Sat 15th December
There are hungry cattle, dry dams, and endless whirly winds and nothing as far as the eye can see but one of the worst parts of the drought is the Commitment…You are so committed financially, physically and emotionally to your land and livestock. You don’t know how long you’re committed for or how much your commitment is going to cost, emotionally or financially. Your livestock are totally reliant on you to keep them alive. We choose to live on the land I love those wide brown plains and the livestock we breed but on going drought is a long hard slog.
The longer it goes on the more worn down you seem to get! Money gets tighter as more and more goes into buying fodder to keep your stock alive we are currently feeding 350 cows and calves. They are fed hay, cotton seed and grape marc. Grape Marc is the residue left over from grapes when they are crushed to make wine. For those of you who like a wine or two you can say you are drinking for the drought! Most of this fodder comes out of NSW and we get it delivered to the property. We load it onto a vehicle and when I say vehicle, think old vehicles pre 1980 no brakes, no air con and a lot of rattles. We go out to feed troughs in the paddock and shovel it off. There are no mod cons and its hard work. We normally have a vehicle each my husband, the kids and myself. This is done every second day and takes about 4-5 hours. We alternate this routine with hay. It always means you need someone at home all the time. Very rarely do you go away as a family.
As we are rather too close for my liking to entering into our fourth year of drought you cut back where ever you can, You start buying one magazine a month, try and keep haircuts to a couple a year, you keep food to the basics, you cut back on events you go to go, clothing labels you really like you stalk the items till they come on sale or go without, you really get that last bit out of your favourite lippy with a cotton bud, moisturiser and hand cream are all in the one pump action bottle no longer separate items, you buy a work clothes at vinnies.
You do question why you live out in the west. One day it was smoko break from the schoolroom and I was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee and a whirly wind ripped through the open louvres (no air con) and tore a couple of kitchen cupboard doors of their hinges and I just sat there with my grit filled coffee and thought “Why am I living here?” It is the lifestyle, whilst work conditions are a little rough at the moment. Where else can you work with your family by your side. We don’t employ any staff whether it’s mustering, fencing or laying polly you are doing it alongside your family. Last time we mustered we got to the paddock my husband and I on motorbikes and the kids on the buggy (it’s like a four wheeler/golf buggy cross) we got our directions and went our separate ways. I had my mob of cattle close to the bore and I turned off my bike in the shade of a tree and I couldn’t see the kids as they were still a couple of km away but I could hear their laughter and singing drifting across the paddock in the still morning air and that’s why we live here. The freedom, the space you are your own boss. I am a person who is happy in my own company I have no problems going a few weeks without seeing anybody but my family and I love this about bush life.
The generosity of others during the drought has really restored my faith in humanity. Earlier in the year the girls and I made a short video clip about drought for a competition. We called our video "Hope and Hair" and we talked about how we have had to cut our hair short due to lack of water and what water we do have looks like a cup of tea colour wise we called our haircuts the “drought hair cut”. The response to this was wonderful and caught the attention of Stan Johnson a racing bloke from Craiglee stud who immediately got on the case. He got two tanks donated to us along with the relevant fittings and a pressure pump and a load of town water. The first shower I took in that clean water I did shed a tear also the first load of whites that went through the wash and came out white! The generosity of others who are not in our situation is so uplifting. We received our first parcel from Aussie Helpers a few years ago we had been doing cattle work all day in 45degree heat and we were walking over to the house and the kids remembered it was mail day and we drove down to the mailbox and opened it up to a lovely smell there was a care package from Aussie helpers with beautiful moisturisers, bath bombs, shampoo and hand cream one had busted and in the heat it was dripping out of the mailbox but it didn’t matter I just was overwhelmed and burst into tears. It was lovely to think that someone somewhere had cared enough to send it. The girls were so excited and pleased that someone had sent something for me. We had a lovely brown bubble bath that night. And Even now you can still get a lovely whiff of that first parcel when at the mailbox.
Drought does make you appreciate the little things a lot more a flower in the garden, I have been known to call the whole family out to look at one Producing a bit of beauty in a drought is an achievement. We recycle our grey water onto the garden and I am so thankful for this. Just to still have that little bit of green. You really appreciate your family and their strength we are lucky to have some cattle on agistment but it means my husband is often away and without those 3 hardworking little girls over there I wouldn't be able to keep things rolling. They can all head out in an old tilly each with a shovel and a load of feed, we always let the littlest kid have the car with the brakes! Appreciating clean water and being able to see your feet in the shower, a town coffee when you go into town. Being grateful on the days when your house hasn’t filled with dust. Even though we are busier than ever I seem to see the beauty in things more and live in the moment.
This drought may get us down but we are a resilient bunch in the bush. I have learnt a lot about myself I really struggling in the first 18 months selling off younger cattle that we had bread and if someone had said 2 years on you are going to be a lot worse of I would have said "I don't know if I could cope" but you do. The drought has created opportunities to make me step out of my comfort zone (like this one, clearly I have not done a lot of public speaking) Drought is a huge struggle and you don’t know when it will end but living through it makes me proud of the life we lead and the family I have.