Wednesday, June 26, 2013

You want me to go WHERE?

I've written before about how big some properties in Australia can be. One place, in South Australia, is bigger than the entire country of Belgium. Several are over a million acres, and ours (although very 'average' for this area) is just over 30 000acres. I know that many places are much bigger than us, but still feel that people on those places will relate to what it is I am saying.

To give you an idea of what 30 000 acres looks like, I found this map below. (Side note: I KNOW it's near LA in America, but when I googled 30 000acres in a comparative map, it just so happened that a fire of that size has been blazing over there.) So rather than superimpose an image, I thought you would all be clever enough to figure out how big LA is in comparison to the red area highlighted. Our 'place' would be the size of the area within the red border (hidden by the tags, but you get the picture...)

30000 acres is approximately 130 square km. Or a few suburbs of Brisbane. (Or any other city for that matter). There aren't many roads in that area out here, and many of the landmarks look the same wherever you go, so we rely on such euphemisms as "the tree with the big eagle's nest" and "where Dad ran over the big pig" and "where granny got bogged" as real and valid markers for directions.

When I first came out here, I was certain I would never know my way around. I worried about having to insert GPS trackers into my children's arms, so as not to lose them permanently should they wander off, and I dared never venture out of the house paddock without the supervision of another adult.

But time does funny things to a person.

This week I have encountered several tests of endurance; mentally and physically. Okay, so more mentally, and actually not physically at all (unless you count me having to get out of my pyjamas in freezing temperatures to run out to the car to complete the mental part of the test).

Two days ago The Farmer called on the two way to ask me to pick him up out in the paddock. Here is how the conversation went.

Farmer: Calling Jessie. Are you there Jessie? (And actually, he was lucky I heard him because I often turn the two way off when: a) I am vacuuming the lounge room, because it's either that or the phone, and I'd rather leave the phone on. b) I am in the first few days of school holidays and relaxing with a movie and don't want to listen to the truckies share their four letter word exchanges on our channel.)

Miss 8: I'm here Dad.

Farmer: Tell Mum I need to be picked up in the "L Paddock", near the corner of the "Horse Paddock".

Miss 8: L Paddock... Horse Paddock. Right.

Farmer: L Paddock. NEAR the Horse Paddock, but not in it. Okay?

Miss 8: Okay. I think.

Me: (Catching only parts of the conversation and realising I needed to hear it for myself). Hang on. Is that the L Paddock? NOT the Horse Paddock?

Farmer: Got it. All good?

Me: Yes. I think so.

Farmer: Want to check on the map?

Me: Don't be silly. Of course I know where you are.

I actually didn't really know where he was, so I made a mad dash to the kitchen where we keep our map of the farm.

I KNOW where the Horse Paddock is, and just needed a gentle reminder where the L Paddock was, and after a quick glance I was pretty sure I knew where I was going, and ran out to the car with the kids in tow, and headed out to meet The Farmer. I imagined The Farmer out in the paddock leaning cross legged against the Backhoe, chewing on grass and watching the clock.

The pressure was on. This was a test, for sure. He knew that he was relatively close to the house and obviously wanted to see how I would handle this. A good 9 years have passed since the 'flat tyre' incident, and yet I had a sneaky suspicion that this was the follow up test. How much had I really paid attention in my time out here?

Meanwhile, back in the car, I panicked slightly when I remembered that the two way in my vehicle was broken. I had no back up plan. No map and no way of contacting The Farmer. *Cue heavy breathing*

I made my way to the turn off I THOUGHT we needed to take, and it was only as I sat at that intersection that I realised how crap my map was. I had redone it 9 years ago after the 'flat tyre' incident, and thought it was wonderful. And here I was thinking of how my roads didn't line up exactly with gates and grids and tanks and drains. I drove onwards. I couldn't see The Farmer anywhere in sight, and thought that if I made it as far as the cattle yards without finding him, I would turn around and follow the fence down from the original intersection and go with my gut instinct instead.

Gut instinct was right. The Farmer was still working away down the fence line and I had been right all along. Relief washed over me. Followed by a quick, stern reminder to the kids not to tell their dad that I had missed the tun off.

So with a brief mental reminder to myself to make some adjustments to the map, I put the whole event behind me. Until today. Another call through on the two way.

Farmer:  You on channel Jess?

Me: Yes. (Thank goodness).

Farmer: Can you come and get me please?

Me: For real?... Okay... sure.

Farmer: I'm in the Laneway. Near the shearing shed.

Me: Which shearing shed?

Farmer: The main shearing shed. Just head north, and then head south through the Laneway. You'll see me.

Me: Okay. I know where you are...


Why hadn't I adjusted the map? To be honest, I know the Laneway quite well. It is a very narrow paddock that runs from one end of the place to the other. It helps us move livestock through the property with relative ease. Even if I didn't know the exact entrance to the Laneway from the north, I was sure to know it when I saw it, just on the width of it at the very least.

I just hadn't banked on the maze of gates and turns at the northern entrance!

Using just my Jedi mind trick to help manoeuvre my way through, I actually managed to enter the Laneway with relative ease, and spotted The Farmer shortly afterwards. And withe the enthusiasm of a man who has completed one household chore, I made sure The Farmer heard all about how proud I was, and how quickly I had completed my task!

And then when I finally made it back home, something occurred to me. I REALLY DO know my way around this place. All 30 000 plus acres of it! And I'm so proud of myself I feel like I could dance!

I must have been out here too long, or maybe long enough, because this place is starting to feel a lot like home to me. x

If you would like to read about the 'flat tyre' incident, please click on any of the highlighted links above, or just click here, to read about my first solo adventure out into the farm.


  1. Oh well done! I know how scary the thought of getting lost out there in the middle of the 30 000acre is ... one reason I never ventured far by myself when on the station. I don't think my directionally challenged self could find its way back. I also know that feeling of pride at managing to find some obscure landmark or place in the middle of nothing. Passed the lightning tree ... tick ... through the red gate ... tick ... on the airstrip ... tick ... turn just past the yellow grid ... tick.

  2. Now, I have to ask, how is the Farmer at navigating the pantry, or the linen cupboard? Well done finding him without too much fuss! What a huge place you do live on, even if its typical for around your way!

  3. The size of ranches there is hard to comprehend. I suppose we have some big ranches here, but I doubt seriously that any come near this. I own 10 acres, and for most Americans that is considered a goodly sized piece of property. In my case, I managed to get national forest on three sides, so I am surrounded by wilderness and don't have to pay the property tax, thank God. I am envious of you and your family.

  4. The logistics and planning involved in running a ranch that size are staggering. We have some big ranches in Texas and some of our high mountain states, but nothing on the scale of yours, I don't believe. I thought I lived way out in the wilderness, but not compared to your family.

  5. I cannot even get off the main highway around here. Driving in the country scares me to death!

  6. Hah Jessie! I'm country born and bred, (but not on the place my husband and I own) and I recently had to give directions to a pump guy to one of the tanks. Let me say it wasn't easy, especially navigating the laneway and its many gates. But I didn't loose him, and the mud map I drew him passed.

    And I once had to call on the two way (in my defence it was a very dark night) to double check on how to get to a certain place as the men were fighting a fire. (so they all heard)


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