When I arrived at Hobart airport I had a quick call with my Mom as I waited for my bags before meeting with my two Norwegian friends, Mari and Elisabeth! Mari and I go way back, we have known each other since we were around 5 and went in class together. Mari and her friend Elisabeth (both go to university together in Bergen) are also doing a year abroad at the moment in New Zealand, but had come over to Australia for the summer to do some travelling! It was thrilling to see them and to speak Norwegian (something I hadn’t done for months!). They picked me up at the airport in the hire car we had got for the holiday and we set off towards our couchsurfing home, blasting Norwegian tunes and catching up! Our home for the week would be with a guy called Stewart in his house in a place called Tunnock, about 50 minutes away from Hobart. As we drove the roads got smaller and smaller and we passed crispy dry landscape. It quickly turned from dusk to night, and during that period a thousand different animals flocked onto the road. Wallabies, pademelons and kangaroos were everywhere! At one point I yelped in excitement as we drove past what looked like a Tassie Devil, but when we reversed to see it had gone, so it was never to be confirmed! At first it was incredibly exciting to see so much wildlife from the car, but as the night grew darker the animals grew more confident. More and more animals ran across the road in front of our car and the mood turned quickly from excitement to worry. Elisabeth being the driver did her best to drive safely, but eventually the inevitable happened and a kangaroo thudded into the side of our car. It was a horrid sound, and we all gasped and cringed in personal agony. We looked back to see if the poor thing was still there but it was nowhere to be seen, so it must have managed to jump off the road although most likely with injury. After that we crawled the car the rest of the way, the black landscape looking like an eternity. His house was in the countryside, and it felt like there wasn’t houses for miles.
Eventually we arrived at his house in a tiny farming village and we were warmly welcomed. We talked for a while and we smiled and were as pleasant as could be, but in reality we were dying for peace and our beds. Eventually the conversations came to a natural stop and we all retired to our rooms. Mari, Elisabeth and I were in the living room on big mattresses in sleeping bags. Outside it was freezing, and we were glad we were lying next to a fireplace. The next morning we woke up and could finally see where an earth we were and the house! The sweet, white, wooden house had a lovely porch, and an eternity of dry fields as a view. The landscape looked harsh, dry and barren, and not at all life-loving. The sky was hazy and the horizon looked fuzzy, and we were explained that this was the smog that had crept it’s way all the way from the north-west side of the island where they had been having a series of bushfires. The house was Stewart’s Dad’s (Denis’s) house, a farmer, and it was very clear this was the farmer’s son’s pad! Stewart showed us around in the morning, talked about his garden and love of growing things, as well as his passion for bee-keeping and honey (we got to taste his own personal stock of honey too!)! The fields around us were owned by the family, and were being at that time prepared for sowing. Stewart pointed out his Dad in the tractor ploughing the field, already hard at work, and we gave him a wave! We returned inside again and drank some disgusting instant coffee he kindly made for us and talked about our plans for our time here in Tasmania. He had lots of tips and ideas, and offered as a first day introduction to take us to the sheep auction his dad was attending that morning in a place called Oatland! Of course we said we would love to go!
We set off behind Denis’s truck at around ten and got to the auction soon after. We were greeted by the sight of cowboys and hardened Australian farmers, checking out different enclosures with sheep for sale. Denis had about 170 sheep on sale that day. He told us that the reason for him selling them was that he unfortunately couldn’t afford to keep them any more during this drought Tasmania was experiencing. We walked around with the slowly moving group of farmers that were making their way with the auctioneer through each enclosure where the sheep were getting sold off. The auctionere stood on a risen platform and shouted out numbers and names at speeds only auctioneers can do. The sheep were sold in bulks, about 40-50 per enclosure as one entity. Some groups went for around 100 dollars per sheep and some as low as 30, and we were explained by Stewart that it all depended on the condition of that group of sheep. The way to tell was to assess how much bone was visible/how fat the sheep were. As the auction continued and we started to get our eye in for the pricing and sheep conditions, we played a game of guessing how much they would go for and seeing how close we could get! Denis’s sheep went for 56 and 43 dollars, which was much lower than what he originally bought them for at the beginning of the season. He explained to me that he was expecting as such and was glad to just be able to sell them!
We stayed until Denis’s sheep were sold and then Stewart took us for a tour of the town of Oatland. We went for some pie at a vintage café before visiting Callington mill and wondering around the rural town, looking at all the old fashioned styled houses! At the mill we got a free, personal tour from the man who ran the mill, as he personally knew Stewart. Stewart was actually going to start working there in a couple of weeks and I think he was excited to show of his new work space to us! The windmill operated in true traditional style with wind power, and the flour produced from there was done as it was always done over a hundred years ago! We learned about hos flour was made, from the grain to the finished product, and how it would be sifted to give the different types of flour!
When we got back we went for a little trip to Denis’s house for some wifi. Mari and I had a lovely chat with him about what it’s like being a farmer, how he loves it, yet there are bad times to endure. He explained to su the genetics of breeding sheep, how different breeds work well together for meat, whilst others are good for wool! He showed us around his garden and all his vegetable plots he had, not grown for the money, but rather for his own pleasure! He also let us meet and feed panda, the rejected twin calf! She was so cute and cuddly, it was a shame it was so isolated.
After we came back from using the wifi we met with some new couchsurfers, a group of lovely French guys! Their English wasn’t great, but we managed perfectly fine! In the evening Stewart’s friend Rebecca came round with er thoroughbred horse and Mari, Vincent (french guy) and myself got to ride! Mari and Vincent confidently gallopped around and jumped fences we put up, but I was less ambitious and just walked him around the field. The horse looked so strong and full of energy when he first got here that I thought if I try and gallopp I might never ever be able to stop him again! It was wonderful to be back in the saddle though, such a refreshing dose of happiness! Whilst we were riding in the field the rest of the gang drank beers and played a game where you had to try and throw an axe onto a post and make it sit firmly in the wood and stay there. It was such a fun evening, hanging out together and getting to know one and another whilst the sun set in the horizon.