Host: Mt. Sarah Station
Written by Kirsty Williams – Manager, Mt. Sarah Station.
I won’t deny that there are moments where I miss being able to catch up with a best mate for an impromptu coffee and a chinwag. I’ve wondered what life would be like doing a school drop-off rather than saying goodbye to the kids as they run out of the kitchen door into the next building. I’ve wondered what it would be like to have to go to a supermarket and do the grocery shopping each week rather than emailing a list and having it sent out on the mail. I’ve worried about the kids not being able to play sports and go to birthday parties like other kids their age living in civilisation do. But between all this wondering and worrying, there are a lot more moments where I think how lucky we are! I guess at the end of the day, it’s more important to look at the positives of living where you do and not dwell on what you can’t do or what you may be missing out on.
Age or ability is no barrier. Oodnadatta Pink Stumps Day 2017.
By not having to go shopping, missing out on social events down south due to distance and being home much of the time, I often have people say “What do you do all day out there?” I always smile as I actually have no idea where my days go but what I do know is that days start early and end late and it still feels like I need an extra 20 hours in every day to achieve what I would like to. Like city people, our days are busy too, just filled in a different way.
Like the city we also have road hazards – main (and only) road in and out of home after a rain.
The phone rings at home any time between 5:00am and 10:30pm as there are no set ‘business hours’. With no shops down the road, we rely heavily upon the phone and internet to run the property efficiently. Many times I’ve rung places to place an order and wonder why they won’t answer only to realise that they’re still an hour or more from opening business for the day. When teaching before moving to the station, first lessons starting just before 9am used to feel early, nowadays it’s well into the day and closer to smoko than breakfast. This year we’ve had stints of the phone being out of order for to 2-3 weeks at a time. Can you imagine the mayhem that would happen if mobile service in the city was cut for a fortnight and you had no other alternative except restricted internet usage . . . ? It makes it interesting logistically trying to organise everything through email but at the end of the day, you just have to make do. To be honest, when the phone’s out it is actually quite peaceful without the constant interruption!
What it is all about! Catching up with friends at waterhole ‘halfway’.
Food has a constant prominence in the life of station living. Whether it is ordering, cooking, preparing, or storing it is something that you are always trying to stay ten steps ahead with. There’s nothing worse than getting half way through a recipe only to find out that you’re two cups short of one ingredient. Usually a quick google and improvising works, but ‘ducking down to the shop’ is out of the question. And then if it rains, you wait another couple of weeks with closed roads. Food ordering itself is time consuming and can be interesting. I have a ‘shopping list’ but it is more often than not by the case or carton. If you make a mistake there are no returns with the supplier 1100km ‘down the road’. On one occasion I ordered some ice-cream cones only to find a box of 400 arrive . . . realising I had entered the code for a ‘catering pack’. Pretty safe to say we’ll be still eating them when the kids leave home . . .
My little apprentice butcher – bagging for the cryovac machine.
Most nights are a dinner party with extras at the table. I could count on two hands the number of nights it has been just our family sitting at the table for a dinner. On top of the staff it could be truck drivers, other contractors, and mining groups or actual people just visiting, but you could never guess what the following week will bring so the spare beds are always made up. People have asked how I can deal with having staff in our house and around all the time. I actually wonder how the staff put up with the constant ‘why’s’ and the craziness that is three kids running and climbing over them constantly. Our lives are in effect far less private than others because of it, but it is a two-way street. We eat with the staff, we socialise with them, we share much of our lives with each other . . . but because of this, the staff become so much more than just staff, they really become part of the family.
Helping . . . or hindering Dad – Jack, Lucy and George.
With both staff and the endless string of visitors, some known and some random, it never ceases to amaze me the number of people that do actually visit, especially taking into account that you’re in the ‘middle of nowhere’. The diversity of those that pass by is incredible. We have had people on camel treks, car rallies, horse and carts and treks by foot to name a few. It is fascinating talking to these people, and in effect they bring a whole different element of ‘worldliness’ to not only the kids, but to us adults as well.
The Jonesy’s leaving after stopping by on their 1800km trek across central Australia pulling carts with supplies and their gorgeous one year old daughter. (www.thejonesys.com)
Living where we do has taught the kids to travel well and I’d like to say ‘be patient’ but the numbers of “are we there yet?” is only increasing as each successive kid learns to talk. It does make you laugh though when you’ve driven four hours to get somewhere and the kids say ”we there already? Gee that was quick!” as anything under a full day in the car is “quick”. Everything is relative in the scheme of things! When we do go south we pack, as most station people would, our ‘good clothes’. But no matter what my whites that look white when I pack them seem to appear more beige standing alongside my city mates . . . that red dirt ingrains itself whether you like it or not, and just because it’s washed, doesn’t mean it necessarily looks clean thanks to our water!
Hair extensions outback style! (Cow’s tail).
On the topic of water . . . rain. Guaranteed when there is rain it usually falls at a time when you’re trying to truck cattle, get away to a show or simply have some other plans but whatever it is, it is never seen as a burden. With rain brings a mood that cannot be recreated through any other feat. It puts a spring in everyone’s step, makes the phone ring twice as much, and whilst they say “happy wife, happy life”, anyone in agriculture would know that “rain = happy husband”.
Muddy puddles on a whole new level!
With rain, apart from putting a smile on everyone’s dials, come the mosquitoes. Like those in the city, we get equipped to go for a walk in the morning but instead of the high-vis, it is a lathering of insect repellent so we don’t get carried to the destination. And when the mosquitoes leave, the little black flies high five them as they move on in. As it’s usually dark in the morning when Mia, the governess and I go walking, like others we are also are cautious of dangers but on a different level. It’s not traffic or looking over your shoulder to see if some creep’s following, it’s the wildlife. Recently we could hear a loud gulping . . . we couldn’t see it but the noise sounded closer than we would have liked. As our walk that morning turned into more of a jog, we could only hope that old man emu took for the opposite direction, we did devise some pretty gnarly plans on what we would do if it came too close but best we keep these to ourselves.
Bath time – Do you see what I see? No sing songs just counting frogs and lizards on the window!
Having moved to Mt Sarah, I could never have imagined learning what I have in the past five and a half years. But in saying this I think it is important not to forget about you and to get so caught up in the life of the station. Mum told me when moving here, to make sure that I got away from the house at least once every six weeks otherwise I’d go stale. Whether this was a day trip into town to pick up stores or a weekend away for a community event, I think they were very wise words of wisdom. While we can continue doing what we do day in day out, the lifestyle can at times be consuming and without even realising, we can become our own worst enemies by not looking after ourselves. We all put big expectations on ourselves to be the good managers, the good wife, the good mother, the good community member but in doing this, it is important not to lose sight of just how good the life is in general. It is not always easy but at the end of the day, it is what we make of it.
Boys and their toys – never too young to start!