I’m really pleased to have Bush Babe from Oz blogging with me today. She’s a Rainbow.
She’s an awesome gal, photographer, worker and mum. We met through the Australia (or rather world)-shrinking device of Twitter; I was drawn to her beautiful photography and she was drawn by my… Well actually I’m not sure. I don’t think she’s ever told me! Whatever the reason I’m really happy to be able to call her a friend.
While you’re over checking out her blog (which has amazing photos, and laugh-out-loud blog tales) have a look at her 2012 calendar. You might still be able to order one or two, but if you miss out, I’ll have them in my gift pack, which is coming soon.
Anyhow, here’s how she came to be on a station ‘somewhere in Queensland”. Oh, and you can follow her over at Twitter here: @BushBabeofOz
My husband and I had had an interesting start to married life – within four years we had both had high-flying jobs, become parents to two gorgeous kids, given one job up to care for an extremely sick baby boy, watched him endure two heart surgeries, and bought and renovated a old house. Apparently we don’t like relaxing very much.
SO our decision to ‘Go Bush’ may have shocked our city friends, but actually came after great deliberation on our part.
It wasn’t like I went in with my eyes closed – I had grown up on the cattle property to which I was returning more than two decades after leaving, and I fully expected our move from city to country life to be a shock to my system. I expected it to be quite hard to adjust to the lack of amenities, of entertainment, of social and medical networks. I knew that mobile phone reception would be an intermittent luxury in my life, and that political heavyweights could not be expected to drop by for smoko, let alone make services to my new location a real priority.
Some friends questioned our sanity at leaving our regular wages and the security of our city home. Some called me a romantic fool, and to be honest, I wondered if they were right?
Despite all this, after a couple of years of considering then another of planning, I thought I was mentally and physically ready to cope with taking my young family from the embrace of The Big Smoke to the Wilds of the Australian Bush. I braced myself.
What I didn’t expect, and was really not prepared for, was that I would fall in love. And it wasn’t a gentle floating feeling, my new relationship with the place I grew up. I fell hard. And fast. And spectacular. It astonished me, how utterly beautiful it was. I had forgotten. Or maybe I had never quite noticed properly for a start.
I left this place as a teenager with a fire in my belly and a yearning in my soul for new experiences and new places. I spent my years away exploring the world and (in that navel-gazing manner that only those in their 20s can properly master) ‘discovering myself’. I arrived home, set down my suitcases and looked around myself in wonder.
I know many people talk about making a “tree change” in their lives – finding a simpler, quieter alternative to the rat race they have grown to resent, and even hate. We were not like that. I had always enjoyed my city years – loved the big country town I had studied at, the major rural centre I had done my apprenticeship as a news photographer in, adored the sprawling coastal city that had nurtured me and given me so many incredible experiences as a reporter and as a resident, and revelled in the capital city that had allowed me to find my amazing husband, to discover a new career and to cater for the arrival of my children.
My father is a man of great determination and persuasion, a cattleman who could never imagine why anyone would want a life other than the one he loved, who never gave up on the idea that his eldest daughter was ‘just going through a bit of a phase’. He knew that I would eventually see reason and move back home. My husband turned out to be a frustrated bushie – having grown up on a farm and chafing at the 12-hour desk-bound shifts he worked. Our son was born with some serious heart issues – problems that were ‘fixed’ in his first year of life. But that year – where I gave up my career to care of him – changed my outlook on life completely. I became a mother, not just in the sense that I had given birth (although Lord knows that amazed me enough) but in that my world now revolved around my family. Life was no longer about me. And each decision I made became about them. It was a new outlook that only intensified as my daughter arrived into the world, all dimples and ‘go get ‘em’ attitude.
As we watched these two cherubs grow into ‘real little people’, we considered schools and the future for our offspring. And we soon added another option into the equation: The Bush. A place where we could bring up our children the way WE had been raised – exploring, riding, learning outdoors. Where WE could be the major influence in their lives. I think it was news of a kidnapping at a nearby school that tipped us over the brink towards moving – we knew how lucky we were to have the opportunity to be there, and figured the added bonus of having plenty of cousins living nearby our potential new/old home sealed it.
We knew we would have to face the pressures that go hand-in-hand with country life: long distances, higher prices for essential goods, poorer health services, the heartache of seeing bad weather adversely affect our animals and income. All these things weighed heavily. And yet…
It was drought-stricken when we drove down the winding dirt road towards the house I grew up in. It was Christmas Eve 2006, and the familiar landscaped was utterly sucked dry of colour. Sepia and dust. But the gentle arms of the graceful gum trees standing on the last ridge seemed to welcome us, as did the soft breeze that cooled our faces as we stepped out of the red-dust coated car. Home.
And as we unloaded the removal trucks, unpacked our mountains of luggage and celebrated Christmas with cousins… it began to rain. It was (to my exhausted but happy mind) the final seal of approval from Mother Nature. I’m not sure a city person can really know the true joy of rain – or experience the spontaneous invisible lifting of spirits that takes place in a bush homestead as heavy drops beat out their own rhythmic music on the corrugated iron roof. It’s quite amazing to experience: a fizzy feeling, like champagne in the veins.
My Nikon was finally unpacked – my old ‘tool of the trade’ from my journalism days. And my trigger finger began to itch. At first the photo taking was random – the kids posing on a gate here, frolicking in the mud there. A roo posing on a ridge here, my Dad lifting my son in front of the saddle for a quick ride there. And then I couldn’t stop. The potential photo opportunities filled my vision – the delicate beauty of rain on a gum leaf, the raw power of a sunset behind bottle tree silhouettes, the bizarre goose-stepping antics of a group of emus. As my husband now often comments/complains:
‘If it hasn’t been photographed round here, it just hasn’t happened’.
There was no outlet for this flood of images – except the unfortunate friends whose inboxes were all filled with photo-laden emails from me. I believe I was actually responsible for completely freezing a couple of accounts with my regular updates from the bush. Oh dear!
Inviting the world in…
My sister came to the rescue – she’s a blogger, you see. Now I had always thought of blogging (where someone shares their thoughts/opinions/images on a webpage known as a web-log) as ‘unnecessary sharing’. Really, who needs to read about the lives of someone you have never met? Share the intimate details of a person you may not even like in real life? She patiently explained that blogging is whatever you make it. She shared her own blog, which is witty and clever and funny. She also showed me a fabulous blog called ‘Confessions of a Pioneer Woman’ – filled with amazing images and witty observations of a mother on the other side of the world.
And I looked at my hard drive, overflowing with images no-one ever got to see, reflections of a truly amazing place… and suddenly I felt selfish. Surely the beauty I saw every single day around me needed to be shared? Even if only my mother and my sister ever looked, at least I would have done SOMETHING with the hundreds of photos I was taking.
So, in 2007, I began my blog. I christened this obscure little corner of internet real estate “Bush Babe” – Bush cause that’s where I live, and Babe because I had NO idea about anything internet-y (like a babe in the woods!). Plus I like alliteration. In retrospect, it wasn’t my smartest move – I hadn’t considered that people in North America might think it a political name. Or that those with less worthy tastes might find me on a Google search. Goodness gracious me! Luckily, the latter soon realise the only bare body bits to be seen belonged to bovines, and clicked off quick smart. Heh. *Cracks an imaginary whip above head*
Today this little ‘blog of mine draws around 300 hits a day, from people all over the world. It never fails to amaze me that people are interested enough in my world to keep on coming back – but they do. I share our landscapes, events like bush races, local campdrafts, the musters and explain the more technical processes employed on a cattle operation, like artificial insemination and embryo transfer. I show the marvellous events put on by our tiny one-teacher school, and introduce each character we live with (human, equine and canine). I even ask my visitors to help me decide on images for my annual Bush Calendar.*
I have yet to discover the ‘quiet country life’ so often imagined by my city friends – a demanding business, an endless stream of (very welcome) visitors and ever-ringing (landline) phone, not to mention the endless list of animals that require attention – ensures my life is more hectic than ever before.
I cannot imagine life without blogging, just as I cannot visualise my world being based anywhere but the Australian bush. I am constantly amazed and reassured (through those who visit my blog) that people the world over share the same things – a desire for happiness, to revel in good family relationships, to see their children grow strong and confident, and to be in touch with Nature. It matters not whether they are in New York city, in an Alaskan town, the Swiss Alps, a South African high-rise, a New Zealand farm or somewhere else in the vast Australian countryside.
My community are those who share the wonderful piece of Terra Australis where I base my life, those who inhabit the nearby small towns and whose spirits are larger and more colourful that the few streets that bound them, and those from around the globe who see the magic here too and visit virtually.
You can call me a romantic fool. And I would usually be the first to agree. But as I contemplate the view from my patio now, of children running madly with a puppy and horses grazing contentedly on a ridge to the east, I don’t think I have ever done anything less foolish in my life…
*The 2012 Bush Calendar is available from Amanda’s blog: www.bushbabeofoz.com
10% of profits will be donated to HeartKids Australia.