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AgLife: A dose of reality

As I write this column, there’s the wonderful sound of light rain on a tin roof. 

My garden is lush and full of noisy miner birds cackling in the bottlebrush making a hell of a racket. King parrots announce their daily arrival for some sunflower seeds with a bright and distinctive whistle and have to fight off the pesky sulphur-crested cockatoos.

I’ve even trained my dogs to chase away the cockies but leave the parrots.

The only noise that reminds me of civilisation is the huge freight trains that rumble through the town several times a day. I even enjoy that. A sense of bigger things happening in faraway places.

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The best thing I ever did was leave Melbourne to return to country life. I’ve always felt a connection to the land; landscapes and gum trees in particular. And, like most country people, I have a great passion for animals.

Of course Mother Nature always reminds us of her might and the heartbreak she can bring. 

My first lesson in, ‘living on the land isn’t easy’ was working as a jillaroo in western Victoria when I was just 20. 

It was in the middle of shocking drought and beef cattle had started to drop to the ground. The farmer would move them to the hayshed with a front-end loader and turn them every day in the hope they’d recover. None of them did.

Thankfully farmers now know better to destock early to save not just the animals from starvation, but the land from soil and wind erosion.

Then came the mouse plague in 1984 when I was living in Young, NSW.

The bitumen roads became carpeted with squashed mice. The heat-seeking rodents would literally crawl up the legs of horses, to snuggle underneath the horse rugs at night. Hundreds would drown in swimming pools overnight.

The only place they couldn’t get into was the fridge. Even ovens and cooktops were infested. I woke one night with a mouse nibbling my toes. ‘Is that a man or a mouse?’ I hear you say.

My first experience of flooding rain was working at Jemalong near Forbes, which was flooding just last week.

It was then another drought. It rained like I’d only ever experienced in the tropics. My bedroom windows were wide open and within minutes, the room was a good six centimetres deep in water. We went to the West Wyalong races and the ‘lads’ were stripping down to their jocks and ‘swimming’ in the mud, such was the joy of the drought breaking. A very fine spectacle indeed.

I’ve also reported on fires including Black Saturday and the fires two years ago. Several farmers have said to me, ‘give me a drought any day. We know how to deal with that. Fires are terrifying and deadly and having lived through one is more than enough’.

But if nothing else, country living gives you perspective and a good dose of reality. We should remind ourselves of how lucky we are.

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!