A week working in the outback on a mango farm with a laid back Aussie dude brewing a shed load of his own beer, an Aussie lady who is a remarkable cook, a broken dog and a croc in the lake behind the garden. This was going to be an awesome week.
Days 28 to 35: 30 November 2017 to 7 December 2017
Using WorkAway Louise had been in touch with Steve and Angie who owned an outback farm to arrange a week working in exchange for bed and board. This place sounded perfect – they had a large mango farm and needed help with mango picking, their organic/natural vegetable garden and bottling home-brew beers. Home-brew beers…yep this sounded like a good place for us!
We had arranged to meet Steve at 10.30 in the morning at the Noonamah Tavern – a bar at the side of the highway surrounded by pretty much nothing. We got there a little early and waited outside. Thankfully it wasn’t long before Steve turned up in his ute and gave us a friendly greeting. He then looked at his watch and said, “Time for a cool beer.” We weren’t sure if this was a question or a command but our response would have been the same regardless – a cheeky smile and a Rob and Louise shaped hole through the front door.
At 10.30 in the morning we weren’t expecting much from a bar in the middle of nowhere but we’ve now learnt never to underestimate a Aussie Tavern. At the bar were a number of lads just chilling out with a fresh beer and chatting sh!t to each other. We sat at the bar with Steve and enjoyed the banter and good natured piss-taking as if we were sat with old friends. What a place. We then got talking to the barmaid who said we should come back tonight for “Titty Night” as all the barmaids will be topless and there will be a few pole dancers for some good old family entertainment. What a place!
After a few pints we drove down the road to Steve’s place for a few jars of his homebrew for a very easy first day and a great introduction to life on the farm. The one rule was not to play with the dog on the sofa. Unfortunately a previous workaway couple didn’t abide by this rule and the dog now jumps up at people – as Steve told them, “Sh!t guys, you broke my damn dog!”.
Over the next few days we helped Steve and Angie on the farm doing various activities in the morning which would usually have some sort of madcap element to them:
Steve and Angie were contemplating starting up a brewing company so their dining room was taken over by beer in various stages of the brewing process. As well as the normal lagers and ales they were also experimenting making mango beer and wines. Our job was to help Steve bottle up the batches which had done fermenting and were ready for the bottling stage. Unfortunately none of the Mango beer or wine was ready whilst we were there, but we did try a bit of the unfinished product and it smelled and tasted wonderful. The finished article really must be something special.
After bottling the liquid from the vats we would be left with the trub (or simply, a load of gunk). For the mango beers and wine this gunk was a delicious mixed of mango and booze – enough to blow your socks off. For the first batch Steve decided to that the trub shouldn’t go to waste so we fed it to the pigs gobbled it down. However, the next day they were seriously hungover and just laid in their own filth for the entire day.
Whilst the mango season was about over Steve had noticed some late growing mangoes in the trees so we went down with his van to explore. He wasn’t expecting us to find much but he gave us some pickers and we set to mango hunting. It was fun to spot them, race the truck over and get picking. However, it was after we started that Steve decided to warn us of a few dangers (1) “Mango Sap, can be very bad if you get this on your skin” – oh thanks Steve, maybe if you told us before we wouldn’t have come out wearing shorts, vest and flip-flops. (2) “Oh yes, watch out for them they can be little nippers” – oh, are you talk about the hundreds of red ants that inhabit mango trees and are currently swarming all down my leg biting the F out of me, thanks Steve, maybe if you told us before we wouldn’t have come out wearing shorts, vest and flip-flops. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit here (or so we thought…more coming on the mango sap later) and we managed to get a huge horde of mangoes.
As we were leaving the field Steve spotted a family of geese waddling around. Thinking that they would make good eatin’ Steve came up with a plan. We went back and got the left over highly potent Mango wine trub that the pigs had so enjoyed the previous day and dumped it in the middle of the field. The plan was then that the geese would eat it and pass out making it easy for Steve to catch them. After placing the yummy trap we were worried that the geese might not find it so using the truck tried to herd them closer. This was not an easy task but was a lot of fun. We got them pointed in the right direction and leaving it at that we decided we’d check on them late afternoon – but unfortunately we had one too many home-brews and couldn’t be bothered. Probably for the best!
Working on the Veggies and Garden
As they aim to be fairly self-sufficient when it comes to food Steve and Angie had a huge vegetable plot. We helped out with weeding, planting and veg collection. Steve and Angie both have incredible knowledge on how to naturally care, nourish and grow the best veggies and Steve would often share his tips and techniques with us. He had such an interesting and passionate view on the balance of nature and it’s mystic powers that we couldn’t help but feel we were becoming free-thinking flower children ourselves – or had we just done too much weeding?! (You’d “butter” believe it! – sorry personal joke)
Steve did become less of a man of nature with a strimmer (or zipper snipper as he calls it – a name that I have now adapted) in his hands. When Steve has a strimmer attached as an extension of his torso destruction will follow. Just try not to be weeding in his path as you will get a face full of nettles and stones flung at you.
Steve’s tractor tyre was in a bad state. One huge slit in it was causing the inner tube to bubble out the side. One morning we heard a mega-loud pop – PPPPOPPPP!! – we almost spilt our morning beer! It was the inner tube, it had blown. Bugger. So with the help of one of Steve’s mate Bob, we got the tyre off and then brought in a fork lift to help with the gentle operation of docking the wheel hub back into place. This operation took a number of precision movements, minuscule adjustments, a keen eye and then some brute force to whack it into place when we were getting pissed off with it. Job done.
All the jobs were pretty good and after a morning getting on with things we spent the afternoons putting the world to rights with Steve over a few cold ones and chat to whichever mate of his would turn up at random. A few times we’d head out into Steve’s back garden (the bush) to look for the croc (a freshie so the good kind) in the lake 300 meters from his house but unfortunately never got to see it. Angie, once back from work, would invariable cook us up an amazing yummy dinner using the fresh veg and locally farmed meat before we’d retire to our air conditioned room in the barn out back. This was certainly a welcome change to van life.
On our days off we also ventured into Darwin. We found Darwin as a city to be a little disappointing. There wasn’t much to see and the place was like a ghost town with no one around. Even the 5 laned roads into the city were completely empty. Outside the main city we ventured to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and the Rapid Creek Sunday Market. The Gallery was a worthwhile stop and included an interesting exhibit on the Australian Government’s promotional campaign following WWII encouraging mass migration to this paradise country of opportunity…oh, and a massive stuffed croc called Sweetheart who had a violent and deadly past.
On our last day Steve and Angie took us to the Berry Springs water hole for some wild swimming in beautiful surroundings (don’t worry mum, no one had seen a croc there for at least a week) and out for dinner at the local Berry Springs tavern – unfortunately no titty night.
As we went to say goodbye Angie came over to us and said “Wow, you’ve got to come look at this”. We had no idea what was going on but she took us in the direction of the pig pen where we surprisingly found a few cute baby piglets wondering around. This came as a bit of a shock to Steve and Angie as they didn’t know the pigs were pregnant and were planning on taking them to the butcher’s next week. Hmmm….definitely shouldn’t have given them that mango wine!
Our first WorkAway experience and it was a good one. We had a wonderful time with Steve and Angie. It’s definitely a week that we’ll never forget. They were such lovely and welcoming people who we’ll remember forever. Doing a Workaway with them on their farm in the outback showed us a different side to Australia and the way of life out there. Good eatin’, good drinking, living off the land and outdoor living are all great and mix that with a relaxed attitude and an embrace of slow living and you’ve got yourself a wonderful life…although finding a bull frog sleeping in my shoe was not amusing!
Until next time Steve and Angie!
Oh yeah – and the Mango sap. Well, a few days later it turned out that Louise was quite sensitive to it…ouch…