I met Margareta through writing. In fact writing has introduced to me to so many people. Although Margareta contacted me for help with her writing, we actually became firm friends after discovering we had a few interests the same!
It was as I got to know her that I was really taken with her dedication to her family and her community. She works so hard to keep her family happy – she might ‘just have to go down to Dad’s to help with the cattle,’ or ‘just out driving the truck,’ or (and this one I love because of the visual thoughts I get!) ‘Just going over to my aunt’s – she’s got possums in the roof and we have to get them out!’ (I’m sure she doesn’t really crawl around in the roof, chasing possums, but that’s what I imagine!)
Her community is important to her as well. As you’ll read she’s involved with many different organisations and that’s why, she’s a Rainbow!
I’m a fifth generation farmer in East Gippsland, Victoria. My family has called our valley, tucked into the lee of the Great Dividing Range, home since 1862. Our blood is literally soaked into the soil; we are this place, it’s what defines us and makes us whole. I have spent time away, working and living on cropping, dairying and broad acre cattle properties from other parts of Gippsland to far outback Queensland, but I always keep coming back; my sense of place is inherent.
In earlier years I forged a successful career in Landcare and agricultural extension, helped along in 1997 by a Victorian Rural Women’s Leadership Bursary. In 2007 I gave away off-farm work to concentrate on our young family and small farming business. I jammed some land management study into my ‘spare time’ amid the irrigating, shifting fences, cattle work etc. My dad needed a hand on a family property too; three kids and their sports also demanded attention. I was just like any other country wife and mother treading the waters of life, trying to keep at least one nostril above the surface. But something was missing.
All my life I’ve been a voracious reader. In the drought of the early eighties dad had me driving an old grey Fergie tractor, towing a trailer mounted with a furphy tank and watering every tree on our dairy farm. It took weeks and I managed to devour the whole Billabong book series, sitting in the shade of the tractor wheel while the hose dutifully did its job. None of the trees died whilst a dream was born in a 12 year old mind. One day I was going to write rural novels, just like Mary Grant Bruce.
Thirty years on and much writing later, I don’t quite write like Mary Grant Bruce. More in the vein of contemporary rural fiction, with stock whip wielding heroines and drop dead gorgeous cattleman slogging it out in rugged places from remote outback Queensland to the wild and majestic mountains of my home.
My recent novel ‘Long Way Home’ has been developed whilst studying writing for two years with the Victorian Writers Centre, under the guidance of Sallie Muirden and Andrea Goldsmith. The novel is fast paced with plenty of action, tension, romance and humour. Created for the rural genre, it can be likened to those of the wonderful and supportive Fleur and my long-time friend Rachael Treasure. Now, I just need to find a publisher!
I also write for the gorgeous and popular magazine, ‘Gippsland Country Life’, in amongst doing normal rural community stuff. I’m an active fire-fighter with experiences I’d rather forget of the massive 2007 alpine fires and the aftermath of Black Saturday. Our brigade members are also gun sandbaggers, due to the huge floods our area sporadically experiences.
I’m secretary and treasurer of the fire brigade, on the steering committee for our proposed rural multipurpose building and the Christmas tree committee. Our family is also committed to the local motorcycle club where my husband’s vice president, ensuring I hone my canteen skills to perfection and rarely get to watch my son race. That’s good and bad, depending on how you look at it. The ride with him in the Helimed One helicopter last year springs to mind.
Throw in Monday mum’s tennis, support to the school and the church flower roster and even I’m exhausted reading this! How do I fit it all in? It’s easy, I don’t. Things are always falling off the edge because I decided years ago I’m no superwoman, never intend to be one and that sits OK within my skin. Thankfully I have the world’s best husband and a very supportive family, so everyone pitches into help. It really is a team effort. In my case, a sense of community drives it all and that feeling can be attributed to my parents, who have given decades of support to local organisations. I suspect this intergenerational family commitment, ultimately circles back to that inherent sense of place. We are very lucky to have ‘grass roots’, which in these modern times is something many people can’t find or miss.
Life has thrown me many curveballs and backhanders’, some which have forced me to pause and take stock, but I have been lucky enough to achieve many dreams – the most recent being completing my novel and obtaining a heavy duty truck licence. I somehow managed to pull that off in a 550 hp 18 speed split shift Western Start prime mover. All I wanted was to be legally able to drive the forty year old, eight tonne cattle truck that choofs ‘I think I can …, I think I can…’ anytime it even looks at anything over a grade of five degrees.
My wonderful father, in his exasperated moments, calls it ‘pig headedness’ but I prefer the word ‘determination’. That’s for me and the truck.