Monday, 7 January 2013

Dead But Not Dying

With only a population of about 500 people, you'd think the little wheat farming town of Wudinna (pronounced "Woodna") would have very little going for it. On the contrary. Since my last visit in 2009, a few lovely changes have taken place. Normally I wouldn't give two hoots about the place, it had no appeal to me. But in my absence it has sprung some little treasures.

First is Alycia's, a little cafe owned and run by one of my mother's former employees. Alycia has decorated it in a sweet and clean shabby chic style with white furnishings and coloured accents. She sells handmade necklaces and earrings. Besides focaccias and wraps, Alycia sells little homemade sweets like shortbread and macaroons. I love her milkshakes and her specials board always has something different. Last time I hooked into sushi. Who would have thought? Sushi in Wudinna! And just when you think she's covered it all, if you need a bunch of flowers, she can do that too.

Secondly is Lil' Birdie, a boutique gift and home wares shop. It's filled with scarves, necklaces, earrings, handbags and purses. The home wares on offer makes me want to buy up and entertain. There are childrens toys amongst it plus a few blokier gifts. And the baby corner (no, I'm not getting clucky) is full of the most adorable things like pink, lime and white floral buntings and pastel coloured soft toys and outfits.

Thirdly is May's Kitchen. It's a little Thai restaurant and take-away. Owned and run by May, a lovely lady, the diner seems to hold it's own in such a tiny, little, country town.

Of course Garryowen is still there but very much scaled down. With half the business moved to Victoria, it's up to Sean, the owner’s son to keep things going. He still sells the much-loved chutneys, jams, sauces and spice rubs for roasts on behalf of his mother. But the cafe side of things have ended indefinitely.

The construction of a rather large sculpture has given the town a little bit more of a tourist attraction. This sizable, granite creation is supposed to represent the Australian farmer (which is also the art's namesake). With icons of wheat and sheep carved out of it it stands on a base that has the names of all the sponsors on one side and two of the other sides have etched into them the names of the biggest farming families in the district whose heritage in the area runs back for generations.

I've never seen Wudinna in the winter. I find it hard to believe that the area does go green during the middle of the year. I found it even harder believe when I discovered the average rainfall is only 300mm per year. But a picture posted on Facebook by a friend of mine proved to me that yes, it does get green as the photo showed sheep yards sitting atop an undulating, emerald expanse. For a town that survives on grain crops and sheep, being able to thrive in turbulent times gives it alot to be proud of.
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The Australian Farmer Sculpture

Hoarders Anonymous

Hi, my name's Teagan and I'm a hoarder. I've been hoarding for over 22 years now.

Very dramatic but true. I'm a fourth generation hoarder. I come from a family of squirrels. It's pathological. It's genetic. It's... taking up alot of space.

When my parents separated when I was 15, every return trip I made back home to Dad's I would do my best to throw out whatever random crap I could find and reduce the clutter by one cardboard box each trip. It took many visits home but eventually I cut back the amount of stuff I had down to 3 cardboard boxes and one large toy chest. A vast improvement from having one entire wall obscured by cardboard boxes.

In Katherine everything I own is packed away in boxes. It can't be helped. I have no permanent address.

But what's my excuse for all the random boxes in Wudinna? A collection of odds and sods from 2000 right through to 2006 when I started permanently living in the Territory. Time for a reduction!

First off I had to find all my stuff. Some of it was in storage at what is now my brother's flat but previously a neglected section of the motel. Some of it was in Mum's flat, hidden amongst all her crap which she lacks time and drive to go through. And some of it was in the garage which can barely fit Peter's scooter let alone the car.

My brother and I worked together to get all my stuff out of his space, which was formally the women's latrines for what was once the original restaurant and bar of the motel, and put all his stuff back in there again. While we were at it we ripped out the old toilets. No one's gonna pee in them or have peed in them for at least 20 years so why not?

Getting all my stuff out the garage ruffled someones feathers. Nevermind that, with my stuff removed, theirs got put onto a shelf rather than continue to sit on the floor.

Bit by bit, day by day I poked through it coming across little surprises of "Wow, I remember this!" and "WTF do I have this for?". By the end of it all I had thrown out two heavy duty garbage bags of rubbish, put together a box of things that will go into our garage sale for whenever the rest of my family decide to sort out their stuff and compiled another box of mostly writing paper, notebooks, scrapbooking magazines and other random things that Mum and my sister-in-law might like or use.

Parked up in the big, recently built, already chock-a-block shed is my four-wheeled baby, Faith, my 1979 Ford Escort panel van. Right in the back corner she is, where I can't drive her out to enjoy her 3.5 cylinders sideways. Her completely original body marred with a latch bolt on the back doors, roof racks and random hooks pot-riveted to her internal framework, albeit the weaker bits. Someone at some point forgot to let the handyman know that it is still my car. My precious baby now needs some love with a small angle grinder and some putty and paint.

Taking back possession of my little baby, I pulled odds and ends out of random places where I never knew things could be stored, all the while swearing and cussing and grumbling every bad word under the sun. I swept out the back and tidied up a few old cobwebs.

Time for the final cleansing. One box at a time I put everything I owned into the back of her, neatly stacking it for the day I settle down. All loaded and ready to go, all she needs now is my single bed to be strapped onto her roof racks, a large tarp to be tied over her and to be loaded on to a car trailer ready to be towed to wherever I finally find to spend the rest of my life, wherever I live long enough to start hoarding a new life.
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Mum's clutter.
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Peter's clutter.
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My brother and his partner's clutter.
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Oh, look! There she is! Behind all the clutter.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Grandma's Magic Apricot Jam

When I was a kid and we used to go visit my Grandma and Grandpa Haby on the River Murray we always used to return with a jar of Grandma's Magic Apricot Jam... or just plain ordinary apricot jam to everyone else. Being from a generation where nothing was wasted, excess fruit was always turned to jam in Grandma's house. Food scraps went to the chooks who in turn laid eggs and pecked each other feather-less.

After visits to the family in the Murraylands, sandwiches were always smeared with apricot jam for a long time afterwards.

Grandma lives in an aged care facility now. The trees, I imagine, bear wasted fruit.

Here at my mothers, hundreds of kilometres away from the ochre coloured cliffs of the mighty Murray, is an apricot tree. I never even knew it existed until this year.

As the fruit ripened we might eat some here and there but when the whole tree became abundant, eating it as it was became an unreasonable task.

Mum and I headed to the supermarket and bought some fancy jam jar covers and jam setter. Nanna supplied the jars.

Next thing I know, I'm out the back, picking apricots in 40 degree heat. Then cleaning and cutting it all up. In the pot it went with as much sugar in weight as the fruit. Boil, boil, boil. Scald my hand from the wooden spoon being so short. Dispersed among 11 jars once it all cooled. I think Grandma would be quite impressed with our efforts since it was my first time making jam.

I doubt my jam is magic though. Doesn't have that "special something". Maybe it's missing a certain Grandma's love? Whatever it lacks I'm sure it will make up for in taste.

And the plum tree had better watch out... it's next!

When I was in Primary School...



I started out in reception, just like any other kid. I couldn't spell the word "doing" or the word "ballet" but apparently, according to my 5 year old self, that is what I wanted to do with my life, ballet. Pretending I could was as far as I got.

In Year One I liked shopping... in Melbourne... and the city's warmth. It would be another 20 years almost before I made it to Melbourne and from vivid memory the weather was (excuse my French) SHIT! And I didn't go shopping there either, I was too busy sight-seeing with my brother and his girlfriend and their baby.

1992 saw me wanting to join the army. What was I thinking?!?! Half the other girls in my class wanted to be a jockey. Sorry, but I'm the only one who turned out small enough. And my brother correctly predicted that he would be working in Adelaide 10 years down the track.

Year Three in Mr Bartrams class I liked the slack parts of school (stories, recess, lunch, art) and the nerdy bits (maths and science) but hated P.E. (an opinion which never changed), language and cursive.

In 1994 I was voted by my class mates in Year Four as having the "Biggest voice for the littlest lady". People were sick of my ear piercing screams by the end of the year as I was constantly trying to out-do myself. These days I save the screaming for when 300kg of bovine is chasing me.

In Year Five I was quite over school. It seemed I was not enthused at all. Though my friend Victoria had big ambitions. She declared she wanted to own a horse and work with them too. Dream achieved!

My Year Six teacher, Mr Whyte, was always keen to challenge my class mates and I and so I thrived! I got a merit certificate at the end of the year for being a bit of a goody-two-shoes (though my name was spelt wrong). I participated in Festival Choir. I think I even had a go at SAPSASA netball and tennis.

In Year Seven my name was spelt wrong again. We went on camp to Adelaide where I was photographed in the stupid hat that I used to religiously wear. An excursion to De'Estrees Bay had me meeting my future brother-in-law though I didn't know it at the time. I played SAPSASA netball again. Some of my art made it to page 68... where my name was spelt wrong again. I dressed as one of the Seven Dwarfs for Book Week and had my name spelt wrong again. And I was still a nerd, gaining a certificate of distinction this particular year, and had my name spelt wrong again.

My first year of high school my name was spelt correctly in the class photo. I had an uncredited piece of art on page 113 as well as a bit of Photoshop fun on the following page. I went "Above and Beyond the Call of Duty" for maths according to Mrs. Johnston by competing with 24 fellow students in the South Australian Maths Talent Quest (still a nerd) and coming equal third with a few other class mates. A photo of me appears getting passed along by fellow students with their hands in the air for drama.

The only evidence of me attending KAS in 1999 was a piece of visual art. Other than Patto's contribution of my art I had dropped off the schools radar. I had left, very much unwillingly, to attend, what I deemed to be, an over-crowded, suburban school. My years at KAS were over before the school year itself was even out. And even though I attended the school for over nine years... they still couldn't spell my name.