Death By Tomato and Rural Aid

Most Aussies would have heard of the charitable organisation Rural Aid. Established in 2015 in the middle of a drought Rural Aid became known for raising funds to send road trains loaded with bales of hay (the Buy A Bale Campaign) to areas right across the nation in order to keep animals alive.

To this day Rural Aid continues to “provide critical support including water, fodder (hay), financial and counselling assistance to help farmers (primary producers) who endure drought, flood and bushfires”. Oh, and add mouse plagues to the list.

One of my favourite initiatives is the creation of the Farm Army whereby volunteers assist farmers with tasks such as building fences, farm sitting or simply by lending a hand. I ‘de love to participate in this program though I am too much like my father: my  practical and manual skills make me as useful as an ashtray on a motor bike!

Rural Aid are calling out for help in connecting the City to Country communities this Christmas. They are requesting that children make a Christmas card for a farmer, including a personal message, to remind our farmers that we value their contribution.

Here are the Instructions:

To help Rural Aid distribute them as quickly as possible, participants need to follow these steps:

  1. The cards cannot be larger than 120mm x 170mm. You could fold a bigger card down to that size but this is the MAXIMUM size we will be sending on.
  2. Do not put your cards in an individual envelope. Instead, place all of them in a bigger envelope and mail them to Rural Aid at PO Box 1342, Sunnybank Hills QLD 4109
  3. Rural Aid will have thousands of envelopes here ready to put your card in and send onto an Aussie farmer.
  4. Please ensure that all cards have a personal message written inside, and are not blank.

All cards must be at Rural Aid’s Brisbane office no later than November 17th, 2021.

So take the screens away from the Little People and set up a craft station : coloured pens, glitter, streamers, whatever it takes. If I had Little People at home I’de be rewarding them with a grazing platter with carrot, celery sticks, cheese, and olives reminding them about where our food comes from. But then my kids would tell you I’m a nag…

Not tomatoes though. I grow tomatoes. My six tomato plants are killing me. Eating them every night for three weeks so far I’m sure there is a kidney stone in the offering.

Pardon the lack of styling. Useless, I told you.


* When we used to travel as a family I was forever pointing out things to the children to keep them amused: changing topography and vegetation, landmarks and historic sites.Geez Louise, did they get the poops or what. Twenty years later, and now sitting in the back seat of the car, all I get is “Mo, do you know who is buried in that cemetery ?” or “look at that Canola field”.

Cows, Gas, & Bottle Trees

Roma is situated 480 kms west of Brisbane and is the administrative centre for the Maranoa Region, Queensland. It is one of those country towns I’de heard of but had no interest in visiting. 

Stupid me.

The town was incorporated in 1867 and is named after Lady Diamantina (née di Roma), the wife of Sir George Bowen, the Governor of Queensland at the time. Currently with a population of over 6,000 Roma is big enough to provide plenty of choice for all the essential services with a smattering of the arts and culture and a strong connection to heritage.

It’s a Cow Town with the largest store cattle saleyards in the Southern Hemisphere. This means you can get a good steak at any pub in town. Don’t dis this : most of our better quality meat is exported overseas. It may also account in part why so many of my female millennial friends make the journey west all frocked up for the picnic race meetings and the annual rodeo.

Believe it or not, the saleyards are a popular tourist attraction and a visit is highly recommended. I loved it – who ever thought that you’de ever hear such a statement?

The other big tourist attraction is the Big Rig and Oil and Gas Museum. Bizarre, granted, but a fascinating history of our Natural Gas and Oil industries. It’s well worth paying extra for the guided tour or to the evening light show for all the fascinating tidbits.

Who knew you could sell tickets for this kind of venture?

Roma’s War Memorial and Heroes Avenue are Heritage listed. Residents planted a Bottle Tree for each of the local lads who died during World War 1, and Heroes Avenue is lined with 140 trees, each bearing a soldier’s name. 


Attached to Roma’s Library is a delightful Art Gallery which is well worth a visit, and as per usual in a country town, the clothing shops sell quality over quantity.

Also add the Bush Gardens to your Must Do List. The garden is 14 hectares wide and contains many species that Roma is famous for such as the Mulga, Coolibah and Brigalow.

My visit coincided with the last legs of this years winter mouse plague. All I can say about this is that you don’t understand the situation until you’ve experienced it. Nothing quite says Good Morning like greeting the day with half a dozen dead mice at the front door.

I’m looking forward to a return to Roma for the races. Guess I’m just over the rodeo stage of life …….and the mouse stage.

Helping our rural communities

During recent road trips we noticed several dead gum trees that had been painted blue. Recently I learned that these blue trees were part of a project that started in 2014 to tackle mental health and suicide in regional Australia. ( refer the Blue Tree Project)

Drought Angels, a small organisation created to support Australian farmers, also  began operating in 2014. Their mission is to “provide direct and timely financial assistance, essential resources and meaningful relief for Primary Producers across Australia impacted by drought and natural disasters.”

Drought Angels run on financial donations and from a charity retail outlet in Chinchilla, in rural Queensland. After the horrendous bush fires two years my money went to Drought Angels and Rural Aid because I figured that if farmers weren’t being fed, and if their livestock weren’t getting fed, then neither would I.

Don’t worry: I’m not spruiking for $$$$$$. Believe it or not, this is another one of those stories about something good coming out of Covid. Hard to believe when half of my country is still in Lockdown……

With so many families home-schooling and adopting new teaching methods Drought Angels requested letters and artwork from children to include in the food hampers/gifts/care packages delivered to farmers. The concept was designed so that farmers felt they were receiving a “thank you” as opposed to charity, and as a tool to teach children about farming and rural communities.

Drought Angels are short of letters and creations to include in parcels at the moment and are asking for contributions from the Little People.

Creations can be sent to: 

Drought Angels 

PO Box 451

Chinchilla  Qld  4413

Believe it or not I really wish I had some Little People with whom to share some craft projects 😦

War Memorials on my travels

Did you know that there is a Queensland War Memorial Register, currently with over 1300 sites listed?

War memorials resulted from a ground swell of community sentiment going back to the Boer War when memorials were usually situated within cemeteries. With the mass casualties of the First World War affecting almost every family communal memorials in prominent public places were established as a tangible symbol of national mourning. 

These memorials are ever so present in country towns where the names of the fallen indicate just how many local families lost their husbands, fathers and sons. Some are big, some are small. Each are poignant.

Roma, Qld
Longreach, Qld
Ilfracombe, Qld
Chinchilla, Qld
Exhibition in Winton, Qld, in a Troop Train transporting soldiers to the Big Smoke. ( Located in the Waltzing Matilda Museum)

These are just a selection from my recent travels. I’ve always been a sucker for these memorials and how they correspond to a township’s history. When I was in my teens and working for Veterans Affairs ( then Repat) my dream was to travel Australia and photograph all those in small, country towns. Copped the ” responsibility lecture” instead. In those days I listened to what I was told. How things change.

For more information go http://www.qldwarmemorials.com.au

Longreach – Lonely or Otherwise

With house guests and travels my recent reading history is abysmal.

Lonely In Longreach” by Australian author, Eva Scott, is chick lit that I picked up after having spent a few days in Longreach, 1000 kms north west of Brisbane.

I wont bore you with more holiday snaps though Longreach is home to some really big hitters in the tourist department. The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which opened in 1988, showcases the history and the culture of life in rural Australia. It is nothing short of spectacular : informative, user friendly, and totally fascinating.

Sitting in the outside arena watching a drover working his horses in the daily show reminded me of Errol Flynn in the 1950 movie Montana. (Yeah, I wonder about the things that go around in my head too.)

The Qantas Founders Museum is another Must Do as is the Sunset Cruise on the Thomson River.

All of these venues are mentioned in the book “Lonely In Longreach”. Which in turn had me thinking of another movie : Sleepless In Seattle. Same premise – kid worries his widowed Dad is lonely so fixes him up by signing him up to a Dating App and arranges for his choice of stepmother to fly in from the Big Smoke to give a career chat at the local high school. We all know how the story ends, don’t we?

Then I had to read “Everything Is Beautiful” by Eleanor Ray for Book Club.

Amy is a loner who suffered major heartbreak a decade ago and deals with it by collecting bits and pieces. Read: she is a hoarder with a house full of junk.

Readers were meant to be sympathetic to Amy’s situation though consensus amongst this group of readers was that Amy needed to “have a teaspoon of concrete and harden up”. Not the outcome the author was looking for, I would suggest , and I wondered if this was the Australian readers’ take as opposed to the English ( which is Ray’s ethnicity). Okay, agreed, the answer could be that my Book Club is full of neanderthals……..

Thank goodness for the coming Pop Up Book Sale fundraiser on the weekend.

NOTE:

Coming out of a three day Lockdown which had me housekeeping like crazy. I’ve deleted 350 “Followers” from Word Press. My apologies but at this stage of the game I am not in any need of nutritional or financial advice, information about cryptocurrency nor the stockmarket, and nor do I require the services of a pretty Asian lass. Don’t even start me on Life Coaches…….

Barcaldine, Western Queensland

Barcaldine is a sheep and cattle town 520 kms by road west of Rockhampton, and over 1000 kms from Brisbane, on route to the popular tourist destinations of Longreach and Winton. 

Affectionately known as Barcy, most travellers on the road through town stop to peruse the Tree of Knowledge. The current tree is a copy, the original having been vandalised in 2006, and represents the trials and tribulations of the Great Shearers Strike, one of Australia’s earliest disputes between union and non-union labour, and an event that is today acknowledged as having led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party. It is a glorious sight by night and the original rootball remains under glass – even Liberal voters are impressed.

A recent addition to Barcaldine is the Desert Dreaming Centre.

Local First Nation woman, Cheryl Thompson, is a big believer in “closing the gap” and “sharing the Dreaming” and runs a hostel in town, with no Government funding, for children from indigenous communities who want to complete their secondary schooling. Remote areas do not have internet or other facilities so the School of Air is not an option. These students learn about work ethic and managing finances through weekend shifts at the Ridgee Didge Cafe, and are also involved in traditional Aboriginal activities and learn about the local Iningai history of the area through Thompson’s Desert Dreaming Centre, where they follow a curriculum that combines school work with learning about culture, art and tourism. 

There is a dedicated work room which is strewn with artists’ materials where the students work on projects which are then sold at the Desert Dreaming Centre’s Gallery.

The Desert Dreaming Centre is also a tourist destination from which Thompson offers a variety of authentic aboriginal cultural experiences. Activities include :

Ocre Workshops, 

Boomerang Workshops

Creating artworks and message sticks. 

Sitting around a corroboree ring stories, song, and dances are shared, often involving the students, who are also being trained in other arms of Cheryl’s business activities such as the Barcy Base Camp (hospitality) and Trackers Tour Company( tourism). The latter includes the concept of Dreamtime Guides who are trained by Thompson to present culturally appropriate and culturally safe information.

We enjoyed the Desert Dreaming Dance and Dinner Experience around burning log fires whilst being entertained by the young dancers who explained the cultural significance of each performance.

Cheryl’s partner, Paul Stumkat, is a renown palaeontologist with a passion to further open up the Queensland Outback’s Dinosaur Trail. Together they present a blend of palaeontology and living cultures in order that tourists gain a better understanding of both the past and present life of outback Australia.

Paul has developed workshops that he uses to this result which I found both fun and educational. Here’s my caste of a fossil footprint of a small dinosaur, and I’ve also gained some experience in identifying the tracks of both kangaroos and emus. For the Little People there is even a sandpit where they can unearth a dinosaur skeleton. I warned you : mega fauna freaks are everywhere in the outback!


Yeah, so artwork is not my forte……..

NOTE: The students currently participating in Thompson’s dream have a 100 per cent school attendance rate. Now that’s called ” closing the gap”!

LIFE LESSON :

A reminder to never dismiss a country town. You would be surprised by what lies lurking…..

Winton, Outback Queensland.

Winton is over 1450 kilometres northwest of Brisbane. It has three major attractions that draw travellers from all across the country:

  • The Waltzing Matilda Centre, the only museum in the world built around a song.
  • Dinosaur bones. I cannot tell you how many professional and amateur palaeontologists I came across.( And I thought I was eccentric!)
  • Black Opals. 

Because I’m skipping the tourist brochure bits here are my personal highlights of Winton :

  1. O’kay, we can’t completely bypass Banjo Paterson, (Andrew Barton Paterson 1864 – 1941), journalist, author, and the bush poet who wrote Australia’s unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda – whilst visiting Winton. Indeed, the North Gregory Hotel is the venue where it was first performed in 1895.

         This was a beaut find (as was the steak sanger) but not what excited me. No, it was the Daphne Mayo glass etchings of the jolly swagman in the dining room named in her honour. Who was Daphne Mayo, you ask ? Mayo was a significant 20th-century artist, most prominently known for her work in sculpture.

           I also saw my very first Coolibah Tree. I honestly thought they were like Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree…….and unicorns.

        2. The Royal Theatre, established in 1918, is one of only two remaining open-air picture theatres in Australia still in operation.  

Wednesday Night is Nostalgia Night which is a guided presentation that recreates the experience of going to the movies during the 1960s.  

Many movies have been filmed in the area including The Proposition and Mystery Road, and the Royal Theatre now hosts the annual Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival in June (following on from the Writer’s Festival).

          3.  The Age Of Dinosaurs is well worth a visit and not only is the area a veritable garden of fossilised dinosaur bones that keep popping up on cattle stations, but this venue makes the Top Ten Dark Skies in the world. So not only is this place jumping with mega fauna freaks but stargazers as well.

This photo looks down on Channel Country, where water run off after big rains channels into a basin: 

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him

In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,

And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.

                       From Banjo’s Clancy of the Overflow.

Road Trip: Queensland Outback

Aussies are most certainly travelling : mobile homes, caravans, utes loaded up with camping equipment, and families packed into sedans are keeping the outback townships of Queensland busy as. Indeed, word on the street has it that Longreach, 1600 kms out of Brisbane (our capital) is fully booked until November (when the weather turns stinking hot and only for the brave and/or stupid).

Looking out a window – Longreach

My adventures have been many and memorable. I thought I’de share some that aren’t highlighted in the tourist brochures. Currently in transit between Tambo and Augathella, two rural townships, both with a population of approx 400. The former is famous for it’s Teddy Bears and historic buildings, the latter for its bushrangers, its Meat Ants – don’t go there – and it was where the movie, Smiley, was filmed in the 1950’s.

Queensland is a big state, bigger than Texas, and you often travel for several hours before finding a township, and not necessarily one with bathroom facilities or appropriate refreshment facilities.

Life Lessons gained from this trip:

  1. Always travel with water and a few supplies. Not always available and at inappropriate times.
  2. Even though some small towns may give off a very real *Wolf Creek feel don’t hesitate to investigate. There are so many hidden gems to discover, like this one at Movern, population 250

So how do you know when you’ve reached The Outback? The landscape is as flat as a pancake for as far as the eye can see, roads are straight and go on forever, and emus. Lots of emus.

And the sunsets are sensational!

Thomson River, Longreach


*Aussie horror movie which saw a couple of young travellers butchered. Literally. I’ve not been a fan of meat hooks since.

Silos, Rivers and a Boneyard

Other than the astonishing artwork on silos and murals in some of the country towns in the Southern Country Queensland landscape I was honestly taken aback by the beauty of the rivers.

Firstly, I didn’t realise that there were so many waterways in that part of Qld – the Balonne, Macintyre, Moonie and the Condomine – and that they all have a tendency to flood. My road trip provided a better understanding of why so many of our early poets and writers romanticised the river systems, the life blood providers, with the magnificent gum trees along the waters edge.

Where the lone creek, chafing nightly in the cold and sad moonshine,
Beats beneath the twisted fern-roots and the drenched and dripping vine;
Where the gum trees, ringed and ragged, from the mazy margins rise,
Staring out against the heavens with their languid gaping eyes…….”

– Henry Kendell : The Wail In The Native Oak

Never was the river more appreciated than at Nindigully, with the Grey Nomads out in force at Queensland’s oldest (1864) licensed pub.

If it looks familiar that’s because the Nindigully Hotel was used for filming Hugh Jackman’s first film in the ‘90’s – Paperback Heroes – where he plays a truckie with a penchant for writing bodice rippers.

( NOTE : No apologies for still preferring Todd McKenney as The Boy From Oz).

I have always loved the monuments in our country towns honouring the lives of those lost during times of conflict. They provide so much history about how much families and local industry lost during wartime.

Don’t even get me started on the history that can be found in cemeteries – but can I recommend Dunwich Boneyard on North Stradbroke Island for sinking ships, Spanish Flue, Leprosy, and Insanity?

The Freedom Tree at Surat
The Pilots Memorial at St George. I wrote a book review a while back on The Missing Man. This was Len Waters story : a decorated indigenous ace fighter pilot who couldn’t get a job after the war. Tragic.
And a summation of Wandoan’s history.

Silos And Murals – Part 2

Forty kms out of Toowoomba along the highway to Millmerran you bypass the town of Pittsworth. Take your foot off the accelerator or you’ll drive past some of the prettiest murals along the trek each depicting the township’s history, culture, produce and attractions.

It’s amazing how much you learn from a mural and how many fellow travellers you meet along the way. I had to google Arthur Postle, a Pittsworth lad with the nickname “ The Crimson Flash” who held records in running in the early 1900’s, racing all around the world.

Another 40kms along the highway and this greets you at Millmerran.

Just WOW with parkland and onsite parking where you can stretch the legs. ( And a coffee cart. Yay!)

Just up the road is the Visitor Information Centre housed in a defunct railway carriage which is worth a visit in order to pick up a brochure about the historical murals dotted throughout the district.

My ex brother-in-law lived in Millmerran for a time. Because I didn’t like him one bit by association I did not like Millmerran. I know; makes me sound horrible but you wouldn’t have like the dipstick either.

I owe you an apology, Millmerran – what a lovely little town!

100 kms down the track is Yelarbon, with a population of 350 and with 8 grain silos covered with the most magnificent artwork telling the story of When The Rain Comes using over a 1000 litres of paint.

Australia is a big country, and Queensland is bigger than Texas, so you can drive vast distances and see nothing but landscape. Luckily I’m partial to landscape.

Last drive for the day, thirty minutes west to Goondiwindi.


Get a good nights sleep. You’re going to need it.

NOTE:

All of these rural towns have so much more to offer. In this instance I am restricting the attractions to murals and painted silos.