Okay, so every week might have been a bit of a stretch.
Been with my hosts just over 2 weeks and settling in pretty well. Although the mango season doesn’t start until November, I’m working as a general labourer at the orchard getting the place ready for the frantic 6-week picking session coming up. This mostly includes cleaning, moving crates and tools, preparing processing areas, and lugging sheet metal around to repair the packing shed roofs. On the plus side, every now and then I get to do something like take a cherry picker for a joyride.
I won’t be picking, so odds are I’ll only ever get to drive these around the lot for fun.
When I’m not at the orchard, I’m at my hosts home, about 30-40 minutes away from the orchard (to put it in perspective, they live between Townsville and Ayr – which is approx. 90 minutes travel distance) where I’m doing general housework along with gardening, maintaining the vegetable patches and chicken tending.
The house is pretty cool. They aren’t connected to any water mains and run the house on solar power collected by the panels on the roof. All the water is collected from the mountain behind them, and has to be pumped into a giant tank on the roof (some of the freshest water you’ll ever drink). The gardens and additional water is filled with rainwater since it doesn’t need to be as fresh. Thanks to the sun it receives, and the fresh water, you honestly couldn’t tell the house didn’t have either…except when the toilet clogs up and you suddenly find yourself having to help clear the septic tank which I did today (shudders).
My hosts Annita and Barry also have a cockatoo called Charlie (who is vicious to anyone but Annita and I’m not allowed to go near), chickens (which are included in my duties and include a very evil rooster), as well as a turkey and chick (a.k.a Christmas dinner). The turkey belongs to a friend of Annita, and has been loaned to her to raise the chick to self sufficiency. Originally had 5, but 2 ran afoul of one of the dogs, and the other 2 vanished along the way, possibly falling to Izzy, the resident cat (who was named from her rescue, when the big question was ‘IS SHE gonna live or IS SHE gonna die?’). Of course, the main animal attraction is the dogs.
Honey, a little princess who lives to be cuddled, Abby, a shitzu cross who never learned how to give up a toy, and Laila, the large outside dog whose getting on in years. Abby is the only dog Annita has ever gotten out of a pet store (made the mistake of going in and seeing one alone in a corner), since she usually rescues them (Honey was brought to her by family. She belonged to neighbours who were abusing her, while Laila was quite literally found at the side of the road half dead). Making sure they’re all properly fed, watered and entertained when I’m here alone is something they wont let me forget.
They also used to have a cattle dog called Jed. Unfortunately he suffered a snake bout just under 2 months ago and never made it to the vet in time. This far out in the bush, this is sadly common, so when Annita spotted a brown snake in the garden (first time I’ve ever been in biting distance of a venemous snake that didn’t have pexiglass between us), the 2 of us had to take it out before it got near the smaller dogs (who would be lucky to make it to the car, never mind the vet).
However, since Laila spends a lot of time at the orchard now (she likes to follow Barry), Annita has been wanting a large dog for the house. Didn’t want to buy though, as the popularity of cattle dogs in Australia is their biggest downfall. Everyone wants one, but people in the cities don’t have the space and time to give them the exercise and stimulation this dog needs. As such, every cattle dog she’s ever had was picked up off Gumtree for next to nothing from someone realising this very fact.
So, during a break at the orchard yesterday, we fired up the computer and had a look at what was available around Townsville. There were none for free, but there was a rather spunky looking red cattle dog in the city going for $50. Several hours later, everyone was off to have a look.
Owners had once run a shelter, but it had since closed down and ‘Brandy’ was the last of the guests. 18 months old female cross (with what, we don’t know, though the owners suggested bull arab) with a slight snapping jaw habit. They decided to take her (though Barry decided to tell everyone in the car that he hadn’t wanted to take her – really, why wait until its too late to take her back before you say that?), and once she’d been chicken-and-turkey-checked (absolute angel, no problem at all), she’s been given the run of the outdoors…and I’ve been ‘encouraged’ to help train her. Goodie.
Right now quite enjoying the outback, although my hosts have recently warned me that the mango season looks to be late this year. Instead of starting at the start of November, it wont begin until near the end – which means me making any money, and in fact the amount of work available is a lot less than previously expected. I can still stay and do work for my regional, but its not going to be exactly what I signed up for. Watching helpx and gumtree just in case something else of interest pops up, but given the trouble I had finding this job, not sure leaving would be the smart move.