Here at the Kooloombah Grazing Co. one day easily fades into another along with the toils that go along with them. It would not be fair of me if I did not say that not every day is filled with tasks and duty. There are some that require very little. I enjoy these days just as much as I enjoy the days filled with work. This past Saturday Quintin had a sale to go to. He had several horses that hadn’t sold while at the ranch. The sale is similar to an auction. The horses typically sell for a higher premium if sold directly from the ranch but Quintin wants to move them. While gone I had the opportunity go to the Nanango fresh market and also the grocery. The market gathers monthly and is massive in terms of any market I’d ever been to. Of particular note is the grocery. Groceries back home arrange items based on marketing tactics accompanied by non-intrusive elevator music, if any music at all, and have focal points on customer service. Nope, none of that here. I am learning that Australia does not have a focus on customer service in many ways. When ordering food from a restaurant your server will hardly be of sight. The reward for such an exchange is that you do not tip the servers and bartenders. Frustrating I am sure to those that seek to be tended to hand and foot. The grocery that we attended had that was popular and somewhat groovy. I thought it was great, however I can see an older generation from back home not agreeing with me. Another thing that I noticed was that products do not have excess packaging. There are no individually wrapped slices of cheese in packs. Only bricks of cheese that you have to slice yourself. I grew to appreciate this the more that I contemplated on it. Australia is completely self sufficient. If all global trade treaties were to end today the U.S. would flounder and Australia would prosper. Australia has all of the energy it needs. It does not need to import it. A bit unsettling as I am a visitor here and will return to the uber-dependent United States later this year. In the grocery I bought a fruit I hadn’t tried before, a Dragon Fruit. How could I resist any fruit named as such? It wasn’t as tangy or tart as I had expected, and I didn’t transform into a dragon.
Later that night I met an interesting ‘mate at the local pub in Maidenwell. I had stopped there briefly because Lyn works there and it had been discussed on several occasions. The fellow that I crossed path with was a truck driver. He has driven across the country and I asked him about road trains, of which he has piloted. Quite simply, road trains are multiple trailers connected to one another and pulled by a single truck. With the speed of sound and a strong Aussie accent he told me of his travels. I listened intently as this was a man who I know now where approached from and sat down to strike up conversation with me. It wasn’t long before another ‘mate of his sat down who is an astronomer. Now the conversation really got flowing, as did the Queensland brewed XXXX beer. When talking with Aussies you must have a thick skin and a good sense of humor. They love to gab n’ jab. Hey I just made that up. I think I’ll write it down.
Australia believes in “mateship”. I have come across this philosophy my studies of the country. Many Aussies consider their friends, or “mates”, more prized than family. Years ago Australia declared its independence from the Queen however they remained faithfully close in diplomatic ties. The Queen had declared war, against a country that I fail to recall, and Australia was there to help. The Australian soldiers were not recognized in the battle even though many of them died. It was an embarassment for the fledgling country. Australians were not respected globally. Not long after there was another war in which Australia participated. They allied with another country, doing so on their own accord, and they were a large factor in this bloody battle. It is interesting to note that they lost, yet even more interesting is that they were finally declared a recognizable force by the rest of the world. This is day is now celebrated as Australia Day, January 26th, the equivilant of the U.S. Independence Day. Australian history is riddled with examples of failed recognition and stories of underdog achievements. Bragging or setting oneself independently above the rest is deeply frowned upon and quite often creates a backlash from the majority. Aussies stick together. They have done so from the beginning. They had no choice really. In the seemingly infinite vastness of this unarradable country farmers could not sustain crops and livestock without reaching to one another for help. The country demanded teamwork. Everything about the country displays Aussies looking to other Aussies, or ‘mates, in equal partnership. Where the U.S. was founded on being independent capitalism, Australia is centered on teamwork and “mateship”.
Preparing the seeder for grain.
I have spent the past several days helping Quintin with the jobs that I had verbally contracted. We have been getting the fields ready for the grain that will be harvested. I have loosened the soil with the tractor and he is now planting the seed with the seeder. I have only 3 weeks before I leave the Kooloombah Grazing Co. and the contract was to get the fencing and grain completed. We are well on our way. We have had plenty of hiccups along the way, as tractors and other machines have broken due to their age and wear and tear over the years. Even in the face of mechanical failure we seem to get our days work done. The perseverance towards the job at hand is admirable and something I will take home with me. It appears that “give up” is not in the Aussie vocabulary. A lesson worth preserving.
As anyone could guess I have come across several animals and insects. Ironically a mouse just ran past as I write this. I awoke to a pair of wallabies a few mornings ago. A rare treat as I read Walden near my door. I have also seen a group of the iconic kangaroo and a small “joey”. There are fruit bats that live above my dwellings that come out at night. When they fly you can hear the wind around them even indoors. Most of them are 3 feet in width and they have heads that look like dogs. There are huntsmen spiders here which are as physically intimidating as tarantula spiders, and just as harmless (although I have seen the huntsmen spider jump). There are “green ants” that are so dark they appear black. When a green ant bites you they release a toxin that has stung me for more than 3 hours. It is a little bit more painful than a bee sting, which is nothing really except when you consider the number of green ants and how easily it is to get bitten. Of course there are the horses and cows. The cows are funny creatures. Some of them become furious when alone, but when they are in large packs of dozens they have surrounded me and simply stared in the most curious of ways. Imagine being circled by 40 cows all of which have surrounded you to stop and stare at you. I felt ashamed that I didn’t have a show prepared for them. The horses all have personality. There is a horse named Voyager who plays with the dogs. He is a massive animal in terms of his counterparts and a stallion of two years. If I were to own a horse, I would want Voyager to be it. There are spiders every where. We have an arrangement, they don’t mess with me, and I don’t mess with them. It is difficult to know which to be fearful of so just stay away from all of them. I am about 75% sure that I saw a funnel web spider yesterday in the field. I have only come across two snakes, both babies. There are massive bullfrogs here. The biggest that I have ever seen. They are called “toad frogs”. Centipedes, millipedes, leaches, termites, slugs, and bees are all here. Of all of these things I have to make sure to mention the flies. There are lots of them, and they are of those most peculiar sort of pest. They seem to be attracted to specific types of clothing and color. I haven’t entirely figured out what attract and repel them. It does seem that wool and dark blue attract them and I’m told that light colors repel. If you come to the bush in Australia you simply must make peace with the flies otherwise you will be miserable. Some days they hover about in full battalion and others they simply don’t come around at all. I have yet to really figure them out. Oh look there goes another mouse.