Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Weather Girl

In my previous life, I couldn't have given two hoots about the weather.

Thanks for the pic!

All I needed to know was that there would be water in the taps every day, and how much hair product would be required to see me through the day. Too much wet weather or humidity affected the structure of a hair do, and the likelihood of packing an extra layer of clothing or umbrella when I left the house.

The weather certainly never factored into my conversations any more than 'how cool is this thunderstorm?!' or 'far out, if it keeps raining, I'm going to have to carry my heels into that club tonight', or 'how bad are my sweat patches in this shirt today?'

And I mean it when I say that NOT A DAY GOES BY when I don't think about or discuss the weather. I have four (yes, four) weather apps on my iphone. Some are better for temperatures, and others have better, more reliable radars. We check the radar almost daily on our home computer. I didn't even know what a weather radar was before I moved out here. I thought it was what you looked out for along the M1 so you didn't get caught speeding... Those were the days before I knew that there was any other kind of heat than humid heat.

CP and I often discuss how much easier life would be if you weren't reliant on the weather. If you are a teacher, or a nurse, or a lawyer, you don't need to concern yourself with trivial things like weather and temperatures. (It's a fallacy that you get to go home from school if the temperature hits 40 degrees, sorry kids). And it still seems pointless to me that people in rural areas rely on something that they have no control over. But it's all part of the planning process.

Planting crops, stock numbers and timing are all dependant on the weather. Anyone who eats fruit and veges, meat, grains, drinks milk, and any product derived from these things (including raw materials like cotton and wool etc.) will understand that the cost of a product is affected by external factors like flooding and cyclones, but the supply and demand of such products also affects prices. And it's not consumers losing sleep about supply and demand. It's the farmers.

So without getting into the nitty gritty about the extent to which the weather affects the functioning of the farming business as a whole, let me just some it up by saying that CP gets very cranky and tired easily when it's dry for an extended period of time, and he suffers from extreme cabin fever when it's wet for an extended period of time. So pretty much the general wish for people living on a farm is 'everything in moderation.'

Where we live, the average annual rainfall is something like 19 or 20 inches. Mostly we get that in a handful of showers. In the last 2 years we have averaged about 30 inches, (possibly a lot more this year). Everything is AMAZING and lush and green. Dams are full, and stock are happy. Stock happy = farmers happy.

It's amazing that discussion about the weather have become part of my daily vernacular.
"Hey you! Much rain out your way?" "Have any trouble getting into town on that road today?" "You guys looking for any more rain?" "How hot is it today?!" And even more amazing is the fact that I genuinely care about the answers.

Sometimes I forget though.

It's highly probable that I can get off the phone from a neighbour (after a half hour phone call) and CP will ask "How much rain did they get over there?" and I'll say "Ummm... I didn't ask?" and CP will respond with "Well what did you talk about for half an hour then?" (As if you couldn't possibly be talking about anything else?!) So I'll say "You know, facebook, the good looking guy who is working at that place etc."

So clearly I haven't been born with the worrying about the weather gene.

But I do like it when my farmer is happy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas: Blink and You'll Miss It

The silly season is done and dusted... 1000 rum balls have been consumed; nectarines, plums and cherries have been digested at rates fast enough to guarantee we all stay regular until well after New Years. I have personally eaten enough M and Ms, chocolate, mango smoothie, pavlova, trifle, ham and salad to last me a lifetime. And I have two big family functions coming up faster than I can say 'loosen that button please!'

Our Christmas Tree is still up and decorated. It will probably stay this way until school goes back. We have our house decorated. And it will stay decorated. Indefinitely. Several years ago, my mother bought us a fake Christmas tree, after I whinged and moaned about the ongoing clean up that a real tree necessitated. This is why I feel justified in keeping it up for about 3 months. The clean up is minimal. Eventually I will come to look at it as a giant pot plant. Only without the pot, or water, or soil.

This year we had Christmas at home. And the day began at 4:30am. We alternate Christmas between our families. My brother, sister and their partners joined us for three days of Christmas fun on the farm. We all squeezed into our little house, stocked up the cold room with drinks, fruit and meat, (in that order), and sat back by the pool and killed time. It was wonderful. And the weather was superb!

As far as tradition goes in our family, it's always about food. I ALWAYs glaze a ham.

Glazed Ham

We ALWAYS make a potato salad. We ALWAYS make a pavlova and trifle. We ALWAYS eat about 4kgs of prawns. SOOO GOOOD! So we did all those things. And we washed them down with a cool room full of alcohol - which we ALWAYS do. Daquiris, Mojitoes, Martinis and Cider were the beverages of choice this year. Mmmmmmm.

The children were over indulged again. Being the only children on both sides, they are spoiled terribly. And thankfully they are still buying my lies about the man in red. Or lady in red, as it actually is in our house. Santa Claus really outdid herself this year at our house! The lies get harder and harder.

"Sorry he got that swim suit size wrong girls... I'll email him and check his returns policy."
"I know the wrapping paper is the same as those presents from us over there... Santa must buy his paper from the same shop as us!"

Kids are so clever! (And now - two days later, also cranky and tired)...

Liv, out cold after the longest Christmas dinner wait, ever. It's all a bit much for little people.

The funny thing about Christmas this year was not having any parents in our house with us. Sometimes I felt like a child pretending to be a grown up. But more than anything, it made me realise that it's family that makes Christmas, 'CHRISTMAS' for me. It's the love, the laughter and the happiness I love. And the 'Christmas play' the kids put on. Yes, Sam is in a dress. Yes, Olivia bossed everyone around and told them what to do and say. Yes, Darcy is Lady Gaga. And not because Olivia told her to be... I love Christmas.

And now it's all said and done for another year. And I'll start the online shopping frenzy right after New Years. Only this year I'll have to hide my presents in better places. We had a few close calls this year...

What did you do for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Thing About Meat

Before I met CP, I had learned to survive on a staple diet of stir fry, Mexican food, Asian cuisine and Italian dinners. As a university student, mince and chicken met my food budget. And as a first year teacher, friends and flat mates inspired my stir fry craze. Back then, I couldn't tell whether or not I was eating beef or lamb, and steak was something you could eat at the Breakfast Creek Hotel for half my weekly earnings.

On the first few outings with CP there were no opportunities to actually eat. It was usually a night out at the Pub with friends, which involved more alcohol consumption than food intake. On the rare occassion I did see CP eating, it was probably a steak burger or something similar.

Early in our relationship, I visited the farm. It was an opportunity to meet his parents, and take a small tour of the most important place in CPs life. It was a lovely afternoon.

His mother took the time to ask me if I could cook and clean. Luckily I can. But I didn't have the heart to tell her that if CP had two arms and two legs and a beating heart, so could he.

When he came to visit me on weekends, I usually prepared a healthy stir fry. Lots of chicken, loads of veges, and a nice flavoursome sauce. I was cetain that my meals would be enough to impress him. He ate every last bite. Even though he probably enjoyed those meals, he probably snuck out for a roast of the day when I was sleeping.

Over the next few months, dinner with his parents usually consisted of a roast, with potato and veges, or cold meat and salad, or chops, steak or even stew. I should have seen the signs far sooner than I did.
For even though CP ate my chicken, all the poor boy really wanted was beef and lamb.

The simple truth about all the farmers I know, is that meat, three veg and potato is all you need impress them.

Ten years after meeting CP, the large majority of our meals revolve around red meat, salad or veges and some sort of potato dish. And CP couldn't be happier. On the nights I serve up a stir fry or a quiche or something similar, I am met with either 'This looks delicious! What's for the main course?' or 'What meat will we be eating with this?' A meal is incomplete until red meat is served alongside the other ingredients. I have developed my cooking skills as a farmer's wife, much to the credit of CWA cook books and The Country Table.

And don't get me started on seafood! Living 650km from the sea, I am always slightly dubious about using seafood as an ingredient in my cooking. CP is even more dubious. I love a good prawn on the Bar-B as much as the next person, but it's become something of an extravagence these days.

Thankfully (according to the Blood Group Diet - of which I am not really familiar with at all) being an O+ means that I can pretty much eat all the meat I like, as often as I like. And thankfully being married to a sheep and cattle farmer means we have the luxury of not having to pay for red meat. Our grocery bill is scary enough without even having to add meat to the equation.

On the down side, there is such a thing as 'too much of a good thing'. On more than one occassion CP and I have had a discussion something like this:

Me: "What do you want for dinner?"
CP: "I don't know. What do you think?"
Me: "We don't have any meat left."
CP: "There is lots of meat! I saw it myself yesterday."
Me: "Only roast lamb. And I can't be bothered cooking and eating roast lamb again. I'm sick of it."

The craziness of this isn't lost on me!

I'm doing my best to decrease carbon emissions at our place, one animal at a time...

Meat is THE staple food of a farmer. CP likes his food simple. He talks about how if more people ate meat, the world would be a better place. But maybe not in those words. And this addiction to meat is clearly genetic, because my kids are all meat addicts. If we go to a BBQ, they will choose steak before sausages. And me? I still like my 'chook food' (as CP calls it). But I can definitely handle a good lamb chop every now and then too.

If you ever find yourself in a position of having to feed a farmer, keep it simple. A well cooked (as opposed to well done) steak is definitely the way to a farmer's heart. Just ask Sam Kekovich.

PS: Please click on the circular "Circle of Moms" badge at the top of this page to vote for me - competition closes tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Anniversary

Today, the 6th December, is my wedding anniversary. It's been 8 long years that CP and I have spent together. No itches and no scratches in sight!

Some people say the time goes quickly. And it does. But I think that has more to do with our children growing, than the actual length of time we have been married.

Back then, I didn't realise that a cupboard door left open, butter not put back in the fridge, sandy boots worn through a freshly mopped house, and a sly boob squeeze would be enough to send me into a fit of anger.

I look at old photos of us and remember a whole future ahead of us.

I have spent 6 of the last 8 years either pregnant or breastfeeding.

 I didn't realise that even the smell of my husband would be enough to make me want to sleep in another room out of fear of vomiting.

 I didn't realise that no one would ever make me angrier. Or sadder.

More importantly... I didn't realise that love then could grow and CHANGE. That I really can't imagine life without him, for more reasons than I can even count.

Back then, I'm sure CP didn't realise he was signing up for me to publicly discuss elements of our relationship. He didn't realise he was my muse. He didn't realise I was such a talker...

Ah well, no one can say there aren't plenty of surprises in our relationship.

Thanks Cranky Pants. Here's to another 8, or 58 more! Love you!

xxx The Farmer's Wife xxx

PS: I feel the need to explain that CP and I both forgot it was our anniversary when we woke up today. So thanks 'Kym' for the phonecall. What would I do without you?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Camping Queen

It's no secret that I am about as 'outdoorsy' as Santa is 'good on a treadmill.'

So November has been a big leap of faith for me.

There's camping...

Columboola Educational Camp in Miles. Great outdoors activities for school groups.

And then there's 'camping'...

Turtle Bay Resort - offers balcony hammocks for those seeking a closer bond with nature.
Personally, I am a big fan of option B. Turtle Bay looks divine. It's no surprise to those who know me, that I am a bit of a princess when it comes to the great outdoors. I like warm showers, clean sheets, plush towels and the gentle hum of an air conditioner. I'll take those options ANY DAY over, creek water, swags, quick dry towels and mosquitoes buzzing through the night.

But back to November...

My eldest daughter had her first school camp early in the month. She is in year 1, so it was only to the pony club grounds ust up from the school. And it was only for 1 night. But it still required that a tent be set up, outdoor activities be attempted, a camp fire be lit, and no shower be had. I was nervous. Two years ago I purchased a 12 man tent. I had visions of us going camping as a family. The tent is fantastic. It has 3 separate 'bedrooms', a living area, and a closed in verandah. I also bought a fold up table and some other gear, all in anticipation of a trip I had done nothing but imagine. This tent would never do for the overnight school camp. For a start, it takes over an hour to assemble. So I ordered over the internet, a 3 man tent that takes no more than 10 minutes to assemble. BRILLIANT! (And for the record, I will buy another small tent if we ever decide to go camping as a family... kids in one, us in another).

The day was particularly warm. We ran around like, well, kids for hours and hours. We fished on the banks of the Balonne Minor, we made damper over a campfire. There may even have been singing. After pre-arranging an evening with a friend who lived nearby, I backed out at the last minute, and settled for emptying a pack of wet wipes in a bid to get clean enough to sleep soundly in my new tent. Olivia and I lay in bed before her little eyes closed, talking about how much fun she had been having, how fantastic her teachers were to organise such an event, and how lucky we were to be able to lie here quietly together and just talk.

And then in the last weekend of November, I escorted 15 (10 and 11 year old) students from my class to Columboola. (See top photo). It was our annual class trip. On this particular occassion, I settled for this accommodation...

 It was airconditioned, and there was a real bed inside. I shared it with other teachers/parents. DId I mention that it shook like a 7.2 r.s. earthquake whenever the air conditioner adjusted the temperature. This is not an exaggeration. This camper was located directly beside the tents shown in the top photo, and there were supervisors on site to monitor the children at night. Just in case anyone was wondering about the lack of supervision. On this particular camping trip I was stung by not 1, nor 2, but 3 wasps upon my arrival. I posted about it on facebook.

"Day 1: Three wasp bites so far. This is why I don't do the great outdoors." And my friend and neighbour has posted underneath, "Ouch...You need to be at home... inside... Back in your natural environment...." SO TRUE!

But I perservered. And I had an absolute blast. And so did the kids. Many of the children had never been away from home for this length of time before. There were tears, tantrums and sleepless nights. And that was just me. Kidding. I slept like a baby in that camper... the air con gently rocking me to sleep with it's temperature adustments! And the kids were gorgeous.

The important thing about camping, is not about how much you smell, how smoky your hair becomes, and how much or little you sleep. I got to spend quality time with both my daughter and my class this November. I learned things about those children, and even myself, I couldn't have learned otherwise.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Pool (aka: The Thing Keeping Me From Blogging)

I've been holding off from writing this post. I wanted it all to be perfect before I sent it off into the world wide web. But in typical 'me' fashion, I couldn't wait. I had to share my excitement NOW!

We have finally put in a pool. Not a fancy, schmancy one, but one that will mean I can get wet in the summer, without having to battle my way through the martha guy fleas, and cats head burrs to get to the murky brown dam. *Shudder*. And more importantly, it will mean that my children can learn to swim in a fenced, clear water environment. YAY!

As a preface to this post, it's important that I mention I am still happily married. Anyone who has ever installed their own pool will understand why this is important.

The thing about getting a pool when you live out where we do, is that essentially it's not going to increase the value of your property. Sure, farmer's wives everywhere would be screaming "Ooooh, look honey! It's got a pool! PLLLEEEEEAAAAAASSSEEEEEEEE buy this sheep and cattle property so I can spend the forseeable future lazing by the pool on these 40 degree + days!" But farmers would be more like "How much actual potential grass space is this thing taking up? And is it worth keeping? And what are the maintenance and running costs?" At least that's how it is with us.

I've been ITCHING for a pool out here for 8 years now. And the only way it actually happened was through my (literal) hard work finally paying off. But that's only the start of it. It's well worth documenting the actual process. For posterity.

For about two years we have been 'hypothetically' discussing where we wanted my 'future pool' to go. I had three preferences, all of which were deemed by CP as being inappropriate because of a) trees that would drop too many leaves into the pool, creating more work than CP was happy to take on in the unlikely event of us actually owning a pool. b) the location of any underground wiring would be logistically impossible in the locations I had chosen, especially if we ever got around to renovating our house - hypothetically speaking. c) access to our water supply. And so it was that we settled on this site, chosen for it's potential views from our house, access to water, ease of wiring possibilities, and distance from trees, but probability of being covered in shade at certain times of day.
The site!
After the pool arrived on site, (in about 15 boxes - that's a challenge all on its own), a hole needed to be dug. As we had purchased an above ground pool to be put in the ground, even the measurements in regards to how big our hole had to be were tough. Having never built our own pool before, we decided that more was always going to be the better option. So we (and by we, I mean CP) set about digging the mother of all holes, which would ultimately house our new pool. Luckily we possess the machinery enabling us to do this.

Mother of all holes.
Luckily time wasn't an issue for us. We knew we wanted the pool finished by November, which is when the weather starts to seriously heat up. We started in late September. After the hole was done, we just sat back and admired Charlie's big hole. So did the sheep, who probably thought we had done an awesome thing, building a dam up the other end of the paddock for them. They came to check it out every now and then when they thought no one was looking.
Snooping sheep.
Repeat offenders.
After all our admiring of the hole, we figured We'd better do something about it. We had just returned from a trip to the big smoke, where we purchased all of the little bits and pieces the pool company DON'T send out in their boxes. (Black plastic, specific tools etc). CP likes a challenge as much as the next bloke, but after emptying the contents of the boxes, he was rapidly losing interest in the pool project. But because he loves me, and I was still showering him in compliments about how manly he was to be able to build his own pool etc. he picked up his pace again. This was all in between his usual work. So he was exhausted. Poor CP was burning the candle at both ends to get this done for me.
CP being all important and measuring stuff...
We spent so long 'levelling' the base of that pool. So many discussions in our house revolved around the absolute need for the base to be flawless in order to ensure the success of every step after this. We borrowed the neighbour's tennis court roller, CP used a proper leveller, and many other inventive stunts to achieve success at this point in the pool construction. We both deemed the pool was 'flat', and we couldn't have been more pleased. I couldn't have been more pleased. CP was getting well and truly over the pool by now. The frame you can see on either side was another 'critical' stage in the pool construction. Their exact placement needed to be ensured, and as their base was cemented into the ground, there was no room for error. Hmmm.... In retrospect, we could have done this better. But as we kept telling ourselves, 'this is a farm pool, we're not putting it in to add value to the place.' Close enough was most definitely good enough for us. Well not for me, but for CP. And the pool would go no further if I had to do it myself. Had we lived in the city, CP would have caved by now. He would have called the pool men and paid whatever sum of money would have secured their services until the pool was complete. Given where we live, this was not even open for discussion.

Friends had started asking about the state of our marriage. Friends who had installed their own pools in the past. Maybe we should have been worried, but we were still talking, and mostly, happy to plod along at our own pace.

One day when I was at work, CP went ahead and got to the stage where you put your sand base down. This would have been fantastic, except that it also rained for about 2 or 3 days straight. The pool went back on hold, and the sand became saturated. We should have paid the kids in silver coins to get down there and pull out ANY lumps they found at all in the sand. ANY. But we didn't. And it shouldn't really matter.

And here it is! The moment your hole starts looking like a pool!

In the instructions that come with the pool, this is the section that says you need 'at least one friend' to help you. CP had this nailed by the time I came back from work one day. I was so excited. The weather had warmed up significantly by now. Five of the six people in our house had either been affected by flu, or were recovering from the flu. You can't see it, but inside the pool the sand base was perfectly flat. Another critical stage in the pool's development.

It was at this time I decided to step in and help CP out. CP was clearly in need of a break, so I offered to do something, I was still ill, and really shouldn't have. The temperature was hovering around the mid to late 30's. It was awfully humid. I was helping with the base of the pool. After about 15 minutes in the pool, I was feeling extremely overheated. I shouted at Olivia to pass me the ladder, which was on the outside of the pool at the time. By the time she had it, I was sitting on the floor of the pool , with my head between my legs, struggling for breath. I felt like I was about to pass out, and was desperate to get outside the pool before I did. It was a slower process than I had hoped. I practically fell out of the pool off the ladder. CP had come to see what was going on by now, and he helped me get back up on the grass again. He had to carry me inside, and I collapsed onto the lounge. I couldn't breathe, and started to panic. With a cool cloth and iced water, I cooled off quickly. But it was an awful moment for me, and by far the worst thing that happened for me and the pool. I decided rest was the key, and avoided the pool construction area like the plague while I was sick. CP was on his own again. I felt pathetic.

We still hadn't really argued at all. I think I may have expressed some concern about the straps CP was using to hold the wall in place. My concerns were duly noted by CP, and then filed into his 'never think about ever again' compartment of his brain.

Once the wall of the pool is up, you put the edging back on again. It's supposed to hold everything in place. It's at this stage, you need everything perfectly in place, because the lining is the next step, and you can't screw that up. It was at this stage we realised the pool wasn't perfect. I was worried the side wasn't 'perfect' in one place. I was worried that the sand was too high in another place. I was worried. Whenever I told CP about my concerns he threatened to walk away from it. Epitome of a quandry. CP tried to assure me that it would all be okay, but I am a worrier by nature. Easier said than done.

Looks like a pool...
There is a big jump between the above picture and the next. One word - liner. Friends had mentioned to us that this would be the most difficult stage. We couldn't understand why. The base was flat. We had spent time ensuring the critical elements were all in place. CP managed to do the first attempt at installing the liner on his own. (Another job that was recommended you share with your 'friends').

For the first attempt at the liner, CP had done it himself. We weren't happy with it. CP was still whinging that it said in the 'installation video' that you could line up the edges with the 'clear markings on the liner'. He couldn't find it. I decided to help again. We fiddled with this damn liner for so long I can't even begin to tell you. Over the next day or so, the liner stretched and moved and we stretched and moved it again and again. The phrase 'close enough is good enough' was used on more than one occasion. CP set about putting the edging back on again. Things were looking up - finally. The end of the pool installation was in sight.

Once the pool edging is on, and the side support posts, the pool was ready for filling.
Close enough is good enough. This would have to do.
Once the pool filled, we needed to backfill the soil. This didn't take so long. We decided to keep
the backfill below the liner level in case, god forbid, there was an issue with the liner. At this point (after a discussion about installing the liner) a friend of ours casually dropped into the conversation 'Did you have any trouble locating the dots on the underside of the liner to help put it into place?' NO, WE DID NOT SEE THE DOTS! Never mind... pool had water in it and was still standing.

We (read CP) had to install the fence fairly quickly. I think he did a fantastic job! The last step was installing the filtration system. This was the step that caused us the SINGLE MOST grief of all the steps so far. In the installation video it clearly states that 'you only get one chance to do this section right'. I mean you are dealing with the liner. If you muck this up, you can throw it out and do it all again. We were both tired, and in desperate need of having this all said and done. Especially CP. CP wanted to pack it in, and I remember saying to him 'Seriously? We've come this far, and you'd rather bury it in the ground and leave it at that??' How bad could it be??

As it turns out, very bad. But obviously not the worst case scenario, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, as we would have filled in the hole in the ground and pretended this was all a bad dream! Once we had cut the hole in the liner (at the appropriate stage) we realised we hadn't done something that absolutely needed to be done and had to realign the liner slightly. It was a nightmare and it still causes me to break out in a sweat thinking about that day. But thankfully the adustment was minor and any 'trouble spots' could be covered and were water tight. Phew.

Fenced pool - yay!

Finally, the pool was ready for use. Nothing like installing a pool to encourage friendly neighbourhood children to come for a visit! Note the colour of the water - we were still resolving how to fix that at that point, but we were all itching to get in for a swim. Please note the excellent 'paver replacement system' we have going. These crates and cardboard strips are all the latest rage in pool landscaping.

So here it is. It's not perfect. There are some things we notice about it that ultimately won't affect our swimming pleasure, but will be a constant reminder that this was a pool built by 'us'. But three weeks later there is still clear blue water in it, and it hasn't leaked! But there was that goanna that CP pulled out of the filtration system...

Now all we need are the pavers! And some pool chairs... and a cocktail, cheese and nibblies...
Bring on the summer I say!

PS: Before I went to post this, I showed it to CP. He insisted I wait until the pavers were done at least. So I did, sort of. And here is where the pool is at today. Almost done... but not quite done. Now we just need more pavers (CP is doing them today), grass and stuff. Mostly 'stuff'... but we'll get there. Feel the love!

PPS: Vote for me in the 'COM - Top 25 Mum Blogs'. Go to my facebook page and click the link there! Thanks!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dirranbandi - A Nice Place To Live, Or Even Just Visit For A Day

I was reading our little school newsletter today. My eldest is in year 1 now, and they are doing some amazing things in her class. They have been designing brochures advertising our teeny tiny little community. This week they have been working on 'slogans'.

Olivia came up with:

 "Dirranbandi - A Nice Place To Live, Or Even Just Visit For A Day."

And I've been giggling about it all afternoon!

It got me wondering... is it a nice place to live? Or is it better to visit for a day? Here are my arguments for both sides.

Main St, Dirranbandi. Blink and you'll miss it!

1. A Nice Place To Live -
  • The people are very friendly. I even know 'grey nomads' who have ended up moving here after making friends during their initial visit to Dirranbandi. If you're looking for directions, or someone (anyone!) local who can do hair and nails, everyone will happily point you in the right direction. Yesterday I was driving into town when a man stepped out of a semi trailer, flagged me down, and asked me if I knew on which property a Mr X lived. I recognised Mr X's name, but couldn't recall the property name off the top of my head, but I happily gave him the phone number of the local post office, who would be able to help him out for sure. Service with a smile!
  • It's very social. Technically speaking, I don't live in town, which means I can be more selective about who I see and when, but generally speaking, there is almost ALWAYS something social to do on weekends, or at times, even throughout the week. Book clubs, meetings, fundraisers, BBQs, social tennis, fishing, parties etc. Not to mention the annual Show and Rodeo, Spring Fling and Quiz Night!
  • The community bands together. If someone loses a house to fire or flood, or suffers a personal tragedy, or needs support in one form or another (in my case it's emergency child care!), there is help on the way before you even need to ask.
  • Best of both worlds. We all still get to the city. We get our fix of shopping and movies and beaches, if that's what we want. We also get a first hand look at the backbone of Australian society.
2. A Nice Place To Visit For A Day -
  • We have fishing... and a park or two. And apparently an historic kind of trail with memorial stones detailing significant people and places in Dirranbandi history. At least I think that's what I learned at the last Quiz Night... My point is that you could easily cover Dirranbandi in a car in one day...hour. Whatever. BUT...
  • You would miss out on all the awesome personalities this town has on offer! Admittedly, all towns and suburbs have their local celebrities. We have stacks out here. My point, is that - for the most part - the people are lovely.
  • If I don't know what I am supposed to be doing, somebody else will know for sure. Small town syndrome. Everyone knows everyone else's business. Even if it is inaccurate and untrue. Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story and all that... You don't learn all that, however, on a drive THROUGH town.
  • It's actually very pretty out here. The colours are amazing. The deep oranges, reds, the many shades of green and brown. The blue hues of the sky, and the white, fluffy clouds, contrasting the earthy tones you only find out west. Of course, we get to enjoy those colours all year round.

It's not for everyone. And yet, some people have never left here. It takes all kinds.

I recently received an email from a girl in Canada. She is a city girl who has met a farmer, and she isn't sure if she will be able to make a life in the country. She asked me what I thought. I told her that only she knows the answer to that. I told her that you have to make a conscious decision to make the country your life. You have to commit to the people and the lifestyle. You have to embed yourself in the community. It can be lonely if you don't. I told her that it isn't for everyone. If someone had told me ten years ago that this is where I would be living, I wouldn't have believed them for a second. I didn't think it could be for me. And yet it is a life I love.

And there are still people who are cynical about my life in the bush. And cynical about my life on a farm. I am by no means a country girl. I have never professed to be a country girl. But I sincerely love it out here. This is my home. And not just for a day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Akubra

I want to buy an Akubra.

There's something about an Akubra hat. They are distinctly Australian in many respects. In fact, they have (as I learned upon investigation) been associated with Australia since they were first made in 1905. Akubra is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘head covering’. Therefore,

Back in my city days, you would have been hard pressed ever spotting me in any head covering at all. It just didn't 'gel' with my city persona. Very sad given my skin quality and the climate we find ourselves in, in Australia. Country people just seem to 'get' that in order to survive the extreme temperatures the sun can deliver out in these parts, you need to dress appropriately.

 Although worn in many outback areas of Australia, they are increasingly seen on the heads of people from all walks of life.

City girls.

Perfect for hiding a receding hairline.

Even Oprah had one on in her visit to Australia! You can google the image, but I had to remove it from my blog after the media company who took the photo asked me to remove it for 'out of licence use'!!! (I find it amusing they think my little blog is significant enough to warrant an image removal. I will name and shame them later :) )

The hats, which are made of treated rabbit fur, have been worn by Australian soldiers, political leaders and sportspeople. And by farmers. And farmers wives. And by farm kids too.

Years and years ago, CP told me that you can't trust a man in black Akubra hat.
Hmmmmm.... Sorry Lee!

And what about this well known black Akubra? Would you trust this man?

Or maybe CP just said that because he prefers the lighter coloured Akubra?! I have to admit that I haven't really paid that much attention to detail. Maybe someone can enlighten me on the subject?

My kids will be getting their first Akubras by the end of this year. I even bought one for the last nanny we had (as a going away present). I am truly fascinated by them.

 Interestingly, as much as I love them, I don't own one myself. I am almost at the stage where I really should buy one (having lived out here in the bush for over 10 years now). But I am more into hats of this persuasion...

Bright, sunny, pool side accompaniments. :)
I am currently in the business of buying a wardrobe that would befit an Akubra hat. Blue work shirt: check. RM Williams boots: check. The hat will be next. I promise. Even though I said all those years and years ago that it would never, ever, ever happen! Life is funny like that.

PS: Any recommendations or advise about buying my first Akubra?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rules of Sickness - Now vs Then

Today I was reminiscing about my first year of teaching in St George. I haven't been feeling well lately, and it's had me remembering.

When you are a first year teacher, you manage to absorb every possible germ and bacteria you can lay your body on or near. These germs and bacteria manifest themselves into a potent, destructive illness that will leave you incapacitated and at its mercy for almost 2 weeks. We are talking 'man-flu', on steriods!

When I was first struck with this 'illness', which we shall, (for arguments sake) call "the worst illness I have ever had to temporarily endure" (aside from the many bouts of man-flu I have had to watch CP endure), I was lucky enough to have been struck down moments after moving a mattress out into the lounge room in front of the television (and metres away from the bathroom), thereby removing the need for me to have to abandon my position on the floor for anything other than a toilet break.

The first few days were spent in a dreary haze of hallucinations, sweat and fitful sleep. CP was on the phone (being my beau of approximately 3 minutes) offering to drive the hour it would take to get to my house, to give me comfort, medicine, love, or even all of the above. As we were still in the part of our relationship that required me to get up 5 minutes before him (and apply a small amount of makeup and fix my hair) so that he wouldn't have to endure the 'real me' when he woke up, I politely declined his very generous offer.

Eventually I was well enough to drive to the pharmacy to purchase medications that might actually cure me, (or at the very least, mask my symptoms) and rent some videos (this was in the days before DVDs and even internet downloads). One lovely lady I worked with even came to check on me, as I was living on my own at the time. I was a little embarrassed to let her see the revolting conditions I was existing in at the time, but I was sincerely VERY sick.

Anyway, I was thinking about all of this for a reason. Once upon a time CP would have driven 100km (or possibly even more) to pat my back and brush my hair when I wasn't feeling well. I wouldn't lay bets on if he would even cross the loungeroom to do the same anymore. Unless I looked like the girl in the picture above. Which I don't. Especially when I am sick. (I am more like Linda Whats-her-name from The Exorcist when I am sick).

And once upon a time I would have done anything to take away the pain when CP was sick. More recently we seem to spend time debating the actual degree of sickness the other is experiencing. A year or two back, CP was insisting that he was sick (which I put down to man-flu and did my best to ignore), and it turned out that it was food poisoning. Whoops! And morning sickness has given me an unnatural phobia of toilets. When a bout of nausea hits me I am automatically swept back in time to any one of my three pregnancies, and inevitably end up in the foetal position, willing myself to get better. CP goes out of his way to avoid me at those times.

How on earth did this happen? At some point we have become an old married couple!

Ahh times, how they change!

PS: As an after thought, I would like to add that CP has been pretty good today. So I guess he can still surprise me too! And it is nice not having to put on some makeup and fix my hair before he wakes up to know that he still loves me anyway!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Father's Day

Tomorrow is Father's Day here in Australia.

Woop de doo!

I have already organised a card and little bits and pieces on behalf of our three young children (vouchers for 'jobs' that the children will be able to do for him), and they have all drawn little pictures for him too. We are not big 'gift' people in this house, but we are certainly 'thought that counts' kinds of people.

CP's day will go something like this:
  • He will wake up to a breakfast of sausages and eggs (no bacon - Mummy wasn't that organised this year), which will be served with toast and coffee tea (during proof reading, CP has reminded me that he prefers tea).
  • He will be allowed to sleep in, with little or no interruption from the children.
  • CP will be able to choose whatever he wants to watch on the television.
  • We might all go for a little drive or do something together at home or in the garden.
  • He will probably be able to have an uninterrupted rest after lunch.
  • I will prepare his favourite meal for dinner.
All of which I will do whilst I am sick. And then the next day CP will probably contract the same illness I have been battling silently for weeks on end. And I will be made to endure his bout of man flu in much the same way we will celebrate Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day everyone!
Happy Father's Day CP! Love from all of us!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Farmer, A Wife, The Media

I know I have published this blog before. But with Farmer Wants A Wife returning to our screens next Monday, I thought it would be nice to revisit this one. It's one of my favourites.

Enjoy! xxx

Today I was on my facebook page when an advertisement came up on the side of the page telling me I could meet a 'faithful Christian man', and the accompanying photo was this:

Of course, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that even if I WAS looking for above mentioned Christian man, (which I most definitely am not), I'm probably NOT going to be able to get in touch with this one (who probably isn't Christian anyway, but got paid for his modelling time regardless). But gee he looks nice in the picture. And if I was single, and lacking a little in the brain side of things, I could easily be duped into thinking this guy might want to be my pen pal and eventually we will get married and have loads of babies. Or not...

But it got me thinking about the way that media makes us think we can have what we almost certainly cannot.

Farmer Wants A Wife (the television show that essentially got my blog kick started - check out my first ever blog for a refresher at Farmer Probably Just Wants a Shag) returns to our screens Wednesdays at 8:30pm, on Channel 9. Hundreds, if not thousands, of single women from around the country will apply to find themselves a Marlborough -type man like this...

Except he's happily married to a beautiful woman. With three gorgeous children. (It's no secret that I am, even to this day, still physically attracted to my husband, and as such, like to shamelessly promote him).

So maybe someone like this then...

But wait - that's Farmer Scott from Mungindi, not far from here, who featured two seasons ago (on Farmer Wants a Wife); THE most popular applicant EVER, with over 500 (or was it 1000?) applications.

Oh, and he's taken now too.

Looks like he and Clare (who he picked as his 'potential wife' on the show) worked out after all. And good for them. Welcome to the fold, Clare.

ANYWAY... single ladies, this 'type' of guy will be put out on display for women everywhere to fawn over. On paper he will look like a demi-God. A multi-generational farmer, who presumably works for himself. All this and more is his (and could be yours) if you make the final cut. If you make the final 3, you will be lucky enough to spend time with him at the farm. Have a look and see if 'Mungindi' is actually the town of your dreams. If you are really lucky, you will be the girl of 'farmers' dreams, and be able to date without cameras etc. in your face to see if you've got what it takes to make it as a couple. And if you can survive the isolation.

Applicants will have read that farmer X lives 500km from major city Y. Do city folk even know how far 500km really is? I mean REALLY? You hear that Cyclone Yasi is 500km in diameter and you freak out because it is so big that it makes Australia look small, but would you drive that far to watch a movie? Or do a cheaper grocery shop? Or get your hair done by a hair dresser who you can afford? Or go to a dentist? Because that's what you're signing up to when you go on a show like that. It's not all country dances and shirts with collars up, and girls wearing pearl necklaces.

What you see on this show is often a farmer with a lot of spare time on his hands. A farmer who likes to sit out on a picnic blanket overlooking a picturesque dam, or organise for a flat screen television to be set up on the back of a ute, so you can watch movies under the stars. The reality is that once the cameras stop, so does much of that behaviour. You will see him between the (summer) hours of 6:30pm (but often later) and 4:30am. This is all well and good when you are dating, but once you are married with kids, these are also (conveniently) the hours that sit outside of 'the witching hour' with the kids, all major meals, and they also consume most of your intended sleep time. This leaves you and your farmer approximately 1/2 an hour to say hi, kiss each other goodnight and then shower and get to bed.

What you won't see on the show are the seven extra siblings (and your in laws) who also live and work on the farm. You'll need to learn how to *change a tyre in case the one on the car you are driving on the white rock road goes flat and no one is there to help you. (* This is not the case with me. I don't expect to ever be able to change a tyre, so clearly this part of my blog is exaggerated for entertainment purposes only). You also won't see arguments about money and travel and school. All that comes later. So do the realisations of things such as:

- Your farmer doesn't shut doors, to ANYTHING. Cars, cupboards, rooms, windows. They will be left open all or much of the time.
- Your farmer will probably stop cooking meals for you shortly after you are married, and definitely before you have kids. Even if he swore black and blue that he would always cook for you. This excludes BBQs, which he will happily cook meat for you in front of your friends and neighbours, and then take full credit for the success of the meal, even though you will have slugged your guts out over salads and accompaniments for the 3 hours leading up to the BBQ.
- Your farmer will insist that there are inside jobs and outside jobs. This is not an even competition.

This is all assuming you don't work on the farm with your farmer hubby. Some women do. And kudos to them. One day I might take more of an interest. But with 3 small children, it's just not something I can even entertain at the moment. It looks like 'Farmers Wife Clare' helps Farmer Scott out on the farm. (According to Womans Day, which as we all know is not known for it's excellent and accurate reporting). According to this fantastic source, Clare and Scott have gone into business together! Read: Clare actually helps Scott on the farm (possibly driving tractors etc. but also by cooking for him and joining him on trips to town to buy replacement parts). In all fairness to farmers wives (and in fact any wives anywhere) could any hard working husband survive without a wife who cooks and cleans for him? Well done Womans Day for letting me know that CP and I have gone into business together... the business of surviving on a farm.

Over the next few weeks I'll be watching the new season of Farmer Wants A Wife.
I want them all to find true love if that's what they are after, and heaven knows I want to see the farmers happy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Visitor on a Bicycle

Some time ago, a friend of mine from Germany sent me a message asking if it would be okay if their friend (also from Germany) would be able to come and stay with us out on the farm at some point during their travels through Australia. I replied that of course, it would be no trouble at all.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't actually believe that the visitor would even arrive. For one thing, this guy was supposedly travelling Australia on a bicycle. So clearly he must have been a little crazy. No one in his or her right mind would actually travel Australia on a bicycle, would they?? But not only did it turn out to be true - I received an email from this visitor about three weeks before their arrival, confirming that he would in fact be arriving -and it was going to happen in the immediate future. But I had committed to him staying, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would actually have to clean out our spare room in anticipation of this event.

I emailed the traveller to gently remind him that we lived 650km (yes, 650km) from Brisbane, and that he would, at some point, have to travel over some gravel roads. Surely this would convince him that he was mad! He didn't seem perturbed. Not in the slightest. Weird. I wondered how long it would take to ride from Brisbane out to our place? I mean if you really think about it, even the ride up the Toowoomba Range would completely do me in. Let alone the 550km that follow that. And let's not forget that in Australia you can't ride a bicycle on any freeway or motorway, so he was going to have to take 'the long road' regardless.

Four days later he turned up at our front door.

This is his bike on the road leading down towards our mailbox.

The day he arrived, the kids came running into the house screaming 'MUM! There's someone on a bike here!' And this was weird, because out here, visitors on bicycles are even more rare than visitors in helicopters and planes.  So sure enough, there he was. And I was so completely gobsmacked that he made it, in my lifetime, that I set about showing him the best farm experience any traveller
could ask for.

We took him on the official farm tour.

He saw shearing. That's CP having a go. 
We showed him the fields. The wide open spaces that make this part of Australia so amazing.

We showed him the sorghum crop. To illustrate the contrasts you see at certain times of year out here.

P.S. This whole area is paved now... looks FAB!

We cooked him up a real Aussie BBQ.

We got him up close and personal with the local wildlife.

We even managed to pull out a show stopping sunset for him!

I love good old fashioned country hospitality. Mostly I think it's that we are so happy to have company (I know I get excited about entertaining). But this one was special. He'd peddled his way out here, and that impresses me to no end! We ate roasts, and baked goods, and BBQs. It was a lovely week. I'm certain he had a fantastic country experience. And it was a pleasure hearing about his adventures as he cycled his way around Australia.
This particular traveller is part of a website, where he and several of his traveller friends take photos that they submit for publication in a variety of media. (He took all the photos I have used in this blog). There are some amazing photos. If that's your thing, make sure you check out the page:

When he left, we cried like babies.

Okay, I cried like a baby.

 But I always cry like a baby...