Friday, December 19, 2014

Raining In The Bush

This was this week's instalment in the QCL. I actually wrote parts of it three years ago when we had a surplus of rain. Sadly, we missed all the rain in Queensland this week, but I submitted this piece as many people across the state DID actually see some good falls. Also, the roads around our house have been fixed up well enough that I no longer fear the inevitable 4WD adventure after heavy rain! But this is the story anyway.

This week we had some rain. I know this because The Farmer woke up and announced loudly that it was raining. And then I was annoyed. Not at the rain, only at The Farmer for waking me up. He then proceeded to tell me every five minutes that it was still raining, or (if it was no longer raining) then he would speculate on how much rain we had already had, or how much he was still expecting. As it turns out, the storm was all bark and no bite, and sadly, we only ended up with about 1/8th of an inch.

If you live on the east coast of Australia (or in the tropics, or in fact any place where rain is common place) this means bugger all. If you live where I live, an inch means something else entirely. An inch (or 100 points, or 25 ml) means our tanks and dams get a little fuller, our stock get a little more feed, and our crops get a much needed watering. An inch also means that if the dirt road into town (all 20km of it to the bitumen) has been recently graded, there is every chance I will need to put the car into 4WD. And compacting this, is the unwritten rule of the bush that you can't complain about rain under any circumstances. Rain is good. Even when it's flooding. And an inch is perfect. Despite any inconvenience that it has caused me personally.

I'm truly not complaining. Friends of mine can't even leave their property with an inch of rain. So I consider myself lucky. But I am a city girl at heart, and the mere thought of engaging in any 4WD activity is enough to put a thin layer of sweat on my brow.

When I was a kid, my Dad was a member of a 4WD club. This seems to give my husband endless hours of pleasure, imagining me and my siblings strapped into the back of a 4WD, unwilling recipients in my father's quest for excitement. It was actually fun, I think. But now that I am all grown up and in the driver's seat, it's very different.

The Farmer would be rolling his eyes and snickering at my apparent ineptness in the world of driving in the wet. I consider myself to be a good driver. I should be, my father is a driving instructor. In fact, The Farmer probably could have handled the road today without the use of 4WD. But not me. My legs start that uncontrollable "knock knocking", my knuckles turn white and my brow creases for the duration of the trip. I don't breathe properly, and the mere whisper from a passenger is enough to send me off the deep end.

 I know some of you reading this actually might even get off on 4WD-ing, but it's not my thing. Not with three children in the back and not on my own. Even though I am very grateful for the rain, I prefer it on days when I am staying home. And although I am always happy for good seasons, as a mother of three small children, I am just as grateful for a good night sleep. Rain and sleep in equal measure.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

First Impressions

This was another post featured in The Country Life. For those of you who have read my online book, this post will be a bit familiar. For new readers, who might like to check out my book, you can find it on the tab above. It's the story of how I met and married The Farmer.
Three weeks into my teaching position a colleague invited me out for drinks. Apparently the local rugby team were in town for training. Apparently that was exciting. I didn’t want to go. I had been out all day and was hot and tired. But it was just going to be one drink. One drink.

They say that first impressions count, and as I slunk into the Sports Bar dressed in tight, sweaty jeans, and a green and white baseball shirt, I clearly wasn’t worried about that. I managed to brush my hair, however the sweat still permeated my brow and face. I had only planned on staying out west for six months. I was saving money, teaching, and country boys held little to no interest for me at all. Thankfully, the bar was packed with a sea of red and white sweaty rugby shirt wearers, oblivious to my aversion to the heat. Apparently the post-training drink was something of a ritual for them.

I had mastered the art of entering a room without making eye contact with anyone, and thankfully I located my colleague fairly quickly. I sat and made pleasant chit chat with my colleague and some other teachers, sipping on a cold drink. One drink.

I scanned the room quickly; the anxious behaviour of someone in a place where they feel uncomfortable. I saw my colleague had moved and was sitting at a tall, circular table with four of the rugby players. I didn't pay any attention, and hurriedly sipped down the remainder of my drink. I reached for my purse, said a few goodbyes, and stood, as if to make my quick getaway from the bar. My colleague friend met me before I could move anywhere.

"Jess, come and meet these guys. They are all keen to meet the new school teacher." Her eyes were sparkling. I was like a shiny new toy.

"I'm sure they are. Just tell them I'm tired. I want to go home. Goodnight!” I tried to side step her and escape before this got even harder.

"Please. Last time I'll ask. Promise." So I put on my best polite smile and followed her to the circular table.

The four males were watching every step. It had gone desperately quiet at their table. I was sure that all four of them were very decent guys, but I was just so desperately tired.

"Hi!" I smiled again. I offered an extended hand to shake as she introduced all four by name.

 I smiled and shook the first one’s hand. And then another smile, and another shake.  And another…

"And this is The Farmer."

And suddenly I realised I wasn't going anywhere.

Thirteen years later I am still here, and to think that that night it was only supposed to be one drink. Perhaps there’s something to be said about first impressions after all.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Long Drive

As I have started submitting a column in the Queensland Country Life, I thought I would start posting the articles that are published on here, with the addition of pictures, so that you can see what and where I am talking about.
. . .

I had been dating The Farmer for about a week when he invited me out to the farm to see shearing in action. They were winding up the following week and so I had to decide quickly.

I explained to my boss about how shearing was finishing up that week and how I may never have the opportunity to see it again. The Principal agreed that it was a worthwhile occasion, and I completed all the relevant paperwork to take Friday afternoon off work.

The Farmer gave me the easiest directions to the shearing shed. They weren't necessarily the quickest directions, but they were by far the least complicated ones, and as this was to be my first foray into the world that was 'country driving', we agreed that this was for the best. The Farmer told me to pack my 'work clothes' for the trip.

Friday came around faster than I expected. I had put aside a pair of jeans (new) and a check shirt I had borrowed. Neither were what I would classify as 'work clothes', but as my 'work clothes' mostly consisted of dress skirts and pants and blouses, this was foreign ground for me. It would have to do. I left work at 1pm, and tried to recall the directions as I drove.

I was busy concentrating on counting the grids (was it six or seven I was supposed to cross?). I couldn't believe that I was driving on a 'road' with grids! Soon I had been driving for over an hour and I was starting to fret about the definite possibility that I was lost. In the very likely event of that happening I would either be forced to drink my own urine or eat a kangaroo carcass in order to survive before anybody would EVER find my fully dehydrated and emaciated body on this road to nowhere. For all I knew, I was already a goner. The road was less than ordinary. It was too far from anywhere, and I was really starting to wonder if The Farmer was even worth all this effort. Surely this couldn't be the road he lived on? It was rough. Pot holes were scattered haphazardly from one side to the other. The corrugation left me sore and tingly. I couldn't imagine myself driving on this road on a permanent basis. This would probably be my first and last visit to the farm.
Example of a corrugated road.

Just as I was about to give up and turn around, there it was in front of me. Across the roof of the shearing shed, clearly visible from the road, was The Farm. I visibly relaxed. I had survived, and was then able to see shearing in all of its magnificence, all explained to me by The Farmer.  It’s something I still love to see all these years later, I just don’t have to take time off work to do it anymore.
The Farmer doing his thing. Worth the drive!

I’ve also come to realise that it’s not the journey (all corrugated and long), but the destination that matters anyway.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

It's Called Pet-Mesh

Over a year ago I introduced Gypsy, a Jack Russell terrier, to our family.

Living on a predominantly sheep property, we have many dogs. But not having ever owned a small 'pet' before (or lap dog) before, The Farmer was not excited. He claimed they served little value as a 'farm asset' and considered her to be more of a burden than anything else. What good would she be without a pedigree background and history of good workmanship?!

We were all in love with her immediately, though The Farmer claimed he was not falling for her in the same way that we were. A pat here and a head scratch there, but that was where his emotional attachment appeared to end. Over time I noticed that he let her sit on his lap a little more. She started to follow him around when the children were at school, and then , more recently, he has started taking her out on 'farm jobs' with him, and showing more affection. But when you ask him, his answer is still the same; she's okay.

Then yesterday I arrived home after a LONG day out in the saddle (metaphorically speaking... those of you who know me will know that I am as capable in a saddle as I am flying an F1-11) to find that we had new gauze on all of our screen doors. As the Farmer hadn't informed me of any of his plans to change/repair the existing gauze, I could only assume it was because the old gauze had been desecrated by our precious Gypsy, as she jumps up on the door and begs for us to let her in for a cuddle. The Farmer vows and declares that if the dog doesn't stop jumping on the door, she will have to go - something that none of us want to see happen.

When he made it in for smoko I thought I should make note of his latest efforts, as they were slightly reminiscent of the time that The Farmer installed a grid for me on the driveway to town so that I wouldn't have to get the gate. It was a gesture that demonstrated his love for me. As The Farmer struggles with declarations of love, and public displays of affection, he relies on 'acts of kindness' to express how he is really feeling. In any event, our conversation went like this:

Me: I love the new gauze you installed today.
The Farmer: Thanks, but it's not gauze. It's pet-mesh.

Pet-mesh! I stand corrected. If the dog can't 'go', I guess The Farmer has conceded defeat. Or maybe he really must love Gypsy after all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Farm Survival 101: Know Your Animals

I found this oldie yesterday and thought it deserved a re-run!

When I first moved to the farm (WAAAYYYYY back when) there was an incident involving a four legged beast.

I came home from school (where I worked) to find that I was the only person around that afternoon. When I wandered into the back yard, I noticed this 'four legged beast' (which I will here in refer to as a 'cow' for conversational purposes) sitting over the back fence. Something was definitely amiss. It didn't look right. It was kind of sitting there looking quite ill, if that is possible.

Being the 'city chick' that I am, I was at a loss at what to do. I mean, if this had been a dog or a cat in the city, I would have called the Vet. Did the same principal work for cows too?

So I moved closer to this sick animal and tried to feed it some grass. This was most unsuccessful. So I tried some water instead. The poor thing was not interested in the water either. I must have sat and watched the cow for close to half an hour before I realised I would have to actually do something else. But what? In desperation I called one of my hubby's aunts, who lives nearby, and also on a farm. The conversation went something like this.

"Hi Sue. I've come home and found a cow over the back fence and it looks really sick. I've tried to feed it but it won't have any. Should I call a vet?"

"Whatever you do, Jessie,  DO NOT call a Vet. Your Father in Law will KILL you if you call a vet."

"So what do I do? Surely I can't leave it here suffering?"

(Laughing) "Yes. Unfortunately that's exactly what you must do.Sadly, one of the things about living in the bush, is watching animals who are sick at one time or another. It will all be ok. Just wait for someone to come home and they'll sort it out."

Surely that couldn't be right? I needed a second opinion, and called a local friend for some advice. The phone call went pretty much the same as the conversation I had had previously. SO... the general consensus was to wait.

So that's what I did. I sat there and watched it from over the fence. I'm not 100% sure, but I think I recall sending it love and motivational words about getting better, and staying strong.

When someone did come home, it was my father in law (FIL). I hurried over to tell him all about "the sick cow over the back fence." He walked over to inspect this "sick cow", and then after a few minutes of careful consideration, FIL looked at me gravely and said "Yes... there are a few things wrong. Firstly, and most seriously, this is not a cow. It's a steer." * (Which meant nothing to me, but FIL found it quite amusing, and even had a chuckle at my expense.) "And secondly, I think this steer has been poisoned."

The next morning hubby got up early, and reappeared at home mid-morning. I asked how "my steer" was, and was told very matter-of-fact that my friend hadn't made it through the night, and had been dragged away. And of course, I cried like a baby.

I suppose the first thing about surviving on a farm, is that you learn quickly that animals DO die, and that often the money you spend trying to save them, far out weighs the money they are worth. Farmers are practical beings, and this is hard for city folk like me to get their heads around. The second thing I learned about living on a farm is that you should know your animals.

A steer is NOT a cow. Just so you know...

* A steer is a castrated male beast.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Careers that might have assisted me in my transition to Farmer's Wife...

Whilst we all know that being a wife doesn’t require any previous education and training as such, there are a few careers that might have made my baptism of fire into the role, a little more calm in the beginning. (Or even now, truth be told).

As I am a teacher, The Farmer has often reminded me that I am the ‘drought relief’. It’s an inside joke around farming parts that you will always be the source of income, regardless of the weather, when you are a teacher, and as such, you are a catch of sorts. Of course, it’s all just fun and games. Any job off farm is almost certainly appreciated, however many wome have found that they are more useful (and perhaps better contibuters) by not working off-farm. Whatever floats your boat.

In all seriousness, teachers and nurses (and medical specialists) are prime candidates for snagging a farmer. New girls in farming towns are always the recipients of lots of male attention. And every year brings with it a new swag of female teachers and nurses.

Over the years I’ve often thought that being a teacher would be handy if you had to ever home school your kids. Thankfully I don’t. I HAVE attempted it during floods, when we’ve been stuck at home for a number of weeks. But I take my hat off to women who manage to educate their children at home. You are a breed of women who I could only ever aspire to be like. I found it to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Whilst being a teacher enables me to better understand curriculum, nothing prepares you for the test of endurance you undergo on a daily basis as a mother AND a home educator.

Being a nurse might have also been handy. If you could earn frequent flyer points from calling 13HEALTH, I would be able to fly around the world several times for free. I’ve become quite adept at diagnosing my kids over the years. Mothers everywhere develop that same level of medical ability at some point, but geez it would have been handy over the last few years. The times when we had  a 7mm gaping bloody lip, the fevers, broken collar bones, broken elbows, temperatures, flus, respiratory concerns, vomiting bugs… and god forbid if a snake bite had ever happened. Touch wood it hasn’t – and nor has anything else major – but a background in any first aide could be a god send on a farm.

There are other careers that might have proved useful over the years too.
The other day The Farmer came in at lunch and asked me if I would mind picking him up from the ‘4-corner yards’ in about half an hour. I must have screwed up my nose (and not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I hadn’t drawn those yards onto my map of the property). I KNOW where the yards are, but  The Farmer wanted me to go there HIS way (the quick way), and whilst I thought I had a fair idea where it was and what the best road to get there would be, I wasn’t 100% certain. The Farmer (correctly interpreting my screwed up nose as complete hopelessness) followed up with ‘you know the road?! Up where all those Brigalow trees are.’
*Cue the moment where I realised that a career in Botany might have come in handy. Eventually I found my way there (ok, so I may have kind of followed him out there after lunch, but the good news is that it was where I would have gone anyway). We were all winners.

And I have already forgotten what a Brigalow tree looks like again…

When we watch TV shows like My Kitchen Rules, I will occasionally hear The Farmer make a comment along the lines of ‘why don’t you ever cook meals like that?’ I generally respond with, ‘I DO! I just don’t stack it all up like that.’ Or something along those lines. Sometimes I think that a career as a Chef might have been useful on the farm. As it stands, I am pretty satisfied with my culinary ability. But cooking skills are always much appreciated on a farm.

I am ‘needlework challenged’. I don’t own a sewing machine, and the extent of my needle working skills is patching a hole, or adjusting a hem. Don’t worry, I disappoint myself too. Perhaps my perceived wastefulness could be mended (excuse the pun) by improving my skills as a seamstress.

Other careers that would have come in handy include (but are not limited to) being:

·         A vet (Hello?! Anyone remember the infamous incident where I contemplated calling a vet for a steer that was ill near our house in my early days on the farm? Read all about that sad and sorry tale here).  Being a vet would probably be THE handiest career to have chosen had I known I would end up a Farmer’s Wife at some point.

·         Truck Driver, general labourer, or even a tradie of some description (plumber, electrician, builder etc.). The Farmer always tells me I am the brain of our outfit, and he is the heavy lifter. Heavy lifting is certainly useful on accession. Like when you want to bring a piano into your house… (long story). But our water pump that has been playing up, broken oven and washing machine (and lawn mower now that I’m thinking about it) could have been fixed if I’d had the skills. The Farmer is generally too busted to do anything else by the time he gets home.

·         Mechanic. Who am I kidding? Whilst it would certainly be handy, I should learn how to change a tyre before I look at any benefit that being a mechanic would be for me. And learn how to use the Low 4WD gear in The Farmer’s work ute properly… perhaps muscles is really actually all I need, come to think of it…

·         Accountant. Oh my goodness, I loathe and despise bookwork as much as I loathe and despise the drought. I’d rather sit in a dentist chair and have a root canal done, than do books all the time.* Perhaps if I was more confident in that area, I wouldn’t fear it so much.

* I didn’t really mean that about the root canal. What kind of person would prefer that? ;)

·         A degree in Public Relations would also be ideal. As a member of the P and C, and any other number of committees, not to mention just the advocacy for farming that goes with living on the land, ALL require excellent PR skills. Something I could certainly use…

·         Counsellor – especially during the drought. I actually did start my Masters in Guidance and Counselling and having babies put that on ice for a while (read permanently). Some days I think that having skills in this area would be something of a godsend around here. (Or not just HERE, but here as in on a farm or in the country etc.)

Of course, whilst all of these professions would be handy, they are by no means a pre-requisite. Thank goodness. Pretty much all you need is a big heart, passion for the land and a good relationship with your partner to really make it work. That and being open minded, flexible and being able to think outside the square and work with what you already have. The rest will all fall into place eventually.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Is it hot enough for ya?

I'm jumping on the weather bandwagon.

Every man and his dog (in Queensland at least) has something to say about the weather. Everyone is posting about it on social networks. Let's face it... today this WHOLE week has been BLOODY HOT! Driving home from town at 11am this morning, the temperature in my car registered 47 degrees Celsius. I kid you not. But at home, on our trusty verandah thermometer, the best I could get it to read was 46 degree Celcius.


Seriously, it's too hot to even head out to our pool (which is in full sun at this time of day), so we are all hanging out till 4pm, when there will be some shade and we can cool off in the water. And also, how lucky are we that we even have a pool that we can cool off in?

Counting down the seconds until we are back in the pool...

Normally I'd put the sprinkler on in the shade, except that because it's a hot AND an awful drought, we have decided to let the sheep into our house yard to get as much grass, water and shade as they can. And we don't want to disturb them now that they have made themselves at home...

And so we are all locked inside, watching movies and playing 'The Game Of Life'. And face-stalking.

And that's the thing about the weather. It does whatever it's going to do, and we can't change it. We can just hope and pray for rain and cooler weather as soon as possible.

How are you dealing with the weather at your place at the moment?