Mustering and Musing

Josh and Marc were away over the weekend and there was a bit of cattle work to be done so Jeff enlisted my help, a change of activity for me and a leap of faith for him!

To clarify that statement; it’s some time since my services have been required to do any mustering or drafting. That doesn’t mean I’ve been made redundant or my skill-set has become obsolete, rather it’s the joy of having the two boys at home working alongside Jeff that has afforded me some semi-retirement time from “front line activities” and also given me more time to concentrate on my role as President of CWA of NSW.

sunsetThat’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the fresh air, open spaces, change of pace, different scenery, sunshine, exercise, solitude, the company of critters, a fantastic sunset and working with Jeff. In fact it reminded me how much I had missed poking around in the “fully loaded Gauntlet Runner” (see blog post here  ‘How Hungry Are You?’) behind some of our beautiful cattle enjoying the company of Gemma; elevated to first class on the passenger seat, Marv and Sarge travelling business class in the back and Chip (by choice) in economy with his head out the door.

The mud on the seat is courtesy of Gemma and Marv who thought it a good idea to get IN the trough to drink!!

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Mustering and drafting with Jeff, although enjoyable, presents its challenges (as any grazier’s wife will attest) and mind reading must factor high in the female partners’ list of talents. Love you darling!

Whilst meandering about the paddock I reflected on the fact that once upon a time we would have been mustering and drafting a couple of hundred heifers with the intention of culling and selling only half of them and keeping the rest to augment our herd. Drought, however has forced us to reduce our cattle numbers to a more manageable number; so we now run less than a quarter of what we once did.

This led me to being thankful that we still have some stock. There are many north, west and south-west of us who have either completely de-stocked or are still struggling on with the daily grind of hand feeding.

Hello out there … anyone? Yes, the drought continues … just in case you were wondering.

Some are entering their fourth year of this relentless drought. Of no income. Of increasing debt. Of lack of political clout to influence change.

Many are waiting for enough rain to produce a green tinge which might make the ‘for sale’ photos look better, others are simply cutting their losses and walking away. Some are digging in, cutting costs and reducing spending to less than the bare essentials whilst others are surviving on donations from those who still believe in the future of Australian farmers.

Meanwhile the businesses in small rural communities continue to receive NO assistance at all.

Governments have removed any reference to the word “disaster” that was once attached to drought and created new policies around “drier than normal conditions” that we are to be prepared for. Fair enough, but give us the wherewithal to do that and a timeline to work towards before leaving us high and dry (excuse the pun).

Will history reflect that misguided and ill-timed policies, with no fall-back position, were the catalyst that broke an industry once considered the backbone of the nation?

No wonder we’re experts!

CWA SconesI am in Sydney this week to spend some time volunteering alongside hundreds of other members (and several ‘ring-ins’) from across NSW at the CWA Tea Rooms in the Arts & Crafts Pavilion at the Royal Easter Show. Being here in the State Office has also afforded me the opportunity to indulge in some old fashioned “surfing” through past Country Woman Journals to research the beginnings of our show kiosk, as it was originally called.

What I found was not only interesting, but also a little surprising.

The following is an excerpt from the May 1947 edition written by the President of the day, Bertha Mac Smith.

“After surmounting many difficulties, we at last have our own corner at the Royal Easer Show. For some time we have been asking the Royal Agricultural Society to make space available for us, but it was actually not very long before Easter that there came an opportunity to buy a stand; a decision had to be made within twenty-four hours, so after Miss McCallum and I had inspected the stand and I had discussed the matter with some members of the Executive, I decided that it would be most unwise to lose the chance of acquiring a permanent position in the showground. The purchase price of the stand was not great but a lot of repairs had to be effected, as the Army had occupied the stand during the war years. With so little time at our disposal, it seemed to be attempting the impossible.

However, thanks to the efforts of Mrs. E. J. Munro and the metropolitan members who staffed the kiosk each day, serving tea and hot scones, ice cream and soft drinks, the venture has proved most successful. An annual rental is paid for the ground, whilst the building itself is our own property. At one stage we had a permit to effect repairs, but not to paint the outside! Then three or four days before the show opened, the Board of Health inspectors informed us that it was necessary to be licensed to sell food and hot water must be put in near the stove! Another difficulty lay in being unable to obtain sufficient rationed foodstuffs. We do appreciate the assistance given to us by Col. G. C. Somerville, Secretary of the R.A.S. and Mr. Skidmore, the Assistant Secretary.”

The following year a brief report appeared in the April Journal indicating the grand total of £694 had been raised and that approximately 50,000 scones had been made.

This is the part I initially found surprising because I did not expect that we would have sold quite so many scones; until I realised that ‘back then’ there would probably not have been as many food outlets as there are now. Whatever the reason, over 68 years that is a lot of scones!

We are aiming to break the 47,000 mark this year and $100,000.00 in profit (there’s some inflation figures for you!) to support the various projects our members champion throughout the year.

Over the next two years we can work towards a target of 50,000 to celebrate 70 years of the perfect scone at the Royal Easter Show.

Will I see you at the Show to help us out?

CWA Tea Room 1950s

CWA Tea Room 1950s

What do You Believe In?

I watched Channel 7’s Sunday Night program featuring the story behind the latest album from Lee Kernaghan and literally cried my heart out for the parents of Private Ben Chuck who, to me, represented every parent who has ever lost a child to war.


As the story unfolded I realised I was not only shedding quiet tears for the loss of lives but also for the passion, patriotism, talent and totally unassuming nature of Lee Kernaghan and the words he has penned as a tribute to all our personnel (be they armed with weapons or a stethoscope) who have served, who continue to serve and in particular to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect not only us but others around the world.

I’ve always thought he was a great role model as, obviously, did others with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) being awarded in 2004 and then being named Australian of the Year in 2008, but he has now been elevated in my list of people to be admired and respected from ‘great’ to ‘exemplary’.

I find it easier to like and be motivated by humble people who are driven by a true passion for what they believe in.

lee kernaghan

Lee Kernaghan OAM