Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cattle Sales & Vanilla Chai

Saleyards at Warragul
An unexpected but pleasant visit to the saleyards today.  With a husband suffering from 'man flu', and having no shearing work on, he took the kids while I met up with my Dad at the yards.  He's entered the world of buying and selling commercial steers, after 25 years having stud cattle, so it's all very new and exciting.  It's also very confusing and takes a while to work out why they are doting cattle with different coloured paint on shoulders or tails, or painting stripes down their backs.  Buying cattle this way also requires a good deal of instant mental arithmetic, something I'm not good at that's for sure.
We didn't buy anything today.  I did however get some funny looks when I pulled out my camera and started snapping away.  I actually used to work here.  I was one of those people up on the metal walkway.  I remember it being cold. 

The smell of the cattle today brought all those memories back....

It wasn't a bad job actually.  Anything to do with cattle or sheep isn't bad.  If you're into that sort of thing!
After a while we got a bit bored so we headed in to town and met up with my Mum in 'Frankie's', which is a trendy café that has the yummiest Vanilla Chai Lattes.  This is my new discovery.  Mmmm..the spicy vanilla-ery milky goodness.  Perfect on a cold Winter day.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Perks of Being a Writer/Photographer

Out of all the jobs I've had in my lifetime there are two that have really stood out as my favourite. 

One was where I worked on a property in Barham in New South Wales which had sheep and cattle.  This is my 'office view', mustering sheep on the motorbike.  My boss was horrible (think 70 something year old creepy guy that used to put his hand on my leg whilst in the ute and slap me on the butt on a regular basis), but the job was fantastic.  We lived in a house on his property.

Here it is.

And this is the view that I had from my veranda...
Our couch didn't fit in the house so it is there on the veranda.  Actually it was the perfect place for a nap on a warm day, which is something I did quite a few times.  Yes, it was a good life.  Despite the horrible boss.  I also got to attend The Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show where I showed his Border Leicester sheep, something I had never done before.


A few of the other random things I have done in my lifetime have included this..
I wasn't brilliant at selling lingerie, as you can tell by my slightly stunned expression.
I also run a little online store for a while...
Actually I look a little stunned here too.  Could be that I was enormously pregnant with my third child.
Other professions have included my first job, and my longest lasting, working at my Dad's picture framing business, various receptionist and secretarial positions, working in a bookstore and a swimwear shop, and most bizarre, working on the door of a strip club.  Yes, I did say strip club (and no, I never took my clothes me, no one would pay me to take them off.  Maybe pay me to put them on....)  Oh..and I worked in a British St. Kilda.
Just before I met my husband I started working as a farmhand and cattle fitter (someone that breaks in cattle for shows) at a Limousin cattle stud, and after I got fired (because of my husband actually!), I had a job as a farm manager on an Angus cattle stud.
This is me breaking in a Murray Grey bull for my Dad..
And here I am showing a heifer at The Melbourne Show..
I really enjoy showing cattle.  This is my happy face.

This one was in Labertouche, the farm that I managed, which got burnt to the ground a few months after I started there in the Black Saturday fires.  Lost that one due to there being no farm left to manage. 
This is me after fighting fire at that particular farm on the Friday after Black Saturday.  This was my relatively new ute that forever more smelt of bushfire.  It's probably hard to see but I was covered in soot, and later when I got home and had a shower I discovered my white underwear had turned almost black. 
However this leads me to my current job as a writer and photographer.  I got to thinking this morning about all the perks involved.  As well as being able to do something I really enjoy, and actually get paid for it for a change, there are a considerable number of other perks as well.
The first of these would include the morning teas.  Err...yes!  I'm talking scones and jam and cream while interviewing a lovely lady about her alpacas, (all while sitting in her gorgeous home with the beautiful view across the valley looking towards the Baw Baw's)....

....Gingernuts and a cuppa on a farm in Korumburra after a bracing walk through the paddocks surrounded by happy free range hens....

and even a free latte in The Red Fox Cafe in Drouin. (I'm not a coffee drinker but it was rather fun anyway.)
As well as the food and drink I also get to met some fantastic people, go to different places and experience different things.  For example...
To get this shot I was riding on the mobile starter gate at the Warragul Harness Racing Cup.  Now that was an experience...and kind of scary!  I'd never been to the harness racing either and I also got to go to the special members lunch with famous old AFL footballers and Koko the Clown (what the..?)
This was a lovely couple I met at Amber Creek Farm (which weirdly is my name.. surname is not Creek Farm.)
They have the most gorgeous paddock raised pigs.  I swear, I've never seen such happy pigs.  See...
I had to go down to Fish Creek in South Gippsland for this story, but I've also been out to Toongabbie for my shearing story (which meant I got to visit my husband at work!) and later this year it looks like I'll be heading all the way out to Bairnsdale to do a story on a winery.
I love writing, as is evident due to having a blog for my work, as well as a personal blog page at but I really love taking photos. 
This is me at work...

I was the school photographer in Year 10 and majored in photography at university, but I never thought I would actually ever be paid for my photos.  I have had a few photography jobs in the past doing family and children photography, although I've never done a wedding.  That, I think would be the pinnacle, even though, no doubt, it would be stressful.
My job, in a nutshell, is freedom and creativity and travel and fun and meeting people and eating cake and not using punctuation when I should and getting away from the kids AND having a fabulous time.  I hope there are more of you out there that enjoy your job as much as I do!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Support The Wool Industry

Ok, so I don't normally get all fired up about these sorts of issues, you know, the ones where uninformed extremist ridiculous groups jump up and down and cause a stink but this one is close to my heart and everything else.  It is what keeps me and my family fed, clothed and a roof over our heads. 
This gorgeous shearer here is my husband....mutton chops and all.  This is what he does for a living.
Here he is again.  Looks pretty damn uncomfortable doesn't it.
This is a photo of him dragging out the next sheep to be shorn.  Heavy?  Yes.
Then this is what he does next...after dragging it out...
Ummm....look familiar??!
So....take the catching, dragging and shearing and multiply that by say...ummm...200 times in a DAY...yes, I said in a day, and that is my husband's job.  This is the job of shearers everywhere.  Doesn't look easy now does it.  Once my husband did this 280 times in a day, his current best day, and no doubt one day he will hit his 300.  (I'm so proud of him!  He works so hard.)

You also need to understand how difficult it can be to shear.  The sheep weighs a lot, and I mean a lot, and then it will wriggle when being shorn, which adds another level of difficulty on to the process for the shearers.  In Summer it reaches unbearable temperatures in the shed, it is back breaking work and the sheep don't always behave.  Come on, they are sheep.  They aren't that smart.  This is the reality.  Then put into the equation that the shearer has a handpiece in their hand that has sharp cutters on it.  Then add the fact that this handpiece is switched on and is actually quite dangerous.  (ie. I have heard a story about a shearer who was working and the sheep kicked his hand, which was holding the handpiece, which then stabbed into the shearers neck, and he bled to death on the boards.)  Tell me now, if the sheep is wriggling and kicking and is a risk to your well being are you going to give it a pat and ask it nicely to calm down?
No, there is no need to bash the crap out of the sheep but a certain element of man handling has to happen, not only for your safety but the safety of those around you.  This includes the rouseabouts, the wool classer, the other shearers and anyone else in the shed.

It annoys me when groups decide to sneak in and collect footage over months and try and find the isolated incidents that make shearing and the whole wool industry look barbaric.  You know what would be barbaric?  Having no wool industry.  Not only would my family have to go on welfare (would you, the taxpayer, like to pay for me to live??) but these sheep wouldn't fare too well either. 
Have these animal activist people thought about what would happen to all these sheep if the wool industry was banned?  I highly doubt it.  Do they realise that farmers wouldn't let their sheep roam free growing all the wool they liked so they resemble hippies with dreadlocks?  All that wool would be really really heavy, hot, uncomfortable and not to mention maggoty.  Do these people understand what flies do?  This gets back to the whole mulesing debate really but when flies lay eggs they hatch in to maggots, which get into the folds of the sheep's skin, and then they have a good old munch on the sheep.  While it's still alive.  Nice hey?
The reality is that if the wool industry is banned then all the sheep would have to go to market to be sold and then eaten..but of course the market would be flooded so they wouldn't be worth anything and it would cost the farmer more to send it on the truck to the market to be worth bothering with, soooooo.....all the sheep would be systematically shot.  In the head. Having seen this done dear animal activists I can tell you, it's not pretty.  It's also pretty traumatic for the farmers who have to carry out this horrible act.
As well as shearing we also earn an income from our own flock of sheep.
They are well looked after.  This includes my husband shearing them (started yesterday so that he could give them a de-lousing treatment..which was expensive, but we care about the health of our animals and the quality of the wool they produce), and when they are lambing he will go out at night in the cold and shoot any foxes that are trying to nab the babies. 
Farmers care about their livestock because this is where they make their living.  They are not going to mistreat something that provides them with their income otherwise it will stop providing them with an income.  If this sounds like we are 'using' animals then get over it.  This is a fact of life.  The alternative is the pointless slaughter of countless numbers of animals.  If animal activists what to get active about something then why not worry about the human race instead.  Go help the enormous amount of homeless people or sick and starving children in Third World countries.  Get your priorities straight for goodness sake.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Gumboots Yarragon

I am very excited that my photographs are now for sale in card form at a local produce store and café in Yarragon called Gumboots.  I was lucky to come across the owner Lindy Smith at the local Yarragon market one Sunday when I happened to be holding a stall for my photography business.  She approached me and asked if she could stock my cards for her store that has opened this month.  As a result I ended up asking her if I could interview her for the magazine, so in the end we helped each other out quite a lot!  Weirdly enough it turned out we were actually in the same class at TAFE in 2008 doing a Whole Farm Planning course.  She remembered me, although unfortunately I can't say I remember her...although I do have an excuse...this was where I met my husband and I must say I was too busy talking to him to really notice anybody else!

My cards feature scenes of Gippsland, which is the theme of Gumboots, as all the produce available comes from local farmers.  This includes Watergrasshill Angus, Mirboo Pastured Poultry, Darnum Park Estate olive oil, Cannibal Creek Bakehouse and The Gypsy Pig products from Darnum.  The store and café itself is housed in a gorgeous cottage and no doubt will be a lovely spot to sit and have a relaxing cup of coffee.