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Friday 10 May 2013

Don't Mention the War.....

We have a friend who used to help us in the feedlot from time to time.  A lovely girl, whose pride and joy to this day are her two dogs, a blue heeler called Millie and the biggest German Shepherd I have ever seen called Rex (obviously). She taught these two all manner of commands and tricks, but for various reasons, one being her father of German descent, and the other, well, she didn’t want just anybody being able to tell her dogs what to do, so they only understand German.  Which is great, until you walk around the corner into your shed, with her car parked under it with a blue heeler and what can only be described as the Godzilla of the canine world inside, heads poking out the windows and giving a bark that says “I dare you to come closer.” It’s at this point I wish I’d taken German instead of Japanese in high school, and after racking my brains and a few failed “Shuddups” and “Siddowns” I yell “Nein!” And both dogs cease and desist and I manage to get in and back out the tractor without losing any limbs.

That is about the extent of my experience with Germans. Until three weeks ago.

Co-incidentally, it also involved woofing. Or as they spell it , WWOOFing. If you are not familiar with the Willing Workers On Organic Farms program, put simply, a farm registers, says where they are and what they do, and waits. Backpackers who have also registered browse the site, and if they see something they like, make the contact and if both parties are happy, the back packers come and work for a few hours a day in return for room and board and the experience of Aussie farming.

I must admit to being a bit dubious when Gemma floated the idea. The thought of guiding some in experienced foreigner with worse English than a Telstra call centre operator did have me worried, but when she said the first respondents were two twenty two year old German girls my interest suddenly picked up. Purely because they would be very helpful to Gemma and her flock of new horses. Truly. I was only thinking of her, honest, and besides, how much help could I expect from two dainty young things?

Fenna and Reike (pronounced Ree kee, but with a rolling of the R and a clearing of the throat at the same time) arrived the day after the community cabinet rally, which again, was a great success.  Gemma’s parents drove them out to Gabyon from Perth, about a six hour drive through the Central Wheatbelt and into pastoral country. As the roads grew wider and dustier and the cars fewer the girl’s eyes grew larger, and at some point I’m sure they questioned whether they hadn’t been abducted into some faraway desert camp. Fortunately for everyone, they haven’t seen Wolf Creek, so trusted Mike and Helen faithfully.

Next day Gemma and I arrived to start preparations for her inaugural horse trail ride over the Easter weekend. After several attempts, Reike suggested maybe we should just call her Ricky before someone strains a larynx, which we somewhat shamefully accepted. They had been home a day and had already helped Helen clean out the shearers quarters, which is where the Easter guests would be staying. Mike and Helen had a wedding to attend, so it had been arranged that I would feed the guests, while Gemma catered to their horsey needs. The plan was people would arrive Saturday at the Yalgoo Gymkhana, then proceed to Gabyon for Sunday and Monday trail rides. No worries. Feeding a dozen people. How hard could it be?

Saturday arrived and I started getting tea ready. Nothing special, just some tacos, BBQ chicken wings and a nice apple and cashew salad. It was about now that it occurred to me that dicing up enough tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, onion, apple and celery would have been made a lot easier if I’d remembered to bring Gemma’s you beaut slice & dice kitchen machine with Japanese blade technology (made in China of course) like I’d planned. My face must have showed some concern, as Fenna and Reike offered their assistance.

Let me tell you, Japanese blade technology has nothing on German efficiency, Chinese made or otherwise. They were a pair of fruit ninjas, carving away faster than I could throw food at them from the cool room. This chef business is easy, provided you have suitable underlings. Underlings, who not only sliced and diced like the Bride from Kill Bill, but within minutes, had the kitchen sparkling again. Awesome.

After me taking full credit for the weekends meals, we moved onto the next task. Gemma wanted a new horse yard, so the girls helped her setup the electric fence. Seems Germans are an observant lot, and they both decided there was far too much rubbish lying about the paddock, so asked if they could use a ute for a little while. Twenty two loads to the tip later, they declared the paddock clean. And it bloody was too.

A boundary fence need pulling down. Now all that the many previous owners seemed to do was merely grade a new line some twenty metres out (never in) and erect the new one, leaving the old fence to slowly rust away and lay over. Which is great, until an unsuspecting motorbike rider crosses it at full tilt and the foot pegs snag, making the bike resemble a fighter jet landing on the aircraft carriers, with the wire acting as the snag cable. Of course, our riders don’t wear harness and G-suits, so inevitably end up over the handlebars.

The solution is to roll the old fence up with a motorised wire reclaimer (Worksafe people, skip ahead a few paragraphs). You hook the old wire to the reel, fire up the motor and drop the clutch lever. Then keep one eye closed and the other wide open looking for snagged posts and branches spearing in towards you. This is where the girls came in, unclipping the old posts and droppers, a bugger of a job, walking along, stopping, untying, walking, stopping, untying, while I started reeling in the previously done section, thinking that when was I was finished I could scoot ahead, and help out till they caught me, then repeat the process.

I never caught them.  In fact, half a day later they radioed back to say they’d finished, two specks on the horizon. By now reinforcements arrived, so Mike drove the loader lifting out the old posts, while the girls walked alongside again, clipping the post puller on, and throwing the posts on the ute. They must have walked ten kilometres, which would explain the dumbfounded look on their faces that night as we showed them the thumbs width length of fence line they’d covered, on the A1 sized map which resides under the clear kitchen table cloth. I’m sure they thought they’d crossed a state border somewhere that day.

Another morning, as we were waiting for Mike to return from some far flung windmill, I decided to clean his workshop, again with the girls help. It was like the kitchen job all over again. Fast as I could point where everything lived, gear was stacked, roped coiled, floors swept and tools cleaned. So much so that no one has been game to enter the workshop since for fear of wrecking it. That and the fact we don’t have a clue where anything is anymore.

While they were here, they announced Wednesday was their halfway mark of their Australian holiday, so we would need to celebrate, also pointing out is took three days to arrive, so it would require a three night celebration. Bloody Hell, they don’t do anything by half. It was on the second night that as I opened the esky Fenna came over to grab a drink. We’d run out of the pear ciders she and Reike had been knocking back, so she grabbed a beer. Without thinking, I ask “Oh, do you like beer?” The look she gave me was a cross between pity and bemusement, which said without words, “Mate, please. We invented the shit.” It was about now I remembered Öktoberfest, which funnily enough, neither girl had been too, but decided they should because it was about the only thing the bloody Australians asked about.

In between all this they helped Gemma with the horses, learnt to ride the motorbikes, helped muster on the motorbikes, went for a fly with Mike (where Reike learned she is not a flyer), fed pet lambs, played with dogs, swam, ran, shot at clay targets, saw tortoise and yabbies, and did all the things we take for granted out here. Yet for all our differences, things between the two countries seem remarkably similar. Reike was from a small diary, and I can assure you they have it no better than ours. They also told stories of country BBQ’s, volunteer fire fighters gathering to raise funds, government getting in the way, and dozens of other tales where we all nodded in agreement.

It was with a heavy heart we waved them goodbye, as Gemma drove them to Perth to seek a ride up to Darwin. As much as they wanted to stay, WA has a big coast and understandably they want to see it. Their words in our guest book brought a tear to the eye, and with the promise they would come back when they could, and the offer of a room should we ever find ourselves in Germany, they were gone.

Three days later, they were back. Proud as punch in their little ute they’d bought in Perth, complete with camper unit on the tray. It was a pleasant surprise, soon tempered by concern as we took a closer look at the ute. But after a quick going over, Gemma’s brother declared it good to go, and two days later they left us again, bound for Shark Bay. Our first backpacker experience was a good one. By now we also have Jenny, a young Taiwanese lady who has become chief sheep spotter from the plane and orphan lamb feeder, and promises to show us her cooking skills, just as soon as we can get the right ingredients from Geraldton. Meanwhile, Gemma is scouring the website, hoping for a strapping young lad to help break in the horses. Me, I’m learning Swedish. Just in case.
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JournoBess said...

Haha! Hilarious Michael.
And so great to hear a good backpacker story - those girls sound like angels. Ninja angels... with skills.

BB said...

Good grief... love to hear their version of events!! Too funny... if our shed ever got that tidy, everyone would also be banned from using it here too!

Cazzie!!! said...

OMG. I so need that motorised wire reclaimer!! I have 7km of.fence to unclip and roll up!
Otherwise.. we have had three German girls and one English Au Pair for the kids. Fabulous determined girls every one of them. Wish I did that as a young'un myself. Travel and work! See the World!