The Farmer in the Riven- Dell


The above picture is the old 1880’s settlers cottage that decided for us to buy the property without even looking at the rest of the farm. It had over 110 acres including over 40 acres of native forest from which to harvest our firewood. The winters in The Southern Tablelands can be very cold, windy and -8c frosty in the mornings. We burnt at least 9 tonnes of hardwood a year and that was with the help of two gas heaters as well. The gas was supplied from large bottles and water from tanks connected to our gutters that would catch the rain, if and this was a big ‘if’ if it rained. Most times the rain would creep over from the south but stopped short of our mountain range.

It was agony watching the rain develop on the web-site of the Bureau of Meteorology and the blue rain map would stop short by about ten kilometres from our farm. When it would reach our area the whole atmosphere changed. The local farmers would go out and shop, start spending a bit of money, ate out with wives having had their hair done.
We fought the endless drought tooth and nail by connecting water tanks to any bit of roof that would catch rain, even heavy dew would be collected from the galvanized roofs. All grey water from doing washing and dishes would be directed to large plastic drums and with buckets we watered the garden with a priority given to our immediate gardens surrounding our farm house.

The golden rule on showers was, short 2 minutes at the max and no lingering. Preferably just a wipe ‘here and there’ and wait for rain. The other rule in place; if it is yellow let it mellow, if brown, flush it down. Our pheromones were working overtime and many a romantic night would follow from our ablution (lack off) rigours. πŸ˜‰ Hardships brings together and it was never that bad that we did not find comfort in each other and friendships from the locals.


This was one of the locals. He was in charge of the local rubbish dump. The amazing things was that he transformed the perimeter of the dump into a lovely garden. Each year it became better. I wrote a piece about him for the Australian Broadcasting Commission,’The Drum’. It was published.
Here it is;

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15 Responses to “The Farmer in the Riven- Dell”

  1. Patti Kuche Says:

    You both stand tall! Well done!


  2. petspeopleandlife Says:

    It seems as if life on the farm was a bit rugged with little rain and all that cutting of wood to stay warm in the winter. I have a feeling that you might not be missing life in the country at this stage of life.

    I clicked the link and read your article about the Tin Man. I also saw where someone seemed dissatisfied that dumping his garbage for a fee did not meet with his approval. How crass of him.

    Mr Tin Man sounds like he had the right idea of how to make something pretty within the realm of all that ugglyness. He made a garden of Eden next to a dumping ground. Good for him.



  3. Nick Ryan Says:

    oooh Gerard, you little monkey – you had an in-ground pool to swim in. As you know we lived up the road from you (1km as the crow flew) & we never waited for the rain with baited breath, you should have bought a couple more rain tanks, we never ran out – ever and used to have baths 2 or three times a week as well as showers. Even when Richard moved in for about a year we never ran out of water. Must have been poetic licence LOL


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I don’t think I wrote we ever ran out.
      We never ran out as we used it sparingly. The pool was filled from the river which would only flow after rain and with use of fertilisers and weed killers by farmers was undrinkable. You also did not really carry over forty animals nor worry about a garden did you now Nick?
      I noticed you live in town now!
      The period after you moved out there was one of the worst drought ever. People were stealing water from rainwater tanks!


    • helvityni Says:

      Nick, Nick, you BIG monkey πŸ™‚
      We put the pool in because we were letting the little cottage, during the three first years out of fourteen the rainfall was good, the next eleven were pretty dry…I used to do a rain dance to no avail, I got photos to prove it…

      There were three tanks when we bought the property, we added three, once we even bought water to fill the biggest tank, it stirred up the sediment at the bottom.

      I had plastic containers in the courtyard, where the grey water went, and I carried it to my plants, again upper arm muscles to prove I did it πŸ™‚

      People in the cottage were paying customers, once a little boy left the tank to run dry, cleaning some old bones he found….
      Towards the end of our stay even the little river almost run dry, there some waterholes, but not much more…

      You escaped the drought, John and Angela copped it. Have you seen their lovely property in Crookwell…pop in any time you are in the neighbourhood, Nick…


      • Nick Ryan Says:

        Hi Helvi, had to laugh at the boy washing his bones LOL, I have not been invited to Crookwell – Yet? The drought was on while i lived above John Ryan, Everyone was getting drought assistance, I was there from 1998 – 2004 then downstream from 2005 2007. In 2005 Goulburn had 8 months worth of water left in all of it’s dams so 2004/5 must have been the worst years.

        Of course Goulburn has water now – hence all of the new housing estates springing up everywhere.

        Thanks for the offer i will drop in before xmas – promise x


  4. Andrew Says:

    Very interesting Gerard. I suspect water shortages will be a much more widespread concern in the future. In the 70s in Britain the advice was ‘share a bath with a friend’ or something like that. The rubbish tip man sounds a real hero in his own way. Glad you gave him some profile.


  5. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    What a graphic account of waiting for and collecting water. We live in the driest area of the UK and even with an underground water harvester we now anxiously watch weather reports as the clouds circle us and move on. I gather the soil in Australia means that regrowth is slow, so I worry about that hardwood you burnt.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      We only collected wood that had fallen and was years old. Fresh eucalypt takes ages to dry and wouldn’t burn very well. Eucalypts and many other natives grow very quickly. You are right, that no living wood should be cut for firewood. It is not necessary..


  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    It’s easy to keep reminding ourselves how fortunate we are. Great story Gerard.


  7. auntyuta Says:

    Wouldn’t you say, Gerard, that trees grow very quickly in Australia? But then you would not cut down a tree that is a few hundred years old for fire-wood, would you? This certainly cannot be easily replaced!


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