Down came a jumbuk…
‘Jumbuck is an Australian term for sheep, featured in Banjo Paterson’s poem “Waltzing Matilda.” ‘ Wikipedia
My life outside of writing might be a little different to the average sort. It’s great to wear a good pair of jeans, a nice sweater or shirt, to have a good hair day and have a face enhanced with good cosmetics.
But when you’re out on the farm, when the wind’s blowing and there’s lots of mud and poop around, the above has no real place.
This all occurred to me as I worked this week. In between pushing sheep into the race, my mind wandered onto the blog and the next post. The odd follower has asked what farming is like in Australia.
It’s like this…
My husband and I farm sheep, merino sheep – the suppliers of the finest, most glorious wool in the world – the kind that is used in the high-end fashion market in Italy for example. Our girls, our merino ewes, are shorn once yearly and the wool is sold on to the fabric weavers of the world. The girls have lambs at about this time every year and this last week, our work with the girls was what prompted the blog.
We mustered them into the yards and over the day, we gave everyone of them a needle that contained anti-pulpy kidney meds, a condition that the lambs can be born with and which is terminal. In addition the needle contained a worm drench that means the girls maintain their condition which is good for them as soon-to-be-nursing mothers.
As we ran them through the race, some of them were so big they could barely fit, prompting the thought that this year there will be another high percentage twinning rate and maybe even triplets. Amazingly the girls can handle it. Heaven knows how! And without nannies and childcare and government support.
In the course of the day, I opened and closed gates about 60 times, I got covered in mud, I climbed back and forth over the yard fences for about 6 hours, I counted out 500 pregnant mums, I moved 11 rams, drafted off four frail ewes into the hospital paddock, and we fenced off my horse’s grave so that the copse of trees we’ve planted won’t be eaten by the rams.
By 4PM, my hair had blown free of its tie, my lips were chafed, my hands muddy and sore, I had a spectacular bruise on the leg after a number of the girls ran backward instead of forward, my boots were two feet taller with mud, and my face was covered in freckles, because it was sunny and warm. I staggered into the laundry, threw all the clothes on the heavy cycle. Washed my hair, made scrambled eggs for us for dinner and then sat speechless with exhaustion for that night and the next day.
So that, friends, is what I do when I should really be writing, and why Gisborne’s taking ages and that’s exactly what farming’s like in Australia.
I read a post today from a friend, Corinne Westphal. Corinne and her husband Nils, have left the corporate world of Vienna to begin farming in South Africa and I love Corinne’s voyage of discovery. To a point I think it will mirror my own. Whilst I have been involved with farming all my life in a lesser degree, it wasn’t till my husband (a former farming son) and I bought our own property that I truly had to get down and dirty. I AM the other partner, we have no jackeroos or jilleroos working for us (cowboys and cowgirls in US parlance), except on an occasional contracting basis and the buck stops with us. I have had to get used to the worst that farming can throw: death, expense, pain and dirt. But the positives? Man, trust me… worth every minute. If you don’t believe me, read Corinne’s posts as she and Nils develop their new life. You’ll see.