Dedicated to the faithful breed who call themselves Farmers—wherever on this beautiful Earth they dig that dirt, and also to the wannabees, most especially those who actually take the plunge... and survive to tell the tale.
And of course, Old McLarsen himself.
This Missus would have missed much without him.
Like a spider with its intricate web, I spin the tales of yesterday—the 1900’s or 20th century—as we lived them in rural Australia. These are my yarns of a city couple gone ‘green’—often unashamedly embarrassing, but always triumphantly truthful as I sing the sagas of yesteryear. I believe in their value—today, and way into the future.
Having survived this way of life and these times, I believe I have the right to write… about Life as it was lived in our corner of the world. My personal beginning and that of my husband Kanute (Old McLarsen himself), started in other places and times, with each of us having our own collection of life happenings that somehow brought us and rural life together. What follows here are our farming tales—from humbling and bumbling beginnings in the most Western State of Australia, to the ongoing saga of today's retirement farm back in our home State of South Australia.
Come join me on our 40+ year journey 'down the garden path’. Hopefully, the faintest stirring of human curiosity will entice you to share our fantastic odyssey. The dictionary definition of 'fantastic' is—odd and remarkable, bizarre, as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination, extravagantly fanciful or capricious, outlandish—and also extraordinarily good.
Our rural life together has been all of that… and so much more.
"Please Mor… please let me go to the farm again." Wanda smiled down at the earnest face of her young son, and she rumpled his fine blonde hair. She knew that her own birth and upbringing on her parents' farm were the genetic reasons for his passion—and yet she never failed to feel surprise and delight at his single-mindedness about all things country.
Kanute may not have looked like typical farm material with his pale city complexion and his long skinny legs, but his flushed cheeks and glowing eyes told a different message. On his first visit to her brother's farm, Kanute had fallen in love—with the land and the animals. School holidays couldn't come around fast enough for this small city slicker with the soul of a farmer. Wanda and her brother often talked of the novel situation of their children. His sons yearned for the bright lights and pace of the city of Copenhagen, whilst Kanute's passion for country life never wavered.
No job was too dirty or too hard; no morning too early or too cold to roll out of bed at 4 a.m. and begin the new day with a serve of bread and cheese and a cup of tea to put courage in his belly. Even when the first outside job was to shovel a path through the snow to the housed dairy cows for their first milking, Kanute was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed—eager for every challenge the new day would bring. There's a wonderful tale I've heard him tell many times that shows most clearly that nothing could dampen or deter him from his passion.
I mentioned the housed dairy cows—commonplace care for European stock through the cruel winter months—and this had been a particularly long and bitter season in Denmark. Now the first feeble warmth of Spring began, and with it came the chore of carting the accumulated animal waste out to the paddocks to be spread as natural fertiliser.
Undeterred by the pungent odours wafting relentlessly up from the open tank, Kanute climbed up on top. With legs spread wide to sit behind the opening, he picked up the reins, clicked with the side of his tongue in the age old command to the two great Belgian draft-horses to 'Giddyup', or 'Move on'. Slowly, the liquid manure tank on its great wooden-wheeled cart started moving forward. Despite the uncontrollable urge to twitch and scrunch up his nose, in Kanute's mind he was a King on his throne, proudly controlling the destiny of his vast kingdom.
Sadly, even royalty must bow to the weather—and a sudden storm announced its approach with a crack of lightning followed all too quickly by a great roll of thunder. The noble steeds of moments before changed in an instant to terror-stricken beasts incapable of thinking of anything else but home and shelter. No matter how loudly Kanute shouted or how hard he leant back on the reins, the horses were bolting in blind, mindless terror. The inevitable result of their speedy flight was a great sloshing from side to side of the stinking contents of the tank. The final grinding halt inside the cobbled yard of the farmhouse and sheds covered Kanute in one last layer of…. (fertiliser). It was only the first of many such 'badges of honour' Kanute would wear in his lifetime—but it was definitely the most lavish and 'well-ripened'. His Aunt washed his clothes several times, and when he returned home, his mother attempted a couple more, but nothing would remove the indelible memory. There was finally no choice but to destroy them—no easy matter in the highly taxed and belt-tightened years of post-war Denmark.
On the other side of the world, there was absolutely nothing to suggest I would become a farmer. Being born a butcher's daughter in the suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia was the closest I came to rural life. And yet, from my immediate family came my ever-present need to care for and please all who matter to me. I was planned, conceived and born to ease the pain and grief my family had suffered when their beautiful son and brother had fallen victim to a diphtheria epidemic that swept the world—and had died as a toddler. From some distant genetic pool came a passionate love of animals—and the great outdoors, especially as viewed by young eyes from high atop a long flat-top hedge of tall pine trees—the boundary fence at a friend's home. Meld these factors, and another unlikely farmer began to evolve.
Following his family's immigration to Australia, it looked as if all dreams of farming were over for Kanute. His father was a tradesman and insisted an apprenticeship was the only way to go for the 16-year old. The choice to become a carpenter was made, and as the years rolled on, so did his ambition—and his climb up various ladders.
Kanute and I met at our workplace, a home-builder's office. The wannabe suave and sophisticated (huh?) 22-year old Building Supervisor and the 17-year old Secretary to the Building Department, crossed swords many times before an unexpected 'chemistry' began to develop. There is a whole other chapter (or three, or more) about those days of our lives. Such happenings as a broken engagement, myself going to work for another company, and that wonderful solution to so many of life's dilemmas—time—and suddenly, the five year age gap disappeared. At 25 and 20, we found ourselves deeply in love and were engaged and married in less than a year.
As a young married couple, we cheerfully and totally embraced an exciting life-style in the city, partying constantly with other newlywed friends for most of the first year of our marriage. And yet, one of our favourite past-times was taking long drives into the countryside, enjoying the space and freedom, the fresh air—and the peace and beauty of seeing cattle and sheep grazing. When the building industry slowed in South Australia in the late 1960's, and the pace simultaneously picked up in Western Australia, we flew across the Nullarbor and took up new jobs there—until Fate once more pointed us towards rural pursuits. The 40+ years that have followed proved another kind of 'chemistry' had begun its relentless addiction—producing an irresistible desire for us to become farmers.