Ode to my Farmer

I passed away in the early hours of this morning, outside when the sun came up and in a place I knew was home. It was where we sat having drinks in summer, near your chair where one of you would reach down and pet me. The outside erection built by you, I wasn’t well and have been slowly letting you know I was going to pass over a week ago. I started to not want my food.

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I remember you coming and selecting me, you picked me up held me to your chest and I felt your heart beat and you brought me to the farm. I was little and it was big, there were other dogs that looked like me and white 4 legged wooly animals as well as big black 4 legged creatures. All of this was frightening but you carried me around until you felt I was ready to join the mob. You spent weeks touching me, encouraging me, training me to obey, sit on the back of the ute, run after sheep and cattle whilst growing up.

I loved the space, I loved working, you would drive the ute and whistle, I would know what to do, I was your right or left hand depending upon where you sent me. These cattle and sheep were never frightening after you took the time to teach me, I could get them where you wanted them. You would lift me up into the ute, pat me and tell me all the time what a good dog I was, sometimes if I was hot I would run to the trough, jump in and lie down whilst moving my body from one end to the other to cool off.

I loved the farm and I loved you, you would pat me, feed me and put me in my kennel at night for protection. I was never chained except on the back of a ute to protect me and as I grew and became the oldest working dog I earnt the right to sit in the ute with you whilst the other younger ones got to ride in the back. This was great in summer with the air conditioner on and in winter with the heater. I would stand with my head resting on the dash board looking out. You would reach over and pat me often, I loved working with you. I loved summer when we would go to the dam and swim whilst chasing a ball it was what I was bred to be.

I learnt your voice, your whistle and your touch, you were who I wanted to be with. I learnt the good words and the bad words. Sometimes (when working in sheep & cattle yards) there would be swearing and I would look for a way of running off. It was here in the sheep yards that we had our serious accident. I jumped, missed and dislocated my hips. You picked me up and took me into the vet, I then had to spend weeks getting better, I never really recovered to my best but you never seemed to mind. You would come and get me, sit on the step and hold me like I was a puppy again, I would place my head on your shoulder and breath the love between us

During my growing years, I had a coat given to me in winter, I had a bed I was always happy to go to, it didn’t even become crowded when the new puppy came along and she dug under our joined fence and started to sleep with me. We were fed, we were allowed to swim and we were a family. When I was really sore I was given the best health care going, I even was allowed trips to town, the bank teller still remembers when you brought me in and placed me on the counter (where I was a little scared and I peed) no one told me off you picked me up and patted me. I also had many people that I loved and they loved me. People came and went but you were always there.

Then last year I became sore in the hips, slowed down and found it difficult to keep my balance in the front of the ute (I had turned 15) I suffered if I had to work so we decided I could move inside at night. I was given the couch, no one told me to get off and when the other dogs came inside I didn’t even have to look up when you shouted for them to get out. I was safe and warm again in your care.

Then I had to retire from the day trips, that was initially difficult, I would bark as you drove away but could easily find my couch, then when I stopped being able to get up on the couch the padded bed was bought. This was also lovely, it was taken to the office daily and returned at night so I could sleep at your feet. I still barked when you drove off, but from the comfort of my bed, either from the bedroom or the office. I was warmed protected and loved.

I had begun to get sick and I noticed no one told me off, in fact yesterday I was found lying in it, instead of being put outside, I watched as my bed was moved to the darkest corner of the room, my blanket was freshened up and she lifted me up, bathed me with a warm hot towel and laid in my bed all the while she was telling me what a good, beautiful and wonderful dog I was. She laid on the floor for a while petting me, telling me how much I was loved and how hard I had worked for 15+ years and it was ok to join the others.

You came home and came straight into see me yesterday, you didn’t mention the vomit to me, I know you loved me as much as I loved you. I loved the fact you would pat me and make me feel safe and loved, I knew this as I passed. I know that when you buried me you carried me close to your chest, holding me gently like when I was a puppy and as a last act of love you patted me one last time.


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Good byes

Well here it is then, it’s time and sadly after 16 years & 6 months our beloved Pete (the Golden retriever) passed away yesterday. What a sad day for us, not for him he was at peace when he passed, in fact we got a last wag of his tail. What does one say when they have lost a large part of their lives, nothing as my daughter said we can celebrate the fact he was the “best dog ever” and he was. He always greeted us with a smile, a wag, got up and licked hands, when younger he use to run around in circles in excitement when he met people he loved, as he grew old and lost hearing and some sight he would go and sniff then lick.

I am grateful for the time we had him, he was loyal, faithful and loving. When younger he use to sleep on my feet, he would come and lean against people’s legs that he liked when he was in his middle years and in his older years he would lay on the floor where ever I was and sleep, his presence was comforting and I never felt alone.

He loved the beach, the dam, the shower, the rain as do all goldies in summer the first time the farmer shaved him he ran to the dam and washed the years of thick fur off him and then we noticed he started to get freckles from being in the sun. I use to smear him with sunburn cream as his skin was so white.

I remember when I lived in the city before meeting and marrying the farmer I walked him everyday on Brighton beach, he swam everyday, winter and summer. Once on a winters day when the whites of the waves were crashing into the sand he ran out into the water and body surfed it back in, he was surrounded by white tops and small young boy with his dad yelled out “look Daddy it’s a polar bear”. Out Pete came and shook all that water all over that little boy, licked his face and ran back in. Luckily his father laughed and said it was a golden retriever. I remember when he swam out to the dolphin that comes into Brighton in summer and people yelling at me to get him out as he would eat the dolphin, all I was worried about was the fact that he would follow it and I would not be able to get him back, much like the two goldens that swam after one and they had to get the rescue boat out to get them off Marino beach, they were nearly 2 kms off shore when they pulled them in. Seeing those two dogs on really long ropes after that was funny. Pete never hurt the dolphin, in-fact they swam together (before mobiles had cameras)

Pete moved to the farm with renewed vigor, he had dogs for company, cattle to bark at and sheep to stare at him and the dam. He was leader of the posse. We secure all dogs on backs of Utes and he would be in the middle, in winter the other dogs would huddle close for warmth and in summer lay in his shadow for shade. He loved it, even when he broke his paw and had to be relocated back to the city for 12 weeks following putting 3 pins in his paw he was thrilled to come back to the farm. (it was the cost of a small car to fix that paw)

He ran and ran until he stopped, well actually we think he went under a gate to get to the dam and tore his cruciate ligament, so he was again limping. We took him to a knee vet who said then, we could do surgery but he’s an old dog and it would heal on it own (he was 10) and he probably wouldn’t live that much longer. Ha, he proved that vet wrong, he went on for more years to come.

He has had arthritis over the last few years and found it hard to sit quickly, stand quickly and get out of his own way (hence the pooping without notice – can I say I won’t miss that). He has not coped well with 40 degree days and a few times over the last couple of years we have watched with worry. From the hot weekend past where we were without power for over 14 hours we all suffered and he woke on Monday not well. As sad as it was to say goodbye, we did.

I wanted to put a picture of him taken the day before but looked at it and saw how unwell he was, so I got one from Jan 2nd and have shared that. I shall miss everything about him, he came into my life rescued by a dear friend and became all I needed, Amy & I loved him unconditionally and he loved us back. I will miss driving up and watching him lift his head as he knew the sound of my car, I will miss going to the door and letting him in and out up to 6 times per night despite being asked by the farmer “does he really have to come in?” “um yes he does” I will miss trying to walk around him whilst preparing a meal as he waited for a lucky drop (which he ALWAYS got).

Even the last year when we have watched him age, my husband said “pat him as much as you can as after they go, they are gone” I did that frequently, every time I walked past him I would touch him either with my hand or my foot. I would sit on the floor with him sometimes and pat him like I did yesterday for about 3 hours. I would bend over and kiss his head and he would lift his face to me. I am glad I was there for him and I am sorry he has gone.

Good bye, farewell my friend, my pet , my companion, I already miss not bending down to pat you and feel your soft fur under my touch.

2 - 1 -2015

2 – 1 -2015

Today is brought to you by the Letter F

Living on a farm you get use to the fact there is no noise. You can hear cars coming from kilometres away, day or night. You can tell the difference between Utes, tractors town cars, semi-trailors and trucks just to name a few. We can hear the sounds of animals cattle and sheep, the occasional dog bark and the call of other animals depending upon the stillness of the day or night. There is one sound though that sends dogs running, has farmers wives on tender hooks and looking to render assistance should it be called for and has farmers red in the face, sometimes followed up by the roaring around of the Ute on the farm or the slamming of the door as the farmer comes inside.

It can carry from the shed, the paddocks, the shearing shed, the cattle yards, the sheep yards and the Ute, it comes unexpectedly, is loud and strikes that fear into all who hear it. It can travel all  over the farm yard and if it followed up by a loud bang then things have gone awry for some reason or another. If I see the working dogs come running back to their compounds then I know that things are turning into a disaster and the dogs have bailed on the farmer.

If the Ute comes roaring around the drive to the front of the house and I happen to see it I will hang up the phone (if I am on it) and go to see what the problem is. When it occurs there can be a dozen or more problems, I have given up guessing I wait to hear the story. The cattle have eaten the cables to the pivot, the energizer, taken out fences, don’t have enough to eat are “bastards” same goes for the sheep, Made worse by the fact that the dogs upon the commencement of the yelling will run away.

They say animals especially dogs can learn over 100 words and this is one I can attest to, they duck and go running when they hear the word “fuck”. I could say with confidence it can be the most used word in the farmers day and said in many tones and afflictions. It can be said with meaning, said quickly, yelled and said in relation to inanimate objects, living objects, mechanical objects and of course people.

Also how it sounds can be determined by the location on the farm the farmer is at the time, the winds and how quickly the dogs make it back to the farm house. “Fuck” on the farm is used as a noun, an adjective, a verb or an adverb depending upon the situation, who is involved, what is involved and the outcome at the end of the swearing episode, lets be honest it can be said consecutively up to 6 times or more. It is said as machinery breaks down, phones are hung up and a plethora of other instances.

Dogs patiently waiting  for the farmer

Dogs patiently waiting for the farmer

Things I have seen

Sometimes I think my life has given me more than I need, not by the way of material things but by the people in it who I love and cherish. Though I feel I never get to spend much time with them I know and I hope they know how much they mean to me. I have been given ample opportunity in my work and life to have great balance and have been to places and seen things I never thought I would when I was growing up. Though what is growing up essentially, I still don’t feel any older than when I left school – just a wiser head on my shoulders as they say.

I worked as a Nurse for the formative years of my working life, I have seen many things I have wanted to see and many things I didn’t want to see. These things can not be unseen, I didn’t realise the great rich diversity i would see and do having chosen this sort of career then I moved onto medical sales where opportunity was afforded me to travel. I have done and seen things here in many places in Australia and beyond, things I also wanted to see and others I didn’t.

But coming to farming life, I get to see and do much more than I ever thought goes on at farms. I have seen my Huz put chains (correctly) on a calf hooves and use the ute to assist a cow to give birth, 9 out of ten deliveries are fine, the ones that die, died in utero. I have seen things that also can not be unseen. Like the entrails of eaten prey our cats have brought in. Most times we discourage them if they bring us their prize, last night was a bat, it was tiny and the cat (Frankie) now call bat girl (she is a female) was playing with it. I thought it was dead so I went to pick it up and thought better of it and used the dustpan, the poor thing was still alive. How does one keep a bat for a pet, get it survive the attack of killer cat and then let it go. This was 1am I was contemplating all of this, I decided to open the door and let it out. Much to my and the cats amazement it flew off, sometimes they just need a minute or two to get over the attack and off it went.

How does one cat get high enough to catch a bat, one suspects the poor little thing moved into our fruit trees and took refuge from the cold and heat and was getting a meal there till our nosy cat caught it. Some times the night life in the house is like a party a cat posse all waiting and crying at the clever cat that caught prey, it’s awful. I even feel sorry for the bunnies they bring in. But that is the second time for a bat, I wonder what the rest of the year will bring.


Bank Accounts and Farming

We have had to change banks this month, the account belonging to the farm was opened in excess of 15 years or more ago. It was opened as an operating account for the trust (of which I am not a part of). The Directors of the trust as those that own the farm, DH, & the In laws. This has worked well for many years and will see it to cessation as time goes by. The Adelaide bank has sold off this section of the branch and the new company have decided to close that banking arm – FANTASTIC in the year of the Farmer NOT. We were sent a letter which gave us a one month period to find a new account, it has to have the basic criteria of having a cheque book, though these little paper slips are almost extinct some businesses can not be B paid, Anypay, pay at the post office or by cash they need to be done with cheque i.e. ASIC.

I have researched options and boy Banks cash in on small businesses, there are some that offer a 5 transaction limit then charge $1.60 per transaction after that and on average the farm would do 15 transactions per month on a slow month. This is on top of the account keeping fee and cheque book fee, etc. These are the days of the shareholder banks that make many millions in profit despite crying poor. Also we in the country are limited by closures and lack of branches, so we looked at what is available for convenience and closeness. with a limited time to do this we asked advice from our accountant and then proceeded to meet with the local manager.

Rural families are different from any others, the Directors are also parents, I have no legal claim to anything which is ok with me, it makes things difficult though. I am not a signatory on any of the accounts, though I do all of the book work for the business. This is not an issue for me as such in that it is only inconvenient at times when I need to have cheques signed. The request of the parents in opening the account is that they remain signatories and it has been requested that I am as well. The farm pays for many of the parents living expenses and will do until they are no longer with us, they have bequeathed their shares to each other and only after death does it become DH’s. There is no issue here, this is just the matter of fact, this is how they work and this is what farming families do. In the new ear of credit & debit cards, no pass books the issue now is according to the bank manager – how many cards do we issue and how many customer numbers are required, as they will remain signatories. Our Lovely bank manager found it a bit perplexing that the three directors would be signing and I would just be a signature and we only needed 1 card, 1 customer number.

There we all sat with the bank manager and he was working hard to accommodate us, it took him about 2 hours work to put it together and then we invited the parents in law to come and sign the paper work. 5 of us in his office and asking how many linking up of the accounts to other accounts did there need to be? Only 1 the current working Director. 4 cards? no we settle on 2, 1 for the current working Director and 1 for the book-keeper, bill payer then we even have to choose a colour of the card. This being done the parents in law sign and check that it is not stated that I am a Director but a signature only. Bank Manager then wants to show us how to use the accounts, register it and link it all up, I am in the far corner and can not see the screen (not helpful for the book-keeper really) so DH informs parents they can go, which they do albeit reluctantly. It is not that we hide anything from them, they get copies of the books annually or upon requests  it’s just that it has become in their words far too complicated for them to do all of this now (sign of old age).

This is how it rolls in rural families, sons and daughters may not own their own places till the parents pass on. It is restrictive and it is still controlling the lives of middle-aged children, in some it breeds resentment, others complacency and contentment in others. My DH is content with his lot which is lucky, he has been left to his own devices to run the property and the stock as he sees fit. He has always wanted what was fair rather than a pot of gold he had not worked for.