Wednesday, 18 July 2007

A good spouse?

I have decided that I would be a failure as a settler. Several things have convinced me. First, with the cold wind and temperatures, I took to my bed to read in the middle of the day. I can’t imagine any good German wife sitting in bed in the middle of the day, reading of all things. It was so cold that I had to keep alternating the hand holding the book. On the plus side, I was reading about migration to Australia and not just a trashy novel.

Then, with overnight temperatures forecast to descend to -2C, I boldly went out and surveyed the woodpile. We are running pretty low on wood, so have been making do with adding layers of clothing. Yes, the stuffed sausage look is very in this year.

I am hopeless at chopping wood with an axe. I think it must be a matter of technique rather than muscle or height as my 4’9” mother-in-law competently chops her own wood. On the other hand she has being German in her favour. Lower back pain doesn’t help my technique so I took the shameful route of using the bow saw. My philosophy is that it doesn’t matter how I slice the wood as long as I get it approximately the right size.

The main task once land was selected by the new migrants was clearing the trees and vines. Competence with axes, saws and other paraphernalia was prized. Everyone worked from early in the morning until they ran out of light. I find it hard to imagine how hard everyday life was. My brother and his family live in a developing nation and find that the work required to accomplish daily tasks is of such magnitude that it is hard to find time for the agricultural development work they are trying to do. Getting water, making fires, acquiring food, cooking food and keeping clean take most of every day. Not for them, and not for 19th century migrants, the luxury of reading, writing, lighting a fire just for the sake of warmth or even finding out the weather forecast via the internet.

According to Friedrich Müller writing about pioneer life in the Rosewood Scrub, “Anybody without a capable spouse would be well advised to stay in the city.” I suspect in his eyes as well as my own, I would be a city gal. The next time my partner hopefully mentions the word “chainsaw” my response will be in the affirmative. I will however, decline to purchase it from the salesman whose main sales pitch was that “even a woman could handle their saws.” I am ascribing my incompetence to lack of experience rather than gender.

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