Fear of the times

Drought is one word that sends normally sane people into periods of depression, walking on eggshells around each other and periods of high stress. This has been proven, there are many organisations that provide workshops, individual and private counselling for mental health and financial advice. Groups form to “catch up” so it gives people time to get off the farms and away from the situation even for an hour or so.

A lot of the women in farming families feel the stress of this greatly as they cope with what it all brings. It’s not like depression though, that is a different element, if you suffer from depression I am positive it would be harder to manage this, the farmer and the change in lifestyle if you do. Luckily I can only imagine how much harder it is for people with depression to cope during difficult times when families depend on that person more. We must watch out for each other during these difficult times as it is only people who keep people going.

Some days are harder than others and with all of the white noise around concessional drought loans (there have been minimal allocated in South Australia) from what sounds like political argy bargy many are going hat in hand to the Banks. It has been decided SA or parts of SA like the South East & Mid North are in drought after record-breaking lack of rain falls yet the State Government is playing politics with federal allocation of money that can assist some farmers during this time.

I wonder sometimes about the choices we make with voting our politicians in, there is no doubt they all go into politics to ‘help people out’ yet most of the time it looks like grand standing, self-absorption and self-importance, doesn’t it? These people are making decisions they rarely know anything about and do it thinking about the deficit they have created in the economy. Many people need financial assistance especially here in the South East but feel it will only be given out whilst taking from the back pocket with drainage levy hike, NRM levy hike and what ever else is next . This leaves many wondering if politicians really do know what it’s like to live rurally? they have good salaries, fantastic accessible pension funds from the day they leave office, they use the tax payers money for dinners, bottles of wine, business class and first class trips around the country and the world then come back and tell us all to tighten our belts. I often wonder if this mentality will ever change, if you can get away with the finer things in your job then one suspects everyone would do it.

When I was a sales rep, I traveled for my job and often at conferences met up with other staff members. I vividly recall being told that on one representative I went with ate and drank the mini bar dry 3 times whilst they were there for 5 days. In a 10 day trip and my expenses of eating in cafes and pubs for the 10 days I was away were not as much as had to be paid for the other reps gluttony in 4.

I have been told dealing with the banks is almost as difficult, though most farmers plan for drought, they also plan to get income, either through stock sales or grain sales and hay sales to name a few. When in drought the crops don’t grow, so it can not be sold as there is nothing to sell. I had a lady email me to tell me the most humiliating thing that has happened to her during this hard period is having to go into the bank and sit across from her friend and be scrutinised over their spending habits even to be told her monthly coffee catch up with her friends (including the bank manager) was out of their budget. At that moment she writes, her stomach started churning, her palms started to sweat and she knew she was going to vomit.

There was only one way to get the overdraft and that was for her to get a job in her chosen profession, she is a lawyer and with no option open to her to work in this field and with a 3 month old at the time, she has taken a job in the meat works in the local town 4 days per week.Her husband has also taken off farm work, as a truck driver and she said over the last 6 months they have worked 60 to 80 hours per week and their daughter has seen more of the child care assistants than of her or her husband. They are coping and are managing financially. She writes that this saved the property from foreclosure and they are able to pay their bills on time. She has never returned to the coffee group as she can not face her friend again.

If you can assist with my drought ladies day in March 2016please let me know, sponsorship, gift bags and prizes. Dates and sponsors will be announced over the coming week. InOurPaddocks is going through the system to be a Not For Profit Charity so I will be able to issue tax-deductible receipts. Anyone can contact me through the Facebook page or here.

If you do need help call Life Line 13 11 14

#newneighbours #travellinghome #emus

#newneighbours #travellinghome

I took this photo yesterday on my way home.

One of THOSE days

I struggle living in the country, but I didn’t grow up here, I married to be living here. Most of the days are great but with drought brings a whole new load of challenges, ones that only those who live it can relate to and survive it.

It brings with it challenges one has never thought about, when we see dust storms in Adelaide or capital cities one never thinks about where the dust comes from do we? When we see them in places like Birdsville, the United Arab Emirates we know they come from the deserts. When we see one in Adelaide where does it come from? sadly it likely to be the top soil of a or many farmers paddocks. This is caused by lack of rain, soil erosion and lack of growth on the ground, so when the wind blows so too does the top layer.

When I drive around the country at the moment this is happening in most paddocks where there is no pivot or naturally occurring grasses that have grown over summer, contrary to the climate change people, it is not new it has been happening for as long as time itself. The ground is dry, brown and in need of a decent rainfall.

Why do they call it a dust storm when it really is a dirt storm? I have no idea but on the days when the dirt blows it unsettles the animals, farmer and the environment in which one lives. It can turn a rational outdoorsy farmer into a brooding inside man in an instant. Luckily these days are few and far between.

When it comes to achieving anything on one of these days it is next to impossible. We have satellite TV which can flicker in and out as the wind blows and rocks the dish. We also have satellite broadband which is slow and almost useless when the wind blows or if we have gone over our allowance, we will be shaped – which means slowed to a stop until the next billing cycle.

On the days when it’s like that farmers still have to go out and check stock, waters and find jobs. Mine is good at indoor things, identifying jobs, doing them and then pointing out he has done it.

We have been without an oven door for three or more weeks, one of the hinges broke, he went to fix it and I called the supplier and they offered to send a new door with new hinges attached. This was generous of them as I discovered my old oven door was in multiple pieces. It came the other day by post so the farmer went about putting it back on, he asked how I clean the metal wire components inside. I told him I do them in the laundry sink, saves on mess and I can leave them soak. The next thing I hear is the sound of an angle grinder going.

Unable to find steel wool to clean it, he went to the shed put the wire brush on the angle grinder and came in and did the oven wires racks. I walked past him in the laundry and didn’t say a word, I couldn’t. He also has ruined a toe nail from years ago when he dropped an engine on his toe (lucky it missed most of it or it would have amputated the toe) But it killed the nail bed so it grows up instead of out and when it’s too sore for his boots he grinds it down, I know,  there has been the occasion where he has taken skin off but I figure at 50 he’s a grown man and if he doesn’t want to see a podiatrist I can’t make him. If he amputates the toe, then he really only has himself to blame. They can think outside the square these farmers and have solutions one wouldn’t dream of.

Helping in hard times

Whether in drought or not, life doesn’t stop for anybody or anything, people have to manage with the circumstances they have got, right?  To some managing is all about assisting and helping others, to others it’s about helping themselves and as I stated in my first blog, farmer first family second, farm third and no matter how you look at it women put themselves last.

We always think of others and in small communities, such as country towns when people need assistance, women find it easy to give but not to ask or accept as we can always find some one else who needs it more, can’t we? In our paddocks includes those within our environment who need us to be there, to hold them gently in your thoughts whilst they struggle., to find that extra dollar and give it away if you can.

I managed a quick catch up coffee with a dear friend today, one that has gone the extra mile for me when I was struggling mentally living in a small town, kilometres from the town, hundreds of kilometres from my daughter and family and felt I never fitted in she was there telling me I did and if it was a friend I needed she was there right in front of me. I gladly and willingly accepted this friendship and value it highly.

She has listened whilst I spoke and today it was my turn to listen and I asked if I could write my blog about her and what she is going through currently  and she said yes so I’m going to ask all of you that can, please do.

1 year ago this month she was in hospital, after having done a market stall approx 300kms away from home when she hurt her back and ended up in hospital there until they got her home, weeks later. Her husband and 3 children managed without her and when she got home she picked up work and began her recovery. She is doing fantastically, 7 weeks ago her husband took himself off to the Dr with a swollen arm, 3 hours later they were in Adelaide and are now on the ferris wheel of chemo, separation, financial stress and homelessness – thankfully they can live in the Leukaemia village whilst their children attend school 300 kms away.

Lana travels weekdays to her casual job in Keith, weekends to spend time with her children in Penola or to collect them and take them up to the city for them to see their dad. She will travel to spend time with Damien whilst he is having chemotherapy and can not work.

I think she is doing an amazing job as a wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter and is coping as best she can with the stress of travel, finances, work, motherhood and being a wife, where is the time for her? When will she get her ‘me’ time I ask myself as she doesn’t ask the question? Her focus is on family, husband, finances and finding a place for them to reset up their roots whilst all of their furniture and goods are in storage. We need to nurture her to ensure her mental health is as balanced as it can be and whilst she is doing these things the thing we can do is ease the financial burden as best we can.

What can I ask my friends to do for her? https://www.gofundme.com/n59ay9ck  this go to the page, read her story and donate. I know most of you give every year to charities, put the presents under the tress in churches and shopping centres. This year I’m asking you to go to this page and assist as every dollar will get them closer to having a bond and rent for when they can move out of the village as well as cover life expenses whilst Damien is in treatment.


Drought, Fire ready, Cricket

And so begins the idea and the concept of talking about lives and our paddocks, the good, the bad and the in between. The offers of sponsorship, goodies for gift baskets, clothing, guest speakers, an official photographer and workshops have been flooding in for the ladies weekend, so it’s begining to take shape.

Whilst I am writing this I have a clear view of our back yard where I can look out and I see the farmer pulling up and starts filling the fire fighter, it makes my heart leap frog into my mouth. It brings the heat and the season into reality.

It got to 40 degrees celsius here yesterday and a hot wind blew, you know the uncomfortable weather needs a cool change kind. It has got to 40 again now and windy all the same, we are also on lookout to get dry thunderstorms, which bring lightning that hits trees and grasses and starts fires, we’ve seen it happen previously, it’s real.

On the radios there have been repeated calls to be bush fire ready, are you ready? I am,  after having 2 fires in 2 years, both where we lost fencing and crops, it’s something I am conscious of.  So when he pulls up in the Ute and starts filling the water tank I then begin to think about what it is I need to do.

I walk out side and ask if every things all right – yep it is but he needs to check the unit and use it for something else. This makes me feel easier and as I have to drive into our local town I wonder how many other farmers & farmers wives are doing the same today? Checking their equipment and making sure on a day like today with horrible conditions everything is ready to go.

As it is so hot – women have to have partners and or farmers inside and this during drought can also cause tension and conflict. One of my ladies tells me she is sick of him already, not only does she have to have fire season early and be ready with 3 kids, 5 dogs, 3 horses and numerous sheep she has to find work for him indoors when the cricket is not on. See there is a reason for cricket.

He will start jobs, finish them but leave the mess in his wake, she tells me sometimes it would be easier to sweep everything up after him and bin it but she knows he’ll go looking for screwdrivers, shifters, hammers, stanley knives, tape measures, cordless drills, tech screw adaptors and anything else he has brought in to fix a dripping tap, leaking toilet, change a light bulb. She knows the minute she picks it all up and dumps it in the back of the Ute this will cause nothing but arguments. On a couple of occasions she has had to remove ladders from the house and take it 200 mtrs to the shed. He will leave, grease on everything, water on tiled floors, get the good sheridan towels from the cupboard to wipe glue, grease and then drop it on the floor. No matter how many times she has shown him the rag cupboard.

Some days she says she will sit in the toilet and read a book for an hour just to get away from him. He doesn’t dare ask what she was doing in there but on one occasion she has nodded off and came out smiling and acting as if she had only spent 3 minutes in there. He asked her what she was doing that day and she turned, raised one eyebrow at him and never answered, he never asked again and when she went into the kitchen to find she had infact been in the toilet for an hour & a half. She writes  “it was pure bliss, silent and peaceful, to not have to think for a grown adult never alone the 3 year old who also happened to be bothering her as well. The only problem was when she came out into the land of the living, he the farmer had decided to put the washing on and to this day she has no white clothes they are all grey. She is waiting for a break to replace white t-shirts, socks and underware.”

If you think you can help me with my South East Drought Day, by way of raffle prizes, sponsorship, workshops let me know I want this to be free of cost for the ladies and everyone to have a great time.






In Our Paddocks

Thank you all for the over whelming response to Tears, Drinking, Coping, Drought it was snippets of stories of what goes on In our Paddocks  and kitchen sinks. It’s the story of others that makes it interesting, heartwarming and according to one of the emails I received overnight gave comfort that she was not alone in her thoughts and feelings.

Relationships women share with each other are bonds that can be broken, a wrong word, a withering look or breaking trust will destroy even the strongest of friendships. We’ve all seen it, friends that leave and never come back and you may never know what happened but they left without so much as a backward glance, a goodbye and along with it left you with a feeling of isolation and sadness.

Drought can bring on the same feelings, but for the woman who gave me the honour of telling me your stories, calling  and writing to ask me if I’m ok and to say thanks for sharing small snippets of them, it made them feel valued and less alone. It also gave them an outlet away from the farm, family and those closest to them as it broke their day.  I am doing ok for those that asked.

One of them told me of a life long friendship that over the past couple of years has been made difficult as she can not disclose how tight money is and they are no longer  “popping down to Adelaide for family celebrations,  spontaneous get togethers or shopping expeditions”. In fact she wrote the invitations have stopped coming and the correspondence of any sort spasmodic, but the biggest thing she has noted is the amount of times the friends have traveled to be with them on a weekend. Not once she wrote not once, it was in fact a city based friendship that has not been two ways despite the numerous invitations. She is unsure how she will approach it once things improve or even if she will bother.

There are also the funny times or moments as well, I have read and heard stories about farmers coming home in the Utes wearing only their hat, they get out of the Ute not realising there is a visitor or stock agent sitting at the table waiting to chat with them, as they walk through the door naked. One of the things farmers do in drought is spend hours in the hot dry sun checking all water points for animals, they will do this twice a day if need be and if things go wrong they will jump into tanks, walk in dams and work around flooded troughs to ensure stock have water.

Another said in the middle of a fight about “nothing”she said he looked at her and said “but I just want to drive the tractor” in a tone like a 3 year old and they both burst out laughing. For a farmer the tractor is like a briefcase to a lawyer or a stethoscope to a Doctor, their tool of trade and when he said it she said “he sounded like their son at 3 who only wanted to play with his lego”.  It will be months before the tractor will be driven unless it’s loading and unloading hay to feed stock.

One of the things that is good about living on a farm you can grow stock for eating and many farm houses have freezers full of meat, but this year one says they decided to eat all of the meat out of the freezers and turn a couple off to save electricity. She now tells me she can “write a cookbook on 101 ways to cook and side dishes to put with a lamb chop”. “The struggle to make dinner nightly and make it appealing was a struggle with only lamb chops as a base, there was 45 nights in a row they had lamb chops, how did she know ? he counted guess what he got on the 46th night? yep nothing, she had wine & cheese.

I can write with some knowledge on this topic and I now understand why cricket is part of the Australian culture. Cricket comes with summer, summer can be tough on the land so when it’s too hot to go out, cricket can be watched in the cool of the house.

As women we all need to support each other as we are doing a great job supporting the farmer, the family, the land and the diversity the seasons bring. The Channel Country Ladies day in QLD looks like it’s a model we need to repeat here, I am starting a face book page In Our Paddocks – let me know what you think about a not for profit weekend of women celebrating women in SA and I’ll get me function hat on and start to plan it.

Don’t forget if you need help call LifeLine Australia 13 11 14

Feel free to keep sending me your stories and snippets robynverrall@bigpond.com

Tears, Drinking, Coping, Drought

I know this is a hard subject to talk about and understand, never alone live through one. As a city girl growing up I watched the TV showing pictures of drought and gave it a passing glance. I have family that grew up and live on the land in QLD and to hear them talk about drought was only in passing conversation. I never understood it and they never expanded upon their lives living it. It is easy to sympathise and empathise but it’s not easy to grasp.

How many stories do we see that we skim over with the title drought, people who have not seen rain in 5 or 10 years or more, looking to the skies for a better season, waiting for a break to put in seed to grow crop, then it doesn’t rain again, bring back livestock that have been moved off or sold for years, but do we understand it?

I don’t think we do, most TV stories concentrate on the farmer, his livestock, livelihood and lack of opportunity to provide for his family but do we really see the impact of the women who live with these men and drought? The pictures on the TV show dry land, farmer looking to the skies a couple of dead animals or a skull, skeleton of an animal but they never illustrate the real toll drought takes.

When do we know it’s a drought, us women behind the scenes? swearing is not a good barometer as farmers swear a lot, at animals, machinery, weather and things but once the land dries up, the bank account shrinks and animals start gathering at fences when they hear cars, utes, trucks and voices the swearing escalates, paddocks look like sandpits this is drought.

Talking to some of my girlfriends today I asked how one is doing, she grimaced and said “Oh my god the swearing, I’m sick of it already, every time he comes in I try to go out. I have asked to increase my days working to earn more money to help get us through.” She is waiting on her boss to give her an answer it looks like her eldest won’t be going off to boarding school as planned next year unless things turn around quickly. She is one of the lucky ones, she works close to her home, has an income and escapes for 3 days per week.

I say I understand, we are buying in feed, her husband has been buying it in for the last 3 months and it is really expensive so they are now de-stocking. For those that don’t know de-stocking means selling or moving every bit of stock off the property either into the market for money or onto another person’s property for agistment (which is also expensive option). Some keep only a small amount of breeders hoping that when it rains it won’t be so expensive to get a bull or ram to impregnate the stock left. If pregnant then there is a time lapse of up to 18 months before the new born can be sold. Imagine how do you live without an income for 18 months or more?

What happens to women in drought? one of the things they do is try to get work off farm, families still have to eat and food costs money. I know of another of my girlfriends who walked into a shopping centre in a capital city and has sat at a coffee table and cried. She cried as she looked around and knew no one would understand her life in that moment, how her troubles were so much on her and everybody else looked fresh and happy. She noticed people looked away from her.

She felt naked, she knew the pants she had on she had sown up the inner legs for the third time, her knickers had holes in them and her top was dated by 3 years. She tugged at her hair and wondered if she had enough money for a hair cut, a colour was way out of her price range, so the greys will keep coming through unchecked. She couldn’t remember the last time she bought herself clothing of any kind. She stirred her real cup of coffee and at $4.80 a cup she felt she was cheating her family, and knew she wouldn’t buying lunch for herself that day but also that $4.80 could have also bought her much wanted knickers and she asked me “one didn’t go into the shopping centres to walk out with just knickers do they?”

I couldn’t answer her as I was thinking No they don’t in times of drought, the farm comes first, children’s needs second, husbands third and if there was anything left over it was the woman’s turn. Having a cup of coffee is normal and I would have chosen to look normal rather than feel abnormal by buying much needed knickers and walking out.

Women work hard to appear ‘normal’ and keep things ‘normal’ while inside they may be feeling anxious, no one sees them walking the house in the dark – it is not insomnia, it is pure stress. Another girlfriend said she walked so much one night around and around the house cleaning that the dog  who faithfully slept on the couch got up and went outside to get away from her, as she found herself talking to it.

She told me it was the only time she felt less stress, as from daylight when the farmer got up in the morning he was rubbing his head and trying to work out what to do for the day. She went to discuss the finances with him once and he said he wasn’t interested so a fight occurred as she made him listen, she didn’t want him at any stage to turn around and say “I wasn’t aware, I didn’t know or WTF?” as things were going from bad to worse. They came to a resolution, she spoke, he listened and things went back to her feeling the full brunt of the declining back account, no solution to the problem so she went to the local town and started cleaning motel rooms.

Women rally, but they do get to a point where they feel they can’t cope but who do they tell? They won’t tell already stressed husbands, if they mention anything to girlfriends in the city, they look sympathic and move on which is not helpful and after a while most women don’t mention it more than once. One said “it is a problem that never goes away and won’t until it rains, stock comes back and farmers are working. How do my city friends even begin to grasp that?” I have no answers either so I listen.

“For me talking about it I feel disloyal to my husband, the farm, my parents in law and all of those hard working people who stay on farm during droughts” said another girlfriend today “so I say nothing but at night after the kids have gone to bed I drink, he hates it but I need to in order to cope.” “I feel so alone in this I can’t tell anyone” said another (as) ” I know once I start talking about it I won’t stop and it will become too real” I say to her “one day at a time” her response “please don’t be another one of those For sure it will rain, we know it will but when no one can answer that.”

I looked at her and said “the one I dislike “it is what it is, I know it is but it doesn’t help me.” She laughed and as we were standing there looking at each other she thanked me for listening and for understanding as she left I said “it will get better, I have another girlfriend who makes sure when she cries she does it in the shower, puts the radio on so no one can hear her and lets the water wash her face and tears away at the same time, when she stops gets out and puts her make up on and starts her day”. She asked me if she knew this person I said it’s all of us, we cope how we can and no one judges us harder than we do ourselves.”

Next time you see that lady sitting in the shopping centre alone, smile at her, assure her she is ‘normal’. She doesn’t need your sympathy or money to buy knickers, she would love money to buy feed, a bale of hay, seed to prepare for cropping, pellets for chooks all of that is foremost on her mind, but she wouldn’t accept it, she would feel rich sitting in nice company drinking her expensive coffee. She would love you to say hello and move on as if she didn’t have a care in the world, but if it’s me, stop and talk.

If you are reading this and need help call lifeline Australia 13 11 14