As we travel Australia house sitting we have the privilege of living, for a short while, as a local. Even in this short window, we have been able to visit and get to know places that would otherwise be very unlikely to be found on our ‘must-see’ list, yet have been entertaining, surprising and educational.
We took the opportunity to spend a little time in Goulburn some 55 kilometres from home. As the regional ‘capital’ we had some business there in particular matters relating to Julie’s new hip after care.
Driving around Goulburn, it appears a nice enough small country city. The surrounding country is very pleasant, mostly farm land and scenic without being outstanding. It has a reputation for being cold and considering that even the average low temperature in winter is below freezing it’s not hard to see why this should be so. One frosty morning a few years ago, they recorded minus 11. The average maximum in winter is nothing to be too excited about either at a miserly 11 degrees Celsius.
Unfortunately we did not get to visit the rail museum which we heard was worth seeing but it was hard to miss some of its other ‘attractions’ if you consider the word in its full sense. The Big Merino allows no visitor to escape without a nod to its presence and if you are attracted by policing, you will most certainly have been trained in Australia’s largest police training facility. On the other, extreme end of the scale, some will also have been a guest at Australia’s most secure prison.
Notwithstanding these fascinating facts, take the road north-west to Crookwell and things change quickly.
Within a few kilometres, the country opens out to spectacular views across green open fields to the low mountains in the far distance. The road is excellent, not straight and every bend leads to a gentle climb after which another wonderful view comes up in front of you. The area looks well maintained, the farms are large with a fair smattering of sheep and cattle, half of them grazing, half lying down fully sated apparently.
On the distant horizon to the west there are dozens of wind turbines spread across 30% of the view and while not the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of rural life, they do not intrude so much to especially spoil the 360 degree view from the top of each ever-higher hill.
Halfway to Crookwell, the road crosses the Pejar Dam, a smallish but attractive body of water that comes right up to the road side. It boasts an unusual rectangular wall that is quite puzzling when first sighted. The photo is not ours, but one taken after rain.
By the three quarter mark, about 30 kilometres from Goulburn, at the top of the Great Dividing Range plateau, there is a viewing area where 8 of the turbines that form Australia’s first wind farm and so far at least, the wind farm’s most northerly point.
A few minutes later they are lost in the rear view and the town of Crookwell is ahead. We are now 3000 feet above sea level in an area that definitely enjoys the traditional four seasons including snow a couple of times most winters.
The road is not uncomfortably confined and the houses seem to hark back to an era of horse and sulky, most dating back 80 years or more and with a few steps to the front door just off the footpath. One can easily imagine what it was like a hundred years ago, children sitting on the front steps, calling out to passers-by sitting in their sulkies or astride a horse.
The main street is wide enough for one lane of traffic each way and angle parking outside the shops, all of which seem to be tenanted. Amazingly, there are 6 eateries open and well patronized for Sunday lunch. It’s a surprisingly sophisticated feel for an otherwise unremarkable country town.
All the street parking is of the angle variety, rear-to-the-kerb type, with parking bays marked out with white neat lines. The purpose of these lines seems to be lost on most of the locals, a concept yet to be fully understood, although of course, occasionally, one does accidentally end up between the lines. It’s rare enough to cause comment.
The drive back to the farm from Crookwell is an easy run, rising almost all the way, half bitumen the rest well maintained dirt road, part of which almost entrapped our humble rig on the first exploratory journey here a couple of months ago.
By the end of week three, I had well finished fixing the guttering although I had not anticipated having to completely remove it to straighten up damaged brackets so it certainly did not happen quickly. Removing a fragile 30 metre-long section of guttering, solo, presents a complex engineering challenge even for me. Each day had a basic overhead anyway, which included the chores like cutting fire wood, attending the chooks, checking cattle and having cups of tea. It was only in between these one could do machinery repairs and maintenance, building maintenance and garden work.
Out in the paddocks there was weed spraying, bracken to be slashed, fences to be maintained, gates fixed and cattle to be moved.
Aside from the chooks, we had Abbey and Humphrey the cat. Abbey was a wonderful dog, very easy to get along with and happy just to be ‘around’. She had an interesting way of asking for a tummy rub, cocking one leg in the air, like a male dog about to bless a light pole. I don’t know why she kept asking Humphrey, to the best of my knowledge, he never once obliged.
One thing that Humphrey did occasionally was rouse himself from sleeping in the sun long enough to catch a parrot. Only once did that occur during our visit and he proudly brought it to the back door. Abbey ate it, the parrot that is, not the cat.
Maybe it was just to show she was as good as Humphrey, who knows what goes on in the head of a small dog, one day Abbey caught a chook. Took the head clean off. Fortunately it was still warm so we had it for dinner, the chook that is, not the dog.
One of the problems of being a bloke is finding things. (It’s amazing how they ever sell men’s camouflage pants.) Ian has solved this unique male problem by having more than one of everything. Can’t find the axe? No problem, go to the shed, there will be another 6 hanging on the wall, most in their original wrapping. Can’t find a spanner? No problem. Go to the shed and you will see at least 9 sets on multiple benches and if you look carefully, there will be other sets around somewhere too. And if you have misplaced the shed, don’t worry, there are more sheds and they will all have spanners, axes, welders, electrical tools of every manner and kind. There is nothing you can think of that does not have many examples so one rarely faces that big man-dilemma ‘where’d-I-put-that-hammer?’
The only down-side I’ve been told about is opening a box or packet to use something for the first time, finding both it doesn’t work and the two year warranty has run out. It has happened, so I’m told.
This useful solution to the ‘thing-blindness’ man-problem, extends to the house as well. Ian likes to play the piano and just to be sure he does not misplace it, he has the big one in the lounge, one in the TV room and three in the office.
Beside the TV room lies the library, which contains, it will be no surprise, books and a few DVD’s. Just saying a few DVD’s really does not convey a true image, perhaps a few thousand is a better description, filed in alphabetical order. The books are grouped in broad subject order, from floor to ceiling around all four walls and in a large, yet to be discovered pile in the centre of the room.
Jo too likes to be sure she has adequate supplies on hand which in understandable given the longish drive to the shops. All the freezers are full and the main pantry is larger than most kitchens. It’s like a slightly smaller version of Aldi’s.
You know you’re in a country kitchen when the stove runs on wood. It also supplies the hot water and I was surprised by the reliability, never letting us down even on a cold morning when the stove had gone out. The only downside, if one looks purely in negative terms, is keeping up the fuel. On the positive side where I live, it was a great opportunity to satisfy a back-woods itch, swinging an axe, filling the barrow, doing a man’s work, long lain dormant in my spatially and chronometrically distant office.
Now, let’s see what we can do with the tractor. Tomorrow.
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