At heart, I am a country girl. My family moved from the suburbs of Sydney to the Hunter Valley when I was nine years old. From as early as I can recall, I was obsessed with dogs, cats, horses, cows and chooks. (I lie reader, I’m not into chooks, but I love fresh eggs.) I would sit for hours with my paternal grandfather, listening to his tales of growing up with horses and I dreamed of having one of my own.
I begged for a horse from the age of three and we finally got our first pony when I about thirteen (though I had to share). In the intervening years I used to “borrow” horses from our absentee neighbours. True, I didn’t exactly have permission, but I always returned them! Then into our lives came Dolly. Dolly the wonder horse with excessive flatulence. Jet propelled, the old black mare was a nasty old stinker who was almost impossible to catch. I wasn’t allowed to have a saddle, we had to learn to ride bareback! I think that was just a convenient excuse for my parents who probably couldn’t afford a saddle.
So began a learning experience that I am so glad I had. I learned to ride bareback on the bony old thing. Added to her other delightful habits was a dangerous tendency to bolt. Or in layman’s terms, to totally ignore the bit and take off in an attempt to rid herself of me. She taught me to hang on. Because if I fell off, I not only hurt myself, I had to catch her again, she would take off for home, leaving my stranded on the side of the road or in a field. Since then, I’ve had a few horses. Dabbled in dressage, at local shows, pony club, barrel racing and even western. I hung out with friends who competed in reining, cutting, rodeo’s and even three day eventing. I doubt I’d ever have done anything worthy of note with my riding, but I had tonnes of fun.
One thing that I did get from riding was a friendship with a local blacksmith, cow-cocky, and cattle carter. Every sixteen year old girl need an old bloke to show her old fashioned respect and be willing to teach and guide her. We didn’t have a grandfather living close by, but Ray Hawkins was my surrogate grandfather. I learned to muster, castrate, drench and brand cattle. I went to the cattle sales, hung off the fence and chatted with the auctioneers and cattlemen. I bought and sold cattle. Poddy raised calves (that’s fed them milk from a bucket and became a mum) and sold them. I had a brilliant time in my teens and early twenties. I went all over the Hunter Valley with my mentor and learned so much.
All this leads up to telling you something exciting, two “some-things” actually. My next novel will be a rural romance, set on a cattle and sheep property. Now, in case you were wondering, I do have a very small amount of sheep station knowledge. I worked as a station cook on a sixty thousand acre property in the Riverina in my early twenties.
Forward twenty plus years. My darling husband and I are excited about the prospect of purchasing a grazing property one day, and so have been scanning the real estate websites and dreaming. All this is leading to me sharing that, in a research and green-change learning curve combo, I am enrolling to do some agricultural courses both locally (Tocal) (link) and south of Sydney (Camden).
In the research stakes, I’ll learn some of what my MC will need to learn to be able to run a profitable station. In the green-change stakes, I’ll learn some basic skills in pasture care and improvement and beef care and handling. I’m excited.
So I’ll be able to research some valuable information for my two loves in life. Writing and the land.
Do you love the country too? Or are you a city chick (or guy) through and through?