Rural Reflections #9

Working dogs on farm are truly a valuable blessing and can replace the work of several men when it comes to moving livestock.  We have 2 working dogs on our property… Rex and Ringer… and they are Australian Kelpies.  Today I wanted to reflect on our dog “Rex”, as this week we spent some time at the Veterinarian so he was at the forefront of my mind.  He had an abscess that developed above his eye and needed some attention and medication.

Australian working dogs are loyal, hardworking and very intelligent.  When you have a well-trained working dog, stockwork is much calmer, controlled and more effective.  Their ability often amazes me, with their natural stock sense, agility, alertness and brainpower.  Our 2 dogs, are used for different purposes based on their unique skill and natural ability.  We use Ringer out in the paddock when mustering sheep, where Rex is used in the stockyards, shearing shed and for loading sheep onto the truck.

Our dog Rex is a black and tan 7-year-old kelpie.  We have owned Rex for over 4 years now and he never ceases to amaze me.  Very few dogs can be controlled effectively by more than one master.  But Rex is the one dog that we have owned, that not only my husband can use, but also my adult son and myself.

I don’t have a lot of stock sense myself, but when I have Rex in the sheep yards, we just work together and mostly he just knows what to do requiring very little instruction.  I usually have to tell him to “come over” to the left to bring the sheep into the forcing yard and when he has enough sheep I just call him back to the yard, where he waits until he is needed.  He always enjoys a pat after he knows he has done a “good job” and looks at me quite proudly.  If he needs to “hop up” to encourage the sheep into the race for drafting or weighing, he does so when directed, without any fuss.  Stock work just flows naturally when he is there to support me.  I hate to imagine, the extra manpower that would be needed to do this if we did not have Rex.

So today, I share this photo with you, that was taken in April 2017 when green grass existed in the sheep yards.  Sadly now, it is just brown dusty dirt and not much fun to work in.  But back then, it was much more enjoyable at work.

I really like this photo because of Rex’s eyes.  I love his intent gaze, an independent thinker waiting patiently until he is required.  His ego is ready and he is waiting for his turn, for him to do his “thing”.  This relaxed yet eager look, we see regularly.  His aptitude just waiting to be displayed with competence.  I really love his personality, his temperament, his attentive concentration and his determination to finish the job at hand.

Rural Reflection #9…

09 Rex the Kelpie - An Independent Thinker

image subject to copyright

The Australian Kelpie is an active, skillful, supple and graceful dog that is capable of untiring work with a natural instinct to work livestock.  Kelpies are a real Aussie icon that in appearance are athletic with muscular shoulders and a strong hindquarter.  Working Kelpie’s are maintained in ‘working condition’ with a very trim, muscular physique without any unnecessary bulkiness.

Working Kelpies are hardworking and capable of working in blistering heat or freezing cold temperatures.  They are tireless and can work over great distances.  Their intelligence also brings a natural instinct and desire to work amongst livestock.  The Kelpie is a very loyal breed and regarded as a ‘one man dog’.  They have a natural willingness to comply with their master, so have a desire to work not only for themselves but for their boss.

A good Kelpie is very valuable and said to be worth many men.  Their value is displayed in the stockyards and paddocks when gathering sheep, driving them to the yards and forcing them up ramps into sheds and trucks.  The Kelpie is undoubtedly a very special breed of dog and a valuable farmhand.

We love our working dogs just like they are our family.  Their value in our lives is appreciated greatly, and we are reminded of that each and every time we muster livestock.

So as we waited to visit the Veterinarian this week, I saw the trust and loyalty in Rex’s eyes.  Without words, his eyes tell me… that he trusts us, as he waits quietly for a veterinarian to help him.  The bond that a farmer has with his/her working dog is strong and the trust is apparent.  His wound has started to heal nicely and he is still as active and keen as ever.  Rex is a very special dog and irreplaceable, but one day as life progresses for us all, that will become a necessity.

Take care, Karen.

“If the kindest souls were rewarded with the longest lives,

dogs would outlive us all”

~ Author Unknown.

Rural Reflections #6

With Australia Day on the weekend, it has made me think about our history and appreciate the hard times that our ancestors had lived through.  We are so lucky today to have the freedom, the technology and the many opportunistic events within our lives.  As I reflect back and acknowledge our history, it gives me reason to celebrate my love for Australia, the land, the lifestyle, the democracy and the people.

From our indigenous heritage, to those who have come from all corners of the globe to call our country home, we are united within our dynamic nation, regardless of where our stories began and our cultural diversity.  Aboriginal people had lived on this land, that we now call Australia, for more than 65,000 years.  On 26th January 1788, eleven convict ships from Great Britain, arrived at Sydney Cove, marking the start of a new colony on this beautiful land.  Every year, Australia Day is celebrated as a national holiday to reflect on what it means to be Australian.

Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have mixed feelings about this day, as some consider it to be a day of mourning or survival of their culture.  As they were the traditional custodians of this land… respect, trust and positive relationships have been promoted through the Reconciliation process.  Australia Day aspires to be a celebration of our nation, gives recognition to all of our history and unites us all as Australian people in our diverse nation.

Farming was important from the very first day that the ships arrived in Australia.  Sheep were one of the first domesticated animals to be introduced into Australia at this time.  Within 50 years of their arrival, sheep had become the main source of income for the Australian agricultural industry.  Originally, sheep were not raised for meat, but for wool, and quite quickly the Australian export of sheep became more profitable than any country in the world.

​​Nowadays, Australia is the world’s number one producer of premium quality fine wool and is the largest producer of all wools by value and volume.  The total wool produced in Australia is 324,900 tonnes greasy (shorn wool prior to treatment).  

There are around 70 million sheep in Australia, producing an average of 4.6kg of wool per head.  The value of wool produced in Australia averages AU$3 billion dollars, which reflects the continuing strong global demand for Australian wool.    

So with the recognition of our history and thinking about sheep in Australia, I thought it would be appropriate to share this photo from our property.  It shows the heritage-listed shearers’ quarters that was on our property when we purchased it.  The photo was taken in April 2017 when green grass actually existed here.

Rural Reflection #6…

06 The Authentic Comforts of a Shearers' Quarters Heritage

image subject to copyright

I like this photo because it represents the little comforts of long ago, providing shelter and warmth… and sadly probably not much more than that.  It also depicts in my mind, the hard back-breaking work of the shearers’ resting before another long day’s work.  These shearers’ quarters are no longer in use, but as we drive past it every day on the farm, I acknowledge the history of this rustic structure with original timber walls and the authentic culture that lies within.

We need to all acknowledge the history around us and recognise the impact within our lives.  Historical events have happened, well out of our control… but we have the choice how we react to these events.  Incidents in our past, mould our personality and behaviour.  We have the control to make a difference in our lives and the world we live in.  As an Australian, I choose to enjoy the freedom in our nation, accept the wrongs that have happened in the past, let go of negativity, work hard for an industry that I love and be the best person I can be.  What do you choose?

Take care, Karen.

“We are not makers of history.

We are made by history.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr 


Rural Reflections #4

Hope and memories exist somewhere within us all.  This widespread drought has left farmers and rural communities battling every day… which is a reminder that we all need time to just stop and reflect.

Memories seem to find warmth from within us.  Those memories of a time when a season was able to produce food and fibre, with only the usual effort on the farm.  Farm production without the mental tribulations, physical exhaustion and financial debilitation.  Time to enjoy life… time to spend with our families… time to feel content.  A time we all yearn for once again.

This weekend I did stop, relax and reflect a little… a feeling and action that seemed so long lost.  A reminder that time with our loved ones is essential for all… and time to take care of yourself.  I needed to find this place… a moment where I could bring back hope.  This hope… or feeling of desire… for our season to break, for the heavens to open and rain soak into our paddocks and fill our tanks and dams.  For this rain to wash away our stress, our weariness and our pessimism.  One day it will happen… we are one day closer to rain every day.

So today I would like to share this photo with you, to show that hope is only around the corner.  This photo was taken in July 2017, at the end of a good Winter season, as sheep fatten for sale on the green grass.  It also depicts a storm to the east over Tamworth NSW.

Rural Reflection #4…

04 A Distant Storm Overlooking the Sheep

image subject to copyright

I showed this photo to my husband, and at first, he didn’t even recognise it to be our property.  Sadly, the scenery now is paradoxical to back then.  Now every day is a vision of thick dust and short dry vegetation sparsely consuming the paddocks… and more so have consumed our lives.

I really like this photo because of how it depicts the storm in the background yet the sun shining brightly on the sheep feeding on the green grass.  It symbolises the intensity of how farming relies on storms and rain to continue our production effectively.  It also illustrates diversity within rural areas, and only 20km away the weather can differ so dramatically.

We may not be able to control the weather and a farmer knows best as they gamble every day upon the odds.  But we can have some form of control regarding how we respond to the drought, how we prepare for the drought and how we protect our families mental state in the meantime.  In any industry and family situation it is important to retain our optimistic state of mind and take care of each other.

It is now more than ever, we need to focus on our memories of the good seasons on the farm.  A time that will return to us once again.  Hold on to hope, enjoy time with your family as you anticipate a better season soon and remember we will get through this… together.

Take care, Karen.

“The greater your storm,

the brighter your rainbow.”

~ Author Unknown