For my work in Shepparton, I speak to many farmers and country people. I’ve lived in cities and suburbs my whole life. This is something I have to confess to people so that I can explain my ignorance of basic agriculture, geography of regional Victoria, even Australian slang.
Jamie has been my first line of defence in this new environment. He grew up on a farm in south-western Victoria. Often, I let him do the banter and questioning while I sit back and absorb as much information as I can without revealing my city girl cluelessness.
I am grateful that I have had this opportunity to learn more about rural life. I don’t want to be an ignorant urbanite spouting off about water being wasted through irrigation, over-fertilising of crops or vegetation clearing.
Jamie tells me stories about about growing up on a farm.
“The farm back home isn’t big. We grow lavendar, also some beef cattle. Sometimes when a cow has two calves, she’ll pick one to look after and abandon the other. The abandoned one doesn’t last long. It’s just the natural way of things.
Sometimes, though, when dad felt like it, he said to me and my brother, “Josh, Jamie, if you want, you can look after the calf.”
Josh and I would come back after school every day to feed it. It was really cute, looking up at us with its big cow eyes. We were its ‘mum’. It would come towards me and nuzzle my leg. Every time, it would be looking for my udder.
I would hold my hand like this and it would suck my fingers. You have to be really careful, though. You have to have your hand palm upwards. Cows have strong mouths. If you held you hand like this, with the fingers facing down, the calf would snap your fingers backwards when it sucked.”
Goodness. With my newly acquired knowledge, I felt my giant block of city ignorance chip away just that little bit more.