88 Days Later

88 days… Does it sound long? Or does it sound short? Well the 88 days the Australian government required me to do farmwork in regional Australia is now complete. Five farms later (plus one extra for a couple of days), two in Northern Territory and three in Western Australia have certainly provided quite an experience for me! Some amazing people – Go, Clem, Shoko, Kimi, Jo, Lotti, Melissa, Steph, Ariel, Emma, Lauren, Greet and Peter have made it very fun along the way. Some awesome hosts have made me feel very welcome. Trying lots of new foods and recipes, learning many new things, I have been to some beautiful places (some that I may never have seen otherwise) and made lots of new memories :-).

Whilst completing these days, my goal was to see different places and practices and to learn as much as possible. To make it part of my journey here. Staying in one place did not appeal to me at all… Others goals and outputs maybe different, for me, I had paid for my wwoof membership, I figured I should make use of it :-). I liked the idea of exchange :-). Learning a lot about Australia and others countries and languages in this time, I hope that I have dispelled some stereotypes and put Scotland on some travel maps :-). Japan is now firmly on mine, as is a lot more of Asia.

Granted not all plain sailing, it has been one heck of a personal journey. From the low of the worst day of my travels with my last day in Tasmania to being picked back up again with so many laughs and giggles in Batchelor, to finding my way in Katherine, WA has granted me space and time to reflect on the next steps on the journey. Batchelor and Nogerrup's chicken farm sharing the favourite farm accolade; they very much let me be myself :-). Lavender though, will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank god I didn't find work in Melbourne! What a path it has led me on. So much has happened since it began seven months ago.

Some particular favourite moments:

  • All the amazing dogs i've encountered – Miley, Mishka, Mr T, Ella, Bonnie, Ozzie, Cesar, Lupo, Evan and Lily, you have turned me into a dog person!
  • 'Do you want to die' being yelled by Emma at the chickens when they were swarming round the quad bike
  • Travelling with boys vs travelling with girls discussions whilst grafting grapevines
  • TimTam Cake Pops
  • Walking the rows in Katherine listening to the music of my unplayed list
  • Race Day in Batchelor – filled with 'what's', sore hands, nearly fainting spells, rainbows, missing dogs, pizza, pool, wine and Eurovision. Awesome. All you do need is good company and a pool table
  • Chatting to Markus in Katherine and hearing his hilarious tale about Coober Pedy involving stars, kangaroos and the police
  • Washing eggs with Ariel and Emma. I loved our chats. Some of their questions would make me drop eggs!!!! 🙂
  • Watching scrubs with Go in Batchelor
  • Friends for a season, reason and lifetime chat on the Lavender farm
  • Laying plastic in Batchelor
  • Stargazing, sunsets and moons in Katherine
  • Priscilla and pizza on the vineyard
  • The day of the lavender salt challenge!

Learning a lot about doing farmwork in Australia and the visa requirements, I will be carrying this knowledge and sharing it when required with fellow backpackers. My work clothes, now entirely dilapidated, have been thrown away. My work gloves, bought for me by my relatives in Brisbane will be sent home a little worn and tired. My work boots will be put to rest for a little while until required as walking boots. It's amazing how many reminders there are. I miss so many of these people so much. What a journey :-). So much inspiration :-). I have loved putting my experience into words for you. Thank you for sharing it with me :-).

Mr Chops, Mrs Chicken and 20,000 Eggs Later…

It has been a most interesting week… Filled of course with chickens and eggs, with sheep also in residence here we have diverged a little to the tune of sheep herding in preparation for shearing. Only people and a quad bike in action, I was just getting the hang of it by the fifth and final group attempt :-). Some of these newly shorn sheep a little unlucky, I then watched one of them, whom we shall call Mr Chops, go from alive to very dead and skinned… The other girls not wanting to watch at all, I actually found this most interesting…

This week a crazy thought entered my head… I shared this with my farm host. “if I died in a chicken field would they eat me…?!” “Yes” he replied. “Is there anything they don't eat?” I asked. Some kinds of grass was the reply… So humans, yes, other chickens, yes, some kinds of grass, not so much…! Crazy chickens!!!! Though in calling them crazy, unfortunately for one said chicken this week, who I somewhat originally named Mrs Chicken, I thought I killed it running over it with the quad bike… I cradled it and said sorry. It closed its eyes. I had to walk away. I had to collect the eggs from the other chickens… I returned to the quad bike all sad. I found it moving with open eyes!! I was most surprised. Thank goodness, though with a broken leg I feared for it through the cold night… My host assures me it can be nursed back to health again :-). The day after this dramatic episode we went through the gate to collect the eggs. One of the dogs was lying on its side. Its eyes were shut. It looked in pain… I thought I had cursed the farm… All thankfully ok, we think he had just awoken from a big sleep and was looking for some attention.

Some amazing banter this week, it included questions of whether you should run in reverse if you see a snake (you certainly don't want to be running towards it!), whether you can eat gingerbread houses, being 'inchy' rather than itchy and i’ve also been told that I speak the 'Australian' language well for someone not from here. It’s not as if we speak the same language do we…?! There has been some interesting chat about 'demountable' houses, rocks tasting better than parrots and we have eaten some amazing sticky date pudding. Now also taking to drinking coffee (apparently third time round is a winner) I have been enjoying daily latte's! David, you'd be proud of me :-). Moving onto a different farm in a couple of days, the chickens have certainly provided a lot of entertainment… :-). Over 20,000 eggs collected, washed, packed and labelled, I think that is quite enough for now! An interesting introduction to WA, and yet more contrast to Australia, I wonder what interestingness the next place will hold…

Egg Madness, Cauliflower Soup and Woodpeckers

Custard eaten. Quiche eaten. Homemade ice cream eaten. Eggs on toast eaten. What do they all comprise? Yup that would be eggs! Makes a change from zucchini's! Despite being a little worried about this egg madness, I am actually eating some of the healthiest since I left Melbourne… Including the novelty of dehydrated fruit, trying cauliflower soup (my mum should be proud, I used to hate this vegetable before I got to Australia but people keep forcing it upon me!), i’ve also had a western australian fish called mullet. It was most nice to eat some proper fish…

Other than eating, it has been a week filled with chickens and eggs! My daily fun task, collecting some of the eggs genuinely requires a Fort Boyard esque game leaping over metal bars!! Always the furthest away corner ;). The chooks keeping me entertained, swarming round us, all we have to do is throw a stone in the opposite direction and they go running!! I don't think a day goes by without me uttering the words 'stupid chooks'. Perhaps a little unfair, maybe they are just misunderstood and are trying to tell me something :-). The weather somewhat reminiscent of Scotland, in my quest to not be doing farmwork in high humidity and heat I think I forgot about that delightful covering called rain….! A bit cooler than Northern Territory, I have been covered in it a fair bit of it this week… Every cloud… the backpack carrying a body warmer and raincoat for the last couple of months unnecessarily, my clothes hoarding paid off with their usage required :-).

This week, my running shoes added Western Australia as a state jogged. Cross country and uphill at that, they had sunset and kangaroos for company :-). Awesome. It's been a while… I have also seen the stars from a Western Australian perspective. Not quite as good as NT but still bright and impressive. Surprising to me and others who know me, I have been managing to maintain these relatively early nights! My body doesn't know what's hit it being awake at 6.30am having had a full night's sleep!! A bit more time on my hands, I have also been managing to read. Only making it to page 33 of Dracula on kindle, having left Renner Springs with actual books and a heavy backpack, I felt it was wiser to tackle them first… 'Still life with woodpecker' my first book of choice, a bit different and 33 years old, it has been teaching me some new words… ‘Snockered’ in particular, reminding me of Michael McIntyre and gazebos!

My highlight of the week though has been the girls I am here with. Laughs and giggles a plenty everyday, we have been sharing stories and learning about each others countries. Chat about weddings, babies, kilts and true Scotsmen, whether Scotland 'belongs' to England, haggis, ceilidh's, how hairy 'westerners' are, which european country has the hottest men, stereotypes, tai one and tai two, 2000cc of alcohol and practising both my Japanese and Korean, the funnest part was venturing out of the farm and taking novelty pictures in a neighbouring town. Got to love the banter, it has been most fun :-).

Chickens are Cannibals?

Chickens!

It was like something out of a horror movie… Chickens en masse swarming towards me, noisy, flapping their wings and staring with their beady, orange eyes. A dead chicken lying on the ground, I watched as a hen, perhaps even her sister, started pecking at her… A broken egg on the ground too, it was but a simple snack for the hungry chickens!!! It is new information to me that chickens are cannibals…!!!!

So that’s been my first few days on my new farm, how has yours been?! This time on a poultry farm collecting, cleaning, packing and labelling eggs, after a first day of handling eggs one by one in fear that I was going to break them all, I have graduated to two handed collecting (a bit more efficient and time wise) and carrying seven trays (210 eggs) at a time (yes I know!). A very different farm from before, I am very much loving the fresh air, rolling hills, grass, forest and lakes within the farm and surrounding area. Springtime in the air, with different flowers and birds a plenty, a nice contrast from Northern Territory, so far Western Australia very much reminds of Scotland :-). Staying in the nicest accommodation since leaving my relatives in January, eating some very delicious home cooked meals, I am wwoofing with three other girls from Taiwan. The dictionary back in operation, it is nice to be exchanging and sharing again :-).