It’s been a while. There is lots to tell but I thought I would start with a little insight into our new life in the Yass Valley.
We had a few hiccups when we arrived. Not having rented before in Australia (I did when I lived in Japan), this has been a learning curve in understanding what our rights are as well as learning to pick our battles. When we moved in we discovered that the landlord had taken the dishwasher and all the mirrors… When my husband viewed the property the landlord was still living here so those things were still in place. We assumed those items were fixtures – seriously who takes the mirrors off the bathroom walls? The property was also advertised as an ‘executive residence’… I would assume something advertised as that would have a dishwasher and mirrors in the bathroom. After a few negotiations and a few weeks later, a dishwasher was installed. We’ve since bought our own mirrors. There have been a few other niggly issues but I am learning to ‘let things go’ …
However, in saying all of that, we are quite happy here. We are less than 10 minutes from Yass town centre, yet surrounded by farms with only one other house is sight. It’s a great stepping stone to our
more rural location in Gundaroo.
Yass is a relatively large town. It has a huge Woolworths where it isn’t uncommon to see people pushing trollies with enough food to stock them up for a month. Most things are sold in bulk. Eggs, although can be found in cartons of 12, are also sold in cartons of 48. Meat is sold in portions to feed a small army. In Sydney most of the beef was sold cut into steaks for 2-3 people. In Yass, on a good day you can find that, but by far the larger proportion of what stocks the shelves are roasts and whole chunks of animals. Obviously a reflection that most of the people who shop here are from farms and if you are driving a few hours to get your food, you buy in bulk. For our meat though, we have been trying out the wares of Goldenholm Beef which is ‘just around the corner’ (and about 30mins drive away) from our property in Gundaroo. We discovered him at the Murrumbateman Farmers Market and his sausages are the best I’ve ever tasted. Actually all the local produce here is amazing. If you order enough, he will deliver. Of course it goes without
saying that when you order, you are ordering a fraction of a cow. Literally. He sells you an eighth, a quarter or a half. He will also kindly cut it up for you. When life settles, that is what we’ll be doing. It may not work out that much cheaper to buying it at Woolworths, but the taste will be better and we are supporting a farmer who lives ‘just down the road’. Indeed he is on the next street from our rental (and about 50minutes drive down that ‘street’. Another advantage to trying his produce is convenience. When we move to our property, the closest supermarket will be 40 minutes drive away. Farmers Markets and buying produce directly from farmers like him will be much more convenient. Yass also has some nice cafes and shops. The Main Street is about four to five streets, with most of the buildings looking like they did when they were built.
Perhaps the most noticeable thing we’ve noticed since moving here is how friendly everyone is. My mum made the comment when she visited that, if she didn’t know me, she would think I actually knew all of these people. Honestly, people just stop and chat. Not general chit chat about polite things, but proper conversations. It was a little unnerving at first. In Sydney you rarely talk to people unless you know them… or unless they are over eighty – that generation loves to have a chat. Here, almost everyone has a chat. It does mean that you never get anywhere in a hurry. But I love it. At Woolworths the other day my daughter was patting a ‘dog’ (the plastic life size guide dog donation box). I could just see her from where I was. Two men who were standing beside it paused to engage her in conversation. She looked up at them and bolted back towards me. When the men had finished, one walked passed me on his way out and stopped to inquire why she’d run away when he only wanted to chat. He was a lovely man and we chatted for a while about our Christmas celebrations. What struck me was that he honestly couldn’t understand why my daughter was so afraid of him. My husband, who was loading and paying for the groceries laughed afterwards and commented that back in Sydney someone might worry that he was a peadophile or kidnapper. What’s sad is that is probably true. I remember adults I didn’t know talking to me growing up. I remember we knew the butcher and milk bar owner by name. All the neighborhood children played together in bare feet out on the street too. I suppose this is the childhood I want to recreate for my own children… Without the bare feet part. Have I mentioned the snakes?
The landlord kindly left us a folder full of information, local doctors, dentists, manuals for appliances, areas that we were expected to weed, etc. He is clearly very organised/pedantic…. At the back are six pages of snakes commonly found in the area. Oh what a learning curve! I never knew that there were so many varieties of brown snake. To be perfectly frank, the snake enclosure is one I skip at the zoo. Think I will need to pay more attention next time! We have already had two brown snakes up close to the house. One was about 2.5m and the other about 1.5m. A quick search on the internet tells me brown snakes are on average 1.3m (great we have overachieving snakes who are above average) and that they are one of our top ten deadliest (again, great we have high achieving snakes). When we next visited the Yass Farmers’ Market I asked Anne, who runs an Alpaca farm, how many brown snakes they typically get. Anne told me they usually get five each Summer. Her husband kindly informed me that they usually just slither away from you but they hadn’t had any ‘beauties’ like our 2.5m find. Wonderful. Three more to go. Lets hope they only get smaller. Although, as my dad helpfully pointed out (he used to be a jackeroo in his youth and grew up on farms) the big snakes are easier to spot and you are less likely to step on them. Don’t you just love ‘helpful’ comments!
Apart from the snakes, other more pleasant animals grace our property and the surrounds. Our daughter, who is a fan of the little nut brown hare from the ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ stories, has been rather excited about the hares that regularly hop around our property and can often be seen in the morning from our living area. So is our 50kg Ridgeback. Except she doesn’t quite know what to do about them. She just barks at them, giving them the odd chase but with no hope of catching them. Last night, much to everyone’s delight, about 10 Eastern Grey Kangaroos jumped past our lounge room window. Laika had a good run trying to keep up with them. Michael was most proud that his newly erected fence withstood their advances – obviously he is a better farmer than we thought! The cows, sheep and horses also rate highly with my daughter. Unfortunately she isn’t a fan of the alpaca or ‘paca’ as she calls them. Pity since they are the animals we are considering buying. Might have to do some more research into minature cattle…
My other favourite thing about living here is sitting on the porch in the afternoon. When my parents are with us my dad plays his eclectic mix of country, blues, jazz and his favorites from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (I did say his taste was eclectic, should I have also said unusual? I must admit, the choir is amazing). My dad will also get up and dance with my daughter. Unfortunately for himself, he has unleashed something he can’t put back. Every time he goes to sit back down in his chair, my daughter runs over to him yelling, “Poppy, up, up, UP!” and grabs his hands pulling him back up.
While many of our boxes still sit in the garage, some never to be unpacked until we move, we have reached a point where we have unpacked enough to settle into our new life. We have begun to explore the area, venturing out to Young for the Cherry Festival and to different places in Canberra buying things we can’t buy in a country town. My husband has bought his mini-tractor/ride on lawn mower and erected his first fence and gate. So he is starting to feel like a real hobby farmer now. No doubt it will be quite a change when he has to return to work in Canberra. We were going to start our vegetable patch and chickens that we had back in Sydney here, but things are not going smoothly with our son. So we have decided just to enjoy the simple life for now. And to be honest, knowing there are snakes in the field has greatly decreased the appeal of having to go out and deal with animals in the paddock, or getting down on my knees in a vegetable patch. So I’m making do with my herbs of the verandah for now.