Did You Know?

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but we have camels. Thirteen of them. We had fourteen but one was either struck by lightning or bitten by a snake, either way the end result was the same.

One of our neighbours firmly believes our 13 camels are the reason it won’t rain and has hinted that he would be happy to take one off our hands, however I’m not sure about the reason for his offer; I think he saw the cooking segment on TV earlier this year which encouraged us all to exchange the baked leg of lamb for one of camel and just invite a few more dinner guests! End result; same.

I must say, looking at them in the yards the other day, the idea does not appeal to me and I would certainly need a much bigger oven than the one I’ve got….I do need a new stove though….

Back to the live camels. We had them in the yards to put a National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) tag in their ears. An interesting exercise, although the boys would probably use quite different terminology! And I shouldn’t say we – I kept a safe distance, issued baseless warnings, offered useless instructions and played amateur photographer.

I’ll go back a few steps and explain a bit about our Camelus dromedarius or Dromedary; Arabian camel and what we have learned since they arrived here in March 2012.

Firstly you need to be licensed to own camels because they are a Non-Indigenous Animal and records must be kept and annual returns provided. The application process is quite involved, for good reason, but not as onerous as first anticipated.

Having got all the paperwork out of the way I will tell you they are all de-sexed males; meaning they are very well behaved, at least as far as male camels go! They don’t like being separated and will fret if parted from each other, they require a different style of mustering to cattle or sheep and will more often follow the vehicle rather than be guided from behind. They do not like going through new gate-ways, no matter how wide and much patience is required whilst attempting this activity!

Why do we have them? They apparently love anything with a prickle, including mimosa, box thorns, Bathurst burrs, etc. and utilise around 98% of what they eat. Seeds are supposedly sterilized when they pass through the camel’s gut, so it was originally part of an experiment in slowing down the spread of these weeds, but the camel to mimosa ratio favours failure at this point in time.

Camels browse rather than graze, except for new grass shoots (none of those at present), they like salt-bush but not enough to overgraze and did develop a liking for the mix we were feeding the cattle earlier in the year. I’ve also been warned to keep them away from my fruit trees!

So, back to my tale about Camelus dromedarius (dromedarii?), yards and tags. My initial concerns regarding how the camels would behave in the yards were quickly allayed as was my consternation about how they would get under the braces on the gateways; they simply ducked their head and the few inches of hump that was taller than the brace just “squished” down and bounced back up again. AMAZING! They didn’t seem worried at all about that part…..once they eventually went into the race!!! Remember what I said about gateways….

Even the process of tagging didn’t seem to faze them as much as I anticipated, although there was the odd attempt at biting whoever was doing the tagging, but once freed from the cattle crush and allowed to escape to the adjoining yard and the company of the other animals, they quickly calmed and were even somewhat inquisitive (or concerned) about what was happening to their counterpart in “that trap”.

I have to say I was impressed by my boys’ patience which (mostly) lasted for the duration and by their willingness to get in the same yard with such large animals who, equally as impressive, did not display any of the traits I had heard and feared they might. Their lack of aggression towards Jeff and the boys, considering this was only their second time in our yards and not being used to human contact at such close quarters, has given me some new found respect for the much maligned “ship of the desert”.

That doesn’t mean, though, that I’ll be sailing on one any time soon!

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Say a Little Prayer

I was going to write this week about how hemmed in I was feeling after being in the city for almost two weeks and how excited I was feeling at the prospect of open spaces and three hundred and sixty degree views of the horizon as I crossed the Breeza Plain, instead of bitumen, cement and skyscrapers. I was also eager to get back to the comforts of my own home and spend time with my family.

But considering what is happening in other parts of our world and just how many people have suffered the loss of innocent family members and friends, it all seems very shallow.

I think instead I’ll focus my thoughts and energy on saying a silent prayer for lives lost; a quiet thank you to the heavens over the open expanses for the freedoms we enjoy; and look forward to still being able to hug each member of my family when I arrive home.

For the remainder of my travel time I will be thinking about the terrible sense of loss those left behind must be feeling and hope that you will spare them a thought as well.

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Creating Change

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The CWA of NSW State Executive Committee is meeting this week to deliberate the business of the Association and make the decisions that are necessary for the management and future of our organisation. As usual it is a busy week so I’ll be brief (if that’s possible!)

Representatives from across the state and from all walks of life come together for business during the day and as with any gathering be they male, female or both, some socialising into the evening.

I envisage any (CWA) husband reading this will be rolling his eyes and chortling to himself as he calculates the decibel level of 39 women in a confined space, who have only been able to use a small percentage of their 2,000 word allowance for the day. He will imagine them all talking at once whilst appearing to listen which, in our minds is multi-tasking! He might also be a little concerned about what the balance owing on the next credit card bill might be – don’t worry on my watch they’re too busy to indulge in any retail therapy. No responsibility accepted though for trips from and to home.

Getting back to the point I want to make about the social part of this week. Its function is not to gossip and partake of too many drinks, it’s about sharing stories, building trust and camaraderie so that expressing an opinion during debates, which may differ from your peers, does not mean ostracism at the end of the day.

Similarly the business sessions are an indirect avenue to encourage and foster new skills, build confidence, capacity and expression that often empower women, who otherwise might not feel confident enough, to use those new found talents in other activities in their communities.

For the small percentage of members who will have the privilege and opportunity to serve at this level it also provides the chance to make contacts all over the state and often results in lifelong friendships being formed. So not only are we getting the business done, we are up skilling at the same time; multi-tasking again!

On a completely different subject I have one comment that has been bouncing around in my head since the start of the week and this provides an opportunity to set if free; when my boys were growing up I always thought Ian Thorpe was such a fantastic role model for them … I still do.