I originally added the page ‘Sidetracks’ thinking I would add any other experience not related directly to us buying land and working towards our ‘permaculture lifestyle’ there. However it seems that the real news is the journey and not the destination. I feel less compelled to write about what we’re actually doing with our lives and more about the million trivial things that make up each day. So sorry for anyone who is following this blog hoping for permaculture advice, unless you’re happy to settle in for the scenic route!
A few days ago I visited my Dad who is a farmer and gifted horseman. He had a few people there practicing ‘Calf Cutting’. I know it sounds like a butchering workshop, but actually it’s a competitive horse event where one calf gets separated from the mob in a yard and then the horse and rider have to keep the calf from rejoining the mob. Most of the skill comes from the horse who is trained to shadow the calf with little instruction from the rider. Despite growing up with a father who is widely renowned for his horse skills I never became anything other than a ‘hack’ rider because I was always too defiant to take instruction! However these days I can certainly admire his skill.
Heather was the Cutting expert there that day and was teaching Dad how to do it. I’ve never seen anyone teach Dad anything about horses, it’s normally the other way around. She was such a great character and is the real inspiration behind this post. I’d say she was probably about 60. She had a harsh weathered face with deep smooth lines. She’d seen a lot of sun. She wore a baseball cap, jeans with a big western buckle and a checkered shirt. She spoke with a broad Aussie accent and gave off an air of complete confidence but no arrogance at all. I could tell she was hiding some great stories. She said about Cutting “it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on!”
When we were all sitting around for lunch she mentioned that she’d had a stroke recently… ‘Recently’ turned out to be seven weeks ago. All she said was that one Doctor said she shouldn’t be doing anything too physical and then another Doctor said that she could either wait around for the next stroke or go on living. So there she was jogging around the arena shouting orders at everyone and mentioning mildly that since the stroke most of the fingers on her right hand no longer worked.
Her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were also there. I got talking to her daughter Kim later in the day. My initial impression of Kim had been of someone mild-mannered, pleasant and amenable. Guiltily I guess I cursed her with two-dimensionality. Boy was I wrong…She started telling me about how her dad had raised her and her brother after their parents split and that she then didn’t see her mother for 10 years. I asked her why and she just said (without one ounce of hurt or resentment) that her Mum just wasn’t cut out for that life and went off droving again. So 10 years later Kim started asking around about her mum, and was sent a message that she’d be waiting in her car opposite the school if she wanted to get back in touch. Kim said as soon as she stepped into the car, even though it had been 10 years she recognised the particular smell of her mother and she felt an instant connection through that. Kim had been the first person Heather called after she’d had the stroke. She got on the phone and said with very slurred words “I think I’ve had a stroke”. Kim said, “Ya think! Call an ambulance now!” To which Heather replied “I can’t I’m getting the horse shod later”…Horse people are rarely mild about the obsession!
Back on Dad’s verandah later in the day, drinking tea*, Dad mentioned amused “you’d never guess Kim is a crack dirt bike rider would you!” My jaw dropped. Such a great lesson – never judge a book by its cover. People are so interesting!
*In my farming family drinking tea or ‘cuppas’ is a sacred tradition and an event that punctuates each day at roughly two hourly intervals, sometimes more depending on the weather. The standard mix is ‘white with one’, I am a black sheep who has ‘black no sugar’ and Dad is not sweet enough ‘white with two’…I pride myself on making an outstanding cup of tea, I am often told “wow that’s a good cup of tea”. Once my uncle even told me I’d make a good little housewife!