Golden Victoria – Life, Death, and Somewhere in Between

It was a leap of faith – one of those spontaneous decisions that could have ended in disaster. In the summer of 2018, I agreed to farm-sit for a couple I’d never met, in a location I’d never been, almost 1700 km from my home base.

Lucky dips have always appealed to me, but my desire for spontaneity, mystery, and surprise is often at war with my need to plan activities to the extreme – to ascertain every minute detail about an upcoming situation.  I attribute this to an unconventional childhood which trained me to be hypervigilant.  I learned not only to always have a plan B, but also plans C to Z.  So it was with a combination of excitement and slight trepidation that I pulled into the driveway of the Ballarat farmhouse to meet Maree for the first time.

Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” I may have been taking a leap of faith, but Maree was entrusting her precious home to a complete stranger. This was her sanctuary – a private place of intimate memories with loved ones. She and partner, John, were also entrusting their cats, sheep, cattle, alpaca, and beautiful garden to my care. I was their lucky dip.

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and felt like it was your own –  when everything is where you expect it to be and artwork, books, plants and ornaments could have been chosen by yourself? As Maree showed me around her home and garden, I experienced  déjà vu. Perhaps it reminded me of a place from my early childhood or from a book, a movie, or my own vivid imagination.  Whatever the reason for this sense of familiarity, any lingering fears vanished.

There was to be an interesting last minute complication to this farmsit.  The couple’s heavily pregnant cow, Mabel, was now a few weeks overdue. Maree and John’s much needed holiday with friends had been planned well in advance and they had expected all the calves to be born before their departure. They were understandably a little concerned about leaving a stranger in charge. However, with helpful neighbours close by, easy access to a vet if there were complications, and my past experience with birthing farm animals, the risks were reduced.

And while new life seemed imminent, I was also told that another life could be coming to a close during my stay. Maree and John were  expecting their ancient cat, Missy, to die at any moment as she had slowed down considerably in recent weeks. In preparation, John had thoughtfully pre-dug a grave on the pet cemetery island in the dam which could be accessed by a wooden bridge.

Maree warned me that Missy had never been an affectionate cat, “Missy hates everyone but will sometimes tolerate me picking her up.” I looked at Missy. She certainly looked grumpy and I resolved not to invade her personal space.

Being an introvert, I know what it’s like to desire solitude.  Unlike Missy though, I have what has been described as an approachable demeanour. People tend to pick me out of a crowd to ask for directions or other kinds of help, and random strangers often tell me their deeply personal stories. Missy had the “Don’t touch me or I’ll tear you to shreds” kind of expression. On days when I am lacking the energy to interact or am hassled by a predatory character,  perhaps a Missy face would come in handy.

Dumpy, on the other hand, was a real smoocher. Named Dumpy because she was a dumped cat, she lapped up any kind of affection.

Ellen was my first encounter with an alpaca. It’s easy to fall in love with those beautiful, long-lashed eyes.

That is of course when the wind blows her long hair the right way and you can actually see them.

I made friends with the many sheep, some of whom were highly curious about the strange camera-wielding creature. Others ignored the inconsequential human.

My appetite for all things historical was whetted by the number of relics on the farm.  Old carts, a wagon wheel and a chimney set my camera clicking.

How many different views can one person take of a single wagon wheel?

In my case, many.

And don’t get me started on butterflies. While sprinkling the vegetable garden each day, I delighted in these flutterlings.

It seems Victoria is a lichen heaven. It grows everywhere. On the fence posts.

On the tree trunks.

On wooden palings.

It hangs from foliage.

And even blankets the trees. I wondered if it would eventually grow on me too.

In the garden, I delighted in eastern spinebills gorging on nectar and other smaller winged creatures quenching their thirst from the fountain, while a stone-faced Buddha stared benignly.

On wild windy days the stock animals took refuge in the long grass, as did I.

I often lay on my back in the golden paddocks, gazing up at the cloud patterns in the softer Victorian sky. I relished this chance  as in Queensland I would not dare for fear of paralysis ticks crawling onto my head and delicate regions.

The colours of a typically dry Victorian summer contrasted with the lush green of my subtropical Queensland home in the north. In fact, golden is what I will  remember most about my Victorian stay.

Every day I ambled to the mailbox and spied on nervous waterbirds inhabiting the dam.

And on my regular jaunts through the paddocks I often spotted familiar friends from my home state.

Despite the tranquillity of the farmsit, or perhaps because of it, one afternoon while appreciating a glorious sunset, I found myself being drawn into a deep state of melancholy.

Without the usual distractions of a busy life, sometimes those feelings we shove back into the deep recesses of our minds start to emerge. In my culture, there is such a strong focus on always being positive, on smiling, on being constantly thankful. Expressing melancholy can feel very wrong and elicit guilt, so we often bury our sadness, anger, and other unpopular feelings. Many of us also lock away emotions because we are simply too busy, or too exhausted and fragile to process them immediately.

As I reflect on that afternoon now, I am reminded of  The Abbey, a series aired on the ABC show, Compass, many years ago. Women from many walks of life and varying belief systems stayed in an isolated abbey in Australia. They were all searching for some kind of answer or direction in their lives.  Without the usual distractions or escapes provided by mobile phones, computers, radio, and television and with the Abbey’s focus on silence to encourage self-reflection, most of the women found it extremely challenging. They felt stripped bare and raw painful feelings they had not processed surfaced. However, many left with a new understanding about themselves.

And so, despite the perfection of that dazzling sky, I suddenly craved companionship. I felt very alone on my bench. Too alone with my emotions.

As if reading my mind, the grumpy human-hating Missy appeared out of no-where and leapt onto my lap with an agility I didn’t know she possessed. Shocked, I sat perfectly still. She began kneading my lap with her front paws while emitting a helicopter purr. How could one small ancient cat emit such a loud hypnotic drone?

Eventually, she fell asleep sprawled across my lap. I was too afraid to move in case I startled her and she dug her claws into my thighs to gain traction. Just as my back started  to stiffen and my legs began to cramp, Missy woke, slid off, and wandered away languidly without even a backwards glance. She’d worked her magic though and my spirits lifted. It is comforting when a person or animal offers you their quiet presence so unconditionally in your time of need.

The next morning I woke to find she had vomited and was unwilling to leave her bed. This was highly unusual as she was always eager to explore the garden after a night shut inside. Had she had a heart attack or a stroke?

I found myself strangely emotional and burst into tears despite having witnessed many deaths before – in my childhood, while working for a vet as a teenager, and during my years on farms as an adult.  I’d been required to help hasten death on numerous occasions and never shed a tear. I sat on the floor and warmed her gently in my lap.

I was about to call Maree to ask if she wanted me to take Missy to the vet, when she suddenly opened her eyes,  got up and returned to her normal grumpy, mobile self. It seemed she would not be making the journey across the bridge to the pet cemetery island just yet. I cleaned up her vomit and smiled. Had she read my mind? Was a dreaded visit to the vet enough to kickstart her heart?

I also kept a close eye on big Mabel who looked ready to burst. Like so many heavily pregnant cows in my past, she teased me with signs of imminent labour – a tight swollen udder and the dropping of her bulging belly.  She was eating normally though and stayed with the herd so her time had not yet arrived.

Then came the morning when there was no mistaking what was soon to come. Mabel had separated herself from the group and was walking in circles, urinating, and pawing at the ground.

Luckily, I have an excellent zoom lens on my camera so I was able to carefully observe the progression of labour without disturbing her and also share the experience with you.  I hoped all would go well but had my phone ready to make an emergency call if necessary.

I  wasn’t the only interested onlooker during these proceedings. The other cattle and Ellen the alpaca had access to Mabel via an open gate but they chose to watch  from the other side of the fence.

It wasn’t long before the  mucus plug dislodged…

And the bag of waters appeared. With relief I could see the front hooves and a little nose tip through the translucent membrane. The calf was in the correct position.

Next, she lay down in the long grass and pushed out the calf.

Thankfully, it was a rapid final stage without complications and Mabel was up and licking her calf almost immediately. I wish I’d recovered as quickly after pushing out my three big babies.

The torn umbilical cord dangled while she licked her calf clean. Eventually, the placenta slid out. While it may seem unpleasant that a mother often eats the placenta, it provides valuable nourishment and fluid, and also reduces the risk of predators and scavengers being attracted to the scene.

Eventually, the little brown calf made shaky attempts to stand. It’s hard to describe just how frustrating it can be to watch this process. The attempts are partially thwarted by vigorous maternal licking. Just as bub made it up on all four legs, mum’s rough tongue-cleaning had him toppling to the ground again.

The search for the teat can also be a painfully long process to watch and even though I’d witnessed it end successfully on numerous occasions, I still sighed with relief when he finally reached his target. Occasionally, things don’t  go to plan and while I’ve always been able to help sheep and goats on my own, cattle usually require much more physical strength and an extra pair of hands.

Little can compare to the thrill of watching a successful birth. I’ve viewed it many times and my wonderment has never lessened.

And so ended another adventure, albeit of a slightly different flavour.   I’d been lucky enough to witness a birth and thankfully there were no deaths  on my watch, although for a while, Missy the cat  appeared to hover somewhere in between.

When I said goodbye to the cats, Missy still displayed her permanent evil eye. I’ve missed her grumpy, non-intimidating presence though and often wondered if she is just a consummate feline actor.

I’d like to thank Maree and John for being so welcoming, and for trusting me enough to care for their private sanctuary. Thank you also for giving me permission to share my farmsitting photos and story.

Some lucky dips do end in delight.

76 thoughts on “Golden Victoria – Life, Death, and Somewhere in Between

    • Thanks, Craig. I wasn’t going to write a blog post about my farmsit, as it’s not strictly about a hike or a nature study, but I’m glad I did now. It certainly was a contrast to my usual surroundings and brought back some very fond memories of farm animal encounters from the past. 🙂

  1. I have pressed ‘like’, but where is the ‘absolutely love’ button? The photos and stories are awesome.
    Loved every bit of this somewhat different story – with less walking and funghi than usual.

    • Haha…thanks Marina! You are too kind. I’m pleased you enjoyed my diversion from the norm. It was a very rewarding period and gave me plenty of time for reflection. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for that location. Maree and John are lovely folks too. 🙂

  2. I think this would be a wonderful experience to have once! Especially for a city girl like myself! The colours of Australia really shine in your photography!

    • You made me smile as usual, Anna. I like your honesty. I’m more of a country or coastal girl myself and really struggle in the city. The thought of negotiating busy city streets sends my heart racing! I’m fond of galleries, theatres, and city parks though. Trying to visit them on my own is a bit of a challenge. Give me a birthing cow any day. 😉

    • Thank you very much, Susan. I was really struck by the contrast between a Brisbane summer and a country Victorian one. I went from an overgrown green jungle of a yard inhabited by mosquitoes and snakes in Brisbane, to golden swaying fields. The sunshine seemed less harsh that far south. In Brisbane I burn quickly. In Ballarat, I could spend many more hours in the sunshine. I loved the golden colours against the clear blue skies. It was one of those leaps of faith that actually worked out well in the end. 🙂

  3. What a great story about your farmsit. You’re a star storyteller as well as a brilliant photographer and I thoroughly enjoy your words.

    …..and so glad the birth made normal progress and ended up with a gorgeous calf.

    • Thanks very much, Vicki. I kind of developed a bit of a writing phobia this year and putting this together was a bit of a struggle (no fingernails left now) so I’m pleased you managed to get something out of it. Heheh. I just hope I manage to compile something again in the next 12 months. Yes, I was very relieved that the birth was uncomplicated. Assisting a cow is quite a different business to helping goats and sheep! He’s a cute little fellah, isn’t he? I love those calfy eyes. 🙂

      • I’ve missed your stories about your nature hikes etc. but do understand how hard it can be to put a long post and photos together. After 10 years blogging, I’m struggling to write a post too (allow followers may not realise that).

        • You’ve done better than me, Vicki. Ten years is a long time to be still blogging! I started to slow down after about 3 years! I may have been blogging for 6 years now, but the last three have been very quiet ones, indeed. You’ve done very well. 🙂

    • Hi Steve! I’m pleased the lichen tickled your fancy. As you know, I’m a lichen lover and always get distracted by it. Sometimes I just visit cemeteries for the lichen. Is that weird? Thanks for your encouraging comment and also alerting me to an error (whether you realised it or not.) I noticed the glaring mistake within the quote. I’m seriously starting to wonder now if the lichen did grow on my brain. I will change the “it it” to “if it” pronto! I’m pleased you enjoyed my little tale which seemed to take much more time to write than it should have. As I said, lichen on the brain! Heheh. Lovely to hear from you as always. All the best. 🙂

        • I had wondered if you’d noticed it or if your mind had done the same thing as mine. I’d read that draft so many times before publishing it but only picked up the error when it appeared inside your quote. It’s amazing sometimes how the mind works. Perhaps it isn’t lichen on the brain after all. 😉

  4. Writing phobia? You? Well, if it continues you know that at least one of your visitors here will be happy just to see your photographs; anytime.

    That said, I am glad you overcame your difficulties and shared this with me. Why say me when so many others are obviously enjoying your lovely visions and narrative? It is because your writing style is as if you were talking to me (us) on a deeply personal level, and even more so in this lovely post

    Regarding the cat… I think cats just know when we need them. ❤

    • Thank you, Lynda. You are always extremely kind and I do appreciate your encouragement. I was actually thinking about sharing a few posts that are mainly albums otherwise they may get lost forever on my completely disorganised external hard drive. It may actually help me to get back into the swing of things as well if I can churn out a few quick posts. I’ve had some rather interesting garden guests of late which I’m quite excited about and would love to share with you. The fires have resulted in a few feathered refugees. It’s about time I did an update on the backyard jungle. Ah yes, cats do seem to be very intuitive/psychic/knowing don’t they? I always had pet cats when I was a very little girl and their quiet presence certainly comforted me on many occasions. Thank you! x

    • Thanks, Tom. You are too kind. Knowing you enjoyed the post helps motivate me to keep going with it. I’ve certainly been very slack this year. I’m very pleased you enjoyed the lichen shots. Lichen lovers of the world unite! Those strange and intricate little worlds on rocks and trees fascinate me. I was not used to seeing so much and it sent my heart all a flutter. I find their patterns and textures so interesting. 🙂

    • Thanks, Mary Lou. It was a wonderful farmsit and I’m pleased you enjoyed my recount and photographs. The scenery was such a contrast to what I’d been experiencing in a wet Queensland summer. It was good to spend time on a farm again too after a ten year break. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thanks for your enthusiastic words, Gunta! You left me grinning. 🙂 I’m pleased you enjoyed my farmsitting adventure. It had been about ten years since I’d last lived on a farm where I helped caretake a large herd of dairy goats. The antics the goat kids got up to had us in fits sometimes! There were also cattle and poultry to keep an eye on. The Ballarat experience brought back many happy memories. I hope all is well with you. x

      • Many years back we raised some sheep and the lambs never failed to make me laugh. I envy you this idyll and love it when we are brave enough to snag a challenge that works out so beautifully. The photos of the golden light were beyond words. We are doing quite fine, about to head out on an adventure to the desert in search of migrating birds. Only hoping the crazy weather doesn’t interfere. That’s my leap of faith given the crazy weather happening for most of this country (or globally?) It’s always so good to see you post. (No pressure! Really!!!) 😀

        • I lived on a huge outback property near Bourke that had thousands of sheep. There would invariably be orphans (poddy lambs) to bottle feed which was great fun for the kids. I think the funniest part about lambs is when they start “bouncing” around…frolicking in leaps and bounds. Hilarious things. Ooooh…a desert adventure! How exciting. I do hope the weather treats you kindly and you see the birds you are after. I’ve had to change my plans so often because of unusual weather in the last year. Recently, bad bushfires seemed to be in all directions and one of my favourite rainforests was burnt. Safe travels! 🙂

  5. Another amazing adventure of my intrepid and inspiring friend Jane! You are able to take us on a beautiful adventure just by staying within the confines of a farmhouse.Loved the beautiful art in your photos, you are quite the photographer in capturing the light in the beautiful Victorian dry farmlands. All of your photos are excellent observations and captures of the spirit of this country. Well done Jane, and it is good to hear from you again my friend.

    • Hi Ashley! Thank you for your encouragement, as usual. It’s always appreciated. I’m hoping to make it to Victoria again, but next time I plan to see some of the other vegetation types in alpine areas and near the coast and travel in a different season. I really enjoyed the golden fields of Ballarat, but after the terrible droughts and fires up here, I am yearning for green again. I really feel for the people in communities where water will soon run out and for the wildlife which suffers as well. We’ve had some beautiful rain recently which has lifted our spirits though. I hope you and your family are doing well. Best wishes. 🙂

      • Thanks Jane, We also had some rain recently but is all dry again and still in drought. Yes many birds and animals and trees are suffering and some birds relocated. Great to hear from you again you are an inspiration and I love you blog posts and your story telling😊 all the best to you Jane my intrepid friend !

    • Thank you, Brian! I noticed you had rain and that your dam was starting to fill. There’s been some good falls up around here at last. I hope this helps Binna Burra and other regions to recover from the fires. It’s been sad to see how devastating the drought and fires have been. Hopefully, you’ll get to do more rain dances soon. 😉

  6. The colour palette certainly contrasts with your normal photos Jane. Beautifully written and photographed as usual. I always get excited when a new post drops into the inbox 🙂

    • Thanks for those encouraging words, Kevin. I don’t know how you manage to churn out two long blog posts every week! I’m lucky to get 2 or 3 written a year now. Thanks also for showing me around Daylesford and the Grampians while I was down there in 2018. I will get around to writing about the dramas at Hollow Mountain eventually. It took me over a year just to get the farmsit part done though so it could take a while! I loved the golden colours of the region in summer, but something a little greener will make a change next time, especially after the terrible drought and fires up here. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Hernán. I’m so glad you enjoyed my recount. How interesting that it reminded you of your native Argentina. I’ve often wanted to visit the southern part of South America but have yet to even make it out of Australia. I watched a beautiful movie called “The Lighthouse of the Orcas” which I believe is based on the true story of a park ranger in Patagonia. You may know it? The scenery is breathtaking. I’ve been trying to learn some Spanish over the years, but not got very far I’m afraid. Best wishes. 🙂

      • I did not watch that film, but as by your comment, the natural scenery of southern South America will never let you down. It is a long way from Australia though, but perhaps you can use the trip as an excuse to learn Spanish ☺. Best wishes.

  7. So many lovely photos. Cats are funny animals, I have found them to be surprisingly good company when you really need it. It was lovely to read about your farm sit adventure.

    • Thanks very much, Sharon. I agree about the cat company. I think cats can be especially good company for introverts as they tend not to be as overwhelming and needy as dogs. Of course, there are exceptions. My old Scotch collie was quietly companionable, and some of my friends’ cats have been surprisingly demanding! Hehe. I noticed you’ve got the book, Bird Therapy, by Joe Harkness. I’ve been reading good reviews about it and I hope you find it worthwhile. I haven’t been able to get it from my local bookshop so may need to order it online. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Nic! While I did really enjoy the housesit, I did feel very responsible for the place. Fortunately, it felt like home though and past experience on farms gave me confidence that I could handle the situation. Plus, Maree and John have fantastic neighbours and they told me that if there was an emergency they would be able to help. One even popped over to check if the cow had given birth and to see if I was ok. Maree and John are also pretty laid back people and have had positive experiences with housesitters in the past so I didn’t feel as nervous as I could have been. Housesits are not always so perfect though… If you ever want a housesitter for your backyard menagerie, let me know! I’m sure you’d like a holiday sometime. 🙂

  8. I did enjoy this very different post from you, Jane. The idea of house sitting for someone would worry me sick let alone a farm with animals to look after as well! It looked like a beautiful place and your photos are gorgeous as ever. I am pleased all ended well and you had no deaths to deal with. The calf is so sweet! I am pleased the birth had no complications; I love the photo of Mabel being watched by the other animals from the far side of the fence!
    I hope all is well with you, my friend and that you and your children are doing fine xx

    • Thanks, dear Clare! I do understand what you mean about feeling sick with worry caring for someone else’s place. I feel a great deal of responsibility when I am looking after someone’s home and animals. I worry that I may break something so tend to avoid using appliances I am not familar with, especially technology. I eat quite simply when housesitting to reduce the risks of something going wrong in the kitchen! Heheh. I am very vigilant with keeping everything alive in gardens too. And, of course, I would probably feel terrible if an animal died on my watch. It hasn’t happened yet, fortunately. The personality of the owners can make a big difference to the anxiety level of housesitters. Maree and John didn’t want me to stress and were quite relaxed even though the calf hadn’t been born before they left. They made sure there was plenty of food available for me to feed the stock animals and I didn’t have to do any heavy lifting. The fences were secure as well. If there are good neighbours or friends to contact if you need help that also makes a huge difference. I’ve had friends who’ve had terrible experiences – housesits from hell. So it can certainly be a lucky dip. Yes, I found the animal onlookers pic funny too. They could have easily gone through the open gate (next to their water trough) to get a closer look but they were careful to keep a fence between them and Mabel. I’ve seen this behaviour a lot in farm animals. However, when the grown up female babies of cows, sheep and goats have their own babies, their mums will often linger very close and give supportive mooing/baaing sounds. Much research has shown that if the female offspring grow up with their mums (and are not separated) there are less birth complications. It seems that it helps the birth experience to have the comfort of their own mums or other female relatives around them. I read a book once that I think may have been called “The Secret Lives of Cows” which had great observations by a farmer about the relationships and behaviour of cows. People think sheep are quite dumb, but in one mob there can be many personalities and some very wily characters! I find animal behaviour fascinating. I’m doing ok physically Clare – some ups and downs associated with my age but I am getting there. My children are going along well. Two are doing postgraduate studies and the other one is returning to Uni again next year with the intention of doing a Masters eventually. I wonder if there will ever come a day when they are ALL finished with Uni! 🙂 I actually get quite anxious for them during exams etc. I do hope you and your family are well, Clare. I know there are often struggles but I hope there is nothing extra-bad going on right now. I know the UK has had its own share of unpredictable weather this year. I hope your garden is surviving. Best wishes. xx

      • Thank you for such a wonderful reply, Jane.
        I recently read a book called The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks which was fascinating. I started off thinking I wouldn’t enjoy it (the author didn’t come across well at first) but I ended by loving it! He really knows and cares for his sheep and his land. I will look out for the Secret Life of Cows.
        I understand the age-related health problems only too well. I’m glad you’re coping 🙂 Your children will eventually leave uni, I’m sure. The problem is finding suitable employment when people are retiring later and later and ‘experience’ is demanded in job descriptions. My younger daughter has just started a degree in graphic illustration and my elder daughter eventually got a really good job at the Metropolitan University in Manchester at the age of 33 last autumn. This was after years of part-time badly-paid work with a degree, 2 MA’s and a PhD!
        We have had a drought this year and the garden has suffered. The pond almost dried up and many plants died. We now have had monsoon-like downpours for the past couple of days and things are looking a bit greener. Lots of floods everywhere, though.
        Best wishes and love, xxxx

        • I must search for “The Shepherd’s Life” and have a read. I am sure I would love it. On one of the places I helped caretake, there was only a small herd of about 100 sheep (well, small in Australian terms.) Due to wild dog attacks, I would herd them into the pens and lock them up each evening and then let them out in the mornings. During those years I got to know the individual sheep quite well. I’ve often thought about writing a book about the animals I’ve encountered – the wild ones, the farm animals and my domestic pets – but wondered if it would only be of interest to myself.
          Yes, the job market is extremely competitive at the moment. It’s hard for young people in particular right now, and also I find for women around my age who’ve spent the majority of their working lives caring for their children full-time without pay or only working part-time or casual. It’s difficult to suddenly get a well-paying job in middle age and usually these women don’t have superannuation accumulated to fall back on. Homelessness amongst this age group of women is increasing in Australia. I’m so pleased for your daughter that she has got a really good job now after all that hard work! I’m pleased your other daughter has got into the graphic illustration degree as well. I hope she enjoys it.
          Yes, I was shocked to read about the prolonged hot dry conditions in the UK. And now you’ve had extreme wet conditions. Sounds more like Queensland extremes! I’m sorry about your garden, Clare. It’s hard to watch things die. I hope the next few seasons are more stable. Love to you, too. xx

  9. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. Thank you so much for sharing this marvelous interlude. I loved getting a glimpse into farm life in Victoria. The birthing shots were wonderful–and I agree with Clare that the onlooker shot was really special. Loved the humor in that one and the sheep–front and back versions. We spent several days on a vacation in Hawaii staying at a little cottage overlooking a large hillside of cow pasture. I became so fascinated with the cows’ behavior and social life that I hardly wanted to leave the cottage and look at the wonders of the island.
    Finally, I also laughed at your “approachable demeanor” comment. I’m the same way (as is my daughter). I am not at all social, but perfect strangers always seem to want to pour their hearts out to me. It can make mundane trips to the grocery store or gas station very interesting. I always thought it must be some weird “you can confide in me” pheromone, but perhaps it is an approachable demeanor.

    • Thanks very much, Brenda. Cows are incredibly interesting creatures if people would just watch them and take note, hey? I got quite good at mooing in different ways to the cattle on farms and on the side of the road. They would moo back. Heheh. You made me laugh relating your Hawaii holiday incident as it reminded me of a rare stay in a holiday park with family. There were tennis courts, a pool and a beach nearby, but what was I most excited by? A brushtail possum that would turn up at the glass sliding doors each night for a treat. Watching him delicately peel a grape before he ate it was so adorable. His little paws/hands were like humans. I spent my days looking forward to when “Pauly Possum” would make his appearance. It is what most stands out about the holiday. 🙂 From your past comments, I guessed that you would be the kind of person strangers open up to. I can really relate to your words, “It can make mundane trips to the grocery store or gas station very interesting.” I don’t mind being a confidante to strangers who need to share their stories and it’s probably much easier for them to share some things with a person they will probably never meet again. I am a bit of a sponge for their emotions though, so sometimes I will go home feeling quite sad, frustrated or angry for them. As I get older though I realise more and more that just by listening, you can help someone feel better able to carry on. You don’t have to solve people’s problems for them, just lend a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. People often just want to feel listened to or understood. I know that I do too! The first degree I started at uni was social work, but back then I wanted to “save the world.” I came from a very dysfunctional family and wanted to help kids like me. I had a lot of lessons to learn though. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Caro. Your words are most encouraging. I’ve loved my few visits to Victoria so far and wanted to share how special this housesit was. I’ve been starting to look for alternative adventures (that don’t always involve strenuous hiking) now that my body is starting to fall apart. Heheh. Houseitting is also very cheap and a way for someone like me on a very tight budget to “see the world.” You can meet a lot of interesting people through housesitting as well. Your Kakadu trip shots looked wonderful on Instagram. It’s wonderful to see you enjoying the natural world so much. I hope to visit the area myself one day. Best wishes. 🙂

  10. A great adventure! Exquisite images and very eloquent and moving word-smithing – once again. You have a superb eye for composition and hidden detail. Your posts are sublime. Cheers, Rob.

    • Hey Rob! Thanks for those words – much appreciated. You are too kind. I’m looking forward to sharing pics with you of the wildlife that have visited my wild jungle of a yard. There have been quite a few feathered refugees during the bushfires. Of course, I’m always very enthusiastic about taking the hundreds of images, but extremely lazy when it comes to sorting and editing them though so it may take some time! Thank you also for your help with wildlife identification and behavioural info. The links and literature suggestions are always most useful. I loved the David Fleay book about owls and it motivated me to read more. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jolandi! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a lovely experience and brought back some very special memories. Not in the same league as your amazing travel adventures though! How’s the weather in UAE? You’ve certainly shared some wonderful stories and pics in your time as a blogger. All the best from Oz. 🙂

      • I feel immense gratitude for the traveling I’ve been able to do since moving to the UAE, Jane. However, beauty and special moments are to be found everywhere in the world, even in what some would consider the mundane, as long as we recognize them for what they are. We are slowly easing towards winter so temperatures are slowly dropping, but night time temperatures still hover around 31C. It was an excruciating summer for me, as humidity levels were extremely high, so I’m looking forward to winter and good weather. Hope you are enjoying a beautiful spring in Oz.

        • I’d heard it could get very hot and humid in UAE! I wondered how you coped. 31C minimums are still high! I would find that extremely challenging. At my home base in QLD we’ve already had a couple of very hot spring days…40 and 41C but it’s been an incredibly dry year so I haven’t had the humidity to contend with. It was back down to 27C today fortunately. We’ve had an early and bad fire season here. Even the rainforest has been burning. The drought is terrible in so many places. Some rain might be on the way again this weekend I hope. There were about 1000 firefighters working in NSW and QLD over the last few days during difficult conditions. I am lucky to have a reliable and good water supply where I live so I’m thankful for that. I use grey water on my big garden (from my bathroom etc) so it’s still a cool and shady refuge for many creatures. I’ve had quite a few feathered refugees from recent bushfires. Hopefully I can share some pics soon. It’s great to hear from you. I hope you have some milder conditions soon! Sounds very challenging. 🙂

          • You really live in a very challenging part of the world, Jane. Droughts, wildfires and high summer temperatures are all very difficult to contend with. I definitely cope better with dry heat than humidity. But I also marvel how adaptable human beings are, no matter how challenging the environment might be. I do hope that you will receive some much needed rain soon, as growing up on a farm and having family who still farm, I understand what impact a drought has on one’s psyche. It is a true blessing that you have a reliable source of water. I do hope that the summer will be milder than what you expect, and that you will be safe from wildfires. Those fires must be very scary.

  11. Oh, Jane, you never disappoint! I absolutely loved this – brilliant post! I know I’m very late getting to read other’s blog posts, but finally I’ve found a rainy day to do some reading. You had me laughing at the start, and did I ever need that this day.

    I really believe animals/birds – all life forms, read our energy. Missy either knew your emotion or just felt comfortable in that moment. I love how respectful you are of all life forms. No wonder you turn out some outstanding photography!! All seems to be well with the world when you get your camera out. 😀

    • Thanks Lori! I really struggle to write a blog post these days, let alone read other people’s blogs now. I know how incredibly busy you are so no need to explain! 🙂 I loved my time on the Ballarat farm. It was wonderful to spend my days wandering around the paddocks, lying down staring up at the clouds, and observing and interacting with the farm animals and wild creatures. I don’t know why Missy picked that moment to leap onto my lap and give me a purring marathon, but it certainly gave me the quiet comfort that I needed. You have such a love for and understanding of wild creatures, Lori. Your stories have lifted my spirits on so many occasions. Thank you, dear lady. x

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