Thursday, June 21, 2007, 08:45 AMThere is always something appealing to be by water as its movement evokes many feelings within us humans, so it is when standing beneath the Majestic & Ancient Red River Gums of this Murrumbidgee river that has seen the passing of the many parades I feel a movement of such thoughts when looking at the upwelling of current in its peaceful movement across the land. How people have for so long lived & passed by this river bearing silent witness to their journeys in life.
Murumbidya as it was known to the Aborigines meaning big water flowing, had for many thousands of years given them life as it meandered about the valley floor between Gundagai to Wagga Wagga & beyond onto Narrandera before the Plains. Leaving a changing course & many a Billabong along the way, in doing so also leaving a vast supply of water beneath the sands & gravels, a bigger water than the Wiradjuri custodians could ever have imagined. This life giving water is today pumped from Bores 110 M deep at Oura by the river to the East of Wagga Wagga to many far distant towns & farmlands ...The standing water level at 30 M only dropping to 40 M at the peak of Summer bearing testimony to the vast quantity below the surface.
Over the recent long Drought years which is the worst this Country has ever seen, Dam levels in the mountains have dropped to such precarious levels Irrigation water normally keeping the river flowing higher has been virtually stopped with only enough now going down to meet the demands of towns along its banks. Today we see this river in many ways nearer to its natural pre-Dam state & a rare view to how it did look in times past, when with Summer & Drought it could even stop running...This was known to have happened & did so again between 1836-38, the Wiradjuri with man & animals alike suffering terribly for the lack of water. Large mobs of Emus were seen walking the dry sands of its bed their tongues hanging out in search of something to drink. In normal times of late Winter & Spring the Murrumbidgee would flood replenishing the billabongs with its waters & fish to be cared for by the Aborigines being an important food source.
Then there came Captain Charles Sturt of the 39th Military Regiment in Dec of 1829 exploring down the Murrumbidgee driven on by thoughts of an Inland Sea passed this way being accompanyed by George MacLeay the young son of the Colonial Secretary. His party of Harris, Hopkinson, Fraser & Clayton, the carpenter, in addition to two convicts & small supporting party with wagon carrying a 25' whaleboat carried in three sections when stopping at Pondebadgery Plains which we know today as Wantabadgery, replenished their supplies with some magnificent perch from this river.
Today these low water levels revealed recently the wreck of the Paddle Steamer Wagga Wagga in the Murrumbidgee near the present day town of Narrandera, I took a drive then of adventure to bear my own witness.
Within the skeleton of the Steamer remains just the boiler & drive axles to the Paddle wheels
Despite the passage of time I believe it is still possible to see scenes as Sturt & his party did in that December of 1829. Views over the Murrumbidgee albeit compressed with telescopic lenses on the cameras of today....We know vast areas of woodlands in the distance are gone, however in these compressed photos one is given the impression woodlands close by stretch to the distant hills of Kengal as they would have done back then. I went to this place by the river to fill my eyes with this view as those had before.
Mo ran on ahead & up the slope zeroing in with head held high at times on the scent of a fox being borne on the breeze to his little nose.
I saw the Fox run away up through the rocks long before Mo had arrived at its hiding place beneath the fallen branches of a tree. I hoped he would not be led to far afield & could find his way back, I had then time to take a photo out over the beginning of the river flood plain of trees.
The view over the river woodlands to Kengal where from here the young Wiradjuri men Peter & Jemmie who had guided this Explorer Sturt & his party along the river from Kimo near the Gundagai of today would go no further. This was either the boundary of their territory or they feared transgressing on further to where Sturt could see Native campfires at night.
Finally his Lordship arrives being quite out of breath but knowing what I do with a camera is not shy to pose at the summit
That being as far as he would go
I was reminded in travelling on that in these parts by the Murrumbidgee after Sturts exploration settlement ocurred which all to often happening quickly outpacing & outreaching the control of the Authorities, this saw many atrocities take place against the Aborigines. Some settlers took the law into their own hands & at an Island not far from Narrandera a place later to be called Murdering Island scores of the local Wiradjuri were herded together on the river & shot. Many others were killed when poison was introduced into water holes. In some cases Arsenic was put into flour out of which scones were made & given to the people which saw women & children run forward so as not to miss out. Game as in Emu & Kangaroo were driven off further reducing the food source. Along with introduced disease they had no immunity to by 1875 a Newspaper in Wagga Wagga reported the extinction of the Aborigine had taken place faster there than in other areas of the Colony to such an extent it was a rarity to see one on the streets.
It was about this time though in the early 1870s a young girl who listened intently to many conversations of her father was growing up at Brucedale just to the North of Wagga Wagga. Her name was Mary Gilmore & like her father she felt a compassion towards the Wiradjuri. She even spent time with them at their camps & wrote of Aborigines at the Houlaghans Ck, these same people could well have travelled by where I live today
Behind the trees to the side of the Highway at Brucedale is the school now standing empty that Dame Mary Gilmore attended. Interestingly Mary comments on a Bald Hill in the Malebo Range to the west of Wagga Wagga that runs almost to the river. In in her time she regards The Malebo as still being wild. On this hill at sundown the Natives would gather at Corroboree & she remembers hearing the Bull Roarers, with the sounds coming from dance & song filtering down to the surrounding land....It may have been this hill was kept bald intentionally by the Aborigines in using the wood for their fires & clear to look over the river valley & the Murrumbidgee passing below. In this way communicating with those up & down the river their custodianship. It may well have been they did not want to live on the St's of Wagga Wagga preferring to retreat back as many still do even today. Here to Sturt passed by & made camp not straying far from the River Flats so as not to have to carry the wagon containing the whaleboat over forested areas.
Modern Day Wagon wheel tracks through the trees by the River
There is always a timeless quality one feels by water at Sundown & here beside the Murrumbidgee is no exception... This being the 17 Mile travelling stock reserve west of town sees many such people camping for the weekend in moden times of the passing parade
Further Material can be sourced from the Charles Sturt University & The Mitchel Library on the many aspects to Charles Sturts Explorations
Old Days Old Ways : a book of Recollections by Dame Mary Gilmore
Wiradjuri Heritage Study Compiled by Dick Green available in either Book form or CD from the Wagga Wagga City Council
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Thursday, June 14, 2007, 02:03 PMRecently one day just on dark when inspecting sheep I had seen the fleeting figure of a Fox running quickly away in the half light along a fence at the approach of my vehicle. A lot of foxes like to leave their den, or as in this case a tree just on dark to begin their hunting for food during the night. Their diet can consist of anything from insects,mice,rabbits,birds including of course the domestic fowl, to discarded food in roadside bins, or any dead carrion. More importantly to the sheep farmer lamb !
Some foxes in times of plenty at Seasonal farm lambings even develop a taste for lambs tongue. As gruesome as it is they are known to chase a lamb to the point of being totally exhausted at which time the unfortunate lambs tongue will hang out. This the fox will sieze immediately & devour leaving the lamb to bleed to death & lay wasted the remainder of its body untouched.
Many years ago when shooting foxes at night from a farm vehicle using a strong Spotlight I encountered within its beam two foxes who had just run a lamb to this point & were so intent on the pursuit took no notice instead remaining focused on their prey. Needless to say one of which was dispatched with a Rifle shot aided with telescopic sighting leaving the other to flee into the night & the lamb gasping for air but none the less intact.
As my ewes are lambing & I no longer like shooting I decided to contact the Fox Hunters this being done it was on this cold frosty morning they came. There were three of them, the Longmore brothers from Junee Brian, Kevin & Laurie.
Perhaps a month ago now a lot of farmers in my district under took the community approach of baiting foxes with the very contentious Poison known as 1080. This particular poison is very lethal not only to foxes but all dogs & in many peoples minds a lot of other life forms in Natures food chain.
To my mind in the hands of the right people shooting targets singularly & only the vermin intended & they are dispatched of quickly & humanely.
Once a fox has ingested the 1cc of 1080 or any domestic dog for that matter by accident its fate is sealed...Not even the intervention of Veterinary assitance will save an un-intended victim. The death is lingering, slow & horrible to the extreme...Anyone who has ever witnessed the death of a farm dog this way will testify it is something one never wants to see again.
Pete the Fox Terrier is taken to the fox burrow entrance
Once released Pete disapears down the hole in an instant
After a few seconds Pete appears as this den whilst being recently used today is empty.
Another burrow is visited this time not a kilometer from where my sheep are lambing & Pete has gone down in a flash. This time the Fox Hunters are met with success as only after a short time a fox exits the den in full flight to be dispatched cleanly at about 20 Metres.
Pete does not come out of the den but instead can be heard barking underground meaning there is another fox. The Hunters are ready but this next fox would refuse to come out.
Pete is located underground by his barking then a hole is dug down to extricate him & hopefully any other foxes by first despatching them through a small hole made into the burrow.
While this digging took place I was informed with some humour, once they had to dig down 2 metres or just over 7' at one time to get said Pete out. This was not to happen again today fortunately & the ground was soft from the recent rain. However this reluctant fox had out manouvered Pete to another part of the dens interior being to cunning to make a run. Pete is then hauled out to the surface none the less looking very well pleased with himself.
From left to right Kevin Laurie & Brian Longmores whose names have been synonymous with Fox Hunting for over 50 yrs in the Junee district in which they are held in high regard for their most proffessional & honest manner in which they conduct this undertaking when coming onto farming properties.
Brian recalled earlier this morning how todays biggest cost is fuel & the price nowadays for skins will only Ave $13 to a top of $20. Against this is the best price ever recieved which was an Ave of $38 per skin back in 1977.
For the year 1978 they shot 642 foxes
Below is a link for more information in regard to the latest Development & Study of providing Fox control by DNA mapping of fox movements across this country from the very few original introduced animals.
I have & am still contributing specimens for this Study by the University of Western Australia
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Saturday, June 9, 2007, 10:02 PMLast Sunday morning was wet with light drizzling rain & a look out the bedroom window apon waking revealed some Kangaroos grazing the grasses in front of our home, their movements slow & deliberate in the wet. After such a long time of previous drought years without rain much to speak ofany falls now are very welcome, so it was that this morning view was a very nice sight....So light was the rain that we had not heard it falling on the tiled roof. The Roo's moved away towards the sanctuary of the pine grove with our rising in disturbing their breakfast...They always move back into the seclusion of these White Cypress trees for the day.
It was time for my White Dorper Ewes to begin lambing so it was with some excitement that through my Field Glasses later in the morning when the rain had set in I notices that one had taken herself away from the flock & was giving the restless tell tale signs of birth. It did not look normal so in calling Jen the wren to act as a Mid Wife we drove out prepared to have to deliver this new life of a lamb.
Ewe Z123 had given birth before we had arrived so it was pleasing to see all was well, it came as a surprise though & a disapointment to see her lamb was not all white as the breed should be. I expected her to have twins as is often the case with these sheep so we left Mother & offspring well alone despite the rainy conditions that were not cold or life threatening to one so vulnerable to this new world.
The day past by & still no sign of Mum going into labour with another lamb so the picture was one idylic of Mother & offspring
Nearby after the passing of the rain a more serious matter of who was the dominant male of the mob took place with this boxing display.
Ho Hum ! The girls have seen it all before
Later the next afternoon Mum sheep Z123 was seen to be laying down in a way that attracted my attention again which revealed with alarm that she was in fact in labour again...A quick phone call to the Vet Clinic which was at closing time was it would by best to take her in. This being done Mark Booth the young Veterinary being assisted by Leanne thankfully a young lady with slender hands & arm found this 2nd lamb sadly now deceased in a breeched position. Mum was given shots to better her recovery, with her & the born lamb being left in the trailer for the night at home. When inspecting at 10pm that night Mum was found to be deceased & information from Mark the next day was that the most likely cause of her passing was shock as sometimes happens in such cases.
I am as to a loss why she appeared to be acting in such a normal way....Also I have been "very" annoyed at myself for not checking if another lamb was present.
It is now over a week since this lamb was born & he has been given the name Lambert....I am reminded very much of the story or Lambert the Sheepish Lion as with this little fellow we have a lamb that is very much like a lion with the colouring of this mane he has.
Thankfully other Mums have had thier twins without problems but a nervous me has been on the phone to David Day at the Wagga Vet Clinic real time like any anxious person would be after this earlier trajedy.
Despite my best efforts of trying to foster Lambert with another Mum none want him & he is bunted away by them sometimes ruthlessly to the point of knocking him over.
The other lambs all white as the driven snow are frolicking, running & jumping together while Lambert looks on not quite game to join in. He has taken up residence in the old Fowl House in the Run with high fence where I have them all to protect against foxes. He sleeps alone on a bed of pea straw so that is some consolation from the cold nights without a Mum. It seems that Mo & myself are the only friends he has in the world so he looks for us constantly....Mo licks his face which brings a waggle of the tail & I of course have the milk bottle.
(To Be Continued)
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Thursday, May 31, 2007, 08:47 AMHello Perrywinkle
Trust all is well in your life & times at Warrawee. Nice of you to leave a message about the bats in my Guestbook...My search for you in WZ was unsuccessful, however your message has prompted me to do something about building a bat house. Your suggestion of hanging up bags is well founded as I remember years ago finding some bats in between jute seed bags my Grandfather had hanging up in a shed on a wire to keep safe from mice.
Finding the three bats the other morning in my rain guage was such a surprise...It is just one of those Nylex ones that is tapered. All were alive but a bit cold with the shakes when I tipped them out into the sheltered fork of a nearby Gum & covered them over with bark for the day.
With the loss of so many hollow trees I have the intent to put up nesting boxes for birds in my Reserve. Knowing how good the bats are at reducing mosquito numbers etc I have had the idea to also put up some homes for them as well. Last Summer I had found some of these bats in between sheets of ply board that I have standing up against a wall in my Shearing Shed so thought then they must be running out of places to call home.
When I have achieved setting up the Bat House which will have to wait for the Spring now I will report back to this Entry on my success or otherwise.
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Saturday, May 5, 2007, 09:10 AMFrom the Gold Fields of Junee Reefs comes another colourful Story from the pen of James Pratt
The year 1871 started well. The previous one had been a great year, and all the diggers went in for a great spree at New Year. Soon after Mr Kirkpatrick, the owner of the crusher, went to Wagga on business, he took with him a covered cart in which he used to camp at night. While he was camped one night at Wagga his breeches were stolen from under his head, and his boots - a pair of half Wellingtons - were also found to be missing as well as a pair of ladies boots which he had bought in Wagga. All the loose cash he had was in the pockets of the trousers. As luck would have it he had a second pair of "brees" and these he donned and proceeded home. He told his tale to the diggers, who were very much annoyed at their old friends misfortune. The next day there came along a young man to the Gate Hotel (This being located on the land known as the Pratt family farm The College about 2 miles to the North of Old Junee) who wished to sell a pair of ladys boots to your humble servant, but I did not buy. However, he made a deal about a mile further on at a boundary riders place, and thus being armed with a few shillings he made direct to the Reefs. He made for Mr Johnson's hotel and had a drink or two. Presently he espied a revolver on the shelf behind the bar. He said if he had that pistol he would have plenty of money. The landlord thought this a queer remark to make, and going around the front of the counter made to get hold of the man, but he was to quick, and bolted out of the front door. Some of the miners were just coming from dinner, and the landlord called out to one of them to catch the retreating man. The miners overhauled the fugitive in about 300 yards and brought him back to he hotel. There were about twenty men there when one of them passed the remark that he might have Mr Kirkpatricks boots and trousers on. Anyhow they sent for that gentleman and on arriving he at once identified the stolen articles, which the man was wearing. Next morning two of them took him to Wagga, where he was commited for trial. It appears he had a swag with him , which the police allowed him to keep in his cell during the night.. In the swag he had a billy can, and at night he broke this up and with it cut the boots & trousers into shreds, and the authorities had to provide him with fresh breeches before they could take him into court. When before the Bench he called on the police to produce the trousers, and boots and identify them, which, of course , they could not do. However, he was committed, and later on received a sentence of five years in Goulburn Gaol, the late Judge Hargraves complimenting Mr Johnson on the manner in which he had caught him. This fellow turned out to be a brother of Dunn, one of the Gilbert O'Mealy gang, who had been executed about a year ago.
On St Patricks Day Mrs Palmer held a race meeting at Old Junee where there was a great crowd present from the Reefs and Wagga, the money flying about in all directions. At this time the North Junee Station seemed to be going along well under the new manager, Mr McLean but unfortunately Mr Pine-Coffin took ill, and after a weeks illness the poor fellow passed away at the early age of 27 years, deeply regretted by all who knew him.
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