11/05/2013 11:14 am

Mustering: a term unknown to me before I arrived in the Outback but after being on the property for 3 months now and involved in daily life at the station, I think I’m fitting in well! Mustering is the gathering of all the cattle on the station in order to keep tabs on them. As the property is 100,000 acres, with over 8700 herd of cattle it is a big job, not just for those working in the paddocks but also for us at the house! For all of those who don’t believe me here’s a quick view of my day. 

It was an early start today.....5am for anyone about to argue with my idea of an early start! As mustering is one of the busiest times of the year, every man, woman and child are used in some way to help. Normal routine goes out the window, and so does my normal lie-in until 7am! As Mum and one of the kids were heading out to help Dad and the ringers (station staff helping during muster time) on horseback I was needed earlier than usual. While it was still dark when I got up, I did get to witness a beautiful Australian sunrise so that was a plus! The chopper took off at first light to head out to the paddock being mustered in for the day. Using a chopper in mustering speeds up the process and so is a great advantage to any station.

mustering

 While I waited for the younger kids to wake I busied myself with getting dinner ready for that night, I had barely eaten my breakfast and I was thinking of dinner already!! With 6 working men, 3 kids, and 2 women to feed daily during muster, dinner planning was a task in itself. A half an hour later and there was a beef stew in the slow cooker. Next up was the usual morning chores, the dogs had to be left out of their kennels, chooks fed and eggs collected and the recently rescued poddy calf needed to be fed. Poddy calves are rescued when spotted in the paddock and seen to be weak and not getting any nourishment. A calf may lose his mother, be abandoned by her or she may be unable to feed him, in our current poddy’s case his mother was unable to feed him. He is fed by bottle twice daily with a special milk to give him nourishment and grow. Luckily he is quite a friendly poddy and eager to drink and when walking towards his pen, he spots the bottle and comes running for me! I can’t imagine how I will cope with his excitement once he gets bigger and will be able to knock me over!!

cows

 

railings

Thanks to the Poddy’s bellowing for more milk, he has woken the rest of the house! So time for breakfast with the kids, only 7am and I feel like I have achieved great work in a couple of hours! After brekkie, we bake some fresh scones for the ringers for smoko time. Smoko-another term I’ve had to get used to since moving here. In many parts of the world it is known as Morning Tea but not in the bush, its smoko! So while our scones are in the oven, it’s time for school. As Mum is out mustering today, I slot into the role of teacher and try to do as much school work as I can. As one child is school age and the other is 2, it can be a challenge and today was no different but nobody said being a nanny would be easy! 

At 9am we pack up our scones, grab boots and hats and pile into the ute to head to the yards for smoko time. Once all cattle are mustered together from one paddock, they are brought to the yards to be divided out, branded and tagged. As everyone is still in the yards working when we arrive, it is our job to gather sticks to make a fire and boil the billy!! This is possibly my favourite part of bush life, making the fire and putting the tin can full of water into the middle of the fire so it can boil up and make tea!! The kids love gathering the sticks and like most bush kids that I have met since being here, love fires! Once we get it started and the billy in, we head over to the yards for a peak. Everybody is hot and sweaty and who would blame them in the blistering heat, I’ve only been out in the sun half an hour and already I am searching out the shadiest spot! Once word spreads around the yards about fresh scones and jam in the box, smoko time is announced. Smoko time is usually fun and the conversation is usually filled with colourful and exciting stories of ‘rogue cattle and fresh horses’, it is very entertaining. We hang around the yards for a bit to watch the action and once that sun gets too hot for us we pile back into the ute and head home for some lunch.

yards

Time for a rest and watch some TV after our busy morning. While the kids are relaxed I prepare dessert for tonight, butterscotch pudding or caramel tart?? I have to make some tough decisions.......butterscotch pudding it is. Once this is all baked and ready for tonight, the kids have decided they’ve had enough time indoors, being bush kids there is no where they love spending 

more time than the outdoors. So we decide to head out for a walk, boots and hats on again and some all important sunscreen. Bush walking can be a lot of fun and we follow some cattle paths, the dogs on their quest for rabbits or just our hearts desire! With such a wide expanse of open space right on the doorstep and great imagination, bush kids have a magical time exploring their surroundings. Today we find ourselves at the creek and though it’s not running now, we still follow its path and find some cliffs to climb and some sticks to pretend we’re on a bucking bull ride!

The afternoon passes quickly and soon it is time to head home and feed the poddy again. We talk about how we should really give the poddy a name as right now he is simply known as poddy but to be honest I don’t think I can come to terms with naming something that could quite possibly become my dinner one day! The dogs get locked back up and it’s time to hop in the bath. Once the kids are all washed and watching TV, Mum returns home from her day at the yards and has a shower to get rid of all that dust accumulated from a day of working cattle. She then takes over getting dinner ready while I go and have a shower in my kid free house! It’s then time to head back to the house to 

help with the final preparations for dinner. Dinner is always at 7pm during muster, giving everyone time to get home, have showers and have a much longed for beer or two before dinner. Dinner, much like smoko, is filled with the stories of the day of who had to dodge the cranky cow or run up the fence from the angry bull!! Everybody helps with wash up and so it’s done in no time but it is with pleasure I return home to my own house that night which is quiet and peaceful and the TV is mine to flick through.......although after 3 months I am now singing the tune to the ‘Alice Plaza’ ad!! 

red dirt road

Despite it being an extremely busy and tiresome day, it is also such a great experience to be a part of station life during muster season. Even though everyone is so busy they are just as aware at how much you are helping and what your input is. They are so grateful you put the effort into making fresh scones for smoko so they don’t have to eat the cake that has been sitting in their box in the sun since early this morning. They are grateful that the kids are entertained, fed and happy while they are busy with the busiest time in their farming calendar and most of all they are grateful for a dinner to come home after such a long busy day!! 

This of course is just one day out of my experience so far of being a Nanny and before anyone goes reporting that I am being worked far more than I should be, from 5:30am-7pm, don’t worry these days aren’t the norm. There have been the days that the kids have entertained themselves or gone with Dad to ‘work’ and it was a breeze for me!! Whether it’s a busy or quiet day, there is always something to learn and enjoy about station life.

for me