Bordertown Sheep Farm

With a head count of 75 million sheep, the second largest sheep population in the world, and traditional sheep shearing bush songs like Click Go the Sheers, Australia is definitely known for its sheep farms!

I’m a sucker for those timid but wild beasts and am always telling my husband to pull off the road so I can get a photo! I’ve even written about them in one of our songs, where I dream about one day owning a sheep farm. So, a¬†few years ago, when we meet a sheep farmer named Trevor Thomas and his family at the Bendigo Blues and Roots festival, we made sure to stay in contact in hopes of one day visiting their sheep farm in Bordertown, South Australia. Their oldest daughter, Sarah and I exchanged Instagrams and eventually we wound our way through Bordertown for a lovely afternoon meal and tour of the farm.

Bordertown, SA sits about 18 klm from the South Australian/Victorian border and is the halfway point when you drive from Adelaide to Melbourne. It’s a small town of about 2500 population and the hub for many of South Australia’s farmers. This part of the country is ripe for¬†agriculture, specifically cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats, as well as, livestock such as sheep, cattle and pigs. The terrain is flat, with thinly lined trees here and there, similar to the landscape of Nebraska in the USA. At night, you can see the stars all the way down to the earth’s horizon and on clear day you can see a good three miles out.

The Thomas farm was established many generations ago and is home to hundreds of sheep and a few large wheat fields. When we arrived, Trevor invited us into the shearing shack where we got a little homeschool lesson on the in’s and out’s of this very manual process of shearing.

Sheep shearing 101: Cutting or shaving the wool off of a sheep is called shearing. Shearing is similar to getting a hair cut. However, shearing requires skill so that the sheep is shorn efficiently and quickly without causing cuts or injury to the sheep or shearer. Most sheep are sheared with electric shears and the fleece is removed in one piece. A professional shearer can shear a sheep in less than 2 minutes and the world record is 37.9 seconds, set in 2016 by Ivan Scott from Ireland.

Sheep are usually sheared once per year, before lambing or in the spring before the onset of warm weather. Sheep with long fleeces are sometimes sheared twice a year. Shearing prior to lambing results in a cleaner environment for the baby lambs. It also keeps the fleeces cleaner.

We were in the shack for approximately thirty minutes and during that time we saw about 20 sheep get their annual hair cut. It was intense but the shearing team, (a father and son) were so calculated and precise that the sheep barely had time to really understand what was happening before it was all over and they were ushered out of the shack in to the greater holding pen. They would then be washed in a special liquid that would help clean and heal any nicks or cuts and finally set out into pasture.

As the sheep were sheared, Trevor explained the process of taking the wool to market and which would eventually bring the wool into the hands of spinners and finally to the yarn shelves across the country.

It was intriguing to be in able to learn about this fantastic tradition of sheep shearing! However, the highlight of our visit was sharing a meal around the farmhouse table prepared by three generations of Thomas ladies! The aromas were delightful as they had been cooking all morning and the spread they made was that of a Christmas feast!

I asked if it was a special occasion and they answered, “no, that this is what they make every day for lunch during shearing season.” The three coarse meal, of roast chicken, lamb and veggies, potatoes, and a salad also including a delicious homemade dessert. It was part of their offering to the sheep shearers for their hard work, which by the way, the shearers only had thirty minutes to eat and get back to the shack. That thirty minutes was so fascinating however, as we were able to ask all sort of questions about daily life on the farm, how they handle the uncertainty of weather patterns, global warming, farming technics, the costs and factors that make up good farming practices.

It’s one thing to learn about these sorts of things from a text-book or a TED Talk and a wholly other thing to actually sit across the table from those you are curious about and unpack ideologies, preconceived notions and ultimately talk about dreams for the future. Thankful for kinfolk like the Thomas family, willing to take in us weary travelers and allow us to engage, even if just for a moment, catching a little glimpse into their every day, extraordinary lives.

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The Wayfaring Family

Social media is a basic necessity for us in our travels. It is a lifeline for staying connected with our hosts, venues, fellow travelers, and friends. We use WordPress as a journal/newsletter about our travels, bus life, healthcare, homeschooling, spiritual insights and the inner workings of our family life. We use Facebook to communicate about our music. We also have a private group there that we can share our most intimate prayer needs and requests. We have an Instagram that we share daily pictures of our adventures, and a Twitter that we use in tandem with them all. We have found our Instagram and Twitter great places to connect with fellow travelers, homeschoolers, food science, & social justice minded kinfolk. The Wayfaring Family is no exception. I met Anne via Twitter and with in our first few interactions we were plotting out a visit.

The Wayfaring Family’s profile reads, “Encouraging family travel, Just returned from a Round The World trip. If we can do it so can you!”

They¬†are The Helmer’s, a typical American family of four. They are small business owners, hyper scheduled, over involved in sports and school activities. And they have a four pound dog and two cats to care for. How could they possibly up and leave? They dared to dream.¬†Things all worked out and everything was there when they got back.

Their adventures are detailed on our their blog but a quick run down is they drove across the USA, Rafted the Colorado River, sold our their car in LA. Flew to Guatemala. Lived in Antigua for a glorious Month. Flew toPeru. Visited the Amazon for two weeks, Machu Picchu and Lima. Flew to Fiji. Then Three weeks in New Zealand. Six Weeks in Australia. Bali for Christmas. Kuala Lumpur, Borneo for several weeks. Singapore, then Thailand and then on to Africa. Dubai then Spain. Six weeks in Italy, then Austria, Germany, Holland, France and England.

You can read their full story:
http://www.andtheyreoffblog.com

IMG_9531We were super excited to meet them and this past Tuesday pulled into their Lexington driveway for a one night stay. We were greeted by Anne, her 12 yr old son Lee, Random and Mia, the cats and their nine pound living legend, Buddy the dog.

Anne offered a cold glass of water which was graciously accepted and we hit the ground running. There is an instant kinship that happens when we meet fellow travelers, specially families who have live outside the norm for any period of time. The two boys immediately hit it off and within the hour announced that they were brothers. We talked about they dynamics of raising children on the road, moments of struggle but mostly the victories we saw when our children’s eyes open and minds expand. We talked about logistics because everyone does it differently and there is so much to¬†learn from our fellow travelers.

Later, Anne’s husband, David and their 16 yr old daughter Laney arrived and jumped right into conversation. David shared about his job as a lawyer and desire for a change. The travel was just the catalyst for that change and as soon as they arrived home he got busy with a few start-ups, including a mediation business. He really lit up when sharing his desire to use his talents and experience volunteering with a justice project that focuses on mediation within his city, helping to bridge the gap that comes when a neighborhood that was once deemed less desirable becomes the target of capitalism. It was encouraging to hear how travel had inspired them all, infusing them with purpose and a compassion for humanity.

Later that evening, the Helmer’s hosted a gathering, inviting many of their friends down to David’s office where we performed a Hollands! set, enjoyed local pizza and conversation. It was our first performance with our new travelers/bus riders, Rhys and Sylvia. They did great job filling in on vocals and bass, and jumped right to community life, connecting with those who came to hear and meet us. It’s in these sorts of moments that I sit back and I am in awe of how we got here. Just one little tweet and here we were meeting this amazing family and singing sweet songs to them.

The next morning offered breakfast, more conversation, and a quick stroll around the neighborhood before we had to head south to Nashville.  Until next time Wayfarers!

The Wayfaring Family

Michigan Round Up Bus Rally

Craig is member of the busconversion.com forum and uses it regularly to learn how others convert their buses, understand the mechanics on our MCI-9 and share stories. At the same time, I have an Instagram (thehollands) that I use as a photo log of our journey and to connect with other bus nomads.

Through these networks we found two families that we were going to be in the same area that we were traveling through. And so, we decided to all meet up and share a meal, bon fire, songs and our stories of nomadic life.

It was a joy to meet the Shank family aka. Herd of Turtles and Scott and Heather Bennett. The Herd of Turtles have been two years in the making and just launched this summer. The Bennett’s have been traveling for a while and Scott is a gifted singer/songwriter. ¬†We can’t wait to see these fast friends again down the line!