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...

'The Wild West' : Part 1

This story begins 10 years ago. With the assistance of copious amounts of alcohol baby brain and 'life', my memories are a little hazy. But this is how I remember the first part of my journey, and transition from city slicker, to farm girl.

When I took the phone call from District Office asking me if I would like to accept a teaching position in St George, I was devastated. I had asked for 'Part Time Casual, Brisbane' and was offered 'Full Time Permanent, St George.' Fate... or destiny? Whatever... I was off to the middle of nowhere, or else my name would be put on the bottom of the teaching list... never to be heard of in any school ever again!

After accepting the position (which initially I had only hoped to keep for 6 months, so that I could save enough money to go back to Europe), I spoke to the lady in charge of teacher housing in St George. I must have been crying at the time. Maybe I wasn't, but I'm sure my voice betrayed any feelings of angst I had carefully hidden away. The housing lady reassured me of this move, by telling me that St George boasted the 'largest shopping centre in South Western Queensland.' Instantly, I pictured underground parking, ramps, and at least 20 shops inside. I breathed a sigh of relief, and considered myself lucky not to have been sent to a town without, God forbid, a shopping centre.

The drive out west was one I shared with both my parents. We had the car packed to the brim with whatever bits and pieces I deemed essential at the time. Eg: black dress pants, synthetic clothing, no hats, heels etc. Looking back, nothing I had packed was appropriate. I had been told that my teacher accommodation was partially furnished, so I hadn't considered moving big ticket items until once I was officially settled (something I couldn't see happening in the 6 months I initially intended on staying for).

Things were good for the first 2 hours of the drive. By that stage, Toowoomba was the smallest town I had seen, and it was decent! Things were looking good. West of Toowoomba, fields of wheat, fruit and vegetables peppered the horizon. The earth grew more and more flat, and I saw real clouds for the first time in years.

Eventually we reached Dalby. With a McDonalds, Hungry Jacks and KFC, this town still passed my 'decency' standards. I checked the map for 'writing size' comparisons. St George was written in writing smaller than Dalby, so I knew the worst was yet to come. As the hours grew longer, we paused in Moonie. Moonie is LITERALLY a crossroads, with a handful of houses, a tiny school, and a road house. That's it. Or at least, that's what it was. By now we had lost radio. All radio. Or maybe there was still the ABC somewhere out there in the land of frequency, but it didn't matter. I would have  rathered running over hot coals than listening to an hour of power featuring Slim Dusty, and any number of 'stars' who have ever been associated with Nashville. Remember this was over ten years ago and I was fresh out of the concrete jungle.

In between the river of tears I shed consistently between Moonie and St George, some of the things I noticed were the tumble weeds (or windmill grass or roly polys). Were these things for real? Amazing. I thought you only ever saw these in country and westerns or Road Runner cartoons! The earth had turned a deep red-orange colour, the scrub had thinned, trees seemed shorter, and grass was almost non-existent. The roads themselves had narrowed. There were no markings, the bitumen itself was a more earthy colour, and not the coal black tar you see anywhere else. The roads here truly reflect the stones that go into them. There are deep ridges lining the sides of the road, so that if you steer slightly off centre, there is every chance you could roll your vehicle or spin out of contol - or both - depending on the speed at which you are travelling at the time. Which would be fast because the roads are so straight out here!

All this explains why Dad was driving close to the centre of the road. It is quite literally the safest place to be. Aside from the actual physical state of the road, there are kangaroos and other assorted wildlife that have a tendency to hurtle absent-mindedly onto the road.

The last town before St George is Westmar. A combined shop/pub/fuel stop, and a one-building school is all this 'town' has to offer. My breath caught in my throat and I wiped away even more tears. Being the hardened city slicker I was at that time, I was finding this all a bit much. I wondered frantically what St George would hold for me?

Driving into St George, I tried memorizing property names branded proudly on gates for the half an hour before we arrived. For whatever use I thought it would be. In my 'city head' I figured that children from these properties would attend the local high school. Ten years later, (with my 'country head' firmly in place) I realise that children from properties like those I passed on the drive into town, are more than likely enrolled at a boarding school far closer to my stomping ground, as opposed to the local high school. But I'll blog about that another time.

St George seemed pretty enough. Compared to the scenery I had been subject to for hours earlier, St George was virtually an oasis. Green centre strips with flowering trees, gardens in full bloom, and quaint country houses.

The inland fishing capital of Australia. Nice. As we drove down the 'main' street, I scanned furiously for the shopping centre I had heard so much about. And yet there was no sign of it. How could I miss that? On our second lap, my parents pointed it out to me. There, directly opposite the BP service station was the 4-Square supermarket.

This isn't it... but it's the closest picture I could find to the one in St George.

There were more tears.

I moved into a small teacher accommodation next to my school. I learned quickly not to hang washing on the line on a school day for fear of students stealing commenting on my under garments. I survived the first two weeks without 'city television'. I made a mental note to invest in several pairs of jeans. (Who would have guessed that you could dress them up and down to that extent?!) I vowed and declared never to be caught dead in a pair of black fitted pants at the local Pub... EVER... AGAIN!

And two weeks after promising never, ever, ever, to spend more than 6 months here, I met CP.

Life is funny like that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sing Us To Sleep

It's raining. Not much. But there's nothing more musical to a farmer's ears, than the sound of rain on a corrugated iron roof after a dry spell.

Our sheep are lambing at the moment.

We'll all be sleeping soundly tonight.