Naked Farmers, Dorothy the Dinosaur and Lessons in Business

Published January 27, 2010

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Last week we managed to get away for a couple of days. With a pang of regret from the  part of the parents (we could have thought of better places to go…), a farm stay was chosen to make (and keep) the kids happy. So, off we went on an early Tuesday morning, the car packed to the rafters (you never know when you’ll be happy to have a 10th change of clothing for them, right? Or what if they pee the bed at night and you don’t have a 3rd pair of pyjamas and and extra sheet…well, you know the drill.).

The farm we had chosen is located in a quiet, yet stunning part of Victoria, just outside of Wilson’s Prom, a few minutes drive from Warratah Bay and Cape Liptrap.

The charm of the place hit me immediately on arrival.

50ies StyleOur dwellings were furnished in original 1950s style, and our beautiful host (who had sounded in her energetic 50s on the phone) turned out to be 87 years of age. ‘Dorothy the Dinosaur’  – as she was immediately (and inappropriately) named by the kids – lives mainly of what she produces in her extensive vegetable gardens.

This appears to be a recipe for healthy and graceful ageing, because Dorothy* walks upright, can bend down to the ground without creaking or moaning, and she and I had some vivid and inspiring conversations proving that her brain cells were just as elastic as her body.

The whole place was so simple, and quiet, and far away from the city noise and our (currently) busy lifestyle… there wasn’t even an internet connection! There was, however, an old tyre dangling off a tree serving as a swing (and this was all it took to keep the kids happy).

It was pure bliss!

The next morning we were invited by Dorothy’s farming son to accompany him on a sheep hunt. A couple of ewes from the flock had run AWOL and were to be reunited with the tribe. So off we went in a surprisingly tidy pick-up, with delighted and excited children on the back seat.

Dave* was chatting away about the land, farming in general and his strategies for economic survival during times when this seems an almost impossible task for many farmers in Australia. It was interesting, to say the least.

He told us that the money was made in the office these days, rather than on the farm, and that more often than not, sadly, his gain was someone else’s pain. As an example, he cited the story of how he bought 1000 starving lambs of a dying farm in NSW. Expressing his sympathy to his fellow farmer, the guy responded: ‘That’s life mate, this way,  at least the lambs won’t just needlessly die.’

Then it happened!

One of the kids had spotted one of the ewes we were looking for! A wild goose chase began, the sheep unwilling to get caught, and hiding behind bushes and on inaccessible hills. Finally, helped by dogs and kids, we managed to corner one young ewe near a dam. In an act of desperation, she threw herself into the dam and started paddling wildly.

To everyones great surprise and amusement, Dave didn’t hesitate, stripped down to his undies,  and followed his sheep into the dam, finally getting hold of it and transferring it onto the trailer. The good shepherd in action. I can tell you, the whole thing was so thrilling, the kids are still talking about it.

We spent the afternoon idling in the sun, and the evening crabbing on Walkerville Beach. Everyone was completely and utterly content. I guarantee that even my heartrate slowed down almost to a standstill. Dorothy kept checking in from time to time, ready to share a word and a laugh with the kids (both absolutely adored her by now).

The crows cawed. The cows mooed. The wind rustled in the leaves. Occasionally there was the laugh or shout of one of the kids…

One thing that has kept me thinking, was Dave’s success strategy for surviving the actual and economic drought. As a farmer, he said, you have to produce a bit of everything and then sell what sells for a good price at the right time.

This could fit into the business strategy of a stock broker, but it’s completely the opposite for us who are into marketing product online. We find the market first, then create a product for them. I guess, it just takes a little longer to grow cattle than it does to create product, so you can’t be as flexible? I’m not sure that’s the message here, but if you have any thoughts on this, let me know!

Just in case you are wondering, Dave did actually get buck naked for a split second in the end, but we didn’t look… 😉

As I’m writing this, I feel a severe pulling in my stomach that feels almost like homesickness. I guess I have fallen in love with the place and its charming inhabitants. I’m just glad we’re already booked in for Easter…

*Names have been altered