During my first semester studying here at Flinders, many people were surprised to hear where I live when they met me. Most students find it more convenient to live in the vicinity of the city or Bedford Park, like I know most of my friends do. However, that’s not my case.
I live about an hour away from Flinders in the small country town known as Birdwood, mostly known for the National Motor Museum. There, my family owns a 20 acre hobby farm where we not only hold the usual household pets, such as dogs, cats, rabbits and birds, but we also own about 12 horses; some rescued from the desert and others that we have bred. Also housed among our menagerie, I own a miniature pig (which isn’t so miniature), an abnormally large goat, and a rescued turtle and joey.
As you would have guessed, this keeps me unbelievably busy; attempting to balance my studies at uni, a boyfriend and the animals, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
All my animals have their own story, habits and party tricks. Many of the animals that are a part of our big family are rescued. Jet, who is my own dog and perhaps not the sharpest tool in the shed, was adopted when I realised that the neighbours could no longer keep him. Other members of our family who were rescued include our two desert brumbies, Jewl and Yulara. These two were allegedly caught, put on semi-trailers and driven down to a major sale yard. Here some horses are lucky enough to be saved by the amazing efforts of private rescue groups, however some are not. Jewl and Yulara were thankfully, and were shipped to a brumby rescue sanctuary.
There, my mum found and adopted them and brought them home to join the rest of the herd. Horses and dogs aren’t the only animals that we come across and adopt. I guess you could also think of our hobby farm as a sanctuary for native wildlife.
When driving along country roads, it’s inevitable to come across road kill, whether it be birds, possums or kangaroos. It’s incredibly important that people stop and check road kill especially possums or roos, as it’s likely that they have pouched young. In early July, my mum travelled interstate and came across only one roo that had been hit. Like always she stopped and checked the pouch and sure enough, there was a small velvety joey clinging to his mother. Carefully wrapping him up in blankets and feeding him special formula, Jeremy was the next addition to our tribe.
Like my unusual life style, I have some pretty unusual hobbies that go along with it as well. Many people go to the Royal Show and try to find showbags with the most value. Whereas every year I find my ‘showbag’ while exploring the many animal pavilions dotted around the perimeter of the showgrounds. In 2005 I was given my very first, long lasting showbag that started a long tradition in the following years. Stormy was the first step in the ritual and was my very first pony. Many parents with kids dying to have their very first pony would probably buy a safe, well trained one. Not my parents; they decided that an un-broken stallion with sass problems would be perfect for their eight year old daughter. Funnily enough, Stormy has travelled with us from one end of the country to the other when moving houses and still suffers with his sass issues.
Later, in 2008, I decided to try the goat and alpaca pavilion to find another lasting show bag. Here we found about 5-6 male baby Anglo Nubian goats. For $50 Casper was the next animal in our miniature zoo. Casper had only just been weaned from the bottle and hadn’t grown into his ears. Anglo Nubian goats are the kind that can wrap their long ears around their head about two times. We all thought that Casper would grow into them and they’d look normal, but, alas, the rest of his body just grew. Today, at his full height, Casper-The-Friendly-Goat now stands taller than Stormy (approximately a meter and a bit).
A few years later in 2012, I visited The Show once again and travelled through the pig pavilion. When I was almost too overwhelmed by the smell and about to move onto the cow pavilion, I found a tiny miniature pig beside a large sow and her piglets. A small laminated sign read ‘Gary’. I bet you can guess who the next little member was in our growing menagerie.
Unlike Casper, who we walked out of the showground gates with, we had to come back a few days later in my mum’s Nissan Silvia to pick Gary up. He was given to us in a small brown box, but didn’t seem all that happy. I can tell you now, we turned a few heads when we carried that squalling box to our car. We nestled Gary into the back seat and even put the seat belt around him to keep him still, but that wasn’t enough. He managed to poke his head through the top of the box and struggle his way out. Gary sat on my lap for the entire way home, however it was pretty entertaining seeing people realise that there was a miniature pig perched in a hot little Silvia.
Even though I have the papers to confirm that he is miniature pig, not many visitors to our farm believe that he actually is. Gary now stands almost as tall as Casper and is covered in fat rolls. Even though he sleeps and rolls in mud all the time, when I rarely hold a party, he’s a great trick to pull out as he knows how to sit and spinMany people would assume that all these animals add up to an expensive and time consuming hobby, however, that is not how I see it. I have grown up amongst all these animals and, like your cat or dog, they are a part of my family. It’s not so much a hobby farm for me; I see it more as a lifestyle… with an addiction for expensive showbags.
Words and Artwork by Sheydin Dew