Saturday, May 21, 2011

How To Survive On A Farm (Tips From Someone Who Knows Nothing About It). Part 8: Find a Drinking Partner, ahhh, I Mean FRIEND...

Ten years ago I moved to St George knowing NO ONE. Not a soul. And NO THING, (nada, nil, zip) about the bush. Ten years on, I can't imagine myself anywhere else. Okay, that is a blatant lie. I still hope and pray that CP will wake up one day dreaming of THIS - ocean as far as the eye can see, and shopping centres every few kilometres. But since I know that he will die before that will happen, I repeat, I can't imagine myself anywhere else.

Luckily for me, I've picked up a few very good local friends along the way. This is CRITICAL in making the country your HOME. So in no particular order, and in no particular portrayal of the truth, I have categorised some of the important people in my life. They know who they are. XXX.

1. The Drinkers / Girls Weekenders.
It is essential that you find someone who you can just rock up at their house with a bottle of Omni Blue, a packet of Barbeque rice crackers, cut up kabana and a Hummus dip and know that they will not only welcome you openly, and help you consume way too much of above mentioned food and beverages, but also feed the three children you've had to drag over there with you if your stay extends into meal times. The drinking buddy is important because they don't make you feel guilty about anything. You will mostly turn to the drinking buddy when you need to escape your house. This could be because the children / husband / work / weather / cat or dog is getting on your nerves, or it could be because you need to return the mail that was wrongly left in your mailbox. It could also be that you feel bad eating a whole kabana on your own, or drinking a bottle of Omni on your own, and need someone to appease your guilt.

This type of friend is also up for either a girls trip away or 'weekender'. They will come / organise a few days away with just the girls. It involves fake tans, having nails and hair and make up done, watching movies, getting dressed up and shopping. And no children. Or husbands.

PS: Logistically speaking, it helps if at least one of your drinking buddies is also your neighbour. But we can't always have everything. (Unless of course, you're me.)

2. The Cavalry.
This is the person you go to when you need urgent and immediate help in any shape or form. These friends are real gems, because mostly you don't even have to go to them. They just know when to find you. The Cavalry are easily identified at such key moments in your life as pregnancy, major life events, planning of functions, busy periods at work. My Cavalry cooked me meals all through my pregnancies, when the smell of all foods drove me into a deep and dark pit of despair. She still cooks for me! This Friday we have a sports carnival that starts at some ungodly hour (all for a good cause though!) and she is cooking me dinner for that night, so I don't need to worry about it myself after such a long day out of the house! She is also making me lunch, and coming to cheer on my kids (who she is also making lunch for), and helping me get out of the house in time - even though she lives 1/2 an hour away. I know. I sound completely incompetent. I can't stop the Cavalry. The Cavalry is a force to be reckoned with.  The Cavalry has more energy than you could ever hope to muster yourself, and you will only ever aspire to being able to live up to such high standards, as those set by this friend.

3. The Club.
It could be a book club, a sports club, an organisation or whatever. I am a member of several. The club are people you might only meet with occasionally, but they are always worth the wait. Some of the best laughs I have are with people in 'the club'. I'm talking about crying until you wet your pants kind of laughing. Plus I get to eat garlic prawns when the club meets, so that is an added bonus. People in 'the club' are often people you have a lot in common with. They are people who all have a common interest, and as such, are much easier to find common ground with. Plus they take me away from the frightening reality of my crazy life for one evening a month. CP seems to think the 'once a month' is more like once a fortnight these days. And he could be right. But being part of a club is nice.

4. The Workmates.
These are the people who you meet strictly through work. Sometimes they are 'local' (also married to farmers), and sometimes they are just doing their country service. They understand why you are stressed, and why you cry when you are busy. They remember your birthday and bring a cake into the staff room to celebrate. They look after your children when you are stuck in a meeting or are locked in the photocopy room trying to get something productive happening. They are people you will sometimes socialise with in other capacities (clubs, parents etc.) but you will relate to mostly in a work capacity. Workmates are sympathetic to the varying needs of a working parent.

5. The Good Samaritans.
These are the friends (who probably also fall into other categories) who you constantly feel like you will never be able to make it up to. They seem to do so many 'little things' for you, even though they genuinely don't seem to mind. My good samaritans pick my youngest daughter up from the school I teach at (since I get to school at some ridiculously early hour) and drop her off at the Kindy. Then they pick her up in the afternoon and bring her back to my school for me. These are genuinely GOOD people, who I respect and admire in so many ways.

6. The Wife/Mother Crowd.
When I was first dating CP, a farmers wife (who I had very little in common with at the time, but who had clearly noticed my discomfort whilst socialising with 'the country crowd') once told me that things will get easier when I am married with children. I remember being upset by her comment and thinking that it should have been easier than that. It should just be that people like me for me, regardless of whether or not I am married or if I have children. But I understand what she meant now. Once upon a time, that farmers wife was just like me. And all she meant was that it doesn't matter if you have nothing in common with anyone out here NOW, because when you add a husband and children into the equation, we all have that in common. And that's sometimes all it takes to make lifelong friendships.

Some of the women I have met through having children and being married are some of my closest friends. They are not necessarily people I would ever have spoken to in any other circumstances, and now I can't imagine not having them in my life. Our children will grow up together. Hopefully our husbands will grow up together too. Whoops... I mean grow older together...  :)

The wives and mothers are the people you will need to see you through the crazy years of sleepless nights, and screaming children. They will offer advice, recipes, clothes, baking dishes, ingredients and anything else they know has worked for them. They are people you call when you find a sick heifer over the back fence and can't find anyone at home to tell you if it is okay. They are the people you call when you don't know why your baby is crying. They are the poeple you speak to in front of the school to complain about your husband not helping with the children enough. They are people you will car pool to JRL practise 3 hours away with. They are good friends, not only because they have to be, but because they just are special people, just like you.

7. The Family.
The immediate family, the in-laws, the cousins, the grandparents. It doesn't matter who they are. They will be another component of your friendship network. I couldn't have survived without mine. CPs parents help me with the children. They have introduced me to some of my closest friends. CPs cousins were some of my first friends out here. They helped welcome me to a new, large family. And I love them. It's true that you CAN choose your friends, and you CAN'T choose your family. But I have been incredibly lucky with both.
And your husband. You have to like your husband. Even though he might leave the cupboard doors open, and never put the milk and margarine back in the fridge. I argue with mine a fair bit, but I love him. I love him a lot.

I have been asked in the past if the friendships you make 'out here' are as genuine as friendships I made 'before'. And I can honestly answer that, 'yes', these friendships are real and important, and even though they are also necessary, they are often even more important. Women out here understand what you go through on a daily basis. They understand the dynamics of farm life, and country living, and the work/life balance that you try to maintain even without local child care facilities.

My friends and I, we are peas in a pod. They help me to make sense of my life as it is. And I can't imagine things any other way.


  1. Gorgeous post, do you mind if I send readers over from my blog. Sums up country friends beautifully. I am sitting here putting friends into categories now but finding many of mine cross over thankfully. Enjoy your day.

  2. Terrific post. I love how in my circle of friends here (mainly other school mums), everyone 'gets' each other. Some mums work outside alongside their husbands, some run the business from the home office or kitchen, others have off-farm jobs and we all respect each other for our differences and the fact that we're all trying to do the best thing for our families.
    Probably unrelated, but your cavalry reference made me think of it, one of the kindest acts ever bestowed upon me, was a day after arriving home with baby no. 4 (no. 1 was not yet 5 - what was I thinking?), friend blew into my kitchen, laden with Shepherd's Pie, Lasagne, Chicken Stew, Chocolate Cake, Patty Cakes and biscuits. To this day, I believe it's the kindest thing anybody's ever done for me. I probably cried.
    Really enjoyed reading this.
    (PS. Really love my drinking friends too).

  3. You brought tears to my eyes Jessie! I love living here too and that all comes down to the amazing people we have met and the friends we have made (I guess the river helps a bit too!) You've summed it all up perfectly!

  4. This is such a lovely post Jessie - there are days where I honestly couldn't survive without my friends.

  5. This is hands-down the most fabulous post I have read in a long time. I live in the Goondiwindi region and moved onto the farm about 3 years ago...I now have the drinking buddy (sanity), mummy friends, neighbours for the cup of sugar, and the most amazing group of friends and family that I could have ever imagined.

    Your blog is amazing. I love your honesty - and especially love how you make me feel like I am not the only one who loves/hates living in the country. It's bittersweet. Thanks for sharing. X

  6. Bushbelles - ABSOLUTELY! Any time... :)

    Fiona - I hear you! My Cavalry did the same. Sometimes she takes my children for a night or 2 to give me some 'me time'... Some people are just truly amazing!

    Katie and A Farmers Wife - Thankyou!

    Hannah - bittersweet is a neat little word! More sweet than bitter thankfully... (cost of fuel and groceries, distance, isolation etc) But would we have it any other way? :)

  7. How about The Longdistancers, or Long Lost Friends category?! Another great blog Jess. Xx

  8. A cracking good post, Jessie! I absolutely agree with you about making friends once you've had kids and gotten married... Even in the big smoke, you make these kinds of friendships. My mother's group are a very important aspect of my post-birthing life and have understood, supported me and cared in a way that other friends without kids/husbands just don't quite get.

  9. Great and timely advice me , just about to move to a farm. I have 5 yr old boys just about to start school.


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