‘We’ needed to go to check and repair fences across the creeks where the heavy rains in April had washed them away. Our first destination was adjacent to Carmen Well. Jake drove us south on the track out of the yard and headed down what had been the main road between Adelaide on the south coast of Australia and Darwin in the north via Alice Springs. This is the southern route of the track we had taken on our first walk when we had set off to the north. There is now the Stuart Highway, the metalled road, covering this route, running in parallel with the newly reprised Ghan railway.
We had to travel about a mile off the track, across the wild terrain to reach the crossing with sections of land being very soft from the recent rainfall. It was quite imperative not to get the Landcruiser stuck which Jake managed fairly successfully. He has been driving in this country since he was about 5, even if he did start with motorbikes, his usual mode of transport around the station. We reached the breach in the fence at the creek but there was still a significant amount of standing water and he was reluctant to get all that wet and cold so that repair waits for another day.
We came back to the homestead to collect Frankie whilst Jake transferred to the bike, as the truck only seats 3 people. We then headed west to where the creek runs close to Ethel Well. This section was quite dry on the surface and a long stretch of fencing had been flattened and broken by the wide expanse of water which had flowed during the flood, delivering the debris which would build up against the pickets (fence posts) and barbed wire until they surrendered and broke.
There seemed to be little sign of any fence at all for about 150yds but, starting where it was toppling over, we gradually and very carefully, due to the undergrowth and whatever may be lurking in it, started extracting the buried and tangled wires and posts. We managed to retrieve most of the section up to a tree adjacent to the main waterway. Jake fashioned a repair to the the broken wire with a handy tool for regaining tension whilst I helped Frankie hammer the pickets back in and tie the wire back onto them.
The next task was to excavate the fencing buried under the silt on the main river bed. It had snapped off completely from the other side of the bank and disappeared, in what would have been, downstream. There is only so much pulling you can do to try to release it so eventually Jake and Roger had to resort to digging it out. They conceded defeat on the last picket, but loss of one $4 (£2) second hand picket was deemed acceptable. Roger learnt a bit more about fence repairing under Jake’s tutelage.
When we had completed the repairs Jake set off on the bike with his rifle and a massive hunting knife to see if he could restock the freezer!! Needless to say you can never find a feral animal when you want one but fall over them when you don’t. Caspar’s fate is still in doubt (fortunately he just hasn’t got much meat on him!)
The main task for the following day was gardening. Roger and Jake spent the morning replacing the flat tyre on the bulldozer or loader as it is called here. Meanwhile Frankie and I dug out the overgrown bed which housed a beautiful bougainvillea and some amaryllises, although they were struggling to survive in the compacted bed, the latter more so as the calf had decided they were very tasty but he has now gone.
We enlarged the beds using huge sleepers which we retrieved from the ever-benevolent dump and dug over the hard compressed soil in the extension. By this time the boys had got the loader working and brought some fresh soil for the lawn to be re-seeded, some silt to bank up the new bed and another dumper full of cow and camel poo for substance. They seemed very pleased with the outcome.
Jake went on to do some major re-landscaping by literally bulldozing a tree and copse which had spread unchecked. This was quite near the house so the rest of us were on snake duty to get rid of any escapees as they evaded the wrath of the great yellow monster. Sadly none were forthcoming, apparently because it had been so wet in this particular patch of undergrowth from the overflow. However Jake did manage to retrieve a legless lizard to show us and no, it wasn’t drunk!
We raked up the fallen eucalyptus leaves and set five small bonfires alight to finish tidying up. As the leaves were so dry I thought they’d disappear very quickly but the oil and gum they hold meant that they took longer to burn. Thus releasing a wonderful combination of wood smoke and menthol across the garden and onto our bedding, hanging on the washing line. The bedroom smells lovely now. A can of beer outside whilst tending these aromatic piles under a glorious pink sky in the last rays of a setting sun was a super way to end the day.