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!