Work, Play, and Education on Country Downs

Host: Country Downs Station
Written by Nikki Elezovich – Owner, Country Downs Station.

On Mondays (so yesterday!), I spend the mornings teaching our four year old, William, his school work. Because he is only in Kindy, it is relatively simple but very time consuming as it is all about ‘play-based’ curriculum. We have lots of fun in the schoolroom; colouring in, drawing, creating things, painting, and attending the daily “Air Lesson”. As we are on a station, our children are eligible to attend the School of the Air. As such, William attends the Kimberley division or affectionately known as Kimberley School of the Air (KSOTA).  This is a fabulous way for isolated children to get the same level of education as those in a town situation. Whilst computers are used these days (utilising a Skype-like program), the air lessons back in the ‘old’ days (I believe only eight years ago they changed) was all done on the UHF radio.

Because I am a tad anal about children getting a good education and providing them with the best opportunities possible (thanks to my mother, she is a teacher), I attacked having a proper facility for William to ‘learn and grow etc etc’, with gusto. So late last year and the first two months of this year, I renovated an old ablution donga from a mine site into a school room and future office/storage/’you-name-it’ room. I enlisted the help of my dad to help put in the new walls and ceiling and the proceeded to paint, patch, re-floor, and ‘fit-out’ the room on my own, in time for the start of my son’s inaugural school year . . . Kindy!

2.1Unloading the ‘schoolroom’ 2010. Kurt and I did this with William (18 months) in a playpen off to the left of the photo.

2.2Renovations, December 2012. We stripped the entire inside out and re-walled, re-ceilinged and re-floored.

2.3Everything but the floor and skirtings completed.     

I did get it done on time, but still couldn’t use it for about a month due to no satellite dish installation! Still, it’s in use every day now (except weekends of course!), and it’s a fantastic way to separate ‘school time’ from ‘home time’, particularly on the days that ‘Mum’ teaches him! Up until May 2013 when Mary first came out to do the rest of her rural work for her second year visa application and agreed to stay on and be the “governess”, I had to don and doff many hats each day. Some days I would be so busy trying to juggle these ‘hats’ around that ultimately chaos and confusion reigned! Some days dinner was a packet of those ‘Indo Mie – Mi Goreng’ noodles . . . with no extras! Luckily Kurt likes noodles!

2.4Schoolroom today, September 2013.

2.5In class, talking to the teacher and painting.

2.6Playing with play dough.

2.7Art on the whiteboard.

2.8“Incy Wincy” scaring Mary.

But since Mary has taken on the role of looking after the kids five days a week, William has his mum teaching him on Monday each week and then Mary from Tuesday through to Friday. Unfortunately, Mary will be leaving us at the end of the year to continue her travels and experience, but I think that she is enjoying her experience with us . . . as best you can when you have limited ability to keep in contact with family and friends.

Communication, or the lack of it, is one of the biggest disadvantages about our situation (and many other isolated properties like us). Most areas of the station, including the homestead, there is no mobile reception, so our only way of communicating to the ‘outside world’ is by way of one landline for telephone calls and satellite broadband for the internet. Despite the fact that the Telstra coverage in Australia is increasing and is now covering much of the National Highways, due to our location we will quite possibly never see it at all! Further up the Cape Leveque Road, there is not only bitumen, but mobile reception over most of the northern part of the peninsula. However, as they say . . . where there is life, there is hope, so we will continue to live in hope that one day we will have mobile reception!

It can get a bit tricky sometimes, when bad weather comes. In a cyclonic event or even just a ‘bad thunderstorm’ our landline (more than not!) drops out for usually two to four days and the satellite reception, for obvious reasons, usually drops in and out irregularly. Earlier this year it all came to a head when T.C. Rusty bore down on Pardoo and the surrounding area, but in its wake dumped a heap of rain (552mm over five days) and wind on Country Downs. Kurt was attending a course over at Liveringa (who you have all met just last week), so I was here on my own with the kids during this fabulous weather event!

I ended up with no phone for five days, intermittent internet connection for two days and no TV reception for almost 48 hours! I know this would seem like nothing to many of the old-timers, but in this day and age, with all the technology and ability to communicate with anyone instantly, I was completely out of touch with the rest of the world for about two days . . . and I hadn’t even left home! To make the whole situation even more eventful for me personally, our ablution block close to the house (10m away), was out of action due to flooding, so I had to race across an open area of approximately 40m, with two kids in tow (ten months and four years), while being buffeted by the wind and rain and dodging falling (actually more like ‘flying’) branches to ‘ablute’. I tried to convince my four year old to “just do a wee off the veranda” . . . but oh no . . . he had decided that this was the time that he just HAD to do all of his toileting on an actual toilet! I tell ya, kids . . . they drive you mad sometimes! In what seemed like half a life-time with kids and I going stir crazy holed up all day, the internet and TV finally came back on line. I could then at least send an email to family and friends . . . oh and of course, in a very indirect fashion, my husband!

2.9Flooding down one of our roads after about 200mm of rain.

2.10Another station road after a dumping of rain.

2.11Watching the thunderheads rolling in. A typical storm/weather event approach.

It’s all part and parcel of living in an isolated environment, but there are some magic moments too. Whilst we don’t often have time off (an offshoot of working for yourself and forgetting to ‘have a life too’!), we do occasionally take a day here and there to just relax or head over to the coast for a day of sun, sand, fishing, crabbing, oystering (and, of course the obligatory getting muddy and a heap of oyster cuts!). I have to personally thank our family and friends for these days, as it is these people who convince us into taking a day off and doing something different.

2.12Play time when it’s hot.

2.13Everyone wants to rest on the mattress . . . except Rory that is, he just wants to sit and jump on everyone! Four dogs and two kids . . . not much resting involved.

2.14Kimberley Rock Oysters, thanks Steve!

2.15Fresh muddies . . . yum yum! Wonder what the rich are doing?

Just recently I had my birthday and all of my family came up to the station for a couple of days to spend some quality time with us. We had a ball! We had a huge feed of beef ‘chops’ (our speciality when we do a ‘killer’ . . . which we will take you through tomorrow I think), sausages, goat chops and salads, lots of wine, and a killer cake that my sister-in-law made for me. Delicious and heaps of fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeef chops and sausages and salads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEveryone enjoying a huge meal and great company.

The next day most of us headed over to the coast (a good hour or so drive as we have no coastal sections to our property) where we spent it getting bogged (thin tyres . . . great for mud, not so much for soft sand!) fishing, crabbing, and generally having a relax and look around. The kids loved it, Kurt loved it (well maybe not the walk for the crabs!), my family loved it . . . and truth be known, I loved it too despite the sunburn, the fights, the crying about the sand in the food (and eyes, ears, mouth!), and the general running around ensuring hats, shirts, and sunscreen is on or applied regularly. Phew! I had to go back home in order to have a break!

2.18A day at the beach! My dad and Kurt cooking lunch . . . a couple of our very own Boerwors sausages.

2.19The day camp set up. Rory is in the little “KinderKot” . . . attempting to sleep.

2.20“Look Mum, my first fish!” William with his first endeavour at fishing.

Well that’s a little bit of a run-down of life, leisure, and experiences at Country Downs. We look forward to getting another story (aka diatribe) out to you tomorrow. Until then, ciao ciao, Nikki Elezovich.