Looking At Landcare (4/1/2019) – All of our thoughts are turning to Elvis!

Well….Christmas and New Year is done and dusted.

If you live just about anywhere else in the State, it means maybe taking a few weeks off and slowly thinking about going back to work. If you are in the Central West….at least for some of us…your thoughts turn to…..Elvis!

I must admit that I did sneak in and make a couple of new dresses for the Elvis Festival….it is nice to purchase something fabulous that is locally made. The dresses are so lovely, it really makes me wonder why we left these styles behind….lucky for me…I have an excuse to pull off some sixties fashion occasionally!

For those of you who haven’t caught up. The theme this year is All Shook Up and our office will be appropriately attired to welcome guests and locals. The weather forecast is looking a tad cooler than normal, in the lower half of the 30’s, so that will be a refreshing change for those who fine themselves in lycra!

We look forward to welcoming Russell Morris as he unveils his plaque on the Wall of Fame at Kelly Reserve on Wednesday at 2pm.

We will have tea, coffee and water available during the week….and a few props for pics if you are up for it. We love to be able to contribute back to the community, show country hospitality and welcome people to our region, particularly during special events.

If you haven’t been to the Elvis Festival before and are a bit bahh, humbug about it. I challenge you to give it a try. Even just the parade next Saturday. This event brings people, to our region, not just Parkes and after the year that our region has had, it is time to have some fun!

If you are a weekly follower, you would know that I was delivering daily personal blogs up until Christmas. This was in response to support for the Landcare NSW Every Day Hero Campaign and I am greatly appreciative of those who have kindly donated. I am very humbled by your feedback and contributions.

The blogs are a bit of a sticky beak into my early life and I hope that they are a little bit humorous. They certainly brought back lots of memories for myself and many others. You can still read the blogs via the links on facebook, Instagram, twitter or our website. If you like a story, let me know on facebook. Follow our page to keep up with all of our news.

The Campaign is an opportunity to highlight the fantastic things that are happening across the State under the banner of Landcare, particularly bringing a focus to Landcare Coordinators across the State. The blogs draw attention to the things that influenced me as a child and encouraged my passion for the environment and agriculture.

I have had the opportunity over the past 12 months to be more heavily involved with Landcare at the State level and appreciate the fantastic work that is being done to ensure the future of the Local Landcare Coordinator Initiative as we move forward into the next phase of the program, with continuing efforts to secure funding for the next four years, which helps to employ over 70 part time Landcare Coordinators across the State of NSW. That is why I am happy to lend my skills, stories and photos to the efforts.

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For more information, go to our website at centralwestlachlanlandcare.org, facebook, twitter or Instagram @cwllandcare or contact our office on 02 6862 4914 or cwllpo@hotmail.com.

 Until next week, happy Landcaring!

Landcare NSW EDH: Day 12 – Grateful for Roller Skates and Crash Helmets

In today’s blog I want to share a few Christmas pics that really are a reflection of the 1980s and my lack of care for what I looked like obviously. It is nice to think about those days of being protected and not caring if you were wearing brown sneakers with a blue nighty and a yellow crash helmet.

You didn’t care that you were wearing the most flammable nightwear material that was ever manufactured.

The pine tree was strategically balanced in a bucket of rocks.

We were fortunate to always have a fresh pine tree as a feature that was strategically placed in a bucket of rocks, placed in front of the fire place, resting on the fire guard….just in case. It was adorned with baubles and tinsel and a hand crochet angel on the top.

We never received anything that by today’s standards would be seen as extravagant. I remember being ecstatic with my new roller skates and hooked rug.

Fashion Queen!

Being brought up with enough, but not too much, has made me very intolerant of excess, and intolerant of those who have a privilege and abuse it. We see this happening every day.

I have been fortunate over the past year to 18 months, to meet many people that I admire and some who I haven’t at all. That is life! We all have those moments when we stretch beyond our comfort zone and learn more about ourselves and others and become more grateful for where we have come from. Many of these people have worked hard to hold a position and privilege and some have just had it given to them.

Hanging with the side kick at Christmas.

What do we do if we are given a privilege and haven’t worked for it? Some of us waste the privilege because we didn’t have to work for it. Some of us make the most of it because we are grateful for the trust that has been instilled in us to complete a task. Some of us will reluctantly move forward, winging and whining about the responsibility that we have been given. Which one of these are you and why do you think this is?

I had the moves….

Do you know….one of the simplest privileges that I see we are given in this first world country is being able to recycle. It isn’t perfect. We still have massive issues with plastic redistribution and reuse. Major problems! Still I see people who just don’t care and will throw anything anywhere, just so that it isn’t in their vehicle. I hear people whinge and whine about what an issue the whole thing is, with washing out and the red bin is so stinky and blah blah blah. Stop!

We are the most fortunate generation ever, in terms of having stuff! We have so much stuff and then we complain about the rubbish. Growing up, we were not an affluent family. We recycled because we had to recycle. It was because we needed to reuse and not be wasteful. We didn’t have the privilege of being able to whinge and whine about how it was too hard and too much work…..

It was hard for others to accept how good my moves were.

Are you one of the people who whinges about recycling, or just don’t care?……It’s too hard, I have to wash up my butter container and take it to the bin. Council provide us with bins, so that we have an options to separate what rubbish goes into green, yellow or red bins.

Happy to teach the side kick my fabulous moves!

Too much work to wash out your recycling or separate your green waste and take your bin to the verge each week? We don’t live in filth (unless by choice) because our rubbish is cleared each week. We are living in a first world country. We are the fortunate ones. If you do nothing else in 2019, change the way you think about the privileges we have. Bring more gratefulness into your every day and please recycle. When you are grateful for what you have, so many other things become second nature.

I hope that you have had a fabulous Christmas Day and have enjoyed the blogs. I will have a few more out over the week ahead.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE TO THE LANDCARE NSW EDH CAMPAIGN, CLICK HERE OR HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT LANDCARE NSW. CHECK OUT MY PREVIOUS BLOGS HERE.

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Landcare EDH Blog: Day 10 – What’s with all the Egg Cartons?

I was going to launch into our events over the past year that I have been thrilled to be part of, but it sounded a bit exhausting for a Saturday and will get back to it…..soon…

Instead, I am going to talk about our move to Parkes back in 1989!

After growing up in Leeton, same people, pretty much mostly the same friends and being used to living at least five hours from family, we moved to Parkes! I make it sound so simple, like a quick pack up and off we went. Any of you who have lived somewhere for more than five years (mum and dad had lived there for 18), know how you can quickly accumulate stuff! That stuff that you might need for another event or stuff that you kept from pre-school that the kids would love to look at one day…..and wool and material…and egg cartons…and plastic containers!? How did we end up with so many egg cartons?!

My dad accepted a job with the Parkes Department of Agriculture and it was an opportunity to live closer to my grandparents at Bathurst…and a few hours closer to Bellangry. It all made perfect sense. It caught me by surprise and whilst the thought of leaving friends and adopted family was quite awful for a shy girl, I found the thought of moving strangely exciting!

I had no recollection of ever being to this place called Parkes. I was unaware of the famous Parkes Radio Telescope or a small event called the Parkes Elvis Festival, but my mother assured me that it was a lovely town and showed me a photo of a cream, fibro house with a pretty fence that would be our new home.

After growing up in a town where the fish and chip shop was the highlight of any takeaway evening and then finding out that Parkes had Pizza Hut! I was ecstatic! Funny thinking about it now that this was the big selling point for me. Looking at our assortment of takeaway options in Parkes now, you would not think that would even be a consideration.

Proof that I did actually study…

When I was halfway through Year 10, we moved to Parkes. My sister and I to Parkes High and my brother to Parkes Public School. There was this other school that everyone referred to as the greeny school, that evidently was out the road, but we were accustomed to public schooling and off we went.

Interestingly, one of the first things that other students asked a new student was what side of the railway you were living on….like that somehow made you a better person or not….it just goes to show how a town can grow and evolve and how we don’t reflect on where a person lives as much as what they are contributing to our society now. Funnily enough, where we were in Grenfell Street was pretty close to the border and that was fine with me.

The house that we moved into was….cosy. Dad set about constructing the obligatory chook pens that were necessary to sustain our requirements and established the veggie patch, significantly smaller than what he had been used to, but a veggie patch.

I can remember an elderly lady, who just recently passed away, telling us that her family grew up in the house and that on hot summer evenings they would sleep on the verandah. Now Parkes is a pretty safe place to live, but sleeping on the verandah….

We were, again, very fortunate to have fabulous neighbours, but I want to finish off with two of my lovely neighbours. On one side was an elderly lady, who had family around town and walked with a walking stick. She had a good sense of humour and kept her home very tidy. Our kitchen window looked out onto her driveway and basically we kept a check on her. My mum would call out and say hi and she would return with “hello noisy neighbour”.

More proof….I may actually have been thinking about my scrunchy collection though…

On the other side was a couple who also had a long connection with Parkes and the house was her family home. She had amazing collections of salt and pepper shakers stored in cabinets (I am talking hundreds and hundreds) that I think were nearly holding up the house…and a corella that was as old as she was. She would spend a lot of time knitting the most amazing things.

If you have read any of my previous posts, you might recall my reference to the smell of a Department of Agriculture Office…not surprisingly, the new office in Parkes had a similar scent. No preserved reptiles though! In those days the office had a Piggery Officer, Sheep Officer, Agronomist, Field Assistant and Secretary. How things have changed.

A lesson from this story….I’ve gotta give you something…stepping out of your comfort zone can be challenging, but helps you to grow. Don’t be afraid to grow. Even if it is painful. Learn from it. Just keep going, even if it seems like you aren’t making any ground. Just keep going and it will get easier.

If you would like to donate to the Landcare NSW EDH Campaign, 
Click here or here to find out more about Landcare NSW. Check out my previous blogs here.

LANDCARE NSW EDH – DAY 9: ERNIE & BERT….& FRIEDA?

We lived right next to Ernie….and Frieda.

We left Leeton in 1989, but I can’t leave without telling you about my neighbours. When we were young, the family on one side consisted of grandparents, mum and dad and teenage son. The grandmother had shoulder length, steel grey hair with big curls. She always seemed cranky to a little person, but never really worried me much. The grandfather I didn’t see much of, but just remember him as a nice man.

I have to skip to the son. He was much older than us and when he came of age, he acquired a commodore. Yes….it was beautiful….and yes, it had a fantastic stereo. I can never here ‘We Built This City On Rock an’ Roll’, by Starship, without thinking of him….in a innocent, childlike way….I don’t know how many times he played it in the car, in the driveway near out back door….but it was A LOT! Little did I know that I would know be living in a town that has such a big connection to Rock and Roll!

I loved Ernie and Bert…and still do.

The father was Ernie. I have to share his name because he was the only Ernie I knew apart from Ernie and Bert on Sesame Street. How cool to have the name Ernie! My small brain struggled with the concept that he did not have a friend named Bert. Ernie was the sweetest and kindest man. For many years, I didn’t know his ‘real’ other half. She was a bit of an enigma to a small child…..until the grandparents had both passed away and we grew up and got to explore the neighbourhood more.

I am scrutinising my neighbours with the intention of bringing some insight into one of the reasons that I love birds. I have left the mother (or Ernie’s other half) until last, because she was the surprising gem that we discovered living right next door all those years and hadn’t really met her.

She was Frieda. She also had fabulous grey curls which she quite frequently had in curlers. She pretty much chain smoked from what I remember. We had never been around someone who smoked that much….and in the house! Freida could even talk with a cigarette in her mouth. She was skinny (perhaps I should say…dainty), always seemed to wear a dress that did not compliment her figure and she also had the most friendly, kind eyes and smile and loving nature….and she had a love of birds…quarrions (cockatiels) in particular. We would spend hours helping her feed baby quarrions with a syringe and listen to her eloquent stories delivered with a gravelly plum (the only way that I could describe it). Frieda also had nails….amazing nails. It always amazes me that we had this treasure living right next door and for all of those years, barely knew she was there. I guess it is all about timing. We needed her and she needed us at that time. I find that is the case over and over again that people come in and out of your life just when you need it the most. When they are gone, you have to just appreciate what was given to you at the time.

On the other end of the spectrum, we housed the dreaded enemy of every bird. The CAT! So we got to see both ends…..life and death! Fortunately, most of the death was involving sparrows….and I know that no matter how many bells and things you put on that collar, cats are stealth killing machines. I had been dying to include the word stealth…

Whilst Frieda was purely doing what she loved doing and enjoying chatting to a couple of girls who were pretty excited about being in the house that we always viewed from over the fence, she taught us another level of care, commitment and love for these little feathered creatures that we could not have received anywhere else.

So for any of you who have a passion for a particular thing, you will usually go above and beyond what would be normally expected to see the survival or lend a hand with a skill that you have acquired to ensure the sustainability of what you are passionate about. Frieda, of courses, had that passion for birds and when a poor, defenseless, featherless little chick was brought to her attention, without a moments thought, she put her skills to use and fed the little dear and cared for it to raise it to its full potential. As the sweet little thing strengthened and grew she realised that it was taking on characteristics unlike the quarrions and over a period of time, it became obvious that Frieda was indeed raising a starling. It had character, she had raised it from a tiny chick – what was she going to do?  (just as a side note, I have an equal passion….but it is passionate dislike of starlings)

The point of telling you this story is that sometimes we can find a companion where we least expect it and not in the traditional form, which is great. We can sometimes love things that it makes no sense to love and that’s ok.

Don’t you remember….we built this city, we built this city on rock an’ roll! We built this city…..you know you want to sing!

If you would like to donate to the Landcare NSW EDH Campaign, 
Click here or here to find out more about Landcare NSW. Check out my previous blogs here.

LANDCARE NSW EDH – DAY 7 BLOG….CANINE COMPANIONS

Marg - Campaign photoToday, I’m staying at my grandparents farm on the Mid North Coast of NSW.…I am sure that many of you have fond memories of dogs from your childhood, or even one that you currently have.

I recently read a post from a friend, who I think you would describe as burly, tough and someone that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley (if you didn’t know who he was), who had to make that heartbreaking decision to put down a beloved pet dog who had obviously been an amazing companion and to hear him speak of his dog the way he did, it brought me to tears.

I have lots of fond memories of dogs from throughout my childhood. My grandparents had what could only be described as an odd bunch. It was always a thrill to see them and, the majority of them, enjoyed having young, fun companions.

Busting the brown flannie and perm….oh yeah!

My earliest memory is of an old black scragedy dog named Tim, who was my grandmother’s companion. He was the dog that you did not mess with. If you were with my grandmother and wanted to give him a pat…that was fine. He had the most silky hair on his face that was so soft to touch, but over the years the rest of him wasn’t so pretty.

The most famous story about Tim, involves a baker, who used to deliver bread all the way out to their house once a week. Now…Tim (apart from his beautiful soft face) wasn’t known for his good looks, or his mild manner. He was known for being my grandmother’s protector. When your menfolk are away from the house for the day (and remember, no mobile phone, no radio), he was a handy dog to have around.

The baker was doing his normal delivery when my grandmother enquired whether he had any fruit loaf (I don’t blame her). The baker, who Tim knew only came to the door once each visit, dutifully went back to the van for more supplies and returned to the house with the fruit loaf…and Tim dutifully lunged in to take care of the imposter and ripped his pants. I’m sure at the time it was an extremely serious offense and my grandmother did organise for the purchase of a replacement pair of pants, but over the years the story received much laughter from recipients and from my grandmother who would tell the story with such joyfulness.

Flea and tic eradication methods were much more complex and labour intensive then..

After growing up with Tim as the house dog and him passing on to dog heaven at a very old age, he was replaced with Butch. Oh Butch…if any of you have ever loved a Labrador, you will know why we had such an affection for him. He was the total opposite of Tim…accept for his devotion to my grandmother. Butch meant fun times and lots of cuddles and excitement!

Amongst our other tractor companions was the mother dog of all mother dogs, Biddie. She was just about entirely black apart from a lovely white marking on her chest. She was always carrying a few extra kilos, plodded along behind everyone and had teats, that due to many years of motherly duties, were…umm…generous. She seemed like she was around forever.

The most beautiful dog that they ever owned, was a dog called Dingo. She was caramel and brown and she ran like the wind. We believed that due to her striking looks that she was a cross with a dingo. Dingoes were very common on the Mid North Coast back then. She had the loveliest manner and just had a natural instinct when it came to handling the cattle. She died as a result of a white tick.

More brown flannie….and Butch!

Tick’s were common place on the coast back then, and….brace yourselves non-rural readers…we would perform eradication measures on any unlucky invaders that dared to face the hot-blooded beasts on the farm, which concluded with a big splat with our gum-boot, destroying the invader and impressing fellow on-lookers.

Our last addition was a collie named…affectionately….Maggie. She was beautiful, looked extremely intelligent, was great fun and not much of a cattle dog. She had also been a transportation job in the car from, at that stage, Parkes, where we have moved to.

The bails were used for everything….milking, births, AI and a bath

Having a farm that had a system of creeks and dams running throughout, there were plenty of opportunities for the dogs to have a quick freshen up and the obligatory shake off, which usually occurred once they had returned to the carry-all with their human friends. Nothing like that smell of wet dog hair to freshen up your day!

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LANDCARE NSW EDH – DAY 5 BLOG….BALING TWINE REINS

As I mentioned in Blog 1, we lived a long way from our paternal grandparents. In the old Landcruiser and van, it would take us a good 12 hours to get to Bellangry, a rural area on the mid north coast, approximately 25km of winding road from Wauchope.

Nan and pop’s dairy was one of the last properties before you really hit the depths of the beautiful Bellangry State Forest. Log trucks were just about the most regular form of transport that passed my grandparents property for the early part of my life with ‘The Mill’ fully operational for until probably 20 years ago (just a guess…and my friend Google was not helpful).

The Carry-All was put on for our visits

Being dairy farmers, it was early starts for my grand father and uncle. My grandfather would stoke the fuel stove and stock it ready for my grandmother when she rose. They then commenced the morning prayers and gave thanks for their provisions and set off to gather the herd from the night paddock that was situated next to the farm house, which was across the road from the dairy (which they referred to as ‘the bales’ – six stalls with feeders in between in stall that fed the cows as they were milked).

We could go anywhere on the Massey. Through creek beds and up hills….

In winter, it was very early, very dark and very cold! Once we loaded on our gumboots (which were strategically placed one inside the other under the house), we strutted off with excitement to the Massey Ferguson for an adventure down the hill. Most of the girls had already commenced the casual stroll up the hill to the gate in anticipation of the mornings milking and a feed of chaff. Our excited friends would be tugging on their chains, bursting to say good morning and do their round up duties, apart from the house dog, who sat outside the side door over night.

When we were visiting, the carry-all would be attached to the hydraulics so that we could travel around with our pop and assist with gate duties. When it was a full house on the carry-all, there was a battle for the best twine or rope attachment to allow you to swing (carefully) at the back of the carry-all. Regardless of whether we were there at Christmas or not, we always ended up singing ‘Jingle Bells’….something about the baling twine brought on thoughts of dashing through the snow…..?

Nan and Pop had dairy and beef cattle

Once we had checked that every cow was accounted for, spotted the odd fox and moved the girls across the road, down the hill and back up to wait for milking. When we reached our destination, my grandfather’s tanned, bent nose would always have a leak, which he attended to after dismount. Pop’s nose had been hit by a wayward cow during milking a long time ago. When you are up close and personal with flighty cows with a wayward back leg, anything could happen…..I used to always think how painful that would have been.

Even though it was lush most of the time, we spent a lot of time distributing hay in the dry periods. The dairy cattle would be put on and off the irrigated ‘feed’.

In our younger years we would literally just hang out at the bar gate dividing the bales from the washing/storage room and then the vat room that contained two massive vats that would be filled with fabulous, creamy, white milk!  If we were lucky, one of the dogs would sit with us and we could just hang and pat.

As we grew, we were taught to clean teats and whack on the suction caps that would deliver all of that fabulous goodness to Australia! This is where I learnt about mastitis, birth, death, bulls, sex and separation. Of course, separation has to happen to have this beautiful milk that we drink on a large scale. Have you have never thought about that? I’m still drinking milk,cows still look happy in their clover and the word keeps turning.

After milking, the clean up began. Of course, there was only tank water to clean the bales…which sometimes we may have forgotten. When you have a job to do…..and those cows could make some pretty impressive mess!

We learnt about most of the basics on the farm….mastitis, birth, death, sex and bulls!

Once the clean up was complete, it was off to feed the calves. Of course, if you have 100 dairy cows to milk in the morning, there are going to be calves with buckets of milk mix. Calvies (as they were called) sucking our hands was the most fun part of the morning. I think that the thought that we were acting as replacement mothers and giving them some love was also an appealing part of the experience.

Then…once it seemed like half of the day was over and it was only 8am….we strutted back across the road for a hearty breakfast….yes, I mean HEARTY!

If you missed the milking, you prepared breakfast with Nan and fed the chooks. More about that in the next blog.

So…I have got to the end and not told you why I love cows! They have the most beautiful big eyes, wish amazing lashes…and, most of the time, they are graceful. I would say elegant! They produce one of the most amazing products that can ever be consumed! We are so fortunate to have access to this fresh, wonderful product.

If you would like to donate to the Landcare NSW EDH Campaign, 
Click here or here to find out more about Landcare NSW. Check out my previous blogs here.