4th June 2007
Brian and I have been at Rocky Springs for just over a month now so I figured it was time for an update. Both of us are really happy here and excited about all the challenges and opportunities that are presenting themselves. We are quite popular in the district as the locals reckon we have bought the rain – a temporary relief from the enduring drought. There have been over four inches in a month and it is the best rain they have seen in over a year. We are finding that rain on black soil is a whole different kettle of fish to rain on the traprock of Braeside. For starters, the road into the property only has to sniff a storm cloud and it falls to pieces. We were away from the place for our first storm and Brian warned me that we had better get home quick. I thought to myself that it had only been raining for five minutes and that he was over-reacting just a little, but no, I had to get the ute in 4WD and I skidded and slipped up the hill to the house. Since then I have had several lessons in fishtailing at speed, which tends to get the adrenalin pumping. So I thought if I couldn’t drive around the place after rain, I should just walk. And that is another joke. This black soil sticks to your boots like nothing I have seen. You literally end up walking on wobbly high heels, until the high heel falls off and then you fall back to earth with a thud. Even poor old Bo didn’t know what to do with all the mud building up on his paws – I nearly bogged a huntaway!
All the locals think that Rocky Springs is steep and rough. We look at them as though they have two heads. What would they make of our previous property with its three thousand acres of hills with a mountain in the middle of it? There is only one hill on Rocky and the rest of the land is gently undulating. Yesterday I walked up the hill, along the ridge to the back boundary and back through the cultivation paddocks – all in an hour and a half. I could have walked for an hour and a half at Braeside and not got out of the first paddock.
We have a great view from the house, which looks especially good with our regular storm clouds:
We brought some of the brahman heifers from Braeside with us to Rocky Springs. They spent the first week looking for a mountain to climb, but have since settled in and are really blooming. They are the happiest cattle we have seen for a while. We also spent a couple of weeks touring the saleyards of the northwest to find some more stock and have ended up with a truck load of preg-tested cows – ready to calve from any day now. Daisy Browne, our jersey cow, promised me a month ago that she was going to have a calf, but I am beginning to think she is just messing with my head, and instead of being preggers is just plain fat. I may have to explain the grim reality for an unproductive cow to her and see if that changes her attitude.
300 acres of cultivation land should allow us to grow some pretty good oats and to give us some options as to what we do with the stock. As well as saying it is steep and rough, the locals also say that Rocky Springs has some of the best soil in the district. It has not been overly worked in the last 20 years and has a lovely soft and fluffy texture (when it’s not wet). When not touring saleyards, we have been touring clearing sales looking for a seeder. We have found one which looks like a good deal and are now trying to work out which bit does what. Brian told me the tynes were called legs and the points were called feet and then told me to go to the produce shop and ask for ankle bolts. I told him to get stuffed. I am learning the correct terminology and warning the produce people about Brian and his ankles. We wanted to sow this week (there was two tonne of oat seed left on the place) but guess what – it has rained again – and neither of us are silly enough to take a tractor and combine onto that soil.
One downside of Rocky is the cattle yards which would benefit from a match and a hundred litres of petrol. Having experienced first-hand broken noses and black eyes from good yards I was pretty keen not to work in them so we have ordered a new set of portable panels. The Coolatai bush telegraph is most keen to see these flash new yards and so far we have three neighbours offering to come and help put them together. Just wait till we get started on a water system…………….
Now this next photo is what I call a Claytons Bushfire. Although it may look like it, it is not a photo of Brian trying to burn the old yards. It is actually a sunset through yet another day of storm clouds:
The house here at Rocky is very comfortable and has a great feel about it. It was apparently built in the 1920s as a smaller house with a wrap-around verandah but has since been renovated with a lot of the verandah incorporated into the main house. Part of the original verandah has been retained and one corner is screened in to provide the perfect outdoor dining room. The bedrooms have french doors opening out onto this verandah – very romantic. There is an evaporative cooler for the summer and a fan forced wood heater for the winter which we have only just started to use in the last week. The garden has frangipanis, hibiscus, bougainvillea, flame trees and miles of jacaranda which I can’t wait to see in full bloom.
This photo was taken a day before we settled, a day before the rain started, but it does show how dry it has been.
We are seven kilometres from Coolatai and the Wallaroo Hotel – I am not yet sure if that is a good idea – and Warialda is forty kilometres to the south. Our biggest regional centres are Inverell, 94kms south-east, Goondiwindi, 110km north-west, and Moree, 130km west, and as the locals say, we are in the middle of nowhere but the centre of everything.
The Coolatai community has made us feel very welcome and insists that we have a social life. We are supposed to be at the pub on Wednesday and Friday nights but that is not going to happen. We will go down every couple of weeks for a feed and a gossip, but the budget (and the waistline) definitely won’t stretch to twice a week. We joined the locals for a social golf day on Sunday and headed off on the school bus (owned by the publicans) to Warialda where they started drinking by 9am and put in a bit of golf as well. I have decided that golf is a stupid game. One would think that as golf uses a stick and a ball it would be pretty similar to hockey – not likely. I played a shocking nine holes, was partly successful with the putter and bloody useless with the driver thing – should have started on the stubbies at 9am instead of 9.30!
We can also get involved with the tennis (another anti-sport – where is the squash court?), the fishing club, the newsletter, the campdraft, the candle parties (yes, I admit, I have been to one), the Red Cross (requires cooking so might send Brian), the fire brigade, the hall committee, the sports ground committee, the pool comp (Brian and I won two games on Sunday till I missed a sitter in the third) or any other hair-brain scheme the locals are likely to come up with. We could be in for a bumpy ride……….