May and June were busy months for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor. Farm work dominated as we built (yet more) wicking beds and planted the garlic crop, conducted shearing, and managed livestock. Big or protracted events and projects demand so much of us, in the lead up, then the event itself, and then any fallout. Here we spend so much of our time feeling like we are flying by the seat of our pants, learning on the run, (of which there is so much) and getting things done in time for…. I can’t pick just one reason. Properly thrilling. I understand now you need healthy adrenal glands to cope with this farming lark. Yes, there are days of bucolic serenity. There are also days, surprisingly more than you think, demanding high energy and persistence. I actually signed up for this, happily unconsciously incompetent. We are now firmly on the consciously incompetent step of The Hierarchy of Competence. I guess that is progress.
I do love a country walk. In league with my neighbour we walk, at pace, for an hour or so each day. We don’t manage every day, who am I kidding! We walk past resting paddocks, paddocks with new lambs sprouting overnight, through tunnels under railway lines, past stock still rock wallabies (today we even saw a joey peeping out of the pouch) and tucked away cottages. There is plenty to see, little need to chat, and 2 puffing billies who simultaneously wheeze with relief when we reach the top of each rise, minor or major.
photos by Em Callaghan @Emcallaghan1
It is early morning, still dark as I push open the bright red door to the shearing shed. I can hear the sheep moving about, shuffling and clip-clopping on the wooden slatted floor, huddling to face the intruder. Except for the pet posse of 4, who instantly know my voice and hurry to me, ever hopeful I will save them from this whole flock humiliation they are enduring. With cooing noises and a gentle voice, I impart the hard news they have to ‘bear with’ that little bit longer, the shearer will be here soon. As I stand in the pens surrounded by the flock, I feel a deep sense of acceptance. The smell of penned sheep, the snorting sounds as they take turns to muscle through the crowd to check me out. I have their trust. Today it is shearing. My heart hurts, for in a month I will break this trust irrevocably as I lead them onto the truck to take them to market. This will be my first time to market, I am an utter newbie emotionally and by experience. I’m reassured seasoned farmers, good farmers that invest much effort and care into their animals, suffer too. What is the best path to take here? Take comfort in that they have lived good lives (very good going by their condition in these hard times) or stand here and own the act of betrayal.
I realise I have to do both.
A ute pulls up outside.
Onwards. The shearer has arrived and there are kettles and motors to start, wool packs to set out and sheep to pen up.
House build remains at a standstill as our energies are consumed by the farm. This was always going to happen, wasn’t it? You start to build your dream home, then it morphs into your dream life. We could just stick to building and completing the house and then move onto creating the gardens and then the farm enterprise. Some folk follow this trajectory. I guess I had a fear we would end up looking like a square box in the middle of a grassy paddock, utterly out of context. So the garden, especially the kitchen garden, was always a concurrent project with the house build. I guess the farm enterprise was the unforeseen part, the desire to work our land, rejuvenate paddocks with livestock and then manage the livestock. And now here we are, living our dream life with a partially built dream house. What an unexpected turn of events. Don’t say I did not warn you!
pics by Em Callaghan @Emcallaghan1
Garlic crop is finally finished. This year’s new varieties and growing processes definitely took longer to bed in – but in nonetheless. The wicking beds will prove to be bigger than us and our garlic crop. As I worked them it dawned on me their value in enabling those with restricted mobility to realise a produce growing enterprise. Especially for those who are looking at losing their rural livelihoods and lifestyles. It is not the same as farming land, more like soil science, without a tractor.
The kitchen garden is full of fabulous green stuff. It is producing spinach/silverbeet, rocket, coriander, lettuce, lemon thyme, parsley, rosemary, sage (barely), brussel sprouts, kale, and broccoli. The broad beans, peas, cabbages, and cauliflower continue to grow well, responding to the cooler weather. The carrots, or rather what is left of them, dare not put on any growth in case they attract grazing sheep. I know there are other crops to plant before winter is out, however, there are plenty of brassicas and broad beans coming and there is only so much space. For the bees the wallflower, rosemary, and salvia are flowering.
The beehive is struggling and I fear a grim outcome. Having missed our window of preparations to ‘winter the bees’ the colony has shrunk dramatically. We can only hope it is large enough to stay warm over winter and wait until spring to confirm our suspicions. Once things start to warm up there are punnets of English and French lavender (Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula dentata), sea holly (Eryngium sp.) and salvia (Salvia sp.) to plant.
May/June Book List
Free time to read has been a rare beastie and often lost to much-needed sleep. New reads were via e-books. The most notable book was “Normal People” by Sally Rooney. I could not put it down, I felt the characters to be whole and their relationship engrossing. I am a sucker for succinct dialogue and this story delivers.
I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.