In 1992 my husband and I purchased ten acres of land with a 103 year old Victorian farmhouse and milking dairy, forty five minutes from Melbourne. The dairy had not been in working order for many years and the whole property was in extremely poor condition. It was an animal refuge when we bought it and many of the animals were looked after in the house, it was so run down we virtually had to gut it and then scrub and disinfect everything before we could live in it. But this place had atmosphere, wild gardens, beautiful flowers and masses of potential. So with a whole lot of excitement, enthusiasm and not much money left, we moved in.
Even though we were still relatively close to Melbourne our water supply was tank and bore water and a very beautiful dam (pond). We soon discovered that the dam leaked and by summer, when we needed it for fire fighting, it was empty. Fortunately we never needed to put out any fires.
So, when you live in the country you have live stock and that seemed like a great idea. We got ourselves a rooster, whose name was Graham and then his ‘egg’ laying lady, we named Louise. We eventually got him his very own harem of hens and named them ‘the girls’, there were just too many to name individually. From then on Graham always seemed to have a smile on his beak and egg production was at a premium.
Real free range eggs are the best to eat, so fresh and rich. Some of those eggs weighed in at 90gms each. That is large, very large for an egg and an amazing achievement for any hen. Occasionally I would hear shrieks coming from the kitchen, because someone had cracked open an egg only to find a chicken fetus floating in the bowl. After a couple of experiences like that, I found it difficult to get help when I wanted to cook with eggs.
Our next animals arrived when some very generous people gave us two lambs, Lamb Chop and Lambert. They were still young enough to be bottle fed and our girls just loved that chore; we never had to ask them twice to do that. Those lambs had free run of the garden day and night and often played on the wooden veranda, clip-clopping noisily with their hooves, often waking us before dawn. Eventually they got to be too big and dangerous.
On one occasion the larger sheep, Lamb Chop, charged my husband and took him to the ground; repeatedly butting him. As he tells it; he couldn’t get away from the sheep because one of its back legs was caught inside his sneaker. He escaped by getting a neck hold on it with one hand and punching it in the face with the other, until it staggered away. Frightening experience for a city boy.
Not surprisingly, both sheep ended up on the end of a butcher’s hook and then in my freezer. But they had the last say even in the pot, the meat tasted terrible! We were told later that the reason they tasted so awful was because there was too much testosterone in the meat. Who would have thought!
We also inherited some semi-tame animals left over from the refuge. One little ring tail possum in particular, loved to be hand fed slices of pear, orange and apple while dangling from the water tank near the back door. But he never got tame enough to let any of us to pat him, probably for the best as they have sharp claws and can be quite vicious if startled or frightened.
We also had visits from not so welcome wild life; very large spiders as big as my husband’s hands, would sometimes stray into the house. They were so old and slow and gruesome to look at. If I was alone with the kids, I was the one who had to dispose of them. I was not at all brave and many times I killed them because I did not have the courage to pick one of them up and take it outside. To this day I can not pick one up. Unfortunately, I still have to kill them if hubby is not around and I feel sad when I have to commit spider murder. It just seems an affront to Mother Nature.
We have not lived there for eleven years now. We live on a tiny little parcel of land, in a tiny house, in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. But I have some amazing memories of being a country girl for five years.