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Life at an Australian cattle station

Life for us on a working cattle station was very structured and repetitive. Everyday we would be up ready to start feeding the livestock at 7am.

First would be the poddy calves – these are calves that have been separated from their mothers – and they needed milk twice a day.

They are pretty cute

They are pretty cute

And they really liked Dale

And they really liked Dale

Next, I would start my cleaning and Dale would get on with his various gardening jobs and feeding the rest of the animals.

Piggies!

Piggies!

We would both be on shop duty twice a day (Dale would come and help out if it got too busy) and we would finish after serving dinner at around 8pm.

Dale in the 'bull catcher' - we used this to get around the homestead sometimes

Dale in the ‘bull catcher’ – we used this to get around the homestead sometimes

The days were long, but it was hard to get over the novelty of being on a vast cattle station in the middle of nowhere with so much going on. A lot of the time, often just walking around the homestead, I would pinch myself and think ‘look at where you are!’

Despite being in the desert, there were constantly beautiful views

Despite being in the desert, there were constantly beautiful views

Napperby Creek

Napperby Creek

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Termite hills

I got excited every time I saw any animals – which was fairly often – the outback is full of life! My favourites were the kangaroos and the thorny devils.

Thorny Devil!

Thorny Devil!

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We spotted an Emu one day, which our boss says never happens - they don't normally come within the confines of the homestead

We spotted an Emu one day, which our boss says never happens – they don’t normally come within the confines of the homestead

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We also saw some truly spectacular sunsets on Napperby. Because the area is so flat, you can see the horizon – and open sky – for miles around.

Napperby sunsets

Napperby sunsets

The night sky was also impressive, complete with the background howls of a lonely dingo.

On our days off, we would go for bush walks…

There was lots to see around the station

There was lots to see around the station

…and sometimes we got to visit Alice Springs if anyone was going that way.

We went to the Araluen Cultural Precinct on one visit

We went to the Araluen Cultural Precinct on one visit…

...and the Alice Springs Show on another. Dale helped our boss win first prize for her citrus basket!

…and the Alice Springs Show on another. Dale helped our boss, Janet, win first prize for her citrus basket!

Something I had been worried about while working in the outback was the creepy crawlies. Knowing that so many nasty things can kill you, I was a little scared of what we might come across. Aside from the time I almost stepped on a brown snake – one of the most deadly snakes in the world – we actually encountered more nasties in soggy New South Wales than in the outback.

The thing about the creepy crawlies here is that they were all MASSIVE

The thing about the creepy crawlies here is that they were all MASSIVE… and more likely to kill you!

And there was no escaping the flies

There was no escaping the flies here either

Because we were there just as winter was coming, it was surprising how cold it got in the nights. The lowest temperature we saw in the morning was around -4 degrees Celsius (24 Fahrenheit) and we had to smash the thick ice that covered the poor calves water trough.

Some of the plants got frozen after the water from sprinklers froze during the night

Some of the plants got frozen after the water from sprinklers froze during the night

By the middle of the day it was normally back to comfortable temperatures though, so layering clothes was key because after a few hours you’d be taking everything off!

One day I was lucky enough to join Roy – the station owner – for a ride in his helicopter. They use the chopper for mustering (rounding up) the cattle because they are spread out over such huge areas and we were going to find the naughty pet horses that had escaped!

Roy found them in no time (I was amazed he could see them amongst the brush) and it was very impressive to see him expertly swerve the helicopter this way and that in order to heard the horses back to their paddock.

Roy found them in no time (I was amazed he could see them amongst the brush) and it was very impressive to see him expertly swerve the helicopter this way and that in order to heard the horses back to their paddock.

We happened to be on the station during the busiest time of year – the annual cattle muster. All of the cattle across the whole station (that’s all 15,000) needed to be rounded up and drafted (sorted).

Mustering from above

Mustering from above

Mustering in progress - all manner of things were used to do the job; horses, motorbikes, quad bikes, 4x4s and helicopters

Mustering in progress – all manner of things were used to do the job; horses, motorbikes, quad bikes, 4x4s and helicopters

Those that needed castrating were castrated, and all the males were ‘de-horned’. Thankfully I never saw that side of the work, but Dale ended up going along to help with the draft at one point and I almost didn’t recognise him when he came back – he was covered in so much dust!

Move 'em on, head 'em up. Rawhide!

Move ’em on, head ’em up. Rawhide!

Scotty (on the bike) doing some mustering with Roy (in the chopper)

Scotty (on the bike) doing his Mission Impossible impression with Roy (in the chopper)

Visitors often came and went on the station, but my favourite by far was Ruby – a red kangaroo joey who appeared on the homestead one day and decided to stick around!

She liked carrots and apple very much

She liked carrots and apple very much

She was very sociable and made funny little noises whenever she saw us

She was very sociable and made funny little noises whenever she saw us

She also liked to follow us sometimes. It was unreal - I couldn't believe we'd found ourselves a pet kangaroo!

She also liked to follow us sometimes. It was unreal – I couldn’t believe we’d found ourselves a pet kangaroo!

It was hard work on the station, it certainly needed a ‘can-do’ attitude and a lot of enthusiasm, but the experiences that we had in return were amazing. Not long left until we leave here for our adventures in Indonesia now though. I will miss our outback family, little Ruby… and the constant supply of steak!

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