Lifelong connection at Ti-Tree Springs

Rain, hail or shine: Wainie Robertson and Wisty Halloran with Wainie's horse - taking shelter from a storm that blew in while they were drenching cattle. Photo: Stephanie van Eyk
Rain, hail or shine: Wainie Robertson and Wisty Halloran with Wainie's horse - taking shelter from a storm that blew in while they were drenching cattle. Photo: Stephanie van Eyk

When two Walcha graziers first moved to Ti-Tree Springs more than 50 years ago as little girls, there were no modern conveniences like electricity, and life on the land was hard and quite isolated.

Wainie Robertson and Wisty Halloran are both strong capable women and excellent horsewomen with a durable connection to the land, that was shaped in part by their childhood, and by their ongoing stewardship of the property east of Walcha.

We are sharing their story as part of our National Agriculture Day celebrations.

When Wisty and Wainie were aged nine and 10, their parents moved to a property in Uralla, but then after a few years, they made another move. 

"Our parents decided to come to Walcha because it was better country," Wisty said.

"Our mother's family is from Adaminaby - her family had been there for a long time and there is still family there.

"She grew up on a property and we have a strong matriarchal line of women who have been on the land."

She jokes that the women in the family had always tended to marry horsemen.

"They never married mechanics and we joke with machinery that you just give it a spell like a horse and it will come good," Wainie said.

The girls did correspondence for their primary years before boarding at what is now O'Connor Catholic College, Armidale, but used to be a girls' boarding school run by nuns.

"There was no electricity when we first came here, just a wood chip stove," Wisty said. "It was a very rural life."

After school, they both moved to Sydney and pursued careers.

Wisty only came home to the farm permanently after her mother Mitty died about 15 years ago and runs the place, and a neighbouring block that she bought, with the help of Wainie who lives at Glen Morrison, south of Walcha with her husband Andrew.

"After my mother died I came back because it was either that or sell it and I wanted to keep it going," Wisty said.

Ti-Tree Springs is home to a self-replacing cow herd that's a mix of Herefords and black baldies.

Hard work: Wisty Halloran and her sister Wainie Robertson (on the horse) moving heifers into the race at the yards on Ti-Tree Springs. Photo: Stephanie van Eyk.

Hard work: Wisty Halloran and her sister Wainie Robertson (on the horse) moving heifers into the race at the yards on Ti-Tree Springs. Photo: Stephanie van Eyk.

Wisty said her mother first introduced the black genetics after she decided to get some Angus bulls to join to the heifers.

"The black baldies are good cows and as first cross calves to sell as weaners," she said.

Wisty said the property had some extremely rough areas, making it difficult to get bikes or other vehicles through.

"We're pretty close to the edge of the gorge," she said.

"In a wet season, you have to be very careful moving around, even on a horse."

Wisty said while she loves working on her own, sometimes you do need help, and having excellent neighbours was a huge benefit. She shared the tale of the time when she shocked a neighbour (who had turned up with a tractor) when she stripped off before hopping into the dam to snag a dead cow and tie the chain around its legs.

And the ladies – both septuagenarians – do all the hard work themselves, including mustering on horses, drenching and calf marking.

"We are probably not the only all-girl branding team, but we sure are the oldest!" Wainie said.

The sisters have no plans to retire and hope to be working on the farm for many years to come.

“Those of us who are farmers are concerned about and care for the land,” Wainie said.

“After 60 years we hope that the land is thriving under our stewardship.”

They certainly haven’t lost their sense of adventure – for Wisty's 70th birthday earlier in the year the sisters and a small group of friends went to Yellowstone National Park in the US for a seven-day horse trek.

It was a tough week riding through spectacular scenery and a few wildlife encounters – including moose and bison joining them at camp. Wainie said luckily they didn't have any personal encounters with bears, even though they saw fresh tracks and while they heard wolves the didn’t come face-to-face with any.