88 Days Rural Work: 50 Days in

We arrived on the farm back on the 3rd April, after a 5 hour flight from Perth, immediately followed by an 8 hour drive from the Gold Coast and were welcomed by an army of kangaroos, wild pigs and pecking emus. Where the heck were we?!

By the time we arrived it was late evening, dark and being in the middle of nowhere; rather spooky. We briefly met the couple we’d be working with for the next 88 days, were shown our cottage and then left to our own devices. Surrounded by darkness and silence, I was starting to wonder if we’d made the right decision. I mean come on, has anyone else seen wolf creek?

The following day it felt good to wake up and see the farm in daylight. I’d survived our first night, no axe murderer turned up on the doorstep thank goodness. The farm is a 16,000 acre (apparently that’s small) cattle farm in South Queensland. If you’re a backpacker looking to do your regional work then trust me, look for a cattle farm job. We wanted to avoid fruit/veg packing and picking and the horror stories that come along with it and I can say that we’ve been so lucky. The work is full time, so every day (even our days off) count towards the 88 days.

We’ve been given a two bedroom cottage to live in and call our home and we’ve done all we can to make it ours. To others it may look like a wooden shack but to us it’s everything we need and more. Two bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, lounge, bathroom, utility area and you’ll never believe it but a walk in wardrobe! Every girls dream right? Luxury living outback style. Oh and I can’t forget to mention, the cottage is in the perfect spot for every sunset. So what about the job? Our main role is helping build the new fence around the perimeter of the farm. There’s a lot of machinery work, heavy lifting, truck driving and barbed wire involved. It can be repetitive however I get to work beside Farley every day and he makes the job fun. Whether he’s falling on barbed wire, telling jokes, singing Piña Colada aloud for the roos, choking on a fly or leaving cars in gear resulting in him chasing them down the road, he turns the toughest of days into a funny memory.It appears I seem to get off lightly most of the time and am given the easier jobs. Farley, on the other hand, well, I’ve never seen him work harder. It’s like an army boot camp for him. We have 14kms left of fencing. You may think I’ve gone mad but all this fence work has me judging other fences around the town, “good fence, good fence, shockingly bad fence”.

Other jobs include looking after the working horses whom of which are all beautiful. I’m still trying remember all their names but guess what the couple let us name one of the foals. He’s golden and reminded me of a super hero god. Can you think who? Yes that’s right, we christened him Thor! Chris Hemsworth would be proud. We use the working horses and the quad bikes to ‘muster’ cows from one paddock to another. A term of which up until now I was not familiar with. Who knew cows were so ruddy fast when they want to be! It’s a surprisingly big job moving 200 odd cows or so, so when the job gets too big, they bring in the chopper! The couple that we work for treat us with a great deal of respect. They confessed their worries with thinking we’d pull out or we’d abandoned them when the going gets tough (which has now turned into a long standing joke) but it seems to have worked out better than both they and us imagined.

They even trusted us to manage and maintain their farm for two weeks while they went away. It was a privilege, but has also made me realise I don’t want to own my own farm anytime soon. It did mean that I was taught how to work with the working dogs. They are tremendously smart, nothing like your average house dog. For two weeks I ran, fed and worked them. I may have been over generous with the food part…when the couple got back they said the dogs had got fat! Whoops.

I came to the farm with no pre determined expectations and I can, hand on heart, say I’m having the most incredible, fun and life changing experience. That goes without saying that yes, there are a lot of early mornings, super tough days and there has been moments when I’ve been ready to jack it in and give up (there’s nothing’s really stopping me) but then I say to myself “Steph, you’re not a quitter” and right now I’m loyal to this couple and their farm and I’m determined to see these 88 days through.

I’ve learnt a lot, including how to drive a tractor and other humongous machinery, how to muster over 200 cows, how to build a fence (I can’t wait to never have to deal with barbed wire again), how to work working dogs, how to camp draft, how to fix a car and so much more. As well as learning new skills, there’s been so many ‘firsts’. First time in outback Australia, first time seeing a king brown snake, first time experiencing a camp draft, first time seeing a rodeo, first time working with Farley, first time doing manual labour. The list is endless. For a tiny person with all this heavy lifting I’ve got so much stronger. Move over Mr Muscle! This has also been the most eye opening journey of my life. I didn’t realise how many things I took for granted before working in the outback. To name just a few here goes…

  • Locality – it takes us 2 hours to get to a grocery store. A day trip to the supermarket is the most exciting part of my week. Food has never tasted better
  • Communication – there’s no phone signal or WiFi which to be honest is quite nice. It’s made me realise that I don’t need my phone on me 24/7 however I do miss being able to talk to family and friends back home so easily
  • Flies – one fly in the UK would bother me. Not anymore. Thousands of flies bother me on a daily basis, especially at lunch time. The worst is when they go up my nose and I find them a day later…not cool. Thank god for fly nets
  • Water – it doesn’t come from a clean pumping system that you can just turn on a tap and taa-dah. No, I wash in bull water (it smells and makes my hairs knotty) and we collect our drinking water from the large tank of rain water
  • Toilets – when your working in the outback there isn’t a nice clean loo you can go to when you ‘gotta go’. It’s called ‘find a Bush and watch out for snakes’. I can proudly say I have learnt to pee successfully in the outback
  • Dust – I come home each day with a dust tan. I find dust in places that I didn’t even know was possible. But hey, at least it’s cheaper than teeth whitening
  • Snot – it sounds gross but when I blow my nose, a horrible funky gunky brown yuck appears (with the occasional fly)
  • General social activities – there is nothing to do. Like I said the funnest part of my week is going to the supermarket. To put things into perspective, the cinema is 3 hours away and the pub a 45 minute drive. You can forget Uber or taxis, they don’t exist
  • Eating out / take aways – I miss a good restaurant. The closest thing we’ve got is the service station or ‘servo’ as they say. As well as good fuel, they serve up some great grub. I’m not knocking it, the food is delicious but I miss a restaurant atmosphere and don’t get me started on how much I could do with a Chinese takeaway or pizza!

I could go on but we would be here all day. It’s overwhelming it really is. The conversations I’ve had with the couple are inspiring. Our lives are worlds apart. I could never imagine living my life their way and nor could they imagine living theirs like mine. The other day we spoke about neighbours. Their neighbours are 5000 acres away, whereas my neighbours are right next door.

They find it bizarre that we aren’t taught how to service our own car, build structures, use heavy machinery tools, drive trucks, tie knots, pump water out of a river etc. But really it’s something that I’ve never needed to do or even think about. To them it’s their lives. It’s unreal how different we are, yet we get along like a house on fire and I’ve certainly made some new friends.

That brings us up to the present day. 50 days in, 38 days left. I’m relieved to say we’ve overcome the halfway mark and it’s a home straight from here. No doubt there will be more stories to tell you by the end of this journey. I won’t lie in saying that I’m looking forward to getting back to a little more civilisation but I’ll be taking take what I’ve learnt with me and I’ll remember this journey for the rest of my life.

For now I’m off. Farley and I are currently on our way to the cinema to watch Deadpool 2. 1 hour into the drive, just 2 to go. If you’re looking to do your regional work and have any questions let me know, I’d be more than happy to offer my advice.

Catch you later

Miss Health & Safety aka Steph