This week I helped my girlfriend Toni Swain cater for the Wombramurra Black Simmentals Annual Bull Sale This sale is particularly special to me because owners Peter and Judy Howarth introduced us to Nundle and helped us settle in and make our way. I walk past the Wombramurra Saleyards several days a week with my dog Polly.
When our boys and I play in Nundle Creek, the neighbouring Wombramurra Black Simmental bulls peer at us with curiosity, attracted by the noise and movement.
Over the past few months we have seen the magnificent bulls being prepared for the sale.
Owner, Peter Howarth, and manager, Andrew Chapman, have a distinctive method of preparing the bulls so they are in excellent condition.
Large groups of bulls graze narrow strips of fenced pasture, verdant green feed up to their bellies, black as a country night sky.
The groups eat the pasture out, covering the soil with trampled pasture, manure and urine, and are moved on to the next strip, a planned holistic grazing method developed by Allan Savory.
On the day of the sale flags flutter a sense of occasion at the Wombramurra Saleyards’ trademark black painted timber gate entrance.
Past the driveway corridor planting of mature gums the bulls are displayed in timber fenced pens. Peter Howarth and Andrew Chapman talk with the agents handling the auction sale and prospective buyers start to arrive.
Toni has been at the sale complex since 6am. She is catering for 100 people and sits making Curried Egg and Lettuce Sandwiches, while her partner Jeff “Gibbo” Gibson chops onions. Toni has been cooking for days – Chicken and Vegetable Pies, Chicken and Vegetable Quiche, Vegetable Quiche, Beef and Vegetable Soup, and Shredded Beef in Spicy Gravy and half a dozen cakes and slices – in her Rayburn wood fired cast iron enameled oven. This is fortunate as only the day before Nundle’s electricity supply was cut off for five hours. Toni could still cook without power.
By mid morning prospective bull buyers and stock and station agents amble their way to the catering shed decorated by Judy Howarth with seasonal flowering golden wattle.
It is soon clear that the traditional fare of Scones with Homemade Strawberry Jam and Whipped Cream, and Marinated Steak Sandwiches with Fried Onion and Salad are the popular choice.
After midday it is time for the business end of the day. The bulls have been moved from their pens to the cattle yards behind the auction stand with tiered bench seating and a raised shelter for the auctioneer.
A bull kicks up dust in the yards, oblivious to the care and time put into his presentation.
The auctioneer expertly scans the audience for bids and closes sales to Nundle, Mudgee, Gulong and beyond.
Toni drops in on her way home with payment thanks in leftovers.