How Not To Use a SMART list: For mothers and others

I made my list, as I’ve often been told to do.
It was quite short, and, as the experts had been coaching me SMART:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
And so the day began.
First job: Strip the bed – except that a sleeping husband lay there soundly sleeping, so I made plans to come back later.


I decided that I might as well have breakfast, except that last night’s dishes had been forgotten by the other inhabitants of the house. So, I went to fill the dishwasher. But it too was full of dishes that had not been put away. I thought that while I put those away I’d fill the sink to wash the pots and pans. I turned on the hot water and went to sprinkle several drops of dishwashing liquid into the water, but alas, the bottle was empty. To be efficient, I thought I’d write it on the shopping list straight away.
So I grabbed the shopping list, ticked the box for dishwashing liquid, and some other tick boxes caught my eye.
‘I must not forget coffee, or tuna or flour…Now what else do I need?’


But as I contemplated the list a bit longer, I heard an unfamiliar trickling sound behind me. I looked around and saw that the hot water was still running, and now there was a puddle on the floor and trickles all down the kitchen cabinet doors.
I turned off the tap and headed for the mop and bucket which I couldn’t find in its usual place. So I went to ask the sleeping husband.
“Errr…oh…Its outside!” he moaned as he rolled over and pulled the quilt back over his shoulder.


I grabbed the mop and bucket and was about to mop up the puddle on the floor. But then I thought that while I was at it, I ought to mop the rest of the floor–it was well overdue. 
So I went to the laundry to get the floor washing liquid.

One of the laundry baskets was overflowing, so I filled the washing machine with clothes to wash. But when I went to fill the rinse container with vinegar, the vinegar container was empty.

So I went to the pantry to get some more vinegar. There was no vinegar there either, so I went to the bathroom where I sometimes keep vinegar so I can use it with carb soda to clean the bathroom. Sure enough, there was some vinegar there – and also some carb soda.

The bathroom, especially the loo, looked a bit grimy and I remembered that it had missed out on its weekend clean. So I poured some vinegar and carb soda into the toilet with the promise that I’d return to scrub it later. I went to wash my hands and noticed that the hand basin wasn’t clean either. So I made the most of my time there and began to clean it.

An empty toothpaste tube lay on the vanity as a reminder to get some more – and I’d already forgotten it for three days already. So I picked it up and took it to the kitchen to add it to my shopping list.

And what did I see?

A half-made shopping list; a puddle on the floor and trickles down the kitchen cabinet; a bench full of dirty dishes and an open dishwasher full of clean dishes. I thought back to the laundry in which sat a dry mop and bucket and a washing machine full of clothes but empty of vinegar. In our bathroom was a toilet waiting to be scrubbed and a hand-basin half-done. And still in our bedroom was a soundly sleeping husband.

As far as my list of things to do – well, nothing had been done. My list of SMART was dumb for mums. It was an hour and a half later, and I hadn’t even got to number one.



Part Two:

My morning of doing a SMART list had resulted in many things begun…but nothing finished.
I sat and sulked…until the sleeping husband arose from his slumber and wandered out to the kitchen. He found me, shoulders slumped, at my desk–My desk is only a metre away from the sink.

‘I just wanted to do a few things and have failed at them all!’ I told him, my bottom lip drooping almost to the ground.
He took me in his arms, kissed me on the forehead and laughed gently–I love it when he does that!


Instead of lecturing me about good time-management or coming up with easier solutions, he just hugged me and listened. I ranted and raved until eventually I said,
‘Perhaps I should just be a little gentler on myself.’
At last he commented,
‘That’s about the first thing you’ve said that’s made any sense.’

I hugged him back.


It’s now a few weeks later. All of those jobs did eventually get done – just not in the linear time-frame I had originally planned.
The clothes were washed – and hung out, and brought in, and sorted by another member of the family.
The dishes did not stay in the sink or on the bench or in the dishwasher all day. I think it was the mess in the kitchen that prompted the girls to get it clean before they left for work.
The floor was mopped by the son who was working a late shift.


Eventually I realized that having put some strategies in place years before, to get each of the family to do their bit, had paid off.

As long as I didn’t expect everything to happen before 7 am!


Written in May 2013

Thanks to Beverley Eckermann for the photos


Hugh: You Can Learn A Lot About A Person From Their Texts

‘You can tell a lot about a person from their texts,’ Sally said. ‘I’m predicting he’s twenty-something from Melbourne. Who knows why he’d want to move to Darwin.’

Our house is full of twenty-to-thirty-somethings. We get along great.

I’m one of the most recent arrivals to this share-house, so this was only my second time of screening new applicants for the soon-to-be-vacant room.

It didn’t go according to plan.

 

Our home’s owner and co-resident Sally read the first text to us.

:My name is Hugh. I’m interested in the room for rent. Can I come around tonight?’

:OK. See you between 5:30 and 6:30 pm

:Great. I’ll be there at 8.

:Did you get my text?

:Oh. Ok. CU then.

 

A house with six twenty-to-thirty somethings is usually busy. 

Last night was no exception.

As well as the anticipated inspection by Hugh, Sally was holding a cosmetics party later in the evening and expected the demonstrator, her friend Bonnie, at around five for tea and a chat before the party.

Our house has five bedrooms and one bathroom. Fortunately, there’s another shower hooked up outside in the garden. 

Just before five o’clock, Sally went into the outside shower.

Her phone rang.

I would have answered it, except that she’d taken it into the shower area with her and put it on the shelf in the shower alcove. Her hands were full of shampoo bubbles.

It was Hugh – at five o’clock.

‘I’m out the front of the house,’ he said.

The rest of us saw him. Then we saw Sally appear from the garden-shower, draped in a towel.

Hugh reached out to shake her hand. Sally’s hand gripped more tightly to the towel. 

Hugh didn’t seem to notice Sally’s discomfort and began to wander around the garden.

The first thing he noticed was our plunge-pool. A partially submerged water tank–not big enough to lie down in, let alone do any laps–it provides us with an opportunity to quickly cool-off.

‘What kind of water is it?’ Hugh asked.

Sally’s face reflected what the rest of us felt. What sort of water would you like? We’re happy with the H2O variety. Perhaps you’d prefer Avian or a mineral spring water?

Sally remained silent. Hugh continued to wander.

Sally’s partner collects stuff. Mostly, he gets it from the Dump Shop, our city’s very effective recycling store. A trail of his stuff decorates the backyard.

Hugh followed the trail to the shed.

‘There’s a lot of junk here,’ he said. ‘Did you buy it like this?’

Sally remained silent. Hugh wandered, uninvited, into the house.

 

Sally raced into her room, threw on something a little less revealing than her towel and seated herself on the couch. The rest of us observed, from a distance.

‘I would prefer a gas oven. Any chance of changing to a gas oven?’

‘Oh we’re thinking about a gas oven,’ said Sally.

‘Really?’ asked Hugh

‘No.’ said Sally.

 

He turned his attention to me, in the kitchen.

‘There seem to be girls living here. I’ve lived with them before. Oh, are there guys here too? That would be good to have a kick of the footy. Are they into footy?’

‘No,’ I said.

He continued. ‘But they must be into the footy.’

At precisely the moment he announced that guys must be into footy, Bonnie barged in through our side door with suitcases, ready for the cosmetics party.

‘I’m moving in!’ she shouted.

Hugh looked at Bonnie. He looked at her suitcases. He looked at me. His eyes questioned though didn’t they didn’t give away what he was thinking.

Hugh left. No good-bye. No thanks. No acknowledgment.

Needless to say, Hugh did not choose to join our household. Whether it was the oven, the lack of footy, or that Sally refused to let go of her towel to shake his hand, we’ll never know.

But Sally was right.

You can tell a lot about a person from their texts.

 

Qualified to Care: Qualifications, Training, Skills and Education

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember them: Rectangular sheets of rectangular stamps in the fold of magazines, accompanying adverts for correspondence schools. Printed on each stamp was the name of a course available.

For years I ignored them. I had a job. I had other opportunities to learn. I had no time for extra study.

But this time, I was stuck at home in a country that said that if I worked, my family would be deported. Courses for adults weren’t available – or affordable. And no child-care was available anyway.

So I tore off a rectangular stamp, licked the back of it and stuck it onto a piece of cardboard – and posted it in the post-box on our front porch.

Over the following weeks, I paid a fee, and collected my course books from the post-box.

After some time, I had an exam. I was provided with the questions and I could take as long as I needed to find the answers from the books. When I was ready, I picked up the phone, punched in the numbers for the answers to the multiple-choice questions, and earned my Diploma of Dressmaking for getting the exam 100% correct. I never stitched a stitch.

Several years later, in our own country, I enquired about becoming a Family Day-Care provider.
I’ve looked after children since I can remember. I was a qualified Registered Nurse – at the Children’s Hospital. I had my own four children who’d thus far survived childhood. But I lacked a piece of paper that I could obtain – for a fee and six weeks of study – that would tell the world that I was qualified to care for children.

I guess my stubbornness got in the way of me ever becoming qualified to care for children. My Nurse’s Registration dissolved when I had to make the choice between looking after my own children, or someone else’s: Part-time employment for nurses was not an option at that stage, and to keep your registration, you had to work the equivalent of one full-time year every five years. Living in the USA for three and a half years was the end of that.

So, when my youngest began school, I went to University. I had to begin a degree from scratch. I couldn’t even do a ‘Refresher’ course in nursing, because, apparently, anatomy and physiology change if you don’t keep up your Nurses Registration.

In the past few weeks, a local Nursing Home has been in the news for its abysmal quality of care of its patients. I wonder about the qualifications of those who worked there. I think of all of the former-nurses who, like me, are sitting on the side-lines watching on, experienced and caring yet unqualified, horrified that those being employed in caring roles may have earned their qualifications by paying for a piece of paper and ticking the right boxes.

If people were able to learn skills through training on white-boards or computers or by watching dvds, we’d all be MasterChefs and accomplished builders. But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Chefs and bakers do not master their skills by watching dvds. They need to cut and chop and measure and taste and mix and practice and fail and try again. Builders need to build. They can’t learn to hit a nail on the head with a hammer, by watching a dvd. Nor can carers learn to care by copying words from a white-board.

In our attempt to become a clever country, have we provided ‘Training’ without teaching skills? Ultimately, have we confused ‘Education’ with ‘Qualifications’ – some of which are not worth any more than a rectangular stamp on a piece of cardboard.

What did you do today, Jules?

The day began great

I was up before eight

Had a walk, a coffee and shower

 

Then I went to my room

Felt a shadow of gloom

Alas! We’d run out of power

 

‘Tis no matter, thought I

‘Tis as easy as pie

My PC is charged to capacity

But what I’d forgot

–So easy ‘twas not—

The NBN needs electricity

 

Though my homework was done

I’d bet three to one

My excuses would not be allowed

So with paper and pen

I began it again

Coz my homework was stuck in the cloud

 

So tonight when you say

What did you do today

Forgive when my temper ignites

Though it started out great

I’m blamin’ the state

Coz my homework went out with the lights

Life, laughter, cartwheels and mixed messages

Adelaide city breathes music and life and laughter in March. The streets come alive with buskers playing instruments, singing, dancing, making merry mayhem…

Yet nestled right in the city are the Botanic Gardens, adjacent to parklands and the aging Royal Adelaide Hospital. It’s a glorious garden full of peace and quiet.

Usually.

This day was a bit different. WOMAD was about to begin across the fence. The music of rehearsing singers from Africa filled the air, and a joyful chorus of birds echoed back their response.

I wandered through the gardens and encountered a class of school kids on rambling lawns. They ran and jumped and cartwheeled and flipped. I watched in admiration, with my memory taking me back to trying to learn how to cartwheel…never successfully.

‘How wonderful!’ I thought as I watched them.

Then, I noticed that only half of them wore shorts. The other half wore skirts – according to uniform requirements.

At their age (about 7-8) it didn’t matter that they flipped and cartwheeled. But my heart saddened when I realised what will happen in that school in about a year.

And that will be the end of the flipping and climbing and jumping and cartwheeling for the half that must wear skirts.

The school will tell them in words ‘You can do whatever you want to do. Be brave. Be strong. Be active. Be a leader.’

Yet every time they must put on their skirts, they’ll know that the world is telling them something different.

 

Julie Hahn 12 March 2017

 

 

 

Unplanning your day: The secret of being productive

And another day bites the dust.

Another day

interrupted by phone-calls that distract

and messages that need attention

and book reviews that possibly didn’t need to be written

but you wrote them anyway

and impromptu lunches with dear friends

and letters that almost broke your heart to write.

Not what you planned–again.

But you answered,

you gave,

you shared,

you discussed,

you encouraged,

you listened,

you blessed.

 

Unplanned

– but productive,

if you don’t measure it against a To Do list.

 

 

Julie Hahn, 8th March 2017

How to Make Your New Year Beautiful

A mother  decided to display a beautiful crystal bowl she’d been given for her wedding but had never used.

So she found a lovely spot on a bench and placed it there.
The family had a habit of losing their keys, so it became a reliable place to find the keys, and the stray coins, and the springs that pop out of pens, and the washers that somehow manage to find themselves loose, and the empty lolly wrappers and spare batteries, and …

It soon became the junk-collector.

Frustrated that a thing of beauty had become a source of ugliness, the mother cleared it out and planned to put it away again.

Until a thought popped into her mind that perhaps if she gave it a good purpose, it would remain a thing of beauty.

So she filled it with beautiful, healthy fruit. The sparkling faceted crystal enhanced the colours of the fruit and the bowl remained beautiful and full of purpose.

New Year’s Resolutions

I thought of the stories with which we are all familiar – trying to empty ourselves of bad habits. I thought about New Year’s resolutions to get rid of bad habits.

The thing is, often we try to empty ourselves without replacing the bad with something better, so garbage sneaks in again:

We decide to stop yelling – but have not learned other alternatives such as whispering. So we hold off our yelling for a while – but eventually explode.

We tell our kids or ourselves “Don’t!”  – but don’t tell what TO do.

We complain that our loved ones don’t pick up on our clues – but we don’t tell them what we DO want.

We want to stop smacking – but haven’t actually been around gentle alternatives often enough or for long enough to see how they work long term.

And too soon, those things we’re trying to get rid of are replaced with even more garbage.

 

It doesn’t have to stay that way.

Before you make a commitment to say NO to something,

think about what you will say YES to.

With which beautiful thing will you replace the ugliness?

 

Find a safe place to discover and explore new and beautiful alternatives

– and often the difference between ugly and beautiful is just a little YES away.

How to Travel with Children Without Losing the Plot

How to travel with children without losing the plot?

Like most of my parenting journey, I learnt the hard way how to travel with children.

We’ve certainly had moments on our trips that we’d all prefer to forget. For example, when they were babies and we had food poisoning from a questionable chicken burger on our way to a wedding in Queensland. And when we moved to the USA — six flights in 56 hours with three children under five, and no sleep!

On our way home several years later, we traveled through the Rocky Mountains and danced with real live American Indians. We went to Universal Studios and screamed on the Jurassic Park ride. And we visited Mickey Mouse at Disneyland – where our four year old whacked him on his nose! Ouch!

We did things we never dreamed we’d do.

Yet, six months later, our children announced that their favourite place in the whole wide world was Lake Bonney Caravan Park, a couple of hour’s drive from our home in Adelaide. And their favourite ‘theme park’ was the Monash playground, a free community playground in the Riverland.

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Family trips became one of our favourite things to do

and we’ve had fewer of those ‘moments’ since we’ve learnt to simplify and enjoy the journey.scan_20161210-19

On one of our trips, the six of us traveled to Queensland in our Tarago–without a trailer or roof rack. Many caravan parks now have camp kitchens, so we no longer have to take our own barbecue or gas bottle, tables, chairs, saucepans and kettles. On that trip we packed two very cheap tents, and limited each passenger to a back-pack and a handbag-sized bag, a gym-mat, pillow, polar-fleece blanket and quilt cover (without the quilt).

We relied completely on what the towns between Adelaide and Brisbane had for us to do and eat. We figured that they needed our business more than the big supermarkets back home did.

So we got to taste the bakery food in every town, and checked out community centres and local landmarks. In Coonabarabran, for instance, there was a really neat planetarium, where our seven-year-old astounded us with his questions about particular constellations. We had a great trip of over 7000 kilometres.

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Perhaps we’ve missed some of the more famous spots along the way.

But we’ve learnt to have fun, discovered all sorts of surprises and enjoyed the diversity of interests in our family. And the kids have stored up enough silly stories about their parents to write their own novel.

 

Tips we’ve learnt along the way:

.    Treat the whole journey as an adventure.

Don’t try to travel too far in one day with little kids. Take your time, even if you need to take an extra day to get there.

Stop every couple of hours, at least, to break up your trip, stretch legs, wear off energy, find a toilet and perhaps, change seats.scan_20161210-15

Even a pile of stones or a creek on the side of the road can turn into an adventure. More than likely, your kids will remember the tiniest thing you did along the way — as long as they had time to spend with you.

.    Pack a ball or Frisbee and find the local playgrounds. Most towns have an oval or sports park. Botanic gardens and national parks are usually cheap places to visit, and they have all sorts of adventures in store for kids (of all ages).

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.    Have the children participate in the planning. Get some maps or ‘trip-tix’ from your automobile association, information from the internet or library, and help the children to plan and anticipate the trip. On the way, help them to follow the roads on the maps, and look for interesting landmarks such as Big Koalas, old buildings and airstrips.

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.    Save your sanity! As parents of little children you still need to cater, cook, wash and clean, even when on holiday.

Aim for simplicity. Is it necessary to have a big holiday far away while your children are really little? Could you get the same benefit from having a more relaxed time somewhere closer?

Is your destination family-friendly?  Could you be less ambitious about how far you will travel on the first day? Is it possible to get the kids looked after while you pack? Could you spend a whole day just relaxing when you get to your first destination? Can you plan to have a day to chill when you arrive home, so you’re not exhausted when you return to work and school?

We discovered that the most stress came from just getting going.

Our parents/grandparents live an hour away. So sometimes we stay there on our first night, just so we’re on the road – then have an early start from there the next morning. With a box of cereal, a long-life milk, (and a stainless-steel coffee plunger) we head off before anyone is ready for breakfast, and stop for brekky somewhere further along the road.

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.    Keep a list of travel games in the glovebox: ‘I spy’, ‘Car cricket’*, ‘Animal, vegetable or mineral?’ Borrow audio books from your local library or download them onto a phone, or stock up on the CDs your kids like to listen to. Make sure they are not your most ‘unfavourite’.

.    What about a scrapbook? Keep a glue stick handy to incorporate collections you make along the way: tickets,  pressed flowers and leaves. Have pencils/felt-tip pens on hand for kids to ‘journal’ — even a two-year-old can ‘draw’ his trip, while a school-age child can write a diary. Remember, like the trip, it’s not the destination or end result that is always the most important.

.    Keep bottles of water in the car and a picnic kit in the boot or in your luggage, with a plate and a knife, and a jar of Vegemite or peanut butter. Lunch can be as simple as purchasing a loaf of fresh bread at the local bakery and making fresh sandwiches at the local playground, saving money for entrances to zoos and theme parks and for accommodation. A bottle of water and a roll of good quality paper-towel makes great wipes for sticky fingers and faces.

.    A trip to the local supermarket for a roasted chicken, a bag of salad and some bread rolls makes a quick, nutritious and relatively inexpensive meal for a family. It’s easy to pack to take to theme parks or to eat when you arrive at your destination. And it really helps the cook to enjoy the holiday!

Pack a bag of apples, bananas or oranges for healthy ‘fast’ food. Freeze long-life milk or drinks to keep your esky (cool-box) cool, and to keep the little ones hydrated, cool and busy for a while.scan_20161210-ggaf-15

.    Children don’t tend to appreciate the value of your money. While Disneyland might have been your life-long dream, that does not oblige your child to appreciate its monetary value. The simple things in life are often the best.

.    Give your children their own spending money, or even better, help them to save for the occasion. Then allow them the freedom to spend ‘their’ money and learn its value. It’s also an effective technique for stopping the
‘I want…s’.

We found this worked when we stopped for an ice-block too. We told the kids they could choose an ice-block up to x-amount. (As the kids have grown older and gone on their own adventures, our ice-blocks have been replaced by coffee.)

.    Teach your children protective behaviour.

Teach them to speak politely and respectfully to new people, but be aware of their safety and security: Not to tell anyone their name, or where they live. And to not go with anyone other than their family.

DO NOT put their name on their hat, t-shirt, bag etc. in a place where it is visible.

Teach your child to stand still if they are lost in a crowd, so that those they’ve lost can retrace their steps to find them. If someone else wants to help them, teach your child to stay still and ask the person to bring mum or dad to where they are.

Children should especially learn that ‘if you can’t see Mummy, Mummy can’t see you’. Practice at home, and get them to also practice saying ‘NO’ really loudly.

.    Keep a list of what to pack, so that you don’t keep forgetting the same thing, such as the hammer to bash in the tent pegs. (No prizes for guessing why I know that one).scan_20161210-14

.    Plan for your trip home too. Don’t be like me. On our first trip I had all sorts of activities for the way to Brisbane, but forgot about the trip home. Oops!

You might like to send some postcards to your home address to remind you of your trip. Or take lots of photos and put a book together as a keepsake. How about getting the kids to design a ‘slide-show’ – using music and narration, when they get home.  Or keep a private Facebook page or use Instagram especially for your trip.

.    Treat the whole trip as the adventure. So a caravan park an hour away can become as much a treat for your children as Disneyland. (Ain’t that the truth?)

.    Finally, remember that

‘Happiness is not the destination; it is a way of traveling’.

 

Originally published in 'The Lutheran' magazine, March 2008.

 

Where is the Green Yaris?

My plans to fly interstate to see my newest relative changed suddenly.  Instead of spending hours trying to find suitable flights and coordinating train trips, Chris and I found ourselves on the road, in our green Yaris, four days after my sister requested some company.

We tend to have the approach that a holiday isn’t just about the destination – but in the way of travelling. So we take our time to get to wherever we go, and make the most of the scenery and the people along the way. And we hate being in a rush.

There were several slight hiccups before we left

including a sudden shower of water over my feet as I sat in the passenger seat of the Yaris the night before we left.

Adelaide received yet another hail-storm that night. The hail missed our place, but we had a downpour big enough to confuse me. Was the splashing on my feet and the slushy sound in the front of the car due to the rain or had something gone wrong in the engine?

A search on you-tube helped me identify the source of the problem. Armed with very pointy tweezers I removed several leaves that clogged the outlet to the hose that should drain the condensation from the air-conditioner. Fixed!

Instead of leaving before the birds, we left after lunch – and headed to stay with a cousin in Mildura.

The reception by the cousin’s two small children was a little cool initially – until I produced a book from my bag –

‘The Book with No Pictures’.

‘I LOVE THAT BOOK!’

yelled the smaller of the two children, who grabbed my hand, took me over to the couch and climbed up next to me. Then he called to his bigger sister,

‘You’ve gotta hear this. It’s SO funny!’

The three of us sat and giggled, and their mum and dad and Chris came up close enough to discover what was going on, but far enough away so they didn’t look too interested.

Next morning, we left before the birds woke up and headed to Balranald – or so we thought. Let’s just say that Siri got lost. Siri is not intimately acquainted with Irymple – so before long, we discovered that we’d gone a full circle.

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The next time around we followed the street signs instead of the i-phone, and before we knew it, we were in soggy Balranald.

We spoke to the attendant at the servo about the water we’d seen the whole way from Mildura. She pointed out the water behind the caravan park rising up from the Murrumbidgee River. ‘Hopefully it won’t get much higher,’ she said.

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As we entered Hay, a sign said that the West Wyalong road was open. The driver who shall remain nameless rarely takes notice of signs. The navigator at that stage didn’t take much notice of that sign either. We stopped at a  pub for a coffee and a muffin.

A few years ago, we passed through Hay in the middle of a drought when there were puddles where the river should have been. This time, the river filled its banks and the rest of the place was green and sodden.

It wasn’t until we recognized that there were many, many road teams attending the road between West Wyalong and Forbes, and lots and lots of holes where the road used to be, that we remembered the sign that informed us and everyone else that the road was open. It had been flooded for weeks apparently. And  re-opened only the day before we drove upon it.

At Forbes we filled up our petrol tank, and a little further on stopped at McFeeters Motor Museum for a coffee. A cafe inside the museum hosted a bee-hive in a transparent perspex box to promote its ‘Buzz In’ honey shop and educate coffee-sippers like us.

The bees fascinated us.

The bees formed honey bee-chains–I wanted to write human-chains as an illustration–to bridge the gap between  the base of the box and the tray specifically provided for them to build their hive. The bees looked as though they were training for Cirque-de-Soleil and creating their own ‘Wheel of Death’.

On to our new friend’s home on a farm just out of Orange. We were treated to good ol’ fashioned hospitality, yummy food, lots of play and stories with their three-year-old and cuddles with their brand-new-baby.

The evening was full of story-telling, dancing and laughing. It included an impromptu duet performance by me on the piano, and our new friend Dave on pedal organ. We played whichever songs we both knew – which weren’t abundant. But we achieved playing several well enough that the others could recognize them and sing along – well, almost.

I surprised myself that, with a push, I could actually play by ear, and add accompaniment. Thanks for the push, Dave!

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The next morning, I got in the way in the kitchen while Chris ‘helped’ Dave outside doing ‘farm-work’ – but that’s another story.

 

Chris’s Morning on the Farm: Dog and Sheep Stories

Our morning at our new friends’ farm began much later than we expected. We rarely sleep in, but slept through baby’s squawks, Dave having breakfast, and a three year old who wanted to play.

We had the best breakfast! Milk straight from the cow. Eggs straight from the chooks. Bacon – from the friends of the pigs.

Then Chris went with Dave and the sheep dogs to help sort the sheep. ‘Help’ is a rather generous word, by all accounts.

They had to separate the girl sheep from the boy sheep. Chris, being from a farm himself, does know the difference and how to tell. But, try as he might, he could not identify which was which quickly enough to help Dave. By the time he thought he’d identified one sheep, Dave had sorted about four and had swung the gate one way or the other, to separate them into boy and girl pens.

In the end, Chris asked Dave how he could identify them so quickly.

‘Easy!’ Dave laughed. ‘Every sheep has an ear-tag. The boys on their left ear, the girls on their right. I just swing the gate according to which ear their tag is on.’

I think Chris was a little embarrassed, but he told me the story anyway.

Three Sheep Dogs

But his favourite story was about the farm’s three sheep dogs.

Dot, the smallest dog, is a sheep-dog-in-training. To our untrained eyes he looks like a Kelpie. He was efficient and obedient. Despite being the size of a medium-sized puppy, Dot knew where to be and how to convince the sheep where they should be.

Lucy, the biggest dog, was hopeless…well, as far as usefulness on a farm. A Maremma, a guardian of the sheep, Lucy flunked out of ‘guardian of the sheep’ school. Chris described Lucy’s ability to tend and guard the sheep as ‘She just thinks she is a sheep’.

Then there was Lambie. Apparently, Lambie was quite effective at rounding up the sheep and getting them to go wherever Dave wanted them to go.

The only trouble was that nobody has ever told Lambie that she is not a dog. She is a hand-reared sheep. She grew up around the house with Dot and Lucy and does everything with her two doggy-companions.

Even when Dave tried to intermingle Lambie back into the flock, that only lasted until Dave and the dogs headed back home. Then she’d split from the flock and rejoin her ‘family’ at the back door of the house.

So Dave was blessed with a puppy training to be a sheep-dog, a dog that thought she was a sheep, and a sheep that thought she was a dog.

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