Friday, February 20, 2015

Last week we ran away for the afternoon, with our farmer friend Helen.  She and hubby have a property about 20k away, in the Beetaloo Valley; she had to go and check the sheep troughs, and we went along to keep her company.  It was a hot day, but we were in the air-conditioned 4WD, and there was plenty of time to catch up on news and gossip and laughter.  Helen works such long hours that it's hard to spend time with her, so it was the perfect solution.

On the Beetaloo property there is a little settler's cottage, solidly built of stone and still in good condition.  The drive in is so rough, it must have been terrible in a horse and cart, because it was bad enough in the 4WD.
First things first; we went straight past the cottage, and up the hills behind to check on the Merino sheep agisted here over the summer.
 They have an amazing view up here, but they don't care about that; they are up here because there are a lot of tall shade trees over to the left, and they spend the hottest part of the day here.
There are several permanent springs here, and water troughs to supplement them, and we drove to them all, checking that the water was clean and the troughs filling correctly.  Dusty gave each one his seal of approval.
I've never been a fan of off-road driving; it's not so bad going up and down the hills, but I hate driving across the face of a slope with the car at crazy angle.  Not my cup of tea, but the scenery took my mind off that.
Part of the property was burnt during the bushfires last year, it must have been terrifying to watch the flames coming over the hills. That little spot of white to the right is the neighbour's house; not a good place to be when the fire came through.
The CFS stopped the fire here, so the damage could have been much worse.
There are many dead trees, but a few are shooting again.  It will be a long while till this hillside is covered with scrub and trees again.
 The grasstrees, or yuccas, love fire, some hillsides are just covered with them now; glad something came of the destruction.
Then it was back to the cottage, and the little almond orchard beside it.

 What must it have been like to be the woman of this house, and know that that this was the only haven for miles around.  People were tough back then, they had to be.
 I'm sure this was someone's pride and joy once, and they loved being able to walk beneath the shady trees and harvest a useful crop.  It's devastated now, but the ruined trees are still bearing.  We picked a small bag of almonds from one tree, but the others weren't quite ready, so we've planned a picnic in March to get the rest.  It's amazing that they've survived at all, but the nearby spring must have something to do with that.
 The cottage is an L-shape, and a lean-to was built to turn it into a square shape.  These doorways were outside doors once, that decorative brickwork was only used on exterior doorways.
The interior of the cottage is gloomy and dirty; the stonework is in great condition, but the floors are eaten out by termites, and the windows are filthy and birds have been nesting in some rooms.
The stove in the kitchen is complete, except for the flue; somebody cooked meals for their family here, and was proud of the cupboards either side, and the faux-marble paintwork on the mantle.
It would have been a hard place to live, but beautiful in winter when the hills are covered in green grass, and that spring nearby would have been literally a life-saver.  Our early settlers were amazing people.



2 comments:

Chookyblue...... 3:34 PM  

I would love the cottage............

Sandy 10:32 PM  

How very interesting - like the Old West here in the US. you're right, those early settlers were tough.

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