I spent my whole childhood growing up on the suburban streets of Adelaide, in the foothills just 15 minuets drive from the CBD. Tyral, however, grew up on a farm in the small town of Oaklands, of just 250 people. As much as I love camping, horses and farmers markets, it’s pretty safe to say I am defiantly a city kid. I didn’t really understand the extent of this until I spent a week on a remote sheep farm in Estonia through Workaway.
Tyral had spent a week on the farm in July the year before with some friends, chopping wood and doing his part in exchange for board and food. He got along with the young farm owner, bonding of their love for animal poop and tractors I can only assume, and was really keen to visit him again. I agreed, unsure exactly what I was getting myself into, but keen to see what Tyral had been raving on about so much.
The farm has approximately 300 sheep; the wool is used to make socks and mittens and sold over Estonia. The way it’s run is semi self-sufficient, they spin all the wool themselves and then distribute the yarn over the neighbouring towns for little old ladies to knit in their spare time for some extra cash.
Tyral, being a bloke, got put to work hammering in a fence with another Australian who was also on a workaday. I, being a woman, was put to work in the kitchen to cook for the men out hard at work. I say this in humour but I was so thankful that I was able to stay inside next to the fire chopping potatoes rather than outside in the snow doing hard labor.
One morning however I wasn’t able to use my uterus to hide from hard labour and found myself in the snow, ankle deep in sheep poop feeding the sheep. I have always been scared of sheep, just to add to my city kid like mantra, but I have a good reason for it. When I was two my family was just about to embark on our first camping trip and my parents decided to have a ‘practice camping dinner’ in our back yard before we left. Up until I was three, we actually lived in a country town 40 minuets out of Adelaide and had a sheep in the yard. (Bless my parents for deciding we were more of a city family). It was my duty to carry the lettuce from the house to the picnic spot, a duty that I took much pride in. So much so, that when the sheep decided it looked like a pretty tasty meal, and I was small enough to fight, it started biting me to give it up, which I refused. I don’t remember much else, but since then I have never gone close to a sheep again. Until now.
I found myself in the middle of a paddock surrounded by about a hundred sheep, all two hundred eyes looking straight at me. Fuck.
Mostly they steered pretty clear of me, lucky I didn’t have any lettuce, apart from the odd nosy one that came a little to close for my liking.
Being a city kid, I was taught if you saw poop on the ground to make sure you step around it. An instruction that I think is a good way to life your life. Farm kids don’t get taught this apparently, I thought as I was forced to wade through the sheep dung after Tyral who didn’t seem to give it a second thought.
I’m a vegetarian and love all animals (yes, even sheep I’m just scared of them) and when I see a dead bird on the side of the road I get a little emotional. I defiantly wasn’t prepared when Tyral told me we had to go check a sheep paddock and make sure there was no dead sheep from wolves the night before. I was utterly horrified at the thought I might walk in and see a half eaten sheep. Luckily, we did not, however I did see the remains of a sheep face that had been given to the dogs (I tried to act as cool as possible but was secretly dying on the inside). I was also close to tears when I saw a sheep limping through the paddock, and was later told it was unwell and might need putting down. I don’t think I could be a farmer; I would need a funeral for every animal that died.
After a shower and a change of clothes I was happy to be back in the small farm cabin and doing inside like duties like washing the dishes.
Jokes aside, the farm was really cool. The cottage was an old wooden house with yarns hanging everywhere in every colour. They grew all their own veggies and made the most delicious jams and pickles of all different berries and flavours. The farmers where the nicest people I had met so far, they were so laid back but the hardest workers. They treated their animals with love and care and all the sheep were in good health. They only used their sheep for wool, but if one had to be put down they would use all the meat and insure none of it went to waste.
By the time we left I was more accustom to this way of life, I enjoyed being surrounded by cats, eating fresh veggies and hanging around the fire like there was nothing else in the world. If that was farm life, I could get used to it.
Disclaimer: this photo isn’t the actual farm I was lazy and didn’t take any photos…