As Reserve Managers we have a lot to be grateful for. Meaningful work in incredible landscapes. What more could you want? Now, more than ever, we're counting our bush blessings for a work and life style that's both challenging yet simple, remote but relevant, present and perpetual.
While other families are now cancelling their traditional Easter plans and, much worse, facing terrible stress due to changed circumstances and lost income, those fortunate enough to live out of town could switch off our computers and almost believe that nothing in the world had changed.
Out on reserve social distancing is not a government restriction, it’s just a natural part of remote area work and for some, a conscious life choice.
Many of the changes that other Australians are currently being asked to make like shopping less frequently and working from home are the norm for those living in the bush.
While we miss the company and contributions of our field-based volunteers, we get their support via emails and phonecalls and ultimately our work goes on, unaffected by travel restrictions and local lockdowns.
On the other hand, while many people are talking about the extra time they’ve reclaimed from their usually busy schedules, there’s no such change when your job is working on the land. At this time of year we're busy battling short windows in the weather to slash tracks, fix roads, repair fences, treat weeds and conduct pre-season burning.
Long weekends are something you can easily overlook when living and working in a remote area.
Your concept of Monday to Friday gets a bit out of whack when your office is all around you and the jobs are never ending. Still, not a bad problem to have.
Kids living in remote areas have a lot to be grateful for too. For starters all that glorious space for exploration, discovery and imaginative play. Treasure hunts, cubby houses, bike tracks, swimming holes… endless opportunities for adventure and creativity.
At Yourka Reserve today’s project has been constructing Easter baskets using treasures collected around the house and shed. Our kids have already positioned their baskets in a hopeful spot on the front verandah. Of course the Easter Bunny (we're far from Bilby country) runs a serious risk visiting us here – after all he's a feral species. Interestingly their father, who is usually a pretty handy marksman, seems to go a bit “off his game” at this time of year (no pun intended).
The kids are on school holidays at the moment so their time is their own. But very soon it will be back to school and I, like many parents around Australia am starting to worry about what that’s going to look like under current covid restrictions. You see, while Paul's permanently based here at Yourka, the kids and I have spent the last 10 years sharing our time between here and a small forest block in Malanda on the nearby Atherton Tablelands, where our kids attend the local schools.
When our eldest daughter, Beth, hit school age we had neither the phone reception nor the internet connection capable of supporting a distance-ed classroom at Yourka.
Back then we used to take the laptop up to the lookout every afternoon to grab one precious bar of 3G signal to check our emails and receive phone messages.
So we set ourselves up with a base in town and embarked on a lifestyle that offered our kids the best of both worlds.
By the time we had the home and office setup on Yourka to support our family of five, Beth was starting high school and I'd lost any confidence I had at being able to juggle reserve-based work while supporting three kids across primary and high school, so we stuck with our Malanda-Yourka plan. Next term (only a fortnight away), that’s exactly what I’ll be doing and I'm more than a bit nervous.
After 14 years of working from home I know there are strong correlations between when I plug my headset in for an important Skype meeting and when our children 'need' me most. Short of hiding in the cupboard with the hands-free phone (which I’ve done plenty of times) it's inevitable that, when the kids are home, every phonecall will be interrupted with a request for food, a question that just couldn’t wait or an incident that needs attention (other parents will agree that pretty much everything constitutes an ‘incident’ when it comes to sibling interactions).
The thought that, across the country, we’ll be home schooling en masse after Easter makes me smile and shudder at the same time. What a time it’s going to be. Working from home is one thing but to throw schooling into the mix? We’re all about to get an education!
With a deep breath I remind myself that life itself is one big classroom and if I fail at imparting the nine times tables or I can’t fathom the modern way to do, let-alone teach, long division, at least our kids will be learning something… In fact, possibly the most important thing of all - resilience. The ability to take things in their stride, bounce back, adapt and overcome.
On reserve we’ve always said that it’s great for our kids to see that things often don’t go to plan. When the car breaks down miles from the house, we build a cubby on the side of the track while Dad walks back to the shed for the second vehicle. If the tool we need is way back at the shed, we find a different way to do the job (and pack better next time). We’re out of milk and the shop is hours away - we drink black tea instead.
They quickly learn that these things are not the end of the world but just opportunities to problem solve and gain confidence doing so.
It’s safe to say that things aren’t quite going to plan at the moment and beyond Easter life will still look quite different…at least for a while. It doesn’t matter whether you're town based or out bush, resilience is the key and the best we can do is roll with the changes, look on the bright side, be kind to each other and remember to count our blessings.
Hope your Easter (and beyond) is full of unexpected, happy surprises.