Going to work on the farm was the best introduction to Australia and workaway we could’ve asked for. Our hosts, Merry and Peter were lovely people who enjoyed meeting travellers and really appreciated extra hands to help. We gained a lot of experience working with the horses, cattle and even helping to take care of a couple of orphaned wombats! We had the volunteer house all to ourselves and free reign over the large assortment of food and drinks in the house and storage room.
We looked forward to our daily routine which included walking the dogs first thing in the morning as well as feeding the older horses (their grains had to be soaked and the hay chopped to chaff since they didn’t have any teeth). We would then drive the quad with a trailer or the ute (utility vehicle) over to the paddock with the remaining horses and divide the load of hay into piles for them.
We felt pretty incompetent on our first day when we accidentally released all of the horses into the main lane and couldn’t get them back in. Thankfully none of them ran onto the highway, and since that incident we were more vigilant and they never escaped again. Other general farm duties included:
- Building and maintaining fence lines
- Cutting and removing nuisance trees and shrubs
- Cleaning the camp accommodation
- Cleaning the kitchen and dining hall
- Assisting with food preparation and serving meals
- Mowing the lawns
- Assisting with cattle herding
- Pruning and other light gardening duties
Our favourite tasks however involved helping run activities for the camps that visited. There were leadership courses across the property to help the kids practice communication skills, as well as other so test concentration and endurance. I always volunteered to help Peter run the flying fox – a giant zip line across one of the paddocks. I also liked to help getting kids setup for pruisiking, abseiling and wall climbing as well. On occasion there were schools that would sign up for horseback riding as well which was always a treat. The kids had a great time there and were always respectful, practicing great manners as well. It’s nice to spend time with kids when they are doing activities they enjoy, in a relaxed environment.
Since the camp was built around group activities, we found ourselves making good use of our free time. The site had a full sized gymnasium (with all the equipment of a school gym too), a decent above ground pool, table tennis, a pool table, flying fox zip line, climbing wall (indoor and outdoor) and a dam for swimming and canoeing.
Having minimal horse training, we didn’t really have the opportunity to just jump on a horse and go (not that we wanted to), but we did have a couple of rides during our stay. Louisa worked for Merry and Peter, running the horseback camps and was kind enough to take us out around the property. I was amazed by how well the kids could ride (although many groups were from rural Victoria and owned horses themselves). I love horses and having the opportunity to tour their beautiful property by horseback was an amazing experience.
With such a variety of tasks across the property and fantastic facilities on site, it would be very difficult to get bored as a volunteer. We appreciated the patience that Merry and Peter showed when it came to showing us new farm tasks (being city folk, we were pretty terrible to begin with). We also enjoyed putting our past education experience to work when interacting with the camp kids and learning about the school curriculums and expectations in Victoria.
As time wore on, we also had the opportunity to help spruce up the camp’s social media presence by updating the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Snowy-River-School-Camp/497571856941162) as well as Twitter and YouTube in order to help promote the site. We have never felt more appreciated and it was a tough decision to leave. We spent close to 6 weeks working on the farm but we knew there was still plenty of Australia to be seen. It was with a sad heart that we said goodbye to Merry and Peter, but we look back fondly on the experience and know we will always have a place to call home in the Tallangatta Valley.