Jan Oakhill & Ian Sanders, 'Wyntara', New South Wales, Australia
Greetings from Dungowan Valley, New South Wales Australia.
10 years ago, my partner and I sold our hospitality business in Tasmania and joined the ever growing throng of nomads travelling in caravans and working their way around Australia. We had a vague idea that we “wanted to live on the land”, but were unsure of just where about! I am a firm believer of fate playing you your deciding hand, and after a few hiccups, we found our Nirvana in the beautiful Dungowan Valley, about 35 kilometres south east of Tamworth, Country Music capital of Australia.
We’ve been here just on a year now, and our place, “Wyntara” consists of a comfortable 4 bedroom homestead, surrounded by various buildings comprising of a typical bush shed to house our vehicle and now empty caravan, a couple of stables, and some small stockyards. The whole property is just 88 acres in size, just right for playing farmer, as well as providing us with a peaceful and private place to be, but within a half hour of the township of Tamworth and all the facilities we might need.
They say that ignorance is bliss, and we decided to have a go at running some goats “just to clean up the paddocks a bit” as there had not been any stock in them for many years. What a steep learning curve our 4 mischief makers provided us with! We we were totally unprepared for the cunning and curious nature of these beasts, and spent many a day watching them seemingly osmose through fences and around posts between paddocks until we had patched every single escape route. Needless to say, the goats almost didn’t make it to their 1st birthdays! We have since come to an agreement and they are a lot more trusting and friendly than they were, so we are not so keen to despatch them as before! The fencing certainly did not live up to the real estate agent’s description and we now found ourselves buying new wire and making strainer posts out of the timber which grows here, and on yet another learning curve!
Next to make an appearance would be 6 ewes, a wether, and a ram, of the Dorper breed. We are starting up a small scales breeding operation with the aim of increasing our flock in order to have our own meat, as well as more animals to keep the feed under control in the paddocks. “Why did we pick Dorpers?” I hear you ask.....well, mainly because there would be no shearing due to their characteristic of shedding the wool they grow, as well as the elimination of the need to crutch them in summer. They have a beautiful clean breech area and they are also known for their “non selective” feeding habits, which suits us just fine! “Bruce and the Ladies” have just provided us with our first lambs and what delightful little creatures they are! I just happened to have spent most of one day researching lambing problems and what to do if you have a ewe in difficulties, and the very next day I was able to put my newfound midwifery into practice! Such a satisfying feeling knowing you have saved two lives, and the reward at the end is a beautiful healthy lamb! I always wanted to be a veterinary nurse in a former life but lacked the country living style to be able to fulfil this dream. Nowadays I usually spend most of the time renovating the house a small section at a time, and trying to whip the neglected gardens into some resemblance of their former glory as “open gardens”.
My partner Ian, discovered a big frill necked lizard living in the garden one day as he was trimming the long growth from around the front gate. Needless to say they both gave each other a bit of a fright, Ian with the noise of his machine, and the lizard as he fanned his big frill up in order to appear more ferocious than he really is! We have since found quite a few of these endearing beasts living in and around the paddocks.
It’s a lovely feeling to wake up to the sounds of a myriad of native birds, our sheep calling to their lambs, and goats talking to each other, and the chickens contentedly clucking to their babies as they wander around the yard, and sure makes the years of working long hours in tough situations all worthwhile.