Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Horsing Around

OK this post is a bit of a novel as I've been writing it on daily basis but no chance to upload to the blog until now!

My first Saturday night in the country was much different than most of my Saturday nights in Sydney had been. For one thing, there was no alcohol consumed, nor were there any drinking establishments visited and I was in bed before midnight. I know, I know – sounds boring, but let me assure you it was thoroughly enjoyable! At around 4 in the afternoon, the whole family (four dogs included) packed ourselves into the station wagon and headed to Jason’s parents to ‘test’ their new outdoor, heated spa. As much as I abhorred the idea of getting into a bathing suit, the lure of a spa massage was too much. We enjoyed ourselves in the spa, then spent the evening chatting, eating a scrumptious dinner and enjoying great jazz and blues music.

Much of the talk centred around the Jo’s upcoming 40th birthday party, which was being hosted at Jason’s parents the following Saturday. Jo estimated that there would be about 40 adults and 8 children attending the party, which was being catered for and had a Country & Western theme. Jason, who was trained as a Swiss Pastry chef would be preparing the cake, a fruit salad and the quintessential Australian dessert – a pavlova.

I had been invited along and, since I was planning to stay on the farm of Margaret & Tom Fisher, whom Jo had invited to the party, it seemed I would be able to make it. Now all I needed was a cowgirl outfit and lots of willpower to keep my New Year’s resolution not to eat any sweets!

Jo spent a good portion of the evening hunting through boxes that she & Jason had stored in the garage when they moved to the countryside from their home in Sydney. There was a treasure trove of memories buried in these boxes- reminders of the forays Jo had made into developing a line of children’s toys when she was in her twenties. I found myself inspired, yet again, by her creativity, drive and abilities. She is continually challenging herself on so many different levels and always looking for new learning opportunities. I anticipate that, by the time I regretfully leave the McInnes family, I will be much closer to finding that elusive thing I am looking for.

Sunday was a relatively benign day – it was, again, too hot to be outside for most of the day. I finished feeding & watering the horses and cleaning their yards as early as possible. While not mentally stimulating work, I find myself enjoying the morning routine of looking after the horses in the paddocks. Two of these beauties are being trained/broken in by Jason and I’ve found a friend in Cuba, who loves to follow me around the paddock as I pick up his poop, looking for snuggles wherever possible. Horses truly are one of Mother Nature’s greatest marvels – a fine balance of strength and gentleness.

Monday’s weather was perfect – it was sunny, but not sweltering and there was a light breeze, as opposed to the gusty winds that often blow through the valley. Jess asked me (for the third time in two days) if I wanted to walk to Yarck for lunch. A 7 kilometer walk to get lunch at the general store, followed by a 7 kilometer walk to get back to the farm. Sounded enticing. I donned my workout gear, plastered on some sunblock and off we went, me in my trainers, Jess on her bike. I decided I’d start jogging from the end of the driveway and see how far I could go without stopping. I don’t know what got into me, but I seemed to have more stamina than usual and, lo and behold, jogged the ENTIRE way to Yarck! Now, I’d jogged more than 7 km before on the treadmill, but never on the open road. And I wasn’t even winded when we got there, I could have gone for at least another couple of kilometres! On the way home, I nicked Jess’s bike for a bit of the stretch as my feet were a bit sore.

Tuesday I most certainly worked for my keep. After doing my regular yard and horse
Chores, along with kitchen and laundry duties, I made three, yes, three chocolate cakes.
I started by making a double batch of Wacky cake for the surprise birthday party Jess was
hosting for her friend, but with only one round cake tin, I was in too much of a hurry to get the first cake out so I could cook the second one. Oops. So there was broken cake to be consumed (not by me!) and then I had to make another batch. Sigh. And then I couldn’t eat any of it. Double sigh. I stayed in the kitchen since I was there anyways and made dinner for four – sweet potato fries, garden salad and roast chicken.

Wednesday Jess had her surprise party so there were 6 teenage girls running around, which meant lots of giggling and too many tempting foods – not that I gave in to my temptations, but it was a struggle. One of the dogs, Tara, had a bit of an episode midday – after getting whacked by a paddle that the girls were hitting a ball around with, she seemed OK, but about five minutes later she went completely paralysed as if she were dead. Thank goodness she wasn’t.

The other drama of the day was quite sad. Jo & I went out to the back pastures to make sure all the horses’ troughs were still getting water from the dams because she’d had dreams that they were suffering from dehydration. Her intuition was spot on – one of the dams was so low on water that the pipes feeding the troughs were no longer sitting in water. The horses in the pasture were stressed and you could see it. We let the ‘girls’ out to join all the mares and foals that were in the front pastures (their water source had not been affected). Jo and I then had to lead the two stallions down to the front yards by the house so they could be hand-watered. So there I was leading a testosterone laden animal that weighed about half a ton through a pasture full of fertile females. And the leads weren’t even bit-controlled – we just had rope halters, a lead and a whip. It all went well enough and I realised just how strong you have to be to lead a horse.

Thursday was pretty uneventful. More horse care and another cake to be made - as per Jason’s request. He’s took it to the racetrack where he works and fobbed it off as his own, which I am not bothered by in the least, except he makes absolutely breath-taking cakes that mine would not even hold a birthday candle to.

Australia day is January 26th, but you wouldn’t have known it out in Yarck. Nobody seemed interested in celebrating the birth of their nation, perhaps because the settlement of Australia was left to a bunch of convicts from Britain who were more or less victims of class discrimination and whose crimes were as petty as stealing a loaf of bread to feed their family. In any case, there was a Jazz & Blues concert taking place in Alexandra, which we checked out for about five minutes. It was alright, but I think a certain atmosphere was lacking and, most definitely, the right company to enjoy such an evening of live music.

Friday also marked the day I was supposed to leave the McInnes’ farm to check in with their neighbours & friends, the Fishers. As chance would have it, however, Jo had asked me earlier in the week if I’d be interested in staying on the farm and looking after the animals whilst they went on holiday to Queensland. I didn’t have to think about the offer for very long, I loved the farm and the animals and figured some alone time could do me a world of good. After all, this 4-month trip isn’t just about seeing the sights and doing things, its about finding my way to life’s next challenge. Already I have determined two things:

I will be hanging up my traveling shoes for awhile after this Oz Adventure is over. That is to say, I won’t be going overseas for any long-term stints that involve working/living in another country…at least not for a little while.

I am also buried in thoughts about what I am going to do when I get home. I've decided I really can't join the rat race - I have been trying my hardest to avoid it and only joining for sprints at a time when my debts have demanded, but now that I am ready to dedicate a chunk of time to living in one place, I think it's the opportune time to explore other avenues. I'm thinking entrepreneurship, but still trying to suss out all the alternatives.

It is now Thursday and theMcInnes family has just left on holiday. FOr the next ten days I am responsible for 30 horses, including 7 foals, as well as 4 dogs, 2 cats and a house. I have a massive 4 WD at my disposal and lots of phone numbers to call in case of an emergency. The biggest area of concern is water for the horses. Their water is syphoned from a dam in the backof the property, butthere's a good chance that dam will get too low and the water will run dry. In that case, I am first to try getting the water running again by priming the line - this means I have to go do something with a pump and some valves to create suction for water to flow. Um..on the good chance I don't get it working, I can call a plumber!

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