The first book in my memoir series was –
tales from our ‘apprenticeship’ on a wheat/sheep farm in Western Australia.
For my second book in this series, I first thought I’d post a chapter a month for most of this year and then self-publish it in time for Christmas 2015, but I’ve received quite a few opinions advising against it. So for now, I’m posting perhaps 20% or so of each chapter, and see how that feels. Just please keep in mind these are early drafts and still may change – a little or maybe substantially. In either case, they are an entertaining read – not always so enchanting to live through, but definitely never boring. Here we go –
The Milky Way
Chapter 1. Dairy Farmers? Really?
“A whole year, marking time in the city.” Kanute frowns as he remembers. He curls his lip at the thought. “Guess I was luckier than you. At least a Building Supervisor spends some part of his day outdoors. On the building site, mostly. Heaps of driving too… suppliers, meetings—and SO much time at Councils, trying to get approval for all kinds of jobs.”
“Tell me about it,” I say, and can’t help wrinkling my nose in disgust. “Stockings and high heels, and make-up every day. Hairdressers and new hairdos and spiffy clothes. It was hard to take,, being in an office all day again, after the freedom of the farm.”
How reluctantly we had returned to city jobs. Our hearts stayed in the country—far from the acrid smells of traffic and hot bitumen and pollution straying around every crowded corner. The night sky we now looked at competed hopelessly with the arched glow of city lights. Whenever we couldn’t physically escape to the country, we found solace at the beach, looking out to sea. The atmosphere there bore the strongest resemblance to the clarity and space of all we had left behind—with an added bonus of clean, salty air.
Twelve long months of increasingly desperate searching… it was sadly but surely becoming clear to us that buying any kind of productive farm, let alone the farm of our dreams, was financially impossible.
“How depressing was that?” I sigh. “Weekend after weekend, we’d set off with hopes so high that this would be the one… ” I am interrupted by an unexpected grin spreading across Kanute’s face. A loud laugh rolls out as he says, “What about that farm in the Adelaide hills? The one tucked away at the end of that winding, leafy lane?”
I start laughing too. “The one we rejected, thank God. Our guardian angel sure had us firmly in her sights that day.” Some years later we revisited that pretty, shady corner of the woods. The property now had a name on the rusting and precariously leaning gate, in lieu of the ‘For Sale’ sign—’Poverty Point’. Yes, well…
Reluctantly, we accepted the inevitable, our thoughts turning to the possibility of share-farming—the dairy kind. Not only were we woefully ignorant of how this worked, we seriously doubted any farm proprietor would share his precious herd and property with two novices like us. We had no idea where to look for a solution. We only knew we desperately wanted to be farmers.
Countless times in our lives when we have been at our lowest ebb, a light has flickered at the end of our tunnel and brought us through the darkness. This time was no exception. Our old friend Sven was incredulous as we cornered him to pick his brains for information about dairy share-farming. He had expected city small-talk at the crowded Danish birthday party we were enjoying. With eyes stretched wide and eyebrows raised, he said, “Dairy Farmers? You two? Really?” As we talked and fervently shared our dreams with Sven (a dairy farmer himself), he finally understood how desperate and dedicated we were to leaving city life to become farmers. Typically, as soon as he recovered from his surprise, he promised to ‘scout around’ and see if he could find any possibilities for us. True to his word, in a matter of days, Sven phoned to share some exciting news. In the strangest twist of fate, a dairy share-farming proposition had unexpectedly become available on a farm just 30 minutes away from his.
We had become better acquainted with Sven at one of Kanute’s mother’s many dinner parties, way before we were married. In those days we were the epitome of young, up-and-coming business executive types. Nothing indicated a future when we would be shifting a lot of… manure, and leaning heavily on this small wiry man with the ever-ready grin, for advice and support (“Just don’t worry about it, Christine… it’s all going to be fine.”). So much sound knowledge gained over many farming years in Denmark—and here in Australia, share farming for some time before the many years of owning his own dairy. Sven’s hard-earned experience in all aspects of dairy-farming, land management and animal husbandry taught us invaluable lessons even before day one on our own dairy farm.
“We wouldn’t have even known about the share-farming proposition without him,” Kanute still tells people, so many years later. The disbelief in his eyes is as strong as ever, no matter the years since that fateful day. As Sven was contacting and recommending us to the owner, he was drumming into our minds the intricacies of a share-farm agreement, and what we should push for as our share. Mrs. Lowe was a wealthy lady in her 80’s, living nearby on another of her several farms. Despite her great affluence, she found herself in needy circumstances of a different kind. Her dairy share farmer had left, without warning—or anybody’s knowledge of where he had gone. She had no choice but to redirect the services of the manager of her nearby home farm to milk the cows. Previously having managed a sheep enterprise north of Adelaide, he was ill-suited to his temporary role. It was hard to say who was more desperate to see his return to the work he did best and the lifestyle he loved… not milking cows.
What a crusty little old lady she was. Who could forget those canny, glittering little eyes peering over tiny spectacles hanging precariously on the end of her nose? Mrs. Lowe was small in stature, but impressive in her shrewd and calculating approach to every problem that crossed her path. Her home was filled with valuable and rare antiques that matched her somewhat haughty presence perfectly.
“What a daunting personality… even with Sven to introduce us and say so many good words about us.” I was afraid her searching gaze would expose the quivering uncertainty we hid deep inside. I was grateful the thunderous beating of my heart was only being heard in my ears.
“I still can’t fathom his deep belief in us and our degree of commitment,” Kanute says.
I shake my head, and then nod, too. Little did our ‘partner-to-be’ know that our collective milking experience was held by my husband Kanute—the hand-milking he had done as a boy on holidays on his uncle’s farm in Denmark. Fortunately, Sven had recognised our passion and desire to have our own farm—and how much courage, optimism and energy we possessed to achieve our dream. Thankfully, he didn’t share his knowledge of our ‘novice’ status with Mrs. Lowe—instead dwelling at length on our enthusiasm and capacity for hard work, plus reassuring her of his constant support. We never doubted that Sven’s persuasive powers and his promised guidance in particular were clearly the factors that swung the balance in our favour, and won over that seemingly cold but astute businesswoman’s hard heart.
***That’s all for revealing here folks, but if you would really love more – and your own copy, you can buy this first eBook in my ‘Old McLarsen Had Some Farms‘ memoir series on Amazon (just click on that title).
Don’t forget, you can read the first chapter or two of Book One – Brave Beginnings (and even buy a copy, too) at –
If you are happy to read both books chapter by chapter for some months, I am presently publishing the first book, two chapters a week on wattpad, and plan to do the same with this second book. If that interests you, here are the first chapters of Book One – Brave Beginnings on wattpad.com.
I would love to hear your opinions – please consider leaving me a review at any of these places.
And please also feel free to comment on how you feel Book Two is developing and any likes/dislikes/advice/suggestions? Always open to ideas.