me the hopeful structure of our big windmill stands tall, still semi-naked the blades are only half on, and Dad will be down later to install more piping deep into the ground to find the water.

Surrounding this scene is maybe 100 head of cows and calves, thirsty and hungry, watching me with big expectant eyes, they know that I am bringing water with me when I come. I can almost hear them asking me to share the licorice I am chewing on… yes cows like licorice, so do horses incidentally, but today I’m not sharing.

 

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what to write next on our blog and I keep coming back to water. Maybe its because thats what my life is revolving around at the moment. Water-which cows have it, which cows need it, and where am I going to get my next load from. cripes our dams are so empty right now-there is only one left to take water from and its not going to last much longer.

We need rain so badly its hard to put in words.

 

But I’ve come up with a theory, bear with me while I take you for a walk around my mind.

I’m 24 years old, I’m a farm kid and dirty most of the time, if there is any mud to be had I’m likely to be covered in it.

But I’m also single, and at an age where it seems many of my friends are settling down, changing Facebook status to ‘in a relationship’ getting married and some even having children,
My mother despairs over me, she tells me she was married with kids at my age, and plenty of people have plenty of advice and opinions on why I’m single and how to fix the ‘problem’

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! And I’m not unhappy, and I certainly don’t need anymore people reading this and giving me advice about it..

I also do have a point here..

See my dad always says, if you just knew when ‘The One’ was going to come you wouldn’t worry about it nearly so much, (unless you were creepy and desperate and booked the wedding venue cakes and flowers 3 years in advance)
 You would cease to worry about the ‘what if it doesn’t happen’ and be able to better prepare for the when it does. You might budget your time better, focus a bit more on other things, maybe travel more in the time you are single, and do other things that you might otherwise not consider while waiting and worrying about location and timing of the when will it happen.

 

But we don’t know, so (us girls at least) spend time worrying about it, biting our nails and doing our hair-just in case we meet him today! 0_o  And then you finally meet him and in hindsight a lot of the things you did while waiting now seem silly, and you can see the mistakes you made, (and all too often you go around giving unwarranted advice to others about how being single is waaaaay better anyway-seriously? some people are so not qualified to give that kind of advice) 
I digress..

 

Now at this point I have a couple of really good friends who will be rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at me, not naming names but you know who you are..

But I think, maybe waiting on rain is a little similar in some ways. Obviously it is much more heartbreaking and serious, I’m not comparing the two ideas. But we worry huge amounts about the rain, when will it fall, what if it doesn’t. we bite our nails to the quick and work til our hands bleed.

But we also make bad choices, relying on rain to come sooner, we buy a months worth of feed rather than 6 months, and then at the end of the month we curse the empty skies and must buy more feed at dramatically increased cost. Some say its bad business, and our own fault, but without a faith in rain falling soon, however could we go on? Or if we buy 6 months worth of cattle feed, and it rains next week, how do we store the rest? can we store the rest?

Wouldn’t it be so good if at the beginning of each year you recieved a calendar from the heavens with days marked with big red X’s and on those days the rain would fall, you could budget and plan, and it would all be ok. But we don’t know, and we cannot know, so, its like waiting on ‘Mr Right’ to appear.

I hear some people talking about being married to their jobs, or lifestyles or iPhones, or whatever.

But My dad, well actually my whole family right now.. We are married to a rain cloud, and waiting for her to come is painful beyond belief. Heartbreaking, heartrending, and at times it seems like it will never happen and we will be in drought forever.

The desperation eats at your heart, and sears scars into your mind and emotions that will never go away. A few days time will be the 2 year anniversary of the neighbor who hung himself in his shed, the sound of a lone rifle shot while dad is at the shed late at night desperatly trying to fix a machine we need to feed cattle, These things haunt my dreams. They wake me up at night. Those who have been in drought will understand.

 

But I know, that in time, our bride will come! The rain will fall, and graziers all around will dance in the clean fresh air. And if tears mingle with the drops of rain falling on their faces, nobody will care.

The grass will grow back, the cattle that survive will enjoy a fresh pick. And somehow, the men and women who pioneer our great harsh land, will find in themselves to continue, even though right now, many wish they were anywhere but here. Some will not have made it, some will leave, some have already gone. But those who remain will see reward for their hard work, and broken hearts.

 

I hope, that when the rain falls, we will still be here, I hope that my family is able to stay until the rain falls, and I hope, that when it does nobody is around taking photos of me, while I dance barefoot in the puddles.

 

~Jillaroo