The wide brown paddocks were parched by drought, feed was scarce and hungry cattle had to be sold, and at that point, Simmone Jade Mackinnon realised her dream job was drawing to a close.
It sounds like an episode of McLeod's Daughters, the much-loved television drama series that first screened nearly 20 years ago.
Yet for the show's former star Simmone, this was real life, labouring as a jillaroo on 2173 dusty hectares in country Queensland.
"I can't tell you how much I loved it," smiles the single mum, who earned six Logie nominations playing Drover's Run overseer Stevie Hall.
"The drought was dire and we prayed for rain every day, but I've never been happier.
"Riding, driving tractors, mustering, fencing, helping with the calves... I was living my character's life on an actual working property!"
Not even free-spirited Simmone could have predicted the incredible adventures in store when she and son Madigan, 11, hit the road like a couple of nomads back in 2019.
Chance meetings and unlikely invitations not only lured them to the outback, but also to a glittering charity ball in Vienna that year, where they were feted as guests of honour.
"Honestly, none of it would have happened if people didn't know me from McLeod's," laughs the 48-year-old. "It's the gift that just keeps giving."
Today the dreadlocked "gypsy" is locked down at home with Madigan near Coffs Harbour, on NSW's stunning mid-north coast.
But enterprising Simmone has made good use of COVID's enforced isolation, starting her own online business – Wandering Ozzie – with a percentage of profits going to help solo mums like herself.
"I've been lucky, you know, compared to so many others," she says passionately.
"Financially, I had some money from McLeod's behind me, so I've never had to choose between buying medication or fresh fruit.
"Touch wood, I haven't been in controlling relationships or faced domestic violence.
"But a lot of women do have to deal with those difficulties and issues, so it was a no-brainer to get on board with the National Council of Single Mothers & Their Children Inc.
"I'm not exactly swimming in money right now, with the pandemic, but if I'm going to make some, I thought it would be lovely to give a little bit back along the way."
When Simmone gave birth – on her 37th birthday on March 19, 2010 – she believed Madigan was the greatest gift she had ever received.
The actress had been "clucky forever" before unexpectedly falling pregnant, and although she and the baby's father had parted ways, there was never any doubt that she would raise the child as a single mother.
"I guess it was quite unusual back then for someone with a bit of a profile to talk openly about becoming a single mum, the way I did," she admits.
"But for me, this was always the way it was meant to be. Madigan is the best thing I've ever done, always."
With her little "wingman" by her side, Simmone set out to recreate magical childhood memories of a two-year family road trip around Australia from Mt Isa.
"My parents blessed me with a wonderful, transient start to life and I wished to do the same for Madigan," she says.
"I wanted him to understand that it's not what you have, it's what you do in life that counts.
"I wanted him to know that no dream is too big, no matter how small you might be."
Always game to try new things, Simmone was eager when her newfound friends Lou and Mark Hinman offered her a jillaroo job on their property inland of Rockhampton, Queensland.
Unfortunately, drought cut that job short, before COVID stopped any further adventures. But Simmone, an eternal optimist, sees the bright side.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to go north again in a few months… I think that's the way we'll have to do it in future.
"Fill our souls on the road, then come home to make some money because you really don't earn much as a jillaroo, although it's priceless."
Find Simmone's online store at wanderingozzie.com.au