3. WWOOFIN' the Yurtfarm
Distance covered so far = 3137 Km
'The core of ones spirit comes from new experiences'
Which you believe its April already and have a track record of existing in the Land of Oz for 2 and a half months now and I'm still alive!
Now you're maybe wondering why this blog is called 'A Girl and her Gum Boots'...well in this entry you'll find out how I came to grasp my walking companions.
I've ended up in the tropics of Cairns, Far North Queensland and it is scorching hot!! I feel I can’t stand outside for too long as the heat is so overwhelming but hey better than the cold! I flew here after slumming it on the floor of Sydney airport, I felt homeless, nice insight into the world but 20 other people were doing it too. I pretty much got little sleep so I pretty much crashed out when I found this earthy backpackers in Cairns city. There has been an oil spill on the Great Barrier Reef which is not good for its well being. So finally having time to sit down and reminisce about the adventures.
The reason for my whereabouts up here in the Tropics I owe to two people I was rooming with in Sydney - with my funds rapidly depleting, one Australian girl was kind enough to give me a phone number of a Avocado farmer she knew near Cairns who might be harvesting soon. Without a doubt I called him up and he could give me a job in April.....which was two months away.....so I had to come up with a way to stall my spending till then. Word was on the 'backpacker scene' about a scheme called 'Willing Workers On Organic Farms' or 'WWOOFing' as its commonly known. This was an organisation (which is all over the world apparently) which acted kinda like a cultural exchange getting you off the tourist trail. You buy the book with a membership fee of $60 which lists all the farms in Australia who take volunteers to come help out on their farm and for 4 hours work you get food and board. No money spending from there on and boy my money was scarce and the farm life would be so novel for me, having not really been involved with a farm except the petting farms we would visit on school trips.
Flicking through the handy sized book (which I instantly warmed to being printed on recycled paper and with plant based ink), I first saw advertised in the Sydney area a number and brief description of a WWOOF farm called the ‘YurtFarm’ it was in a country town called Goulburn home of the giant 'Big Merino' statue, 3 hrs away from Sydney.
Now I actually have no real idea what a 'Yurt' was and I am one for novel, unfamiliar experiences so I went for it and gave them a call to ask if they needed any help. I was in luck, I could go in a few days and could easily catch a train straight there from the city.
So I did......
and getting off into the small country town, I felt a sigh of relief to be out of the honeypot trap of Sydney and into the calmness of this little town with its buildings echoing the scene of a Western film set. I couldn’t get in touch with the farmers and then realised I would be needing some Wellington Boots - if I was going to be immersing myself in farm life for a while I needed the look for it. So I walked nearby and found an agricultural kind of place which catered for the labouring man (or women) but when I asked for 'Wellies' I got a strange look and was told 'Nah you mean Gum Boots' and taken to the Gum Boot department...... and that's when I saw them, we were the perfect fit......no other footwear needed.
After being preached to about Jesus by this old guy who introduced himself as Tony, now equipped with my hard wearing 'Boots' I was lucky enough to hitchhike up to the farm which was about 20kms out of the town, through the rolling hills and dusty road sides. Really it was pretty isolated but this was the adventure of it. I knew this was the right place as I recognised the farmers name on the cute little letter box on the roadside next to a sign clearly stating 'Yurtfarm' so you didn't have to be a moron to work it out.
I entered pushing the long wooden gate, closing it behind me of course remembering the Country Code - and was met by an old VW beetle with wooden figures dressed in clothes sticking out of it which sort of confused me and proceeded to walk with 'Boots' of course down the main path channeled by these glorious pink flowers flourishing in the summer bloom. A little down the path, I became surrounded by a tree house and psychedelic decorated trees and shed making it look like some peaceful hippy retreat with signs saying 'To the Meditation Garden'. It was so cute, just like you'd imagine a chocolate box idea of a proper farm, barn, tractor and horses......
Two English girls Josie and Sophie and a German boy Flo had arrived the day before to start work there and told me I could find the farmers partner Judit who was busy shearing sheep in the barn when I turned up with two daughter Ruby and Tess. The farm was abundant with art work from past Wwoofers and cultivated the idea of a primitive 'Back to Basics' ethos which really attracted me to the place with various signs saying 'No T.V' and 'Live Life'. I knew I was going to like it....
Mike the farmer came home from town and showed me his Yurt Village about 2Km away from the main farmhouse on his 1175 acre sized land which he's been building since the 80's. I was extremely impressed with his self made village with 13 different coloured Yurts looking very much like giant cupcakes dotted around a lake. Mike invited youth groups and visitors to come stay in the village to learn how to be self sufficient and adopt a more country 'back to basics' lifestyle, something that has faded in the digital age of the today's world. But these places still existed and I was enchanted by the womb like bubble of the farm like Peter Pan's NeverNever Land where you don't have to grow up and are free to release your spirit in the simplicity of the place.
In case you're wondering - a 'Yurt' is a wooden round house taken from the idea of the Mongolian Yurt tents and made into houses – they are WICKED everyone should have one. You can make them for any use, and they have open fires and are cheap to make. He got the idea to bring them to Australia when he was broke in the USA after the wool industry collapsed and was forced to close his Merino sheep farm. Mike discovered the Yurts at a self help centre in California and brought them to Australia as a new business in Goulburn and is pretty famous here for doing it, he was on the TV and had magazine interviews the lot.
Mike proudly showed me around his village after a quick knock of Ping Pong in one of the Yurts and was astonished to find he had constructed a crazy golf course, a sports field, a workshop where he would teach kids to build mini boats, a flying fox, a bathroom and two toilets whos walls were adorned with inspirational messages from past visitors and the like.
Hand on heart - I absolutely loved the place and its ethics.
So life as a farmhand....its great fun and has given me the opportunity to do thing I'd never had the chance to do in life before. I'm kinda converting to a country girl. The great thing is that everyday was unpredictable and would wake up not knowing what we would be doing as everyday was never the same. We had our own WWOOF House which was a charming little cottage sharing it with the Huntsman Spider 'Spartacus' (you get used to them, they are harmless). We started work at 8:00am till 12:00pm where we squeezed in a 'Smoko' (a break), Mike getting out his guitar to sing us a few Aussie country songs 'Home Amongst the Gum Trees' and recite some Aussie poetry before the heat of the day crept up on us. I've actually wanted to do more than 4 hours because I had enjoyed it so much.
Insy, winscy Huntmans Spider....they're harmless
First glimspe of Boots and I....
I even learnt how to throw a boomerang which were primarily hunting tools by Aborigine huntsman....and it came back first time! haha
When kid camps came to the farm, we got stuck in helping out with them, learning how to herd sheep and light fires, taking care of the farm animals, picking fruit and just helping to entertain them even pretending to be a ghost in the forest ha! (now this is where my experience at USA summer camp came in handy)
The type of work we had to do involved us really getting stuck in regardless of your background or where you came from, which was the Australian country way of being - gravelling the roads, making signs, picking grapes, stripping bark, collecting firewood and even milking the old cow Princess like a maid...haha
In our free time I would go running in the farmland, canoeing, golf, teaching the kids and Mike Tennis on his home made tennis court which is nice because we were also allowed to get involved in the families life as I would take Tess and Ruby to the country show, playing cricket, riding in the trucks with them and playing practical jokes. The sort of life I'd craved for such a long time. I was even around for Mike's 70th birthday so he had a big farm party from everyone he’s known for years rocking up to the farm.
MY NIGHT IN THE AUSTRALIAN BUSH
On the Yurt Farm besides the Village, Mike had built four more Yurts spread across his land for more private stays for people or for the more adventurous types. I was one of the those people and having visited some of the other yurts with my fellow Wwoofers, I wanted to experience being out in the bush overnight on my own with my new found skills, wanting to shake off my push-button city girl background and fend for my self. So I packed my bag, threw in a tin of spaghetti and armed with 'Boots' headed into the bush with the snakes and Kangeroos to find a yurt for the night....
Here's my video diaries.....
The good news is....I survived it! and I cannot tell you how beautiful it is to walk back through the bush at sunrise listening to the laughing Kookaburras and watching the flight of wild grey Kangeroos for the first time.
I stayed at the farm for 2 months and more WWOOFers came along, Leisbeth and Nele from Belgium, Dan from Canada, Struen from Scotland and Heather and Sean from Ireland, so I was meeting different people from around the world and working and living with them. It’s a very unique experience, especially when we were the first WWOOFers to find the surf boards and clean them off to surf the farm dams! Its been a blast and I’m gonna do more WWOOFIN’ working my way around Australia. I’ve had so many good times and adventures so far It’s the best way, you get to meet actual Australians and be part of their lives which I feel is a much more of an adventure.
I began painting a horse mural as a gift to the family for their kindness but the avocado harvest is starting so I plan to return one day to finish it. It feels good to be here ready to work, the weather is getting bad in NSW so I bought a plane ticket with my last set of funds and ran away to the north for the winter! ha (seems to be the only country where you can actually escape from the winter so you can have an endless summer - very sweet)
I leave the Yurtfarm for now, remembering the wisdom of Mike as he told me Five Golden things that most people may need to find their lives fulfilled.
1. To be in Love with someone
2. To have someone Love you back
3. To have something to play
4. Have a passion
5. Have a job you like
But onto the next chapter of the adventure……..and I hope its a job I like which will finally get me some money in my pocket…one eventually gets tired of Nutella Sandwiches and Apples haha!
Sal, Cairns, NQL