We are sharing the guest house with Jill and her family and were woken up around 7.30 by Theo shouting at the top of his voice. Still we wanted to get up early and despite the cold we’re quickly out of bed and dressed. We make our way over to the barn and have our breakfast. Stood around the fire we look up at the sky, ominously overcast, it has been raining very heavily overnight and the ground is really boggy.
First job of the day is to milk the cows Gracie and Princess. Bill explains that they provide enough milk for the farm guests, although they have run out since we arrived due to our hot chocolate consumption! We make our way to the barn and Bill gives a quick demonstration before encouraging us to have a go. Oh my god what an experience that was! Still it’s not too difficult although Ali managed to squirt the milk almost everywhere but in the milk pail.
We take the milk back to the house for straining and watch Chris mending a bullwhip. He explains that they can cost upto 400 dollars and are all hand made. They are plaited in such a way to make them supple and use the best quality leather. He tells us he used to make them a lot. They show us how to crack the whips, although this isn’t too difficult the skill is cracking them in the right place. (Not behind your ear as I managed to do)
Bill decides we’ll ride later to give the ground a chance to dry up a bit and we all pile in the ute for a ride. Daily jobs on a ranch this size include checking the levels in the water bores. Water conservation is really importance here and even though it has rained heavily the dams we visit aren’t full. Bill explains that checking fences is also an ongoing task and he constantly checks on the cattle. The ranch breeds heifers for sale, which will be grown at other farms to a larger weight before reaching the slaughter house.
The kids really love the bit of off road 4 wheel driving and its really interesting listening to Bill telling his tales about the history of the land he obviously loves so much. He shows us the molasses lick that the cattle use, an Aboriginal shield cut from a tree and a Bull Ant nest.
We get back to the farm and its time for Chris and Dan to leave. It’s been great listening to their stories. Dan breaks horses for a living and shows us a graze on his ear he has got from taking place in a calf scruff. This involves wrestling the calf to the ground and then branding it and sounds like part job part sport. Bills parents have arrived and we’re introduced to Marie and Big Bill. After lunch we’re going riding again and despite my slightly sore arse I’m excited about this, I think we all enjoyed yesterdays ride a lot.
There are no ceremonies today and we’re expected to find our own horses and their tack. As we have all forgotten which saddles and bridles we used it does take a while but eventually we’re ready to go and set off. Lorel is also riding today for the first time in about 40 years and I admire her enthusiasm for it all. The land is stunning and I think we all feel there’s a sense of simplicity about life here on the ranch.
We ride for a couple of hours and by the end of the afternoon Simon, Ali and I are all cantering around on our horses. It’s fantastic to see Ali has gained so much confidence around the horses and enjoyed himself so much and Maisie has also trotted on Starlight. (Something she thought she couldn’t do) As everyone heads back to the farm Bill asks Simon and I to help him muster the milkers. (Rounding them up) Herding cattle on horseback was just so cool; I felt like a cowboy and absolutely loved it.
Bills girlfriend Toni arrives with her daughter Gabby and after dinner we help clear up before heading off to bed. Our original plan was to stay for one day and night but as we are having such a great time we decide to stay longer. Simon sorts this out with Bill. Hurray! How cool is that!