Saturday night. Homemade bread is baking in the oven, the fire is crackling, The Tallest Man on Earth is warbling, and I’ve just sat down with a cup of tea and a good book. Today was productive. I woke early, fed the chickens and the house-sheep, started the fire, chopped wood, dug a trench in the garden, had lunch and argued, long distance, with my Canadian credit card company, hung up the washing, checked the electric fences, moved the sheep to another paddock, collected wood, and made dinner. Just another day on the farm.
I extracted myself from my black hole in Perth just over a week ago, and took the bus out to Esperance – a good sized town on the South coast of Western Australia, about midway between Perth and Adelaide. The farm I’m working at is about 30 minutes away from the town. It is the middle of nowhere, but it doesn’t feel nearly as forgotten as the sunbaked outback – here, there are hills, trees, all verdant and throbbing with life. At night the frogs and birds and bugs have raucous jam-sessions and all the constellations I don’t know are clear as glass. Esperance itself is a series of beaches, and therefore a tourist attraction in the summer.
The farmer is away on a holiday road trip with his wife and has left his farm under the care of a young, English backpacker, Jess. She had been here on her own for a few days when she invited me down to help her out. The two of us are babysitting the 1000 hectare farm with its spread of sheep, cattle, a couple of alpacas, a few chickens and a house-sheep called Lamb who prefers the company of humans and chickens to her own species. Everything from the vegetables to the cleaning products is organic, the house and the water are heated by wood stove and the house perpetually smells of campfire. I have taken to the lifestyle change quite amenably. My skin is sun kissed (don’t worry Mum, I’m wearing sunscreen!), I appear to be developing biceps, and the restlessness that had been accumulating and festering has been subsumed by the excitement of novelty and the peacefulness of the farm itself.
The great flop of the road trip reminded me that travel is like a relationship, it does not do to try and control it. As John Steinbeck says: “we do not take a trip; a trip takes us”.