Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Dentist

I live over two hours from the nearest Dentist. My new Dentist.

There used to be a Dentist in St George. You can read about her here. There are always two sides to every story. But I personally wouldn't have seen her if you'd paid me a large sum of money. Unfortunately for residents of the St George area, it was a case of seeing her, or driving hundreds of kilometres elsewhere. And now there is no one. So I find myself driving to Goondiwindi to see a new Dentist.

For as long as I can remember, I have been seeing a Dentist called 'Leo' (I can't show you his face because he is a REAL Dentist). Leo practices near the Gold Coast. (Over 700km from where I live). Leo likes working there because he says it is 'God's waiting room', and elderly people don't have a shortage of dental problems. I like him because he is what I know. Dentists are like hair dressers. When you find a good one, it's hard to let go. They know you, your history, and more importantly, you trust them - and I like to trust my Dentist with my teeth. And when you have teeth like mine, that's saying something. Plus he has a sense of humour. I like that in a Dentist. On our last visit, I told Leo about an 'Urban Legend' out where I live. 'Hot Andrew' the 'Hot Dentist'. I told Leo I was considering swapping over and going with the younger, hotter Dentist.

Leo told me a story about a very good looking Dentist-in-training he had with him several years earlier. This young Dentist-in-training was particularly nervous about giving an injection to a patient. He steadied himself for the job. The poor woman patient started squirming and wriggling and making gagging noises. The young Dentist asked her to please stay still as he was concentrating on giving her the needle and he needed her to say as still as possible. She continued to groan and wriggle. When the needle was done, the Dentist stood back and asked her if she was okay, and told her that he was sorry if it had hurt her, to which the woman replied, "You had your hand on my boob while you were steadying yourself!"

Again I digress.

My dental history goes something like this:
1. First filling around the same age I learn to walk. And then 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. in fairly quick succession. What can I say? I wasn't a junk food addict, I was just genetically blessed.
2. Repeat step 1 every other year. I learned to hate the Dentist from a very young age. I associated the Dentist with pain and discomfort.
3. And then when I was 13 or 14, I had braces put on. Thousands of dollars, countless sleepless nights, many packets of Panadol, and almost 3 years later, I had them removed. It's not prefect, but it's a darn sight better than it was. It was braces, or sawing my jaw off and realigning it. Yuck. But I credit my Orthodontist with giving me any of the confidence I possess today.
4. Then I found Leo. Dentistry had come a long way by then. Plus he gives us mates rates when we visit.
5. Unfortunately, the 700km to Leo is becoming harder and harder to do, so I decided I needed to find someone a little closer (and younger) to step up to the plate. And that's how I found Rhiannon.

Which leads me back to Hot Andrew. 'Hot Andrew' is, as I mentioned, something of an urban legend around these parts. Hot Andrew is very much alive and well, but very few people I know have actually seen him. He's such a popular Dentist that he is nearly impossible to get an appointment with. But I had to try. I wasn't sure how I felt about having Hot Andrew shove his hands into my open mouth to fix a chipped filling, but as I was desperate, I was up for anything. When I called to make an appointment, I could only get one with Rhiannon. As it turns out, Hot Andrew is married - to Hot Rhiannon. And she is lovely. And what's that on your certificate on the wall? You graduated with honours?? OHHHH - so Rhiannon, you are HOT, lovely, intelligent AND married to HOT ANDREW?! I would hate you, except right now I need to trust you and like you.

I was shown to the room, and immediately I felt good. Rhinannon asked me if I was okay, and as I looked up at the television staring back at me, I answered truthfully,"Well, having Enrique Iglesias singing 'I like it' to me as I receive dental work, certainly makes for a better dental experience." Apparently with Hot Andrew, you have to watch the sports channel. I liked Rhiannon already. After the whole thing was said and done, we chatted about how we both ended up in the bush. And that's when she broke the good news to me. I need a crown on my tooth. Fantastic...

"The bad news Jessie, is that sometimes with a crown, the nerve underneath can die, resulting in the need for root canal surgery..." At which point she must have seen my face and added, "Which isn't as bad as it sounds."

"I'm sorry Rhiannon... the phrase 'root canal surgery' coming out of a Dentist's mouth is just about as horrible as it gets for me. And I've had 3 babies without pain medication."

And that's how 2011 is going to be. I'll keep you posted.

But I walked out of there with a smile on my face. I have a new Dentist, who lives a darn sight closer than any other Dentist I've had before. And she's lovely. And smart. And nice. And I think I don't even mind the thought of going back to her.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Superstar

As it turns out, Olivia (my eldest), is something of an athlete. She's 5 of course, and I am being a stage mother. But in all seriousness, the girl can run! This is her (5 year age champion) in the front middle (yellow shirt). Tiny little munchkin in between all of those big kids. All of those serious athletes. I could just die with pride.

She really practised hard in preparation for this day.

In the afternoons, on the way home from the school bus, we stop the car about 2 km from our house (it's within the boundary of our property) and I let the kids take turns of sitting in my lap to 'drive' home. It's a farm thing. This year, however, Liv has decided to let her out 200m from the house so that she can run home. I'm not kidding. Clearly I was from different stock. I NEVER would have wanted to run home! Drive home, yes. But RUN home... NO WAY! But that's what she does. We stop at the last grid, and she runs home, way out in front of the car. Grinning from ear to ear the whole time.

So when it came to the sports carnival, where the Preppies (her year level) were running 50m, the stage Mum in me took over. I knew she had this in the bag. If my little girl can run 200m so quickly at home, she could do 50m no worries. The real issue wasn't the distance itself, it was mostly that she had never really run against anyone else before, and didn't fully understand the notion of 'competition.' So how do you instill 'run your hardest, and try your best' into your child, when all you can think is 'Flog them! Run so fast, that you can sit and watch them walk in 3 minutes later!' So I just went with, 'Hey Liv, this is a race. So run your hardest, try your best, and have fun! Oh, and no need to wave at Dad and I - we'll be waiting for you at the finish!'

And then the race was on. CP and I were cheering her on, and she got off to a fantastic start. But wait! What was happening??? Why are you stopping Liv?? Keep running! GO! GO! Run sweetie! Run! And then just as it looked like her competition was about to beat her, she stepped it up and barely beat them over the line. But it was CLOSE. We were (okay, I was) so proud! Okay, we both were, but I was relieved too.

Me: Hey darling! How good was that?! You did so well! I'm so proud of you! How do you feel?
Liv: Good. (Big hug)
Me: For a minute there, I thought you were going to stop! You normally run so much faster at home! But boy am I proud of you! You gave it your best!
Liv: No I didn't. I felt bad for the other girl, and thought it would be nicer if we could run next to each other.
Me: Oh okay...


So yeah. And then she completely surprised us by winning long jump as well!

Considering I don't have an athletic bone in my body, I was completely amazed by her efforts. Clearly those genes don't come from me, however, my mother would be quick to point out that there have been other good athletes on our side, even if those genes did manage to avoid me entirely. So anyway, looks like athletics could be her 'thing'. Lucky, considering the limited range of community options for country kids, when it comes to extra curricular activities. It's either athletics, league, swimming, pony club or ballet (if you are prepared to drive more than an hour several times a week, there are a few other activities available too). My child will probably never be a world class ballerina, pianist or cellist There is no one close by to nurture any latent talent. So it's good that Olivia likes athletics.

Today we had her swimming carnival. Olivia is not a 'champion' swimmer by any means, however one thing the girl does have is confidence. Her PE teacher called me last week to ask how I felt about putting her into a 25m swim event, when he wasn't sure she could really do it. It seems that Olivia felt that she was more than capable, and had even discussed the possibility of swimming on the side of the pool, so that she could stop if she needed to. I swear that my heart could have burst with pride after that phone call. And then today, on the way to the pool, she told me that she just can't wait to hear people cheering for her. Amazing.

And so here she is today.

That's my baby up the back with the two 'first' ribbons. But I have a confession. I thought they were 'participation' ribbons. Sympathy ribbons. I was wrong.  But let me go back a bit to explain.

I took my other two (smaller) babies to the pool with me this morning. We wanted to cheer Olivia on. We knew she would be in a few races that would probably be too hard for her, and we wanted to let her know that we were proud of her. Anyone with small children would understand what a nightmare it is taking them to a pool. Especially if you are there to watch another child. I just don't have the number of sets of eyes that is necessary to keep all of my children safe all of the time. So yeah, I was frustrated. And it was raining. So I was cold, and wet too.

But there we were, cheering Liv on, and she was loving it!

She was grinning from ear to ear, swimming her little heart out. Well, more like 'monkeying' along the edge of the pool, but she tried so hard, and I just love her for it. But you definitely couldn't call it 'swimming'. So we cheered, she grinned, and she did this three times before finally coming and telling me she was tired.

And she got her ribbons, but I truly didn't think they were 'firsts'. In all honesty, there were only one or two of them in her races. So at lunch time, when her three races were over and she had dried and dressed herself, I suggested we head home. Olivia wasn't keen on leaving. She wanted to stay and cheer on her friends in their races. I looked at Sam and Darcy - dead on legs - and then told Liv that we could stay for two more races to cheer on her friends. And cheer she did. She did the war cry. She ran up the side of the pool, calling out the names of her team mates and friends. She clapped and smiled. I was so proud that my baby girl had so much more team spirit than even I could muster. And when the two races were said and done, we went home. As we left the pool, Liv asked me what would happen if she got a medal at the end of the day? And herein lies my confession.

I truly believed that there was no way Olivia was in the running for a medal. I had two smaller children crying and almost sleeping in my arms. I just wanted to go home, and so I made excuses for what would happen with medals and said we would find out what would happen on Monday.

And then this afternoon I learned that Olivia took out Age Champion. And my heart broke. I mean it really broke. Oh me of little faith. I broke the news to Olivia, who was still smiling, and still excited about how the day panned out. She told me we can sort it all out on Monday. I love that girl. And I know she will go to sleep tonight dreaming of stars. I really love that girl. I have learned my lesson too. But I'm not going to dwell on this one. I am lucky. As much as there are restrictions that come with living in such a remote area, I am lucky that I am even in a position to attend my children's sporting events. And so, as it turns out, Olivia, who not only possesses 100% confidence that she can do anything (even if her ability is far less as far as percentages go), really can do anything. The swimming is the clincher. We don't have a pool. We drive 40km to access ANY pool, and yet she can still take out age champion. Go figure!

If my children wanted to do ANYTHING, they certainly can. It just means a lot of miles in the car. Even for league, the 'district' covers more than 500 square kilometres. Some weekends families drive over 4 hours in order for their children to play competitive sports. Crazy. But it's just what we do.

I am certain there is a 'soccer mum' just itching to get out of me. Right now I'm happy to hide her away safely   within the confines of our property. So long as my children are happy and having fun, I'm happy for them. I just want them to do their best, try their hardest and be proud of the fact that they have had a go. And be supportive of other people too. Just like Olivia was in her 50m run, and when she was supporting her friends and team mates in their races in the pool. It was more important to her to run and swim together with the other competitors, than it was to win. And that's more important to me than any ribbon or medal.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We Need Medical Assistance!

We are 40km from the nearest hospital. I should add that THAT hospital doesn't have the facilities to support child birth or pretty much anything that requires an x-ray either. However, they ARE very good at triage (well, not bad anyway) and diagnosing the flu, calling the Flying Doctors or offering a pregnancy test, and that's about it. The nurses are all lovely of course, and it's a fantastic social occasion when you get there, but it's not my hospital of choice. The next closest hospital is 100km away.

This would all be well and good, except that Olivia is accident prone.

When she was 11 months old, she fell onto the sharp edge of a can holding nails (we had building extensions going on at the time) and split her bottom lip 7mm (gaping). I know that it was 7mm gaping, because I later learned that Doctors don't like to stitch a lip that is less than 1cm gaping. It was a close call. Bottom line is that when it happened, she was like The Exorcist. Without the turning head. Blood was going everywhere. I put a washcloth onto it, carried an ice pack with me and we flew into the car and raced her into the hospital. There were tears; hysterical crying fits and squeals of pain - and that was just from me! Olivia was considerably calm. I kept seeing the fall over and over in my head. And even to this day, it makes my skin crawl. Ultimately (after calls to plastic surgeons and consultations with other nursing staff) it was decided that Olivia really only needed a hit of Panadol and a rest. I however, might need something a little stronger. We were told the lip should heal quickly enough and that all we could do was wait. Over 4 years later, her lip still has a vicious scar, but it is fading, and it doesn't seem to bother her.

Several months later, Olivia was jumping on a bed. She's not allowed to jump on beds, but she got up on that thing so quickly, took one flying jump (probably knowing she would get into trouble for doing so anyway) and then slipped down beside the bed (head first), splitting it about 2cm across at the back of her head. At least she wasn't concussed. So off we went to the hospital again. (Insert Benny Hill theme music here). This time they glued it back together. The wound healed quickly enough (and now Olivia and her father have matching his/hers scars at the back of their heads), but the glue took a long time to get out of her hair!!!

Then this time last year we were getting ready to drive into St George to collect Yv and her sister from the bus. I'd left plenty of time spare before her bus arrived, hoping to get some grocery shopping in first. 5 minutes before we were due to leave, Olivia split her head open (just above her eyebrow) whilst spinning like a top in her bedroom. Apparently the dressing table got in the way of her head. Off we flew to that little hospital again...
"Hi Jess, we've saved Olivia's room for her..."
OKAY, so we're not that bad. Yet.
Luckily they could fix this one with some magic glue as well.
Nurse: We could probably glue this you know... or maybe we should stitch it? Hmmmm....
Me: Um. I don't mean to interrupt, but we've got a bus to meet soon. Could we just do SOMETHING. QUICKLY?! I mean, QUICKLY, but not TOO QUICKLY. Do a good job too - that's more important I guess. But just do it sort of quickly. Thanks. If you don't mind.

And then we drove to pick up our guests. This is the Olivia they saw...

Except that she wasn't wearing that. Or dancing like that. But the bandage is what I'm all about...

And then a week later it was like this...

And then when she started school it was like this... Just the smallest little scar left under her hair. Phew.

Thank goodness scars heal. They make me feel bad, when I look at them.

I've had my fair share of stints in the local hospital too. Mostly when I was pregnant and had morning (all day) sickness, and was hooked up to a drip keeping my fluids at a healthy level. And let's not forget CP's time there as well. So this little country hospital has certainly served it's purpose for our little family!

When I was pregnant with Sam, we weren't even sure we would make it to either of the hospitals close to us, in event of me going into labour. But it was nice to know they were SOMEWHERE close by - just in case.

Because of the distance, I have become a devoted '13HEALTH' caller.
"Hi, it's just me again... yeah I know it's probably nothing, but I hate the thought of doing an 80km round trip for Panadol..." And it's nice having a second opinion. I wasn't joking when I mentioned the pregnancy testing earlier in this piece. One Doctor would pretty much give anyone a pregnancy test... just to rule it out.

"Hi Doc, I'm not feeling very well."
"Can you just pee on this stick for me?"

And that's all well and good if it's, say, ME. But not if it's my hubby...

That may be an exaggeration. He's never given CP a pregnancy test. I think.

Where is that Benny Hill Theme Song again?

I have had several friends who live out here who have had children who have had to be rushed to the nearest hospital (either by them or by an ambulance), only to then have to be flown out to Brisbane or Toowoomba for further treatment. Terrible - but lucky we even have the facilities for Flying Doctors to land really. But most of us (who live on properties) have air strips for this as well. Sometimes it's just much quicker to call the hospital and have them send Flying Doctors out immediately, while ambulance drive out to look after things on the ground. We have an airstrip. To my knowledge it's never been used... but it's there, just in case. And it's not a fancy concrete thing either. I hope that if someone ever does have to land there, they have practised long and hard before then. That goat track is peppered with pine trees and large stones. They'll earn their stripes landing out here, that's for sure. But touch wood, they will never be needed anyway.

When I see this all spelled out here on this page, it's hard not to cringe. It can be scary living so far from the nearest hospital. Touch wood we never have to deal with a snake bite. Or a major accident. Cuts and bruises and fevers I can deal with. The rest is just too scary. But if all that fails, there's always The Benny Hill Theme Song. Everything seems funnier when you put the Benny Hill Theme Song to it.

And if I didn't laugh, I would probably cry.

Friday, November 26, 2010

You've Got Mail

I spend so much time on the internet these days, emailing, facebooking and chatting with friends and family, that sometimes I forget what 'keeping in touch' (with friends and family AND reality) is all about.

I was at the local Post Office this week with my neighbour, Leesa. The 'local' Post Office is approx. 40km from my door step. But nonetheless, we were in there, picking up mail. Actually, Leesa was waiting for a swimsuit to arrive. The same swimsuit I had recently purchased, and several other women in the district were also purchasing, based on my solid recommendation. The best swimsuit ever. That's beside the point. When you are on to a good thing out here, you want to share it with everyone you come into contact with. We are all in the same (isolated) boat. We all know what it's like NOT to know what's out there. So when I came across this swimsuit, I told everyone about it. And this summer, if we all meet at the same beach at the same time, we will be one coordinated ensemble!!! So anyway, we were in at the Post Office. Leesa asked the 'post office lady'(Rae) if there was a package in there for her. There wasn't. But there WAS one for me. A short conversation followed:
Leesa: Jess - you always have packages! Rae, does Jess receive the most packages in this district through the mail?
Rae: Pretty much! Her and Jacqui... they both always have something in the mail.
Jess: In my defense, I spend all year buying gifts for Christmas, birthdays, and that's how I do most of my other shopping too.

I feel like I need to justify myself.

We normally get mail delivered (twice a week). Tuesday and Friday are invariably the best days of the week. We get a stack of mail, and if there aren't many with 'windows' on the envelopes (usually bills), then the catalogues, actual hand written mail (snail mail, just like the old days) and packages are great fun to receive. I am buying 'gifts' all year round, and by July I usually have my Christmas shopping completed, and have already started buying gifts for the following year. I love Ebay. Sometimes I wonder how on Earth people ever survived out here (in terms of buying gifts) before the internet was invented. You must have had to have been super organised with gifts, and bought them on your once annual trip to the big smoke, or super clever and been able to make gifts yourself. Because goodness knows that if I had to buy gifts solely from out here, no one would ever get anything. There's only so many Dirran frog "stubbie coolers", "fridge magnets" and postcards a person can use. And even though there ARE lovely little gift items to be found, I would hardly call any of them 'personalised'.

Some of the best packages I have received in the mail (or most exciting) have been:

1. The girls' Quad Bike (we are giving it to them at Christmas). It was a huge box that clogged up extra space at the post office for weeks until we could be bothered driving in to town to collect it. It seems the post office delivery person isn't keen on carrying a box of that magnitude (if it were indeed at all possible for one person to do alone), and then definitely not comfortable leaving it out on the road for us to collect whenever we could be bothered.

2. My iPhone. A much smaller package that has revolutionised my life.

3. And any package from Yvonne in Holland. Invariably it contains a bottle of Pisang Ambon (an alcohol you can't purchase in Australia, but I gained a taste for during my time in Europe).

The other thing about mail out here, is that I get a lot of 'thank you' letters and cards. It seems like common courtesy, but it's honestly something I never really thought of until I moved out here. If I host any kind of 'party' at my house, I usually receive at least one 'thank you' card out of it. (Obviously not from friends I see every other day, or speak to on a semi-regular basis). This week I received a card in the mail from CP's Aunt, who was wishing me a happy belated birthday, and just wanted to pass on general news and good wishes. I frequently receive one from CP's granny when we have visited her or had her here. Admittedly, neither of those people are on facebook. Which also serves a purpose. But it is only since I moved out to the farm that I stated sending thank you letters of this nature, myself.

So this is how it goes in my neck of the woods...

I use facebook for day to day contact with friends and family. I leave small messages there, which has cut back a lot of my telephone contact with people. It's probably also affected my ability to sustain lengthy conversations with people on the telephone, however I still cherish those times when I do speak to people face to face or for a 'proper catch up' over the phone. 

I send thank you cards whenever and wherever is appropriate. Thank you for the lovely lunch/party/get together. Congratulations for organising a fantastic function. Happy Birthday. Thank you for the lovely gift. You name it, I have it covered.

I send packages to people overseas, and to friends and family on the coast as they need it. Baby gifts, books, photos. Whatever.

I shop online FREQUENTLY. There is a chance I'm compulsive, but if you consider that I probably only enter a 'real' shopping centre 4 times a year, I justify the purchases that I make online. I use Ebay for the majority of my purchases, but also a handful of 'regular' online shops for other things. I am a firm believer that anything you can buy in real life, you can get online cheaper. And I truly get the same buzz from online shopping as I do from shopping in real life. I used to LOVE real life shopping (and I still do), but considering that I have children with me 99% of the time, online shopping is far more practical. I have located a few 'tried and true' internet clothes stores, and I buy many of my clothes online these days too. 

So there you have the justification. But having said that I need to now tell you the truth.

Sometimes I drive out (3 km) to the mail box before my in laws can get to it first. Sometimes I want to get to the number of packages I KNOW will be waiting before anyone can count and roll their eyes about it. Sometimes I don't want people to make their own assumptions about what I'm buying, because they probably don't understand why I do it. Sometimes I just know I've been naughty, and bought something I don't want anyone to know about. But honestly, mostly the things I buy aren't even for me. They are for people I love. If I didn't buy them, heaven knows CP wouldn't. And only one person (aside from me) REALLY knows the truth about my purchases anyway. And that's Rae, the Post Office lady. But I don't think she's going to say anything anyway.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Births, Deaths and Notices

Hubby missed the birth of our first baby. I'm not kidding. Obviously I didn't give him enough notice of the due date. 

I'm being sarcastic of course. Nine months is more than enough time, but when you live on a farm, things like shearing and harvest tend to take precedence over everything else. How incredibly foolish of me not to better organise something like a BABY to fit in with the farm schedule!

When hubby and I found out we were expecting baby number one, we couldn't wait to share the news. We promptly headed over to the in laws (Hubby's parents) to share the good news with them. The conversation went something like this.

Me: "So... CP and I are expecting a baby!"
Them: "That's wonderful! How exciting... and congratulations! When is it due?"
Me: "Ummm... I think the first week of May."
Them:"Hmmm. That's during shearing. Busiest week of the year." 

Of course, I'm paraphrasing.

And YES - and we definitely did this deliberately. We wanted to put everyone out as much as we possibly could! (At least, that's what I wanted to say. But of course I didn't.) So we made a few jokes about it all and went on our merry way. But the seed had been planted. Clearly we should have thought about this a little better. Maybe this was going to be a huge inconvenience to everyone? Maybe we should have had a family meeting about this and identified a better time of year to have a baby? And given Hubby's depth of devotion to the farm, what would this really mean for us? (All from the point of view of a hormonal pregnant woman).

Two weeks before baby was due, I was already in Brisbane, getting settled with family in preparation for the imminent arrival of the baby. I was relaxed and calm. And I mean REALLY relaxed and calm.

The night before baby was born (2 weeks early) I had spoken to CP, who was busy preparing for shearing. In fact the whole farm was abuzz with pre-shearing excitement. I had asked him to pack his bag in case he got a phone call, so that all he had to do was walk out the door... He assured me that he would. Hmmmm. Surely 7 hours of travel time would be ok given how long labour could continue for?

As soon as I knew I was in labour I had called home to let CP know. I caught his mother, and in between contractions I got the following information across.
"Ann! I've gone into labour. My water has broken. Can you tell CP he needs to get here QUICKLY."
"Oh hello, Jessie. How are you? CP has just headed up to the shearing shed. I'll try to reach him there."
"OK, just tell him to HURRY!"

I made it to the hospital with only an hour or so to spare! Olivia arrived safely (and quickly) in the presence of  my mother and I. Sadly, CP was the last one to know about the birth of his first daughter. And he even managed to score a speeding ticket in the process. An ordinary day all round, by anyone's standards. Ever the farmer, CP had received the message from his mother stating "the water has broken" and gone to check all the dam pipes, thinking something was wrong on the farm - not with his wife. I can laugh now. The whole thing was just so absurd!!!

But there really is something to the whole "births, deaths and notices" thing out here in the bush. Perhaps there is actually something about the dual meaning of 'notice'. Maybe that's why Charlie missed Olivia's birth!!!!

A country friend recently shared with me that her in laws regularly reflect on how the death of a family member (and the subsequent funeral) could not have come at a more inconvenient time. Harvest waits for no man. Even a man on his death bed. 

I don't mean to make farmers sound harsh and uncaring. In fact it is the exact opposite. Look at bush kids. They grow up understanding the natural cycle of things. We are born, we live, we die. Hopefully we have served a purpose, and then life goes on. That's not a negative thing either. When I was a kid, Mum and Dad used to indulge us with keeping pets, because it helps you understand 'life' better. This is the case on farms too. It's just funny how often the farm comes first. 

I have struggled with this over the years. I can be selfish. Actually, I am the Queen of Selfish sometimes. So when CP has tried to explain to me that without the farm, we don't have a whole lot, I get it. Farming relies heavily on uncontrollable forces, like the climate. You do what you can, when you can. Even if someone is having a baby, or dying. You sort of just try to pick up the pieces and keep going as quickly as you can. 

When you live in the bush, it's important to remember that your personal business is often the personal business of everyone in the district too. Mostly thanks to the local paper and of course, the bush telegraph (which is often faster). When I got engaged, there was a notice in the paper. When our children were born, there were notices in the paper. That's the way it goes. 

Everyone likes to 'know things'. Even country people. Even if it means they can't accommodate the new information because of work commitments. When you live on a farm, it's not just a job, it's your life. And I'm learning that more with every passing year. 

The Nanny - Part 2: And Then There Were Three

It was only a month or so into Yv's stay with us, when I learned I was pregnant. This is him. The first pic of our little Sam the man.

One day I will blog on the nature of my pregnancies, and how the devil I survived them, given how horrible they were for me, but suffice to say I do not do pregnancy well (or rather, the first 20 weeks of the pregnancy well).

When I learned I was pregnant, I told Yv immediately after I told CP. She would find out soon enough anyway. The conversation went something like:
Me: So Yv, it turns out I am pregnant again.
Yv: That's great news!
Me: Yeah, umm... it is. Eventually. But right now it's not all that good for a few reasons. You need to know that I get really sick when I am pregnant. In the next few weeks, when the nausea hits, I am going to be reduced to a blubbering mess, curled up in the fetal position either on the lounge or in my bedroom for the next 6 months. I won't be able to handle the smell of anything. I won't be able to care for myself, let alone the people who have come to depend on me. I won't be able to do anything. I will look like death warmed up for the foreseeable future.
Yv: Ohhhhh....
Me: And that's kind of why I need to tell you this now. When we hired you, in all fairness to you, you only signed on to 2 children. This isn't in your contract. So I won't be at all surprised, and I truly don't mind, if you choose to leave at Easter. Having said that, I would really love you to stay. If you want to stay, and can put up with doing a bit extra for a few months, it will totally pay off down the track. We'll give you more time to yourself in terms of hours to compensate for the overtime you'll be doing for me during the day...
Yv: Sure, that's no problem at all. I want to stay.

Could she be real? She would stay, even though I had just told her she would, in essence, become my slave, as much as I would become a slave to my own body? Nice!

And that's how it went. As I hovered precariously beside the porcelain bus in the bathroom, Yv helped cook, clean, feed and bath my house and family. I could not have planned it better. She spent the quality time with my children that I could not. She became the Mum. I often joke with CP about that time in our lives. The time when he had "2 wives". Two women who could nag him and make demands of him. Ad only one with benefits... except that there were no benefits from either of us, as one worked slavishly to maintain the family routine, and one slouched wearily over the toilet. It was far from a happy family at that time.

Did I mention that I turn into a heinous beast when I am pregnant? My hormones do strange and unusual things to my mind. So it was lovely having Yv to 'look after me' and 'listen' to my ravings. She was the 'wife' I needed at that time. I began to rely on her more and more.

Around the time I learned I was pregnant, we were also going through the initial stages of Darcy's treatment for her turned eyes. I was a mess. I was hormonal and being worried about Darcy didn't help either. It became obvious very early on in Darcy's treatment that she would have to undergo surgery on both eyes. This bothered me terribly. Whenever I was having a 'difficult' moment, Yv was there to help me put things into perspective. When I talked about the possibility of Dars wearing glasses for ever, Yv would remind me that it was possible to have quality of life even with restricted eye sight. She had survived quite nicely with sight in only one eye, after all... We all developed a soft spot for Darcy while she was going through her eye treatment. Yv did especially. I think they had a common bond over their eyes. This bond only strengthened as Yv stayed on. This is Darcy not long after she was first prescribed glasses. She was just over 1 year of age. Fun fun!

At some point near the mid point of my pregnancy (when Yv was due to leave us), she approached me about the possibility of staying on. Yv felt that she was still needed, and that (even though I was improving rapidly, and was a fully functioning adult female again) she was happy to stay until baby number 3 was born, just to make sure we were all ok. It sounded wonderful. And so it was decided, that Yv should stay until after the baby was born.

Yv was with us for other key moments too. She was there for Olivia's first day of Kindergarten. She helped wave goodbye to my biggest baby as she ventured off into the big wide world.

By the middle of the year, Yv had become a good friend. She was more like a sister to me, than someone hired to help look after the kids. We talked my way through my pregnancy (which was the most difficult pregnancy on my marriage). I am certain that without Yv there, things would be very different today.

Did I mention that Yv is one of the fussiest eaters I have ever met? No? She likes potatoes - but not mashed (because the butter and milk interfere with the taste), but will tell you (honestly) that my baked potatoes are the best she has ever eaten. She isn't a big fruit and vege person. She loves peanut butter on everything. She loves cruskits. She loves toast with that chocolate sprinkly stuff that dutch people dig so much! She likes meat, but not the stuff we've home grown. She loves sausages. But I never went out of my way to cook for her. In our house, we have a rule that one meal is cooked, and you either eat it, or get your own. (Unless you are a kid, in which case, you eat it or go hungry). Anyway... back to my story.

On November 3rd, at about 1am in the morning, I went into labour with my baby boy.  Yv came over to the house and stayed with the girls, while CP and I drove to the hospital. She stayed to help look after the girls for the days following, while I rested up in hospital. Upon my arrival at home, Yv told me that she wasn't very good with little babies. But she did just fine with Sam.

The day Yv left the farm was just horrible. We knew that leaving Darcy would be hard for Yv, so we arranged for their goodbyes to be done early in the morning, and then my in laws took Darcy out, so that she wouldn't be there when the actual departure occurred. It was going to be difficult regardless. As my in laws drove Darcy away, I sat in my room and cried. I cried for the real goodbye that Yv and Darcy would never have, and I cried for myself. For having to let go of Yv. We took Olivia to the bus with us. It was a very quiet  hour in the car. If I tried to speak, it would have betrayed my feelings. It all came spilling over as I hugged Yv goodbye one last time. And CP, Liv and I all stood waving at the bus. Crying. So very sad.

When Yv left us to go home, I wrote her a 'thank you' letter of sorts. I reminded her of the time Olivia asked if Yv loved her, and how Yv had said 'no'. I also reminded her that I knew that wasn't true anymore, because you don't feel so much sadness at leaving children you don't love. And she admitted it was true. So even though she started the year being the 'Nanny', she definitely finished the year as part of our family.

I know Yv loves our family. She was exactly what we needed in order to make it through 2008 in one piece. In 2009 she came back to visit. And she sends Christmas and birthday presents for the kids and hubby and I. And when I can remember, we send her token gestures too.

So Yv - sorry about some of these pics. Just wanted you to know that you are missed, and dearly loved too. And you are a big part of who we are today. You just have to look at Darcy and peanut butter to figure that out.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Nanny - Part 1: Settling In To The Hut

This is Yv.

Sorry Yv - (she's probably going to hate me for this)...

In December 2007, when Darcy was not even 1, I decided that I would be needing a little extra help around the place in order to do more things for me. I should really explain that by "doing things for me", I don't mean reclining on a sun bed in a bikini, sipping Mojitos from a glass with an umbrella in it...  I mean doing things like getting back into my Masters (studying), and doing the odd bit of work here and there. So I started looking for a Nanny or Au Pair or In Home Carer to come and help.

Because the nearest town (where I do relief work) had no day care or child care facilities at the time, I had to consider my options. 

Option 1: My Mother In Law - She is amazing. She is always my first port of call,but it just isn't feasible to suggest that every time I want to do something for me, she would need to drop everything to help. So even though she could always be my 'back up plan', I needed something a little more permanent. 

Option 2: Friends - See Option 1 explanation. 

Option 3: Nanny or Au Pair - They would need somewhere to stay (living in our house wasn't really a long term solution. But aside from the logistics, it seemed to be the best option. 

And so the redevelopment of 'The Hut' began. This is 'The Hut'.

Before it became 'The Hut', it was used as a workshop for CP and my father in law. It was covered in grease and dust and housed spare tyres, bits and pieces, machinery and assorted junk. The first step was emptying the contents and finding a new home for everything. CP moved an abandoned caravan on the northern end of the property down and this became the new 'workshop'. Once The Hut was empty,it needed to be scrubbed down and cleaned properly. A coat of paint was next, and one of the smaller rooms was transformed into an ensuite. We had the floors polished, and then furnished the rooms. 

Inside The Hut, on the left, is the bathroom. The centre room is the 'living area'. It houses an oven, fridge, microwave, appliances and all cutlery and crockery. There is also a table and chairs, and a single bed (where we will one day put a fold out bed/lounge). The room on the right is the bedroom. There is a bed, a wardrobe, dresser and desk, as well as a television. There is an air conditioner too. It is fully self contained. Even better, it is only about 50 metres from our own house. Incidentally, The Hut was only completed a month after Yv arrived at our house. But nonetheless, it has become a valuable addition to our 'home'. 

But back to Yv...

Once I had decided to find an Au Pair I set about finding the right person. I was looking for someone from January 08, until July 08. This was bound to be difficult, because I was looking for someone who would be capable, someone who would love my kids, someone who had their first aid certificate, and someone who could drive (amongst an exhaustive list of other worthwhile assets). On top of all that, I needed to find someone who would be happy living in such an isolated part of Australia. Someone who would be able to stick it out for more than a month. I designed a questionnaire for potential candidates. The questionnaire narrowed it down to two 'possibles'. It was going to be tough. Long story short, I ended up selecting Yv (who is from Holland). Having spent a year in Belgium myself, I understood enough Dutch to be able to help her settle in if language was to be a problem, and also had some English-Dutch Dictionaries on stand by if that would help.

Shortly after I selected Yv, we received an email from her, telling us about an accident she had had as a young child. She had lost her eye in a sling shot accident, and had a glass eye in place of it. She wanted us to know that it hadn't stopped her from doing anything (such as driving a car), but that if this made us change our mind about having her, she understood. It didn't bother me at all. If she could drive, I really didn't care.

I picked her up in Brisbane at the end of January, after she had been travelling around Western Australia for four weeks. We headed home immediately. On the trip home it started raining (REALLY raining). At one point I thought we wouldn't make it, and swollen creeks became flooded and dangerous within hours. That's just how it works out here. But after a very adventurous drive and a detour of 'the long way home', we made it. I apologised for the last several hours of the drive and assured her that if she wasn't happy I completely understood. We had previously agreed on a trial period of 3 months. That way if either of us weren't happy we could walk away at Easter, and that would at least give us both time to work out new arrangements. Yv assured me she was loving it. I couldn't believe it. I kept expecting her to pack up and leave at any moment. 

On her first day, we took her lamb marking. 

I thought for SURE that would be enough to scare her off, but she loved it, and didn't seem in a hurry to go anywhere. 

We spent the first month settling in. Yv was in our house with us. We made her watch "Wolf Creek" and still she wouldn't budge... When Yv moved into the hut, she found her stride. She had her little place, and she well and truly made the farm her new home. 

Very early on in her stay, I once overheard Olivia ask Yv, "Do you love me?" To which Yv replied, "No Olivia, I like you very much, but I actually only love my family." I smiled, because I knew that would change. It was just a matter of when it would change...

(Stay tuned for Part 2)...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Proposal

This is the last photo of me while I was still, technically speaking, 'on the market'. Even though I wasn't really. CP and I had been dating for just over 2 years at the time the photo was taken. It was Easter 2003. The next day CP asked me to marry him.

This is where CP asked me to marry him. Except that it was empty. And there were drought cracks because it had been dry for so long. And there were burrs. And we had about 6 dogs surrounding us, running like mad, excited to be off the chain. Now it is looking very different. We were sitting on the pipe to the left of the photograph. 

I knew he was going to ask me. I had thought (hoped) he would do it the day the first photograph was taken. My parents had arrived in St George on the Friday. Over dinner, CP asked my father for permission to marry me. It's all a little blurry now, but I think he may have said something along the lines of "I know it's a little old fashioned, but it's still important to me..." To which my father replied something to the effect of "If you need me to supply a ladder so that you can just run away together..." And that was that. We had all but sealed the deal. All I had to do was wait. I knew he would ask me that weekend because my family was out and we were all heading down to the farm so that our families could meet. And we had spoken about it for so long that it was no surprise. 

On the Saturday night we did the big family dinner thing on the farm. Still nothing. Not that I can blame him. It's not like in the movies with romantic backdrops and sentimental background music to help things along. It would have been too nerve racking for CP to do it with all the family around. Even though he knew I would still say yes. 

I was really starting to think it wasn't going to happen. Time was slipping away quickly. I think I even started to think that maybe it wouldn't happen this weekend (which would have been fine too), and so I stopped getting my hopes up. 

On Sunday morning, CP and I went for a walk. This was all very normal. When I had stayed at the farm previously, it was common practice for us to take the dogs for a walk and sit down and have big 'talks' along the way. And so it was on this day. We sat on the pipe beside the empty dam. I swatted the flies away from my face. My hand a continuous window wiper. CP sat beside me and held my hand. He spoke about how different things looked after it rained. He told me that this was the farm at its worst, and that you couldn't imagine how amazing things could be with a little bit of water. He spoke to me about how hard things were for a farmer during a drought, and that if I could love him like this - at his worst - then I could only ever expect things to get better. And then as we sat there surveying the damage of 5 years of drought (or more), CP asked me to marry him. 

There was no ring, no bended knee and no formalities. It was just the two of us, making a verbal agreement. And then we walked hand in hand back to the house.

After someone asks you to marry them, and you experience a whole range of emotions in a single moment, the minutes afterwards are somewhat more subdued. At least they were for us. We felt like we had the best secret in the world. The thought of racing home (ringless) and announcing that we were engaged, just seemed a little too cheesy for my liking. So we kind of just hung around smiling goofily for a good half hour before I really felt that something needed to be said. 

We told both sets of parents within minutes of deciding that it was what we needed to do. And it was more like,"So, yeah, CP and I have decided to get married. So I guess, ummm, I guess that means we are engaged." than cliched romantic moment. But more than anything it was 'us'. It was our style. Our way of doing things. Even though it was no surprise to me, it was not at all what I expected. There were no tears, just an incredible feeling of joy. 

Every time I drive past the dam, I think about that day. I think about the farm at its worst, and how lucky we have been since then. I think about how far we have come together, and as individuals. And I am so grateful to be a part of this. And while now I proudly display two rings on a very special finger, our marriage is about more than that. It's about us making a life together, and creating a future for 3 very special little people. It's about sharing this life with people we love, and making a home for us all. And I think we are getting better at it all the time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Survive on A Farm (Tips from someone who knows nothing about it). Part 5: A Little Thing Called Dust

I love this photo. It's not mine, and it's not taken on our farm. But it could have been. This is what a dust storm looks like once it's already hit.

Last year we had about 5 of them hit. Hard to imagine when you consider all the rain and flooding we have had this year. The weather is a funny thing.

It's impossible to tell by this photo, but this was possibly the worst dust storm we have had since I have lived here. This photo was taken from our back yard, facing south east. The worst of the storm had already passed. The worst of the storm hit while we were sleeping. A silent predator. And this is what we woke up to outside.

It was a night much like any other night. CP and I have a large window above our bed. We keep all the house doors open (with gauze sliding doors closed). When the weather is warm we keep it open and this helps the air to circulate. The night the dust storm hit, I remember hearing the wind picking up as I slept. I heard the whistling of the wind through the trees. I think I even remember the faint smell of dust swirling through the air. But it didn't bother me at the time. I put the dusty smell down to the fact that it had been quite dry and that of course, with a little wind, it would make it's way from the bare earth, into the swiftly moving breeze. 

By daylight something felt amiss. The air was heavy. My sinuses were playing up. I lifted my head from the pillow to look out the window. I wiped away the feeling of hair or powder on my face and noticed, on the back of my hand, that it wasn't hair or powder, but in fact red dust. As I sat upright in bed, I noticed the white  silhouette of my head on a pillow now coated in fine red particles. The dust had layered everything in our house with a red coat of dust. We saw what you have seen in the pictures above all around us. 

As I walked through the house, my feet left little imprints into my new 'dust carpet'. It was millimeters thick in places. I was torn between feeling angry, astonished and down right amazed. I had never seen anything like it. 
Eventually the feeling of walking and sitting on layer upon layer of dust got the better of me, and I spent the entire day vacuuming and revacuuming and dusting and cleaning away areas of dust. It wasn't a big clean by any means, but it served the purpose of allowing me to eat and relax without feeling 'dirty'. My house was manageable. 

Three days later I awoke to another dust storm. 'Depressed' does not even come close to describing the way I was feeling. And so I set about cleaning again. I can't remember if there were 2 or 3 dust storms in that 'series', but I do remember there being about 3 or 4 good dust storms that year. If you can call them 'good'. 

On the second or third day after our initial dust storm, the east coast of Australia woke to this...

 An orange haze that encompassed the coastline. The dust had made it's way east, and now the 'coasties' were having a taste of what we had already been experiencing out west. It sucked. 

One week into 'the dust', I started the real clean up. This meant taking books off book shelves, cups and plates out of cupboards, (in fact, emptying ALL cupboards), taking curtains down, and moving furniture around. Vacuuming and mopping were not enough. You had to do it all at least twice. The red dust had permeated everything. Weeks later you could still taste the dust. It had settled on all the leaves on all the trees. We had to wait weeks still for rain to remove the dust from the grass.  I'm sure it was still in my skin, my hair and my nostrils. 

The stories were the same everywhere you went. The school in town still shows signs of the dust. You can't clean every page of every book in a place the size of a school. At least no one in town was criticising anyone for the 'state of their houses'. A dirty house was easily forgiven. At least we didn't have wet paint that had been drying when the storm hit... like someone I knew. So it could have been worse. 

When I first moved out to the farm, my mother in law once told me not to get too hooked up on the dust. She explained that in a house like ours on a farm like ours, dust was inevitable. Don't clean it every day. Just do it as you really need to. And she was right of course. And mostly I try really hard to stay calm about it all. Mostly, it's easy enough to do. But this week in 2009 was different. I will never forget that week. The depressing nature of dust, and the amazing power of mother nature.

PS: For anyone who is interested, the following video showing Dust Storm Footage was shot in Broken Hill in the same series of dust storms... just so you see how fierce mother nature can be at times... (Click on the link above).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Driving Home From Book Club This Week: A True Story Of Jess And A Pig

There are so many posts I want to do on Book Club. It is one of my favourite things to do. We meet once a month to discus a book. At least that's what it is in theory...

We are a group of between 10 and 15 women who live and work locally. We are a mixed bag, aged between 23 and over 40. We are married, engaged, dating and single. We are mum's and we aren't mums. We are all shapes and sizes and backgrounds. We have different beliefs. Some of us work together. Some had never met before we joined book club. And when we get together, it is just pure, unadulterated fun. We laugh till our stomachs hurt, and cry with joy. We eat till we are full, and make the most of a night off.

I love it!

But this blog is only going to be about the drive to and from book club this week. I'll do the rest another day.

Leesa (my neighbour) and I alternate driving the 80km round trip. The evening begins at 5pm. I have usually spent the entire week psyching myself up for the garlic prawns and sticky date pudding. They are divine. Leesa and I fly out of the house at 5 on the nose. My house is usually clean, kids are bathed and fed and all CP has to do is tidy up after the meal and hold the kids back as I make my break for the car. The second I am in the car it's like I can taste the freedom. Once Leesa and I are both in the car, it's a full 1/2 hour of uninterrupted conversation. We can talk about kids and husbands and work or whatever. But we can finish whole conversations without children interrupting or shouting around us.

The drives to book club are mostly uneventful. At certain times of year you are driving directly into the western sun, dragging the trip in by an extra 5 or 10 minutes. And now, in the loveliness that is Spring, it is just a relaxing drive.

The drive home is another thing entirely. This is where we carry out all the "C" rated conversations that couldn't be discussed at book club. C for "car rated". Nothing you want to share with a group of women in a busy food and bar area. And that's a big call. We discuss some pretty funny stuff at book club - and it's not for me to release anyone's secrets here - but we all have some things we like to keep sacred.

The drive home is always dark. Regardless of the time of year. It's always a slower drive, than the drive in. Aside from the darkness, you also have to be careful of kangaroos, wallabies, and whatever other animals happen upon the road. One night we must have slowed down for no fewer than 100 kangaroos or wallabies. We spent more time in second and third gear that night than we ever have before! Mostly, it's just an opportunity to debrief before we launch back into the reality that is being a Mum.

This week the drive was a little different. About 30km into the drive home, we hit a kangaroo. If you haven't been reading these blogs from the beginning, check out my blog on kangaroos to see my thoughts on this. When I hit the kangaroo, I was just relieved that the car sustained no damage. Leesa and I were discussing this when out of nowhere, a pig hurtled itself full speed in front of my car. There was no time for any reaction other than to slow and hope for the best. The pig was large enough that I imagined that the panel damage would be huge.  Pigs are seriously filthy creatures. They are aggressive, disease ridden beasts. Germans dig their meat. Australian's could care less. And I apologise to anyone who really doesn't understand this at all. The poor creature would have died on impact (it went under two wheels), and we drove on sort of in shock at what had just happened. I was relieved it wasn't a sheep, as hubby would not have been happy at me hitting the stock. But only a few kilometers down the road we had finally decided to go and photograph the roadkill. Here is the photo. It's me looking cheesy after a night out with the girls, heels and all, pretending to be stoked about the dead pig. I think it was nervous laughter.

So why did we decide to photograph it?

1. Leesa has 2 sons, aged 9 and 11 who were going to LOVE this story, and we wanted the photographic evidence to prove it actually happened.

2. Our hubby's might have been kind of impressed too... especially if we embellished the story a little. 

3. We had only just been discussing (at book club) how we had never really been "pigg'n" before, and how it just wasn't 'our bag'. This whole event kind of mocked that, and we wanted the memory photographed. 

4. It had been a long night, and we were feeling silly.

5. We thought that we might be able to send this pic into the "Boars and Babes" magazine. And I am joking about that. They wouldn't publish it even if we did, (which we wouldn't) because I am not wearing a bikini and brandishing a gun. 'Boars and Babes' is a quality magazine you only find in small towns like ours. And you don't buy it for the articles. 

Actually, it's not even really pigg'n. Pigg'n technically involves massive, scary dogs and guns. We had neither. But we did have a dead pig. And I was just pleased that the car wasn't in the same condition as the pig. 

But boy did we laugh about it. Book club could not have been a more interesting night. And one of Leesa's sons was thoroughly impressed. The other one was disappointed I wasn't wearing a bikini, so that it could be more authentic... hmmmm. CP was happy the car was okay.

And now I never have to go 'pigg'n' again. Been there and done that, and now I've bought the t-shirt. 

By the way, this is how CP thinks a pigg'n photo should really look... OK, maybe he doesn't, but it's exactly how I think it should look! And CP looks cute in this pic...  

But I digress. This post is about the drive home from book club. And even without pigs and kangaroos and darkness, it is the quality time I can spend with a friend that is the most important thing. 

And CP still looks cute in this pic...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Waste Not Want Not

Before CP and I were married, he was once visiting me in nearby St George (where I lived and worked at the time). I had to head to the coast early one Sunday morning, and as CP was leaving after me, I asked him to take out the 'wheelie bin'. Hopefully everyone reading this knows what a wheelie bin is. But just in case, it's like the size of a small fridge. It's a heavy duty plastic garbage bin, where you store all your rubbish (out on the side of the road) so that the garbage truck can take it away on the designated day. And it's on wheels. (See picture).

So I left CP with the simple instructions to "wheel the bin out to the side of the road before he left." CP nodded enthusiastically. And then off he trotted to go and inspect this amazing thing I called a 'wheelie bin'. Moments later I was summonsed downstairs.
"Jessie, how exactly do I take this bin out to the road?"
"Ummmm.... you hold the handles and tip it, and push it out."
"But I mean, which way does it face?"
"Are you kidding?"
"Why would I be kidding?"
"Errrrr.... never mind. The handles have to face the house."
"So I just hold it like this (he demonstrates the correct stance required) and then wheel it out?"
"How far from the road do I leave it?"
"(Trying to restrain a laugh) It doesn't matter."
"Can we just do a rehearsal?"

And so we did. We did this it until CP was sure he could handle it alone. Too cute.

It got me thinking. How on earth is it possible that a 20 something year old had never dealt with a wheelie bin before, in this country, in this day and age?

And then it occurred to me to ask what happens with rubbish out on a farm. CP (many weeks later) took me for a drive out to the farm rubbish dump. (Really romantic way to spend our weekend together!). It all makes sense really. If you live 40km from the nearest town, you can't really wheel your bin out to the nearest 'main' road (3 km away), in the hope that some non-existent rubbish truck might take it away for you. So this is how it works out here...

1. You place your rubbish in a bin inside your house. (Much like in any town anywhere). We keep food scraps separate for our chooks. We also try to keep glass and aluminium cans separate too. And I will explain why later.

2. When the inside bin is full, CP takes it outside to the "rubbish drum" not far from the house. (Outside jobs are all for CP, I find I am much more competent when it comes to inside jobs). The rubbish inside the drums is burnt until it is a pile of ash.

3. This continues until the drum is full, and then it is taken by farm truck out to the 'dump' which is about a kilometre from the house, and then emptied. The drum is returned to its usual resting place and the process continues.

4. Bottles, glass and cans are recycled either in town (driven in as the allocated drum fills) or given to people who come to the farm for recreational purposes (such as shooting)  who take it back to the 'big smoke' and are able to claim financial rewards for recycling such products. Or we just bury it in our own dump.

Since I am a compulsive "non-hoarder", I have a real issue with keeping any kind of rubbish around. I'm so bad, I throw something out and then weeks later will wish I hadn't. Photos from when I was 15, diaries, books, you name it. I'm terrible. I married into a family that is the complete opposite. I once told my father in law that we should throw out any old furniture we didn't need anymore. His exact words were, "Waste not, want not. If we throw it out today, I guarantee we will need it tomorrow."

And so we don't throw anything out.

When one storage shed gets too overcrowded, we build another storage shed.

And that's just what you do when you have all this space.


As a general rule, I don't like cats. I am allergic to them. They make me sneeze. They cause my nose to run. They leave hair all over everything.

In spite of all of this, when I was young, we owned a pet cat. Her name was K.P. She was white. She was okay as far as cats go. She developed skin cancer, and by the time she died, she had scratched both her ears off, and part of her nose. But we loved her, and I cried something fierce when she passed away. Though I've never owned a cat since...

My hubby is not a cat fan either. He used to joke (okay, maybe he wasn't joking) that if it didn't have a collar on, then it was shooting season if it came onto our place. Our place being over 20 000 acres of only us. So town rules do not apply in this situation. You can't go around shooting anything that purrs in a populated area. As much as hubby would like to. Feral cats are a bit of a problem out here in the bush. They kill local wild life and aggravate our working dogs. They're not good for much, except for breeding rapidly and carrying disease. That's why if they stand still for long enough, they will surely feel the wrath of the farmers. Especially MY farmer.

Once hubby was so excited at having found a feral cat sheltered under our house, that he dashed around like a mad man locating rifles and bullets and whatever else it is that you need to exterminate a wild cat. He raced around the side of the house, ignoring my request to just 'slow down and think about this.' I mean, it was all such a crazy rush!


One shot. No hit. No cat. It was smarter than the farmer, and took flight moments before impact. But what was the hissing noise we both heard now? On closer inspection, hubby had successfully taken aim at the water pipes under the house, one of which now had a gentle spray rising from the plastic tubing which once contained it. An eye roll was all hubby needed from me. He knew he was in enough trouble as it was. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you rush into something like this. I told hubby it was his karma. He told me it was all the cat's fault, and that next time he wouldn't miss.

But why all the cat talk if I don't even really like them?

This week my next door neighbours' cat died. His name was Albert and he was 14 years old. He was a big, grey ball of silky smooth hair. Distinguished, as far as cats go. I used to joke with my neighbour about keeping a collar on him - just in case. But Albert was really beautiful, and if he had ever wandered onto our side of the fence, hubby still wouldn't have shot him. He was regal almost.

Albert used to sit on my neighbours' office chair, and keep her company while she emailed and kept her records up to date. He put up with my 3 feral children (her children too, as well as many other children who were fortunate enough to meet him) as they pulled and pushed and prodded their way around his furry little body. We once fed Albert for a week when our neighbours were away. The poor thing was covered in burrs (the really sticky ones that knotted in his long hair until he was a tangled mess). I tried really hard to brush them out, but it was to no avail.

I don't think Albert did anything that was particularly astonishing. He had that 'old cat' thing going on for a while where he would lie around mostly, probably contemplating his life. But it was what he stood for that will be missed most by the family who have lost him.

My neighbour brought Albert home only 2 months into her marriage. Albert has been at the 'farm' for as long as she has, pretty much. Albert was there before there were kids. He saw two children born, and he watched them grow into little men. He saw them all through drought and through flood, and he saw dozens of other animals who passed through their lives throughout the last 14 years. Albert has been the constant.

And that's why his passing has left them all a little sad.

Albert has his own special spot in the garden now. And he's sleeping peacefully, and watching over them all. I don't know of anyone who didn't like Albert. Even CP liked him. And we will miss you Albert.

Thinking of you and your family today. xxx

Friday, October 8, 2010


This is him. The reason I now call the bush my home. CP... my very own version of The Marlborough Man. 

I think the picture above is my favourite picture of him. Even looking at it makes me happy. It just reminds me of all the physical things I love about him. And it says nothing about all the things that  irritate me about him! 

Warning: this is only going to be a shallow look at a man with a lot of depth.

Physically he embodies everything I never thought I would ever end up with. Except for the dark skin... mmmm lovely, dark skin. He is a real cowboy. Right down to the big hat and Wrangler jeans. And somewhere in the recesses of his wardrobe is a pair of calf high cowboy boots just itching to make an appearance. He comes complete with a farmers tan (which I had never even heard of until I moved out here), 5 o'clock shadow and rolled up sleeves. He drove a ute when we first met, listened to country music and spoke with that unmistakable western Queensland twang. Australia's answer to the USA's southern drawl. 

When I first moved out west to teach, friends and family joked that I would meet a farmer and get married. It will NEVER happen, I thought. And then I met him... straight out of rugby training. It wasn't the brooding, dark eyes, the thick head of dark hair, the chiseled jaw, or the arm muscles that rolled deliciously under his shirt. It was the talk of his travelling that really attracted me to him. Seriously! 

CP is a hard worker. He is never idle. As much as that pains me at times. 

He is a handy man, and I can honestly say that nothing attracts me more than a guy who can fix things for me. This goes back to when I was a teenager. I wasn't a kid who had boyfriends, but I'm sure even my mother would remember my 'gas man' fixation. Nothing was nicer than watching the guy who would come and change our gas bottles over. Ahhhhh. A handy man. But CP can fix a car, tractor, bike, piece of electrical equipment. You name it, he'll have a go at it. Sweet.

Even on a day when I am cranky with him for abandoning me during the witching hour with the kids, I still get excited when I hear the motorbike pull up in the shed, and the gate squeal open, and his heavy boots plodding across the verandah.

Oh, and I also love all of the pictures of him on our wedding day. He is just so dang cute! He scrubs up so well in a suit! *Sigh* Still smiling... 

There are so many things about him I love. I'm sure I could write one hell of a blog about CP that was of more substance, but I'll save that for when I'm a little older, and a little crustier. Today, is just my appreciation of some of his more, ummm, physical attributes.