It’s hard to know where to start, when writing about our first lot of volunteer guests. Having been cheerfully exploited in a number of jobs in previous lives, I was initially nervous about asking people to help us out on a voluntary basis. Thank goodness for the couple of french backpackers we met at the end of the Bitter Springs thermal pool near Mataranka. They described Grapes of Wrath style conditions in the Queensland orchards – 4am trucks to paddocks where workers were selected from a line up, worked hard for piecemeal pay and expected to pay living expenses whether they were employed or not. 88 days of hell for that coveted second year visa. Surely we could do better than that at Burrowye.
Hours after posting a ten line ad on Travellers At Work we received applications from Katrine, Regine and Francois. We didn’t study their resumes too closely, responded to their keenness and helped them make the necessary travel arrangements. They were with us for just three weeks, but there were tears all round on the day they left. Cheerful, energetic, considerate, tolerant of our foibles and naturally wonderful with Joseph, our six year old, we couldn’t have hoped for better additions to the Burrowye family. I’m feeling syrupy just writing this (and if you know my writing you’ll know syrup is not my thing). The sprawling old garden got landscaped, the retired polo ponies got worked, the front gate got painted, the big mahogany dining table got used for something other than folding washing, and our annoying puppy got all the attention it craved.
At the risk of sounding like a teacher on graduation day, I’m going to attempt to describe each of our guests – they all deserve special thanks. Regine quickly rose to power as the “Little Boss”, stopping my wafty musings in the orchard and suggesting I pick peaches while the others actually got down to netting the trees. Her strength and cheekiness kept things rolling over the daily bumps that come with trying to get anything done on a farm. I remember one day in particular, when the gardening seemed to be wearing a bit thin and an allergic reaction was getting her down. She refused to take a break, but retreated to the kitchen and emerged some time later with a stack of handkerchief thin crepes, a blanket and drinks. We were too slow to get the recipe, but we’ll be trying to replicate those for years to come.
Taking time off from medical school, St Katrine bought us her fine smile and her keen desire to make a difference. Little by little, she won the trust of the four polo crosse brumbies that had been running round the cottage paddock, pulled the bedraggled garden into line and charmed the notoriously cranky process known as cattle work. Our cattle agent and his assistant haven’t commented on the help they got in the yards, but they did leave their scanner behind.
FrancoisT, with the good cologne, the spot-on accessories and the Joe-taming iPhone games, bought geek chic to Burrowye Station. We were afraid a morning blackberry spraying in 40 degree heat would kill him, but photo evidence on Facebook shows him having the time of his life with “Les Rednecks Incomprehensibles”. He got a crash course in aussie slang and come out with a rude nickname. As you do. He also was generous enough to work on suggestions for a blog that might spruce up the space that is currently Walwa.com. A graphic design graduate who has had trouble finding work in recessed Europe, we know he’s going to have no trouble finding fun in graphic-obsessed Melbourne.
We have five more danish backpackers here with us at the moment, and plenty more stories to tell. Now. We’ve bought another can of Manor Red. Back to painting the other half of the front fence.