A diversion on Burk’s Island

2 November and 5 to 7 November 2019

We had our wettest night to date in the tent on the night of our cinema trip. About 20mm of rain fell on Beachport. We managed to stay mainly dry but had several leaks that needed mopping up in the morning. Leaving the tent to dry out we gave Toni a call to take her up on her kind offer of a visit to the farm.

Toni and Kevin run Burk’s Island Farm just outside Beachport. This was not their first career. Kevin worked as the local vet previously and they took on the farm as they wound down to retirement! They have about 6000 acres of land and farm both sheep and cattle. And that’s not it – they have more cattle at another property further away.

When we arrived, the sheep had just been sheared and Toni took us to the shearing shed to talk us through the process. It hasn’t changed a lot since the days of sheds like the one we saw in the Kinchega National Park. The itinerant shearers arrive and work from about 7am to 5pm to get the work done. The wool is pressed and baled ready to go off to be sold.

Compared to Trilby Station, this farm was so lush and green. The land around here is almost marshy so they can have a lot more animals per acre. The cows eyed us with suspicion as Toni drove us around their vast fields full of limestone chunks.

Stefan was interested to learn all about the energy used to run the water pumps around the farm, some by new solar panels and some still by the older wind generators.

Toni took us to an area of the farm with an unusual feature, a spongy hillock of peaty, boggy earth which was springy under our feet.

On the way back to the car, I walked ahead. In the long grass I glimpsed something long and thin and completely still. Getting closer I realised it was a snake, a fairly small one, but a snake all the same. It was so still that I called out to the others “look, its a dead snake“. As Toni and Stefan caught up we realised it wasn’t dead when it started to move off ever so slowly into the grass. It was so well camouflaged that it was hard to follow it on its way. Can you spot it? It looked suspiciously like an Eastern Brown Snake, one of Australia’s deadliest. A tourist in the Northern Territory had just died of a bite. I was glad I was wearing shoes and resolved to be extra cautious when walking in long grass again!

And that should have been the exciting end of a perfect outing to another, albeit very different, Australian farm.

We returned to where we had parked the car outside the sheds and found Kevin and this…

Stupidly we had left the car right where Kevin least expected a car to be and he had reversed right into it! But, in the perfect example of how small Australian communities work, within half an hour (and on a Saturday) Toni had spoken to their good friend, the local panel beater, and made arrangements for the repair.

As Kevin had so expertly limited the damage just to the passenger side door we could still lock it and use the car. We had three days before the new door would arrive so headed off, dent and all, for our planned trip to the Grampians (blog post to follow).

When we returned to take the car to the menders, Toni and Kevin very kindly offered us the use of one of their houses on the property and we were extremely grateful. For two very rainy and windy nights we enjoyed the warmth of its solid walls, a comfy bed, great views across the farm and a very furry, purry neighbour.

Our other neighbours were Toni and Kevin’s son Gerard, who works on the farm, and his wife and young sons. Little George and Harvey didn’t worry about snakes, running round in bare feet outside!

While the car was being fixed we got to experience a day in the life on Burk’s Island. It was time for the steers to have their vitamin jab (actually it was a copper jab). What’s the difference between a steer and a bull? Toni’s 9 year old grandson will tell you. “It’s got no balls“! Gerard and Kevin had already rounded up about 400 of them into the yard and we donned borrowed, sensible boots to help.

When I say help, I mean largely stand around, getting in the way, asking incessant and naive questions whilst Toni and Kevin expertly jabbed each of the steers. I like to think I was helping by opening the gate to let the next lot through but I probably wasn’t!

With Tick fixed and as good as new we were not at all disappointed to have had an extended stay in Beachport. We were so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time on the farm and learn more about Toni and Kevin’s life.

Thank you Toni and Kevin for the warm welcome to a rainy Beachport, your help with the car and kind hospitality. We hope we didn’t get in the way too much!