The photograph of three-year-old Mitchell Dickens helping his dad feed their cattle grabs my heart. You can see the intense concentration on his face as he shovels cottonseed off the side of the truck.
His parents, Justin and Amy Dickens, bought their 1020-hectare property near Yeoval in the NSW Central West six years ago and this is the first prolonged period of dry that they have had. The annual average rainfall is 650 millimetres, and so far they’ve had 102 millimetres this year. Despite this, the couple is so happy that they have achieved their dream of owning a property. “This dry time has not been easy, but it’s a bump in the road. We take measures in good years to set ourselves up a little bit better,” says Justin. Turn to page 82 to learn more about this inspiring couple’s approach to one of the many challenges climate throws at our farmers. Twelve-year-old Shep Taylor’s dog, Flash, was his “best present yet” two Christmases ago, as you’ll discover on page 26. The black-and-tan kelpie loves to work and she found it hard to sit still for photographer Clancy Paine — which is one of the reasons Shep’s palomino, Timmy, has the star role on this month’s cover. Shep has always loved dogs. “He’d come out with me when he was little and ask if he could take my dogs and work them. It’s something he’s dreamed of, to have his own to work,” says his dad, Hugh. I’m always fascinated by stories of people living in particularly remote areas of our country. Zanna and Matt Gale of Pincally Station are a great example of that — and also one of the most popular stories we have ever put up on our website, so we decided to catch up with them again. The long-planned renovation to open up the back of their house to the garden is now done and their home is an oasis to escape to at the end of a long day. Currently they have destocked to an extent and have some cattle on agistment chasing the feed. I loved what Matt had to say about that. “It doesn’t have to rain here, as long as it rains somewhere,” he said. Enjoy the issue.