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 :-).

It All Ends With Lavender

I wish I could add a smell to my blog… I have spent the last two weeks working on a lavender farm. It actually smells amazing. All who work here must sleep well… Residing in another caravan but in not quite a comfy a bed as the last, it is providing flashbacks to the worst bed slept in a hostel in Katherine. Temperatures rising exponentially since arriving in WA, from 3 degrees and cold to 37 degrees and pretty hot in a couple of weeks it is quite a reacclimisation! The other turn of the coin, of course, is that that warmth allows for more bugs and an increased likelihood of snakes. I have a strange feeling I am going to see one before I leave here… External showers and toilets, with many a pipe lying on the ground, my nightly walk to the bathroom has me thinking they are snakes! Heeding many a warning during my time in Australia, this host was novel in that he said “if you get bitten, don't panic, lie down, stay still and hold your leg. You won't die. Just shout for help.” Then as an afterthought added “if you do die, it will make the news!” Hmmm. Hopefully not!

Learning a lot about lavender, did you know there are over 125 varieties? One is considered a weed in Western Australia. 'Lavandula Angustifolia' (commonly known as English lavender) being farmed here, it is best grown on a slope to ensure the soil is not too wet with some lime in the soil to help it grow. Flowers ready to be picked approximately the end of December/January, this is the best time to be requiring lavender at an Australian wedding! Differently grown culinary lavender best choice for any edible products, I have tried lavender ice cream and lavender shortbread. Most tasty. In working hours, I have been working my way along the lavender rows weeding with many a fly for company… Actually ridiculous, one so named the March fly has a particularly nice bite attached… Flying slowly, usually able to be batted away, with black leggings on sometimes it can take a little bit too long to realise they have landed on you… I would most definitely not like to be here in March…

Some conclusions I have reached whilst here:

  • The TransWA travel website is not nearly as good as Victoria's equivalent. You pretty much have to guess where you need to change then buy a separate ticket… How strange. And not very user friendly…
  • Lavender essential oil does not smell very much like lavender
  • There is only one way to wear your hair. In a ponytail. It can therefore serve as an effective fly swatter
  • The cost of a stamp to the UK has now increased to $2.60. It used to be $1.70. I shall be sending my pictures turned into postcards online for $1.49 from now on…
  • There are many things you can make with lavender…
  • Ants can indeed fly! White and fluffy, luckily these ones don't bite. Happy to nest in any clothes you've hung out though!
  • There is no sugar in lavender salt :-).
  • There is a reason why some songs have remained unplayed on my iPod. The unplayed list now reduced to less than a 1000 songs, the lyrics to a Blue October song had me exclaiming 'whaaaat', more than once, to a field full of lavender! Holy Moly! My ears are still traumatised…
  • It is ok to change your plans :-). I have now made plans to road trip Perth to Adelaide with a friend. I am most looking forward to this 🙂
  • A Scottish pipe band with more women than men is not quite the same… Only three men in kilts?! Not nearly enough to go around 😉

A post script – I hope you like the new look to my site. Mobile users can click on ‘full site’ at the bottom of the screen or find a tablet or computer to see the difference ;-). The name change is just on my page, the URL is still the same :-). Happy Reading x

Burning Clothes and Much Mulching

The sun's rays have been shining upon WA this week :-). Falling a little bit in love with the flowers here, I can't imagine a dry, not so green WA in summer…

Temperatures finally warming, after being inside for so many days at the roadhouse, I am very much enjoying being outside all day with my sleeves rolled up with the sounds of music playing in my ears :-). I have been enjoying my unplayed list again (still 1253 to go!) reminding me of many a zucchini being picked… In working hours, I have been bonding with a substance named 'Mulch'… It is sharp… It goes everywhere… I get covered in it… So much is required just to cover a small area… Its only saving grace is that it is a bit wetter and not quite as dusty as the mulch I was working with in Batchelor… Love the delightful stuff I do… ;-).

My week of randomness:

  • The major event of the week is that I managed to burn my favourite pair of trackie bottoms… Trying to dry them near the fire so I could wear them in bed that night… The heat set them alight… The same week that I remembered that I nearly didn't put them in my backpack before I left the UK and was thankful that I did… I know I need to lighten the load… Didn't plan to burn it all…! I'll need to buy some pyjama bottoms… For I am now sleeping in my running trousers… Don't seem to have much luck with trousers here :-s
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  • I stood in the caravan putting sunscreen on at 8am and was able to see my breath in front of me it was that cold…!!! There is something strangely oddly contradictory about these two things happening at the same time
  • I have managed to watch both X Factor and Australia's Got Talent for the first time in Australia. I asked my host about the timing of these Australia wide. They are shown in each state's prime time. It must be a nightmare to be trying to do anything on social media when something like that is on. A three hour time difference from Eastern time here, you would know who was voted out even before it started… More positive than the UK though, the judges vote to save rather than send home
  • Chatting to my hosts has started the 'European Bucket List' for when I eventually get back to the other side of the world
  • Always adding to the Australia playlist, Imagine Dragons – On Top of The World, Philip Phillips – Home and Katy Perry's Roar have become WA songs
  • A good eating week, I've made korma curry paste from scratch, tried a very tasty broad bean dip served with artichokes and eaten devilled sausages. Comprised of apples, tomato, onion, vinegar and a side of mashed potato, it was delicious 🙂

An Alternative Recipe For Making Marmalade

With an aim to keep things interesting and learn new things, me and the backpack headed down the road to another farm nearby. This time residing in a caravan, I am spending my evenings watching a fair amount of telly. It has been good to check in with the world and hear the news. Finding myself a new sport I found myself quite invested in the moto Grand Prix (incidentally held in a place in Australia I've actually been). What a dramatic turn of events…

In a peaceful surrounding with wind chimes, running water and no phone signal, in my free time I have been doing my best to chill out :-). A bird that whistles the same annoying tune over and over again has other ideas!! Being busy in the kitchen, making some tasty gluten free carrot cake, my new skill of the week has been learning how to make marmalade!

Recipe

Step 1: Find an orange tree. Climb. Shake to release all oranges

Step 2: Find a sharp implement and cut fruit into hemispheres

Step 3: If clever enough, have electric juicer to hand. If not, limber up and juice the oranges the hard way…

Step 4: If juicing the hard way, take a well earned break and rest your arm muscles. Refind sharp implement and slice all orange skins into nice straight little lines

Step 5: Having just removed all the juice, mix back together with orange skins and add plenty of water. May be useful to find a bowl first… Soak for 24 hours. Have a drink. Watch a movie. Go to bed.

Step 6: Find a big pot. It is probably at the back of a cupboard you hardly ever use… Bring mixture to boil then simmer for 2 hours. Whilst simmering, have a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of cake that you made yesterday.

Step 7: Add enough sugar to sweeten 360 cups of tea, some beautifully shiny crystallised ginger and some lemon juice

Step 8: Simmer a little longer. Maybe it's time for lunch…

Step 9: Find many empty jars. Wash them. Fill with marmalade. Play 'guess which lid fits on the jar'.

Step 10: Place jars in cold water. Stand back and admire your hard work :-).

Wood Fired Pizza Ovens and Grafting Grapevines

The day after writing that I felt safe in my little bunkhouse I was lying in bed and I could hear a scratching in the walls… I could hear something moving around… I couldn't decide whether it had wings or was walking on feet… I decided it sounded bigger than a cockroach… I decided it probably couldn't kill me…Txting a friend to share of this dilemma I was called a chicken for not looking. I wasn't being called that having spent time on a chicken farm… I went outside to investigate. I found a blown over tree and a broken slat. Knowing there was something therefore in the walls or under the floor I didn't think it was wise to fix this at 11pm. For it would mean that it couldn't get back out… It was suggested that it could be Santa… A bit early for Christmas presents but this comment did made me think about chimneys… I realised I had a fire with a chimney heading to the roof… I didn't know if there was a hole in the roof end or not… I covered my end with a towel… An hour later with the sounds still on the other side of the wall I hoped that it couldn't get in… I eventually fell asleep. We fixed it the next morning with no idea what I had for company that night…

Night time dramas aside, it has been absolutely freezing the last couple of days! We had the pleasure of 3 degrees one morning! 3 degrees?! Are you kidding?! Apparently a similar temperature to Scotland right now…! Swinging from cold, wet and windy to warm and beautiful, I alternate between hoody and body warmer to only my t shirt! I look forward to my warm after work shower everyday :-).

Some things I have learnt with my week:

  • Citrus kills earthworms. Don't put them in your compost!
  • That blood and bones in fertiliser is an effective deterrent for kangaroos
  • That it is easier to make red rather than white wine
  • Fruit trees are pruned from the inside. 'Vase pruning' if you will.
  • That garlic is white because it is apparently bleached white… Organic garlic is therefore best
  • That you can face a fine of up to $110,000 for killing a saltwater crocodile
  • A lot about Belgium! Two Belgian wwoofers also here, we have been asking each other a lot of questions
  • I've met a beautiful kelpie dog that is allergic to grass. Who knew dogs could be allergic to grass?!
  • A week of geography questions, I now know where in Scotland Applecross and the Isle of Islay are
  • A new skill also added, I have been grafting grapevines to change the grapes for next year's wine.

Lots of laughs this has included being asked whether I am at the ‘pole of cats’ (talking about it being cold they apparently meant polar ice caps), what ‘dumb fries’ was like (our local hometown of Dumfries) and people using the word hay when they mean hey! Finishing my book (quite liked it :-)), adding some movies to my watchlist, Craig Werth and the Hussy Hicks have also been added to my music playlist. My favourite day of the week though was Monday. It was a beautiful hot and sunny day. Left alone to plant seedlings, it was most therapeutic :-). The sun still in the sky, dinner was homemade pizza cooked in an outdoor wood fired pizza oven. Actually amazing, the tandoori chicken and strawberry and chocolate were my favourites :-). For evening viewing we watched Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Mentioned many a time on my travels I've been wanting to see it for ages. Loved it :-). Many a laugh and watching them climb Kings Canyon, a climb I did just less than four weeks ago, it was a pretty cool moment for me :-).


 

The Other Side of Wwoofing

As I did when leaving most places I made a pledge to lighten the load… “After I finish my farmwork” I said to myself… No point throwing away good clothes at the moment… I arrived onto my new farm, containing an orchard and vineyard. Something new already, I found myself an avocado tree! Awaiting dinner I was asked if I would like a glass of wine… I could get used to this…!

I am staying in a bunk house all to myself. It is most nice to have space to myself. My first wwoofing experience was a curtain-less double room in my host’s house, the second a bed in literally a 5 bed tin room built outside the house, the third a luxurious double bed with en suite bathroom in my host's house. Here, I have to go outside in the cold to get to the bathroom but I actually kind of like this the most. It is a good sized room with a most comfy bed. With an electric blanket on it! It is being used as we speak! It is just a little bit cold here at night. Surrounded by wood, I feel very safe here. Though the shapes in the wood, shaped like cockroaches, especially with low light, do scare me a little! I take a closer look then I realise they are not real :-).

This week my farm host took me out for dinner. With six of their friends. They are the first host to do so. They paid for my $23 meal. I was introduced to their friends. All of a similar age of perhaps 55-65, they are friends because they live in the same town. With the usual polite questions (how long have you been here and where have you been) I then sat back and listened with a glass of wine from one of their own vineyards in my hand. One of these men uncannily reminded me of Jim Broadbent, for one of the women it was their birthday. They talked about fishing, and day tripping and holidaying. They talked about politics and local elections and good places to eat. They talked about places not to eat…! This is the first host to show me something about their life as well as the stories of their land. I loved being a fly on the wall for this small town meet up :-).

Whilst here, with limited service, I have taken to switching my phone off for most of the day. Conscious that I spent too much time on my phone at my last host, I have sat and chatted with my host family a lot. We have talked about wwoofing, about the area, about their family and their friends, about Scotland and Europe, about Billy Connolly and about art. We sat and watched Dancing with the Stars. This is the longest I have sat in front of a television in four and a half months. I only knew who Tina Arena was. I hate Strictly Come Dancing. I know, don't judge me but I actually can't stand Bruce Forsyth or Tess Daly. There were many adverts. I usually hate adverts. I don't have the patience for them. I usually fast forward them. We sat and watched all of these. We laughed at the stupidity of many of them. I was yawning and tired but by that point I had invested. I wanted to see the other twin; I wanted to know Cosentino’s story. We watched the entire show. It felt like a Saturday night at home with my mum and dad. I was relaxed and happy :-). My phone being off helped me to do this. I can't quite believe I've only been here a couple of days. The ease with which my host family have welcomed me in and that I seem to have fitted in, maybe it's just practice and experience on their part or just their nature, it is nice to appreciate this other side to wwoofing and feel part of a family :-).