Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's With The Frogs?

We have a lot of frogs out here.

When I first moved into our little cottage out here on the farm, the toilet was always hiding at least one little green and slimy surprise. CP managed to clean them out of the system for me, and we have never had a problem with them inside our house since. The photo above was taken about two years ago in one of the shearers quarters toilets. The toilet was having trouble flushing. 

I had always grown up believing that if you have an abundance of green frogs around the place, it is a fairly good indicator that the water is good. Yay for us. I'm still not a huge fan of the little critters. They sit on the window sills in front of my kitchen, and on all the handrails around the house. And they leave little brown parcels of excrement everywhere they go. They hide in our shoe basket, and sometimes in shoes. Nothing scarier than reaching into the shoe basket and grabbing a hold of a frog. I've always known to shake out boots etc. in case of spiders, but it is still a shock when you shake out your boot and find a frog. 

And if you've never seen one looking up at you from the porcelain interior of your toilet before, let me assure you that it takes a long time to shake the thought that it might jump up onto your bottom from your memory.

We don't kill the frogs out here. I'd prefer frogs over toads any day of the week. Even when (after rain) we have a mass explosion in frog numbers. They are pretty harmless really. Just completely gross and horrible to touch. 


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Alice Constance Clark

My Nana, Alice Constance Clark, passed away 9 years ago. I was living in England at the time. She left behind 7 children and 17 grand children, many of whom now have their own children. My family and I still talk about her regularly. We laugh and reminisce about a woman who was intelligent, caring, hard working and dedicated. She loved her family and friends and was passionate about helping others. I'm sure I am right in saying that we all miss her terribly at some time or another.

It's funny the things you remember about people. So today I have tried to compile a list of things that I remember this amazing woman for. Some of them directly involve me, others may not. Some might be stories I have heard from others and some might be stories she told me herself. If you knew her, there might be some you don't agree with. But they are my memories. My images of a Nana who was nothing less than amazing.

So in no particular order:

1.  Phone calls with Nana always started with "Don't waste your money ringing me..." It was never a waste of money, and I loved ringing her. I did it regularly.

2.  When Nana sent you a 'letter', odds were on that it was probably a newspaper cutting of something she wanted you to know about because she thought it related to you in some way, or it contained a message she thought you should know. She possibly wrote 'Dear Jessie' at the top, and 'Love Nana' at the bottom, but it was rarely a 'letter'. Sometimes it was even a quick message scrawled out on a bank withdrawal form whilst she was lined up waiting to be served. My sister was living in Denmark after she finished high school. She once received a postcard from Nana (featuring tourist destinations around Queensland on the front) with nothing written on it other than 'Tell people to come here and visit.'

3. Nana always sent birthday cards when we were kids. Usually with money inside. We knew it was coming and we loved it.

4.  Whilst living in England, I had been having discussions with an elderly man who lived next door to us. He had been telling me about his experiences in the Second World War. It occurred to me that I had never asked my Grandparents what either of their involvement in the War was. So I phoned my Nana, armed with a page of questions that I wanted to ask her before the opportunity was lost to me forever. The questions ranged from her life experiences to her thoughts and beliefs on things. That phone call started with "Don't waste your money ringing me..." and finished with "I love you. Stay safe and enjoy your trip." Best phone call I ever had with her. She passed away a week later. I was devastated, but so incredibly relieved and satisfied.

5.   Nana first fell in love with Grandad when she was visiting his sister, who was a friend of hers. She remembered standing on the side of a cattle yard fence, watching him work. She said she knew then that she wanted to marry him.

6.  She called chicken, 'fowl'. And it used to make us laugh every single time.And she knew it made us laugh, and I'm sure that's why she said it in front of us half the time. She would laugh at us laughing at her.

7. She made me realise that 'old people' really don't get embarrassed easily. There was a 'bus incident' once that makes me laugh even thinking about it. I love that Nana didn't take herself too seriously, and was able to laugh at herself. And then she would remind us that we shouldn't laugh at her because she was old. And we would all laugh again.

8. I met CP the year before she passed away. I remember calling her and telling her I had met a farmer. She asked me what kind of farmer he was, and I told her he was a sheep and cattle farmer. She said something along the lines of 'That would have been great in the 60s Jessie, but you need to go and find yourself a cotton farmer. That's where money is nowadays.' But I know that she would be happy I was happy. And sheep aren't so bad these days either you know Nana!

9.  Nana used to tell us we would get fat if we ate the gristle on our meat. And then in the next breath, she would take the gristle off our plates and eat it herself. I used to tell her I would rather die fat and happy, but to this day I still don't eat the gristle on my meat.

10.  Nana used to think crazy things like 'you can get brain damage if you are left handed and try to write with your right hand.' (I am a left hander). I actually don't even know if she was joking, or if she really believed it, or if she just thought I shouldn't put strain on my brain when it was completely unnecessary... but every now and then I wonder what she would be thinking if she saw me trying to write with my right hand on occasion.

11.  Nana loved my sister Hannah, and my cousin Susan enormously. It's not a secret. I wouldn't call them favourites... okay, maybe a little. She loved us all dearly, but she had a soft spot for the two of them. Hannah lived in Rockhampton for a while and used to visit Nana regularly. I think when you are old and living on your own, a visit from a granchild is enough to elevate them to the position of favourite. Nana also used to tell Hannah she should try to be more like me. It's easy for your Nana not to see your faults when you live so far away from her! When we were very young though, Nana used to have a soft spot for my brother Jackson. I think he reminded her of one of her own brothers who had passed away when she was young.

12.  Nana worked tirelessly for Consumer Affairs. This must explain where I get my 'fighting bone' from. I won't let something unfair settle until it is fully resolved.

13. She was a driving instructor in her younger days. And she drove a Mini. I still think about her whenever I see a Mini.

14. She always thought of others first. She even received The Order Of Australia Medal from the Queen. It was for her volunteer work with the community. I don't think Nana thought she deserved it. But there couldn't have been a more deserving recipient. She was constantly doing things for the community in the way of Women's groups or local politicians offices.

15. Nana had a passion for travel. My grandparents never had much money (though they both worked hard). So it was nice that Nana could travel with my mother and some of her other children at different points in their lives. I have some fantastic stories my mother has told about her own travel adventures with her mother. Once, in Canada, there was an incident with a bear, while my mother was trying to take a photo. Funnily enough, history seems to be repeating. When my mother and sister traveled Canada together more recently, there was an incident in Canada involving too much snow and a camper van. And so the adventure gene continues...

16.   Nana once told my sister that there are seven days in the week, (and she had seven children), and it would have been nice if they didn't all ring Sunday. I used to try to ring her on a Wednesday incidentally.

17.   When I look at my mother I see Nana. Mum has always been very much like Nana, but as she ages, she is more and more like her. And I mean that in the best way possible. Her expressions, her mannerisms, and her face. They are so alike it is amazing. And my sister Hannah is so much like them too it is funny!

I miss Nana. But I have no regrets. Our time together was short, but it was quality, and I suppose that through memories like this, she lives on. I also believe that somewhere out there, this will make her smile.

Friday, February 11, 2011

It Must Be Love

It's interesting when you think about all the different ways that people show 'love'.

A few years ago CP and I were driving back home from Brisbane together. I had been away with the kids for a few weeks, and CP had come to collect us for the long drive back again. About half way into the journey CP turned to me with the most loving look in his eyes. He took my hand in his, and gave me a big goofy smile. Then he said, "I've got a surprise for you at home. It's something that will make you very happy." Well naturally, my curiosity was piqued, so I started to guess.
"Is it sparkly, and can I wear it on my finger?"
"No, it's not sparkly and you can't wear it."
"Is it something I can use? Like maybe something in the kitchen?"
"No, it's bigger than that."
"Is it a new car??"
"Did you renovate the house??"
"No...but it's an outside thing."
"It's a POOL! You got a pool!"
"No... they cost too much money..."

I think I may have frowned then...

"I give up. Just tell me."
"It's something I KNOW will make you really happy. Something that will change your life."
"Just tell me."
"I took out the gate you have to open every day on your way to school, and I put in a grid!"
"And what else?"
"That's it. I knew it would make you happy. I know how much you hated having to open and close that gate every day. Especially if it was raining. And I thought, this way, you never have to get the gate."

I think I may have smiled a little. Just a little.

This is the grid.

He even put in a little sign and everything.
And up close...

It wasn't until I actually started using the grid that I realised something very important. CP really loves me. I always knew he really loved me, but I realised how he just shows his love in a way that is so completely different to the way in which I express love. He chooses 'acts of kindness' to express his love, where as I am more of a 'verbal or physical'expresser of my love.  When CP put that grid in for me, he would have spent considerable time beforehand thinking about how much it would improve my quality of life. He had foreseen how I would have one less thing to complain about. And then he slugged his guts out for at least a whole day or two to install this grid so that it was perfect for when I got home.

He must really love me.

Or maybe he just was sick of getting the gate too? No - he loves me.

I'm really not a big gift person. But it has taken some time getting used to the fact that CP is not a gift person AT ALL.  And who am I kidding? I'm still not used to his ignorance in the gift giving department. But if I added up all the times he 'did something' for me to show me that he loved me, I would have lost count years ago. I'm more of a "thought that counts" kind of girl. And NO, CP, "Happy Birthday Jess" and then completely ignoring me for the remainder of my day does NOT count as a 'thought that counts'. But if you'd thrown in dinner cooked by you, then YES, it would definitely count. Just saying.

My sister, Hannah, has the world's most perfect partner. (Hello Lole, that's you!).

He's a 'thought that counts' kind of guy, AND a gift giver. Amazing. This guy has to be told when to stop buying gifts. And he chooses GREAT gifts. He is responsible for this:

And this:

And he's also responsible for the famous 'double bin liner.' Which basically means that after a big night out on the town with your friends, you can come home to a nice bin beside your bed/lounge and if you aren't feeling crash hot, you just lean into the bin... and then remove the top bag, leaving a spare for later. Genius. Only a truly sensitive guy would think of that.

So I suppose that while some guys show love by cooking you braised (organic) asparagus on a bed of cheese and bacon cream for your birthday, other guys drive 90km to change a flat tyre, or pick you up when your gear box is broken. If you're lucky, I suppose some guys could do both.

And then there are the guys like Farmer Russell, next door, who just like to buy sparkly things for his wife. Or a nice car for her to drive around in. And I know life shouldn't be all about keeping up with the Joneses, but I'll admit that sometimes I do get sparkle and car envy.

Life is like that though. The grass is always greener, isn't it?

I wonder if anyone has grid envy after reading this?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Farmer, A Wife, The Media

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 'Almost 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. Especially this one. He's not on the show, but I think he could give Farmer Scott a run for his money in the popularity stakes.

It's my brother in law.  He's single-ish (I never can keep up), a pilot, miner, multi talented, all round nice guy. And best man at Scott and Clare's wedding. And he's a bit on the cute side.

Interested parties can apply within. :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Something Different...

This is not a regular post by me, but I felt it was a golden opportunity to do something a little different...

Today I received a blogging award from Pauline, at The Paddock. Thank you very much for the 'Stylish Blogger Award' Pauline. It is very much appreciated. Pauline is the mother of my lovely friend, Justine, in New Zealand, and she has been with this blog since its very beginning. Pauline takes amazing photos, and it is definitely worth checking out her page to see for yourself.

There are four steps to follow that go along with the award.

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you. 
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers. ~They can read it here~
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.  ~I think that, for the most part, the blogs I mention aren't really into the 'award' thing, so I fully understand if they don't 'pass it on' so to speak!~

In my usual blog, I like to share my experiences as a mother, and more specifically, a mother in a remote area. Thinking of 7 things about yourself is pretty hard. I lay my life on the line and there isn't much I can tell you that will come as a surprise... 

1. I originally intended on staying 'out west' for a maximum of 6 months. I had hoped to save some money and continue my travels. I met CP a month into my time in St George, and the rest (as they say) is history. 
2. I never lie (okay, I stretch the truth about such things as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, in an effort to prolong my children's innocence, but I never lie to adults.) When confronted with a direct question, I do not have the capacity or energy to tell a lie. 
3. I like to read books about serial killers. I am not weird. I just really find it fascinating looking into the psyche of people who are that insane. The Fred West story is a favourite.
4. I don't like mushrooms. Or fish for that matter. I like the smell of both of them cooking, but can't stomach them to save my life.
5. One day I want to learn how to take amazing photographs. I keep telling myself I'll do it next time I buy a good camera. But it never happens. Stay tuned.
6. I am anal about good spelling and grammar. It comes with the English Teacher territory. Unfortunately, having children has affected the functioning of my brain. If you find spelling or grammatical errors on my page, 9 times out of ten it is a typo. The other 1 time I have just been a lazy proofreader. 
7. I like to give gifts more than I like to receive them. Honest to goodness truth.

I don't know 15 bloggers to send this award to. So I will mention just a few who I read regularly. I like them because they are funny, or interesting, and sometimes both. And if they would like the award, they are more than entitled to it. Others, (like Pioneer Woman - who is FANTASTIC) are far too busy to even notice an award like this...

In no particular order:

OKAY - thanks again Pauline! Much appreciated! Now back to my regular blogging...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Bowerbird

I often call my husband a Bowerbird.

By definition, a Bowerbird, is a small bird that is noted for building a large nest decorated with bright objects such as shells and glass, in an attempt to attract a mate; It is also a person who collects objects for display. Or - as I like to think - a person who is a hoarder, or a person who doesn't like to throw anything away.

The peculiar thing about Bowerbirds is the nests themselves. They consist of a chamber or passage arched over with twigs and grasses, often adorned with bright-colored objects, and used especially to attract the female. Like below. You can see the 'nest' at the top of the photo, and the decoration to attract a mate around the edge. This bower isn't especially colourful, though it is located out in one of the paddocks. I suppose pegs and bits of broken glass are harder to come by out there. Bowerbirds have a colour preference too. Some like blues, others prefer reds. It could be that western QLD Bowerbirds prefer red (I see mostly reds around here), however it could just be that we have a prevalence of red objects lying around as opposed to blue. Bowerbirds are fastidiously house proud. I like that in a bird. Even though I'm not a huge bird fan. I can see how if CP grew up watching these birds, he would think that your partner shows love by keeping a clean and tidy house, adorned with ornaments that he would find pleasing. It must kill him walking into our house, which often looks like World War 3 has broken out while he was at work, and try to pretend that everything is okay.

This week we found a Bower Bird in the corner of our house yard, setting up a nest. CP and I went over to inspect it, and (much like the 3 other Bowerbirds nests I've seen) there were pegs at the enterance. Clothes pegs. MY clothes pegs. I wanted to go and rescue my pegs from the clutches of this hoarding bird. CP told me about how once you disturb a Bowerbird nest, they often leave home and set up elsewhere. I suppose they are not so different to humans after all. If I took my pegs back, the bird would look at it as if his house had been broken in. Ironic, given that I only wanted to take back what was rightfully mine. Instead, I went inside and wrote 'pegs' on the grocery list. I'd just get some more next time I was in town.

The Bowerbird is actually a very ordinary looking bird. At least the type we get out here is anyway. It is quite a plain looking bird, as opposed to the Satin or Regent Bowerbirds, which are quite attractive and shiny.

The thing I really like about Bowerbirds is that they are terrific imitators. I have come running many times to what I thought was a crying baby, or a cat in the yard (we don't own a cat), or the kids playing loudly on the trampoline, only to find nothing of the sort. And the Bowerbird is probably sitting back in its nest in the corner of the yard, laughing silently at the crazy woman who has come outside in a panic!

I find irony in a situation where my husband (who can't tolerate waste in any form) seemed quite happy with my pegs going to waste in the Bowerbird's nest. Like the real Bower Bird that he is, he doesn't like to share or give anything away (remember the 'thong' incident of Fiji?!). But then again, maybe that's why he's a little partial to our Bowerbird. Maybe he sees something of himself in the bird, and is happy to share with the cute little fella. Especially if it means he might find a female to share that little nest with at the end of the day.

Life in the country can be lonely when you're on your own...