*Edited - Hi! As there are so many new readers, I thought I would summarise who I am in a bit of a 'this is a bit about me' piece. x Jess x
I've been a Farmer's Wife and mother for ten years now. In my previous life I was a 'coastie' and bonafide city slicker. After accepting a teaching post in a remote area of Australia, and vowing and declaring I would NEVER, EVER, EVER marry a farmer, it was a position I suddenly found myself in.
Who would have guessed that the tall, dark and handsome guy who drove a ute, wore RM Williams boots, an Akubra, and chewed grass, would be the same guy who stole my heart?
Prior to getting married, way back in the dating days, I used to tag along on the back of The Farmer's motorbike (the wind whistling through my hair, arms tucked snugly around his waist) and dream about how we would be like this forever. Acreage for as far as the eye could see. Sheep, cattle, kangaroos and emus, dotted intermittently across the countryside. Just The Farmer and I, alone and together. It was, of course, very romantic. What I didn't realise at the time however, was that my hormones were playing tricks on me. Those tricky little pheromones were spinning throughout my body and clouding rational thought.
After being married for ten years, I now find myself practically begging The Farmer to take at least one of the kids out on the bike with him, and to take his time coming home! Our lives have become (at times) a mish-mash of overlapping schedules, that directly relate to the amount of precipitation in the air and the availability of man power at any given time. With three children we find ourselves "high fiving" each other on crossover between dropping kids at the bus stop (a mere 20km away) and heading out to fix fences or pull stock who have become stranded in a dried up dam.
Distance seems to be the main thing that people ask me about living out here. Our property is very average for this area at just over 20 000 acres. That's still several suburbs in a city when you get down to it! We are 5km from our mailbox, and 10km to our nearest neighbours. 40km away is the nearest 'town', where my children go to school and where we can buy food staples. Although there is no pharmacy, there is also a small hospital in this town, but they don't have services to allow for child birth, so your best bet is to head to St George, 100km away. It is in this town that I do the bulk of my grocery shopping. I am 250km from my dentist in Goondiwindi. I should also mention that I am 250km from my nearest McDonalds or KFC, and yet we are still shown the same ads as city dwellers on our television in a strange and torturous twist of fate! I am 500km from a decent cinema. Toowoomba is the nearest 'major' city, and at 500km away (or 5 hours in the car), I find I often bypass it to head to Brisbane (600 + odd km away) where my family live, and where my daughter (who wears glasses) has specialist appointments twice a year.
A typical day for me involves getting up at sunrise (who needs clocks, when we live and work by the sun?). In the summer The Farmer is out the door to try to fit in a few good hours of work before the temperature starts nudging 40 degrees. Some days I barely have time to kiss him goodbye, and then I spend the next hour or so begging my children to get dressed and pack their school bags so that we don't run late for the bus. The bus stop is, as I mentioned above, 20km away. That's 20km of white rock gravel, which inevitably means flat tyres on occasion, but also that we don't get bogged on one of the rare days that it rains out here. The children then continue on for another 20km on the bus before arriving at school for the day. The bus carries five children, and I have a great friendship with the bus driver. Where else in the world would your children's bus driver give you their mobile number and get you to call if you have a change of travel plans that day?
Since having children I only do relief teaching. Being close enough to a primary school my children are able to attend is a blessing. We have many friends who have to home school their children because of the sheer remoteness of where they live. Anyone who has ever had to educate their own children will tell you how hard this is! Before I even had children, I knew that Boarding School (for high school) wasn't even negotiable. It is just something that many country families have to do for their children. It is not an easy decision, and often it's the choice between boarding, home schooling or long hours of travel in a bus. I am somewhat lucky in that my mother is the Head of Boarding in a Boarding School in Brisbane, and it's kind of like my daughters will be going to live with her.
On the days I am working, I will drive all of us into town together. It's an 80km round trip. I know that 40km to 'town' is nothing compared to other families across Australia. If I have neglected to pick up milk or bread on my last trip to town, that's an 80km round trip for staples. It means that we need to be organised out here. No ifs or buts. You just don't forget the 832876870 things you need to get done when do you make the trip to town. Or you need to have a good relationship with your neighbours.
I live 80 metres from my in laws. When I had romantic notions about The Farmer and I being alone together, I neglected to factor in our proximity to his parents.We share the farm together. They can not only see how many days I have left my washing hanging out in the scorching sun for, but I also have to wear clothes all the time, even though we live in the middle of nowhere. Heaven forbid they need sugar or milk. I wouldn't even hear the car pull up to warn me! Our other nearest neighbours are 10km away. Thankfully I really love them. Loving your neighbours when you live in the back of beyond is another small blessing, especially when you share fences with them.
Some days I feel more isolated than other days. We live in a 'black spot' for mobile phones. Luckily I can be reached by fellow 'Iphone users' over our wifi. Thankfully our internet speed has improved too. We are still the slowest internet speeds in Australia out here, but life is a lot easier than it was even two years ago. When your job is internet reliant, it's nice to be able to access it without wanting to pull your hair out every now and then. I also rely on the internet, and specifically social networks to communicate with my family. I send photos, videos and funny stories to my family and friends. My children have I-devices that they message my family on. I use the internet for clothes shopping, gift shopping and everything else you can imagine. I have no idea how people out here survived before the internet! They were clearly much stronger women than I am! We also receive mail only twice a week out here. That means that all my internet purchases arrive on one of two days, and I try desperately to be the one who makes it to the mailbox first, so that my in laws don't have a hernia when they see my bounty of goodies!
So back to my typical day. After the bus run I come home to do some household chores. The Farmer usually arrives for 'smoko' around this time. Smoko being the meal between breakfast and lunch that preferably involves something sweet and home cooked washed down by hot coffee or tea. Many farmer's wives join their husbands in working the farm. As a teacher and mother I have never had the opportunity to be a 'hands on' farmer's wife. I admire those women who help out on the farm, but prospective farmer's wives should also know that it's not a pre-requisite! Preg-testing cattle and penning up sheep can be done on a voluntary basis! Next year when all of my children will be at school, I have been promising The Farmer that I will be following him around and learning all about the farm. He said if that's the case, I should write a new blog and call it 'Sunburnt and Sore Hands.' Everyone is a comedian around here. After smoko, I continue with housework, cooking, baking, blogging and writing. I spend most of the day watching the clock, so that I can collect my children from the bus stop and bring them back for an afternoon at home. My children spend the afternoons swimming in our pool, or riding bikes, or tagging along with their Dad or Grandparents out in the paddock. They feed the chooks and work dogs (I specifically mention that they are working dogs) and play with our Jack Russell (our 'pet') in our yard. Even though we still love and cherish our working dogs, they aren't allowed the same 'yard privileges' that our terrior has!
|Our baby Gypsy.|
|These aren't ALL our dogs, but they are all the 'farm' dogs.|
On the down side, living out here also means dangerous snakes! * Gasp * Every single summer I worry about my kids and brown snake bites. Touch wood - nothing has happened so far. But in the (unlikely) event of a brown snake bite, and given our remote location, it is fair to say my children probably wouldn't survive, though a grown and healthy adult might have a greater chance of survival. As my snakebite contingency plan generally consists of 1. DON'T DIE! I guess you could say that after that follows 2. Prevention is certainly the key. We have an airstrip on our property, and a large selection of straight roads that planes can, and do, land on for a variety of reasons. We have also had helicopters land out here too. Thankfully, we have never had an instance where the Flying Doctors were required, but it still helps to be prepared if you ever do need them. Country kids are taught from an early age to avoid long grass, and hollow logs, and how to avoid snakes if they are ever unlucky enough to encounter them in the paddock. Plus we all have up to date CPR certificates, and keep a 'snake bite emergency' kit in a handy location inside our house. Our little Jack Russell Terrior is a great little 'snake dog' too, and she lets us know if there is anything out there for us to be wary of. I am a regular caller to the 13HEALTH number. A background in nursing might have been handy at times, but I have learned that there is so much you can do for yourself at home, without having to drive the kids all the way into town, only to be sent home with Panadol. You can guarantee that if my child has arrived at hospital, there's a good chance it's something serious!
Nobody told me about country kids before I had three of my own. I used to worry about my kids going missing or wandering off on the farm when they were younger. I seriously thought that inserting GPS chips in my children's arms was a legitimate way of keeping tabs on them. As it turns out (and from experience), there's little chance of a child running away out here. There really is nowhere to go, and the heat and insects and fear of worse are enough to keep them close to home.
Country kids don't need summer clothes. They get around in the nude. This is because it's too bloody hot to put anything on anyway. Country kids don't really need winter clothes either- and for the same reasons- except that their parents worry about chills and flus and illness. Summers in the country are filled with mozzies and flies and hoses in the garden. Country kids drink from an old tap, and don't care about bacteria or germs, because they have built up a serious immunity to such things from the time they've spent outside.
Country kids love hats. The bigger, the better. No outfit is complete without an Akubra or straw hat on top. Country kids work up the genetic curse of the 'farmer tans' (sock lines and sleeve marks on their arms and legs) while they are outside putting in a hard day's work on the farm. They muster (on horseback, by motorbike or even by car), plant, harvest, stick pick, water and fence. They check stock, help with yard work, stock work and with cropping. They are jacks of all trades, who build up an armory of life skills (changing tyres and fixing machinery) before they even reach high school.
Country kids own boots. Lots of boots. And not soft suede dress ones. We're talking heavy duty working boots that will ensure that tiny feet stay protected from an array of accidents waiting to happen. Having said that, country kids also like to go barefoot lots of the time too. Across burrs and prickles and rocks. These kids are tough.
Country kids understand the life cycle. Something is born and something dies. They watch dogs and cows mating and understand that it takes two to make one. And likewise, they know that the meat in the freezer comes from an actual (once living) beast, and there is every conceivable chance that your country kid helped get it from the paddock into the freezer in some capacity.
Country kids love the rain. They speak in terms of how many "points" or "inches" we have had, and happily share that news with friends and neighbours. They understand the effect of rain on a crop, and in harvesting. Country kids care about the weather for more reasons than what it they can and can't do at home today. Country people (and not just the kids) have an appreciation for the value of water. We have access to three different water sources on our farm. We have artesian water for the stock, and dam water for stock as well. We also use dam water on our lawns and for some household usage, until it runs out. And finally we have tank water; the nicest water. Sadly, also the most likely to run out when it doesn't rain. When it's gone, it's gone. There isn't a back up plan, and so we value water as a resource above all other resources.
Country kids ask questions like "who's car tracks are they?" and "when can I help you muster?" and "why do some sheep get fly blown and others don't?" Country kids, like city kids, have a fascination with learning. But the learning doesn't end on a trip away from the house. In fact, much of the learning is done at home. Field trips are a way of life. My kids can name all the paddocks (and that's no easy feat!), as well as tell me what each paddock is used for and when. They know their way around the farm better than I do, and give directions like 'past the eagles nest,' and 'near that place where the emu's nest was.' They know the difference between our own cattle and the agistment cattle. They know the names of tools that Dad uses, and the difference between graders and dozers and backhoes. They can differentiate between lamb and beef when they eat it, and will happily tell me if I have cooked the meat too long and made it tough. And my eldest is eight years old.
My children and husband speak in 'farm terms'. When I was pregnant I was 'in calf', and 'an old breeder cow'. When I was breast feeding I was 'an old milker' or 'jersey'. When I gave birth there was 'one on the ground'. They are all affectionate terms and not meant in malice at all. Conveniently, my husband is 'a stud ram' and 'proven sire'. Hmmm...
I may not be a country kid but I am raising three of my own. I am certainly not a country girl but I am doing my best to be me, just the way I am, in the environment I have chosen to live. It's not the life I thought I would choose for myself, but I'm proud that I'm giving it my best effort and enjoying every minute. Being a farmer's wife and a mother in a remote area is all a juggling act – much like mothers and wives everywhere. I'm a teacher, nurturer, cook, cleaner, chauffeur, referee, book keeper, gardener, farm hand, entertainer and a bunch of other positions! It's an adventure; and an adventure that teaches me a little bit more about myself, and that pushes me to new levels of understanding and confidence every day, that's for sure!