I spent 2019 living on a remote cattle station in North-West Queensland and it was the grandest adventure. I lived about 60kms from my closest town and spent my days educating 3 sisters who were enrolled in Distance Education. When we weren’t in the schoolroom we were riding horses, feeding animals or helping in the cattle yards. If I reflect on the inspiration for The Urban Farmhouse this experience plays a large role.
I learnt many things while living in The West. Some comical, some irrelevant for life in the city and some deeply satisfying. Irrespective of their useful-ness, these skills, and the confidence I acquired with them, will be carried with me for the rest of my life.
I knew 2019 was going to be a big year. Anyone could’ve looked at the changes I was about to implement into my life and seen that. Why was the girl, who had a good, comfortable job, in the inner-north of Brisbane, about to leave the creature comforts of barista made coffee, 24-hour shopping centres and reliable internet for a remote cattle station, 45 minutes from the closest town, 5 hours from the closest Coles Supermarket and 15 hours from the closest T2? Well, my friends, that is a very good question. People told me I was brave, courageous, resilient; all qualities I was pleased to possess, but wasn’t sure I epitomized. To be honest, I didn’t really think about how uprooting my entire life and moving to the middle of nowhere would look. I had my reasons, and like with most things, I said ‘yes’ and decided I’d figure out the rest later.
I’d been on the cattle station for a mere 5 days before the rain started and we found ourselves in the middle of the largest natural disaster North-West Queensland had ever witnessed – talk about a baptism of fire (or in this case, flood)! I attempted to take everything in my stride and tried to be the resilient young woman everyone back home was labelling me as. I dealt with running out of clean, dry clothes, because there wasn’t enough sun to dry anything. I dealt with the mold that started to grow up our walls and I even dealt with tending to my own wounds when I slipped and broke my toe on the edge of a buggy and when I stood on a rusty nail while walking through the sheep shed with no shoes on. My bosses, the girls I taught, and the other workers were tenacious, resilient and tough – not because we felt like it, but because we simply had no other choice. (Lesson 1:) We adjusted our sails, weathered the storm and somehow got through.
Studies say that you mimic the behavior of the 5 people you spend the most time with. This fact has the potential to be either refreshing, or daunting. The hilarity of this notion is increased when you live with a population density of 6 people to approximately 36,000 acres. It took me about a month to notice that the vernacular of those on the land was quite unique. In no other landscape would people swear at cows, scream at themselves when they were alone in the middle of the paddock and the water pump, which had the life of 3,000 cattle depending on it, wasn’t working nor have the ability to almost speak clearer once they had a few beers under their belt. (Lesson 2:) A unique language convention of our great mates in the west is that they can insert the word ‘proper’ anywhere into a sentence and it will make sense. It can be used as an adjective, to describe something, as an affirmation or as a verb. Go on, give it a try – The weather is proper hot today. If you don’t let that pie cool before you take a bite, you’ll proper burn your mouth. Yes, the cat did actually use a knife and fork to eat its dinner, proper.
A cattle station is a dusty place. Particularly if you’re working with cattle in the yards. You get covered in dirt and it ends up in every crevice of your body. Couple this with the severe drought our nation currently faces, and dust is just a part of life. It makes its way into your socks, into your house, into your ears and eventually into your soul. Sometimes, you’ve gotta make the best of a bad situation – (Lesson 3:) Dust makes a great dry shampoo. At the end of the day pull your hair tie out (and watch your hair stay in place on its own), rub your fingers through your scalp, give it a quick brush and hey presto! You’ve got perfectly tousled waves. FYI just don’t do this for too many days in a row otherwise you will end up with dreadlocks (speaking from personal experience).
So, there you have it, the first 3 things I learn in The West. Keep an eye out for part two coming soon! While you wait, make sure you let me know your thoughts in the comment section below and subscribe to my mailing list.