Burrell Creek Travel Blog› entry 32 of 39 › view all entries
So, our first farm stay had arrived.
We caught the train from Sydney to Wingham, a journey that started very early in the morning. We arrived around midday, our helpx host Jen met us at the station and took us to the pub for lunch. We spent the time getting to know each other, Jen has a very irreverent sense of humour, which we found out later is how she judges a persons character, so we got on great.
After lunch she drove us the 26km to her house, which is in a tiny place called Burrell Creek. It is such a small place it only has a community hall, no shops, no petrol stations, nothing. Jens place is set on 35 acres of land, most of which is bush (trees and native shrubs).
Jen has lived on the property for almost ten years, before that she was a wine maker in Mudgee. She moved to Burrell Creek with her husband after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She gave up wine making, had a mastectomy & chemo, beat cancer then lost her husband to bone cancer two years later. Yet somehow she has maintained her joy for life, her sense of humour and her love of nature.
After being shown where we would be staying Jen gave us a tour of the property. Honey came along and lead the way while Jen told us about the place. There are hundreds of trees on her property, more than any of the surrounding area and she likes it that way as wildlife come and go as they please. We were told that wallabies visit her property but they have been scarce lately as the neighbours dog recently got loose and killed one on her property. There is also an abundance of birds, with some even coming up to her verandah to be fed each night. As we were walking round we heard birds making a huge noise, Jen said it was their 'predator' call and then we saw a huge goanna shoot up a tree not far from us. We were impressed, it was a hefty weight but scaled the tree with ease, Jen told us that if one ran towards us we should lay down on the floor straight away, otherwise it might mistake us for a tree and try to climb us, not a good idea as they have razor sharp claws!
That evening we saw the birds that visit Jen, two magpies, a butcher bird (so called because they hang their meat up on tree branches to dry) and a kookaburra.
Farm stays vary in specifics but generally its four hours work per day for bed and board, not a bad deal huh. We got up at 8am each day to start work at 8.30. The first day was spent clearing one of the paths as it had been taking over a bit by plants. It took longer than expected as what at first glance seemed quite a small plant quickly turned out to be a tightly packed ball of shoots which appeared everywhere! We got quite a bit of it though as during the next couple of days there were several clumps we needed to thin. We also spent a number of hours pulling out lantana plants, and hundreds of hours (and hundreds of bags) collecting mother of millions plants.
Because we started work early (and we needed to as the sun was too hot during the middle of the day) we finished around lunchtime. Lunch was always a nice salad pick and mix affair on the verandah after which the day was ours to do what we wanted. We were too far from town to go anywhere so we normally read, (sleeping happened a few times!) or watched a bit of tv. Because it was Jens first time doing helpx as well (and I think she was glad of a bit of company) she offered to take around the local area. She drove us up to North Brother national park, one of three mounts that offers stunning views. She also took us to Crowdy, a nice little sea side town that Rachel said looked a bit like a witness protection relocation site. We had planned to visit a koala hospital on the way to our next place once we left Jen's but she offered to drive us there as she had heard about it and was wanting to go too.
The koala hospital was tucked away in a quite little street. It is not designed as a tourist attraction as it is run on a purely voluntary basis but does do a guided tour each day at 3pm. One of the volunteers took us around the pens, explaning why each koala was there.
Dinner each night was a fun affair, we took turns cooking, but would always have a laugh and a joke while doing so.
One day towards the end of our stay Jen arranged with a friend of hers to take us out on his boat fishing. Jen had asked if I would be ok with it as we could just go for a motor on the river instead. I said I was fine with them fishing but I would not fish myself. We met up with 'The fisherman' at the place where his boat was stored. While he was sorting his fishing rods he mentioned to Jen that we looked like 'well fed heffers'. Errr, pardon?? Well.Fed.
Once we made it down onto the water things went a bit better, although he had no luck trailing the weeds for shrimp to use as bait. We were duly packed off to the nearest bait shop to get some, and duly came back with the wrong type. Ah well, thats what you get for sending a couple of well fed heffers I suppose! After some slicing and dicing of the shrimp the bait was useable so Jen sorted some rods and cast out. The fish didnt really bite for a while (clever fish) and I just sat in the front of the boat enjoying the calm.
During our tasks at Jens, Rachel asked if we could build a ramp onto her back porch. It was currently just two planks of loose wood that were dodgy to walk on and she fancied the challenge of building something. Jen agreed as it had been that way for 4 years and couldn't build it on her own. We had great fun chiseling out chunks of wood and hammering planks into place, I really like the sense of acheivement at the end of building something.