I live on a grazing property on the Page River in the upper Hunter Valley, about 300 km North West of Sydney. I love it and I hate it.
I want to write about the things I love, the things that surprise me, the things that bring a full heart not a broken one, but it isn’t always clear-cut.
Sometimes it can be very hard living here. Its living beauty depends on rain and we’ve suffered many years under drought. Life here in the bush and the natural world brings days of wonder and moments of extreme elation. It also brings days of pain and times of utter despair.
Working with animals brings the joy and stress of matters of life and death into palpable reality. Every day. And so too human life and death is illuminated like a native creature caught in a spotlight.
I am addicted to the solitude and privacy. I doubt I could live close to other people now. Weeks go by without seeing anyone besides my husband.
But sometimes I feel totally isolated from the human world and its things and events. Lonely.
I don’t live my life inside the glamorous stockyard mythology of the R.M. Williams catalogue. Those expensive jeans and $100 moleskin work shirts make me laugh.
Real stock and farm work involves dirt and mud, blood, mucous and saliva, piss and shit, drench and pour-on, purple and blue vet sprays. Grease and oil, black sludge and green slime too. And fabric and skin both tear on barbed wire.
I wear my late Dad’s blue singlets and his ancient flannies that cost $8 new. My trousers are all too big for me. Every day I wear rags. To paraphrase John Lydon, I am the anti-sartorialist.
I’ve lost count of the pairs of work boots I’ve worn out. For the last few years I’ve been wearing my Dad’s boots, already well-worn when I started wearing them. They are several sizes too big for me. But I like being literally in his shoes. The steel caps hurt my toes when I walk down steep country.
I don’t use sunscreen but I never step out the door without a wide-brimmed hat. I wish I were as religious about wearing gloves. My poor hands…
My body is always covered in bruises. Often I don’t know how I got them.
Also, there’s the night sky…the birdsong…the quiet.