Category Archives: Two in a Barcoo

Bittersweet Bucket List

This #RovingWriter finally got to be Miss Philadelphia. (You know the one… Nancy Cato’s All The Rivers Run. Sigrid Thornton played the character in the 1980’s mini series of the same name.) It’s been a dream of mine to visit Echuca, to traverse that ancient wharf, to board the same wood-fired steamer, and to travel the Mighty Murray to the pulse of paddles and the huffing and puffing of pistons.

Two years ago, I heard about P.S. Pevensey (that it was the steamer used in the mini series) and if that was not exciting enough, I was told EVERY, yes EVERY, passenger gets a ticket – even the fur-kids. So, I made a promise to the one-eyed Dude dog at that time. I told her we’d take a boat trip together along the Murray.

Sadly, it’s taken two years to get to Echuca (on the NSW/Vic border) and as you may know, we lost the bravest dog in the world last year. So it was with sad hearts that we decided to go ahead and take a trip on the dog-friendly P.S. Pevensey anyway.

After telling our sad story to the lovely lady in the Discovery Centre, she gave us a canine ticket for our dearly departed ‘dog in a box’.

Canine Tickets for special passengers

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the lady took the time to write the date on the ticket, we realised the significance. While not planned, May 10 is one year – to the day – that we said goodbye to the Dude dog after 14 years with us. Suddenly, the much-anticipated trip turned bittersweet.

The one-eyed Dude dog, Daiquiri

Feeling miserable, what did we see? Bella.

What a joy. Here she is aboard and with Mum, Leanne. (I was itching for a puppy cuddle. I even had a sneaky cry.)

Once we disembarked, Bella’s family stopped with us at the Star Hotel for lunch – and some water from a wine goblet!

 

I’ve always believed some people come into our lives for a season and some for a reason. A  massive thank you to Keith and Leanne and Bella for sharing the trip and the pizza afterwards. I believe we were meant to meet today. Safe travels!

ABOUT THE BOOK: If you are interested in Nancy Cato’s novel – Booktopia has All The Rivers Run.

BEFORE YOU GO: It’s time we took back some control. Don’t leave it to Facebook (and the like) to decide what information you see and when you see it. I have book news coming soon and if, like me, you distrust social media’s filtering of information, join my New Release Reminder Service and I will email you my news direct to your inbox. (Just look top right on this page!) Leave your email (which I’ll protect with my life) and I’ll send you a reminder. This is NOT a monthly newsletter full of stuff you probably don’t want to know. I only send New Release Reminders when I have a new book out (or if my books go on sale online – and who doesn’t love a bargain book?)

When is a killer not a killer (a lesson for writers!)

There are faster, easier, more caravan-friendly roads to drive between Coffs Harbour and Victoria. We chose the more scenic coastal route—The Princes Highway, which is less highway and more a bitumen goat track (a drunk goat, in parts).

Our reason?

My family holidayed on the south coast when I was very young (Ulladulla, Kiama, Batemans’ Bay) but we never went as far south as Eden.

We knew the road would be challenging with 25 feet of Myrtle The Turtle in tow, but the town of Eden was a bit of a bucket list town for me. I’m not sure why, although I am certain it was not for any biblical reference: no gardens, naked men, or apples tempted me. The only temptation was the stunning Two Fold Bay and had the temperature not been single digit and the wind gale-force, I might have had a quick dunk, despite tales of killer whales.

Eden did teach this roving writer something about the power of a single word in storytelling and how reader interpretation can change the story—and that’s not a bad lesson for any author.

My lesson.

What I learned is how our words can incorrectly influence our readers and my teacher was those so-called ‘killer whales’.

You see, the Killer Whale did not get their rather unfortunate name from hunting down and snacking on humans, as I’d always assumed. They were, in a way, man’s friend, even when whale oil was a much sought after commodity in the 1800s. Twofold Bay legend of that time tells of the Killer Whale being the first known sea creature to work in ‘partnership’ with people. I recommend you read this more detailed (and short) version by Australian Geographic about the cleverness of these giants of the sea, and how they protected their species from whalers in search of whale oil, by herding the unsuspecting humpbacks (and other species) in to be killed instead. Extract: from the Australian Geographic article:

“Whaling in Eden took off in 1828, but it wasn’t until 1844 that stories of the peculiar behaviour started to emerge. Eyewitnesses talked of orcas prowling the entrance of Twofold Bay for migrating humpback, blue, southern right and minke whales. Using the unique geography of the bay, the waiting orcas would ambush whales that were vastly bigger than themselves – ripping at fins, diving over their blowholes, and forcing them into shallower waters for the whalers to finish off. Once a whale was dead, they’d feast on the lips and tongue, leaving the rest of the carcass for the whalers.”

So, when a killer is not necessarily a killer.

That’s how the killer whale got such a demonised name and reputation. Not by eating people! Over the years, legend and misunderstanding has seen the single word ‘killer’ interpreted in different ways and this is the lesson for writers.

We need to choose and use our words carefully. We need to look at words in context and understand that a single word can have different meanings or be misconstrued.

We need to be as careful with our word choices as we do our commas and apostrophes. Or else when someone says, “Let’s eat Grandma” we are not perceived to be killer grandkids when what we really mean is: “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Discover more about at the Eden Killer Whale Museum.

OMG! Huge news. Massive. Something I’ve never done before.

I’m driving over the border into Victoria!

It’s a first. I’ve never even been to Victoria — unless you count flying into a conference in a Melbourne hotel and flying out again.

To get this far south from Coffs Harbour, the  J and I have been traversing some pretty serious hills. We don’t like hills. We particularly dislike hills that include skinny roads and narrow bridges. (Narooma, for example. We did not like that bridge much, but the town was very pretty.) I’ve discovered that the Princes Highway (did you know all these years I’ve thought it was the Princess Highway?) presents more twists and turns than a Jenn J McLeod plot?

We were ‘tempted’ to stop in Eden (NSW’s most southern coastal town) so we did. We were very weary (and extremely wary of snakes and apples in Eden). But we needed to regroup and prepare for the BIG crossing. We also had to eat all the prohibited fresh fruit and veggies because apparently, we take them over the border. (Of course, we washed them down with wine, as grapes are also on the prohibited list.)

So, it is a first. Wish us well for the last leg as we prepare to tackle a border crossing into unknown territory and take up our first Victorian property sitting job as of Saturday.

Some things we found en route:

Speaking of weather…

Can someone tell the south coast… It’s December, for Pete’s sake!

Why do I have the car heater on today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and sound advice.

NSW we love you and we will be back, but first there are places to see and people to meet, libraries to conquer and small towns to visit.

 

 

 

 

Crying in Cawarral

Dark glasses were needed!

Yes, there were tears, both happy and sad when we hugged our house-sitting host goodbye last month. We spent six fabulous weeks in Cawarral, which is somewhere in the middle of Rockhampton and Yeppoon on the Queensland Capricornia Coast. (You might recall I set a story in the same region after staying on a cattle property last year.)

Yes, we are officially house-sitters and care-taking our way around the country by looking after vacant houses, maintaining properties and gardens, and feeding and loving animals while their humans head off on holidays. We did up a website, printed some business cards, and the requests started coming in and if our first sit in Cawarral is anything to go by, this roving life just got better.

Check out the pictures: the view from our van was stunning, the company cute, and the experiences were the type you tick off the bucket list — the highlight for sure was being midwives to Lacey the Appaloosa mare (check out the video below).

Of course the birth had to happen just after midnight, with Michelle banging on the caravan door: “Come on, girls, we’re having a baby.” So we chucked on long pants and shirts and fought off mozzies that were bigger than a Black Hawk helicopter, while keeping nosy stable mates at bay and taking really bad video recordings. We soon realised the birth was not going to plan, but Michelle took charge and there was a happy ending. His name is Barney, and if you would like to work your way through some very dark and badly done recording (it does get better when we needed it to) you too can witness the miracle of birth.

Best of all, we have made friends for life in Michelle and John (and Paddy – the award-winning Palomino, Clancy – who thinks he’s a dog, and Wilbur with the wonderful eyes. Coco, who is actually a dog, was also the perfect puppy therapy). Missing you all in Cawarral, but there are new communities to get to know. Next stop — Bairnsdale, Victoria. We hope to back in Cawarral for Christmas next year. Barney will probably be with a new family by then, but we got word recently another bub is on the way, so he or she will be a few months old by then. Can’t wait.

Thank you Michelle and John for your friendship.

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

Yes, the lion was sleeping. Wish I had been. Instead we were up at 5.30am and dressing in so many layers I looked like the Michelin Man.

“It’s fun”, they said.

“A not-to-be-missed experience,” the brochure claimed.

Not only was it only 3 degrees, it was a foggy day in Dubbo today. We thought the fog might have ruined the up close encounters. Instead it added a serenity until about 10am when it finally lifted.

We walked about 10 km and we’re totally exhausted, but what an experience. Not hard to tell my favourites. We are going back for more tomorrow.

Giraffes in the mist

Giraffes in the mist

Spider monkey island

Spider monkey island

 

Would you like a prairie oyster to go with that?

Allow me to introduce you to ‘the prairie oyster’.

HPK Dont Even Ask

The dogs seem to enjoy them. Only not my dog. I think little Daiquiri’s tastes are a tad more discerning than Diva the farm dog’s. Poor little Dac simply needed a way to say…

“No thank you. No bull’s balls for me today. I’ll stick to my Greenies.”

Greenies

Yes, the realities of farm life kind of hit me over the head today (or was that Diva tossing her prairie oyster around? Note to self: Wash hair tonight.)

No doubt about it. Kellie gets all the fun jobs! Prairie oyster prep. Someone pass their plate.

HPK Kelly on the job

 

As if being castrated isn’t enough!

While Kellie has the cattle in the crush it’s a good time to brand them.
HPK Kel and Ryan in the crushes

This, folks, is what it really looks like when you have a lot of irons in the fire.

HPK branding irons in fire

So, there you have it. And while Kellie gets all the fun jobs, I am left with the difficult task of writing the prairie oyster into a scene in my current work. I figured the least I could do, even though this book is a long way off, is whet your appetite with this teaser of words–as I’m sure I didn’t do it with the prairie oysters.

 

Here you go: The excerpt.

‘G’day!’

‘Hello.’ Gina alighted from the car, her once shiny leather boots covered in dust.

‘Where you’ve parked under the tree is fine. Good shade for a couple of hours.’ He spoke as quickly as he walked, barely glancing her way. ‘ We’ll be done by three.’

‘We will?’

‘If we get started without any delays. This way.’

‘Excuse me but . . . You are J.B. Tate?’

He paused to look back. ‘I am. Why do you ask?’

‘You’re not what I expected.’

‘Well, that makes two of us. You’re not the usual run of the mill worker I’m used to either. Not sure why they sent someone so . . . ’ His gazed travelled the length of her body—up and down. ‘Are you sure you can handle it?’

‘I’m quite capable, Mr Tate.’

Whatever the hell it was. Gina was going to do it—and do it well.

************

‘So, you wanna tell me what you had in mind when you fronted up today for the job?’ He was laughing, which was more than Gina was capable of right now. She’d thrown up as the first testicle hit the ground and the kelpie snatched it up.

‘Prairie oysters,’ he’d told. ‘Dogs love ‘em.’

Thank goodness the actual farmhand had shown up in the nick of time.

‘I thought you were your father.’

He chuckled. ‘Ahh, another journalist looking for a new angle, eh? All credit to you for the dedication. Do you always go to such lengths to get your story?’

‘No, no, I’m not a journalist,’ she said, frustration mounting. ‘I know I should’ve said straight up except . . . Well, whenever a man questions my ability—’

‘You’ve gotta prove otherwise. I get it. I do.’

‘I feel like an idiot. I assumed that whatever the job was it would involve the hospitality part of the business. I assure you I can do most things food and event related without throwing up or passing out.’

********

I hope you enjoyed that little tidbit (the excerpt, not the prairie oyster), although I am told some people consider the cow off-cuts a delicacy.

Please let me know if you are one of those people, or if you’ve partaken in one of these meaty morsels, and I will be sure to think twice before accepting an invitation to dinner!

Jokes aside, I know this stuff has to happen. I just wish that they wouldn’t look at me like that.
cow eyes sm

I keep wanting to say, “It wasn’t me! No bull!”

3 cows

If you don’t mind a good cow story, you might enjoy Season of Shadow and Light. It has cows and a fun cloven hooves scene – my favourite!

 

Seaosn of Shadow and Light-194x300

On the road to Barmoya

IMG_3094What a great name for a novel.

What an inspiring location.

As the coastal fringe of Queensland buzzes with southerners seeking a warm winter, and we finally understand the mantra “beautiful one day, perfect the next”, we are in Rockhampton, super excited to stay with special friends on their not so little piece of cattle paradise in Barmoya (half way between Rockie and Yeppoon).

Our arrival a few weeks ago nudged the all-female team at the time up by two. The girls (about 5 of them) were on the go from first light until sundown—on quad bikes, utes, and horseback—working with the 1200 head of Brahman cattle, eight horses, several pigs, four farm dogs (plus Dash the Dachshund who wants to be a farm dog) and all under the watchful eye—yes, only one—of the one-eyed dude dog.

HPK girls and Lou

Hard working girls! (and Lou, the dog)

We feel like we’re in our very own real life episode of McLeods Daughters, helping out where we can. (Well, The J is working, while Daiquiri the Dude dog dreams of being a farm dog and I sit and write.)

Finding inspiration is not hard in a place like this, with Mt Hedlow on our doorstep.

Remarkable is probably the best word to describe Henderson Park Farm Retreat. But the place has come a long way since the family’s earliest settlers purchased it (and a whole lot more) back in 1885. The landscape is not at all what I expected–although I guess I know why the town is called ROCKhapmton (and the view is different every day).

You know it’s said some people come into you life for a season and some for a reason? Well, this lovely couple certainly came into ours for a reason. Drunk with conversation (and wine) we feel blessed to have such generous and wonderful friends in Marie and David (and family), here on Henderson Park.

Marie and David

Special friends, Marie and David, at my book launch in 2014

While staying on their farm I have been writing book #5. No title yet, but I can tell you it is set amongst the stunning landscape right here on the outskirts of Rockhampton.

Those who know me well can attest to me NOT a morning person. I love my bed and have enjoyed only one voluntary sunrise in the last few decades. That was May 1, 2013—the official release day of my debut novel. So, if this is all a dream, please don’t wake me up. Unless it’s for a sunrise like this. (And I can tell you the sunsets are just as remarkable here in Barmoya.)

Henderson sunrise sm

Henderson full moon 2

Henderson Brahman grey and Jenn

Making new friends

Henderson horses editing

Editing with friends